Monday, August 28, 2017

Fifty Years On

I wrote this blog post four years ago today for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I am putting it up again here because 4 years on, the issues raised 54 years ago today, and again 4 years ago today, are even more important on this day.

August 28, 1963 - I was three days into my 10th year on the planet. Today I am three days into my 60th. Saturday I spent several hours watching the commemoration of the March on Washington, the high point of which was the brief speech made by my friend and hero, Dr. C.T. Viven.

CT, the man who was punched in the face by a redneck Alabama sheriff

CT, the man I met in New Orleans after Katrina, seeking to develop an organization to assist churches in the rubber meets the road work of rebuilding the Crescent City.

CT, who looked at me with a fatherly sense of pride when I told him the story of how my daughter had recently blessed me with the compliment that the most important thing I had taught her was that, "people are awesome!"

CT, who has a heart bigger than anybody I have ever known and a brain, a wit, and a style to match.

This is my direct connection to that day on the mall 50 years ago, something that I watched on Walter Cronkite on the big black and white TV in the living room of our little house in Lake Worth Florida. A South Florida Cracker town where the black kids and the white kids weren't allowed to swim in the same surf, or play on the same side of the beach, and where, when I rode with my dad to drop off the woman who sometimes cleaned out house and took care of me, we had to slide up a block away from the run down "colored" section of town and let her out of the car.

Something in that moment on the mall 50 years ago radicalized my little 9 year old spirit and has stayed with me, transforming my perspective, and my actions, on an almost daily basis for the fifty years since.

On Sunday, at Glide Church in San Francisco, we celebrated that 50 year legacy of the March, and the 107 year legacy of Mother Ruth Villa Jones. As we spoke and sang and remembered, I thought about how amazing her life must have been. She was already nearly my age now, no doubt assuming that her life was mostly behind her when that March on Washington took place and fundamentally changed the landscape of the country. When that watershed of justice that we always celebrate when we're thinking and talking, preaching and singing about the justice Amos called for actually peeked through the mystery and entered the believable possible.Mother Ruth's grandparents were slaves.

Slaves! Human beings owned by other human beings and subjected to abuse and cruelty that we still can't honestly imagine.

When I was in college, at a "Christian" school, in 1973, the black students held a chapel in which they spoke of their heritage and history as slaves and offered a moment of forgiveness and reconciliation to those of us whose heritage of slavery was radically different from theirs. I remember a student in my dorm speaking about the event later. He arrogantly, and angrily, proclaimed his innocence of any historical wounding and his annoyance at the assumption that he was in need of forgiveness. "I didn't have slaves. I never owned anyone. They have as many rights as I do, if not more.!"

This... just ten years after the march for freedom and justice that we commemorate today. I was, and am, completely incapable of understanding that willful arrogance and ignorance from someone who claims to be both intelligent and spiritual, then or now.  How is it possible to read history, to listen to people who have lived with the scars of a legacy of human slavery (and its ugly aftermath) - people who have known family that were enslaved - and still lack the understanding and empathy needed to place themselves in the shoes of a people whose history, and a very short history at that, was so skewed.

My grandmother died 22 years ago. She was 101, had moved here from Ireland and danced on Broadway for George M. Cohen. Nanny's life still radically colors who I am, and who I still, at 60, hope to be. She colors my daughter's sense of self and most likely will have a similar effect on my granddaughter (her great great grandchild). How can it be any different for the people that I know personally whose grandparents were kidnapped from their families and homes, loaded on ships like logs of wood and bales of hay and bought and sold like cattle in a land that was supposedly established on the highest principles of liberty and freedom.


It's been fifty years since I first heard that speech from Dr. King. Fifty years since I grew up in a big white Baptist church (both racially and architecturally) in South Florida where I heard men who considered themselves christian leaders spoke of King as a communist agitator and not a brother in Christ.

Fifty years since I went to a Lake Worth beach where white kids could swim on one side of the pier and black kids could only swim on the other.

Fifty years since I went to my Uncle's Georgia farm and saw the tiny shack (a shack that is burned in my memory as the slave quarters) where my aunt's maid lived with her family down a dirt road about 100 yards from the big beautiful farmhouse we were visiting in.

Fifty years since my dad told me the stories of his friend MC, the little black kid who my dad considered his closest friend, despite the fact that pictures from those days so clearly and unblinkingly reveal the disparity between their lives and culture. A disparity that I am sure my father as a boy, or a man, never stopped to consider.

Who are we today now that Barrack Obama is president? Fifty years after The March On Washington?

What they said on Sunday at Glide feels like about as good a declaration as anything.

"There is no finishing line... We must keep moving on."

Or in the words of the old spiritual, used so perfectly as a theme of the civil rights movement, "Ain't nobody gonna turn me round... Gonna keep on a walkin, keep on a talkin..."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

La Mysteria

She stands, her back against the rich mustard wall, sunlight beaming on her from the right, casting a shadow to her left on the side of the wall. Between the woman and her shadow (one facing out and one seeming to walk away) stands a basket of deep red flowers.

The woman beckons me; she calls me to, and perhaps from, my soul. I want to see her face. I want her to look up from under the hat so I can see her dark raven hair and her bright green eyes.

I want her to hold me, to smile, to step out from the wall and beckon me to follow her down the alley and into a small, dimly lit, dusty beige adobe room. I want her to lie down on the small wooden bed and unfold the poncho she has wrapped around her.

 I want her to reach for me and say, "make love with me."


 I lie down beside her as a cloud crosses the sun.

Friday, August 25, 2017

10 more years...

In 2007, three years after my 50th birthday I had a "50th Birthday Three Years Late" party and invited some old friends, and some new ones (one of whom thought I was CRAZY!) to celebrate with me.

Today, 10 years on, it's officially the Tenth Anniversary of my 50th birthday three years late and I've decided to relaunch this blog because of my first greeting on this 63rd birthday morning.

I'm visiting my parents in the sweltering Sonoran desert of Tucson Arizona, where I spent ten years of my life some other lifetime ago, and somewhere in the middle of the night I was awakened from a deep and rather disturbing dream by the yelping howl of a coyote a few yards outside my window.

It called me out of my nightmare and into a strange dream that has been going on all morning and that led me back here...

So, welcome back to Coyote Dreaming! Let's see where this dream goes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ghost of a Chance

She is lying up there on the wall Head tilted right Soft rose petal shoulders A slight glimpse of peach from her left breast Uncovered Her auburn hair cascading down her pillow Toward the frame Through all the years Sitting beside her I've noticed her nearly Not at all Now she's an enchanting intimation Of the real life beauty That she brings to mind
Along the edge of her bed You can catch reflections of other life too Still going on outside Oblivious to the magical woman In the light By the window On the wall Cars on Columbus And a tiny strip of sign From City Lights Books Where The Little Shoe People Will live forever Even after they are painted over Making way for someone new And I am there as well A pale reflection watching 

From inside and out
An impressionist representation 
Of how I feel now Fading into background 
At the edge of the story 

Out of the action of the play
A shadow of memory  Quickly disappearing Into The light A hopeful spectre Without a
Ghost of a chance

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Last week at the local yacht club I got into a bit of an altercation with a local guy who fancies himself the self-appointed authority on the rights of men and defender of their honor and self-esteem. The culmination of this rather ridiculous non-event was his shouting at me as I walked away, "You're just a mangina!" My first reaction was to laugh and respond, "Thanks for the compliment!" 

Subsequently, I gave that term some thought over the weekend, looked it up - to some dismaying results - in The Urban Dictionary, and began thinking that the term was being defined rather terribly, but then I got a great quote from my friend Almond, regarding a re-definition of the term.

Mangina – an individual of the male species who embodies the spirit of equality and empowerment and assists in the effort to end violence against women and girls. Yeah Joe... I'm a Mangina and I'm proud to be among what seems to be fairly superior company. The next phase of this strange weekend occurred at the end of the week when Almond gave me this astonishing (and honestly quite undeserved) honor on the V-Day Petaluma Website. While I'm very happy to be the first ever honoree in this category for "Bobs" I've had a really hard time coming to terms with it, for I am much more in tune with my daughter's response to the article by the aforementioned "local authority" when she simply said, "hey buddy, this isn't about you." And there you have it... It isn't about me, or any of the other Manginas (or the anti-Manginas) out there. It's about the One Billion Women that this whole moment in time is about, the additional billions of all the women in the world (my daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, my nieces, my mother, my friends, my ex, my lovers, and the wonderful women whom I only know through their writings, art, actions, and presence, and the women that I will never know at all). I have always, as long as I can remember, been a feminist, because I have always been a humanist. Like other pieces of white male privilege, I tend even now, to lack the ability to fully register the difficulties, and the suffering of those who are deemed less. However, that being said, it's important for me to acknowledge that to my continued, and largely private, shame, I have added my voice to the screaming verbal violence that is easy to spew under ugly circumstances. I have seen a woman's (and even my daughter's) face look at me in fear and panic, and I am even guilty of physical violence that I wish to the Gods and Goddesses I could blot from my life and lift out of the records of the universe. I believe that I am past those experiences now, but I perpetually stand awake to the fact that the moments I am ashamed of to this day, were not moments I meant to happen in the first place. I can only hope that I have indeed exorcised those moments from my language and actions and that I can remain true to the hope that they never return. And I can do anything and everything that ever crosses my path to make things different now. I truly believe that, like Scrooge on Christmas morning, I am a better person, a better man, than I was before and I believe that all of us, both men and women, can continue to grow better with each other every day. I am dedicated to that and I pray for it constantly. And I wrote a poem... Mangina A "man with a vagina" A "soft and compliant" male Read that weak Read it cowardly Read it, say it Pussy And like that other term Pussies are supposedly Weak In my experience those pussies Those vaginas Are anything but weak Vaginas That push out new life and take in all that interconnecting energy Vaginas That to this day remain Abused Dismissed Ridiculed Unsupported Undervalued Destroyed Unloved If I can take on some of that If some of the world's hostility can be pointed toward me instead Bring it! To be a Mangina To accept the opportunity The responsibility The honor To hold that reality carefully in my hand my heart my head Yeah Call me that name I'm neither worthy of the honor Nor guilty of the accusation But I came into the world through that amazing pathway And I will honor it defend it pray for it pray to it and most of all Love it and the Women whose bodies hold that magical piece of spiritual anatomy in deep reverie and reverance for all of us Mangina Yes I am Mangina!

And because I will never be able to write poetry as beautiful or poignant, and because there might not be any better expression of how a Mangina can also truly be a man, there's always Secret Garden ... from The Boss.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hope Allowed

The season of Lent is traditionally, for many people, a season of quitting; of giving up something as a way of finding something else. My problem with Lent is that If there is anything that I am bad at (and I am bad at many things) right at the top of the list is probably the process of quitting. I am simply not a quitter. I don't give up. In poker, I never fold; in relationship, I keep pushing on through the place where things are obviously over; in business, I can't let go despite the fact that I am going broke, nothing is working, and all hope was lost long ago. After Katrina, in New Orleans there was a sign on the wall of one of the businesses that was struggling to come back to life. I found a picture of that sign while I was living in exile away from New Orleans and I adopted it's theme as my personal clarion call.

My friend Zach is constantly reminding me of the John Cleese line from the movie Clockwise, when he exclaims, "It's not the despair, Lord, I can stand the despair... It's the hope!" This really does tend to be my problem. Even when I know I need to quit, when I know I should quit, when I know it's really important to get moving and get going. I am still paralyzed by the hope that something will happen, something will change, something good will come out of the current catastrophic situation.

Last night, on my way home from San Francisco, after a wonderful day of doing not much of anything in particular with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, I listened to the Sondheim & Lapine show, Sunday In The Park With George for the first time in a very long time. At the heart of the musical stands the difficult problem of sticking with or leaving, hoping, or moving on; or perhaps, as it is explained in the penultimate number of the show, hoping and moving on at the same time.

I have always been plagued by George's frustration and struggle with coming up with a way of living and creating that is at the same time new and his own. One of the reasons this show so moved me 30 years ago, and continues to do so today, is that it reaches right down inside my soul and speaks directly to my biggest personal, life-long struggle, doing wonderful, original work, and living a life of heart and meaning and depth and soul.

I just don't know how to do both, but I want to so badly that there are times (like now) when I simply want to shriek in agony at the frustration of my ignorance and inability to figure out what to do and how to do it. Perhaps the best advice comes in Marie's comment at the beginning of this scene when she says, "You meant to tell me to be where I was, not some place in the past or the future. I worried too much about tomorrow. I thought the world could be perfect. I was wrong."

Right now, I am indeed seeking to be where I am, accepting the possibility of moving on despite an extreme lack of clarity, and hoping that in the process I can indeed discover what really is mine to be and do. I am also aware that this is really not enough. Life exists on a fulcrum between Be Here Now and Where Are You Going. Stay too long on one side or the other and all kinds of problems ensue. The true beauty of living can only be made manifest in that combination of elements that George recites at the beginning and end of the play, order, design, tension, balance, light... Harmony.

Somewhere between Never Give Up and Move On there's a place of Harmony and that is the place I'm hoping to find during this seasonal time of searching. It's a process of knowing when to stick and knowing when to quit. It's a place of living in the moment and dreaming of the future. It's a place of big dreams and daily realities.

As Bruce Cockburn sings... "It's hard to live."

For another take on all this, I've had Elton John and Leon Russel's song, Hey Ahab, on constant play in my head and on my iTunes for the past three months. Beyond the emotional connection that links both determination and wisdom with the real life struggles of Leon Russell in recent years, it really is just about the best rock and soul song to come down the pike in a very long time.

Deep in the belly of my own big fish these days, I keep looking for that sign that says "Hope Allowed!" I still want to hang onto that hope, but I also need to understand when it's time to "catch a ride outta here!" To move on to the next thing, while still honoring, and loving, and somehow being glad of what I have done and where I have been.

What do you think? Post a comment. Ask a question. Tell us something about you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What does it mean to have MAIG?

This is a question that I have lived with personally, and nearly every day, for over thirty years. It was first posed to me in a counseling class in seminary, by a quiet scholarly professor with a big mind and an even bigger heart.

MAIG was the concept that Dr. J. Lyn Elder proposed to us at the heart of his personal “Elderology.” A set of concepts that he introduced in his Pastoral Care classes at Golden Gate Southern Baptist Seminary, but which had no resemblance to anything that looks or sounds like what people, at least today, understand Baptist theology to be about.

The initials stand for Maximum And Increasing Gratification and the question of what is MAIG in any given situation is the heart of a modified Utilitarianism that Dr. Elder proposed as the way to approach theology, counseling, ministry, and life.

After living with this material for thirty years, struggling to understand its fundamentals more deeply and seeking to apply the outward principles in my life, I decided that one of the best ways to explore the concepts personally, and to pass them on for the benefit (the Maximum and Increasing Gratification) of others was to struggle through the process of putting them down in print.

Seeking Pleasure Instead of Pain

Incalculable numbers of times, I have mentioned the central concept of this book to people only to receive a look of consternation and a shaking of the head. The inevitable reaction being one in which people cannot imagine setting a criteria for life development or personal improvement, or spirituality of any kind, with the central focus being personal, and collective, gratification.

I find this amusing on the one hand, and depressing on the other. We seem to have no problem basing religious belief on the idea of suffering and annihilation - suicide and/or mass homicide. We - almost universally - worship the war hero who can conceive of sacrificing his or her life for comrades, and violently fighting unknown, unspecified and often unproven enemies, but we have a much harder time honoring the peace warrior who seeks a common ground with “enemies” and opponents. The religious underpinings of personal sacrifice, self-mortification and guilt are well documented and widely accepted, but the idea that there could be a religious underpinning to support the pursuit of delight (both personal and collective) is a concept as foreign to most people as the possibility of breathing water.

In the wider culture as a whole, the idea of immediate gratification is not only accepted, but often widely and enthusiastically practiced. However asking the part of the question, what leads to truly increasing gratification - an actual life-affirming growth in pleasure and goodness - seems far from most people’s thoughts.

Religiously, we seem to be willing to accept sacrifice and pain (or the avoidance of pain) as perfectly reasonable motivators in the development of personal principles and behaviours, but to, instead, consider pleasure, delight, gratification, and ecstasy as equivalent or even superior motivators... that proposal often meets with deaf ears and stoney faces.

When it comes to how we feel about others the same issues apply. How many people are willing to judge others and condemn them to lives of meaningless frustration on earth and an eternity of suffering damnation in hell, rather than accept the fact that we - all of us creatures - are not only entitled to live healthy, happy, holy lives, but that all of us are better off the more of us are experiencing life’s delight? And that is the key to it all. As Republicans (and no doubt a few Democrats) are fond of saying,  “ a rising tide lifts all boats.” The underlying principle of all things MAIG is that each of us individually benefits when all of us are approaching a critical mass of happiness. At the same time, all of us as a collective (within a single group, community, nation, or world) do better when any one of us is reaching for their top potential.

And that is what MAIG is about. In every aspect of life, in all representations of connection; in every way that each of us lives, and moves and has our being, we are all the better for every way we build up our (and other’s) lives. We need to have the best we can get and we need to help that best get better.

That is my hope and prayer for this book, it’s insights and exercises. I believe that the five questions to be dealt with in the next few pages and 10,000 words will provide you with a basis for reflecting on a way of living that not only provides the opportunity for great meaning, but also great joy. Maximum and increasing gratification.

Good is not enough when you dream of being Great!


This is the introduction to a book I am working on (and a series I am developing). There's more to come as I approach the first release within the next couple of weeks. Your questions, comments, and critiques are very much welcome. Please post!

You can also find this post at my other blog, Bleeding Daylight