Monday, July 23, 2012

Renew your spirit.

I have been telling anyone who will listen about our newly renovated Washington Park and its eight acres of awesomeness smack dab in the middle of Over-the-Rhine.

If you don't believe me, check out this amazing photo from last night's Over the Rhine concert/love fest.

Not convinced yet?

Look at this beautiful video of the amazing Fonzie Gaspari enjoying the park fountains, filmed by Andrea Sisson and Pete Ohs.

Here's what: in this divisive election year, in this fragile economy, on this formerly sad patch of urban land, we now gather and remember our humanity.

In our now beloved park under the shady trees and around the water that everyone can play in, on the open lawn, or on a bench by the old bandstand, in the dog park or in the children's play area we sit and talk and laugh and breath and smile to each other. We talk about our love for our neighborhood and commitment to the city. Our eyes wander back to the children playing.  Our eyes wander across the park to the SCPA, to the Lord's Gym, to the Emanuel Community Center, to Music and Memorial Hall. This is what summer is supposed to feel like! This is what city living is supposed to feel like! This is how I want to spend my leisure hours!

We have hard lives and we want spaces where we can breath and feel at ease. We want to watch the children of our city play. We want to watch people dance silly. We want to hear music in the night. We want to believe in our selves and believe in our city.

Here we do.

Don't miss it. Don't miss out on your chance to feel something far beyond urban renewal. Renew your sense of faith in those who govern and plan and envision. Renew your sense of faith in your neighbors.

Renew your sense of faith in yourself.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meet Jake. He Needs Our Help.

That's Jake Sisson in the hat. Pete Ohs, his brother-in-law, is in the white shirt.

I met Jake's sister Andrea outside of the Cincinnati Ballet one day as we walked to our cars. We had taken the same class. I took one look at her and thought, "She is worth knowing. There is something up with this one." And so we began talking. Within minutes, I began to sense why I wanted to meet her. She is a filmmaker. She has lived in Iceland. And she had returned home to spend time with her brother Jake. 

Jake has been institutionalized more often than not over the last many years and vastly medicated for alternating diagnoses of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. He has been on medication since he was eight years old. And he hates it.

Granted, you hear this a lot from people who prefer the manic mind. But Pete and Andrea really, really, really listen to Jake and they heard him calling out for a different lifestyle, one with more dignity and more light and love and nature and less medication. This is the path Pete and Andrea are now on with Jake. They are trying to find the best way to give Jake the fullest life possible. One without four white walls and mind-deadening drugs. 

This is Andrea. Jake's sister.

And this is Jake, back when I met him, earlier this year.

I offered to spend some time with Jake to see if some body/energy/hang out sort of time might be good for him. He was recovering from three broken limbs in a nursing home. So I sat on his bed and he told me stories about gods and goddesses and devilish buddhas. I asked him to see if he could get his hands to do the same things. We tried to see if we could feel the energy coming out of our palms. Simple stuff.

I never know exactly what I am going to do with Jake except to be present to him and to try to respect his world and invite him into mine, respectfully.

Today, I went to visit Jake again. When I asked him to try get his hands to do the same things (make fists, open up, turn over, etc.) he said they won't do the same thing but they will rhyme. So we watched him do that for a bit, make his hands rhyme.

I will be going out each week to see Jake. Andrea and Pete, under the guidance of the Windhorse facility in Boulder, CO, are working to create a team of people to do shifts with Jake while they work to find the best long-term community for him to find a life of dignity and purpose.

So if you are a healer or a human or a friend or a teacher or a person with some time and want to be considered to help Jake, please contact me at and I will forward your info to  Andrea and Pete. This is not a small commitment, even if the duties while visiting Jake may be as simple as listening to him and/or tossing a ball back and forth or playing a game or going for a walk.

We will also be raising funds soon. So I will tell you more about that later. And I will also tell you more about Andrea and Pete's film project. Here is a taste of the beautiful films they make.

How many times have you known of a person in need and waited for the system or someone else to take care of them? I do it every day. I am not only taken with Jake but I am especially moved by Andrea and Pete, a young and talented husband and wife team who are in high demand to take part in their 20s as activists and artists. Instead, they are moved to take care of Jake.

Which is why I will help them. Which is why I hope you will help them. Email me for more info and we will find a way for you to help this family.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The year the dock nearly blew up on the Fourth of July.

I grew up in the Hermitage Club outside of Newtown. There were 20 some homes on nearly 300 wooded acres and only three kids: Alex Fibbe, my brother Dave, and me. It had been a bachelor's hunting and fishing club in the 20s and when the men became of age to marry and settle down, the incorporated the property and built year-round homes.

It was the 1960s so we played all day in the woods, ran home for dinner, then ran back out to play until dark. Keys were left in the ignition of the cars and rarely was the house locked.

Alex, Dave and I created intricate bicycle routines in advance of the annual Fourth of July picnic. I was so unused to company that it would give me a nose bleed; the sheer excitement of all those people playing all those games thrilled me to the bone. At the 'picnic tables,' which was the name we cleverly bestowed on the entire area designed for community gatherings, the adults and kids would play the game where you put a name on someone's back and then try to get them to guess who they are: Mark Twain, Richard Nixon, John Glenn. Mae West. It was so fun. Especially when a man was a woman! We looked especially hard for these gender-hilarious pairings. This was also the site of horseshoes. And firecracker snakes blithering their black entrails out on the sidewalk or the big flat rock you could lift up to find a motherlode of worms.

At the lake, we nearly drowned trying to get the greased watermelon into the inner tube and chilled out,  water logged, by tossing eggs to each other on the shore to see which partners could get furthest apart without breaking their eggs. We played the same game with water balloons.

As the day turned to night, we got ready for the annual fireworks extravaganza thanks to one of the resident's commitment to obtaining fireworks in Tennessee. The dads would build mortar shells and other serious launching devices, waiting until everyone was really liquored up to set them off. A time honored tradition, to be sure.

Sparklers were handed out early, burning down to the stub as you wrote your name in script, over and over again. My brother, Alex and I huddled over near the cottage by the lake, the creepy one that was not inhabited year round. I ran to let my mom know to get everyone organized for our show.  I bossed everyone around even at eight, maybe especially at eight.

With great somberness we walked the folded flag to the flag pole on the hill, overlooking the lake. We unfolded it, as though in every one of the 13 folds was a hidden prize. And we raised it so it could wave to us all. We took rituals very serious back then. We took American Government very serious back then. And we especially loved red, white and blue displays of family and friends and laughing and greased up watermelons and that one drunk guy every year. I had no idea if we were Republican or Democrat. I don't even recall those being words of interest until I was in my late teens and started to think about voting.

Later that night, as our dads stood on the dock ready to launch the fireworks, one of the first ones backfired and set the entire Rozzi-worthy load of them off. It was thrilling and terrifying. Dads running from the dock, others diving into the lake. Luckily, no one was hurt. It was a near tragedy. And that was as close as I got as a kid to anything of real concern. The losses all came later. As they will. As they should.

Wherever you are, whomever you are with, I hope you have a day with friends and family and games and watermelon and a sparkler or two. I hope that you remember community and patriotism sans politics and sans loss. Those, I suspect, will come later.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On waiting.

I saw this photo this week and immediately posted it and a link to the beautiful blog I found it on my Facebook page with my own provocative caption. 

"What are you waiting for?" I asked.

To be truthful, I gave this photo the same amount of consideration I gave most of the 1000+ other micro bits of information I took in for a nanosecond before moving on. I saw it, clicked to make it larger, clicked to Steve McCurry's site, scrolled down far enough (two, maybe three images) so I could "get it" and think, "Oh, it's about waiting. Cool." And three nanoseconds later I was on a job site for writers, a job site for everything and everyone, Perez Hilton to find out WHAT?!? happened to Tom and Katie then back to Facebook then back to my play then back to Facebook then to my spam in-box to make sure I didn't miss a super important email then to the weather site to make sure it was still hot outside then to my email then to my Facebook then ...

Today I stood on line at my coffee shop after my dance class. The people in front of me were TAKING FOREVER and I had my usual chat in my head about people who clearly have not been in a coffee shop before, the innovations that I could make to the barista system at large, and other pithy, irritable notions. I thought, "I hate waiting."

There I stood with a wad of cash in my hand waiting to pay for a $3.50 hot latte in an air conditioned coffee shop to walk to my air conditioned car to drive to my air conditioned home on a 90 degree day after taking a FREE dance class because people are just that nice and generous to me. 

First. World. Problems.

My friend told me recently that when we had to make the long and arduous journey to seek the wisdom of the old woman in the cave, when we travelled over rough land in inclement weather to seek enlightenment, the journey itself was the hardship. Without the hard physical journey, we create an intense mental journey. We agonize emotionally with the same ferver as if we are clawing our way up a mountain or trying to find shelter from a torrential, freezing rain under a branch. 

This is my way.

This same time last year, I was waiting to go on a trip because I was sure THINGS would happen for me then and there. I was waiting to see how the job situation would work out, waiting to see if I could make enough money as a freelancer. I was waiting to see if he really liked me. I was waiting to see if things would tip for me socially, emotionally, financially, romantically, creatively.

Deja vu.

Here is the big difference. Last year Kristin was alive. Last year, we were waiting to see if the transplant worked. I was waiting to see when I should go back out. 

And she would be so fucking mad to think that a year later, I have learned nothing. Or maybe in her now benevolent spot in the great beyond, she is guiding my spirit and my fingers to type this. She is hanging out with Whitney Houston and Mike Kelley and Adam Yauch and they conjuring up a way to get us unstuck and off our computers and back into loving the life we have each and every minute we have it.

So I am off to construct a day in which I listen and interact and love the people in front of me in the moment they are in front of me.  

Will I have enough money? Will my work become easier? Does he really? Do I really? Is it really?

Yes. No. Maybe. 

It is the questions themselves that can wait. This life of ours cannot.