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Florida on Fire

Well, brush fires … nothing serious at all (at this point, thank God.) Actually, it’s not the fire at all, it’s the smoke.

It started this morning. I’ve gotten in the habit of watching a bit of the local news while I eat my breakfast. I get most of my news from NPR (WMFE) or the internet. I decided a few months ago that those sources are well and good, but sometimes you really do need to know what’s happening down the street. What the local school board is up to, what neighborhoods have increased rates of violent crimes, those kinds of things. This morning what I got was a little weather and a little bit of traffic, including a few spots where the roads were all backed-up because of brush fires. I didn’t give it a second thought.

Later, at lunch, me and two of my friends were chatting. The conversation came around to work and jobs we’d had and my friend Andrew and I were trying to explain what it’s like to work in theme park operations. We weren’t very successful. There is this energy, this state of being, this sense of empowerment, and a sense of struggle that comes with it. Working out there, on the front lines of Orlando’s tourism industry, in a big theme park, puts you in a truly unique spot. It’s a challenging spot, for sure, and often times not exactly pleasant, but it’s yours. I’ve talked to a lot of other people, and I know I’m not crazy.

Then, after work, I stepped outside. I opened the door and felt a rush of air and immediately smelled the smoke. The smoke, presumably, from the brush fires that I heard of this morning and all of a sudden all of my memories of my first summer in Orlando came flooding back. The first time I lived in Orlando, you see, there were fires. Lots of fires, bad fires, much worse than the ones today. In fact, my second day on the job, while in training, my apartment complex was under an evacuation watch. My trainer lived in the same complex and we worked out an arrangement so that if his partner paged him during lunch break he would be able to get in touch with me so we could rush home and rescue some of our personal belongings before everyone had to be out. That was about 1.5 mi from where I am right now, as the crow flies.

Don’t get me wrong, though — the drama of the fires wasn’t what came rushing back. I had brought the few possessions I had in Florida in my car, and I could certainly get them all out again with little effort (and enough time.) No building in my complex was ever evacuated and the danger eventually subsided. But for that whole summer, Central Florida seemed to burn. In fact, it wasn’t really the memories that came rushing back at all. It was the emotions.

As I said about my job that summer, the whole experience was wonderful, but not all happy. Parts of it were the very saddest I’ve ever felt. But even in my darkest hours, I felt, that summer, like I was where I was supposed to be. I had some innate knowledge that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Even though at that point I still hadn’t come into my own, I’ve never felt more right than I did that summer. Even as my tears flowed like a river deep enough to carry me away when it was time to leave, because it was time to leave, I was so happy to have felt like I had a place where I really belonged. And that whole summer, all I smelled was smoke.

Isn’t it strange how smells especially can conjure up emotions? There is an inexplicable link. I always prefer to never run into someone who wears Drakkar Noir and every time Florida is on fire I feel this way that I can’t even begin to describe.

i come to you with strange fire, i make an offering of love,
the incense of my soul is burned by the fire in my blood.
i come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path.
i want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.

this is a message of love.
love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired.
i come to you with strange fire.

mercenaries of the shrine, who are you to speak for god?
with haughty eyes and lying tongues and hands that shed innocent blood.
who delivered you the power to interpret calvary?
you gamble away our freedom to gain your own authority.

find another state of mind. grab hold.
strange fire burns with the motion of love.

when you learn to love yourself, you will dissolve all the stones that are cast,
you will learn to burn the icing sky and to melt the waxen mask.
yes, to have the gift of true release, this is a peace that will take you higher.
i come to you with my offering. i bring you strange fire.

this is a message of love.
love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired.
i come to you with strange fire.

“Strange Fire”
Indigo Girls
Strange Fire

Add comment My Life 02/17/2009 at 20:30 ET

My Superman

My mom is in town for Thanksgiving (as well as my sister and her boyfriend.) When she comes to Florida we always try to make some time to get together with some old family friends, Helene & Charlie. If I remember the story right, Helene and mom were old buddies in college and they’ve stayed in reasonably close touch ever since. Helene and Charlie live near Ft. Lauderdale (kind of) so we try to meet in Vero Beach, which is approximately halfway in between. We also took my grandmother, who knows Helene and Charlie and has been part of this new tradition in the past :)

Yesterday, for no apparent reason, I mentioned Five for Fighting. My sister’s boyfriend, Kevin picked-up on it somehow and mentioned the song “Superman.” It was important enough in our conversation that I went into my room to make my computer play the song for us. Today something strange and wonderful happened — I was reminded of what Superman used to mean to me before 2000.

Back when I was a kid, and I have no idea how this started, someone told me, my brother, and my sister, that Charlie was really Superman. It went so far that one time I remember going to see the “new” Superman movie with Helene & Charlie once and talking to Charlie about “his” movie. It was crazy — when we went to New Jersey to visit them mom used to say “we’re going to go visit Superman.”

Superman and His Wife

Today in our walk, I was reminded of this once again, and the words of the Five for Fighting song came into my head from the night before. I was also remembering that it wasn’t so much the thought that Charlie really was Superman, I was probably too old for that. Instead it was more about liking the idea that he had a great secret and we (the kids) were included in it. I think we really liked that feeling. He may have been only a man, but he’s always been a super friend to my mom and her kids (as has his awesome wife!)

I can’t stand to fly, I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find the better part of me
I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
And it’s not easy to be me

I wish that I could cry, fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie about a home I’ll never see
It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me

Up, up and away, away from me
Well it’s alright
You can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy or anything

I can’t stand to fly, I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees
I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
And it’s not easy to be me.

Five for Fighting
America Town
©2000 Sony

Add comment My Life 11/29/2008 at 02:13 ET

Flashback to College

So yesterday Andrea called me and left me a message about going to the Daily Grind. This seems like an innocuous phone call, except the Daily Grind is the coffee house from college. I haven’t been there since 2001 and, as far as I knew, it’s almost 900 miles away…

So she called me later in the day to go out that night and I went over to her house. When I got there she was still talking about the Daily Grind. Trying not to sound like a complete ass, “there’s another coffee house called the Daily Grind and it’s in Orlando,” I said. “No,” replied Andrea, “it’s the Daily Grind from college.”

After a little more dialog (which I won’t make more awkward by trying to write it down in a blog post) I finally found out that the guys who started my favorite coffee house in Winchester, VA, had turned their business into a franchise and there was, indeed, one in sunny Orlando.

I recommend everyone go there. The coffee I’ve been drinking for the past seven years is so acidic and bitter. The coffee I had last night was delicious. Check out for more info! Or, just stop by 807 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL.

Add comment My Life 04/27/2008 at 11:12 ET

My Locker

The other day I told you about some of the stuff Mike sent me in advance of the new Dave Barnes album coming out on April 1. What I didn’t tell you about was the poster. You see, it came in this big padded manila envelope, but all I found in it at first was the CD and some stickers. I’m like, “That’s a lot of envelope for a CD…”

Then I noticed the poster. There was this little Dave Barnes poster in there. I didn’t really know what to do with it, because I don’t really celebrate celebrity in a normal way. I don’t think Dave (or any singer, actor, etc.) should be idolized or imitated or fawned after. He’s just a good singer and guitar player and I really like his CDs.

So last night I was sitting around with my roommate Matt. We were talking about the stickers and the blog, and somehow I thought of the poster. Trying to be funny, I said something like, “I’ll take it to school and put it in my locker.” Well, in about two seconds I realized that I actually do have a locker, kind of. (A locker at work, not at school.) Where most people have a set of four drawers to file things in, that space in my cube was empty when I was hired for this role. I looked around and found this storage cabinet instead — it’s very handy since I have almost zero files. Sooooo I brought the poster to work today and put it in my locker. I never did put anything like this up in my locker in high school, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

My Locker at Work

1 comment My Life 03/05/2008 at 09:49 ET

Yet Another Mike

Dave Barnes Sticker

The other day a very strange thing happened to me. I got a completely unsolicited e-mail from a guy who wanted me to send him my home address. “Delete it,” right? That’s what I thought at first, but, internet safety rules aside, I gave it a second look. I’m kind of glad I did — it’s pretty cool.

The guy was a representative of a company who produces my friend Dave Barnes (which you know if you’ve read this blog). I’m using “friend” in the pedestrian here — we’ve never met before. I’ve just listened to his music a lot. Anyway, Dave has a new album (Me + You + the World) coming out on April 1. This guy (let’s call him Mike, ’cause that won’t be confusing) sent me an album sampler, a poster, and some stickers. The stickers are that red picture up at the top there.

So I listened to the CD. I was specifically asked not to post the songs (not that I would do that, ever) but I think I’m supposed to tell you about the new album and hopefully you’ll want to buy it. Well, I’ll do my best, here goes… There were three songs: #1 is “Until You.” I don’t get this, because it was on Brother, Bring the Sun. Moving along… #2 is called “Brothers & Sisters.” This is a fine song, and I’m pretty sure Mike M. and I heard it when Two Birds, One Stone was in town, but it’s kind of pop-ish. #3 is called “When a Heart Breaks.” I like this one the best on the little CD. I’ll be listening to it more.

So that’s my story. Pretty cool. In the past week I got confirmation that two people are (kind of) reading my blog. That’s more than I thought…

Dave Barnes Note

If you think you’d like to buy the album, check these out:

Add comment My Life 03/03/2008 at 19:38 ET

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