Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dr. Robert Klapper

This is a good hero of mine. I look up to this man and I'm amazed and fascinated by the passion in which he lives and even loves his life. He is as gifted as he is blessed with not only creative but scientific tools at his disposal inside his mind, heart, body and soul... Imagine, a gifted orthopedic surgeon, sculptor, husband, father, and a working on being gifted, surfer. Plus on top of all that goodness that would make an average man's head swell, Dr. Klapper is a very down to earth, sincere, personable man. I listen to his stories; his punch-lines always demonstrate his love of life. I wish there were more doctors like him just as I wish there were more truly good people, like him. My "regular" work is at a hospital and unfortunately, I've come across many a doctor that somewhere along their paths checked their human qualities, their compassion and common sense at the door. Some even in their first years of residency, succumb to huge egos and/or child-like behavior. When I see and listen to Dr. Klapper, he simply appears as a man who truly "gets it" about life and about actually living it in a way where you can look back on your journey with pride, smile real big and say "wow!"

I had the honor and privilege to watch a lecture today given by Dr. Klapper. It was like an art history/appreciation lecture combined with anatomy, expressed with passion and an appreciation for capturing emotion. He spoke about Michelangelo's work and demonstrated not only the emotional and artistic approach to what this amazing artist did but also it's relation to orthopedic surgery. Dr. Klapper also showed his own sculptures, which were re-creations of Michelangelo's work. It was amazing stuff just as his work has been as a surgeon. Many of his patients were in the audience and one elderly lady that was a patient of his thought I was a basketball player. She shook my hand and held it for a while. She was very sincere; shining in personality, similar to Dr. Klapper. Perhaps he injected sincerity into her along with the hip replacement. Dr. Klapper is the coolest... From what I've found out about him, he owns nine patents on the angled telescope and other instruments used to do hip arthroscopy. He's designed special tools to repair hip implants and he's got the hollywood credentials too being that he's served as a Orthopedic consultant to the "ER" television show... He's not a bragging kind of guy so I never knew about these things until I read it. The only thing he does is live with passion and along the way, make other's lives better through his incredible work as a surgeon and his natural gift of being a good man... Much respect..

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Southern Winds

I was feeling the south today.. My southern spirit calling me as it does every so often. Typically this time of the year I would be driving through backroads, small towns and beautiful country sides somewhere between Mt. Pleasant, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, taking the longest route I could find. Living out of a suitcase for three weeks is the best kind of fun. Capturing images along the way and playing music reminiscent of what I was jamming off of this morning... good old delta blues music. I had to postpone my trip due to family illness and financial struggles.. hard times hit hard but it don't take away happiness or the drive to reclaim what was lost.
This morning after I experimented and discovered something delicious to eat, I picked up my dobro guitar and started making up some funky but delta blues inspired jams. It was fun. I stopped only to dip the piping hot sweet potato biscuits that I made into some maple syrup.. The taste was heavenly! The southern wind blew in again.. I strummed a few more chords. I could visualize my grandmother hanging clothes out to dry on the farm in Mt. Pleasant. I could visualize a few years ago when I drove down a lonely road in Arkansas. All the trees were different colors; a lot of bright reds, yellows, browns, paprika, light green... I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd never experienced fall colors like that before in my life. I stopped at a small store. Inside were people with seriously southern accents. I was greeted with stares from some and friendly head nods from others. There was positive and negative tension flowing through the air but me? I loved everything about it. As I've expressed many times, I'm always wishing I could travel back in time and that's exactly what it felt like when I stepped inside this store. When I stepped outside, I heard some hip hop blasting from a pickup truck; a reminder that I was still in these times...

I strummed some more chords and beat a little funky rhythm simultaneously... I remembered my mother pulling fresh water out of a well and preparing a bath for me as we adjusted for a couple weeks of living in the country. No running water, no bathroom no toilet.. Only one very small black and white television in my grandparents bedroom. Had to rely on what was called a "transistor radio," which only seemed to pick up country music stations and very passionate church services; preacher always hollering and others shouting in the background; gospel music sounding both eerie and celebratory...

I strummed some more, simultaneously playing a melody on the high E string... I remembered walking thru an old cemetery in the middle of town in Savannah, Georgia. The spanish moss hung low from trees. I reached and grabbed some of it. The first time I noticed a huge spider crawling up the first hand full that I grabbed. I quickly dropped it. I grabbed another hand full and placed it inside a paper bag that had a couple souvenirs inside. I picked up my camera, took pictures and walked around the cemetery. When I got to the other side, I'd realized I left the bag on a bench. I went back. The bag wasn't on the bench but instead appeared to have fallen underneath. All the contents had fallen out but I didn't see the spanish moss... I picked up my magnets and ceramic coasters, took a few more pictures and then went back to my not so comfortable hotel room. The hotel was really weird because the rooms had no windows and at the time I checked in, I was desperate to find a place to sleep so I wasn't choosy. I stopped at the first place I could find. It was strange how a lot seemed to be going on outside. All I could do was either listen to what was going on outside or turn up the volume on the television to drown it out. The outside seemed more entertaining. I had used up all the film on my camera so I was looking forward to seeing the images. When I made it to Atlanta, I had the pictures developed since I had time to wait and was planning to stay for a couple days. Crazy thing happened... there were no images whatsoever on the film...

I strummed some more.. ate more biscuits... The wind was howling, memories flowing fast.. I could go on forever.. The images blowing across my mind like a warm southern wind in Mississippi... I can see the highway... that's where I belong; where I wish I was right now...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Life and Death

I know someone who embraces the possibility of death though I can tell she's hiding from her true feelings. She hides a lot even in the presence of others. She has no clue about death. She's prepared? She paid for all her funeral costs, her program, and mapped out how everything should be. Nah, she's not prepared... It shows in how she handles her believed to be final days and how she struggles with her illness more in frustration than actual fight... I picture her in the final moments panicking because basically, she'd stepped over the process by which one should take time to come to grips with their own journey. Her ascension will be filled with panic and worry rather than a peaceful, ready, and embracing transition.

I remember a long time ago I used to imagine to myself about why people die or perhaps are chosen to go. Maybe its kind of silly but in a way I used to think that in some cases, God takes those who "understand" and leaves behind those who need more time to figure things out. This person underestimates her time and will probably be around a lot longer than she imagines or believes, thus she'll waste time sitting around wondering "when" rather than living, loving, and enjoying life to the fullest... Other's might go before her and this loss will weigh heavy on her heart as she tries to figure out why... I always believe that things make more sense when you can look beyond yourself... If she finds it, it won't happen until discovery becomes too late.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Great Escape

This year in 2008, my second greatest escape has been movies... I haven't seen a lot but I have seen a few and most of them have been my way of leaving the world and perhaps my own life behind for a couple hours. Hollywood should recognize that in rough times as these, some form of mental escape is very much needed. For me personally, a great movie/story works a lot better than drugs or drink (I've not indulged that route)and great stories watched on the big screen is a lot more enticing than the silliness they refer to as "reality TV." Inside the theatre, the lights go down, the movie comes on and while I watch, I can feel, imagine, think, experience... especially if the film tells a great story.. I found that in Spike Lee's Miracle At St. Anna a couple weeks ago and I also found that today in The Secret Lives Of Bees. This movie was an emotional escape for me... A great story. I loved all the characters... The young girl was very good. Narration thru the eyes and soul of a young girl works well. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Eve's Bayou. In Secret Lives Of Bees, I loved the strength and grace of Queen Latifah. Alicia Keys played her part very well as if the attitude her character possessed came very easy for her... However, my favorite character was played by Sophie Okonedo or as she was known in the film, May Boatwright. May feels very deeply. Everything hits her hard, be it joy or pain, perhaps a little too much.. When she first came on the screen and became so emotional, I laughed as did many in the theatre. I think we all judged her immediately as strange. But then as the story continues you begin to understand her, thus her ability to feel so deeply touches your own heart and makes you think about life's loves, joys, and pain... Of course as always, I love the southern backdrop of yester-years gone by and wish most times that I lived back then despite all that went on... I'm sure I'd be fine without the computer, HDTV, cell phones, and all the other things we worship daily. It reminded me of the times I've parked my car and walked down country roads in east Texas and Louisiana, thinking how faraway I feel from my so-called real life at home. I felt that while watching this film. I also felt a connection between what was happening on screen and that very special part of my life that I can say is my number one greatest escape these days... It's something that Queen Latifah aka August Boatwright spoke about often in the film... Love... being loved, feeling loved.... I'm honored by someone who expresses it to me daily... The look, the smile...every part of me feels appreciated... but no ones world can ever be perfect... well, seems that way... I'm on a beautiful ship, constantly sailing in positive directions yet I still have to reach back on broken promises from another who cant seem to understand the value in simply being true... So my side keeps its thorn buried deep... A reminder or a curse; I'm not sure which but I keep fighting and hanging on or fighting to hang on as the frustration is both annoying and exhausting. So, in the midst of something so unnecessary, I cultivate that which I truly see inside of me... flowing... streams of hope, love, and dedication... I find strength and when I'm able to enjoy the gift of a great story, I find motivation and inspiration tucked inside what is always a great escape....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Imagine His Shoulders

Imagine his shoulders.. the weight of the world, carrying "HOPE" everywhere he goes. His schedule is beyond hectic. I wonder if at times the faces all become a blur, the hands coming from nowhere to touch his. He's received the blessing, honor and privilege of becoming a beacon of light for so many and a symbol of pride for not only those that look up to him now but those that watch over him, smiling down in amazement, whispering the mantra "we've come a long way..." He's on the verge of carrying that mantra into the uncertain but still very hopeful future. And looking at this picture, it shows that beyond the greatness and achievement of something once imagined impossible; as a man, as one soul walking this earth and living his journey, he still requires a moment to himself to collect his thoughts, to take a deep breath... I imagine the deep sigh and long train of thoughts that flow through his head like sitting at a light, waiting for a long train to pass by. And then when that moment is done, he has to stand and rise to the challenge because so many seek his leadership... HOPE rest squarely on his shoulders... Imagine the weight and watch how he carries it... it'll raise the level of your respect and even your pride...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ten Years Gone

On this day ten years ago, my father died. It's a helluva mental trip to even go back in memory, thinking about that day and night. Today, ten years later, I felt the same pain in my chest. The same tightening in my shoulders as though I had some major stress gripping my body. That's how I felt on October 3, 1998 even before I learned of his death. I remember I was with a friend and for whatever reason, I couldn't sit still. I kept thinking about my mother for some reason. And when I did see her, the first thing I noticed was a picture of my father in her hand. She didn't have to say word. I knew before she confirmed the first thought that ran through my mind. He was gone and that was the beginning of a sad and very trying time in my life. Death and funerals can bring out the worst of times... sometimes... So-called friends of my father decided and acted as if they owned his life while he was among the living. Their orchestrated greed enabled them to take all his money and material possessions. My mother did her best on my behalf. All she wanted was to make sure there was money to be used in taking care of the mother, my father left behind aka my grandmother, Senora Rivers. My father's body was flown to east Texas via a lot of confusion from Richmond, California where he lived his last years. The orchestration was so intense that they even sought control over the wording of the funeral program, thereby seeking to make it appear as though I didn't exist. My mother and I had a crazy time making sure the funeral program was worded as it should be. During this time, I held tight and still do to that last time I saw my father. He told me he was proud and said "love you, son." We hugged. It was a strong and reassuring moment. Previous to that we'd had a not so positive moment with mutual misunderstanding involved but in that last time together, we'd reconciled everything in a way that I can positively hold onto forever. Those individuals that took everything went on about their way, despite having promised my grandmother to do things that would keep her comfortable. They enlisted a cousin of mine who fell for possible financial promises. She took advantage of the situation but never made out as big as she'd hoped for. In the end after my grandmother passed away three years later, this cousin asked me for five grand; payment for all the help she claimed to be doing because she "loved her auntie so much." Love... I said no and never heard from her again...

Ten years ago after my father was buried and I was met with the responsibility of taking care of my grandmother, I welcomed the honor of doing all that I could to keep her comfortable. I'm grateful that my mother lent a very strong supportive hand. I took a three week trip and spent two of those weeks with my grandmother. The other week I set out on a special journey, driving from east Texas to the Mississippi Delta region. I had my father's spirit by my side and whenever I think about it, I can recall every minute of that special trip. I can remember the music playing on the radio, the food I ate, the smell of the country, the cool temperatures during that third week as October was coming to an end. I remember everything.. And now, ten years later, ten years gone, what happened back then feels like a lifetime ago one moment and the next minute it feels like yesterday. I've had a lifetime of experiences in between those moments that still remain... Moments that have to do with missing his presence. As he watches my life continue from above, I've probably given him reason to cheer and jeer.. Reason to laugh and cry... reason to smile and say "got!" which usually preceded a silent, "damn.." I believe that no matter what, there's deep pride and I'm sure he still smiles when he says out loud, "There go that Rivers kid." In memory of my father.. this is for you dad... Love alwayz..

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Spirit of...

Sometimes you miss out on the spirit of folks.. You don’t know that in a short time, their memory will be etched into your psyche for a long long time. You’ll wish you had watched a little longer or sat with them during those times when you walked away because your mind was elsewhere.. Or maybe you were just like me; too young to appreciate anything around or in front of you… There I was, a small child in the midst of grown folks having a party… BBQ dominating the air and smelling so sweet… Good funky soul music spinning on the stereo, long before CD’s and such. And in the middle of all this was Uncle Pete, made infamous thru memories shared by myself and my uncle Richard… Uncle Pete had a way of dancing that was not only on the beat and entertaining, he had style. It was comical too. He preceded those that sort of remind me of his style of dancing. Folks like Sherman Hemsley of the Jeffersons television show, Martin Lawrence when he would do that funny dancing, and this music artist from the seventies that sang about a few dances like the funky chicken and the breakdown. His name was Rufus Thomas. Uncle Pete was like those three and then some. He commanded the dance floor with his funny style, feet stomp to the beat, right on time, serious look on his face, sometimes wiggling and rubbing his hands up and down his pants legs. Then when you throw into the mix, his wife Ethel who resembled Aunt Esther on Sanford and Son, you really got a show going on right in front of your eyes... Those were the days; good times I didn't realize I had. Uncle Pete passed away a long time ago but for some reason his memory has been coming around lately. I appreciate the visit...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


In the beginning I was too blind to see how good I had it. The flow was so perfect. Streams rushing so plentiful. I was able to float in directions I never dreamed, imagined or expected. Beautiful discoveries that allowed me to stand tall because I had something to add to my existence; my journey. Memories stacked upon memories like the many pages of thoughts that fill so many diaries. The water it flowed but I took it for granted; never measuring it's true value or purpose. Blinded by influences and negative directions; suggestions... They say you don't miss your water, until your well runs dry... chi-ching..