Monday, March 14, 2011


Sometimes, every now and again, an event occurs that causes us to hit an internal reset button, to reassess our own troubles or struggles or disappointments or difficulties. Such an event occurred last Friday, March 11, in Japan.

That day, Japan was struck by a huge earthquake and then a far more devastating series of tsunamis. Even now, we don’t have a clear picture of just how devastating these events have been. We know that at least 1,500 people have died and Japanese authorities are estimating (as of now) that the death toll will likely exceed 10,000 people. There are multiple nuclear reactors that are in danger of melting down or overheating to near meltdown conditions, and there remain threats of additional tsunamis.

This is an enormously difficult time for the small island nation of Japan. Earlier today, Japan’s Prime Minister said that this was the worst crisis they have faced since World War Two. That’s saying something.

(At the end of WWII, in case you don’t know, the US dropped Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only times that these particular weapons of mass destruction have ever been used.)

Since those horrible days in 1945 the Japanese have become close Allies, close friends. I was relieved to learn earlier today that a friend of mine who interned for me when I was at American Theater Company several years ago is safe and sound. She made it through the earthquake and did not suffer from the tsunami – she was in Tokyo, and, thankfully, on high enough ground.

Others are not so fortunate. Now is a time for us to think about and pray (if that is part of your personal ethos) for our friends in Japan. They are facing an extremely difficult time right now. They need all the help we can provide. Money, gear, support, prayers, and thoughts.

Reading of what’s going on in Japan right now and watching snippets of coverage on CNN makes it clear to me that this is going to be a long, hard battle for our friends on the other side of the world. They need to know that we support them. And, we need to understand that it could just as easily be we who could be going through such a disaster. California has the San Andreas fault. It’s really not a question of if, but more a question of when. It’s coming. No one knows when, but California is going to experience a big earthquake in the undetermined future. As will Illinois. Illinois? Yes, we are also on an unstable fault. Earth’s tectonic plates don’t care where we live, or what language we speak, or what sort of government we have. They move. They shift. On their own. They don’t discriminate. Nor should we in our aid for our friends. And today our friend need to be the Japanese, who need our help immediately.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Transitions, Part II

Sometimes what’s in our heart is not worth public consumption, so what do we write about then?

Well, here’s trying to answer that question. Of what do we write when we are feeling so down or lost or blue or sorry-for-ourselves that no one would possibly want to read what we have to say?

Well, I suppose the first thing we’d do is not blame anyone else for what we are feeling. I suppose the first thing we’d do is say, “Well, here it is. Here I am. I feel what I feel. And perhaps the only reason that there’s any worth in writing this is that there might be others out there who are also feeling just a little bit lost, or at-sea, or flummoxed with this difficult job market and all the rest.”

Okay, that’s not too bad. That’s not blaming anyone; that’s just admitting that I’m feeling like I’m in a rough spot right now. At the same time, I also must say this: I’m among the lucky ones. I have a good, solid roof over my head. I have a good education. I have a wonderful, terrific, spouse who is immensely supportive of me – even when I’m a little off of my game.

Last year I published (thanks to my dear friend and great supporter Katerina Stoykova-Klemer) my first chapbook. I’m deeply grateful. Katerina went on to nominate the second chapter of that book for a Pushcart Prize, for which I am also very grateful. Last year, I also earned my MFA in Writing, for which I am ALSO grateful. And yet… and yet… here I find myself in a sort of limbo, a sort of haze, a sort of . . . lost feeling.

I’m applying for jobs, although I’m not sure I’m doing the best job of it. I’m continuing to work, sporadically, but not enough. I’m not writing nearly enough as I need to. It’s as if I’ve lost faith. In myself. In my voice. In my work.

Boo-hoo, stop feeling sorry for yourself, you over-educated, self-indulgent asshole!!

Yeah, those are my sentiments exactly. There is no time to feel sorry for one’s self. There is no time to wallow in self-pity or to endlessly engage in “what-if” questions. Therefore, the time has come to move the f**k on. As a good friend of mine likes to put it, “Get on with the bitch!” Indeed. And I shall. This I vow, with this blog post. It’s the only reason I’m posting this. So anyone who reads this can, perhaps, be helpful in holding me accountable to moving on and getting on with it.

When I graduated with my MFA, Tori Murden McClure, the newly named president of Spalding University discussed in her address to our graduating class how these newly graduated MFAs might be emotionally vulnerable for a while, but she assured family and friends that we’d be okay eventually. Well, that eventually has come for me. It’s time to get back to work. Time to turn the page, so to speak.

Thank you for your indulgence.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Momentous Times

We are living in momentous times, I think.

Look at what’s happened in the past few months in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and other North African and Middle Eastern countries. Look at what’s going on in Wisconsin and Indiana and Tennessee and Ohio and, likely, in other states, of which I am not yet aware.

People are rising up. They are demanding that they be heard. Legislators and Governors are making demands, some of which make sense and some of which seem to feel like an over-reach, a power-grab, or choose your adjective.

The exciting thing is that people are being heard. Voices are mattering.

A couple of days ago, I was at a rehearsal for a corporate gig the I was directing, and a right-leaning friend of mine asked me as we were coming off of a break, “Would you be willing to wait a year or two for your Social Security benefits to kick in if it would help take care of the current national deficit?” I thought for a moment, and then said, “Yes, absolutely, no question!”

He said, “You know? I’ve asked that of my right wing friends and my left wing friends, and everyone has had the same answer: Yes!”

So, why can’t we get it done?

Why won’t this Congress do what they need to do and pass legislation that begins to slowly raise the retirement age? When Social Security was first enacted the life expectancy in the United States was 62 (or something close to that) and one didn’t qualify for SSN until you were 65!! It’s STILL at 65, and yet we are living longer and longer. Where is the sense in that? (Okay, full disclosure, it has started to rise VERY incrementally for those who are my age… I may have to wait until I’m 66 1/2 … oh my!) It needs to rise more. I would happily add another 2 or 3 years in order to help this country, MY country, OUR country, deal with our fiscal mess.

We spend too much in this county. Too much on defense, too much on health care, too much on energy, too much on… well, I suppose, just about everything. Only discipline and a new way of thinking is going to change that. I know a lot of my Republican friends think that the answer is to get rid of social spending and to bust the unions, especially the teachers unions, but, honestly, why should teachers lose the right to collective bargaining while we keep that right for firefighters and law enforcement? I don’t understand the distinction.

Have there been abuses? I imagine so. Are there areas where we can improve these negotiations? I imagine so. But, let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Let’s all be adults and deal with the situation. The relevant unions in Wisconsin, for instance, have already agreed to all of the wage and pension concessions that the Governor has requested, why does he have to do away with collective bargaining?

Returning to the question my right-leaning friend and colleague asked me about being willing to delay retirement a couple or a few years if it would help our nation. I said, “Yes,” and he told me that everyone else he asked said, “Yes.” We are not so far apart as it sometimes seems. I think we share more in common than we might always know. Let us stop attacking one another over trivial things like: Who’s more patriotic? Or, Who’s got the best interest of our country at heart? We ALL have the best interests of our country at heart, and that’s precisely the point of our political process – we determine the policy directions of our country (and our states and our municipalities) through the political process. But there is simply no need for anyone in this country to demonize another. We are strongest when we work together and when we understand that even if we disagree, we can do so agreeably.


Thursday, March 3, 2011


Yesterday I posted a blog entitled Discouragement. Tonight I want to visit the flip side.

Twenty-nine years ago, in the spring of 1982, I was a student at New York University and Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. He was pushing for massive cuts to student loans and grants and what-not, and several thousand students decided to mount a protest to Reagan’s planned cuts. At the time, my brother Scott was living with our natural father, Bob Jaycox, in Joppa, Maryland, not very far from Washington, D.C. Once I knew I was going to be going down to D.C. to protest Reagan’s proposed Draconian cuts, I called my brother and asked if he might want to meet me in Washington for lunch or something.

He said, “yes.”

We met on the steps of the Capitol building one March afternoon, almost precisely twenty-nine years ago. It was the first time he and I had ever chosen to see each other, to spend time together. As I recall, we walked around a bit, took in some sights and eventually had lunch somewhere – I have no idea where. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was with my brother. It was great.

I just got off the phone with my brother a few minutes ago. We talked earlier this evening for nearly ninety minutes. We talked about our lives, our hopes, our worries, our concerns, our joys.

We recalled that day twenty-nine years ago that we decided to meet one another on neutral turf, by our own choice, and I couldn’t help but tear up. It was a pivotal moment in both of our lives, and a joyful one. It was the first time that we decided we wanted to see each other, to visit, to spend time with one another. It was – and remains – a gift. A gift that we gave each other. We decided that we were brothers, we embraced it. It was always so, of course, but it meant so much more after we embraced it.

And so while last night I mused about discouragement, tonight I write of encouragement, because the meeting that my brother and I had twenty-nine years ago is one of the most encouraging things I can imagine. And the conversation that we had tonight was just what the doctor ordered.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


None of us is eager to embrace the title, to admit to being discouraged. And yet it happens in most of our lives, or at least many of our lives. Sometimes, we get discouraged. We might lose hope or feel like we aren’t getting anywhere or feel like we are aimless or restless or lacking the sort of clear guidance that we might prefer.

Perhaps you’ve placed a call to an old friend or a trusted colleague and left a message and it’s been days without a return call. Perhaps you’ve reached out to someone who assured you that they would always be there for you, but this time that’s just not quite the case. What do you do?

You soldier on. You find your own strength. You hold your head as high as you possibly can and even when you feel like you don’t have a damned clue as to what your next best move is you keep on going. You resolve to do what it is you want to do, you resolve to be better at communicating with your friends, you resolve to go after each and every opportunity you can find, you resolve to NOT be dragged into the morass of self-doubt and self-pity. You resolve to tell yourself, “It’s time to stop wondering what life is going to bring me and time to start determining what life is going to being me.”

I’m writing – of course – to myself. It’s time for me to stop wondering what life is going to bring me and it’s time for me to start determining what life is going to bring me. I’m applying for jobs, yes; I’m working (too sporadically) on my manuscript, yes; but I need to embrace that no one can determine more what life will bring me than I can. It ain’t easy. And it often isn’t much fun. But there we are. There it is.

It’s time for me to get back to work; to my work. To writing. Of course I have to pay the bills, and I will – whether that be through writing and directing corporate training work or teaching as an adjunct wherever I can get the work, I’ll do it. But I also need to do the real work, the writing work that I’ve trained for and worked for and that I… ultimately, love.

My late birth father had a phrase that he used a lot. He would say, “Well, good enough.” His saying “good enough” meant so much more than what those two words instantly imply. It meant, “All is well.” It meant, “Now we can proceed.” It meant, “Full speed ahead.” It is high time for me to heed my late father’s words, “Good enough.”

Damn whatever torpedoes might be waiting in the wings. Full speed ahead.