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The phrase America has forgotten

*please note all links contained within are to supporting documents of statements made*

Photo By: Mike Mozart via Flickr.com

Photo By: Mike Mozart via Flickr.com

It is impossible to turn on the news without hearing some absurd happening within communities of these united states. Trivial things turned vicious, ignorance turned deadly, and tolerance turned intolerant. The number of stories have increased tremendously especially over the last 8 months. It seems as if there is something America has forgotten. A phrase, saying, and steadfast pillar of peace and tolerance; practice what you preach, treat others how you want to be treated, turn the cheek, or even bite the bullet. The amount of specific examples where this phrase or collection of phrases could have been used to promote peace is astounding. Following are a few examples.

Cops

In 2011 Florida state highway trooper Donna Watts arrested a Miami police officer who while driving a marked police car led her on a high-speed pursuit for over four minutes with speeds topping 120 mph on the highway. After the arraignment and judicial procedures the arrested officer lost his job. Though he broke the law, other law enforcement officers from 25 different agencies searched police archives (privileged information) to find her address and contact information in order to harass her.

If the other police men and women took a second and said, “practice what you preach,” they would have found no need to try and intimidate an officer who was actually doing what they are all sworn in to do. Maturity would have allowed this phrase to enter their minds before they reacted blindly. It also should have stood as a testament to the fact that they are not above the law. Of course there are many other current situations where this applies to the cops as well, so please, officers start asking yourself if you are practicing what you preach.

LGBT community and supporters

Photo by: Sushiesque via Flickr.com

Photo by: Sushiesque via Flickr.com

We all know the fight for equality has been difficult but has seen some amazing steps forward with the repeal of DOMA and Prop8, along with the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell. The past few years have been great, there is still, however, a very real struggle underway. In some places the fight is going backward. Let’s think Memories Pizza in Indiana. They refused to make pizza for a gay wedding. It is their constitutional and living right to choose who they serve. If they decide they want nothing to do with it, try some other business, or think of some other cuisine. The backlash created for this family run business is sickening. If we allowed the phrase, “treat people the way you want to be treated,” to run through our minds this wouldn’t have happened.

No we don’t want to be looked down upon, or berated for who we are, so why would we do that to someone else. Just because their beliefs don’t align with what the rest of the world is trending toward doesn’t give us, the same people who only recently have made some serious milestones, the right to tear their business to shreds.

Those screaming RACISM!

It will be a very dark page in the history books when the stories of Ferguson, Garner, and many more hit them. It is a time in America when we can say that unfortunately racism still exists. It is with all of my heart that we can get this to go away, but it won’t if the reactions continue to be less than appealing. There is no need to shoot and kill an innocent officer because of the color of his skin. There is no need to attack and refer to all police as killers. If it weren’t for the police force we would be in a  world that stinks way worse than it does right now. So even in these rough times, when it seems there is new evidence being turned out about some other wrong doing every single day, we should be asking ourselves, can we “treat others the way we want to be treated?” Racism exists, yes, but we need to be able to come together and live life devoid of the ignorance that creates the terrible idea called racism. You may never know when you meet someone that’s racist, but as long as you hold true to yourself and let your light shine, you may never know who you converted away from it either.

The Racists

Photo by: Adele Booysen via flickr.com

Photo by: Adele Booysen via flickr.com

I don’t know your story, nor will I ever, but the color of ones skin doesn’t equal the caliber of human you may perceive them to be. In a clear, unaltered news story that recently came up a few Florida police officers were fired because of the slanderous way they talked about black people. Sure it can be easy to lump individuals together by a common feature, but you are doing yourself one of the worst injustices you can. Don’t be narrow minded and allow yourself to think, “treat others the way I want to be treated.” Who cares what your thoughts are or what you think of people. Do the most human thing and think for a second and treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. It is, after all, ignorance which breeds intolerance.

The Unyielding Religious

It doesn’t matter what religion you are, most religions preach peace and love. Yes there are certain abominations, but it is also up to God, Allah, or whatever god you pray to, to judge those in abomination. So keep that in mind when you want to judge someone for the way they are. Recently a lawyer in California, who claims to be Christian, posed a ballot that encourages homosexuals be punished by a “bullet to the head.” This is an extreme case, but in every day life you will run into someone who’s views or life you don’t agree with. It is already stated in the bible that you aren’t to judge anyone, but leave that for God. So why can’t you say to yourself a phrase taken from your book, the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)

To Those crying No Immigration!

Recently President Obama went out of his way to pass a law that would allow illegal aliens to gain citizenship in the United States. This was a double edged sword. If the people didn’t meet all the criteria chances are they could be deported back to their country. Some of you reading this may be happy about that, but I ask you, where did you descend from? In 2013 only about 2% of Americans were native, which means your family came from somewhere else. We are constantly flooded with reports on how immigrants get a free ride, let me tell you this is false. Understandably there is concern about foreign criminals and such reaching our soil and staying, but the government has many practices in place to limit that from happening. So think about those families who want to come here and are willing to take the jobs you don’t want, along with another, just to make ends meat and support a family away from said criminal and brutal activity. Practice what you preach. If it weren’t for immigrants chances are you wouldn’t be here.

There are many groups that weren’t touched on here but the point of the essay is to increase the internal dialogue of everyone. This is America, home of the free. Of course there will people that don’t agree on one topic, life, religion, or creed. That’s the point. Take that and realize we are merging into a new era, a new generation, and the last thing we need to be guilty of is creating a hostile environment for our young ones, let alone our neighbors and ourselves. We are united with the respect of each living person, glorified in the knowing that we can live harmoniously together.

There will be times when the simple phrase, treat others as you would like to be treated, will go to the way side especially when someone threatens what we all stand for. An enemy of our rights. A true threat to the freedom that we have to be able to argue about such values. But when it comes to person to person, neighbor to neighbor, community to community we must stand united with a respect to each human to have their own thoughts, beliefs, life, and religion. This is America. These are our fundamental truths that we must not let pass.

May God Bless America!

Caleb A. Mertz

 

Breaking out of my shell! The struggle

Working towards a life change I decided to move to San Diego. While here I have had my fair share of new experiences, breath taking views (especially some of the men! Wowza!) And interesting events unfold before my eyes. Yet in all of this there is something that hadn’t happened yet. An event that doesn’t depend on location, or livelihood, but a deeper introspective view of one’s self. The good thing is, I was once there; the trouble now is getting back to it.

Everyday, usually at the end of the day after five beers, rendering the thought pattern too late, I have this thought. Let’s get back to where you once were. Great thought right? I’m recognizing where I want to be mentally, physically, and emotionally, so what’s getting in my way?

I believe there are signs everywhere. Mine started a while back when a friend in my circle surrendered the opinion that he felt I was “awkward.” I became offended and it’s still stuck with me today, but why? He didn’t mean anything other than socially awkward as in difficult to talk to me sometimes. Then some guy comes up to me at the lounge, rather handsome, in the coast guard, and stuck talking to my friend because I’m too busy being uninterested and scanning the room. Finally after a while he looks at me to ask, “why are you afraid of me?”

AFRAID? I’m really starting not to like those A-words. He later said I had to come out of my shell. “What shell?” I asked.

Then comes Pride weekend. I have all Saturday off, finally chose an outfit (a bright blue button down from express, blue Abercrombie faded jeans, and my white Giraldi dress shoes…aka, classy bitch!), and was up in time to get a good spot along the parade route. Sunny and 80 degrees, I walk past hundreds of people who might have some sun-block for the silly lil queer that forgot to bring some. I finally asked the guys in front of me when I realized how burnt I already was.

Later, at the beer tent (my first stop) there is an abundance of awesome people all over the place, where am I? Anxiously dodging the sun while waiting for my beer, quiet as a mouse. The day wasn’t a bust by any means, I did talk to a girl which then led to many other people.

“What shell?” The one that keeps me introverted when I have an extrovert personality. The shell that’s busy repressing my fears, and poor self image.

Today I pressed the snooze button too many times (as usual), got up to check facebook, went outside to smoke a cigarette and thought about tanning. Then I went inside, did a few jumping jacks and decided to do laundry, not a bad start. But then as I was brushing my teeth to prepare for work the light above me (I thought to have been burned out) flickered on. I laughed, with the joke in my head someone had a good idea. It was in that moment I looked at myself then stopped laughing to scold myself for being,
“so stupid,” I said aloud.

AH! AN EPIPHANY!

I will never get back to where I was with negativity like that. Scolding myself with negative inner dialogue won’t supply the positive change I need to make in my life. Are these the words I needed to hear myself say? Possibly, and yet with that, there are many obstacles.

Self Image one of the first things I think about. So much ties into the belief of what we are. Physical appearance (especially to a gay man) is not something to be taken lightly. So, while I may appear to be “skinny” there are several factors I don’t like about my body.

With a list of things I need to do while here in San Diego posted against my door, reminded of them every time I walk out, I realize I have to have a positive self image to accomplish these things. So while I’ve known for a while what needs to be done, a change in the way I talk to myself may just be the right move. Instead of berating my lack of effort I will be cheering myself on. Instead of uninterested attempts at waking up, I will push myself. With a positive attitude about everything, there are more opportunities that will rise up and present themselves.

Negative Self-talk has been something I’ve been developing for roughly five years now. I was quite proficient at it in my younger years, then eighteen came along and I found a wild spark inside that helped to purge through this. I made friends that saw me for the beauty I held within and they never wanted to stop saying it. Me, not wanting to disappoint them, began ensuring I was the way they saw me or better.

I always had a “favorite” song I would wake up and jam out to. It helped, I believed, get my blood going and the surge of life to purge my veins. This then led to uplifting thoughts, and opportunities to say “yes” rather than “I’m not sure” or worse, “no.” Eventually I became a morning person chock full of energy bubbling leading to more physical activity and the slimmed figure I have, but can still improve.

Lack of Drive (and/or confusion) was another interesting task I had to conquer. A great step in the correct direction was making lists. Though, I often strayed from it, at least I had a plan. Anything worthwhile I hadn’t accomplished for the day made it to the next days list. With the energy flowing I’d stop and dance in front of the mirror rather than folding laundry, but that was okay at least I was doing something. The laundry always got done.

The light that magically came on over my head could have been a good idea, realization, or a necessary culmination of facts I have to face. I am in San Diego; there is no time for poor self image, negative self-talk, or lack of drive to keep me within a restricted area. Though the physical appearance part of the obstacles will take some time I can change the drive and self-talk immediately. Positivity will abound to help further me, develop me, and break me out of this shell. There is always an amazing experience out there waiting for us to discover it, I have just gotten one step closer!

Thank you for reading! And if you liked this check out The Better Man Project.

Caleb A. Mertz

The Hoover Dam then SAN DIEGO!

I looked around the room and took in the beautiful woodwork. Cherry or Mahogany made the television stand, dresser, and doorway. A smell lingered that took me a second to identify. It was cigarette smoke; stale cigarette smoke. Plenty of pillows supported my head and lay around my bed, each having had a part as cuddling buddy through the night. I lay in bed a second longer remembering the night prior. Looking over to the next bed Mary lay motionless, still out from the alcohol induced coma. I didn’t precisely feel one hundred percent myself but thought of the Starbucks I had seen just off the casino floor.

Rousing myself, I stood; put my hoodie and hat on, then proceeded out of the room and downstairs for a caramel macchiato! The last thing I truly wanted to do at that time was stand in line, yet that’s what I committed to when I decided Starbucks was the answer for me. Returning to the room after the twenty minute wait and several dodged conversation starters, Mary was alive and staring at the ceiling. It was a good thing she woke herself up, now we could begin packing  so we’d be out by the appropriate time.

People looked at me in perplexity as I walked past with my bike in tow. I guess it’s not everyday someone walks through the casino floor with their bike. Walking out of the doors to the parking lot; I was able to see the tall palm trees and the jagged tops of the desert mountains. It was moments like this that brought me back to what was really happening. I’m moving across the country; to a place I’ve never been, to a job I don’t have, and a place to live that doesn’t exist yet. They were scary thoughts. I put the travel bags into their tight spaces before putting my bike on the rack. Almost there, I thought more, tonight we will be in San Diego, my new home. It was a nice thought. Though I didn’t know where I was going once we got there, I knew it was going to be good.

Caught in the grasp of my dreamy thoughts, I hadn’t paid too much attention to what Mary was doing. Then I caught site of her droned out and staring that the tires of the car next to us. She sat out of the passenger seat with door open and a look of disgust about her face. “Mary, are you gonna put your bag away?”

“I’m jus gon hold it.” She responded rubbing her face with her hands. Her haphazardly done hair bobbed and moved oddly. The parts she managed to include in the hair tie slowly slipped from the weak grasp. She was a mess!

“Do you wanna grab something to eat? I’m getting the sense you’re hung over.” I declared setting the last bag into the cramped back seat. That messy mess of a hair bob bobbed, confirming she wanted to eat. I rounded to her side to put her bag away so she wouldn’t be stuck carrying it the whole last part of the trip.

“Wait!” She proclaimed quickly. In the sun the bags under her eyes shown shiny and dark. The tops of her eyes looked like she just painfully tried plucking both her eyebrows off. She then pointed to a bag she had neatly placed near the drivers door of the car next to us. It was at the exact location for the next placement of my right foot had I continued to walk toward her. Within the bag was a beautiful collection of something that looked like fruit cobbler mixed with stomach bile.

“Ew! Mary!” I was so grossed out. She laughed a little.

“What? You didn’t even hear it, right?” She asked like this was one of her life’s accomplishments.

“No, but throw that shit away!” I had to get to the other side of the car. I changed my mind. She could hold her bag or put it away herself but only after throwing away her spewed dinner. I am not sure where she put it, but she made a few grunting noises when she returned and tried forcing her bag into the back seat. Finally making it work she then rolled into her seat and looked at me. I was afraid to look. If she had anything running down her chin I might just spill some unwanted things into a bag of my own.

Avoiding looking at her and getting the car in gear to go, I had to make sure  it was out of her system. “You’re not gonna throw up again, are you?”

“Do you have some gum?” She asked. I pulled the pack from the door compartment and handed it to her, without looking.

“You’re not gonna throw up again are you?” I had to ask again. Without waiting for a response I began to drive. I needed anything not to look at her just yet.

“I’m good.”

“Okay let’s grab some…” Then it happened. I couldn’t believe it. Spattering across the window, dash and hitting my face…

Just kidding,

“Let’s stop at McDonalds and get a burger to soak up some of that alcohol.” I began as she googled the closest one. We drove down the strip and looked at all of the well known casino’s . We watch as a man jumps from the stratosphere tower with only a rope keeping him from hitting the grown. I’m thinking bungee jump so when he doesn’t fly back up once he got close to the ground I began looking for the snapped line. Then at a red light a man dressed like a hobo clown, signs hanging all over him, rides past the front of my car and squeals to a halt just to the right. He honks his horn on the bike which makes an appropriate sound for a clown. As we’re watching and smiling at this funny display he rears back and begins screaming at the cars. He sounded so angry and pointed at everyone at this light.

I gripped the steering wheel tighter and looked to the traffic signal. I wanted out! This guy was scaring me. Mary, thinking along the same lines already locked her door and had the window rolled up. He continued to yell frantically at the cars by us when I saw the slightest hint of green and sped off to the next intersection.

“That fucking clown!” Mary had a sobering moment there, “no wonder Krystal’s afraid of them! Shit!” I had to laugh at this point. We were out of any danger, if there even was any, and Mary had the best face when she was freaked out.

It was time to get on the highway and make our way to the Hoover Dam. Highways, ugh, I guess when you spend so much time on them there can be little left of any thought of anything but the Highway. We just continued to drive. For the second known time in the trip I went off the street signs rather than the GPS lady who had an annoying way of talking anyway. Passing the hoover dam without seeing it we drove a good twenty minutes past before I decided to listen to Mary and turn around. However, this was the spot where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip. The picture that I felt held the most perception into it. My car, bike on the back, Pennsylvania license plate, and vast desert spanning the width of the picture. The vast dessert expressing the opening of experiences that I will encounter and the beauty that could befall me from them. The road, a journey. A journey to a place that I didn’t know; a land far from my comfort, my home, Pennsylvania. And the mountain bike to give me wheels to succeed past any sort of mountain that might rise in front of me, to tackle the land I don’t know, the troubling aspects that would surely come from this journey. Poetic right?

We finally made the Hoover Dam. Of course there was a police force designated to the protection of this landmark, and of course with all of the crap piled in the back of my car, we were selected to be searched. It wasn’t as big a deal as I worried it to be. I popped the trunk and let them peer through the windows into the back seat. They asked if I was military, thanks haircut, and shortly thereafter let us pass by.

We drove over the hoover dam and parked at the first available parking spot. We got out and took a few pictures. It was surreal knowing this canyon was about as deep as the grand canyon, being forged from the same river. Simply looking like a pond we wondered at why it was so shallow. Clearly visible were markings of where the water had gotten up to, yet there was easily a thirty foot difference from then to now. We took a few pictures then changed position, drove a little higher and took more pictures. While up high we noticed a bunker that looked more like a sniper outpost, so we snapped a few pictures of that. We didn’t stay too long before we took to the road again. This time to our final destination, San Diego.

The road was long. It had been long. It will always be long. We drove and for some reason Mary became excited about the Alien Jerky we saw signs for along the way. We stopped and picked up this said “Alien Jerky” and filled the tank with the surprise of a whole dollar more per gallon than anywhere along the trek. One other surprise waited at that gas station. California doesn’t participate in the Subway points program!!! For years I have been cashing in on my free six inch sub, now I would have to buy every single one. Was this a sign of the fiscal hurtles I would come to experience while in California? Regardless, we continued. It was night fall by the time we got a glimpse of Los Angeles, and two hours later, San Diego.

We made it! Beautiful and lovely San Diego. She beckoned and I heard her call. The lights of my car showed palm trees lining the highway, ramps, and bridges spawning in every direction. Her warmth embraced me, while her kindness left me in awe. Mary and I, both could not believe stop signs were big here, not only that but the taxi’s didn’t threaten pedestrians, but let them go ahead of them! There weren’t a lot of cars on the roads but people walked to and fro. It was the gaslamp district we wound up in first, then we found Harbor drive and took that out towards the airport. There, we found a nice place to park and take a picture of the skyline of my new home.

I guess all in all the trip itself didn’t divulge wondrous thoughts of realism. It didn’t birth any ideas of fruitful gain. I didn’t even gain a fuller sense of self through the drive. I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts. I did experience a world beyond what I ever thought I would. I strengthened a relationship with my sister beyond what I ever thought I’d want to. San Diego was San Diego. Just the place I was, in the here and now.

Time began to work it’s magic. By the time we found a place to crash for the next couple of days, while I searched for an apartment, the realities began to kick in. I wanted to write it down and play it out. Watching Titanic gave me a great scapegoat to the tears that had whelmed within me. It was in this moment when I had the greatest clarity of all, even with the six beers I had already pound.

I am me. I will always be me. I hid from myself for a while. I hid myself from the world for a while. My world was my partner. How foolish could I have been. I hid me. The greatest attribute about me; me. Location, while important to inspiration, won’t change me. I am me no matter where I may be. That’s why I don’t feel the difference.I am where I want to be now. I am where I am meant to be now. I will grow and strengthen myself. It sounds selfish, but I did it for me. The mission was accomplished. I had hoped for a great realization along the trip but it didn’t come. Now it finally had. Originating with a want for change, I made that change. With this new realization I was quickly going to change. It happened quickly, and those that only knew me in my downed state were shocked by my change.

It’s nice getting the opportunity to start a new life. Though I miss everyone I left back home, I am forging my life now with clear slate and a clear mind! Wish me luck!

<<<The Decision: San Diego

<<<The Excitement: The Beginning

<<<Onward! First Stop Myrtle Beach

<<<The road, my sister, and Memphis Tennessee

<<<22 Hours to Las Vegas

<<<Las Vegas Please!

On a Very Different Path

A month and a week has passed now. A month and a week from the time my ties were severed to the greatest relationship I have known. With this separation amidst all of the feelings of aggravation, fear, and hurt; I was able to begin searching for a self that was greater than I had known before. Searching for ways to cope. Something to make me feel better. I couldn’t write in my despair. Nor could I retain enough focus to read. Even this post will be something of almost illegible fashion. I feel the need to write. I must get back to feeling myself. Like I’m contributing. Like I have purpose.

I have had many instances of literary genius in this time. Yet it can’t be counted as literary genius if it never made it to paper. Time swirls past me much like the leaves do now as I jog in the morning. That’s been a good start. I jog now. It’s been five consecutive days, and I feel great.

My job is what I had been getting up for in the mornings. The morning of the past three years. When the love is gone, yet you keep going for the comfort of it, you need something to get you up in the morning. My job has always been the thing that has inspired me. My muse, if you will. I now read over the last two sentences and laugh. I laugh at how my life could have been formed to swirl solely among and around a restaurant. Writing has been my passion. Something that I love to do. Some may say I am horrible at it. If this is the first or the last thing they ever read from me, I may have no choice to agree. My rhythm is off. Short sentences to long almost run on sentences. Stream of consciousness then well thought out prose.

What if I pick it all up and go? San Diego. She looks like a beautiful place to go. I believe that there are many signs wishing me to go there as well. The second I began thinking about it even the most random of people would tell me their son was driving out there. Or someone just got a job out there. Or “my God, I wish I was in San Diego.” Random conversations from guests. Then I log onto Craigslist and my location is randomly set at, you guessed it; San Diego.

I will admit, it couldn’t happen as quickly as I would like it to. I have debts here that I need to settle before I can go. I also have a big book release coming up that I absolutely must do here.

The best moment of my turn around was when I was telling a new found friend good bye. We hugged and I kissed him on the cheek, like I do with all of my friends. He kissed my cheek. I went to back out of the hug when our lips met. It was quick, brief, and releasing. My first instinct was to feel guilty, but the moment I knew i didn’t feel that way I was emancipated from the horrid feeling of not getting over it. Thank you friend.

Thank you for reading this. Whether you made it through all the way or not!

Caleb A. Mertz