Monday, November 3, 2014

A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time
            The main doors opened automatically as Julie walked into the emergency room of the Brighton General Hospital on a busy Saturday night.  Located on the bottom floor of a concrete building in the center of a sleepy town in upstate New York, the waiting room was an aromatic bouquet of antiseptic latex and an audio potpourri of coughing and sneezing; crying and screaming.  Fake leather couches lined the sterile room.  As Julie walked towards the registration, she noticed it was standing room only and she wondered where she would sit.  It had been a long day and her hand was killing her.  Unfortunately, she knew the wait would inevitably be long.  Just a few days earlier, she had a simple paper cut on her thumb that needed nothing more than a Band-aide.  Now, four days later, the simple paper cut transformed into a bright red star on the tip of her thumb and, her thumb had turned into a sausage link.  Julie decided she had no other choice but to come to the hospital, otherwise known as the black hole, in search of antibiotics in exchange for a few hours of time. 
With dreaded trepidation, Julie approached the registration window.  She chuckled at the bulletproof shield that separated the plague from the cure, the healthy from the quarantined.  She was told to have a seat and her name would be called shortly.  The fact that the nurse did not offer an estimated wait time was not lost on Julie.    Sighing loudly and then succumbing to the black hole of hospital time, Julie sat in the only seat available, beside a sneezing old man with an uncontrollable cough and a tendency for clearing the very large oyster out of his throat and a sniffling boy who found it difficult to listen to anything his mother had to say.  She could not help but overhear the conversation of two men who were sitting just beyond Oyster Man. 
The first one began with what sounded like the beginning of a joke, “So, how do you make a fish talk?”
The other one looked at him perplexed and replied, “Wait, I know this one, but first I need to do a ‘shroom.”
“What?!” exclaimed the joke teller, “You can’t do that in here man!  This is a hospital. You know what I’m saying!?” 
“Watch me,” said the drugee, he got up and walked away through the mechanical doors. 
The Joke Teller looked on, disappointed that he couldn’t finish his joke before his drug-addict friend took off.  God only knows what they’re in the emergency room for, Julie thought to herself.
Turning her attention to her other side, the boy sitting next to Julie said “Biscuits are like mini cakes without frosting.”
Julie looked down at him.
“Hmmm, I did not know that,” she said.
Politely, Julie was trying to ignore the splatter of rice cake pieces on the boy’s shirt and around his seat, like they had been rockets shooting out of his mouth. 
“Chew with your mouth shut,” ordered his mother sitting on the opposite side. 
Looking at Julie she says, “I’m sorry.”
Julie just nodded her head, held up her bum hand and said, “No worries.”
Julie returned her focus to the nothing-ness that was the center of the room and continued to marvel at the hospital’s ability to stop time.    
The mouth of the hospital opened again and three young women walked in chattering endlessly, not even taking a breath.
“So I stayed at the frat party the other night,” the first one said.
“TFTI bitch,” said second one.
“I know right, she didn’t invite me either,” added the third. 
The first one continued her story, “…and afterward we went to his room where I was there with like three guys…” 
They disappeared into the hallway of the hospital that offered little help to eavesdropping on their conversation any further. 
Just when it started to get good, Julie thought to herself.  A devilish smile formed on her face in spite of herself. 
The automatic doors opened again.  This time, Julie could see the paramedics with an occupied gurney between the two of them.  The paramedics gingerly maneuvered the gurney to not disturb the occupant who was being given oxygen through a mask.  From the distance, the patient appeared to be very old.  The patient’s short gray hair spiked over the back of the elastic band on the oxygen mask looked oily and disheveled.  The patient’s eyes were closed and his body was covered with a white sheet, only his head and his feet were sticking out from under the sheets.  The patient’s shoes were brown and definitely too big to be a woman’s foot.  Julie deduced the patient was a very old man.  The patient’s eyes were closed and his body was covered with a white sheet, only his head and his feet were sticking out from under the sheets.  Julie hadn’t realized it but she was holding her breath.   She let out a sigh of relief when she saw that the man was still breathing. 
“At least he is alive,” Julie said out loud to herself.     
As the gurney rolled passed her, the old man slowly opened his eyes and turned his head towards Julie.  His warm gaze held her eyes for a moment startling Julie.  The man lifted one frail hand and tried to reach out to her with a closed fist. 
The head paramedic said, “I need you to remain still Mr. Smith.” 
The man continued to raise his hand towards Julie but he was just too weak, he let it fall to the stretcher bed.  His hand opened at the moment it hit the bed.  A photograph fell to the floor.  Without noticing that something fell, the paramedics started moving the gurney again.  Julie quickly reached down and picked up an old photograph of a young woman in a military uniform.  The photograph appeared to be quite old.  It was a portrait of a beautiful woman in full Army uniform with black hair and perfect complexion.  Julie turned the picture over.  On the back was written, “Nina 22 – 1938”.  Julie tried to get the paramedics attention but they had disappeared into the hallway out of earshot.    
Forgetting about her thumb and the pain she was in, Julie stared at the picture. 
She ran her fingers along the woman’s hair, over the arch of her cheek toward her chin, and whispered her name “Nina.” 
Julie would wait until the paramedics came out to find out where they had taken the old man so she could return the picture to him. 
She silently repeated the name in her head, “Nina.” 
With an unnaturally strong grip on the photo, Julie drifted off to sleep…
Julie woke to the smell of dirt and smoke.  Panicking, she quickly scanned the area for potential danger expecting to see the room in an anxiety driven fright.  What she found was not a room at all, rather Julie found herself in an open field resembling a vineyard which happened to be smack in the middle of a war zone.  There were military personnel running scared all around her.  Grenades exploding, sounds of gun shots piercing the air, and bodies falling in layers across the battlefield. Julie walked a few paces forward and momentarily lost her balance almost tripping over something on the ground.  When she looked down, she saw a wounded female soldier.  Her injuries appeared grave yet, the soldier looked up at Julie with an empty gaze.  At first Julie thought she was dead, but then the soldier blinked her eyes.  Frozen, Julie looked around at the pandemonium of the formerly peaceful meadow searching for someone that could help the struggling woman. 
Everyone was running and shouting, no-one could hear Julie’s pleas for help.  She looked down at the soldier again.  This time the soldier looked directly into Julie’s eyes.  She was moving her lips and struggling to breathe.  Julie knelt down and placed her right ear close to the soldier's mouth so she could hear her whispers. 
"Tell him…that…I love…him…always have…," the soldier whispered. 
Before she could get out another word, the woman's head fell slightly to the left.  Julie knew that she was gone.  Julie smoothed the woman's hair from her face and gasped as she stared straight into the eyes of the photograph. 
"Smith?” summoned the attending nurse.    
Startled and shaken, Julie wiped the tears from her face and replied, "Uh…right here.” 
"It's your turn to be seen,” said the nurse. 
Julie got up from her seat and walked towards the nurse.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

On Her Toes

Dainty blush satin laced with ribbon
Pure elegance on the arch of her foot
Laces around her ankles
Thrills direct to her heart
Exquisite poise gracing the stage
Escaping from life
Endless fouette en tournant
Finale of a stunning arabesque
Ballerina poses on pointe
Countless hours of blood and sweat
Box steel death traps with an inner sole
Speckled red on lovely pink
Mangled toes running wild and free
Peaceful soul

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Courage for Covered Eyes Eternal - Original Poem

America.  She is gorgeous with
freedom flowing from Her fingers.
Wrapped in patriotic warmth
given to Her; received from past.

Death became from bravery reign,
desert by hill; snow by beach.
They went to paint purple
mountains gloriously majestic.

From virgin to man with gun in plain
sight; fighting in blindness and sun.
For Preamble, apples, baseball and;
born on the Fourth of July

Liberty speech birthed from 
soldiers struggles shielding others 
from selfless protection.  Scent of 
haunted sand never leaves;
carrying courage for
covered eyes eternal. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sliding Doors

“How the hell did you find me?” was all she heard on the other end of the telephone line.  Sarah frantically scanned her memory for an appropriate response.  She could hang up.  No, that would go against what she was compelled to do and she knows now, that she could never go back to not knowing.  She had already plunged deep into the waters with both feet, and the knowledge she gained up until this point had already altered her life.  Silently, Sarah looked around the room and across her apartment.  She lived near the school she attended in a typical apartment for an 18-year old college student.  Sarah was engulfed in solitude but she was happy.  As she looked around, Sarah could not help but wonder what her life would have been like had things been different.  Would the fear of abandonment be at every turn like it was now?  Would she have struggled like she did if the sliding door of decisions slid slightly too late for the woman on the other end of the line?
The woman’s seven word sentence response to Sarah's brief introductory greeting could not deter Sarah.  It was simply a sentence that was no longer an emotional obstacle in Sarah’s quest.  With a deep anxious breath, Sarah inhaled, swallowed hard, and began the standard script that she had mirrored so many other times.  I joined an organization with other people like me that helped me, Sarah had said.  Before Sarah could finish her thought, she felt a knife slice her words in half.  “Oh, yeah, I know about that group”, the woman abruptly said, “What I want to know is WHY you found me?” 
Silent screams momentarily replaced Sarah’s voice.  The screams were deafening and she was frozen in her place, the pendulum of her heartbeat lost its momentum.  Another deep breath.  Sarah began again, “I have thought about this moment for some time now and have envisioned what our conversation would be like.  I never got over…”, again Sarah was startled by a second interruption, this time more sharp than the last with a straight-edged steel knife stabbing a hole in her throat. 
“Got over WHAT?!?!”, screamed the stranger.   
Brave and fearful combined, Sarah continued, “The curiosity – I never fully got over the curiosity.” 
Much to Sarah’s surprise, the woman’s tone seemed to soften.  Bitterness had been replaced with sugar.  Unexpectedly the woman said, “Curiosity, huh?  Well, I’ve been curious myself over the years.  Did you have a good childhood?” 
“Yes I did,” Sarah replied, “a very good childhood”. 
“Where did you grow up?”, the woman asked. 
“In a small town outside of Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada’s.  It was a beautiful place to grow up”, Sarah replied with a sense of hopefulness, “I want you to know that I don’t blame you…”  With a Katana to the heart, the woman finally quieted Sarah for the last time. 
“Blame me?  You shouldn’t blame me!” the woman seethed and shouted “It’s not like I left you on a door step with a note!  In fact, I did you a favor.  You know what I did for you?  I let you live, that’s what I did.  I could have killed you, but I didn’t!  I let you live! You are to never contact me again and if you choose to ignore my warning in any way shape or form, I will bring you down.  I will bring you down so help me God!  I let you live, now you let me live!  Do I make myself clear?!”
For the second time in one conversation, Sarah was speechless.  The visions of an ideal reunion were halted and the familial image would be nothing more than a painted flower in a painted garden.  In one split-second eye-awakening realization, Sarah knew that she was who she was because of this stranger’s voice and she was instantly grateful for this woman’s decision all those years ago.  Sarah sighed “Yes, ma’am, you do.  Thank you for your time.  Good-bye”.  Sarah hung up the phone. 
Despite her obvious disappointment, Sarah understood this bitter woman.  Putting science aside, genetics and the like, Sarah’s personality had been created by this woman.  This stranger, and that’s what she was to her, knew nothing about Sarah, who she was, or the fears and dreams that exist in her soul.  After the fateful conversation, Sarah pitied this woman; both her haunted demons and sour circumstances.  Sarah was saddened for the woman who gave her life. 
Sarah came into her mother’s life when she was just two months old.  Her mother had only been six months older than the woman on the phone had been eighteen years earlier.  In all of its worldly wisdom, the government had taken a child from a child and gave it to a child.  But, because of the faith, hope, and love of one of those children, Sarah went from being an orphan to a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, and a sister.  For the first time in Sarah’s life, she was wholeheartedly aware of her identity and where she belonged.  Sarah collected herself, gathered her thoughts, picked up the phone, and called her mother. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Hike - My first attempt at a prose poem

            The sky was black with an orange glow in the early morning light when she began her hike.  Full light was not needed as the map of the trail was imprinted in her mind.  The birds flew in switchbacks above the trail whistling with the happy glee that only birds possess.  The weight of her pack weighed heavily on her back as she labored forward.  She was alone with silence.  She was in a crowd.  The hustle and bustle of the trees along the trail, commuters on a busy roadway, screamed at her.  Her cadence drowning out the traffic.  The previous season’s blanket lifted into a rainbow along the streams that ran parallel with the trail.  As she approached the crest of the mountain, the leaky faucet of the stream caught her attention.  Her pack grew heavier with each sorrowful emotional step as she approached the stream.  She removed her pack but the weight remained.  She knelt towards the crystal blue water laced with green moss and speckled stones.  The trail had nurtured her to the top of the mountain.  Her pack, despite its weight, could not hold her from finding her true north.  With the relief of her pack being at her side, she cupped her hands, lowered them into the clear stream, and brought the freshness to her lips.  Sunrise offered renewal and hope.  With blinded eyes and breath of air, she took in the beauty.  When she opened her eyes, the sky was the bluest blue with a hint of cotton speckling the air.  Just inside her pack lied the task of what she came here to do.  She reached in and pulled the carcass of her actions; the burdens of her life, the words and descriptions of the wrongs by her hand that were written ignominiously.  Her personal inventory.  They were ashes in a paper envelope.  Every single one of them.  Like feathers yet like boulders.  Grandiloquence lost.  The commuters quieted.  Returning her focus to the crystal stream, she saw a frog that traversed through the water, leading the ill-fated way downstream.  Leap.  Leap.  Leap.  She opened the casing and let the ashes free.  She watched the wreckage of her past flow through the mountain’s artery out of her heart, and away from her soul.  She wept as magic disappeared her fear and inner strength was realized.  She was safe.  She was strong.  Most importantly, she was free.  The weightless pack returned to her back.  She wiped her face, and she smiled.  The nature trail had nurtured her to this point.  Rising from the faded ashes, the spirit of her path was no longer in the feathers on her back.  The spirit of her path now resides in her heart and, with a beautiful sunrise on the horizon, she was on top of the world. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dynamic Sustainability of "General Hospital"


        Popular culture is constantly evolving based on the neoliberalism structure of political, socioeconomic, and cultural changes within society.  David Harvey suggests in A Brief History of Neoliberalism that there implies a direct connection between postmodernism and the socioeconomic changes occurring in society on a political and economic level (42).  Within this discourse, it is rare for a popular television program to maintain its cultural staying power beyond a shelf life of a few decades.  This rarity, however, has been realized by the soap opera genre within daytime television.  A prime example of a postmodern text that has shown the sustainability to evolve with the changing times is General Hospital, which debuted in 1963.  Once rated the “greatest soap opera of all time”, General Hospital has sustained itself despite an influx of reality television emerging on the daytime screen (Maria Ciaccia).  As television evolved over the years to more talk or variety shows as well as reality television, many experts predicted the inevitable death of the traditional soap opera.  Much to the surprise of many, the last remaining soap operas, General Hospital included, remain a dominant force in the ever changing socioeconomic dynamics of the culture of television. 
            In the beginning of the genre, capitalist's motives created the idea of selling daytime television with commercial advertisements aimed at women who did not work outside the home.  When soap operas first were broadcast, plots involved lust, romance, unrequited love, desire and jealousy (Ciaccia).  These feminine characteristics, coupled with the fact that women’s societal roles were primarily domestic homemakers or caregivers, a gender specific target audience emerged.  According to Chris Barker, the soap opera is a space in which women’s concerns and points of view are validated and from which women take pleasure” (Cultural Studies 338), which was in direct contrast to rise in postmodern feminism.     
Structured modernism gave way to the fragmented, deconstructed postmodernism in the world of popular culture.  Coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, postmodernism is a philosophical movement which rejects grand narratives or universal explanations in favor of irony.  (Barker 508).  Derrida’s ideology challenged the construction of the Western hegemony world and replaced it with discursive association of culture.  Soap operas became a genre of television programing that fell within the political and ideological interest of the post-modernized public. They are characterized by having open-ended narrative forms, core locations, tension between conventions of realism and melodrama, and pivotal themes of interpersonal relationships (Barker 335-6).  Additionally, the characters in soap operas possess characteristics that viewers can relate.  They are ambiguous and can take a likeable shape then, at the drop of a hat, find themselves remolded in the image of evil; yet they are hopeful reflections of the audience members who view them.  The character’s morals are virtuous and strong at times while weak and feeble in others, and morally questionable at other times.  This contrast of personalities allows the average viewer to either wholeheartedly relate to the characters plight or join them in a life-long, fictional, and sometimes, absurd adventure.
            Character and storyline development is one of the main reasons why General Hospital has been able to maintain the loyal viewers and sustain its’ position as a leader in this genre for over five decades.  General Hospital is set in the fictional town of Port Charles, New York.  In its early stages, a hospital was at the core of the show, and the scandalous activities of the doctors, nurses, and patients were the driving force behind the storylines.  Running out of plot material and being threatened with cancellation by the ABC television network, the producers introduced pivotal characters Luke and Laura in the late 1970’s as the dynamic couple that would forever change the face of soap operas (Ciaccia).  
           Caught in numerous adventures of intrigue and romance, Luke and Laura developed a storyline that lead to their wedding in 1981 while enjoying a fan base of 30 million viewers.  The wedding of Luke and Laura is one of the biggest moments on General Hospital, and in all of soap opera history (Ciacca).  In fact, following their nuptials, the fictional characters made the cover of People and Newsweek magazines, something that up until that time had never been done by any other soap opera actor or fictional character.  Socioeconomic changes within society have changed and the storylines of General Hospital has changed with those variances.  Today, General Hospital’s narratives include social issues such as AIDS, breast cancer, poverty, and single mothers. 
Despite the evolving narratives and character popularity, the changes within the socioeconomic structure of society have had an adverse effect on the genre of soap operas and the dynamics of daytime television altogether.  Long running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live, also airing on ABC, were cancelled after being on the air for 41 years and 45 years, respectively (  Much to the dismay of hardcore soap opera fans, networks changed daytime television programming from soap operas to reality television and variety/talk shows for purely economical and capitalist motives.  According to “The Week:  The Death of Soap Operas”, the profit margin on reality television shows and talk shows are much higher than the traditional scripted programs; and the soap opera genre had outgrown its advertising purpose (1).  The advertising companies who had originally been the driving force behind the creation of daytime television were now switching their efforts to digital and social media rather than television.  Another reason for the change is because of the structure of television and advent of the digital recorder through cable conglomerates and rise in digital media, such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon. Stay-at-home parents were now catching up on reruns or recorded shows that were missed in prime time television rather than continuing their involvement with an ongoing melodramatic storyline that exists in soap operas.  The most relevant postmodern, socioeconomic change to daytime television comes with the economic changes in society.  Households are unable to meet the demands of the economy and rise in the higher cost of living, therefore, both parents must seek employment outside of the home.  This dual-income reality plays a significant role on the popularity of daytime programming.  Collectively, all of these factors together very nearly drove the nail in the soap operas coffin, save for the four surviving soap operas. 


As it turns out, however, the remaining four daytime soap operas have enjoyed an increased percentage of viewers over the last two years (Teeman 1).  One reason is that soap opera fans have proven to be the most loyal in all of television remaining captivated and involved with the soap operas characters over a span of fifty years.  Another reason, according to Teeman’s article, is lifelong soap fans who fell in love with the genre remain bereft after the cancellation of another soap and have migrated en masse to one of the remaining survivors (3).  General Hospital has brilliantly exported some of the core cast members from the other ABC cancelled shows and have incorporated their old storyline on the cancelled show into an existing relevant one on the remaining soap.  Also contributing to General Hospital’s staying power is the fact that producers and writers “continually focuses on targeting new audiences while remembering their viewers from the past by bringing back “legacy” characters…General Hospital continues to adjust to the times - but never forgets its roots” (Ciaccia).
In the past, soap operas have been seen as the “junk food” of television and the fans have been stereotyped as lazy housewives trying to escape from their problems by living vicariously through their television screen (Susan Alexander 302).  If this were true, which it is not, even the over-the-top antics of reality television and sensationalized talk shows would not be enough to satisfy the distraught soap opera fan.  On the contrary, daytime television fans are culturally advanced while soap operas themselves are a multifaceted source of television programming that gives viewers a path that is accepting to an ever changing socioeconomic structure.  The sustainability of General Hospital exists in the complexities of the characters, while the narratives and plots address issues affecting regular members of society on the most personal levels that are relevant in today’s world.  In a postmodern culture where everything is free from foundation and fragmented, the never ending saga of a soap opera where people have the ability to change while possessing both positive and negative characteristics is a genre of television programming that should be celebrated within popular culture.  

Luke and Laura Wedding Day
November 1981

Works Cited
Anger, Dorothy.  Reviewed by Susan Alexander “Other Worlds: Society Seen through Soap Opera”.  American Sociological Association.  1999: 302-303.  JSTOR.  Web.  18 August 2014. 

 Barker, Chris.  Cultural Studies.4th edition.  Sage Publications. London. 2012.  Print

Ciaccia, Maria.  “General Hospital: A Rich History Part 1.  The Beginning Through the 1980’s”. Web. 18 August 2014.

Harvey, David.  A Brief History of Neoliberalism.  Oxford University Press. New York. 2005. Print. 

 Internet Movie Database. Web.  18 August 2014. 

Teeman, Tim.  “How the Daytime Soap Came Back From the Dead”. 1-18. Web.  13 August 2014.

Staff Writer.  “The Week:  The death of soap operas:  What does it say about television?”. 1-4.  Web.  13 August 2014.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Comedian's Mask

Robin Williams was a pop icon who was also a comedic genius and the world, myself included, was shocked by the news of his suicide earlier this week.  On the surface, he was a cheerful man with an undeniable gift of making America laugh.  He had impeccable timing and an uncanny ability to deliver the punchline or climax of any humorous joke or story.  A multifaceted actor, Robin Williams could engage the audience in any style or genre of film or television program simply by using his God-given talent.  Alas, his comedic mask could no longer carry the burden of the tragic one. 
I am not versed in Robin Williams’ complete biography; both on a personal or professional level.  I am not a psychiatrist nor do I claim to be an addiction specialist.  I am simply a fan speaking from my heart trying to make sense of his desperate motives.
Perhaps the level of his despair will never be fully realized.  Addiction has a way of masking one’s true emotions.  Whether through the mythical comforts of alcohol, the deceptive power of drugs, or the illusory assumption that sobriety is untroublesome, addiction acts as a veil or another layer of protection from ourselves.  The good news about sobriety is that you get to feel your feelings.  The bad news about sobriety is that you get to feel your feelings. 
When you stop drinking, it feels as if you are naked in a room packed with fully-clothed people with everyone's eyes on you.  The scrutiny is soul-shattering and the magnitude of societal pressure that you feel compares to nothing else.  Not to sound too corny, but this outer body experience is foreign, unfamiliar, and guaranteed to be painful.  I cannot imagine what it would be like for a celebrity who is incessantly in the thrones of public opinion.  In order to maintain sobriety and sanity, you must reinvent yourself, change your inner voice, not to mention your social circle, and constantly look at things in a different way…one day at a time.  

"Why do I stand up here? Anybody? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way."
~Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poet's Society

O Captain, my will be missed...