01.31.16

the future

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:41 pm by Administrator

a breeze comes upon the stand of eucalyptus trees.
tall and mostly bare, they look stoic and old
as they shiver in the wind.

beyond, the ocean is blinding in its brightness
or just a canvas of pure white,
depending on how you see it

and when i close my eyes, a plaintive pink hue
falls like a cloak over the future,
and i cannot see it anymore.

later, i dive into a pool of water
and emerge seeing everything a little darker
like the washed out photos from the 60s

and i hear a certain kind of silence;
the silence of old people with money
lined up along these concrete banks,

studying the sky with black, unseeing eyes
alone with the sounds of rustling leaves
and a distant tide

no sounds of laughing children
to distract them from their fading thoughts,
this meditation on what is to come.

01.17.16

those people

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:12 pm by Administrator

something happened at work this past week. a man happened. mentally ill, angry, threatening. there have been men like him before. but there’s never been a man like him before. and he made me think all over again about those people.

those people. poor, drug-addicted, on the prowl, looking to scam. aggressive, hunting for prescription pain medications. gay, undocumented. dispossessed, hostile. demonstrative, reeking of McDonald’s. tatted up, belligerent, high. i can see them; i can smell them, the way they smell. i can hear the words coming out of their mouths. it’s a bare thin thread of logic that keeps it all together in my mind, a narrative that binds them to an idea of a shared humanity. it is a voice of reason in my mind that restrains me from calling them something different.

then a man happens. and then i look at them again, and the narrative breaks. they separate out in my mind like suspect photographs pinned on the wall, lined up by race, by diagnosis, by the stereotypes that they fit so well, so indelicately well. they aren’t people like me anymore. they’re those people. and something in my heart says to me, that’s what they were all along, and you never stopped believing it.

in times like this, i tell myself that i don’t hate them. i don’t hate their bipolar disease; i don’t hate their psychosis and paranoia; i don’t hate their lying, their scheming, their rage. i don’t hate the way they yell at my staff, the way they threaten me to my face, the way they taunt us to talk to them the way they talk to us. i tell myself, it’s one man at a time. it’s just one man. it’s not about those people. and these things i tell myself are true, i think.

but even if i don’t hate them, i don’t like them either. they’re not good people. and no matter what excuses they might have, they can still be bad people. some of them are. some of them are bad people. they’re not simply those people. they’re bad people. bad people come in all colors, from all walks of life. there are bad people who are rich. there are bad people who are poor. but there are bad people, and i meet them every day. and when i hang around enough bad people, i don’t even want to spend time with the good people. because i know now, after all these years of knowing people, that inside of every good person is a bad person waiting to happen.

i tell myself, it was just one man. one man is not every man. those people aren’t real. what’s real is bad people. and they are everywhere

01.11.16

Wish list for the Eagles

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:28 pm by Administrator

Now that the dust has settled on the finish of our disastrous season, i think i have settled upon my wish list for the Eagles’ off-season. here it is:

1. promote Pat Shurmur to head coach. no, it is not a splashy or exciting move, but it’s the right one. the Eagles don’t need a dramatic hire or a dramatic change right now; what they need to do is to quiet things down, get Sam Bradford re-signed, and regain the confidence of our key players. Shurmur knows the organization well, and he’s competent at what he does—coaching quarterbacks and designing plays around the teams’ strengths.

2. re-sign Sam Bradford. he’s not worth a $20 million/year contract, and i hope he knows that. he’s worth $13-15, and if he wants an offensive line that can protect him and a coach that will be good to him, he’ll accept that number and save us all (and himself) a lot of unnecessary tension which would only make the fans hate him. as it stands, he played just well enough to earn himself another 5-year deal.

3. move on from billy davis, and bring on a veteran DC that can build an effective 4-3 defense around our edge rushers and Jordan Hicks. i don’t know whether we can or should re-sign Curry and Thornton; but i do know that Mychal Kendricks is not our future. we need to fix our run defense and our pass rush right now.

4. get a 2nd round pick back. i’d like to trade down in the 1st round to reclaim a 2nd round pick, because we need help at too many positions. ideally we could move down 10-15 spots in the 1st and still get a quality OT prospect (i.e. Taylor Decker). with a 2nd round pick and two 3rd rounders, we need to add talent at both WR and defensive end. i’m hoping that Howie Roseman has learned from his past mistakes, as his drafts between 2010 and 2014 left very much to be desired. if he’s not a football mind, he’s not a football mind; he should accept that and get somebody to help evaluate these prospects until we get a proper GM to replace him.

5. switch our tackles. it’s time for Lane Johnson to move permanently to Left Tackle, where he was better than Jason Peters. it’s close to payday for Lane, and he’ll relish the opportunity to augment his market value. Peters is still too good to cut, but he’s not tradeable, and i think we have to think about where on the line he will be most effective for us next year. he won’t entirely like the move to the right side, but he can still be effective there, and i like that move better than a bump inside to guard. having two guys on the line who can play both tackle positions is not a bad thing.

01.05.16

the creative process

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:17 pm by Administrator

i met with my salon last night, which always gets my brain moving quickly and in new directions. the conversations make me want to write—in a formal manner, not in the blogosphere—and this kind of a sensation is always a sweet and doleful one at the same time. and that’s because in those moments i can truly see the poignant and meaningful thing i could write, and at the same time i feel the extraordinarily heavy weight that i invariably feel when i actually undertake to write it. when i write by intention and not out of feeling, my writing is simply terrible. it’s contrived, mechanical, and painful to read. it would appear that the only writing i’m any good at is the writing of catharsis, writing that is immediately and impulsively generated from a feeling i have in the moment about something that is of pressing and personal importance to me. and thus i fear sometimes that the only thing i’ll ever write is this blog, and when i stop paying for this site, it will just disappear, and what i will be left with in the end isn’t the words i wrote but the memory of how it felt to emit them, dismiss them, and then after years rediscover them—and the real pleasure that they gave me.

i have tried so many things. i’ve tried to write every day, as a discipline. i’ve tried to caffeinate myself into writing binges. i’ve tried to write stories out of order, as they come to me. i’ve tried to use other writings as a template, into which i infuse my own ideas. i’ve tried to write interactively with other writers. i’ve tried to write by filling in outlines, from the general to the specific. i’ve tried to write by recording my verbal thoughts and transcribing them. i’ve tried typewriters, computers, laptops, special journal books, designated pens. i’ve done coffee shops, libraries, back rooms, movie theaters, and the back pews of churches. i feel like i’ve put myself everywhere and with everything, in one futile effort after another to determine where and when that singular and evasive part of my brain will light up and infect the rest of my consciousness with its unique sense of the world. the fact is that it only happens when i’m writing to wrestle with me. the moment i introduce another character, i lose the ability to be true to myself. and because i don’t believe my life is worth an autobiography, i’m stuck trying to write first-person by trying to transcendently and profoundly place myself in the shoes of others. it’s exhausting! it doesn’t work.

i’ve thought about writing essays about things i’ve done or thought about. and essentially, that’s what i’ve done on this blog. but my blog essays are not really the kind of essays i want to write. if i were to really be an essayist, i’d want to be an essayist like atul gawande—that supreme master of words. those essays take time, research, length, relevance, and revisitation. my creative process defies that kind of rigor. i’ve never once written a blog in two sittings; and i’ve never had to hesitate when writing a blog. i sit down, i write for 30 minutes or an hour, and then it’s done. if i happen to need to go to the bathroom and run an errand in the middle of writing a blog, then frequently that will abort the entry; i’ll come back to it and find myself unable to reenter that experience of writing it. regardless of the time i’d previously spent on it, if i can’t reconnect, then i have to close out that entry. it’s done; it’s dead.

what kind of writer proceeds in this manner? what meaningful thing can possibly be written all in one sitting, without editing, and without revisitation of any kind? but that is the kind of writing i do. i’m like the painter who sits at the easel perpetually committed to starting and finishing each work in one flourish and one sitting, without regard for what might be ideally required by the task he has dedicated himself to. it is profoundly frustrating. but i have learned over the years that i am an artist of a kind, and i’m also an artiste of a specific variety. when it comes to words, i work with passion and extreme intensity, and when the feeling dissipates then whatever has been written is finished for good. it’s a bit like sex in that way.

in my journey toward self-understanding through the enneagram, i’ve recognized that i cannot change my process. but i can change how i feel about that process, and i can change what i devote that process toward accomplishing. i think it’s possible that i can innovate within the constraints of my process; and while it’s hard for me to imagine that anything lastingly beautiful could come out of a process like that (i.e. a novel) i can’t say that it’s impossible. i don’t know of any author who’s worked in my way, but i’d like to believe that someone like that is out there.

it is raining here with heaviness and persistence, like grief that’s finally come into itself and now sobs unapologetically and without restraint. when i was a child, i enjoyed putting my chin on the window sill and watching the water worm its way across the glass in slow, labyrinthine paths, congealing and separating and inching its way while the gray world beyond blurred to sleepy ruminations. it still has a hold on me even now. at some point, the rain will suddenly cease, and all of its sound and feeling will be just a memory, and no one will be able to recreate it once it has stopped. we can describe what it was, but we won’t be able to feel it—not in the way i can feel it right now. that’s the beauty of rain, i realize. that it is both powerful and plain when it happens, and it simply cannot be reimagined once it’s gone

01.04.16

nomadism and the essence of faith

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:12 pm by Administrator

i can feel it already. the time is coming when i will be called upon to uproot myself yet again and go when i have no wish to go. and while this makes me anxious, it does not cause me the anxiety i am accustomed to feeling about great changes. i think that this is because i have come to believe something strange: that to stop moving is to begin dying.

i have moved around a lot in my life since i left home at eighteen, and not once did i anticipate a move with eagerness or confidence. my first move, to college in Boston, was a particularly lugubrious one for me, as i couldn’t stand leaving my high school girlfriend, the first real love of my life. my second move, to medical school in Philadelphia, was somewhat less traumatizing, though i was leaving behind a girlfriend yet again, headed for what was my fourth choice of a medical school in a city i’d heard nothing but bad things about. my third move, to Baltimore for residency, seemed the “right” move at the time given my father’s deteriorating health, but i instantly hated the city and quickly came to regret my choice of residency program. and my fourth move seven years ago was to the West Coast, and once again i felt trepidation about that transition because i felt that i was betraying my parents, leaving everything familiar to me, and taking a big risk in my career.

every one of these moves had a profound impact on me—and a blessed one. after all, it was in Boston that i discovered my penchant for poetry and the dance. i fell in love with Philadelphia and came to regard it as my home away from home. Baltimore is where i got educated in life, in suffering, and in the true nature of God. and here is where i discovered my gifts—the ways in which i was meant to serve, to lead, and to worship the Lord who created me.

for a few years now, i’ve felt myself settling into a groove, and as i’ve sensed this, i’ve recognized that i am facing an altogether new challenge in my life: the challenge of stability. for seven years, i haven’t had to move at all; i’ve earned money, invested myself in communities, and built a lifestyle of predictable habits and patterns. though life has thrown challenges my way, it’s been comfortable. my family’s been healthy throughout, and we’ve faced no major crises. and now at the precipice of yet another change, i’m being forced to reckon with how stability has changed me. have i forgotten the nomadic ways which once marked my walk with the Lord? have i become so attached to the things that i own that i cannot forego them, even if staying here would cost me my life?

i am reminded in these times of a passage from the book of James that i memorized in my college years, one i used to recite to myself almost daily during those walks through Cambridge Common Park.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes.

sometimes, i look into my thoughts, and i fear that i am turning into what i ought never have become—a man who makes plans, as if my circumstances were mine to dictate and not the Lord’s. i have a 403, a 529, and a retirement plan. i prepare for contingencies, and i assume a certain kind of future for my children. and in all these things, what i fear is not my short-sightedness, my selfishness, or my greed; what i fear is that the Lord will take all these things away from me. this is the fear that indicts me. and in the midst of all my shortcomings, the Lord calls to me now as He called to me back then: if i go, will you follow?

it is better, i remember, to never hold on too tightly. Abraham, after all, was called to go from his country, his people, and his father’s household; so were the sons of his sons sent to Egypt; and so were their descendants called out of Egypt and into Canaan; and so were their descendants sent to all the corners of the world. throughout, God scattered those who’d thought they’d found a home; He established His favor among those who were pleased to leave everything for the sake of obedience. the essence of faith is the willingness to follow, whatever the cost, and that is the great challenge that i face at this time in my life.

i’m forty now—at the age where my forefathers were called upon to declare themselves—and it is here and now that i recognize i am being called to reveal what i am made of. am i made of the things that bring structure and sense to the lives of others? or am i made of something planted in me by Him who transcends time and space, whose eyes see futures and glories indiscernible to mortal men? what am i? am i the one destined to perish with all perishable things? or am i the nomad, like the Lord before me, just passing through this world of crumbling things

Goals for 2016

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:50 am by Administrator

1. 5K time under 21.5

2. 15 pull-ups in 1 set

3. learn how to ride a bike

4. guide senior leadership through a comprehensive rewrite of section 7

5. keep my two new docs happy

6. finish one chapter of a story, fictional or real—just one chapter

7. attend a conference on something that interests me and that has nothing to do with my job

8. stop having anonymous sex every weekend

01.02.16

Can’t buy me love… or an offensive line

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:25 pm by Administrator

it’s been a time of tough love and brutal honesty for eagles players past and present, all of whom seem to have something interesting to say about chip kelly and the organization. it suffices to say that chip kelly’s firing appears to be addition by subtraction no matter what the outcome; but the true state of our team sans head coach issues still remains to be properly understood.

among the variety of parting shots and whining being aired out in the media (see “Lane Johnson”, “Brandon Boykin”, “Desean Jackson”, “Lesean McCoy”), there is the relatively understated but perhaps insightful comment by Jason Kelce about the importance of continuity. Kelce stated something that seems obvious: that the Eagles can’t “fix” the team through sweeping free agent signings. having gone through two off-season revamps, Kelce’s seen that talent on paper doesn’t translate to results on the field, especially when that talent was corralled at the expense of team chemistry.

i look at the Chargers’ signing of Orlando Franklin, the Saints’ trade for Max Unger, and the Dolphins’ big haul in Suh; these are three teams that got major preseason hype for the sudden infusion in talented linemen, only to see themselves flop in spectacular fashion. those three guys were supposed to turn around squads that were already above-average and threatening to be top-flight; instead, the Chargers and Saints became two of the worst teams in the league seemingly overnight, and Suh turned in an uninspired season, contributing to Miami’s surprising underachievement.

these three notable examples would seem to support Kelce’s argument. offensive and defensive lines take time to gel; there’s no guarantee that you can buy yourself a better line.

Kelce also made another striking comment when he labeled this Eagles team “The Dream Team II”. most fans are going to laugh at that and dismiss it as hyperbole; and in fact 99% of sports writers in the country are calling this Eagles’ team a personnel wasteland of Chip Kelly’s fantastically ill design. here again, i think Kelce may be closer to the truth than most of the rest of the country. the current team was the result of a massive overhaul in the defensive secondary and at all offensive skill positions, and a rocky transition year should have been expected. for certain, the inconsistent play by the offensive line and our veteran linebackers was an unpleasant surprise that can’t simply be chalked up to roster turnover; but in all other respects, this was a team that understandably struggled to play together. if chip kelly made one mistake bigger than all of his other errors, it was his failure to recognize that his roster moves would necessarily cost him his job. chip kelly was coaching for his job in season 3; but all the turnover set him up for failure.

that’s not to say that chip didn’t set up this team for future success. i’ll credit chip for two moves that i believe will set up the Eagles for a significant improvement in year two of the rebuild (next season). moving up in the 2nd to grab Eric Rowe may seem a bit underwhelming now (particularly when Ronald Darby was taken just a few picks later), but Rowe and Maxwell look like our CB pair of the future. the second move was even better: Chip’s selection of Jordan Hicks in the 3rd. if there’s one player i’m going to blame more than any other for the failures of our defense this past year, it’s Mychal Kendricks, who showed up poorly for a 2nd straight year in run defense, coverage, and basically everything else that was asked of him. Jordan Hicks, from his first game on the field, demonstrated the instincts and vision that we’ve lacked for the last several years at inside linebacker, and his performance made the whole defense work. the effectiveness of this Eagles defense relies on the ability of an intuitive baller like Hicks to close on the runner quickly and jump routes in the middle of the field. Hicks’ ability to get to the ball allowed Cox, Barwin, and Graham to focus on their outside gaps while also allowing our DBs to be aggressive in coverage.

this defense next year will be significantly improved, if Kendricks gets out of the way and Hicks is allowed to be the man in the middle. it’s a personnel group built for a 4-3 defense with lots of pressure from the edge and press-man coverage at the line. we need a defensive coach who can build this group around Jordan Hicks and make us aggressive again. we can get 40+ sacks from this group, and that may be our single most important metric of defensive success in 2016