IMAF 2010

It’s been a while since we’ve made it to an IMAF (Independent Music + Art Festival).  We love any excuse to make it down to the Harrison Center, as we start there on First Fridays, one of my writers group meets there, and our church, The Crossing, meets in the basement of Redeemer Presbyterian.

Our kids were the biggest champions of IMAF this year.  They HAD to see the band Wolfy,  who—when they aren’t playing pop/rock friendly tunes—are the praise band for Redeemer Presbyterian and The Crossing.  And are beloved by our boys.  As much as it was my dream for one of them to take up the keyboards, My oldest wants to be a drummer and studies every movement Matt Wilsom makes and my youngest wants to be a guitarist, so it’s a good thing Wolfy finally added one.

Speaking of drums, the other band I wanted to see was T.J. Reynolds.  Been a fan of his and just about every incarnation of his band (this time it’s TJ Reynolds and the Freehand Orchestra).  Socially conscious, poetry, and hip hop = made of WIN.

If you don’t believe me about being longtime fans (and this is for my boys who don’t believe me) here’s the blog I did the first time I heard them.

And now, a random picture of me with Gregorlove because everything’s better with a Gregor in your life.

Invisibility

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be invisible? I know that is the fantasy of many a teenage boy, the uses of such a cool superpower pretty much not going much further than a visit to the girls locker room. Yet every day we pass by folks who for all intents and purposes have become invisible: the homeless.

I never realized the secret to invisibility involved becoming homeless, yet so many people seem capable of exercising their power. No one sees them. They may have a sense about them, the same way you could be in a darkened room and know that you weren’t alone. People know when to walk around them or speed out of the way of a possible solicitation of a handout. And their sphere of influence is quite large. I have found that if you stop to talk to a homeless person, you disappear also.

I was told once that if you hunt deer, you don’t look for the deer themselves, but rather you train your eye to look for movement. Some evidence of presence. The same could be said for finding some of the homeless youth in our city. You look for what doesn’t belong, for example, wearing long sleeve shirts on an 80 degree evening. Why? Because it gets cool under bridges even at night. Or you might see someone dressed nicely but their shoes may be duct taped. Or you may see young people with conspicuous backpacks. Again, nothing particularly telling until you realize that some people need to carry all of their earthly belongings at all times.

There’s a perception that these kids want to be out on the streets, that they are there because they are lazy or are there strictly as the result of their choices. The reality is that most want to transition out of the streets; that they were let down, if not abandoned, by the system.

Nothing definitive, only clues to a greater story, once you know what to look for. If you bother looking at all. Otherwise, they remain invisible.

Retention Ponds – CSI: Indy

A year or so ago, I walked out of my condominium door on my way to work only to find that my car window had been busted out. I did what any citizen would do: call my boss and call the police. When the police arrived, I was quick to point out that “I hadn’t touched anything in case you need to dust for fingerprints.” At which point the officer said “One, it’s rained all morning and that would have washed away any useable evidence. Two, you watch too much CSI.”

I’ll freely admit that I’m a CSI, Law & Order, and every other cop and law show junkie. However, I’ve always had a theory that these kinds of shows can’t help but generate a smarter breed of criminal. A criminal with a fairly decent head on their shoulders and plenty of time to spend on a couch (I’m assuming they have plenty of time to watch television when they aren’t playing video games) can learn a lot from these shows.

And I’m assuming they have.

I live on the northwest side of Indianapolis. In the last few weeks our fire department has been called out to apartment complexes and the north side office complex known as “the Pyramids” in order to pull cars out of retention ponds. Witnesses say they saw a car in the water and when the divers entered the water, they found no one inside the car. The car was pulled out only to find out that wasn’t the car that was seen going into the water. So far, they’ve recovered five cars.

I’m wondering if we aren’t inadvertently making smarter criminals. After learning so much about DNA and fingerprint, and realizing that the CSI team can apparently find anything you leave behind, criminals opt to do the next best thing. Destroy all the evidence. They are dumping their cars, these crime scenes/evidence jars on wheels in retention ponds hoping to destroy any trace evidence. The best thing about destroying evidence using retention ponds is that it’s much more low key than, say, setting the car on fire.

Then again, I might be worrying prematurely. Reflecting on the car thief incident, someone went through the effort to steal a baby seat (one, not both of them, mind you), the Bible I had between the seats, and my wife’s 80s dance mix tapes. Tapes. 80s. Dance. Tapes. Maybe they aren’t getting that much smarter. Prisons are filled with all kinds of geniuses.

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Go Colts!

Well, I got one of my Indianapolis Wish List items: the Colts made it to the Super Bowl. The question before me now is will the Colts win the big game?

I could talk about the running tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes or the money of Adam Vinatieri’s leg. I could talk about this being a team of character and heart, how we’ve gotten rid of grumblers and bad eggs and have only become stronger. I could talk about the defense finding new life after being told by so many that they couldn’t. However, that would require the kind of sports expertise beyond my casual brand of interest. To my mind, though, this game boils down to two men: Dungy and Manning.

Coach Tony Dungy joined Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, in making Super Bowl history by being the first black coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. One more barrier broken, another cultural advancement achieved – and another step toward this not being an issue. In the NFL, where nearly 70 percent of the players are black, only seven of 32 head coaches this season were black. The NFL has aggressively fought for diversity and their efforts have paid off. Save me your blather about affirmative action, covert racism is something difficult to root out. People are people and still cling to those they are comfortable with. We aren’t quite to the colorblind utopia we all hope for and keep talking about. Should either of these two friends, Lovie or Tony, win, we will be one step, on a still long journey, closer.

QB Peyton Manning has finally proven he can win the big game. In the AFC Championship game, he exorcized a lot of demons. He came from 18 points down, went through arch-rivals: coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and the rest of the New England Patriots. However, he is still an elite quarterback haunted by the ghosts of Dan Marino: incredible individual talent that has yet to win the championship ring. He has nothing left to prove to his critics, but he is in need of the last measure of greatness. Should Manning win the Super Bowl, however, everyone should shut up.

I like our chances. In the end, I just want Dungy and Manning with championship rings to signify what we already know. They are men of integrity, passion, and greatness. Of prodigious talent and quiet dignity. Part of a team who play the game and win the way they should. And they can do it on the largest stage available. In other words, go Colts!

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We Need More than a Prayer Meeting

Local ministers and community leaders will hold a news conference today to discuss crime in Indianapolis. Rev. Charles Harrison, pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church, was a victim of a robbery over the weekend. While at church Sunday evening, he was robbed by three young men. The group will discuss that and other crime issues at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and 30th streets.

What was it that Chris Rock said you should do if you found yourself lost on MLK Jr Street at night? Run! This is more sad than funny as we are coming off one of the most murderous years in our city’s history.

We keep waiting for folks, politicians, churches, and community leaders to do more than talk. There comes a point where talk is cheap. When you’ve done all you can do to draw attention to a problem and have to come up or join in with a solution. Maybe we–the people, the community–need to do more to stem the tide of violence where we can. Bear our share of the burden. Warehousing criminals, again, sounds good but isn’t a real solution. That’s society saying that we’ve given up so when you go bad, we’ll just lock you up. Yep, statistically crime will drop. Yep, we will “feel” safer knowing that we’ve thrown away the key. However, this country already has too long a sad history of putting people in chains and we can’t afford any more of those long-term scars on our collective soul.

Too many of us live in an utter state of self-delusion. We think danger is black, brown and poor, and if we can just move far enough away from “those people” in the cities we’ll be safe. If we can just find an “all-American” town, life will be better, because “things like this just don’t happen here.” What has gone wrong and is not TV, rap music, video games or a lack of prayer in school. What went wrong is that we, as a society, decided to ignore dysfunction and violence when it only affected other communities, and thereby blinded themselves to the inevitable creeping of chaos which never remains isolated too long.

Churches are a good correct place to start in the war on crime. The church is supposed to be a reproducing community of authentic disciples who are being equipped as missionaries to be sent out by God. We listen to the questions asked by our community and dialogue over those questions. We don’t force questions that we think our community “should” be asking and provide those answers. That’s not real helpful.

As Christians, we have our identity in Christ. We find our mission in Christ. Missional people might not spend as much time at church because their whole lives are missions. And that mission is connected to social action, the key word being “action”. Not just “press conferences”. But you know what? I know in my heart that these leaders won’t be stopping at this press conference. I’d be willing to bet that this press conference is the beginning of a conversation. A laying out of a vision that will then be taken off camera as people assemble to put “feet” to the vision and do the work.

At least that’s my hope.

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So Close and Yet So Far

Sports franchises are often the face of the city, which is why it is so important that Indianapolis teams have quality character guys on their teams (memo to the Pacers). A lot of a city’s self-esteem is wrapped up in its sports franchises. We look good on Monday night television, but the Colts need to make it to the Super Bowl.

Do you know what you don’t come to my blog to read? Cogent sports analysis.

Yet here I am, thinking about the Colts and their chances of finally making it to the Promised Land. Do the Colts have a chance to win a Super Bowl this season? Nope, not unless they get some defense. You can make the playoffs with an over-powering offense, but it’s not consistently potent enough to overcome the defense deficiencies come play-off time. Defense wins championships. However, the Super Bowl is the only stage left, big enough, for them. Getting to the Super Bowl certainly matters to Peyton Manning. He needs the big game, not only that, but to play well in that game. Ghosts of Dan Marino will haunt him until he does.

A Super Bowl appearance should certainly matter to Indianapolis. Sports franchises are the public face of a city. It’s one reason why New Orleans is America’s second favorite team right now. We’re rooting for New Orleans vicariously through their team. Some folks make the argument that the teams take on the personalities of the cities, I don’t know if I would go that far. Whether we want them to be or not, they do tend to represent us. They are ambassadors of what we value and how we compete.

This speaks to the importance of having character guys on our teams. Yes, we want to win, but we don’t want to win at all costs. Haywood Hale Broun is noted for saying, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” While sports should be teaching lessons about stronger teamwork or greater self-discipline, instead we get a “me, me, me” attitude, a culture of accommodation, and win at all costs mentality – all driven by money. Rarely is there anything to be appreciated as a “role model” among the athletes.

We want attention for the right reasons as we try to escape the “what the hell were you doing out at 3 a.m at a strip club anyway?” shadow of the Pacers. The Pacers had a preseason publicity campaign because they knew they were facing a disenfranchised fan base (and worse, possible empty seats). Why? Because we want character guys as well as quality product. So we should appreciate good character guys when we have them, like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, when we see them. Especially when watching them is watching sports history unfold before us as they are among the best of all time.

I’m strictly a casual sports fan. I don’t live and die by a team (or else the Pacers and Colts would have caused me to slit my wrists years ago). We have a good team, an exciting team to watch. Will it be good enough to make it to the Super Bowl? Nope. Though I’d love to be wrong.

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Indianapolis 2007 Wish List

What would my wish list be for Indianapolis for 2007?

1. Revitalize West and East sides. I realize that the areas around Eastgate and Lafayette Square no longer matter now that white folks have moved out of those areas. However, it has come to my attention that there are folks, who granted, may be non-white, who do have money and are willing to spend it. We live and work in these areas and like our neighborhoods as much as folks in Brownsburg, Avon, Fishers, or Greenwood.

2. Super Bowl. Sports franchises are often the face of the city, which is why it is so important that Indianapolis teams have quality character guys on their teams (memo to the Pacers). A lot of a city’s self-esteem is wrapped up in its sports franchises. We look good on Monday night television, but the Colts need to make it to the Super Bowl. While it’s too late to have the Super Bowl here in 2007, but 2007 would be a good year to announce when we will be hosting a Super Bowl.

3. Embrace our Internationality. Rather than fearing the influx of “brown people,” we should embrace them. All of my favorite cities, from London to New York, have strong international flavor and appeal. We seem to go out of our way to fight any hints of anyone non-Midwestern, as if we wish to cling to our provincialism.

4. Racial Reconciliation. Ha! I might as well wish for world peace while I’m at it. I tell you what, since I’m not interested in everyone holding hands and singing “kumbaya,” I’d settle for people learning to respect each others’ stories. I’d settle for the media not stirring up stories that aren’t there. I’d settle for improved police relations with the black community. I’d settle for an event-free year. Reconciliation is costly and often humbling. It involves risk. And it should be what we are about.

5. Address our Poverty. It’s easy to blame the poor. They are under-represented. There aren’t many political action committees, few professional lobbying, publicists in the media on their behalf. Because this is the land of opportunity, often times poverty is a choice, the natural consequence of a lifetime of poor decisions. However, that doesn’t address the systemic poverty, the children born into circumstances beyond their control. Thankfully there are organizations like Outreach, Inc.

6. Reduce our Murder Rates. On the surface, more police sounds like an easy answer; that’s because better trained, better funded, and more police officers are always good. However, police respond once crimes have been committed. Unless you have a cop on every corner, 24/7, they aren’t going to be much by way of deterrence. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and leave the solution strictly in the hands of the police – people we already ask a lot from in one breath and casually disrespect in the other. Myself included.

7. Fix our Schools. Schooling is underappreciated. Education should be there for those who want it, but if you’re determined to screw up your life because you know everything already, good luck to you. We can’t just throw money at the problem. We need a comprehensive re-thinking of how we do school and transmit knowledge.

8. Public Workers Appreciation Day. I’m just saying. I love my postal workers, my trash collectors, my school teachers, my police officers, fire department, and yes, even my BMV workers.

Just a few things I’m wishing for.

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