Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to Little League World Series and The Big Belisle

I've never had a firm grasp on "The Rules." I don't like them all that much when they don't make much sense to me. So it takes me a little longer to get there, and sometimes, I never arrive at all. Occasionally, I even manage to get into a whole lot of hot water. It's worth it. Back to the conviction that it's being jaded that creates the worst adults among us. The true hags of society.

Back to not playing by the rules when they don't make sense.

Back to a seventh grader being able to articulate the greatest struggle of humanity by writing an original song. Back to a 12 year-old having the humility to edit perfection. Back to admitting the frustration borne of loss, and the need, at any age, for teachers to remember and remind that who you were in the beginning was the very best you would ever be. It's easy to know your name; it's hard to be able to determine what it will stand for, and how hard you are willing to fight for it. 

The Cumberland American Little League stood in tears before their coach, David Belisle, after their 8-7 loss to Jackie Robinson West of Chicago, Illinois in the LL World Series. We are taught that if we fight really hard for something, and invest everything we have into accomplishing the desired result, victory is inevitable. The tears on the boys' faces, caught in that delicate brink of manhood, but rooted still to the rawness and honesty that only a child can express, placed their coach in the almost impossible position of using words to irrevocably alter the path of their manhoods. Turning points have that kind of power, and adults poised to affect the outcome bear a substantial responsibility. Those who do it right are heroes.

Back to Coach David Belisle setting a standard - and reminding those of us who may have forgotten - that A is about fighters. Sportsmanship. Never quitting. Back to playing the game the right way. The full story below. Back to time well spent never being in vain - a wonderful clip embodying the very best of the American spirit:

Click here for direct youtube link.  Rave on, Coach Belisle. Back to for the sheer fun of it being the reason to keep playing:

They love fighters
They like sportsman
They like guys who don't quit
They like guys who play the game right way.'s okay to cry. We're going to be friends forever. 


Rave on in the spirit of. . . doing it over and over and over again, as many times as it takes, because, well, it's fun. Rave on, Van Morrison. Drive on with wild abandon, uptempo, frenzied heels. Because it's awesome. Taking the time to listen to a song about a poet who died many centuries ago, but knew a thing or two about life, is a first step Back to A. The skeptics scroll onward in their rush to arrive at the end as if the bottom line is on par with enlightenment.

It's not. Never was. Back to taking a minute out of your busy day and listening. 

In the beginning, we do and act from the heart. It's maddening. Heartening. Uplifting. And sometimes, crushing.

It is learned behaviors and disappointments that instruct over time that it's best to hold back, to test the waters, to mistrust, to temper, to measure our spirits and hold back as if the end goal and the victor's circle are reserved only for the most controlled. The obedient. The ones who say it briefly. Back to believing brevity may be the soul of wit, but truth. . . well, that takes time, and patience, and the subtlety of thought and expression and effort. Patience for tangential thought and appreciation for the way it meanders and explores, but ultimately arrives at its destination is the soul of honesty.

We are molded to emulate those we perceive to have "won" the game, as if the emulation itself will be the impetus required to arrive at the destination. We are taught to associate only with winning teams, to spend far too much time and effort seeking approval and respect from ones who never deserved it in the first place. . . and to politely turn our heads and shun the ones with faces still marred by dust, sweat, and blood:

Back to tears when we have lost, because tears are okay and human.

Back to looking up to the few teachers who still remember why we began the journey, allowed us to embrace the defeat, then celebrated amidst its embers because therein lies the spark. Back to "let me see your eyes, guys," and the heroes among us who permit the equally critical placement of anguish, exhaustion, and bitter disappointment in that coveted arena we are taught is open only for the gold medalists.

If you want to see sparks, you have to have the patience to wait and the guts to endure a thousand defeats. You have to make like Heinz Ketchup and believe that good things come to those who wait. Back to 1986, remember?

Coldplay understands this because you have to wait a good long time before Chris Martin tells you what he saw. . . even if the title of the song gives it away. Because it's not the same as when he finally says it. When he says it, it's magic. Magic is reserved for those who wait. 


Do you?

Back to the men and women among us who empower and ignite, but also teach the importance of decency, fairness, and acknowledgement for those who push us to be better. . . congratulations to Bill Haley, director of Jackie Robinson West, and his father, who founded the team in 1971, and most of all, to the the young men from Chicago, Illinois and a well-played match.

Back to fine sportsmanship being a benchmark for those who truly love the game. Back to rising through defeat and knowing that how to lose is every bit as important a lesson as knowing how to win.

For those of us still on the journey? We talk too much - long after the game is over. We make a lot of noise. We push limits. We disturb the peace. We are avoided. We fumble long past the expiration date permitted for fumbling. We are foolish. We are flawed. We have questions. We wonder. We want to understand before we follow. We are explosions in your peaceful spaces. We will never stop.

Back to we are the crazy ones...because call us what you may, we will change the world in a way your mind will never conceive:

How? We have fun. Real joy, and a real fighting spirit, are not controlled things. WE drive on with wild abandon, uptempo, frenzied heels. We are feared, too, because it's a forgotten way of winning. A victor's lap you all knew how to run, but were taught to forget by teachers who gave up too early and pushed you to follow, not question, the rules. Back to pushing the limits of every accepted comfort zone, because we believe in change, be it decor, lifestyle, justice, sports, or our individual pursuits. Some people talk about capturing the essence of youth. Others just live as if they are.

We are forever young. We do not get deterred when we are told we are wrong. There is no arrogance in moral conviction. Only truth.

And in our own slow and steady true course, we always win because we know sometimes a step backward is the only way forward. 

A is for always

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Back to Slowness, the Pace of My Secret Garden

When she opened her eyes, she saw sunlight, green leaves, and a man's face.  She thought:  I know what this is. This was the world as she had expected to see it at sixteen - and now she had reached it.
-Dagny Taggart 

What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but it's the only thing I'd really like to be.
-Holden Caulfield

Back to stepping beyond the home and into this beautiful world, but remembering to claim the places of joy as your own and to take your time.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but -
Slowness is the heart of truth.
A journey Back to A can never be rushed.
That is why most never succeed in arriving. 
-Back to A

Back to keeping one foot rooted in Neverland, because some of us will never be rushed.

"There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically he slows down. Meanwhile a person wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if were try to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time."

-Milan Kundera, Slowness

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Scalamandré: The Red Zebra Runs Again

Company President Steve Stolman

A very wise and unique individual I have had the good fortune of recently meeting suggested, "You should wear more red." It was a comment made lightly, but given the source, there's usually some meaning behind it. I considered that I really didn't have any red clothing. . . and certainly there was no red in my home. Scalamandré and I were about to embark on a red hot love affair, fusing the worlds of fashion, home decor, and the bold spirit only the color red can truly provoke within the human spirit. 

Colors matter. They speak.  

Change is a necessary exploration, but not an empirical standard for better. Back to getting it right the first time, and doing what you do best. Sometimes, to resurrect, one simply needs to reappear, devoid of artifice or fanfare.  Reinvention for the sake of novelty defeats the purpose. Truth, and style, stand the test of time.  (Click below to read more)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Back to Wonder and the Artist

There is something wonderful about starting fresh, and taking time in those early, uncertain hours when life feels very much like dawn, to take long walks and simply think. These walks often lead to Central Park, an Eden on earth.  This past Sunday, when an artist asked me if I wanted my portrait sketched, I paused and reflected back on a time when I had - then recorded the story in a Back to A post you can revisit here.  It's a post I love, because somewhere along the neuron connectivities which inspire these posts - inexplicable, even to me - I had found my way back to The Wonder Years and my favorite moments and quotes - perhaps because the experience does bring with it that elusive sense of wonder - so difficult to capture, so precious when achieved.

This time, I was with my two boys, and I asked him if he wouldn't mind sketching Harold and Luigi. He was a little surprised - "I don't usually do animals," he began to object. I countered with a simple, "Why not?" and a smile, and then he was smiling, too. Why not, indeed. A great question to just about anything one has not given a try in life (except fruits and vegetables - they all taste equally vile, a profound Back to A belief).  So he began. . .

The crowds around us grew larger and larger. Artists sketching portraits in New York City? A dime a dozen. . . but dogs? Dog owners began to line up, and whether he was inspired by the growing crowds, or the sweetness of my two boys, or the possibility of a new career entirely - pet portrait sketch artist - this old man with the most piercing, Brighton Beach blue eyes in the world (where he lives), began to create a miracle on paper. . .

Back to taking time out to explore the possibilities of the what if's and the why nots. . . Back to my earthly Eden, and finding the time (and the artists) to create the priceless pieces which will adorn the walls of my life - one box, a single apartment amidst many, but encased within it, our entire story, full of sorrow and joy and. . .wonder.

"Whenever some blowhard starts talking about the anonymity of the suburbs or the mindlessness of the TV generation, we know that inside each one of those identical boxes, with its Dodge parked out front and its white bread on the table and its TV set glowing blue in the falling dusk, there were people with stories, there were families bound together in the pain and the struggle of love. There were moments that made us cry with laughter, and there were moments, like that one, of sorrow and wonder." 
-Neil Marlens and Carol Black

Back to the original sketches.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Back to Blank Canvas

"Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas:  How comes it to be furnished?"

When it all starts to close in, shine a light.  Rip it down, roll it up, recycle the used, the forgotten, the scarred, the damaged.  Retreat.  Regroup.  Revive.

Paint it all white.

Rebirth is a clean canvas.  A blank slate.  Back to tabula rasa. . . or shine bright like a diamond, if you're more into Rhianna than Locke.

Start over no matter how exhaustive, no matter how many cycles, no matter how many times they question, "AGAIN?"

Yes.  Again.  

I believe "again" is far more interesting as a word and a concept than "finished" or "done." Call it an unmasked appreciation for the evolving self versus the static - or worse - the complacent. A proclivity for kinetics.  A reverence for Whitesnake:

I am inspired endlessly by Kipling's poem "If":

The finish line is merely a benchmark for those who subscribe to the rat race, having lost sight somewhere along the way that the joy is in the journey. 

There is something both terrifying and wonderful in tearing it all down.  You start to appreciate the power of transience. . . and the wonders of masking tape and bubble-wrap. Harold announced firmly, "Let's not do the whole I can do this myself thing" and I concurred. Back to knowing when to accept a little (or a lot) of help from friends and family. . .and the incredible team at Flat Rate Movers.

As our story takes another turn, Harold Moscowitz and I reflect on beginnings. . . the first night. . . (this time we hired movers who did not cancel on Moving Day).

Back to archives - a scroll down BacktoA's cyber lane:

. . .the emptiness (and serenity) of the next morning. . . of mattress shopping and flea market scouring and DIY till we were both exhausted (and happy).

We pause, my little true blue best friend and I, and survey the setting for where so many stories took place.  

"But the thing about remembering is that you don't forget. . . and sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for.  Stories are for joining the past to the future.  Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are now.  Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story."

We leave with a new addition. . .

. . . accept the heartbreak and losses. . .but carry them with us in our hearts. 

Francesca 'Frankie' Fiola was run over by a taxi cab on February 24, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.  She was wearing her angel wings, and died in my arms before I reached the Animal Medical Center. I will never forget the day, forgive the occurrence, or fully heal from a wound I cannot begin to describe. She and Luigi shared the same birth mother - and she was my little girl, as well as my heartbeat. It's a sadness which bears heavy; a grief I cannot yet put into appropriate words. 

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."
Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness 

Another story will be told here. The three of us leave The Fairfax, which was hardly a dead-end for those who read the signs and appreciate that life is an odd mix of fate and Choose Your Own Adventure. . .it was just one turn in the road, with many directions still left to explore.

Back to our next adventure and the indomitable spirit that is - has always been, will always be - Back to A - rooted firmly in the meaning of my name:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Back to Lights

"You gonna wire that chandelier by yourself, little lady?"

Maria Teresa chandelier, Gracious Home

The man at the store was quick to add, "No disrespect." And he didn't mean it, either. Gracious Home isn't exactly the kind of store, shall we say, where women who buy chandeliers come in, pay for them, carry them home, put them together, hang them, then hardwire them all by themselves - to say nothing about balancing a stool on a bed (it doesn't) and hanging it all up.

That's the difference between A then and now - getting Back to A used to mean learning to do things myself and reveling in the discovery and challenge. This A doesn't blink. It's no longer a challenge. She knows no other way. It's who I have become and I have earned it with cuts and scrapes and spills and bruises enough to warrant more bandage boxes than you could imagine. (I'm still working on being at the "A" where I can actually find them when I need them). Certain traits, I've learned, happen to be embedded a little more deeply than others. . .so yes, while there's still learning - that never seems to end - what was once an interesting little project - a temporary life chapter - has become life itself. 

Back to the chandelier. 

There was a moment's trepidation as I went to connect the plug - hand wrapping wire - or even seeing what is inside a plug in the first place - was new territory, but then...well, then there was light.

Because there always is.

Reading too much into hanging a little chandelier? Maybe. Ever coming close to describing that little skip in the heart when it all comes together? No. not even close. It's as good as the original A.

Some things, I have learned on this journey, are meant to morph, to transform, to meld with the age and the time and the place. 

Transform your bed into a canopy with one simple trick - hang curtain rods from ceiling.
Back to a crystal moon in a night sky
Back to never underestimating the power of a really baller bedskirt.
Back to boudoir. . . 

And then, just as simply, there are others that are meant to be just as good as you had hoped they would be from the first day of attainment, and stay that way forever. In an ideal world, my two baby boys, Harold Moscowitz and Louhizzles McNizzles. 

I'm never better than when I find myself heading due north for that steady lighthouse - and yes, part of the certainty and confidence and wonder which stems from that feeling is also inextricably bound with permitting oneself to get lost at sea, too. Not a pretend loss. I'm talking about a scary holy shit I'm sinking kind of lost. Because I've been there, too. A journey skimmed on crests alone, after all, is hardly a journey. It's about rising. . . and yes, falling. But when the rise comes, it's as natural as a wave breaking. 

And just as beautiful. If you've been there, you know.

Explorers, you see - we always do come home. We take longer. We afford greater risks. We're a bit of a sea storm unto ourselves at times. But our light burns magic - unchartered, unreasoned, untamed.


So you think you're lonely? Well my friend, I'm lonely, too. 
-Journey, Lights

Lonely. . .it always is in the beginning, no matter how many times you begin.  I've learned you have to brave it alone for a bit. And then. . .

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back to Craving the Rose

The walk to Grace's (Harold and Luigi always accompany) to pick out our bouquets. . .hand trimming the stems, arranging the flowers, choosing the right vases. . . I love the process as much as the presence of fresh flowers in a home. Flowers are reminders amidst objects of permanence of fragility and tenderness and endings; of poetry and beauty, of celebrations and apologies, of arrivals. . . and departures.

As petals fall and stems begin to wilt, I seek the survivor and place her in a single, bud vase - a vintage perfume bottle I found at a flea market.  

She's even more beautiful alone. 

For he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.
Anne Brontë

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Back to Kimberly

Because from A-Z, nobody has been a better friend, or made me laugh harder, or reminded me always - always - that anything boys can do, girls can do. . .

B E T T E R.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back to Digital Dreams: Mike Stud "In This Life"

To the blogosphere and youtube groupies growing exponentially by the minute, he's cocky, witty Mike Stud, a rapper in D.C. with over 12 million hits on his youtube channel and a fan base that keeps his tours anything but boring.

He's on Back to A (which, as you know, is more about paint and yellow and DIY) because he's Michael Seander, the baseball star from Providence, Rhode Island who went on to to Duke University and at the height of his All American dreams got injured and had to make a Plan B post Tommy John surgery. Pushing on at Georgetown, here's a player who knows a little something about life on the rebound, and how sometimes the initial track - especially for those of us who hit it engines steaming, no obstacles in our path, at a jaw-dropping, mind blowing speed - well, we know all too uncomfortably well when that dream gets busted, it can't ever quite be recreated.

So then there's a lot of time reflecting on past glory, a lot of "what's next" and "what's the point" and worst of all - being second best or "pretty good" when you're used to #1 - and then. . . finding something else that comes out of left field - something you always considered a hobby or a sidetrack - or, embarrassing, even, because it's not the initial goal you thought your path was set on or what the family and the friends expected and respected you for.

I like everything about this guy. But I think "In This Life" spins brilliant. . . spin it. It's worth it. The kid is a genius, and so are his lyrics. Back to the original Duke boy. 

Look at you now, Seander, bouncin' back like a rebound. Nothing wrong with wanting it all. Shakespeare was a cocky kid who made up words and rhymes for the fun of it, too.

Back to starin' at my Macbook. I got them digital dreams, too.
Triple AAA no battery.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Back to Where The Sidewalk Ends

There's a lot of dope shit to be found where the sidewalk ends. Just because you can afford to buy something that's brand new doesn't mean you should. If you slide a credit card to get everything you want in life, you're so far from Back to A we don't even know who you are anymore. Go on an adventure. Create a project so ass crazy even your doorman blinks a couple times and shakes his head. 

Here's what Harold, Louhizz, and I found one fine night. . . it reminded us a little of. . . well, us. It wanted to go Back to A, so we decided to wheel it in there. 

Painting random pieces of furniture is probably one of our favorite activities. It's a little Tom Sawyer, a little Daniel Son circa Mr. Miyagi wax on wax off style, and we dig it. The paint you need is the Hollandlac paint from Janovic Plaza - it goes on shiny, thick, and in that delicious, bright, lacquer-y yum brilliance you envision. 

Here's the thing, though. Going big with a color like yellow, Back to A has discovered, is never a good idea. It feels like a GREAT idea at the time, and even when some dim sense within you half-way through the project starts pointing out that this ISN'T going quite the way you envisioned, you may push through because black and white seemed so boring. We've learned that sticking with anything, or anyone, a minute longer past when your heart tells you it's not right is a mistake. The heart always knows. But it's a difficult lesson to master, and sometimes you keep pushing on with the mistake because finishing feels like an accomplishment, while stopping and then starting all over again feels like a waste of time.

It's not. Always, always, always stop when your heart says stop. That very second. Anyone can get to the finish line. But that's just the end, isn't it? Here's to realizing it's far more important to laugh and love and be happy along the way. It's the running. The race itself. The blue ribbon has never been the prize. 

Making mistakes is okay. Back to A is a profound believer in the adage to err is human. Living with a mistake is laziness. Black and white isn't always boring. We are learning a lot about simplicity and restraint these days, and some black and white lacquer paint, while perhaps not as exciting as the yellow purchase, will create a look far more striking than yellow ever could. Repainting wasn't that bad, even. We played a little music, and enjoyed seeing the project come to life in the way it was meant to. 

We're still painting and playing and discovering our way. Back to being okay with the mistakes, muddling through the errors, and searching for joy against all odds. Where the sidewalk ends, our world begins. We think all endings are really just beautiful beginnings. We think sometimes, when you hit that chord just right, even shih tzus can fly. Back to anything is possible.

Back to clicking "Older Posts" below. . . because part of the story is never the whole story. Journey with me back to the beginning. . .