Family is a great thing. Some people are lucky enough to live relatively close to theirs. Sometimes due to distance, your friends become family. Your family lets you get away with things that many would not. Something that you can be lulled into is the idea that because you think that you’ve immediately made new friends that are really just acquaintances, you can fall into old patterns that your friends have grown accustomed to dealing with.
Your extended family let you go off about something knowing that somehow if you end up going off the map that you’ll find your way back. Acquaintances don’t seem to allow those strays to be overlooked. Your family has grown accustomed to your habits and look at them as quirks. Your acquaintances look at them as problems that must be dealt with in order to be accepted.
I’ve found myself making many friends in my short time in Birmingham (at least, I think so), though it still feels as though I have many acquaintances that have found their way into my life as well.. It’s difficult trying to blend in to a very different society. There are a lot of people that say that going to Savannah was a case of going into a completely different environment compared to New York. Looking back, I can say that moving their under the pretense of attending college made the change in surroundings almost non-existent.
My experiences growing up in the Bronx, while urban, were still different than if all of my life experiences were in Manhattan. Ending up at a college where there were students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries even in the Old South, made that change easier to make than what are normally expected. The melting pot that was and is SCAD made me aware of things that I had not been exposed to at home. It made me appreciate what I had experienced as well, knowing what I brought to the game of survival at college. Some are the ones that get that e-mail or phone call whenever I need some assistance on dealing with those life issues when I want someone that knows me and that favor is always returned. There are some while not achieving what they hoped in terms of graduating or completing college due to leaving this life that taught me several valuable lessons that I am forever grateful for.
I also had an extended family back in New York that went beyond the nuclear. The Lwanga Scholars had gotten me ready to be accepting and realistic about how I would be accepted in society. I recently got a chance to see how several of them were doing after several years. This group taught me more about self-determination and striving for success than many of the other things that I have been involved with over the years. I was reminded that there are some fundamental differences between how my family from the program thinks and some of my acquaintances have thought over the years. The more that I’ve been thinking about it in recent weeks, the more I realize that most of my friends think similarly to the Scholars.
One thing stressed in the program was to be sure that you were proud of your heritage. I tend to make a point to say that I am a Caribbean-American first and foremost. There is a lot made nowadays with regards to holding onto your heritage and making sure that it survives. In this age of political correctness and constant labeling of groups, while I believe that there is more that makes us similar than different, this label allows me to celebrate things that I can never take for granted. It also gives me the opportunity to look at things a bit more objectively than I probably need to whenever it comes to what I’ve tried to accomplish so far.
This Saturday my girlfriend has decided that the best way to mark my turning 30 on the 29 was to invite some of the people that I have grown to consider family (living close enough to make it feasible) to come over and celebrate with me. I just look forward to hoisting a Guinness and enjoying my time with them, and looking at ways to make sure that I don’t let them down as I move forward in my journey through life.
I’ve been incommunicado for most of the last two weeks as I’ve been out traveling the country. At least I’ve been traveling portions of the country east of the Mississippi. I decided that I needed to go home to New York. The Lwanga Scholars were having a reunion and that gave me an excuse.
I hate flying. Now, after being in the car for 15-16 hours, there are times that I can say that I don’t like driving either. That feeling doesn’t normally last too long though. Driving gives you the opportunity to take in some sights that you would otherwise would be skimming over. While I’m not a big fan of having to drive around town like crazy for my job, if I have to get from point A to point B for a long trip, I’d rather be behind the wheel of a car. OK, maybe sitting on a train would work too.
Some of the views traveling along the highway are quite breathtaking. There are rolling hills with, in this case, cows seeking shade from the excessively hot sun. I will say that it was weird to be up north and know it was hotter there than it was in Alabama. There were these gorgeous old farm properties with large wood frame homes looking out onto acres and acres of crops getting ready for harvest.
A detour thanks to some blasting along I-81 led me to finally stop in Lexington, Virginia. The town was starting to buzz with the sounds of students beginning or returning to the world of college life. Nice small quaint shops with a “traditional” feel to them. It also reminded me of why I enjoy doing the kind of work that I do. While I was taking an extended break from the road, I picked the brain of a guy who runs a photo gallery. The business was participating in a promotion aimed at getting people to shop downtown instead of the mall by having entertainment and extended hours. You were welcomed into the participating stores with balloons announcing their wanting you to come inside. Some of them sat across the street from the old downtown theater, one that still shows first run films.
There were some large cities along the route, each trying to display why it was important to live and work there. That was all fine and well, but some of the more interesting things out there were the various year-round haunted houses, historic markers and some breathtaking views. It’s better to kiss the ground as you move among it than it is to survey it from above as though you are its conqueror. There are times where I feel as though you miss the story when you’re in the skies. That’s probably that reporter in me trying to come out.
While in New York I was much more adventurous that I had been in a while. I can now say that I have ridden on the Staten Island Ferry and actually been to Staten Island (more on that later this week). On the boat I was asked some questions by a little boy looking out over New York Harbor as the wind hit us in our faces. His mother walked up and said that he always talks to people no matter where they go; he’ll just strike up a conversation. I told her that it’s a great gift and to just enjoy it. He’ll have a lot of fun because of it. I watched as he saw the Statue of Liberty at night as close as you can get without going to the island. I took a picture of Lady Liberty as it was passed by a ferry boat. I hope it comes out the way I hoped it would.
I have this habit of wanting to do and see it all. I’ve also come to realize that I had to do my own back door before I tried to do anywhere else. There are some overseas trips coming up for me in the coming months, but I still want to become a little more familiar with the U.S. Hopefully I’m not too crazy. I also own this “old fashioned” camera and I love to try and capture moments, though there are some that simply need to exist in the depths of your mind. We’ll see if we can get some images posted up here soon. I’ll have some more on this trip in the coming days, so stay tuned…
Filed under: people
There are two people that have influenced the way that I view the world and major national events that have taken place in my life so far. One is currently enjoying retirement, though still working at an insane pace for someone who was looking for a more relaxed approach to life. The other seems to have been taken away too soon.
Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings both heavily shaped how I viewed the world, almost as much as my father buying at one point the New York Times, Daily News and New York Newsday papers every Sunday and both of my parents encouraging us to not just read the comics (though it’s still the best part!), but as much as our young brains could comprehend. While attempting to understand the paper was interesting, thinking back to watching these larger than life figures as they brought the world into my living room serves as a reason to still be curious about seeing the world with all its faults and glorys more than anything else. As I’ve listened to the tributes for Mr. Jennings today on both television and internet, it became easy to remember when each person’s influence took shape. It’s verification of what has been said on air about the differences between the Big 3 news anchors.
I turned to Dan Rather when I sought folksy takes on the presidential election night coverages that I’ve lived through so far. I became a much bigger fan of Mr. Brokaw’s while living in Savannah, where I sought to become more familiar with this country of my birth and my mind wanted to travel the “blue highways” talked about by William Least Heat-Moon in his book of the same name. He provided the ability to do so while keeping up with the news of the day and learning about the country’s “greatest generation,” those that allowed my family to be able to be here seeking their out dreams, at the same time. Mr. Jennings was different.
I gravitated to Mr. Jennings when I wanted to know what the opinion may be in New York or other larger cities. When I wanted to hear a measured, deliberate opinion, I turned to him. It stands to reason that I watched him most of the time growing up in New York and again as I began to settle into life in Birmingham. He spoke with an eloquence that never seemed to make us, his viewers, feel inferior. He spoke with a passion so strong that you knew he lived for the stories he was bringing to our awareness and that there was a genuine interest in getting it as fair and balanced as he could. He never stopped learning and was open to new ideas, and passed those lessons onto those that were interested.
The advent of 24 hour news channels and the internet has clouded the image of what our journalists are supposed to be. Adding the expanded world of tabloid and gossip news in the name of journalism muddies the water even more. Their job is still to try to get it right. I was told recently that no one ever does get it right, so stop trying. Mr. Jennings was proof that getting it as right as he could was still important. With all of the sensationalism that exists in the modern day newsroom, it appeared that it was not necessarily the case at 6 p.m. ET on ABC stations. On September 11, I watched Mr. Jennings tell me what was going on in my hometown. I watched him as they processed Princess Diana through the streets early in the morning stateside. I watched him attempt to guide the country through Y2K. I trusted him. I can only hope to be trusted by the people I serve in my job and in everything else that I do even half as much as he was.
I must admit that I have returned to NBC and to Brian Williams to be my eyes and ears to the world in these recent months. He’s earned my attention; he’s likely to earn my trust as well, in part due to the respect that he has for the men that have made this dream job of his possible. It’s a job that I had aspirations of attempting in my youth, wanting to explore the world and one that I guess I get to do now as an amateur through this; sharing my opinion while hoping to get the facts right so that others can provide their own opinion. Maybe I’ll earn that trust someday too. Mr. Jennings earned it, and he “…will never come again.” America should be sad because of it.