When I was a kid in the eighties and nineties, Married…With Children was a primetime favorite. The sitcom was always higher in controversy than ratings, defined by a humor that was equal parts bigoted, misogynistic, and homophobic. And yet it had an All In The Family charm to its self-conscious depravity.

Sitting in the pantheon of sitcom families as the endearing worst version of ourselves, the Bundys were the perfect late century antithesis to the nuclear ideal. Al, the heedless husband who regrets every facet of his family, finds happiness only in nudie bars and his beloved million-mile Dodge that gets him there. His neglected wife Peggy does no housework at all, filling her time by shopping with Al’s money while simultaneously humiliating him. And their kids Bud and Kelly hold mutual disdain for both of their parents despite acting exactly like them.

One of the more memorable character backstories was of course Al’s. He would often remind those around him that as quarterback for Polk High he once scored four touchdowns in a single game. As a salacious women’s shoe salesman, this would become his touchstone for masculinity to remind himself and others that he’s still got it, whatever “it” defined men in the nineties. And while we may never get a sequel series depicting Al Bundy’s geriatric years, we can be certain that in some forgotten midwestern nudie bar he still reminds people of his peak years in high school.

America, we’ve become Al Bundy. And it’s time to change.

At some point, your achievements lose value. In youth baseball, I once made it onto the top team after knocking a few homers in tryouts. At the time, it was a well earned point of pride. But I was ten when it happened, so you’d forgive me for leaving that off my résumé in recent years. 

This is because I reject the ideals of what I’ll call Bundyism: the indefinite leaning on past achievements as a replacement for present innovation.

In past months, we’ve heard our president encourage the preservation of the coal industry. There still exist company towns in America, solely to provide for the processing of coal. Put yourself into a family of a single company city. I imagine the fear of seeing the heart that pumps the lifeblood of your town beat ever slower as the years pass. Generations of families who take up their ancestors’ mantle watch the end of the line draw near. It’s not even about the coal really, it’s about the history, the backstory. You are carrying the same tradition that your great great grandparents gave birth to. And one day you wake up and the world tells you that you can’t do that anymore. That isn’t freedom. It feels like tyranny.

Sometimes a lie feels real good. In this case, some believe that coal can thrive indefinitely, and these company towns will resurge to prominence. And what that really means is that thousands of families will get to regain the honor of carrying their family’s history into the future. But it’s not true. There is a definite, knowable end for coal. To forsake this fact while rejecting new, cheaper, sustainable improvements is prime Bundyism.

A century ago, coal thrived. That was back when whiskey was medicine and doctors smoked. It was also before the EPA existed. The current administration’s own EPA site outlines why sulfur dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, is harmful to human beings. Even if coal reserves were going to last us for thousands of years, we at least know for certain how incredibly unhealthy it is.

And it’s not going to last for thousands of years. The exact date of depletion is contested depending on who you listen to. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates about 348 years left, while the World Coal Association figures it will only take 150 years. Oil will be gone in just 50, at least according to BP. The sun, however, will be here for roughly 5 billion more years. It will outlast the Earth. Purely by the metrics, the boldfaced truth of nature will force you to change. At some point, we will need more dependable sources of energy.

Either you take on that disappointment today, or you doom your descendants to do it for you. I’m not saying this to be mean. I’m saying this because fossil fuels will absolutely run out some day.

I understand the innate poetry in connecting our present to our history. Our ancestors sparked the industrial revolution and propelled the 20th century toward unimaginable progress. An oil driller in the 1890s couldn’t have imagined the 405 freeway today, but the two are connected through time. And there is to me something beautiful about that.

But when you hold so tightly to the way things were, whether it be the early days of energy production or that time you scored four touchdowns in a single game, you ignore your ability to write a new backstory today. That 19th century oil driller wrote an incredible moment in our history. Why are you resting on his laurels still? Can you imagine what it would be like to draft a new story that will be the poetic backstory for your great great grandchildren?

I know it feels bad to be told you can’t do something you want to do. When we use words like ‘freedom’ in America, this is the essence of what we mean.

But you don’t want to be Al Bundy, do you? Al never took a single moment to improve himself, because he rested on the way things were. He just assumed it would always be the way it used to be. And then one day he found himself behind the curve, unable to write his own destiny because he was already married with children, so to speak.

You have the opportunity right now. And if we rest on our nostalgia for too long, the moment to write the backstory to inspire the future will have passed you by.

Bundyism doesn’t just apply to our energy industry, it applies to everything.

The debate on gun control has yet again been brought to the forefront through tragedy. Guns are a strong point of nostalgia for Americans. It was thanks to guns that our country was founded, after all. 

When I think of our tradition of personal gun ownership, I equate it to our history of slavery. Our constitution had in plain terms a method for determining population in the era of slave ownership. The Three-Fifths Compromise stated that a slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person, whereas a free white man would be counted as a whole person. No one seems to have considered at the time whether slavery should exist at all, only the parameters by which it apparently must.

Thankfully the Civil War spurred abolition. But try if you can to imagine what it was like to be descended from a Confederate family. You might have to break ties with your own familial pride in order to progress into the modern age. It must have felt like tyranny at the time, so much so that we shed each others equally American blood over it. The most in our history.

Breaking tradition is hard to do. Abolishing slavery required our country to implode. And even then, African Americans still had to suffer another whole century before the law found them to be equal countrymen. All thanks to Bundyism, the resistance to progress for the preservation of tradition.

Guns demand the same analysis of history. Always in this debate the words ‘Second’ and ‘Amendment’ are tossed around. It’s true, there’s a blurb in the constitution, not unlike the Three-Fifths Compromise, that explains the parameters by which we can all own guns. And kind of like with slavery, it doesn’t seem to have been considered whether anyone should own guns at all.

I personally side with the vision of a world where guns don’t exist. I suppose you’d call this a ‘liberal’ ideal, but I don’t see it that way. It’s a human ideal. Our objective goal for humanity, whether we’ve voiced it or not, is for everyone to have everything they need and want in life. In other words, why not live in a world where guns aren’t necessary because competition isn’t necessary? No one needs to rob or kill because they have everything they need.

But as much as I want to believe in that world, I’m not sure it’s possible. Not without drastic Orwellian changes that are probably too far beyond the pale to discuss here. And with roughly a gun for every American in circulation, we need to speak in practical terms. These 350 million plus weapons will not be collected overnight, and some will not be offered up willingly.

It’s also not a perfect analogy with slavery. Guns are not people. And of course, guns can still serve a practical purpose within basic ethical boundaries. Some folks opt to buy a gun to protect their family, and I don’t find fault with that instinct. If someone tried to hurt someone in my family, I might wish I had a gun too.

But they only serve that purpose because nothing better has come to replace them. Just as coal will absolutely make way for more sustainable energy, why have we not even attempted to improve upon the gun?

Allow me to introduce a little sci-fi. In Judge Dredd, a dystopian comic-turned-movie in which police are also Judges who dole out sentences on the spot (usually death sentences), Dredd’s famous do-everything pistol is the Lawgiver. If someone other than Dredd attempts to fire the Lawgiver, it explodes in that person’s hand. For our purposes, we might opt for a locking system over an explosion, but the idea is sound.

It’s something to look at. So much so that a number of companies already have working prototypes. You’ll also notice on that page the reason why these aren’t everywhere today. The NRA opposed it as far back as 1999, not because they didn’t like the idea, but because they didn’t think people should be restricted from buying old-fashioned ‘dumb’ guns.

Bundyism. It’s like saying we should give people the option of getting their energy from coal or the sun. Sometimes choice is the illusion of freedom. To insist upon the improvement of an idea can be the illusion of tyranny. But being given a safer, smarter option, even if it is against your will, is for your benefit. To clutch to dangerous, sloppy technology, purely because it’s tradition, is only kicking the can down the road to your kids and their kids, who will still be grappling with this issue. Do you really want the choice to buy a car with or without seat belts? Is that really freedom?

At a minimum, if guns were attached biometrically to a user, we could begin to curb the illegal resale of guns. Perhaps there’s a way to retrofit current models. And perhaps we could have a program like tax incentives or hard cash to encourage people to retrofit their weapons in this way. Perhaps ‘dumb’ guns could be rented on site at ranges for the gun hobbyist to enjoy. Perhaps hunters could still purchase the equipment they use to feed their families while conceding a slight modicum of safety redesign. Perhaps there’s an even better idea none of us have heard yet, some option between all the guns and no guns at all.

But simply to point at the Second Amendment, a centuries old backstory, and say that’s still good enough is to do exactly as Al Bundy did. As a country, we will not improve, we will continue to be humiliated by other countries, if we do not take stock of ourselves in this moment and decide whether we want to continue to rest on history, or whether we are brave enough to write our own story.

Nobody cares who America used to be. And we don’t get to be The Greatest Nation On Earth™ because we still do the things that made us that way at the start. It’s a title that needs keeping, it must be earned again and again. Just as we removed the slavery that once bolstered the economy, just as we will remove coal which powered a revolution, the change isn’t always easy. But if we don’t change, our kids will look at us the way Al Bundy’s kids look at him, like a man who didn’t even try to better himself.

I don’t expect us to fix gun violence overnight. But I expect us to try. Unless we really are Al Bundy the country, unwilling to let go of our tired backstory of violence. In which case, go ahead, stick your hand down your pants and careful not to hit your gun.

© C G 2018



It was a bad week for Terrance. 

On Sunday, he had planned to picnic with his girlfriend in Dolores Park. A technical rapport had replaced their romance in recent weeks, but he wasn’t doing it for her. His King Charles Spaniel, Jerry, had developed a lethargy over the last year. Only if he heard ‘food’ or ‘w-a-l-k’ would he whip his unbendable limbs around in attempt to right himself. A day in the park would do him good, Terrance thought. But when he called, Jerry remained. It was his last day on earth.

In the days that followed, Terrance arranged to have Jerry cremated. He agonized over the exact shape and grain of the wooden box that would hold his dog’s remains, only to get home and realize that he didn’t really have a good place for it. After a dozen attempts elsewhere, he decided to put the box in the pantry. Eating was his favorite, Terrance reasoned. Still, lying in bed in the sleepless hours before dawn, he would wonder if Jerry would have approved.

Yesterday, his girlfriend bought him tacos at Poquito, his favorite dinner. He felt bad for assuming there was an ulterior motive. She never paid for anything. But he felt marginally better when she broke up with him. At least he was right about that.

Terrance couldn’t believe she’d picked this week. “It’s been like three days,” she snipped. “I was going to do it at the park.” Terrance considered how irrevocably doomed his Sunday had been. He never had a chance.

And now on a Friday morning, by his count just sixty-one hours until his fortieth birthday, his latent loneliness settles in. He’d spent some of the morning wondering if his ex of fourteen hours ever cheated on him. Probably, he concluded. He wondered why she always insisted that Jerry was gay. It didn’t bother him if he was. But she never even walked him, he thought. Who would just assume like that?

Ding! Order’s up. Terrance sits in a mostly empty diner, Darlene’s. It is to breakfast what Poquito is to dinner. After this, the week of all weeks, he needs his favorite meal on earth. 

And here it comes.

Steam wafts into the air as a perky twenty-something waitress swings the hot plate into view. She sets it down so the steam hits his face. The Chef’s Omelette contains half of the pick-it-yourself veggies and meats. It comes with bacon, cheese grits, and if you want it, some french toast. He did.

“Can I get you anything else?” she asks.

Terrance snaps to, shakes his head. The waitress bounces away, but remains in his mind like a pebble in his sock. He feels old, and for no good reason blames this waitress. All her best years still ahead. And what’s with this joy dripping off her? She probably thinks he’s a schlub. He bets she’s already forgotten about him, and after mashing all this joy into his miserable face. Forget it, he thinks. That’s your ex talking. And anyway, the best breakfast in San Francisco wants his company.

Terrance picks up the salt shaker and flicks it over his plate. The top was unscrewed.

It takes a moment, when tragedy strikes, for time to speed back up to normal. But when it does, the sour taste of a plate full of salt gnaws at his nostrils. Terrance wants to cry.

The waitress has already returned. He didn’t realize he made an audible squeal.

“Let me see if we can salvage that for you.”

He lets her take it and remains quiet. Empty salt shaker in hand, he thinks about squeezing it hard enough to break. He wonders if he’s strong enough to do that. Would the glass cut his skin? Would he be so lucky to just die right there in his favorite diner?

Two hours earlier, a group of teenagers sat at that very table. They paid their bill, after a ten minute conference on how to split three pancakes and an egg white scramble. 

“I only got water though,” said Eric. 

“Whatever,” retorted Steve.

Only then did Eric notice Francis’ sardonic smile, his hands twisting the cap off a salt shaker with controlled ease. 

“Dude, don’t,” says Eric. 

Francis maintains, “But I must.”

The group chortles. Francis gently rests the cap on top of the shaker, and slides it back to the pepper. 

“Seriously?” Eric asks rhetorically.

“Just let me do it,” Francis says. 

Steve jumps in, “Eric thinks it’s sugar. Don’t waste it!”

Laughter descends again. Eric is heavier than his friends. He’s too self-conscious to think of something clever. He could have easily taken the shaker and tightened the cap. Instead, he looks toward the window.

Standing on the other side is a homeless man. He looks unclean, his clothes slept in, his nails caked. But it's his expression that hooks Eric. A sullen, forlorn gaze. His puffy, sunken sockets cradle eyes that see deep into the cracks of life itself. His almost hairless head holds a mind that never forgets what he sees. And this entire package is aimed right at them.

“Ew,” offers Steve. They all notice him now. Eric thinks about the meal to be ruined, some time in the near future. It would be their fault, a plate of food gone to waste, when here stands a man that would surely appreciate it. Eric wishes he lived in a world where he could give this man all the food he’s trying not to eat. His weight loss could be this man’s gain. But who is he to this homeless man? He knows before he finishes the thought that he would never actually meet him.

The man’s name is Marc, and he’s not homeless, just depressed. There was a time in his life when he thought having to correct people in the spelling of his name would be the figurative tag on his shirt. But he’s lost his shirt altogether now.

The last year has been one long court battle, the modern accompaniment to love’s decay. He knows it’s his fault. He cheated on his wife with their housekeeper. There’s no excusing it. He knew even at the time, for months at a time, it would devastate her if she knew. That fact was of course part of the act itself. To hurt her. 

It was his drinking however that ultimately drove the courts to favor his now ex-wife. What the housekeeper couldn’t suppress in him came out in loud, violent rages. He once broke a wine glass by squeezing it in his hand, drawing blood which remains to this day as a soft, pink blush in the carpet. At the time, it drove his ex to call her neighbor, who in turn called the police. The whole world would know of their troubles, of his true nature. Yet there was no opinion strong enough to withstand an evening of three-fingered bourbons.

But Marc hadn’t considered the true cost. His daughter, Layla, starts ninth grade this year somewhere in New Jersey. She must be nervous, he wonders late at night. Judge such-and-such deemed him unworthy to act as his child’s father, and so Layla moved away with her now sole parent.

Marc looks through the glass at this group of teens, murmuring something about him. Up to no good no doubt. He imagines Layla with a group of her friends, about the same age. I hope she’s not getting into trouble.

He’s on his wary way to his first AA meeting. He can’t imagine that anyone else in the world could feel the way he does right now, but he hopes to find out. Regret, he finds, isn’t a wet blanket or a burden. It’s a spotlight. It’s the dark corner in which he used to tuck all his shortcomings now shone in full view to the world. That light used to wait at the door of the bar, but now it never leaves. And when everything is illuminated, darkness has an appeal.

He hopes one day his daughter will have reason to be proud of him. It’s the only reason he’s going. That and the chance that some day he can address in person his daily thought, I hope she’s happy.

Layla lives in Princeton, where her mom Tracy has family. She considers calling her Tracy, just to piss her off. “Call me that again and it’s a week with no phone,” Tracy has threatened. Layla knows what her father did. His drunken, violent lapses used to frighten her to tears. But Tracy moved her to the other side of the universe. In Layla’s eyes, he’s a car that needs a mechanic, and her mom just tossed him into the river.

Nevertheless, she likes her new town. Princeton has seasons, which is a new fascination. The colonial architecture is like nothing in San Francisco. Now that it’s fall she loves to wander the Delaware & Raritan Canal, trying not to slip on the thick layer of mashed multi-color leaves. Even the pavement is a painting.

Layla is an okay student in all her required classes, but it’s her after school pottery class that really excites her. At first, she was frustrated she could never center the clay on the wheel. Parts of her father would surface sometimes as she’d clench her fingers through the clay and throw it to the floor. “Tiny nudges,” her teacher, Mrs. Namura, would say. “Don’t be rash. Only little movements.” Sure enough, with practice, she managed to center her clay. Her pieces grew taller and taller. Her buds became bouquets.

Today, she’s twenty minutes early. Her biggest piece yet is being pulled from the kiln. Mrs. Namura climbs her white step ladder, typically splotched with glazes. She looks inside. “Uh oh,” she says. Layla holds her breath, unable to decipher Mrs. Namura’s unflappable positivity.

She pulls out the flower pot. It’s cracked in several places around the circumference, some pieces broken off completely. “Air bubble,” Mrs. Namura projects.

Layla yet again feels her father’s rage surface, but aimed inward. “Sorry I wasted your clay,” she murmurs meekly. Her teacher meanwhile lines the pieces up on the work table. “Perfect,” she says. “We’ll do Kintsugi.”

“What’s Kensugy?”

“Copper dust and resin. Mix it together. Glue the pieces back. We don’t hide the cracks, we show that they’re supposed to be there.”

“But they’re not supposed to be there. Can’t we just fix it?”

“We are fixing it.”

Over the next hour, Mrs. Namura guides Layla as they paint the seams of her broken pot with lacquer. The result is something she never could have imagined. A stream of copper rivers surround her perfectly symmetrical planter. “Brilliant,” Mrs. Namura says.

“It feels like cheating.”


“I didn’t design it. It’s just randomly broken.”

“Life is sometimes random, that doesn’t make it broken. This clay used to be soil, it used to be trillions of little pieces that never knew each other. And now look at them, put together one way or another. Not broken. Beautiful."

Born in Kyoto, June Namura never met her father, a fact she rarely shares. Layla is the only student to know this about her. June said it one late afternoon in an effort to comfort her when she broke down about her own father.

In July of 1945, June’s father, Toshihiro, received word that his mother had fallen ill. She lived a train ride away in Hiroshima. Toshi didn’t feel good about leaving his wife and kids. They had just endured air raids for the last six months with rumors of more on the way. And it was near impossible for civilians to secure transport since the military had taken over most train services. But Toshi was quick to make friends, including some military personnel. He was a craftsman and ceramicist who traded his most priceless pieces for a spot in the cargo hold of a train to Hiroshima.

Toshi stares out the crack of the giant steel door on an early August day. Against the sprawling countryside, some bombed out cars have been grouped together in a ditch. He thinks about his mother, about the uncertainty of his life. At any moment, untold hellfire could strike him where he stands, even on a moving train. And yet, with his unflappable positivity, Toshi conjures a reason to be thankful. He gets to be with his mother. For now, I should feel lucky, Toshi thinks. Maybe everything will be fine.

Joe Moyner, a physicist on Tinian Island, wipes his brow on break from assembling the bomb that would kill Toshi three days later. He writes a letter to his sweetheart, Abby, back in Savannah, Georgia, despite the fact that he can’t send it.

Joe writes, I wake up every morning with you in my mind. It’s the same story when I sleep. It’s all I can do to keep from thinking about how scared I am right now. After this, it’s a whole different world. And whatever world that is, I can’t wait to share it with you for the rest of my life.

The Abby Joe knew was a sorority bound blue ribbon pie baker. Wartime Abby welds ships. And what she cannot send in a letter to Joe is that she likes it. It’s sure meaningful work, and she likes using her hands for more than stirring. Most of all, she likes her co-worker Jolene. A lot.

The war would end and years would pass. Joe never fully got the message but would go on to have four children with a different woman. Abby and Jolene kept their love concentrated behind locked doors and in disposable notes. It wasn’t until the 60’s that they felt a rising wave pushing them west. They sacrificed families, friends. They left a lot of tears in Georgia. But San Francisco, they knew, would be their salvation.

It was a disquieting bliss. Abby got a job at the shipyard doing what she loved. She and Jolene together weathered every upheaval, every bout of spontaneous turmoil. In the 90’s, they would adopt a little girl named Eleanor. They withstood the backlash from that too and made a home out of love. It’s too good to be true, Abby would think at the ceiling, stroking Jolene’s greying head on her stomach.

They’re older now, as happens. Abby thinks about those simple nights before, when they’d play Patti Smith with the windows open as they taught Eleanor how to dance. Jolene strokes her head tonight as she rests it on her wife’s stomach. They’re at home, but it doesn’t feel like it. The tank of a medical bed overwhelms the bedroom now. Even with the hospice nurse gone, the clinical decorum remains. 

Cancer. It was in Jolene’s lymph nodes, but unchallenged spread to her bones. Eleanor just got in a few hours ago from Chicago where she works in community outreach. She keeps a tight grip on Jolene’s other hand. It’s been minutes since anyone cared to speak.

“When you bitches are done moaning,” Jolene suddenly spouts, “could one of you run out and get me some peaches?”

Abby laughs through her tears. “Please don’t call our daughter a bitch.”

“It’s a term of endearment,” Jolene smirks. “Right? Isn’t that what all you bitches say now?”

“I’ll go if you stop saying that,” says Eleanor.

“It’s past ten,” Abby reminds. “You need peaches?”

Jolene looks wryly at her wife. “On the hierarchy of needs, maybe not. But I’d really like one.”

Abby slides her fingers into Jolene’s hair, “I’ll see if the farm’s open.”

She grabs her coat and shuts the door quietly for some reason.

It’s still raining. Abby should’ve taken the car, but tonight she wants to be distracted. The bay windows turn to sky scrapers and she notices herself in the financial district two miles away. Everything’s closed. She knew it would be.

But there’s a light on. Through the thick downpour flicking her hood she spots a single office in a building of hundreds. Abby always thought that lights on in distant buildings at night were part of some automatic office security thing she never really understood. But this light is the only light.

Her eyes are soaked and not what they used to be, but it looks like someone is standing in the window, looking back at her. He’s standing like a guy, she thinks. I wonder if he can see me.

Abby’s mind unglued, she pauses to consider this man in the window. He works two miles from where she lives. She bets they’ve walked right by each other at least once in their lives. Abby wonders if he has anyone in his life. Is he alone? That’s why he’s in the office so late. There’s no one to go home to.

Or maybe, he’s having an affair. He totally is, Abby realizes. It almost looks like another person in there with him, or a shadow. How did he get to this point?

He’s probably fifty, and as the kids got older and his wife became a mom and his one day off was increasingly encroached upon he began to resent the whole situation. It’s possible.

And yet, there he is, looking right at her. He’s not doing anything but thinking the same thing she is, that they will go their whole lives never knowing they shared this moment. And she’ll wonder without answer if this man has had a life as deep and rich as hers, if his dreams and nightmares all came true too. Did he date the prom queen? Or break a bone? Is he allergic to rice? Does he envy his friends? Has he traveled to New Zealand? Or bungee jumped? Or saved someone from drowning? Does he have cancer? Will he? Thousands of days all different from the next, stacked on top of each other and tabulated into a person whose name she will never know, but knows there are thousands who will. 

There must be a name for that, Abby thinks. She’ll never know.

The man she’s looking at is in fact a lamp. From the steep angle, the shade looks like a head. The shadow is real though. It belongs to the cleaning lady. She’s vacuuming.

But four offices down, Bernard sits in the dark. He’s forty-six. He brought a bottle of Buffalo Trace into the office today, which is unusual for him. He didn’t tell anyone. He’s been drinking it alone since the office closed.

There’s a gun in the desk, Bernard marvels to himself. He looks out at his eighteenth story view, fogged and wetted from the weather. As soon as the cleaning lady four offices over leaves, he’s going to do it. Bernard figures all of his co-workers will be the ones to find him, not some overnight staff. If he was going to do it, it was going to be done right.

So he waits, and drinks, and searches the empty night for anything. 

He spots a single person, walking down the street without an umbrella. She walks like a girl, he thinks. Suddenly, she stops. 

Bernard sets his drink down and wheels closer to the window. He presses his face against the ice cold glass, squinting to see through the water pouring past.

I’m drunk, he realizes. The cold feels good, and to lean on something. That lady isn’t moving. In fact, she seems to be looking right at him.

Bernard squints harder. There’s no way, he assures himself. 

And yet, there she is, looking right at him. He can’t tell a thing about her, except that she’s drenched.

Bernard has a daughter, Clara. She just came to his mind. They had a fight recently. It was something about who pays what bill but it doesn’t even matter now. She’s there.

That could be her. That could literally be her, he thinks. He imagines her in the rain, freezing without him. He’d never have an answer to all his questions about who she’ll be and what she’ll do. There’s so much he never got a chance to tell her either. Soon not just his memory, but the potential memories of others would be gone.

Bernard would wake up six hours later, his neck in pain as he peels off from the window. The rain has stopped and the view cleared. Bernard always held the opinion that every sunrise you see is the best because you’re seeing it. That no one has ever voted down a sunrise. But this one on his drive home from the office feels pretty good. For just a second, he wonders what happened to that lady.

A few hours later, Bernard calls Clara just as she leaves for work. It’s a conversation that only means anything if you know them, which you don’t really. But it means the world to Clara. All their fighting took so much energy, and this one phone call replenished it all. They still have a road to walk, but at least now they’re walking the same direction.

Later that morning at her job waiting at Darlene’s, she couldn’t stop thinking about that phone call. Normally she slogs through the job that helps pay for school. Today, she feels light, the world passing like air around her.

The head chef chides her from time to time, and today is no different. I wonder who hurt him, she thinks to herself. One of the patrons poured salt all over his breakfast, but the chef still wants to charge him. He remakes the meal, and dings the bell, reminding her to charge him twice.

As she waves the steaming plate over to the pudgy, slouched man, she just can’t bring herself to tell him. Clearly it’s not been his week. He looks like he could cry.

Clara sets the plate down.

“Here you go. It’s on the house, don’t worry.”

Terrence looks up at her. Her smile, it was so blindingly annoying before.

“Thank you,” he answers sincerely.

“Of course,” she responds.

He’ll never know that ‘on the house’ wasn’t an expression, that she would actually pay for his meal. Clara knows that to tell him would make him feel worse. Some things are better left unknown, she thinks to herself.

Terrance once again lets the steam waft into his face. This one smells better than the first. Opting to forgo the salt, he skewers a hunk of french toast, sponges up a swirl of syrup and butter, and engulfs it with his mouth. It’s poetry.

Clara hums by to warm up his coffee. As he readies another bite, his week fades into the distance, and there is only what’s next.

Maybe everything will be fine.


© C G 2018




Here's the thing...

Six months ago, I put a fresh coat of paint on my personal website, the very site you’re on right now. The purpose to my having a website at all was to act as a portfolio. I work as a commercial director, which from afar might sound glamorous but a majority of the time manifests as coffees, lunches, phone calls, and emails. On rare occasion, I get to do something I love, like be on set, or meet incredible people with incredible stories, or work with a crew who inspires me. But mostly, you’re redesigning your website.

At the time, I decided on a whim to add this section, Words, to serve as a platform to update interested folks on the goings ons of my directorial life. And in theory, it can still serve that function. But since then I’ve made a discovery. A tremendous amount of the work I do is not allowed to see the light of day. Some of it I can’t even talk about. I know this makes me sound like a CIA agent. And I won’t say that I’m not. Mystery I’ve heard is good for careers.

I still love the work I do, even if I can’t show you. But what’s the point of updates on projects you can’t see?

So, I considered removing this section unceremoniously. Maybe no one would notice. Then this site could go back to functioning like a manila folder of projects I’ve shot from far too long ago. But that too felt disappointing. I still wanted to put out something.

I have close to six thousand followers on Twitter. “Why?!” I ask myself often with all punctation. I still don’t know. I have to assume at least some percentage did some late night googling of my much more famous brother, discovered my account, chuckled at one of my witty one-liners about Trump which constitutes 90% of my tweets, then drunkenly clicked ‘follow’. Or maybe you’re one of the last tribe of media consumers that still watches commercials and really appreciates what I do (though you’d have no way of knowing).

Whatever the reason, here you are. If you were here in person, we’d fill the Greek Theater past capacity. So since I’m short on the reason, I’ve decided to make one.

I’m putting a concerted focus on writing in the new year. I don’t often get to share my writing, given the work that I do, but I have a wide spectrum of ideas and this is the perfect place to put them.

Short stories. Essays. Personal and social analysis, anything I tweet about that I feel I could expound upon. And even casual updates when there is a project I won’t be hung for discussing. I’d like this to be open ended, stitched together if at all by a common thread of cosmic perspective, the one view I feel is lacking in our discourse.

We are increasingly concerned with confirming our immediate perspective. We watch the news that supports our view. We read the writers and tweet the tweeters that make us feel right. You do this, even if you aren’t aware. But it’s understandable. 

It is a part of the human condition to replace base reality with one that we prefer. We used to be a part of nature, just one of the kingdom, cognizant of all the harm that could befall us. Now we live and work in man-made shelters that offer a more palatable reality, one in which nature is not trying to kill us all the time. I’m not actually hurling through the lethal vacuum of space on a rock at 67,000 miles per hour, I live in a charming duplex with candles and a refrigerator. See how easy it is to completely ignore reality? You’re doing it right now!

But we now have the ability to take this instinct to an unprecedented level, and in the process you are, because we all are, aiding in the degradation of our humanity. You don’t listen, you defend. And even now, at the slight accusation, don’t you feel your fingers twitch, ready to punch back in defense of your reality?

What I don’t hear is a voice to suggest that when challenged, you don’t get defensive, you get humble. Get curious. That’s exactly what I’d like to do here.

I recognize in myself the poor job I’ve done to understand rather than assert. Modern politics is one example of this that I think most can relate to. There are plenty of pundits to discuss who is right. And I’m certainly not claiming that I don’t have a strong opinion. I very much do. Feel free to read my tweets.

But it can’t just be about being right. That can’t be the goal, winners and losers. I believe that if we back up enough, away from the tree to look at the forest as the old adage goes, we will find a common truth. And maybe from that universal truth, we could birth a shared understanding.

I’ve been told through the years by a number of lucid people that they enjoy reading my writing. Some have told me they like my perspective on, you know, stuff. I think there’s an opportunity to inject something interesting and sincere into a world that, as far as I can tell, really hates itself right now. If this is to be anything, I hope it’s that.

I’m not an expert, a politician, or a scientist. I’m not a lot of things. But I’m also the same thing as the rest of you. And I guess that’s the point. Maybe we should stop putting each other under a tinted microscope. Our CV and pedigree determines the worth of our opinion, down here, in the world we’ve built for ourselves. Between these walls there are a number of rules which determine who wins and loses. If you’ve played the game longer than others, of course you will be better at it. The stories I write and the opinions I share strive to be above that. Not better than, just pulled back from the microscope. Back up enough, and we all start to look exactly the same. Small.

As an adjunct to this new experience, I will try to be more active on Twitter. I’d love to know what you think. I’d really like this to spark conversation rather than act as a lecture. Maybe this isn’t a theater so much as a circle. We’re all in the circle, and we’re talking. Except I talk first, then the rest of you. But not at once. I have no idea how this is going to work actually. But let’s try it.

Blogs were invented in 1997 and twenty years later I finally understand why I want one. I hope this feels less strange as the weeks go on. 

Twitter is where I will be announcing new posts, so feel free to keep following. I know in the past I have…oh let’s say completely lied about the frequency of my future posts. But that’s so 2017 and every single year before that. This is 2018. Year of the dog. Dogs are man’s best friend. My point I’m pretty sure is that I’m not going to pretend I can keep to a schedule on what is right now a moonlit experiment. But the joy the thought of this idea brings me is hopefully evidence enough that I will present often. And please, tell me if this becomes awful for you. I know how hesitant Twitter can be to criticize.

Here’s to new endeavors. Stay tuned.


The Fight for Arts Education

 Idina Menzel with students of NewArts at FYL Fundraiser

Idina Menzel with students of NewArts at FYL Fundraiser

A month ago in New York, a few hundred forward thinking philanthropists assembled for my family's annual fundraiser supporting arts education. Our foundation, Find Your Light, supports over ninety programs across the country, and we are still growing. 

I don't know what I would have done if it weren't for the video and film programs I was fortunate enough to take part in growing up. To pay it forward, for our fundraiser each year I create a short documentary highlighting the work being done in some of the programs we support. It's too easy to dismiss this subject, especially when it's kept in the abstract. Everyone "feels good" about art, but far too few people consider it an essential part of school. Too many treat it as a luxury; a side dish to more important subjects.

I encourage you to go to our website and read all about the scientific studies that prove repeatedly that arts programs benefit not only children interested in art, but also increase grades in other classes, increase college acceptance rates, lower crime rates, build empathy and confidence...the list goes on.

I find it's hard to convince people in words, and I think these docs go a long way to explain just what exactly happens in arts programs. And if you think it's just a room of fifty children throwing glitter at each other, I definitely encourage you to watch.

I've posted both docs HERE (2017 and 2016). I hope they help you understand just how necessary it is to keep programs like these alive.

- C


 credit: Saam Gabbay

credit: Saam Gabbay

Hi, friends.

For the past few years, I have been lucky enough to make a living directing commercials. I've worked largely in the "Health and Wellness" space of advertising, which has allowed me the opportunity to meet some truly inspiring people. It's remarkable when I think about it. Most folks go to work and see the same hundred people. I go to work and meet someone new who has overcome great struggles to achieve a life of tremendous positivity. It's pretty cool.

While I plan to continue in this space, I now also plan to expand on that work. I have a lot of ideas that are very different from this sort of thing, and I hope to lay the groundwork here so that when those ideas come to fruition, there is a place that will accept them. So to mark that sea change and create that place, I've updated my website.

First, it's a whole new look. Simpler and easier. And it works on mobile now. I've attained modern status!

Second, I've decided to use my full name, which will be reflected in the URL 32 days from now, and not a moment sooner (thanks ICANN). It's superficial and not that important, but so long as I'm "getting back to my roots" in a sense, I might as well be consistent.

And third, I've decided to put up this bloggidy blog. It's something I had a long time ago, but I didn't really know what to do with it then. Now, I have so many projects brewing that as any of these start to take shape, I'd like a platform to discuss it. I have (for some reason) a notable amount of Twitter followers. But Twitter can be constricting, and sometimes I feel like tossing my voice into the loud hat of social consciousness. More simply, it's an easy way to update people on my life without calling each one of you personally, as nice as I'm sure you are.

You may not notice too much new content yet, but I will be adding some new spots, a short documentary, and hopefully some TV/Film related news very soon. I will write you as often as I can. Feel free to keep up either on Twitter or Instagram, I'll be sure to update one of those places when I have something to say here.

Lastly, if you're reading this, thanks for your time and interest. If we're all honest about it, there's no point to what I do if you don't watch and listen. I don't take that for granted. I hope to do you proud.