02/30 Mango

Mango

I’ve never cut a raw mango before

Never hacked the fruit away from the immense pit.

Attempt to peel the green and red skin from the orange pulp.

Can count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten mango

But that moment, a beacon on the chalkboard sign

“On Sale: $1.50” and I said Can’t be that hard.

My sticky counter and dulled knife now argue that hypothesis.

 

Black faux granite shining with juices

Spilt over cutting board and hangnails

With just enough juice seeped in to make it sting

My own skin not split quite wide enough to actually rinse out.

Mangos don’t come with instructions

like pineapples do.

Little cardboard attachment to stalk

Info card attachment to stalk

One side cutting methods

Converse to random facts

Did you know the pineapple is actually multiple fruits fused together?

I did not.

Mango is singular

Enough fruit post-hack job for one.

 

Fairly certain I’ve hacked enough toughness out of the center

I sit down and feed a piece to my girlfriend.

She exclaims That’s pretty good

Stinging in my fingers dulled for the moment.

 

01/30 Riders

Spent quite a bit of time on the bus this winter, here’s a quick poem about one day.

 

Riders 

Harsh wind bites at any piece of flesh showing.

Scarves wrapped three times round.

Windpants, (yeah windpants) pulled up over jeans and covering boots laced high

Over two layers of thermal socks, long john underwear, thermal shirt, flannel, sweater, dark colored jacket

$1.75 in pocket, two days from payday.

Two degrees on the huge lit up board display after the time

Which seems ungodly, the time and temperature.

It has only been 3 minutes since I last checked the sign.

 

Riders crash together stood from back bench to the driver’s yellow line.

We’d all complain about being too close if the group heat wasn’t helping

No matter the scent of the man near the front

Or the constant drum beat of the headphones on the teenager

I can watch the volume deafening him each moment that passes.

One arm held aloft to the bar

The other huddled in tight clutching transfer card and pulsing fingers

Hoping to get sensation back before the transfer.

It doesn’t happen.

 

Transfer in the gleam of the Blue Cross Blue Shield building

A frost on the one side of Jefferson while Beubien has a sliver of reflected sunlight

We all huddle onto that sliver the fifteen minutes we can waiting,

Hoping that each air brake system we hear around the corner is the 53.

One SMART bus rolls by, and then another.

Streak of red and 70’s orange in the wrong direction and we all grumble our own pieces

Finally a signal in the distance as the bus lets its last southbound passengers off

We press to the door, it remains locked.

The collective dirty look the bus driver receives as he answers his phone while we wait could turned a pristine ER room to a junkyard.

Finally he relents, opens the doors wide and the warm air spills onto what feeling skin we still do have.

We hop on quickly to a friendly, ‘no fare, keep going’

And my day begins.

30/30 in 2014

National Poetry Month April

It’s that time of year again! April is National Poetry month and I am making a real effort after the worst winter of my life to come out of hibernation strong with poetry events, writing, and reading.

Via Poets.org

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.

To start I’ve begun writing for 30/30 slowly with a few drafts of poems that will be posted here shortly. Since its the 3rd my goal by the end of the day is to have all three posted and although rough cuts I’ll come back and edit. I know many of my friends are using Facebook for their 30/30 collection and I love opening it up in the morning and being flooded with notifications and new poems. I however am still wary of Zuck taking my proprietary rights and the whole issue of writing for writers instead of yourself and own needs.

Natasha T. Miller spoke on that very idea via her Twitter account yesterday and it made me decide that this space was the best to write, collect, and edit my pieces for the month.

T. Miller Twitter post

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 8.37.42 AM

I’ll make sure to get a piece done every day and hopefully up on this site by the end of the day. It’ll be a struggle but the structure is a good thing. I’ve tried now three years running and last year was fraught with personal difficulties. This year however I’m in a much better space, have no finals, and have quite a bit more material to unpack since my 7 months being back in Detroit.

I am also judging the Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Finals later tonight, attending the PCAP release of this year’s literary journal this Saturday at 1515 Broadway, and starting a new writing group at the Hamtramck Free School. Overall this week and month has been stacked for me to getting back to writing in earnest and with some built in checks to get new stuff written.

Here we go.

TEDxDetroit

TEDxDetroit photo

So there was this gathering a couple weeks ago called TEDxDetroit and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. I debated back and forth about blogging about the event but decided to write this after talking to enough people who wanted to hear about it, so here are my highlights and lowlights from TEDxDetroit 2013.

TEDxDetroit photo

Highlights: There were a number of great presentations and talks. These are just a taste of what I thought went extremely well, but please check the videos as they come out to hear some great talks that don’t get mentioned here.

Detroiters speaking on the real Detroit – The ceremony opened up with the video for Blair’s poem, “Detroit (While I Was Away)” and you can check it out here, RIP Blair you are missed. The next Detroiter who spoke some real honesty was Jackie Victor. Full disclosure I used to work for Jackie, but honestly she brought up the Grace Lee Boggs school, bringing eastsiders together with the members of the Detroit synagogue, and even calling out the organizers to have a more representative diversity of speakers for next year. Matthew Naimi from Recycle Here was awesome, and Amy Kaherl from Detroit Soup always does a great job. Lastly, the Inside Out Literary Project brought youth poets to the event and there were just too many awesome moments. The youth of Detroit have some serious courage to rip their poems in front of a few hundred folks and it was incredible.

Jason Hall from Detroit Bike City

Alternative transportation – There was two very exciting speakers that discussed how the Motor City is steadily becoming a Motor-less City. Jason Hall (pictured) from Slow Roll and Detroit Bike City gave a wonderful talk on how Slow Roll has grown from the community and how going after something you like to do can actually work if you make genuine connections. A touching moment was when Jason dedicated his talk to Hal Williams, who passed away the week prior due to injuries from a hit-and-run with a car while biking. Along with Jason, Norman Witte from Crain Communications spoke on what it is like to be a bike commuter in Detroit. He brought up very good points about making your workplace accommodating to bicycle commuters as well as how to ride through the winter. Both speakers made me really proud to be a bicyclist in the city.

Cobo Hall – Nearly half completed the $300 million renovation of Cobo Hall looks gorgeous. The updated 3-story atrium with the view of the river is breathtaking and where we took the above TEDx photo. The ballroom was sectioned off for our event and still felt open and exciting while simultaneously intimate enough for speakers and attendees. Definitely will make for a great space when the renovation is finished in 2015.

Lowlights: I’m not going to address the issue of access, diversity, or inclusion here; it has already been addressed by better people to discuss these things, this blog from Naomi Scheinerman does a good job in talking about some of the issues.  I’ll just talk about my personal lowlights.

Charlie LeDuff with the unneeded security detail

Charlie LeDuff – Ridiculous, foul-mouthed, strung-out, might be just three words you could use to describe LeDuff’s talk. He was clearly not prepared to give the talk, walked out with a fake security detail, and berated people about the idiocracies of government. I did agree with a few things he said but the man was totally inappropriate for the mixed age group and offered little substance to the conference. If you are unfamiliar with his particular ‘brand’ of journalism, this video is a good preview.

Les Gold – My biggest issue with the entire conference was Gold speaking as the keynote closer. It felt like a warped motivational speech that guys in their mid-life crisis would listen to in a Motel 6, nothing like a TED talk or even something to be memorable. Just an old guy yelling, “Do you want it ENOUGH?” and reminding everyone he makes money off of the media narrative of poor and broke Detroit on a trash reality show.

“Entrepreneurs” – This last one is a shout out to all the entrepreneurs who basically gave their investment pitches about their business to the crowd. There were a number of great businesses that I support personally, but as TED speakers they flopped. Extreme overuse of buzzwords and phrases like “saving Detroit,” “blank slate” and other tasteless terms the entrepreneurial community has decided to describe Detroit. I’d rather you talk to me about how you and your business is different, or how you engage the community you’re supposedly serving, and please stop thinking you’re fixing Detroit. I’m all for building businesses through hard work and the tribulations of small business are immense, so stop talking about it and do it – let the results speak for itself.

Okay so let’s recap – beautiful venue, wide range of speakers, solid showcase of Detroit businesses and people, and fairly well organized from registration to the after-party.

Overall – 4/5 with the recommendation to check it out for yourself and that I’ll most likely attend 2014.

(Photos Courtesy of TEDxDetroit)

New Chapter in Detroit

Skyline of Detroit City

So as far as good news goes, this goes right up there with catching a game-winning homerun – I’ve got a new job in Detroit as the web and digital media manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)! I will be working with their incredibly talented staff to manage their digital communications, social media, and eventually a website overhaul. I am truly honored that the staff at MOCAD want me to join their team and will be starting with them starting in September.

MOCAD exterior
MOCAD’s exterior: Barry McGee, Untitled, 2006. Photo by Corine Vermeulen.

I can’t say enough thanks to the people who helped me get to this point – a special shout out to Leto for the help with the interview, John Kinch and Hank Love for trusting me with this type of work at MEO for the past 6 months, and of course all my amazing professors, mentors, and friends through these past few years at Michigan State. My family has been incredible for me and have let me find my own path through this crazy world while assisting me and trusting me to make something of myself, and for that I cannot thank them enough. I am still taking on freelance work as well for those of you that might need some digital communications work or have someone you know that might benefit from some professional advice, please feel free to share my information.

Garden Court Apartments

In addition to the great news of a job I can now share I’ve found an amazing apartment in Detroit at the historic Garden Court Apartments. Built by the “architect of Detroit” Albert Kahn in 1915 the building is a nationally registered historic place, and was also the setting for the TV show Martin. With roof access and a view of the Detroit river along with access to the riverwalk, this was the place for me from the beginning. I’m happy to say I’ll be living with my girlfriend as we both embark on these first post-college chapters.

I can’t explain how happy I am to be getting back to Detroit and for those thinking this bankruptcy deal is set to doom the city, I remind you of a great song by the famous Gil Scott-Heron updated with today’s scene in Detroit from the band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. It’s now time to build and grow and I am beyond excited to start this new chapter of my life.

 

 

Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability Launch

MMPGS logo

MMPGS logo

Working for Michigan Energy Options through the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability, a HUD/DOE/EPA federally funded grant, we launched the portal site hosting the information regarding the nine projects in the MMPGS. MEO runs the lead on two projects, one being an energy audit of buildings in the Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue corridor, and the other to create an online portal to engage Mid-Michigan citizens. After competitive bids to build the site my supervisors chose Gravity Works Design and Development and we worked with them over the past 6 months to create the portal site. In combination with the web service MindMixer were we launched the community forum last year we are proud that on May 1st 2013 we launched the MMPGS site. Below are some of the finer points from the project along with photos from the respective pages.

Note the photos are a gallery and you may peruse through all of them, links to the respective pages are provided in the descriptions

MMPGS HomepageThe process working with Gravity Works, my supervisors, and the partners within the MMPGS critically taught me how to manage many opinions with the technologies and time available. I worked closely with the Gravity Works team through the information architecture phase by mapping the site and its purposes. I insisted upon creating a fully responsive site to allow for numerous access points for the Mid-Michigan residents and if you visit the site on any browser and any device you will see it properly works with some small adjustments to allow for load times and size of display.

I worked together with the graphic designer to create the official logo set and worked with the wire framing of the site with the lead designer to make sure Gravity Works understood the feel, flow, and depth of what we hoped to get from the site. Over three months time they built out the back-end and they utilize the DotNetNuke content management system. During that three month window I learned the behaviors and best practices for DNN, thankfully after my work with WordPress and Joomla the learning curve wasn’t too bad.

MMPGS-mapMy main work after the back-end was built before launch was to create and manage the appropriate content for every page on the site. I was tasked with finding and mapping all points on the Interactive Map. We created sorting features and I chose the logos, color schemes, and then hand imported geo-tagged locations with the pop-out information and the proper links to all the places mapped. We also included and events category that automatically fills in as the community calendar is filled.

MMPGS NewsAdditionally the site needed a catalog of content that users can explore when they visit the site. Namely I post related news articles on the News page and worked with Gravity Works to create categories for users to filter the news. Once the site went live I have focused on creating traffic to these news articles via our social media strategy utilizing Facebook and Twitter for the most part. It has been incredibly rewarding to see the growth of our social media and web traffic since we launched just over a month ago.

MMPGS Timeline

One of my favorite projects was creating the Timeline content for the interactive timeline. Using the Timeline JS open source scripting I was able to easily import new content and create interactive content for users to learn where the program came from and where we’re going. The timeline is another great example of how we wanted users to be able to interact with the site and also allowed us to be able to continuously import new content and create a more dynamic experience for the users once they’re into the site.

MMPGS Partners

Our Partners page was highly important to make sure we properly highlighted the MMPGS partner organizations, supporters, and of course recognize the work of the entire program. After working with Gravity Works to create custom responsive columns I was able to fit in all the logos that reworked the secondary level partners into equal sized logos, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission as the main fiduciary partner at the top, and then the supporters of the project along the bottom. It is always a tough call to create some sort of space for the partners to be highlighted and as you’ll notice on the homepage and in certain sidebars we have a great rotating image gallery showing each logo briefly so that users know who is involved with the project, even if they never visit the Partners specific page.

This project was so large in scale it really taught me how my studies prepared me for large scale projects. Setting out with a clear vision, working though wire frames, user experience testing throughout the process, and making creating all the original content has me appreciate full on launches so much more. With the State News redesign we were fortunate that the content was consistently being created and we just had to lay over the new design, with this project I can now say I’ve worked through a launch from start to finish and for that I am very grateful.

Cleaning up the vinyl collection

vinyl collection in crates

vinyl collection in cratesThis past week has been all about reorganizing and de-cluttering my life. Namely getting the heavy items of my life, books and vinyls, into a more manageable quantity. One of my more obsessive habits is getting vinyl records whenever the opportunity presents itself. During Record Store Day on April 20 I spent money in East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Detroit record stores getting nearly 30 records and thoroughly taxing my credit card. With that last purchase I eclipsed the 270 total for my record collection and filling my converted bookcase/DJ station, so it was time to organize. So with a single Sunday last week I set out to thoroughly catalog all of my records by artist, album, condition of case and vinyl, and genre. I created my own spreadsheet and quite literally worked my way through all the disorganization that had amassed over the past year. Rediscovering a few serious gems I had forgotten, alphabetizing each crate by genre and cleaning too many records to count I was finally able to get down to under 200 records I wanted to keep.

the records I'm getting rid of That did mean a total of 74 records are heading to the store and then reuse center. Most of them are in fair condition with some I hope to sell, “King Heroin” by DJ Jazzy Jeff might be the oddest find I’m parting with – something about Jazz doing a PSA record is just too weird. That being said if anyone is hoping to get some records I will part with these for little to nothing even if you’re needing them for art projects or the like. I’m happy to say that I cataloged ever record now and am about to undertake the even more daunting task of organizing my much larger digital collection. I’ve mindlessly backed up and lost so many songs and albums that I have trouble even remembering what albums I still need to find again and the ones I have multiple copies. Books and clothes are the next projects as I try to sell old speakers, a bookcase and finally my first CDJ mixer/turntable unit. I’m ready to push myself to get as minimal as possible in anticipation of the move to Detroit and I can’t wait to start the next chapter freshly organized.

Challenge Detroit Finalist

Doyle Marsh

This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement for the future for me. Professionally at Michigan Energy Options we had a great week and weekend, individually I had one of the most intense interviews days of my life with Challenge Detroit so let’s get into it.

To recap the professional pieces the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability website is now live! I worked with Gravity Works Design & Development in Old Town, Lansing on the content creation and front-end development of the site. Integrating into the site the interactive map, events calendar, and posting news articles are just a couple pieces I was tasked with completing before launch. There will be a more detailed professional piece in my portfolio shortcoming but I’d like to talk about the really exciting portion of the weekend.

Challenge Detroit Finalist

Doyle Marsh This weekend I had the extreme privilege to be a finalist for the Challenge Detroit program. After numerous efforts to get votes and a rigourous application process the 75 finalists gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown Detroit for a 2-day interview and networking session. Thursday May 1st we had lunch and were introduced to the founder Doyle Marsh (pictured) before we embarked on a marathon of interview sessions. I had the privilege to interview with ePrize, United Way Southeastern Michigan, Macro Connect, and Marketplace Homes. All of the interviews went extremely well thanks to my efforts in bringing questions, notes, and my resume (printed on fancy paper) to each different company. I tried to make an impression for all my interviews so that I was memorable because each company met with 5-8 finalists and each finalist had 4-5 interviews. The nonprofit sector was represented very well with many people excitedly speaking about United Way and the 8 Mile Boulevard Association interviews.

After the stress and excitement of interviewing four times in 6 hours the finalists were treated to a wonderful dinner and presentation from Veronika Scott who has developed an incredible model for manufacturing winter jackets that double as sleeping bags for Detroit’s homeless community while also employing Detroit women as seamstresses to empower them to change their place from homeless shelter to home owner. You can check out more of her story here. After a much needed night of rest (and a quick drink at Anchor Bar) we had an early wake up call for an incredible bus tour of the city from D:Hive.

Heidelberg  House Fire Oddly enough for timing after the requisite trip to the River-walk and photo by the Renaissance Center we traveled to the Heidelberg Project. Over the night previous, somewhere between 3-4am the ‘knick-knack’ house suffered a major fire. We arrived as the firetrucks were pulling away from the scene and the back of the building was still smoldering. A very poignant quote our tour guide brought up was the Detroit flag emblem sayings, Speramus Meliora and Resurget Cineribus – “We hope for better things” and “It will rise from the ashes.”  Most people on the tour were immediately struck with sadness and I know I was brought near tears as I took the photo you see to the left.

But as every exciting period comes a hard-laden truth, the weekend was a place where young people built, learned, and participated in a mini-challenge with the current year 1 Challenge Detroit Fellows. I know I gave out more than 40 businesses cards to other finalists and of course my interview companies and immediately joined the networking group built for the finalists to stay in touch. It is exciting to see the amount of work and dedication that Millenials like myself share about Detroit and to finally be in a space where everyone wants to see Detroit thrive instead of nay-sayers or business elites looking for their prize I knew that with-out-a-doubt Detroit will be my home for the next decade and I cannot wait to begin my building and work there. I hope it is with Challenge Detroit, but I know that I will be there regardless of how the last round of decisions and hosting shake out.

I’m grateful for the opportunity and cannot thank my friends and family for supporting me through these past 2 months as I have worked to become one of the finalists for Challenge Detroit, and hopefully one of the fellows for 2013.

Carnival

05/30

Carnival

 

The sun pulled my eyelids open

Turning west for the first time on a long drive

My head wobbled awake with the beams of light

Shaking sleep from the ducts in my eyes.

I witness a haphazard carnival

Parking lot half abandoned

Trucks with rides still holding some of them

Half transformer.

Laugh at the six people on the ride

Creaking under the strain of mid-Spring rust.

I recall the last time I tasted an elephant ear.

 

The doughy crispy flakes shuttled down my sweatshirt

Honest laughing without a care

Months before my first drag

A year before my first drunken face plant

Processed meat and cheese layering into belly

Only to be turned the wrong way over on the rides.

Blazed in red and green and yellow and purple lights

Sirens of top 40 hits and carny laughter

At the putrid green faces we all made.

Together a cadre of newly minted teenagers.

Lost in the parking lot of wonders.

Honest in our screams in the haunted house.

Bored at the yo-yo ride,

Scheming in how we could best the carnival games.

Subsequent loss of money those games.

Try to make the most from ten bucks

Worth of vacuuming and mopping and dish washing.

 

We were an amoeba of untethered hormones

Lusting after the full figured senior girls

Though quick to avert eyes on the chance they ever looked our way.

We knew we weren’t cool, it was fine.

Still able to make the night ours.

Pool tickets to win soon-to-be-broken trinkets

We shook the ground with our laughter

Bruising our abdomens overfilled with food we would later regret.

Slink off to talk to girls our age

Only to be made fun of upon our prompt returns

Sheepish grins and overly detailed recollections

Of just how hot so-and-so had gotten over the summer.

 

I recall those days now

Like an old man chewing his teeth pocketed pipe.

Puff fumes on the idea of fun and honest play.

Shadows of memories,

Friends lost to other high schools, college, kids, jail, marriage, the west coast, the east coast, drugs, alcohol, life, death.

I close my eyes

Reach into those memories to hear our laughter one more time.

 

MK 04.08.13

 

Build

It’s a little late but here is 4/30. My conference with Mobilize, College to Careers Pathways Detroit 2013, was amazing but took out some serious poetry time. Here’s to catching up on a wonderful Sunday evening. (And very rough pieces to get caught up)

Build

Start.

From the middle.

Where the belly touches the hip bone.

Make sounds.

Build new from the squats

Femur bone a perpendicular angle to knee cap

Push to the sky. Inhale.

Now dip.

 

Start.

From the bottom.

Toes planted ankles airborne

Bounce on the balls and breath

Tight from the diaphragm

Raise mass higher and release.

Feel the calf a rubber band

Stretch.

 

Start.

Palms upward towards the sky

Fingers in diamond shaped

Triceps pulsing higher

Push to the needle atop your spine

Careful to lower your wrists.

Weight. Wait.

Release.

 

Start.

Shoulder to finger tip an arrow

Parallel to the floor

Hips turned wide

Feet buried into the mat

Reach fingertip to wall

Balance like this

Like the earth needs you to push it down

Keep it spinning

Breath.