wordsmith

Musings

What About The Middle Road?


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There are two sides to every story…. unless it is your side.

This is what I don’t get with today’s political climate. People are either Left or Right. When I tell people that I don’t have a side, they treat me as if I said, “I’m on the other team.”

Either that or they tell me that I’m too scared to pick a side because it is obvious which side is right and which is wrong.

Coming from the academic circuit recently, It was generally people that were on the left that are confused as to how I don’t see the left as being the correct side. I have some views that lean right.

In my personal life, I have family and friends that are on the right, and are equally confused when I say that I have some ideals that lean left.

Why can’t I be in the middle?

Is it because there isn’t a “Middle Party?” At least not one that stands a chance of winning the election.

I’m baffled that we teach our children to express their opinions in a respectful manner, and to also treat others with the same respect they want to receive, then we turn around and scream at other adults that “I’m right and you’re clearly wrong, so you’re the enemy!”

On the news, on the internet, and in person, when it comes to politics, all I ever see is “MY SIDE RULES!”

What I find most interesting is the mob mentality of it all. I can usually get a person to be rational if we’re talking one on one. Not everyone, but generally speaking, people are more willing to admit that there are two sides to a story so long as they aren’t at risk of being heard by their fellow party mates.

What does that mean? Why are people so afraid? When did logic become obsolete? Emotional reaction has taken over and it scares the shit out of me for our countries future. Would a middle road future really be so bad?

Motivation, Musings

Writing Tips


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Writing Tips
by R.J.Harrigan

Being a writer is one of the hardest but most rewarding passions to pursue. Unless you’re thinking monetary rewards in which case, be a doctor or something. I kid…not really.

How to be a writer is another challenge. Here are 3 simple tips to follow so you can call yourself a writer too!

1: Carving Time

The single most important thing when it comes to writing is actually WRITING! The number one excuse I hear (and have used) is

“I don’t have time.”

I know it might feel that way but let’s be honest, there’s time. You have a few options. Either accept that you’re never going to write the next great American novel – or find the time. Take note of how you’re spending your time throughout the day. How much are you spending:

  • Watching TV
  • Browsing the internet/social media
  • Playing video games
  • At the bar
  • Chasing dates

You see where this goes? You have the time, but you’re not prioritizing writing. Find a time that you can use to write, whether it is 30 minutes a day, or an hour, and keep to it. Be consistent.

I only started prioritizing my writing in the fall of 2018. So, just a few months ago. However, I decided to write in the morning, before my day starts, and that meant waking up earlier, around 5:30 am to write; which meant going to sleep earlier, which meant adjusting my night routine, which meant eliminating caffeine after 5 pm. It seems like a lot, but it was actually easy after the first week. I wrote every day, regardless if it was a few hundred words or a few thousand. I didn’t put pressure on it, I just enjoyed writing. Now, as of this post, I have 53,000 words, 168 pages written. You can do that to, one page at a time. Just make sure to keep writing!

2: Don’t Get Hung Up On The Details

If anything prevents you from writing, put it aside and come back to it.

Look, I know what it is like to write a line, or a paragraph, or a page, and think, “This sucks, I need to revise it right now.” However, that can lead to frustration, and exhaustion, and eventually quitting.

Guilty.

I’ve quit so many times in my life, taking months off before writing again. It wasn’t until this recent attempt that I decided not to get hung up on a line. If something doesn’t feel right, I just highlight it in yellow and move on. The important thing to remember is that writing is rewriting. You can always come back and make it better!

3: Take It Seriously, And Make Sure Those Around You Do Too

Yes, that means your spouse, children, friends, etc. My wife is very supportive and understanding about my writing, but we’ve bumped heads a few times when I said,

“I can’t right now, I have to write.”

Those around you will see it as a “hobby,” because you’re not getting paid (at least I’m not, yet!) to write. So, if it gets in the way of what they want you to do, whether it is a chore, or drinking, they will tell you that your writing can wait. If those things fall inside the time that you’ve carved out (see step 1), then you must choose writing!

Obviously, you can make the exception if it is an emergency, like hospital worthy, but not emergency like, “Bro, it’s my only night off this week.”

That’s it! 3 Simple tips. Make time. Keep writing. Take it Seriously. Do these things, every day, and you will be a writer! Good Luck!

Motivation, Musings, News and Updates

New Year’s Resolution


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This year I am going to finish my memoir and hopefully get it published!

I also want to get more viewers to my site, especially participants that will submit writing to me for my “What’s Your Story?” section.

Most importantly, I want to be happy and as stress free as possible. I put in some serious work in 2018 to lower my stress and I made it a good portion of the year being happy, but the last month started taking its toll on me and I can feel myself slipping backwards. I am fully aware of it and doing what I can to prevent myself from taking too many steps back. Sometimes a step back is necessary to move ahead, so I’m going to chalk it up to that and keep it moving.

Writing has been my outlet that has saved me from breaking. I always feel better, calmer, lighter, after writing. It feels so good to put my laptop screen down, signifying that I’m done for the moment, and knowing that I am one step closer to finishing this book. I can’t express the joy I feel in being proud of myself. It isn’t a feeling I’m familiar with. I’ve always downplayed my achievements because they weren’t things I cared about, just what I thought I should do. Writing this book is something I care about, and every day that I write, I still can’t believe that I’m actually doing it. If I can, anyone can, a tired cliche that I loathe myself for saying, but (again at the risk of sounding cliche) it is true. Ask anyone who knows me personally and they’ll tell you, I had the potential, but not the drive. But here I am, new year, 52,000 words deep in this memoir. I can’t be stopped and I can’t wait for you all to read it when it is done!

Happy New Year!

2019’s mantra is “Keep it light, Dutch. Keep it light.”

Musings

The Day I Rapped For Ice-T


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ice-t

It was a day like any other in February of 2015 when I found out that the Legendary Ice-T would be coming to speak at my school. I was near the end of my two-year degree program at Bunker Hill Community College and nervous about what to do next. I hadn’t yet decided on furthering my education at Umass Boston.

The moment that I found out about the event, and its limited seating, I called and emailed everyone that I could think of at the school to get a ticket. I succeeded and patiently waited for the day to come.

I thought that it would be cool if I got to rap for Ice-T. I wondered which verse I would do if I got the opportunity. I picked out 3 of my favorites; that way I would have one ready for any mood. As a rap artist, I always came prepared to a show with multiple cds of instrumentals so I could gauge the temperature in the room and decide what performance would be best to give.

As the day grew closer, I got this determined feeling. I put it out into the universe. “It would be cool if..” turned into, “I am going to rap for Ice-T.” I practiced in my car constantly. I imagined the audience’s response. I pictured him saying, “That was so good that I am going to sign you right now!” I am a dreamer after all.

The day came. I sat in the auditorium, about mid-way up, a little right of center stage. I wore my Boston Bruins beanie, hoping the bright yellow would stand out. When Ice-T came out, I joined in the applause and enjoyed the speech he gave. I was surprised at how funny he was. His storytelling was amazing, and I had no idea that he was in the Army before his rap career. That decided it. I had a verse about PTSD and veteran suicide that I had written recently and figured it would be the best fit for the occasion.

After his speech, he said that he didn’t have much time so he could only take 3 questions. I shot my hand up in the air, I tried to lock eyes with Ice-T but he was looking at the other side of the auditorium. He called on a guy who asked general life advice.

He asked for another question. Again, I sat straight, arm raised high, eyes focused. He called someone else. I wasn’t going to give up.

Third and final question. “This one’s mine” i thought, but he called on a girl in the back. I felt defeated. I was so sure that I was going to get my chance. She said that she was an artist and drew him a picture and asked if he would like it. He was happy to accept, and then he said, “Well that wasn’t really a question so I’ll take one more.”

Without hesitation my arm when up. I leaned a little to the side to get an extra inch of height in my finger tips. I locked eyes with Ice-T, he saw me. I gave him a look that said, “Trust me, call on me.” He didn’t or couldn’t turn his eyes away and he said,

“The man in the Pittsburgh Penguins hat.”

I stood up and proudly said, “It’s a Bruins hat!”

He put his hands on his head, realizing where we were. “Of course!” he said.

I told him that I wanted to thank him for his service and that I was a big fan of what he’s done for Hip Hop. I said, “As a fellow veteran, and a rapper, I was wondering if I could rap for you?”

I could feel the audience’s smiles, some ready, some pre-judging.

“Yeah, go ahead. You better kill it though.” Ice said.

They brought me a microphone and I rocked it. We weren’t allowed to bring phones in, but somebody snuck a phone video here.

They cheered, Ice-T clapped and told me that he could tell that I rap for real and put in the work. I felt like the man. He didn’t sign me though.

For the rest of the day, I was a local celebrity. I was approached in the hallway for pictures and people asked about my music. It ended when I left to go home, but I will never forget that day and how great it felt to get a compliment from someone so established in the game.

They Boston Globe wrote a short piece about it here

Fiction

Another Snippet From My Story


On my way to work, I sat in Boston’s notorious line of traffic. I usually listened to the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast to pass the time, but the newest episode wasn’t out yet since Joe was on a hunting trip. I was going to put on some music but the license plate in front of my caught my attention.
SAV 819
I see the number 819 everywhere. Some people believe that it is a sign when you see the same number, others believe it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because you think you see a number everywhere, so you are more likely to notice it. I don’t know which is true, but instead of putting music on, I sat with my thoughts, recalling the many other times that I’ve seen that number.
When I arrived at the University of Massachusetts, or Umass as we call it, I parked in the Bay Side lot and took the shuttle to the University Hall stop. My first class of the day was at 8:00 and I always tried to get to campus early enough to enjoy a second cup of coffee while staring at the ocean. Umass Boston is located on Columbia Point, an old landfill, that sits on a peninsula in Dorchester Bay.
After my coffee, I casually strolled over to my classroom, located in the McCormack building, and arrived with fifteen minutes to spare. As I was settling in, I heard a knock on the open door.
“Knock Knock”
“Good morning Justin, how goes it?”
“It goes. Do you want to eat lunch on campus or go somewhere else today?”
I tilted my head slightly upward, squinting as I stared into my thoughts.
“Hmm…that’s a good question. I have office hours this afternoon, so eating on campus would be smarter, but it is Friday and my students definitely aren’t going to stop by so…let’s push lunch a little later and take off a little early and we can grab a few drinks too. How’s that sound?”
Justin smiled and slapped his hand against the door.
“I like the way you think my man! I’ll swing by around 3?”
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
Justin was my best friend since middle school. He was half white and half Asian and we used to practice martial arts in his yard. By martial arts I mean the moves we’d learn from watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. His was a kind man with a big heart. His mother had passed away while we were in high school and his father wasn’t around so it was a miracle that he turned out so great. We both still lived in Woburn and got jobs teaching at Umass Boston. He taught history and I taught English composition.
Shortly after Justin left, Stephanie arrived. She was always the first student in the classroom. We made small chit chat until the other students began to trickle in.
“Alright class, let’s begin. Today we’re going to have an in-class writing day since your papers are due on Monday. The more you get done in class, the more you get to enjoy your weekend, how’s that sound?”
“Thanks Professor!” Aamir said, “Can I wear my headphones while I work?”
“Sure, just make sure that you can hear me if I need to get your attention.”
As they wrote, I thought about my dream. Why was I having a reoccurring nightmare about being shot in the back of my head? The strange thing was, I kept getting shot in the same spot, where my birthmark is, which some called a “stork bite” because it was located on the back of the head, where the neck met the skull.
I realized that I had been day dreaming and wondered how long so I checked the clock. 8:19. I pretended like that didn’t bother me.
The rest of the day went by normally. When quitting time came, I went to see Justin in his office.
“You ready to break out of here?” I asked.
“Does the pope shit in the woods?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s an expression bro.”
“I know, but I don’t get why. I’m almost certain the pope would just shit in a toilet like the rest of us.”
“Yes. The answer is yes, I am ready to break out of here. Jesus.”
We met at The Brickyard, our usual spot. The downstairs was a bar with cool wall panels that change color. We ordered a few drinks and talked about work, our most difficult students, and our gripes with the education system. We had tons of ideas of how to make it better but never a single one about how to implement anything. It was nice just to vent sometimes. Eventually, the conversation led to my dreams. I told him about the gun shot, waking up in a panic, and how Carla was concerned. I mentioned the number that I kept seeing everywhere and how I thought I was going crazy.
“Have you tried looking it up in the bible?”
“What?”
“The bible. You know, that book your mother could recite verbatim.”
“Duh. I know what the bible is, but why look up a number in it?”
“When I was a kid, before my mother had passed, she used to tell me to look up numbers in the bible. She said that God communicated in all sorts of ways.”
“Did it ever work? Did you look up something and think that God was communicating with you?”
“When I was young, I thought that it worked, but as I got older, my faith faded and I realized that bible verses can be like fortune cookies. They all sort of apply to your life in a general manner, but it still feels good.”
“Hmm. Perhaps I’ll try that.”
I noticed that there was a man at the other side of the bar looking over at us from time to time. I assumed it was because he overheard our conversation and thought we were loons. After an hour or so, he got up and walked toward the stairs. He paused before leaving and looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with me. A nervous chill rushed down my spine. I felt his malicious intentions with just a look, and then he went upstairs.
“Michael, you okay?”
“That guy…”
“The guy over there?” Justin looked but the man was gone. “Oh, he must of left. What about him?”
“He just gave me the coldest look.”
“Are you sure he wasn’t just flirting?”
“No dude, he looked at me like he wanted to kill me.”
“What? Why would he want to kill you? Are you sure you’re not misreading this situation? Maybe he overheard us bad mouthing religion. You know how die hard Christians can get.”
“Yea, maybe.”