For Dr. King and the love shared by Rufus Valentine

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(As editor of a small community newspaper, I feel we have a responsibility as journalists to inform readers as well as inspire conversation about the things that matter to us as a community and as Americans. To this end, we have devoted a large portion of today’s edition to Martin Luther King Jr., offering perspectives on his message, his legacy, and how the echoes of his speech from 51 years ago are returning to us with even more relevance today. Along with columns from other local writers, activists and letters from readers, I’m offering this very personal piece that is equal parts inspiration and regret…)

As I’ve mentioned here before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.  Continue reading

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Remember to love each other like Rufus Valentine

Rufus Valentine hands As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.

I’d like to tell you more.

The first time I saw Rufus Valentine was during the Braves’ heyday in February of 1992, when all of Atlanta was anticipating the spring — and a run at the World Series. Essentially, you could be completely naked; but as long as you had a Braves cap on you were considered properly attired by most Atlantans.

So, when Rufus appeared in his red tights, heart-shaped wings, and Braves cap at the west entrance of the Lenox Square mall, most assumed he was there to express his love for Atlanta’s baseball team. Continue reading

Life can change in a heartbeat, or none at all

imageA few months ago, I went from wearing nothing but red thong while climbing around the sand dunes, to being a first responder at a multi-car accident with a car fire — all in a span of about 15 minutes. It’s a long story that, if you aren’t squeamish (and by that, I mean about the image of me in a red thong), you can read it here. Long story short, the experience was a reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and how, in an instant, circumstances can change from ridiculous to surreal. And I’m not just talking about being at a Justin Bieber concert. After five years as a volunteer firefighter, I’ve had plenty of tapouts change family dinners to warmed-up leftovers, or the first long kiss of a romantic evening into a goodbye hug and a porch light waiting for me when I get home. They are reminders that life isn’t really day-by-day as much as we’d like to think — but is truly lived minute-by-minute.

On the morning of Sept. 18, I was reminded once again how quickly life can change. And how, in the span of a few minutes, it can hang in the balance somewhere betwen clocking back in or permanently checking out. Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall recently posted a beautiful poem about taking time to recognize the magic in our lives. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments. That said, my thanks to all of you for sharing the magic every day…

image He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and whats-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence.

The boy obeyed, and hugged his backpack a little closer to his chest. Continue reading