***I’ve been taking MasterClasses for the last few weeks. Often, there are assignments given out. This one was to write about the saddest moment in your life. One other note, I allowed ten minutes for writing, so the essay might seem short for such a heavy prompt. Here it is…

The Rental

Honesty in sadness is a tough one to write about. Trying to find the saddest moment of a life seems so disrespectful to all of the sad moments a person experiences. For me, the end of February 1998 had to be about the worst. There was a confluence of events that took me away from being happy and culminated in somber dash to get rid of a rental car.

My grandfather died that month in Texas. We were all together for his funeral. We learned things about him that are only things you learn when someone dies. That weekend was tough because of my grandfather’s passing, but it was not unexpected. He had been sick for a long time.

Two weeks later the shock hit. My brother was gone. We had just been together for my grandfather’s funeral and everything seemed fine with my brother. It wasn’t and I had missed whatever clues he was giving out.

Before I had gone to Texas, I was renting a car because mine had been smashed by a kid driving on ice. His car had gone full on bobsled and crashed into mine. The rental had some problems and when I returned from Texas, I made arrangements to exchange the car.

Then the phone call came that my brother had ended his life.

I felt a shock that I cannot explain. By nature, I am a problem solver. In stressful moments, I just get on with the business of moving through the situation. I rarely take time to grieve and if I do, I’d prefer to be alone. The morning after the phone call, I had to drive across our county, about an hour long drive, to change the car. While I was driving, I had to fight back the tears, but somewhere over on Route 100, I lost it at a stoplight. I cried about as hard as I could. When I looked to my left, there were kids in their car laughing at me as I wailed.

I felt nothing for them. My brother was gone.

Twenty or so minutes later, I had changed out the car. The new car smell of the next rental was more of a cherry bomb scent, cheap and hurried. The rest of the drive home was a blur.

A big, fancy non-profit bought a cemetery. They did so to make sure that their manicured lawns were not associated with a rotting burial place that so many cemeteries become over the years.

This cemetery was the final resting place of many local historical figures. There was the writer. His plot had a wrought iron fence around it. There were the conductors of The Underground Railroad. Their plots were right next to the road waiting for the next person in need of help.

The problem with the big, fancy non-profit was that they over promised on how they would protect the cemetery. They, in the interest of tax free land protection, made mention that they would repair damaged headstones, that they would keep the grounds clean as if they were behind the stone walls and high admission prices of the foundation, and that the cemetery would be brought to the forefront of historical discussions about those who found their final resting place now stuck between DuPont’s highway vision and a fire station.

The years passed and more headstones began to fall. The ground began to sink. The prices next door continued to grow and the apathy of what were promises made on the hopes of the living for their dead were ignored.

Then, something happened. There was a blight that began hitting the trees within the hallowed grounds of the manicured nature center of the big, fancy non-profit. The water that spewed from the gaudy fountains began to trickle. Something was happening to all that unnatural development and it was eating into the profits of the organization dedicated to keeping itself going.

No one could understand what was happening. A fear began to seep into the administrators of the non-profit money making organization and the fear became desperation after the pandemic. In the hopes of getting some guidance, a soothsayer came to the grounds and offered some advice.

“Respect the dead. They deserve your integrity. Help them.”

The next day, crews were sent to the cemetery. They cleaned up the grounds and got rid of the weeds that were taking over. Leaning headstones were reset. Those that had aged to a point where the names could not be read were cleaned and the names cut back into the stone. Promises were being kept.

Strangely, the infestations and sludge like water on the other side of the street began to clear up. The grounds were being restored to their previous profit making level. The big, fancy non-profit would be able to survive and the souls of the those laid to rest across the street would be able live the way their ansestors had hoped they would.

A neophyte, a movie making virgin,
That’s how I went into this Masterclass.
All I really knew is that I like Spike Lee,
The angles,
The stories,
The Knicks passion,
Except I don’t like the Knicks,
But that’s not the point,
There is something about his “Joints”
That I love.

A neophyte, a movie making virgin,
That’s how I came out of his Masterclass.
All I really learned is that I am better because of Spike Lee,
His perspectives,
His wisdom,
His passion,
His style earned and unflinching,
And that is the point,
His “Joints” are something because he is something,
That’s it, right there.

I will probably never make a movie,
But what I learned might help me create something else,
Something that leaves others in awe
Like when I left the theater in Philly,
Stunned by what I had just seen
After Radio Raheem was brought down in Do the Right Thing.
Strength, soul, and a life of expectation
Are lessons learned in this class from a true master of film making.
The learning is there,
No what, dude?

Classic to contemporary,

One place to another,




I see it.

My truth.

You see it,



Memory’s weed,

Choking lungs, casting a smokescreen



From remembering



There is an idea,
That we are capable of anything
When we set our minds to it.
Putting together a process
To help find that success
Is not quite as easy
As believing it’s so.

Dr. Frazier used to say, “Read.”
She knew the answers were in the research,
In all of those stacks of digital articles
Full of hypotheses, and research methods,
Conclusions, and statistics.
Collins might say, “Observe,”
He’d sound like Bruce, “looking out any window,”
Seeing the squirrels, watching their play,
Writing how it made him feel.
Spike might say, “Immersion,”
Soaking in the culture of the time,
Doing his own dance to the music,
Sporting the threads of the an era,
Becoming versed though research.
Each knows,
Each has a process,
Each gets it done.

I have an idea,
I’m capable of a lot more.
I’ve set my mind to it,
Relying on discipline, curiosity, and challenges
To show me the way to that arbitrary ideal, success.
The good doctor, Billy, and Mr. Lee
Are showing me that it can be so.