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If I Could Write Brad Paisley a Letter about Epilepsy

Brad,

You’re not supposed to say the word Epilepsy, in a song.

The 5th Annual Concert for Epilepsy featured Little Big Town and Josh Turner. (bryan farley)

It’s just another Saturday night and you are probably busy. You are a big country music Celebrity, and I am just one of  millions — one of millions of Americans living with epilepsy, so I do not expect you to read this letter any more than you expected your 17 year old self to hear “If I Could Write A Letter To Me.”

 (bryan farley)

Click on image to launch slideshow

You see, I am a member of a country club that has “the most loyal fan base in the world.” I have modest talent and a mountain of faith that motivates me to warn you even though I have a history of being ignored. If I were to write a letter about epilepsy it would probably be stored on an old Epilepsy Foundation website. I would hop your fence and hand deliver this message personally if it would help, except everyone knows that only happens in fairy tales.

I think that someone has stolen your identity.  

 

 (bryan farley)

I love your music. As recently as Valentine’s Day I referenced one of your songs. You know the song where you thank all the loyal fans? To your credit, you mostly thanked the fans of Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney. This shows that you are smart and compassionate. If I reach you, you might understand. So, here goes nothing. On Sunday, I returned to Fresno County for a memorial. I wore my cowboy boots to the service, because I respected my godmother, but I missed ABC’s new reality show Rising Star. I think that you missed it too.

 (bryan farley)

Rising Star premiered last Sunday, June 22, 2014.  (I recorded the two hour show, but I could only watch the first hour.) No, the singer did not give me a seizure as the Brad Paisley character claimed. So, now you probably know why I am writing. There is a guy who looks just like you on the show. He claims to be Brad Paisley, but he acts more like Jason Alexander with soy latte withdrawalsFOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE! Tell me that the Brad Paisley on Rising Star is an impostor. You think I am joking, but look how easy it was for someone like me to become American Cool (and Taylor Swift, and an Outkast fan, George Strait, Gwen Stefani’s friend, the missing member of Little Big Town, YOU, Flavor Flav, Cheryl Crow, Waylon, Bocepheus, Travis Tritt…  HONEY BUNNY’S BOYFRIEND!) You and William Shatner are friends. If you can’t make it to Hollywood, ask Shatner to find your impostor, and have Shatner beam him or her up. (Parker Posey could be acting as Brad Paisley.)

WAIT! Find Shatner! This program is ludicrous enough that Shatner would pretend to be you so that he could steal your Velveeta. He’s Shameless. 

 (bryan farley)

On the way, you will need a backup plan if the real Brad Paisley does not appear. I’m thinking that you will need to change your name. You could become, “The artist formerly known as the accidental racist.” What, too soon? In December 2009 when I wrote “Country Music, The New Black,” I argued that country music was designed for the internet and search engines. “It was as if country musicians are embedding links into their song lyrics.” Every time I hear that song, it becomes further embedded in my memory. If I could build a park, I would name it after you. I would call it… Brad Park. Do you feel the support? I support you now. I supported you… Then.

 (bryan farley)

I loved the sentiment behind “Welcome to The Future,” and I even appreciated your duet with LL Cool J. Did you offend people? Sure, but you tried. Everyday is a revolution, and Americans do not know how to talk about race. White people do not know how to talk with each other. You actually tried! You may have offended people, because you tried. That is Revolutionary, like “around the world in a day” revolutionary. I would have climbed on the back of your motorcycle and rode with you to the lake.

There is still time for you to remind me why I said that you were part of the same American musical tradition as Johnny Cash. Five years ago I wrote that Cash “played for prisoners at Folsom Prison to illustrate that he wasn’t any better than the prisoners. He realized that he was lucky, and that at any moment, he could become unfortunate again. He knew that by telling people’s stories, with humility and sensitivity, he could honor people.”

Would Cash have told a seizure joke to a live national audience and then given a half-ass apology?

 

Brad I need you to get to Hollywood and do me a favor. I need you to find the impostor (maybe grab a lime on the way) and tell him or her what to do with the apology. (You know, the one that started with, “If you are offended….”

 

Stay tuned for Part 11 – Glendale Pronounced Glen Dale (Sweet Home of the Best Guitar Riff)

NOTE: on Sunday June 29, 2014 I added the link to the next post. The next post also has a different title now, but the title referencing Ed King is mentioned.

 

Golden Bowl Derby Story

Ten Days.  That’s how long it takes for me to recover from photographing roller derby on Father’s Day weekend. (I don’t know how long it takes for the skaters.)

 Photo Gallery

 (bryan farley)

When the schedule for the 2014 Golden Bowl roller derby tournament was released, I was excited. Four top WFTDA teams would compete at a Bay Area venue that provides great photo opportunities. I would celebrate the end of the school year by photographing the Windy City Rollers, the Hollywood Scarlets, the San Diego SoCal team, and the local Golden Girls. I forgot about Father’s Day.

 (bryan farley)

Each year, I forget that Father’s Day is going to be difficult. I love being a father more than anything. Father’s Day and derby are not a conflict. I love bringing my kids to derby, and they love going. Father’s Day is just a difficult day for me to remember that I love being a father, because my father and I had a difficult relationship. He’s been dead for almost ten years and we still have a difficult relationship.

 (bryan farley)

I still had a great weekend and took some interesting pictures. On the Saturday before Father’s Day, I photographed three bouts. I also saw my first junior roller derby bout. I wish my kids had been with me to see the young skaters. One of the kids was only eight years old. I have an eight year old son and ten year old daughter.

 (bryan farley)

During the second bout, an all female skating crew officiated. The broadcasters announced that the all women crew was a first for a WFTDA sanctioned bout. Before that bout, I do not remember seeing an all-female crew, so it is possible, but I found it hard to believe that it was the first… and the reason? It was the day before Father’s Day and I was a little crazy.

 (bryan farley)

I start losing my faith around Father’s Day and I begin questioning almost everything. I start wondering if people are poking fun of me. And yet, I still show up. Why is that? Why do I keep going to derby and exposing what feels like my weaknesses? Why did I return Sunday with my children?

 

 (bryan farley)

Even on my best days, I still find myself behaving lost at derby. I try to be everything. I try to be a father, friend, perfect man. I try to a good photographer and a better person. I also try to tell an important story that is my story. The announcers referred to the all-female officiating crew as #HerStory. I conceptualize much of derby as #HerStory. I also believe that a woman should tell #HerStory. I tell a variation of a theme.

At the 2014 Golden Bowl in Richmond, California, the Bay Area Derby Girls Golden Girls defeat the Windy City Rollers during the first day of the two day event. (bryan farley)

I can take a decent photograph. I can discuss how I was influenced by women when I was a kid. I can argue that young boys benefit from seeing strong women and I can share how I have been intentional about bringing my daughter to bouts. That is not herstory. That is a version of my story.

At the 2014 Golden Bowl in Richmond, California, the Bay Area Derby Girls Golden Girls defeat the Windy City Rollers during the first day of the two day event. (bryan farley)

My story is also shaped by suicide and seizures. Most days, I am grateful for having survived my struggles. I even laugh at my own insecurities. Other days I am more vulnerable and I see #MyStory where it was not intended. During half-time of Saturday’s last bout, there was a Julius Caesar themed dance contest. Caesar fought invisible lions while five dancers performed for Caesar’s pleasure. A little kid eventually won the dance contest outlasting four adults.

When people have asked me to describe auras, I have used a metaphor that is similar to “fighting invisible lions.” Caesar supposedly had epilepsy too. I fight invisible lions so that my little girl can dance. I face my fears so that my kids can remember their father.

 (bryan farley)

 

 

 

Caroline Yee Memorial Building at Lincoln Elementary

I could write this post for months and never say everything that I want. Perhaps the best way I can get my words around my emotions is to say that sometimes I believe in God. I mean, really believe in God. When my life is going sideways and my dreams are shattered, sometimes God seems to intervene. Sometimes God seems to show me a light, pick me up, and point me in a new direction. In those times, I really believe. It does not happen often.

 (bryan farley)

Gary and Caroline Yee have helped me believe in the power of community and public education many times when I am prepared to give up my faith. They both seem to step up at the right time. This week it happened again when Gary invited me to return to Lincoln Elementary for the dedication of the Caroline Yee Memorial Classroom Building mosaic art project. Caroline died on February 21, 2o13, but Gary and Caroline are still bringing people together.

 (bryan farley)

The beautiful new building stands where old portables once sat. I taught in an old portable twelve years ago. My students were so wonderful that I did not realize my old portable lacked anything until I saw the new building. It is bright and welcoming. It reflects Lincoln’s learning environment better than an old smelly portable.

 (bryan farley)

Even though I only worked at Lincoln for about one year, I returned for several years once Caroline Yee became principal. Caroline knew that I needed the educational leader to welcome me back into the school. I visited old friends and reconnected with my garden. (My portable might be gone, but some of my plants remain.) I would leave my little daughter with one of the greatest school secretaries in the history of public education and I would work in the garden. Sometimes I would let my daughter play in the playground and I would visit with Song Le who retires this week after more than 30 years at Lincoln.

 (bryan farley)

Juan Lopez is the primary mosaic artist. One last mosaic was unveiled Tuesday. The plaque includes the phrase, “Have fun and learn a lot.” This might sound simplistic, but having fun is the best way to learn. Having fun means “being engaged.” We want our students to engage with the material. We want students to enjoy learning. We want learning to be fun.

 (bryan farley)

Some people look at a school and see a place for a smelly portable. Other people see smelly portables and see an opportunity to create engaging learning environments. Gary and Caroline quietly made Oakland better, and even though Caroline is not by his side, she is still helping him build community.

 (bryan farley)

The last time I saw Caroline, I was with my daughter Emily at a “state of the district” event when Gary was still a school board member. (Now he is Acting Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.)  My daughter photographed Caroline on January 26, 2013. This morning while I was walking my children to an OUSD school that Gary and Caroline have supported, I asked my daughter if I could post the photo. Of course, my daughter agreed. She still remembers Caroline.

To see more photos from the event this week, visit this link. Please share this post so that others can see what is possible.

NOTE: On June 13th, I edited this post slightly for grammar. I also included the link to the entire photo gallery. Was omitting the photo gallery a minor mistake? Not sure. It has been added a third time here.