Blog

Melrose Leadership Academy Peace March

“Imagine all the people living life in peace”

John Lennon

 (bryan farley)

Yesterday, my son’s Spanish bilingual school, Melrose Leadership Academy, organized a march through our Maxwell Park neighborhood in Oakland, California.

Here is the photo gallery of the peace and kindness march.

 (bryan farley)

The march had been planned before the recent tragedy in Oakland; however, our school community benefited from the supportive event. If you are avoiding news, Oakland has experienced the deadliest fire since 2003 in the United States. The Oakland Ghost Ship Fire was about two miles from MLA. National news outlets have asked questions about the fire that our community might not be prepared to ask. We needed a reason to gather.

 (bryan farley)

I was also aware that the peace march was held on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Some people might view these images and not find the march patriotic. I don’t. My son wanted to paint his face red, white and blue, because he sees America in his classmates and teachers. He sees America in the mirror.

 (bryan farley)

Today is the anniversary of the day that John Lennon was shot and killed. Yoko Ono was married to John when he was shot. She asks that we “imagine peace” in any languages that translates. Her website, Imagine Peace is simple, inspiring and haunting.

 (bryan farley)

My son and I discussed the concept of peace this week. He thought that we should express our ideas more thoroughly. He realizes that one person’s idea of peace might not be the same somewhere else. This election has taught my son a great deal about peace.

 (bryan farley)

Photo Gallery of Peace Walk

Pop Television and Epilepsy Heroes

“People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal.” From the Philosophy of Andy Warhol (bryan farley)

On Saturday November 19, I photographed the 2016 Candlelight Gala for the Epilepsy Foundation of Northern California. (I have included the entire photo gallery from the Westin St. Francis with individual selections throughout this post.) Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars was the guest speaker.

 (bryan farley)

Since I had my first seizure when I was 16, I have been reconstructing reality. Each time I had a seizure, I felt as if I had entered a movie or television show. In 2004, something similar happened when my father shot himself. I felt like Humpty Dumpty in a surreal reality show. Coincidentally, November 19, 2016 was Survivor Day (International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.)

 (bryan farley)

My father shot himself with a gun he purchased from a Las Vegas pawn shop. He built a Harley and drove an old 1940 Ford. Does it sound unreal that my father could have known our guest speaker before Rick Harrison became famous? What sounds real?

 (bryan farley)

After my father died, I tried to make sense of the loss. I wondered if the receipt for the gun was a message. I wondered if his loss had a greater meaning. I decided that I needed to stop hiding my disability… from myself and others. Those of us with epilepsy have learned to hide, often for survival. Even now, it might be safer to hide.

 (bryan farley)

We need heroes… our own heroes. Several months after my father died, I heard a short news story by Katie Couric about a young man who was saved on a New York subway. It was touching. Cameron Hollopeter, a 19 year old film student, had been saved. Cameron had a seizure and fell onto the tracks and another person became a hero. Couric was not the only journalist to simplify the story.  (Donald Trump also gave the hero $10,000 dollars too.)

Years later, Hollopeter remains the object of a melodrama.

 (bryan farley)

Katie Couric appeared on Pawn Stars in 2013. She purchased a signed Mark Twain handwritten aphorism, “We ought never do wrong when anyone is looking.” The quote reminds me of the expression that is often attributed to John Wooden, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

 (bryan farley)

As much as I admire John Wooden and Mark Twain, I think that their aphorisms oversimplify character, or at best, set the bar too low. A true test of a person’s character could be how he or she behaves when facing peer pressure.

Does a person do right when everyone is looking?

 (bryan farley)

As a person with a disability, I wonder if people even look at me. Do people see me? When opponents of the new administration stand with groups who feel threatened, is there a reason that people with disabilities are omitted from the list? Are we intentionally omitted or are we just forgotten? When supporters of the new administration heard their candidate mock a reporter with a disability, why were the supporters quiet?

We need our own heroes, because, regardless of the definition of character, we know what it means to be ignored by our friends and enemies. It’s unreal, except it isn’t.

 (bryan farley)

The times are a slowly changing. Miles Levin, a young filmmaker, presented his video about summer camp during at the gala. It was the highlight of the evening. I thought about Cameron during Miles’ presentation and wondered what could have happened if the world have encouraged Cameron while recognizing the person who eventually saved Cameron’s life. Perhaps those of us with disabilities need to start our own magazine, on this 80th anniversary of Life Magazine, and we need to start our own code. Perhaps we could call it the Cameron Code.

(Notes to follow)

Here is a link to my notes on this blog post. I also edited this post on 11/28 to read more easily.

Pride – In the Name of 15 Years

What do we remember when we say that we will “never forget?”

 (bryan farley)

I spent the 15 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks at the Oakland Pride Parade. I found my church (and then lost them) and then joined the denomination that baptized me as a baby (the Methodists). I did not want to be alone this 9/11.

 (bryan farley)

While many Americans will never forget 9/11, most Americans did not know someone who died on 9/11. I knew Mark Bingham, one of the passengers on Flight 93. Mark was an incredible man who has become an American icon and symbol for the LGBT community.

 (bryan farley)

I met Mark shortly after I moved to the Bay Area. Mark organized a weekly football game at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Five years ago, I wrote more about how we knew each other.  He was one of the best athletes and one of the best leaders I have known. He was many things, and if you met him, you would not forget him. He was an openly gay, business man, national champion rugby playing … Republican (in San Francisco). Senator John McCain eulogized Mark on September 22, 2011.

 (bryan farley)

After September 2001, I remained in contact with the football group for a couple months or a couple years… I don’t know why I drifted apart. Fifteen years later, I realize that I did not know how to deal with the loss. So many other people had lost more on 9/11, I did not feel that I had a right to grieve. Our whole group lost something that cannot be replaced by memorials. I disconnected from my large group of male friends and never replaced them.

 (bryan farley)

Fifteen years is a long time, and sometimes I can see the changes in events like an Oakland Pride Parade. Fifteen years ago, marriage equality was barely a fight. When I moved to San Francisco, there were two places where I felt most safe – my church and our football field. This might sound strange coming from me, but fifteen years ago, even the Democratic Party did not share my political beliefs. I was the crazy guy.

 (bryan farley)

Even though I have no photos my people from St. John’s Episcopal Church, I did see them… and I photographed many other organizations that I knew before moving to the Bay Area. I saw Planned Parenthood (above) and the local Stonewall Democratic Club. In the mid-1990’s, I was one of the founding members of the Santa Barbara County Stonewall Democratic Club. I wouldn’t change my registration for the Congressional campaign, but I would for the club.

 (bryan farley)

For September 11th, I photographed everything at f/11. Usually I would shoot with a shallow depth of field when I am in a crowd. Some photos still worked, but there are a few images that I did not include in the photo gallery, because of distractions.

 (bryan farley)

The 73 image Oakland Pride Parade photo gallery is here.

 (bryan farley)

Once I started remembering how I made it to the Bay Area from Santa Barbara, I remembered my standard for cool mayors. What would Harriet Miller do with a fire breathing snail?

 (bryan farley)

Mayor Harriet Miller reminded me of my old high school principal Jeanne Contel. Contel was a hall of fame softball player before becoming a principal. Harriet was a State Superintendent of Public Schools in Montana before moving to Santa Barbara. When Harriet Miller ran a city council meeting, it was clear that she knew what she was doing. I will always remember how Harriet calmed me when I spoke first on the new domestic partnership legislation. I had forgotten how to talk.

 (bryan farley)

Note: this part has been edited on September 14.

There were times when Harriet was underestimated. Harriet Miller was often the smartest person in the room … and at the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade, she was the most fun. When Harriet was about 80, she wore outrageous costumes and carried a magic wand. In no way does this mean that she was not tough. She could have organized the passengers on Flight 93 too. I imagine that Oakland’s current mayor has been similarly underestimated, and that Mayor Schaaf seems to be on the same path as Harriet. (Let’s give her another 30 or 40 years and bring her back.)

After I published this post the first time yesterday, I found another article written on the one year anniversary of 9/11. I wanted to include The Guardian article by Mark’s friend Bryce Eberhart at the end of my post. Perhaps this year has been especially difficult because I lost my rugby shirt that I wore when playing football with Mark or because a long time friend died this year… or perhaps I have finally started to allow myself to “never forget.”