Justin Makes First Public Presentation of Urban Art…

October 17, 2010

Baltimore Artist Justin Chase presented his work this evening to a group of approximately 40 people ranging from middle schoolers to senior citizens.  Frankly, I think he blew everyone away!  A truly awesome evening.  His family and best friend watched as Justin autographed prints of selected works.  I am priveledged to have been a part of it.  If you haven’t checked out the link to Urban Art yet, please do…there’s some great stuff there.

A Brief Summary:

JUSTIN CHASE has experienced the darkest elements of urban life.  As a teenager, Justin was lured into the world of fast money, expensive cars and drugs in Baltimore City.  Then, the wild ride he had become accustomed to came to an abrupt halt the night he was arrested.  Released on probation, Justin suddenly found himself with nothing, struggling to survive in one of the most dangerous areas of the city.  He soon became overwhelmed by a lack of hope and turned to alcohol and drugs as a way to escape reality.  With a fiancé and two young children depending on him, Justin eventually realized that he had to get clean and do something to  provide a better life for his family.  This time, he turned to the world of art and began drawing as a way to deal with his inner demons.  “Urban Art” was created by Justin to express his perspective of the reality of urban life.  

Today, Justin is progressing on his journey to create a new life.  He and his family have moved out of the city and he is optimistic about his future.  Justin has a goal to use Urban Art as a way to create awareness of the issues that plague many neighborhoods in the city and provide hope to those who have given up.  The evolving story of Justin Chase is an inspiring example of what a person can overcome with perseverance, a commitment to achieving a dream and determination to learn from past mistakes but focus on creating a better future.

Best of Luck Justin!

Under Pressure…

September 20, 2010

“When we long for life without difficulties, remember that the oak grows strong in contrary winds and diamonds are created under extreme pressure”


Challenges can teach us a lot about ourselves.  Just when we think we have reached our capacity to take on anything else, something comes along and we have to find a way to work it into our already full schedule.

Sometimes it feels as if life is testing us, trying to find our breaking point.   More and more weight is piled onto our shoulders to see if we will give up or if we will keep going and refuse to quit.

I believe that people are much more resilient than we think.  I’m sure we all know someone who has been through unimaginable circumstances and has remained strong and optimistic about  the future.  I truly believe that we all have this ability inside of us and when we really need it, a strength we didn’t realize we had will be there for us to draw upon.

Whatever winds might be trying to knock you over, stand strong.  Expect to bend…everyone does.  But make up your mind not to break.  Eventually the strongest winds become calm, the sun comes out and the clouds pass.


The Tightrope…

September 15, 2010

If you follow this blog, you are aware that it has been quite a while since my last post.  I am okay, just very busy balancing the demands of my job and my family life.

I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with multiple clients on several projects at work.  In this economy I find myself in an unusual, yet very positive, position.

I am likely to be writing very little over the next 6 to 8 weeks as I walk this tightrope trying to maintain my focus and my balance.

Thanks to all who have followed this blog.  I’ll be back in action soon.



One Man’s Trash…

September 5, 2010

…Should probably go into the garbage.

Every Spring the flowers bloom, leaves begin to populate our trees and people decide it is time to clean out their garages, basements and other cluttered rooms in their homes.  Often, they fill trucks or vans with unwanted “stuff” and donate it or take it to the dump.  Others make the decision that it will be better to haul everything they don’t want in their own houses out onto their front yards and see what they can sell to their neighbors.  

I find it fascinating that people start early in the morning setting up their yard sale displays.  Some will make signs, review the local traffic patterns and post them at all of the busiest street corners.  The signs are typically brightly colored, often with children’s artwork on them or other hand drawn pictures intended to entice passers-by to turn down the road and discover what treasures might be waiting for them.  Others prefer to call it what it is as the owner of the sign above chose to do.  At least they were being honest.

People will spend hours of preparation pricing the items they want to sell.  How do you establish the market value of a five-year old Chia-Pet?  I don’t understand the complex economics of yard sale price determination but somehow the seasoned veterans just intuitively know.  Occasionally there is a rebellious yard sale merchant who, due to a clever strategy or just plain laziness, leaves the prices off of everything and prefers to simply say “make me an offer”. 

“Uhhh, I don’t know…I’ll give you $3.00 for that stuffed racoon”. 

“$3.00?” he questions as if I have insulted his intelligence. “I couldn’t accept less than $5.00…look at those teeth, $5.00.” 

Of course, I didn’t actually want the thing, I was just wondering what someone expected to get for a dead racoon.  “$4.00” I say, “that’s as high as I can go.”

He squinted and cocked his head a bit as he looked into my eyes like a poker player trying to see if I was bluffing.  “$4.50 and not a penny less” he says. 

“That’s okay” I say as I turn to walk away. 

“Okay, Okay $4.00…the racoon is yours.” 

“Ahh, Sweet Victory!”…Wait… I just bought a stuffed racoon!!!!

As I count out four dollars I can hear my wife’s voice back at home saying “you bought what?” 

“But Honey, I talked the guy down from $5.00!” I will say, as if that somehow justifies my bringing home a giant stuffed rodent. 

With my racoon under one arm, I head over to browse through the box of old books (the only thing with a price on it)… “Books 25 cents / 5 for $1.00”.  An author’s nightmare to be sure.  I begin to look through the box and discover such fascinating titles as “How to Crochet Socks for Fun and Profit “, “Yahtzee Strategies of the Professionals” and “The Partridge Family’s – A Groovy Christmas Story”  to name just a few.

As I start to leave, I spot it perched on a table next to an Atari game console.  Perhaps one of the most amazing gadgets ever invented (with the possible exception of the wheel and the electric lightbulb)…the Inside the Egg Scrambler!  As the racoon and I approach the table, man walks over and watches as I examine the Scrambler.  I tried to keep a straight face, like when I wanted to buy that new car but I couldn’t let the salesman know it.  “Does it work?” I ask.

“Only used it once, the day after Father’s day” the man said.  “Still has the instructions in the box.  Make me an offer.”

I try to stall while I quickly calculate the street value of a practically mint condition Scrambler.  Let’s see, it sold on TV for $19.95, it is probably ten years old but only used once…”I’ll give you $5.00 I said to the man expecting that he would want at least $7.00″. 

“Sold” he said holding out his hand.

Sold?  What have I done?  I should have started lower…$2 or $3….Man, I think I just got ripped off!  I handed the man a $5 bill and I could swear I saw him grin as I turned to leave with the dead racoon under one arm, the Inside the Egg Scrambler under the other arm and $9.00 less cash in my pocket.

So, you might have guessed that this is not really a true story.  Although, I did see a stuffed dog once at a yard sale…the black was pealing off of its nose.  The owner said he’d had it Freeze Dried.  I have found some decent things at yard sales, mostly for the girls when they were very little.  Clothes, tricycles, things that little kids grow out of so fast that they don’t get ruined.  But mostly what I have seen is a bunch of junk sitting in organized piles on people’s yards.

There is a joke about a little boy who is visiting a farm and sees a very large pile of manure.  He runs and dives head first into the stinky mound.  His mother comes running over and screams at him “what do you think you are doing?”

The little boy pokes his head out and says “with all this crap, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Now that’s a true Optimist!


Is The Pen Truly Mightier?…

August 29, 2010

Reading the title of this post, you might be expecting an inspiring story about how I was able to use my mighty pen to write a brilliant letter that helped someone resolve a dispute with an insurance company or gain victory for the “little guy” over a cold-hearted and oppressive corporate giant. 

I wish I had that story to share with you, but mine is not quite so noble.  However, I found it interesting so I thought I would share it.   As an Architect, I tend to carry a pen around in my pocket all day since I solve problems graphically and do a lot of sketching when I speak with members of my team. 

Today was laundry day so I gathered all of my dress shirts and slacks that I wear to work and washed them in a single load.  I threw everything into the washing machine, adjusted the settings and about a half an hour later heard the buzzer telling me that my clothes were done.

As I was transferring the clothes from the washer to the drier I heard a rattle sound in the bottom of the washer.  My heart skipped a beat or two as I moved the last shirt and saw that I had accidentally washed a red pen with all of my clothes.  It was the exact pen pictured above.

In a panic I began removing shirts and pants  from the dryer one by one to inspect them for streaks of ink…RED INK…that I just knew would be covering all of my work clothes.  I was  surprised to find that not a drop of ink had escaped from the pen.  In fact, after starting the drier and telling my daughter what had just happened, she wanted to see if the pen would still write…it did!

If I sold Pilot P-700 Roller Ball pens for a living I would have a great product pitch to make to my customers tomorrow.  But I don’t…only an interesting story and a closet full of clean clothes, which I definitely can’t complain about.  Maybe the Positive vibe is paying off.

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Well, that may be true, but thankfully today the pen was not mightier than several gallons of water and some Tide laundry detergent…


Dad, Can We Go To The Mall?…

August 28, 2010


I am blessed to have two wonderful daughters.  They each have their own special gifts as well as little quirky things that make them who they are.  My oldest passed her driver’s test a week ago and has been coming up with creative reasons why she needs to take her younger sister (who will be starting high school in a week) out for a drive.  

My wife and I have raised our daughters as their “parents” first and their “friends” second.  The girls rarely ever disrespect us – they understand that we would never tolerate that type of behavior, unlike some of their friends who literally scream in their parent’s face and get away with it.  I think our daughters sincerely like us and respect us as their parents, but they also know that there are boundaries and just as Mom and Dad “giveth” internet access, cell phones and a car to drive, Mom and Dad can “taketh away” said privileges. 

As the girls have been going out driving by themselves this week, my wife and I have requested that when they reach their destination they simply call us on one of our cell phones to let us know they arrived safely.  Of course this is usually met with a sigh and a drawn out “oooo….kaaaayyyyy.”  Occasionally, I have attempted to offer some words of fatherly advice based on almost 30 years of driving experience.  My young driver listens, but I sense she is thinking “well, that’s not how my driving instructor taught me.” 

But I offer my advice anyway and then tell them to be safe and I watch as my little girls go driving off alone.  I know my daughter is a careful driver and I trust them both to make good decisions…it’s everyone else out there that concerns me.  But what can we do?  They need to experience freedom and gain the confidence that they can navigate their way around in the world (at least the part that is within about a 20 mile radius of our house) and then find their way back home.  So far they are doing great.  But it doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t mean that I am any less relieved when they come through the front door without their heads bandaged or walking on crutches.  Did my parents go through this when I started driving?

Mark Twain once said something along the lines of “when I was fourteen, my father was so out of touch I could  hardly stand to be around the old man.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

We are at the beginning of a long journey that will eventually lead to high school graduations, college, college graduations, beginning careers, etc.  I know the past is only a memory now, but part of me wishes the emblem on the car my daughter was learning to drive still said “Little Tykes.”  I’m sure this will be an exciting chapter in our lives.


Night Lights to Headlights…

August 26, 2010

As I sat with my little girl one weekday evening watching the final round of the Masters golf tournament that I had recorded the previous Sunday, Tiger Woods (pre-scandal) was about to tee off.  As Tiger stepped to the tee, my daughter asked in her tentative 6-year-old voice “Daddy, is today Sunday?” 

I was confused and replied “No, this is Tuesday.  Remember, you had school today?”  I then asked why she thought it was Sunday.  She pointed at the television and, in a voice that told me she already knew she was smarter than me, said “Because Tiger always wears red on Sunday, right?” 

This week, my little golf-watching buddy passed her driver’s test and is now able to drive without Mom or Dad in the car.  If you have teenagers who drive, you probably know that sinking, half-proud, half-terrified feeling you get as you watch your new driver back out of the driveway with her younger sister in the car to go for their first solo drive.  They made it back home safe…one down, several thousand to go. 

How did an entire decade go by so fast?   In what feels like a about a week, we went from watching Barney to laughing at crude jokes on re-runs of Friends.  During the past decade we’ve done a lot together as a family, traveled to foreign countries, swam with the dolphins in the Bahamas, stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and countless other things that I hope they will tell their children about someday.  We have a lot of great memories that I hope she will carry with her throughout her life.

Before too long she will be at college and then she’ll be out on her own.  But for now, my wife and I are doing our best to see the positive in the situation.  The way we look at it, we’re not losing our little girl, we’re gaining a personal chauffeur to drive her sister to soccer practice, the mall, and all of the other places that we have spent time taking them to and from for most of their childhood. 

Maybe this teenage driver thing won’t be so bad….