City of Angels – Original Poem

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By Mark A. Leon

This concrete jungle so poignant in its softness
A gentle rose born to a cement foundation
A tree amongst the brick walls separating rich from poor

Asleep on the pee stained sidewalk a man ponders his mistakes
A child cries as the nightlight fades
A woman gives away her body to erase her mother’s mistakes
A star drowns the success in bourbon

This city of angels all scarred in sin
Razor sharp fences police these walls

In the park a man looks up on bended knee to make a promise
Looking down she sees a stranger with a past
He holds a ring tainted by his lustful betrayal
Her eyes charcoal grey with distain
A crowd cheers distanced from the truth; heralded by perception

This city of angels raised by guns and violence
Blood washed away with time

In the village, he hides his shame in a dark bar
Lusting for a man he will never find
To be touched
To be penetrated, yet never accepted
One more gin, one more margarita, one more meaningless line behind closed doors

This city of angels laughing with gluttony
Fame is a fortune for the weak

In midtown, the lights shine to the heavens
Billboards and neon sparkle in the night
A party to end all parties
Thousands gather in hidden prejudice
A time bomb seconds from impact

This city of angels holding the promise of opportunity
A burning flame of hope
A realistic pool of despair

In the midnight hour, the moon reflects over the towering urban sculptures in the sky
Florescent lights sprinkle our senses like fresh snowflakes on a cold winter day

In this darkness, we are superheroes masked from our lives

Free to pretend in this city of angels

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September 11 – A Day We Will Never Forget – My Personal Journey

It was sometime after seven when my phone rang. I was groggy and half awake but somehow felt the need to answer my phone. Kim was the on the other end frantically telling me to turn my television on. Without hesitation or knowledge of why, I did. She then began to tell me the cryptic pieces of information surrounding a plane going into the World Trade Center. It was moments later when I witnessed the second plane make a permanent impression in my mind. I soon hung up and continued to stare at the screen as my eyes got lost far beyond the scenes I was seeing on the television screen.

I sat silently and still on the floor, watching, absorbing, and reflecting as the news trying to make sense of this madness. Memories of my days on Wall Street came back quickly and I could remember my footsteps from the PATH train to Broad Street. Now that path is covered in rubble and smoke and the familiar sounds of taxis are now filled with screams.

After several hours, without knowing what to do or who to call, I played nine holes of golf. Upon completion, as I walked the final path to the clubhouse, my phone rang. I don’t know why, but had a feeling the news was not good. I had no reason to believe that the call from my parent’s home phone was good or bad news, but I knew. Maybe it was the day playing in the back of my mind or perhaps the knowledge that my parents rarely ever called me during the day. With a brief hesitation, I answered to hear my father on the other end confirming my notion. I received the news that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mid afternoon on September 11 as the world reacted, lived and digested what would become the most memorable day of our lives, I stood alone hearing the word you never want to hear in relation to a family member, friend or yourself.

Much of the next several hours were a bit of a blur. Sometime in between the hours of 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM I leaned on a rock just outside my apartment and looked up at the sky. My first thought was of the deafening silence filling the sky with only the view of stars shining. No planes, no helicopters, no sound resonating. Of course this being in the middle of a remote part of Oklahoma would not have shocked anyone but living seven miles from an international airport meant something else. How can complete silence send shivers down one’s spine? I don’t know, but the empty sound was the spark that drove me into a period of weakness and sorrow. I shed a tear as an entire day of devastation ran circles in my mind. Over and over I remember the calls, the videos, the commentary and through all that, it was the silence that sent me over the edge.

That was September 11, 2001.

One year and six days later, we lost her.

Fifteen years have passed, ten years older and more mature. The world as you and I know it changed that day, not in a temporary mode but a permanent way of life. It awakened us to the notion that we are all vulnerable. How often to we go to a movie and watch a blockbuster about an apocalyptic event and sit in awe at the wonder of Hollywood magic? Yet, to witness the unimaginable happen before our eyes wondering and praying that our friends and loved ones were not part of this madness is something not many of us would pay the price of admission for. I grew up in New Jersey, raised by two home bread New York parents. Spent some time on Wall Street living the American dream. Never in the midst of the madness known as New York City could I imagine an event so catastrophic ever happening in my backyard.

If asked what emotions went through my system that day, I would have to say shock, fear, heartbreak, concern, confusion and hope. I am sure you are thinking why “hope” in that list of negative emotions. Well, without hope, we have nothing. Everyday we live with the risk of tragedy whether it affects one person or thousands, yet each day we wake up to a new sunrise with the hope of a day filled with happiness and love.

September 11 was tragic for me in so many ways, mostly personal. I needed to feel hope that as a family we would be by my mother’s side supporting her, comforting her and knowing together we could beat this disease. As we come closer to the 10th anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever, I will be thinking about my mother and the struggles she had to endure so that we could have the blessing of having her in our lives.

My greatest tragedy of that day was not the events over lower Manhattan. It was that I was not there to hug and hold my mother when she received the news of the unwelcome visitor in her body. I’m sorry Mom.

How do you brace for Hurricane Sandy?

There is no easy way to answer this question. There are no words or amount of preparedness that can really give a complete sense of safety during the days and hours before this impending hurricane brings its wrath through the tri-state area. Whether you live there or not, millions of us around the country and around the world are nervous in eager anticipation.

Being a New Jersey native, it is very apparent that I have family, friends and colleagues throughout New Jersey, Connecticut and New York who are concerned about the safety of themselves and everyone around them.

We are fortunate to be in a moment in history where communication access has hit a peak of accessibility. Through the most trying times, the importance of communication has never been more important. Whether it is a text, email or just hearing the voice of a loved one, there is something calming about knowing we are all keeping our thoughts and prayers collectively together.

As I speak to others in my personal and professional circle who have reached out, it is not just for the safety of those I know but for each and everyone living in the path of potential destruction that they are asking about.

The likelihood is that there will be casualties from this event. Some even fatal, but nature is a beast and we have to brace for this level of terror. In the tri-state area, more times in the last two years then we have come to expect.

I don’t know what the outcome will be and in my best case scenario, we will all be safe and only property damage will be incurred, but no matter what, I will be there to support anyone and everyone that needs emotional or moral support.

If an outsider were looking in without any prior knowledge of the events at hand, they will have to be impressed with the way the politicians, communities, families, neighbors and friends have all banded together as one unified front.

Maybe I need a comic to visually explain my mental picture, but right now there are 25 million people forming a wall as the hurricane comes near. In my mind, we won. It is a nice thought though metaphorically.

Growing up in New Jersey, you learn to be tough (Look at Jersey Shore…ok bad example). Let’s go with the Sopranos (I am not doing well here). Springsteen!!! Much better. We learn that life is hard, but if you have the courage to face it head on, you will find a way to succeed. I love my state and always will and now for two straight years nature has gotten in our face. I was in New Jersey last year for Irene and we handled her well. I am confident this time around, we are ready and stronger than ever.

So I ask the question again, “How do you brace for Hurricane Sandy?”

The answer is simple:

Strength
Confidence
Courage
Unity
Community
Family
Love
Preparedness
Knowledge
Communication

Those are qualities we all share at the core of our soul and when we are at our lowest point, we find a way to fight back and win.

To all my friends, family, co-workers and strangers that are on the path of Sandy, the rest of world has you in their thoughts and we will stay with you every step of the way until we know you are safe once again.

Yankee Stadium: A Father Son Journey

It was the final year of the house that Ruth built (1923-2008).

It was a warm Saturday in April, 2008 for the opening weekend at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers were starting the final year at the iconic landmark that not only had been the home to the greatest sports franchise in the world but the inspiration for dreams for nine decades. With the spirits of Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle, Maris, Howard, Dickey, Mercer, Martin, Rizzuto and so many more in the air, a game at the Stadium was so much more than nine innings of entertainment; it was a testimony the the purity of competition, family, patriotism and legend.

As my father and I spend entered the subway in Manhattan after spending the morning with my brother, we could feel the anticipation as we moved quickly from the underground passageway to that famous above ground stop adjacent to the stadium in the Bronx on East 161st Street. The staleness in the air was subsided by the vision of men and women with Yankee Jerseys cheering and talking as the journey for one final World Series at Yankee Stadium was underway.

As we funneled out of the subway and set eyes on that vision, one can only feel a sense of honor. I know there are seven wonders of the world but if you grew up in the tri-state area, this was one of them. For my father who was a New Yorker, born and raised, this had to mean much more. This is a man who rarely misses a game. 162 up and 162 down. It could be TV or radio but he is there for his Bronx Bombers.

Vendors selling programs, the smell of hot pretzels and beer and one hour to game time. We finally got in and trekked up the ramp to our seats behind home plate. The grass never looked greener. Monument park was a vision with permanent etchings of the achievements of the greatest players in team history and Sam Shepard’s voice over the speakers.

Just a few years earlier we had taken a tour of the stadium, bowing to the immortal words of Joe D as we entered. We walked on the outfield grass, viewed monument park, stood in the radio booth and just absorbed history as we sat in the locker room seeing Jeter next to Ruth and A-Rod next to Gehrig. Words cannot properly express the feelings that rushed through my head (and I grew up a Mets fan). This family commitment has also led us to Legends Field in Tampa, Florida for spring training for a number of games under the sun. This is indeed a family affair.

I remember the game vividly. We browsed through the calendar that each of us received at the front gate and glued ourselves to each pitch knowing that in seven months, on one undermined day, the final game ever would be played in Yankee Stadium. It was not until two years later that the stadium was finally taken down, but when the final pitch came, that was the end. That was our goodbye.

We even got a free subway ride back to Manhattan. What a bonus.

Buildings, stadiums and landmarks come and go. Change is part of life and we must accept that life moves forward. What we take with us are the memories. This wasn’t as dramatic as losing the Brooklyn Dodgers to California as my mother would say, but losing the stadium was losing a piece of my childhood and innocence. As a child, we look to our heroes to help us define who we are and who we want to be. I still remember meeting Bucky Dent at a mall in Jersey, pretending I was Dave Winfield or Willie Randolph while playing at the park and collecting baseball cards til I turned blue.

Baseball is America’s past time. It is also a foundation for family. It has and continues to bring fathers and son’s together uniting on Saturday afternoons to cheer on our teams. Last year, I got a call that I got approved to take on a new challenge at work, one that I was so proud of and worked very hard to develop and justify. Where was I at the time I received the call? I was at the Yogi Berra Museum and Historical Center with my Dad watching the history of baseball evolve before our eyes.

It doesn’t take much to create a lifetime memory between a father and son. Some are meaningful and some are forever stored in the memory bank of our minds. On one warm Saturday afternoon in 2008, my father and I sat together overlooking a wonder of all sport and shared a moment that we will both remember always.

From my very first bike ride in the snow getting the original pack of baseball cards that started my childhood obsession and flipping cards to see what my brother and I would end up with to smelling the grass while the young stars warm up, baseball continues to be a very important part of my life and no thought of baseball ever goes by without the thought of sharing it with my dad.

Thank you Dad for the memories secure in my thoughts and the ones to come in the future..

Sometimes Celebrities and Music Can Make a Difference…

Music is the core foundation of all existence. It is the the soundtrack the defines our memories and shapes our emotion. For centuries, composers, songwriters, poets and singers have penetrated our core feelings and taken them to new heights. Some force us to address critical life issues while others help us remember the moments that shaped our lives.

Life is a journey filled with challenges and euphoric experiences. Each day we begin a plight of awareness which culminates in a book of memories that defines our meaning during this lifetime. It is the music and lyrics that provide the background during this journey.

Not only is music entertaining but has the ability to provide a powerful message of awareness. Awareness of the world and assistance in the mission of peace and resolve.

Disaster and tragedy have a way of bringing people together and for a brief moment uniting to help come to a rational place where we can justify the suffering. It is these moments of absoluteness that our deepest emotions comes to light. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of musicians that believe the power of their song can make a difference, we are able to find a home for these emotions.

This is a tribute to those singers, songwriters, bands and artists who have given so selflessly to a cause and helped the world become aware. Without asking for assistance, they reach out to our inner child and plead to our sense for relief.

These are some of the most infuential, emotionally driven, and powerful performances that have raised money, shaped policy and brought so many together for a common cause.

Thank you for the performances.
Thank you for believing.
Thank you for giving us a voice for those that cannot.

The Peace of Technology: The Day Jobs, Warhol and Lennon Came Together

“We went into Sean’s bedroom – and there was a kid there setting up an Apple computer that Sean had gotten as a present, the Macintosh model. I said that once some man had been calling me a lot wanting to give me one, but that I’d never called him back or something, and then the kid looked up and said, “Yeah, that was me. I’m Steve Jobs.” And he looked so young, like a college guy. And he told me that he would still send me one now. And then he gave me a lesson on drawing with it. It only comes in black and white now, but they’ll make it soon in color. And then Keith and Kenny used it. Keith had already used it once to make a T-shirt, but Kenny was using it for the first time, and I felt so old and out of it with this young whiz guy right there who’d helped invent it.”

From Andy Warhol’s Tuesday, 9 October 1984 diary entry. It was Sean Lennon’s 9th birthday party.

October 9th, 1984 – The Dakota, Manhattan – The day that would have marked the 44th birthday of John Lennon and one shared with his son Sean. This day would be the celebration of the life of Sean Lennon though with an apartment filled with some of the most important names in the creative community coming to honor the off spring of a musical and spiritual legend. With all this wealth, power and celebrity shared, one gift, one guest would become the most important for the next 25 plus years. At the time, it was one day, one celebration and one moment.

The importance of this event would not be felt to the fullest extend until many years later. As we look back on the players and the single box object on the floor of Sean’s room, it is clear that this was a defining day in our history and our future.

A young, shaggy twenty something arrived with a gift no bigger than a breadbox to present to young Sean. It was a prototype of the new Mac Computer and the man presenting the gift was Steve Jobs. As he opened the box and put it on the floor sitting next to Sean, you could see a look of bewilderment as not only Sean but the guest list was not aware what this device was. Steve took the next few minutes to insert a floppy disk and install the art/design software. With a short tutorial and the swift movements of the mouse, Sean and Steve were creating digital art.

It was only a few minutes later that art and pop culture icon Andy Warhol stepped into the room and observed this device and the images on the screen. He sat down next to Steve and Sean and raised the mouse into the air, looking closely and trying to figure out how this mechanism worked. Steve reach over and began to lower his hand and the mouse to the ground and instructed Andy to just move it along the ground and that would translate to the screen. Like a grown child, Andy began to play. Soon the simplest of images was born on this monitor. Andy Warhol then stood up and announced to the crowd that he had created a circle.

With the spirit of John Lennon air apparent in the room, there was an aura of two visionaries. One that pledged the release of all material value to preserve the ideals of peace for all humanity and one that would revolutionize the entire culture of communication, computers, film and music. With Andy Warhol presiding over the church of Lennon, the marriage of the spirituality of the past and future were joined bridging two generations and forever changing the world as we know it.

John Lennon and Steve Jobs were born with an amazing gift of vision and insight and both were able to use their greatness in the pursuit of the greater good of mankind. Becoming vulnerable and naked, each opened themselves up to the unknown abyss to take the greatest leap so that we can be rewarded with a lifetime of wonder without boundary.

Both men taken before their time to their final resting place, but each one’s song continues to linger in the hearts and souls of every man, woman and child that dares to dream.

Throughout his illustrious career, Steve Jobs always generously showed his respect and admiration for those that influenced and inspired him. It does not take an obsessive Apple fan to see how much the music of the Beatles shaped his thinking toward his products, his customers, his family and his views on life.

How often do we find ourselves bearing witness to what seemingly is a just a moment in time, but much later realize the affect that moment had on the greater good. October 9th, 1984 on West 72nd Street, across from Strawberry Fields in Central Park, a group of people, on the floor of an apartment saw the vision of the future surrounded by the music of peace, love and harmony.

Help Recruiterpoet get on a Billboard in Time Square (Could you imagine!!!)

About.me is running a competition to determine the “Face of About.me” and through a democratic process of voting, try to determine who will be the potential faces of the their marketing campaign. Normally, we don’t jump at the idea of a contest, but being a native of the New York / New Jersey area, why not. Please lend your support by going to the site and clicking your support and voting Recruiterpoet.

It is this easy:

Just head to my about.me page and click “vote”:

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