Tulsa Protests the Betty Shelby Verdict

The images are blurry. There is live video at the end. This is my account of the protest.

Crutcher Shelby
Left: Shelby Right: Crutcher

Last night, I attended a protest in downtown Tulsa after a county jury found Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter. Officer Shelby shot and killed an unarmed black man, Terrence Crutcher, on September 16, 2016.

I was there from 10:55 pm to 12:30 am.

I resolved to attend once seeing a video posted by The Frontier showing an emotional woman screaming into the crowd, “Where are you Tulsa? WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?… I HATE this city.”


What an important question to ask. “Where are you, Tulsa?”

Where was her community? It was the police who took Terrence. It was the justice system who made it acceptable. But it was her community that left her abandoned.

So, I showed up for her. For Terrence. For all the inequities I have the privilege of never experiencing. I was downtown 10 minutes later.

Coming upon the steps of the Mayo Hotel on the corner of Cheyenne Ave. and 5th street, I saw a small but loud crowd gathered in front of the main entrance.

It was hectic.

Protest chants were drowned out by cries of injustice, loud arguments,  and other less peaceful calls. One man shouted, “Bring that murderous bitch out here,” and “Fuck your racist ass.”

I immediately searched for familiar faces: community leaders, attorneys, common activists of any sort and I found none. The only people I recognized were the local media as they assembled to document the protest.

Distressed was the mood and disorder was flooding the group of protesters.

Two female protesters grasped the attention of the crowd to affirm their actions. Then a man who was called “Pastor” went to the head of the crowd, I hoped, to bring order. But he too couldn’t contain the growing unrest.

I saw anger. I saw fear. But worst of all was the frustration. What does one do with so much strife? Where does one put it? There’s was no productive outlet for these people. The sense of helplessness was palpable.

Pastor reprimanded the group for not being productive. “Organize!” “Unite!” People shouted in response. Some contributed and some argued.

One man pleaded for guidance, “What can we do, Pastor? Tell us what we can do!” But he couldn’t or didn’t offer any direction, and the conversation devolved into a yelling match.

Some people questioned Pastor’s legitimacy claiming he was there on behalf of the Shelby defense to disperse the crowd. I caught up with him later during the protest and asked him for comment on the claim. He denied it, and said he had been there protesting since the beginning. A claim I heard him shout to dissenters many times over the night.

It was just before midnight now. More people had come, one and two at a time. Some to participate. Others to spectate.  But the group, without purpose, was losing its steadfastness.

To unify the crowd, a young protester armed with a small bull horn took to marching.

“No justice! No Peace!” Heading up 5th St., the chant echoed off the buildings, and half of the nearly 100 protesters followed in unison. But the others stayed wandering about. Taking pictures. Updating statuses. The group had splintered.

The media was confused. The crowd, now separated, left them wondering who to follow. But the marchers returned reconvening with the group at the Mayo and they collectively decided to move the protest.

As most of the crowd moved toward the courthouse, a new voice found its way to the streets.

“Stop, look, and listen. That’s all you fucking gotta do.”

It should come to the shock of no one that these words were screamed by a middle aged white man. He repeated himself. His voice hoarse and rattled with adrenaline. His chant was quickly met with a “Fuck you!” And, “Go home, you redneck!”

I tried to discourage the man from creating unneeded confrontation, but two young black men quickly stepped up to engage the dissenter and I stepped aside. I headed down the street. (Video below)


At 5th and Denver the protest found new life.

Lined down the cross walk between the Tulsa County Courthouse and The Tulsa City Library the protesters blocked traffic on one of downtown Tulsa’s most used roads.

Traffic lights went red and green but no cars passed. N.W.A’s “Fuck the Police” was blasting across the intersection. And the crowd was growing.

When I arrived, a white SUV sped to confront the protesters and press its way through. Inching closer, horn blazing, the angry driver found his way through the line, but the protesters did not yield happily. (Video below)

Another car, a Jaguar driven by an older white woman honked her horn and verbally confronted protesters before getting through. Other cars turned away. Police cruisers set up a block south stopping further traffic and later north at 4th St.

It may have been late, and there weren’t many people on the road, but the protesters effectively shut down Denver Ave. at 5th St.

But what next? Escalation.

Protester in Light
Protester confronting police.

More police cruisers arrived at 6th and Denver. They whipped their cruisers around in unison creating a barrier at the intersection. Then a voice came over a loud speaker from the line of red and blue flashing lights.

Honestly, the whole message was difficult to hear because of the chanting, the echoes on the street, and the wind. But here is some of what I heard. Some of it is paraphrased.

“We respect your First Amendment right to protest… We are here to ensure no property is damaged… Please disperse or chemical agents will be used.”

Chemical agents.

At any one time I observed about 150 protesters in the crowd (not including media). I counted them. This wasn’t Baltimore. This wasn’t Ferguson. The protest didn’t engulf the arteries of the city. I witnessed no damage to property. It was collected at one intersection after midnight.

This threat came from a face they couldn’t see, a voice they could barely hear, from in front of the courthouse – the source of the night’s unrest.

The tension was at its peak. Members of the media were growing unsteady. And it was then I noticed a new leader had emerged among the protesters.

Young Leader
Addressing the crowd

A young woman addressing the crowd with a bull horn spoke quickly and confidently.

“We are not going anywhere… This is our right… This is how we show them… This is how we fight… If we know our history, we can do better.”

This was the leader the group needed. The protesters, arms now locked, defied the police vigorously.


“Arrest US!”

“Shoot US!”


The police warnings repeated. The defiant chants continued.

But after some time, the warnings stopped. And some air seemed to be let out. Tempers were calming. Nerves were settling.

I overheard discussions. Plans. Where to meet. What to do from here. Media interviews resumed in the street and on the sidewalks.

A reporter for News on 6 spoke to his crew coincidentally right next to me. He reported the police would NOT forcibly disperse the crowd if they stayed at this intersection and kept peaceful.

The threat was hollow.

As word made its way around the group. The media, discouraged by the lack of conflict, began packing up. Except for a few stragglers.

I wandered around a bit speaking with a few of the protesters. The mood seemed overall unchanged. But there was a small sense of accomplishment.

Spending a few minutes on my phone, I overheard. “We’re going to Guthrie Green!”

The crowd, now drained of energy, pulled slowly from the streets and onto the sidewalks. Some people were heading to the cars, and some towards Guthrie Green. But the protest had deflated.

This was when I left. I got home at 1:00 am.

Even as I was live tweeting my experience, people responded calling the protesters thugs and fools and rioters. Claiming they were damaging property. People from behind the comfort of a computer screen lying about what was happening in Tulsa last night.

I witnessed no damage to property. No rioters, just angry but peaceful protesters without community leaders. And frankly, that’s what I find most troubling.

Additional photos and live video below.

5th St View
Coming upon Denver Ave.
The man called “Pastor”
White Man
White man challenging protesters.
The Bunny
Of course someone brought a bunny to a protest.
Guthrie Green Depart
Crowd dispersing, heading to Guthrie Green.



It’s Time for The End of the World… Isn’t it?

I’m reassured to see the morning clouds beautifully blue glazed with warm pink rays instead of the blood red sky I had been promised. No demon howls or raining frogs, just chirping birds and morning dew. The coffee shop too opened this morning without incident shuffling people in and out just like yesterday.

But it’s not just like yesterday. It’s time for the end of the world… Isn’t it?

Maybe it has to warm up first, the apocalypse, like an old car’s heater on a cold morning. Which is surprising to me. I thought our world’s doom-bringer had been on standby since we really started fucking things up with denim jackets and keytar solos.

Maybe he’s just running late. Lots to celebrate last night for people of his ilk. I’m sure he’ll roll over in his gloomy bed to see his gloomy clock and he’ll say aloud, “Shit, my boss is gonna kill me.” Yeah probably, but at least it’s bought us some time. Hasn’t it?

I’m weary though. Things seem usual, but I look at everyone with a skeptic’s eye. Like it’s already started and I just can’t see it. The child near me is a dead giveaway. Too happy. It’s a ploy. With her bouncing curls and dripping milk bottle, she’s an agent of the SS variety. Her parents too. And especially the old guys behind me sharing a paper. All of them. I’m surrounded by fiends waiting to burst forth from their flimsy guises of tired American workers. Any moment they’ll start rounding up people with skin tones darker than a non-fat soy latte… won’t they?

But it’s coming still. I know it. Soon there will be steeds. You know, horses of death. Fiery ones with blood dripping from their rotted eye sockets ordered by impolite angels of death. And they’ll command the camps to open up for the ones that shouldn’t be here and the walls to be built to keep the “them” away from the “us.” And they won’t be very considerate. Right?

The sun will probably be blotted out soon. The unholy smoke will rise and the ground will growl and open with cavernous pits of fel-flame and then the show will really get started. Down from below, from his dusty orange realm, our new leader will rise and make ruin on this earth atop the ashes of healthcare, gay marriage, and modern liberalism he will build his throne. Won’t he?

Or, maybe not… Maybe Armageddon isn’t happening. Because the morning is still getting on and quite normally I might add. Maybe I’m just in shock. Maybe I’m just scared. Maybe I’m just angry. Actually, it’s all of those, and maybe I’m just figuring it all out.

I guess what I’m saying is, life is still going. Somehow America is still going. And we should figure this out together. Because the things I – the things WE care about are legitimately at risk. The media and the uninformed have had a ball with all the hyperbole of hope and despair. But it’s real life now, and giving up isn’t an option.

Good journalism deserves our time.

Thanks to a blog post from The Frontier, I got to thinking about the quality of information the media provides us and I had to remind myself of something:

There are real journalists out there doing real work.

So much of our journalism is made up of clickbait stories – the sort of ad driven material that keeps us satisfied, complacent, and well informed of increasingly useless information. Here are some examples I took from today’s headlines:

“Law school changes name after Scalia acronym gaffe” -USAToday.com
“Sarah Slimed? Palin threatens to sue celeb over gang-rape tweet” -Foxnews.com
“Schumer: I’m not plus-sized” -CNN.com
“New twist in DC Madam saga” -MSNBC.com
“You Can Rent Brooke Shields’ Mansion for $35,000 a Month” -ABCnews.go.com
“Convention chaos all but assured” -Huffingtonpost.com

Of course, there were more important stories headlined on their homepages, but these stories were featured. And that’s not a great thing.

Well, why are they featured? Because they’re easier to read and that’s important for revenue.

Posts like the ones I listed above are short, in many cases less than 300 words and their content is a simple as their headlines. So, it takes less time to read. These stories get two seconds of our attention, and then we move on to other ones just like it. Which means the media outlet gets more views. More views equals more ad revenue for the site.

A story that takes thirty minutes to write is just a click and a tweet away from 50K views. This thirty-minute piece can generate more ad revenue than a six-month investigative piece and cost significantly less to produce. This is how money decides heavily what gets reported on in US media and what doesn’t.

As news has shifted to online content, our news outlets receive less money from cable providers and periodical subscriptions. So, they have to make their money in ways that can influence their reporting.

Business models have had to change in order for these sources to survive, and in many ways, I think their return on investment is more important than ethical practice. And the public suffers for it.

If knowledge is a weapon, then these irresponsible sources are loading us up with blanks. But it’s not entirely their fault.

The public has told the media to make our important issues as simple to consume as the superfluous ones. And they listened.

I’m not just talking about gossip blogs or editorialized reporting. It’s the damage a cheaply formulated headline can inflict upon a public who has been taught that truths are single issue, one sentence stories. Never complex. Never worth more than the first few words of a story flanked by ads generated by our browser history.

This practice has boiled down the public. It has reduced us to a stunted mass of talking point dispensers.

Important events in our society are rarely single sided. Particularly involving government matters. We’re pissed about our elected leaders doing so little. Well, it shouldn’t be shocking to learn that an uninformed electorate has produced an uninformed government.

The masses must be able to think about important items critically. To do this we need the heavy hitters to go out there and get the entrenched stories that aren’t just a Google search away. We need patient and driven journalists who report intricately on multifarious stories.

Unfortunately, these stories don’t always get the attention they deserve. But we have the power to change that.

The consumers, the clickers, the readers and watchers, we need to be rewarding the right sources with longer interest. Their material deserves more than a tweet’s worth of our attention, because it’s the deep reads, the ten-thousand word essays, the products of multi-year research efforts and freedom of information law suits — these are what bring foundational truths to the public. Not the superficial anecdote behind a tween’s wardrobe decision, but rather a narrative of institutionalized corruption woven deeply and fraudulently into our lives.

It’s these stories, these journalists who don’t just change a dinner conversation. They change governments. Literally.

Sources for trustworthy news and media seem to be harder and harder to find. So, if you’re lucky enough to come across one, support them. If not monetarily, then at least with the one currency that decides where ad money goes: your attention.

Hey Democrats, chill the fuck out.

Seven months separate us from the general election, and a lot can happen between now and then. So, for all the Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters ready to choke each other out, how about you chill and read some reasons why need to take it easy. And enjoy my flagrant use of the f-word.

The primary is not even close to being over. We have three more months of democratic primaries. That’s right, three-fucking-months. And as of today, Hillary only has a 6% lead in pledged delegates. Not 30, not 20, fuck not even 10. Only 6% of pledged delegates separate Bern and Hill. I’m not trying to make that sound bad, my point is that the race is close.

It is a paramount public fucking transgression for any voice in the media to say that this race is over and that either candidate needs to throw in the towel. Because it’s not over. Not even remotely. I’d advise that they have a coke and a smile and shut the fuck up. Especially, the click whores: Huffpo, Slate, Vox, Salon, and hopefully one day this blog.

There are still 2,042 delegates up for grabs. Yeah, we’re barely halfway through this contest with some delegate rich states left to be had. Both candidates have similarly won big, and fucking embarrassed themselves in certain states.

Bernie lost the south ranging from 16-20% of the vote. But you know what, Hillary lost the west by the same damn numbers. If you think it’s over, you are mathematically fucking stunted.   

Super delegates are fucking stupid. “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.” That is a direct fucking quote from DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. You can watch her say this here.

Everyone should be angry tweeting the fuck out of her right now, because a leader within a democratic government happily admitted there is a tool in place to make it inherently undemocratic. I mean, this is bonkers, right? Yes, other Barry, yes it is.

Super delegates exist to make sure the voters can be overridden by UNELECTED members of the democratic party who don’t have to answer to the party’s electorate. What in the actual muddy toed fuck is that about?

Well, it means these folks can vote for whomever the fuck they want to, and they don’t have to commit support to a candidate until the convention. Which would be fine if I were a super delegate, and if you were super delegate, and every registered fucking democrat was a super delegate. BUT WE’RE NOT. We are second class voters in our own damn party. #thanksobama

Contest is good. No one should be handed an election, and if you think someone deserves leadership because it’s their turn, you need to walk right off into the dusty fucking sunset of useless cock-bagery.

A challenged primary is good for a few reasons. One being the very platform of the democratic party has become a topic of discussion among people who might otherwise not be involved. When was the last time democrats were so engaged about the principles of their candidate?

Think of how fervently you’ve had to defend your candidate against the other. This has allowed me to realize what I think is most important in our democracy, and I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. That wouldn’t be happening if the primary went without challenge.

We need to unite the party…. That’s Bullshit. You know what, we don’t have to be all snuggly-fucking-wuggly right now. This is the time for the party’s values to be most diverse and discussed to make sure that we keep evolving. So that new and, god forbid, RADICAL ideas are considered. This is how we can remain the progressives we claim to be.

The DNC may have their successors well planned for years to come, but I vote for the best interest of my country and all of its citizens, not for the interest of a political damn party, and that’s what you should be doing also.

What I’m saying is if a candidate wants my vote, then his or her policies should represent my ideals or convince me otherwise. Don’t tell me to abandon someone who represents my beliefs so your party can retain power. That is fucking nonsense.

Work for my vote. So, the big thing right now is that Bernie and Hillary supporters should come together once our candidate is decided. People seem to be pretty mad/concerned/insane that some Bernie supporters might not support Hillary seven months from now. Well, I’ve got something to say about that.

Chill the fuck out. Again, that’s seven months away, and a lot can happen before then. Specifically, there’s a chance that once a candidate is chosen, they may not seem so bat fucking crazy to the other’s supporters. And moreover, they should have to work to bring us together.

It’s the responsibility of the candidate to reach me and convince me why I should vote for him or her. It will be Bernie’s job to win over Hillary’s supporters by the time we reach the fall, just as it will be Hillary’s job to win Bernie’s peeps over. They don’t get to coast until November. As soon as the nomination is secured, they better turn the fuck up hard and fast.

The candidates shouldn’t get our support by default. That’s some political party bullshit. They’re good at convincing us otherwise, but they work for us. There is plenty of time for my opinion to be swayed between July and November. I hope that’s the case for a lot people. But if not, then that’s on the candidate. Don’t blame the voters for not wanting to support someone with whom they can’t connect.

Don’t give up. Seriously, don’t quit because some after fuck wash of a pundit says that’s what needs to happen. I expect Hillary supporters to be fighting just as fervently as Bernie supporters. And they should be going at it like two Irish ex-girlfriends in a port-a-potty all the way to the end of the primary race. I mean the real end. We deserve that sort of dedication from our candidates, and damn it, they deserve it from us.

This election cycle, we’re lucky enough to have candidates that we believe in, and you know that isn’t very common. So, don’t concede when there’s still a fight left. Yes, the victor of this contest will have to work twice as hard to bring us together, and they may have less time to do it if this thing lasts until July. But that’s fucking democracy. The real kind. Not the Debbie Wasserman Schultz kind.

*Lifts pinky. Sips tea.


Questions/Comments on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


How many times do we have to watch Bruce Wayne’s parents die?

Is the whole movie in slow motion? I hope the whole movie isn’t in slow motion.

Who uses a 35mm camera?

Did you know Jimmy Olsen was in this movie? Shut up, no you didn’t. No one did.

Why doesn’t Clark Kent get in trouble for never being at his desk?

Why didn’t Clark Kent get fired for not writing about the sports game?

Why doesn’t The Dailey Planet have sportswriters?

How does The Dailey Planet even fucking exist?

Did people really think Superman killed those guys with bullets and not, you know, laser fucking eye beams? Bruhhhh.

Why does Lex Luthor hate Superman. No, really. Why does he hate Superman? The neck beards are struggling with this one. I can feel it.

So, Alfred was pretty much a nagging mother. Why not take it a step further and make him a super flamboyant gay uncle? Pretty sure Nathan Lane costs 25% of what Jeremy Irons does. Seriously, imagine the Bat Cave echoing with the high pitched yelps of Albert Goldman after the dinner tray is dropped onto the bat computer. FAB-U-LOUS.

Why are CNN anchors in this movie more than Superman?

Why wasn’t Doug Stamper in this movie?

The American government would have absolutely weaponized kryptonite.

For a vigilante, Bruce Wayne sure does get a lot of shut eye.

What the fuck were those green light bulbs in the box during the Knightmare?

Why is the internet calling it the Knightmare?

Superman’s cape doesn’t exist in the physical world.

Do you think that jar of peach tea was actually Lex Luthor pee? I hope it was Lex Luthor pee.

Where did Batman get that Iron Man suit? Is Stark Tower just across the bay too?

Why does Batman give any fucks about Superman? Because their moms have the same name? What? I MEAN WHAT?

Can we have a superman movie without space time sunbathing? #socalitysuperman

Did Batman really think Wonder Woman was with Superman? Because not only did he have his own intel on her, but he also had a nifty little Lex Corps. digital dossier on the Amazonian. Soooo…… why you always lyin’?

Why doesn’t Doomsday have any britches?

Why doesn’t Doomsday have any genitals?

If Gotham City was so close, why doesn’t Superman help its citizens? I mean, homie can’t hop the pond and pew pew over there for a minute?

If I were a white boy from Kansas and I used my mother’s given name, I’m pretty sure a hand would come out of nowhere and knock me the fuck out.

Did Wonder Woman think the footage of Cyborg looked like a video game?

Why is Batman never once called Batman in the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Seriously. He’s not.

What the fuck was Lois Lane doing in Gotham at all? Except to lay on Superman, hide the kryptonite spear, and drown trying to retrieve it? Oh, that’s right, to poorly fill terrible plot holes.

Have you almost drowned before? Neither have I, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull six foot one inches of Henry Cavill out of the water after nearly drowning. #justsaying

Why is the movie called Batman v Superman when they only fight for about 9 minutes of a 2.5 hour long movie? Like… like why?

So, just being around the Kryptonite spear incapacitates Superman. Then how the fuck is he able to fly like a hundred yards with enough force to pierce Doomsday with it in hand? SMH

Also, 66.7% of the good guy team can hold Kryptonite without being a bitch. Hey, super powered woman whose name we don’t use, CATCH THIS AND STAB THAT DUDE.

Why is the editor of a major metropolitan newspaper walking near the print press – let alone pulling one to read it? Uhh, that’ll be $1.50.

Was Clark Kent Amish? Because his Smallville funeral looked pretty fucking Amish.

Does anyone think Superman is really dead? Are these the same people watching M. Night Shyamalan movies?

Were there any post credit scenes? I ran out of there pretty quick.

Hillary Clinton’s Low-Key Advocacy, revising history, and hurting a community.

In an interview on MSNBC, Hillary Clinton credited President and Nancy Reagan for beginning a nationwide discussion of HIV/AIDS (video below).

“Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it.”

Thankfully, everyone with a tenuous grasp of modern history, let alone reality, was quick to correct the former Secretary of State. She later issued not an explanation, but at least an apology.

I’m trying to figure out how she could have made such a mistake. And I’m being extremely considerate to even call it a mistake. But where is her head at?

Trying to empathize, I wonder if she, just exhausted by the campaign, got prepped by a foolish staffer and she went into politician robot mode reciting talking points and memorized lines.If that were the case though, I’d expect her to hear what she said and immediately recant. But she didn’t. To her, in that moment, what she said was fact.

For everyone on the receiving end of that statement, we don’t have the luxury of such ignorance.

Many of us have lost someone to HIV or know someone currently living with the virus. Hearing Hillary Clinton, a self-proclaimed advocate for gay rights, say something like that wasn’t just offensive, but it hurt in a very deep, sensitive, and frightening place.


The Reagans didn’t begin a national dialogue on HIV/AIDS. In fact, they were absolutely fucking silent.

Even as a friend of theirs, Rock Hudson, who was struggling with the disease reached out for help. They turned their backs. Mr. Hudson died in 1985 of AIDS related complications.

But they weren’t completely silent, I suppose.

Reagan’s press secretary Larry Speakes was repeatedly dismissive to the reporter who pried the administration for comment on the epidemic and even joked about it.

The Reagan administration cracked wise about jocks and cruising while the disease ravaged the gay community in the 80s. Our friends, our families, our communities were disappearing right in front of us while Ronald and Nancy did nothing.

The Reagans were at worst cruel in their complacency, and at best ignorant. Never were they advocates.

Bad HillWhat I find nearly as disturbing as her Reagan comments, is Secretary Clinton’s use of the term “low-key advocacy.” This is what she used to describe Nancy Reagan’s nonexistent HIV/AIDS conversations.

If low-key advocacy is pretending a deadly epidemic doesn’t exist, then maybe that would explain how Hillary Clinton describes her stances on marriage equality.

Maybe a low-key advocate is one who opposes marriage equality publicly on many occasions throughout her political career. You know, someone who doesn’t support it until it becomes politically safe and popular. For the record, Hillary Clinton didn’t publicly support marriage equality until 2013.

So, let’s call that low-key advocacy, but it sure as hell isn’t what brought marriage equality to the United States. We got it by being present, being loud, by being active advocates for equal protection under the law.

Hillary Clinton is a fair-weather friend of the LGBT community and her ignorant comments indicate how unfamiliar she is with our trials and our history.

On gay rights alone, I can’t in good conscience support Hillary Clinton for president. Her actions, and her words still, bring enormous burden to the LGBT community.

I just experienced real serendipity 18 years in the making.


There is a melody I’ve known for many years, but I could never name it. I whistle it. I sing it. My fingers instinctually find the keys when I meander in front of pianos.

I don’t know how I learned it, but I know I didn’t make it up. Over the years, I’ve added to it though. I’ll whistle out variations – all a little different, but the original is always the same. And before tonight, I never gave it any thought.

I mean that. You know how you don’t think about breathing until you think about breathing? This melody is like breathing to me. I could be humming it for hours without knowing I’m doing it. While I work, walk, read. Anything in between. It would be in my head for days and then disappear for years.

At least, I think it would. Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t really pay attention to – well, things that I don’t pay attention to.

But tonight, while getting ready for bed, I began whistling the tune. At first, I didn’t realize I was even doing it. My tired brain and body were just going through their nightly duties to get me in bed, and put me to sleep.

I must have been laying down whistling in the dark for five minutes before I recognized what I was doing. And it was then I finally had a cognitive reaction.

I sat up. What is this? How do I know this? What is this damn song!?

After years without more than a passing thought, this melody was thoroughly on my mind and I decided to figure it out. So, I kept whistling.

I repeated the tune, and my brain started sorting memories and knowledge of songs. Why had I not done this before? How could this song sit so far back in my brain? It didn’t make sense, but neither did this exercise so late at night. So, I just kept whistling.

There aren’t any words to the melody, at least none that I know of. So, it must be a symphonic piece. Something I’ve listened to over and over again – as I often do with music. Or maybe it was something I played. That made me think of high school. We played so many songs in band – and it was so long ago. How could I possibly remember? Whatever, just keep whistling!

That was the first discovery of the night. While trudging through my ever foggy memories, I could hear whistling in my head. Not melodies, but tones starting low and gradually going higher and higher in pitch like sirens. Like bombs. LIKE BOMBS!

And immediately, I knew it. The whole thing came back to me so quickly. There was a piece we played in high school wind ensemble that told a story about the bombing of a city during a war. At least that’s how I described it back then.

The arrangement was unconventional, difficult, and unlike anything I had known at the time. It was chaos. Actual chaos. There are pieces of each movement that just by hearing you’d guess they were random and unplanned.  Sharp percussion sounds would crash unexpectedly. Horns would wallow out noises and drag on seemingly out of time. And whistling damn it! The score called for whistling and even human screams! Unreal!

It was war. Like I said before, it was music about a bombing. It was a song not only about fear, turmoil, and mourning, but its method would incite those emotions in the audience to make for a very visceral listening experience.

Uh, finally! I was immediately satisfied and it didn’t take too long at all. Score one for me.

I let the memories play through my head like a news reel. The rehearsals. The performance. I remembered remarking to a fellow student that the song was impossible and that I didn’t like it. But I also remembered the eerie silence that fell over the auditorium when the last sound from the stage fizzled out. The chills were palpable. The emotions raw. It was a great, great, great piece of music.

But of course it was! After all I’ve been reciting its chief melody for nearly two decades. But despite the memories rushing back so vividly, I still couldn’t remember the name of the song. In my head, I saw the notes on the pages, but not the title at the top. How aggravating!

So, without much expectation and little bit of a laugh, I typed the follow into the Google search bar:

“classical piece bombing”

I expected a bevy of unrelated sites to come back, but to my surprise the very first item was a video titled, “Symphony No. 1 (Dresden Bombing).”

I was floored. I sat back in disbelief. Dresden. It couldn’t be.

This discovery put my mind in a whole new direction, and I said out loud, “Matt, you are a fucking idiot.”

This is true. And sometimes the universe lines up circumstances just so that this truth becomes prodigiously clear to me.

I should explain.

This is going to go in a couple of different directions, so pay attention.

Little sidebar here: I worship history. I love knowing about the events that made everything we know. I love museums and all things ancient. I think there’s power in longevity, and legacy, and tapping the infinite stories of the epochs before our own. And I want that power. BUT, and this is hard to admit, I don’t really like learning it.

I know how absurd that is. But it’s true.

I want to know history. I just don’t like devoting the thought and time to obtaining it. Again, I know THAT IS STUPID. But a spade is a spade.

Now, I’m confessing this because I think it’s important to point out how fucking ignorant I was as a teenager. Before two days ago, I’d swear I never heard of Dresden.

Operating with the knowledge I now obtain, I can say there’s a good chance that probably isn’t true. And I say that confidently, because I had good teachers in high school.

One history teacher in particular, whose name I cannot recall, was probably one of the best teachers in the state at the time, or at least the district. And I’d bet anything that he taught me about Dresden. But I’d also make a bigger bet that I, at the time, probably just didn’t give a fuck.

To compound this embarrassment, I’d further bet a couple of fingers that my band teacher most likely took the time to explain the story of the bombing of Dresden further indicating the profound significance of Symphony No. 1. But can I recall that? Nope.

I mean it, I’m embarrassed. For all the things I can now remember about this piece of music, I can’t recall having anything more than blinding ignorance about the story it told. To me, it was just about the bombing of a city during a war. My shame is profound.

Now, I have since learned about Dresden, but I didn’t do so tonight.

Recently, I took up an ambitious, and quite uncharacteristic, reading agenda. Over time, I’ve established a diverse literary bucket list built with autobiographies, short stories, rudimentary novels, epics, and poetry. And on this list is an author who, among my most intellectual friends, is held in very high regard: Kurt Vonnegut.SHF

Two days ago, I began reading Slaughter House-Five late at night and only pushed through a little past chapter one. But by the end of page 29, I had committed to figure out what the hell this Dresden place was and why it was so damned important. So, I flexed my Google skills, and spent some more time reading, nay, LEARNING history.

I learned about the tragedy of Dresden and the resonating shame it cast upon the allies. And it was sad.

Over the course of a few days in mid-February, 1945, the British Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces fire bombed the city of Dresden killing an estimated 25,000 people. The majority of whom were civilians including war time refugees, and also POWs.

In the years and decades to follow it would be learned, though highly debated, that the bombing of Dresden did little to support the Russians on the eastern front as its architects indicated.

Dresden, zerstörtes Stadtzentrum
The Ruins of Dresden.

This was a very somber lesson for me. But it pales in comparison to the sobering realization I experienced earlier tonight when I learned the title of that song. That phenomenal piece of music so impactful that its melody stayed with me for nearly two decades hidden just behind my memory. A tune that I have toyed with countless times without consideration for the lives, the event, the tragedy that it represented. I am still ignorant.

So, let’s piece this together.

After years of procrastination, I finally begin reading Vonnegut’s Slaughter House-Five. I immediately become intrigued by this German city. And not two days later am I unconsciously whistling a tune to which the tragedy of Dresden is dedicated. Please imagine the colossal sigh of disappointment I expelled over my pooling humiliation.

In the few moments after declaring aloud that I was, and still am, a fucking idiot, I let the shock and shame filter through me. It was time to face the music.

Like walking into the principal’s office after getting caught, I selected the best quality recording of Daniel Bukvich’s Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945). And for the first time I understood the enormity of its tale. Never again will I make that melody without respect to those it honors.

Below is the same recording I first heard earlier tonight. Please take a few minutes and listen to a very unique and moving piece of music. Get to know the melody that I have known so unwittingly well over time.

I pledge to get better at this. I don’t enjoy my ignorance. My increasing knowledge shouldn’t be at the behest of circumstance, but at the demand of my desire to know more. This lesson will be filed away with the others, but none can be called more serendipitous than how I came to learn about Dresden and the unknown melody.

Thanks for reading.