One Man’s Story: Why I Marched With Women on Trump’s First Day

By: Dan Beckmann/Orlando Sentinel
25 January 2017 

Last week, rather excitedly, I posted, what I thought was a fairly innocuous tweet; “Heading to D.C. for the March!”  I wrote.  So, I was surprised to read the first response.  Not because it arrived so quickly, I have nearly 10,000 followers.  Rather, because it came from a friend with an ambiguous quip. “Last I checked you were a man…is there something you’re not telling me?”  She wrote.  Surely my well-educated friend could not be so confused to think a Y chromosome would be a disqualification for taking part in a Women’s March?  Nonetheless, there it was.  That comment…hanging like a piñata, just waiting for me to crack it with a great big stick.

So, to my friend who wrote, what I’m sure she thought was a comment in jest, I guess there are some things I haven’t thought to tell you.  Allow me to fill you in on a few of them.

For 15-years, as a cameraman, writer, and producer with NBC News, I sat on the front line of many struggles.  This was the first time I would be at the epicenter of something of this magnitude as a participant.  I knew why I was marching because I had the checked boxes all filled out in my head; women’s rights, minority issues, climate change, education.  All the big ones.  But it wasn’t until I was nestled amongst a sea of pink hats and humanity that I realized why I was really there.  By the way, there were quite a few disqualified Y chromosome people marching with me.

Women, and those with minority voices, have always played crucial roles in my success.  They are too often underrepresented, undermined, and undervalued.  So, from what some might call my “privileged” seat in society, I felt it was even more important for me to walk out my allegiance to them.

I marched because Donald Trump promised to serve all people.  And so far, his immediate circle of influence lacks the diversity to make that possible.  Having him hear our voices from his new home on his first day in office was a great start. Not everyone who needed to be heard could be there, so I was marching for them…and for all the people who’ve made a difference in my life.

I marched for my mom, who as a single parent took odd jobs teaching tennis lessons, tending bar, and fixing lawnmowers.  Always making less than the guy next to her who did the exact same job.  My mom never failed to take a college course and never got a failing grade.  Receiving her doctorate 35 years after taking her first class.

I marched for, and alongside, my friends Kent and Caanan.  Showing up with my support to protect their right to stay married.

I marched for my daughter Lauren, and my friend Tiffany.  Each survivors of sexual assault who now must watch a man who’s bragged about assaulting women lead our country for the next four years.

I marched for those so confused that they now believe in “alternative facts.”

I marched for my friends who lost all hope, and got suckered by a manipulative liar who placed a large bet on their fears and won bigly.

I marched as a reminder to those “who won” that they cannot ignore those who didn’t.  And I marched as a reminder to our representatives in Washington that they are bound by an oath to represent all those in their districts.

I marched to promote a global community of diverse members. The outcry of values and priorities aren’t solely “American issues” with isolated consequences.  Millions of others, on all 7 continents, took part in over 670 solidarity events. Our leader may say, “America First”, but we cannot claim to be “America Only”.

And I marched for that friend of mine, the Twitter commenter.  Apparently, there were some things I didn’t tell you.  I’m glad I told you about them now so we can put down our phones and get to the business of building a brighter future for us all.  And that’s something worth tweeting and re-tweeting about.

 

 

In The Bullpen

I just turned 45.

As is typical around this time of year, I think about the friends I grew up with. How easy it was to hang out with them. Easy, because the only real responsibility we had back then was deciding whose turn it was to steal the Bartle’s & James from a parental refrigerator. We’d gather at the edge of the woods, smashing the neck of each bottle with a rock. Drinking our flavored pomegranate daiquiris, while spitting out the tiny shards of glass that always seemed to remain afloat. We discussed the important things in life: Rock n’ Roll, girls and baseball.

Nowadays, my friends and I carve out time together around chiropractic procedures. My AC/DC songs have been replaced with Miles Davis tunes. The girls we talk about are usually our daughters, how each year we’d get ignored just a little bit more at the Father/Daughter dances.

Baseball is still mentioned. Although, that’s usually to complain about overly excessive contracts of underperforming infielders. Oh, and no more hiding in forests while drinking wine coolers, either.  These days, my friends and I prefer the inky dark colors and bold tannins of an aged Malbec. Or nestling ourselves in the comfort of plush, leather chairs while sipping frothy lattes, snickering at the baristas sporting two haircuts, and prattling on about the harmful effects of the pink and blue packets of Splenda. Last week we spent half an hour arguing over who had the most accurate blood pressure reading booths: CVS or Walgreens?

Yes, “father time” is cruel. But his callousness for creeping up without warning is simply unacceptable. And I find it more than a little alarming that I can not only spell sciatica, I can point to it and describe its varying degrees of pain in great detail.

Sure, my friends and I wake up with a crick in our necks. Occasionally, we squint to read signs. People call us “sir!” and we’ve been known to use – from time to time – our iPhone lights to read menus. We talk far too much about portfolios and mortgages and too little about the importance of marshmallows in a bowl of cereal. Eating pizza isn’t as much fun as it was when we were kids, either. Probably because we have to pay for it now – in cash, carbs and saturated fat.

But just like that inky Malbec, there’s a difference between being aged and being old. I had the chance to test that theory not long ago at a private event at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Standing atop the pitching mound in the Cardinal’s bullpen, I closed my eyes … breathed in the moment … made my stretch … and delivered a perfect strike to the Cardinal’s catcher waiting 60 feet 6 inches away.

My shoulder felt a little sore after I threw, and my elbow tinged slightly. But I hadn’t bounced the ball. I may have been a little rusty on the mound, but I wasn’t old. I wasn’t even aged. Standing there … smiling at my accomplishment, I heard laughter. The hundreds who gathered behind me waiting for their turn to pitch had watched me throw a perfect strike. They’d also read the radar gun. It was flashing “29 mph” in bright red.

I only got one pitch in that bullpen. But just like these past 45 years it was only a warm up. I’ll throw harder next time. And when I do, I’ll have my friends with me. My arm might still be rubbery, but I have every confidence the radar gun will match my age. After, of course, I eat my own personal Breakfast of Champions: Count Chocula with extra marshmallows.

Prague’s Hotel Aria: An Orchestrated Original

I travel a lot. And while I’m not a proponent of spending a great deal of money for a hotel, I certainly enjoy the amenities of five-star lodging. Especially if the client is paying for it. I prefer instead, to eat and drink my way around a town. After all, it’s just a warm bed, soft pillow, and a state-of-the-art gym I’ll never use. But every now and again I stumble onto a place that not only piques my interest, but has me eating, drinking, and enjoying myself without ever leaving the grounds. Aria Hotel in Prague is one such place.

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Located in the historical center of Mala Strana, just three minutes walk to both the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, Aria is a 5-star musically-themed complex re-built nearly 15 years ago. But thanks to architects Rocco Magnolia and Lorenzo Carmelite, who are best known for working alongside fashion legend Gianni Versace, this elegant hotel feels as if it’s been in existence for centuries.

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Aria has curated a concept for a wide array of musical tastes: 51 suites, with each room dedicated to a specific style of music or artist with original artwork, books, Apple TV, and an iPad. The stylized icons range from classical and contemporary, to rock, opera, jazz, and blues. There’s a Billie Holiday room, a Mozart suite, even Elvis and The Rolling Stones have a space waiting for you.

Downstairs in the lobby, Dr. Ivana Stehlikova, the Aria Music Director greets every guest. With a PhD in Musicology, Dr. Stehlikova offers guidance on the various musical events that can be found throughout the city. Wander the lobby and you’ll find the Music Library, where you can browse through thousands of CD’s. Pull one off the shelf, hand it to the concierge, and the lobby will soon be filled with sounds of your musical choice.

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There’s a private screening room, a music salon, and CODA, a rooftop terrace restaurant with world class cuisine and a 360 degree view of the city. But perhaps the most stunning of all was the Vrtba Garden, Prague’s oldest Baroque Garden and a UNESCO World Heritage site. An ideal setting for weddings or just a stroll along the manicured pathways.

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Aria Hotel is a perfect blend of music and luxury that will have you singing. Even outside of the shower. It’s a place I will, most certainly, stay at again. And who knows? Maybe next time I’ll even take advantage of that gym.