Love, Communication, & Car Theft

Who’s the guy that said something inspirational about your true character being revealed through trial?

Was it Winston Churchill? He sounds like someone who would say something like that.

Eh, I’ll figure it out. Anyway, the whole point of that opening quote was to set you up for the story, so now you know what you’re in for.

Let’s set the scene, shall we? It’s a chilly Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. I am on a break from a Communications course I’m taking through Landmark Worldwide. I’ve been taking these personal development courses through Landmark since September of last year, and my world has been getting transformed. As a 31-year-old single dude, I could not think of a better gift for my future marriage than to get a headstart on learning how to communicate with the future woman I will spend the rest of my life with. This course has been incredible so far, and it’s only the first day! Things are getting illuminated to me that I never thought about, and my world is getting rocked for the better.

That is, until I get a text from my mom.

You knew that was coming, didn’t you? The setup, and then the inciting incident! I’m getting better at this stuff.

My mom’s message reads “Did you write a check to Manuel Cory Evans?”

“I have no idea who that is,” I replied.

“You better call Chase,” she said.

So, I get on the phone and contact the Chase representative that left me a voicemail, and I find out that someone tried to cash one of my personal checks at one of their branches in Richmond, CA.

How on earth would someone in Richmond have access to my checkbook, you ask? Easy. In my absentmindedness, I made a couple of not-so-smart decisions. The first being that I forgot to take my checkbook out of my glove compartment in my car after writing a check to pay a bill. The second being parking my car in the BART parking lot in Richmond, CA.

Calmly, I call the BART police station and ask them to check on my car and see if there had been a break-in. I give them the parking space number and the description of my car, and wait for them to call me back. I get a voicemail two hours later telling me that they couldn’t find my car in the parking space.

What is surprising to me is how calmly I’m going about this as it’s happening. I think this would have sent the old Ryan into a panic where I end up in the fetal position crying for my mom. Not this Ryan, though. This Ryan is solid as a rock. Seriously, though, what is there to do? I can’t do anything until I’m able to get back to Richmond after the course is over on Monday morning. So, there’s no use panicking about it at this point.

I decided that I was going to be in action and get all the information I needed so that when I got back to Richmond to file a police report, I was going to be ready. This entailed back-and-forth phone calls between my dad and I, exchanging information like registration numbers, account numbers, VIN numbers, etc.

During this time, the Communications course is still going on, and I am learning so much about how I have been withholding communication from people I love just because they don’t communicate in a way that I understand. A good example of this would be my communication with my dad. My relationship with my dad is fine, it’s not like there’s anything dire going on, but I’ve always felt like there was a lack of love from his end because he is not the kind of person who would audibly say it. Call it a generational thing, or something else, I’m not sure. But I’ve always had a hard time communicating with my dad because I’m someone who definitely expresses my emotions audibly. When I wouldn’t hear from my dad that he loves me, sometimes it has a hard time sinking in that he does.

Love is communicated in many different ways. As the course leader for the Communications course said this weekend, “Love begins in listening.” I was so focused on how I liked love being communicated to me, that I almost missed how my dad was expressing his love for me by what he was doing. Here is a man who jumped in to give me all the information I needed in order to get a jump on getting my car back, even though it didn’t sound like recovering it was going to happen. A parent who didn’t love their child wouldn’t bother. It got me thinking about every other time my dad had stepped in to my aid when I really needed it throughout the years. If it wasn’t for him having a conversation over burgers with me, I would have never changed my major from Music Industry to English, where I fell in love with the written word.

During one of our phone conversations that weekend, as I was really getting present to the love my dad had for me, I felt the urgency to speak up. I said, “Listen, dad, I know we don’t say that we love each other often, but I wanted to let you know that I see it. I see it in the way you’ve been helping me with this car thing, and the way you’ve given me advice, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. I just wanted to say that I love you very much.”

There was an awkward pause on his end, followed by an “…Okay…”, and then I hear, “I love you, Ryan.”

The day after I file a police report for my car with with BART Police Department (who were amazing, by the way. Shoutout to Officer Soto), and get a rental car secured, I get a call from my mom, telling me that my dad had found a car that was the same make, model, and color, that someone was selling in San Jose, and my dad bought it for me on the spot.

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I couldn’t believe it. I was going to have a new car by the time I got home, and since it was the same make and model, it would be like my car never left me.

Fast forward to the next day, and I see this in the driveway.

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If I ever had a doubt in my mind that my dad loved me, it ended for sure after that weekend.

I feel like it’s the same way with God. I like the New Living Translation of Psalm 103:2, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” There are going to be times that God’s voice seems silent and His presence is distant, but it’s a lie. And it’s when we remember the breakthroughs that He has brought us through in the past, we start seeing exactly how much He loves us.

Oh, by the way, they ended up finding my stolen car abandoned on the side of the road in Antioch, CA. It was intact with minimal damage to the outside. The inside, however, was a different story. I did find it funny that they had taken virtually everything in the car, but left behind my mother’s rosary that I had hanging on the rearview mirror. That good ol’ Catholic guilt goes a long way!

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Oh, and one more thing: They also caught the guy who stole it. When they got my car, it was full of many other stolen goods, which included clothes, makeup, credit cards, social security numbers, etc. He’s currently in custody and I’m awaiting the call to press charges. I gotta say, it was fun playing detective and working with the police, giving them all the information I had on the suspect in order to track him down.

Here’s to one of the most eventful weeks I’ve had in years, and I’m so glad it has a happy ending!

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Representation over Quality in Movies?

This was going to be a Facebook rant, however, I would be breaking my own rule about not reading other people’s posts that are almost like novels, so I moved it to a blog post, instead.
 
I almost never do this. However, it’s concerning a topic that I am the most passionate about, which is film, so I feel like I should add my voice to the conversation.
 
I just heard that Jon Favreau was hired to direct a new Star Wars series. Favreau gave me IRON MAN, my most favorite film of the MCU. He also gave me CHEF, a warmhearted comedy that I dearly love. And, he amazed me with his rendition of the live-action JUNGLE BOOK. So, when I heard this news, me, not necessarily being a Star Wars fanatic, was very happy. I feel like the franchise will be in more than capable hands.
 
Apparently, though, loud voices in social media didn’t feel the same way. I got on Twitter, and the first story I see is how a lot of people are upset that he got the job because he was another “straight white male”.

I’m being dead serious.

Nevermind the fact that Jon Favreau’s quality of work speaks for itself, both in critical reviews and in box office numbers. No, what we’re really concerned about is the fact that he’s a straight white male.

(By the way, I should insert here that I’m a straight white Conservative Christian male, so if that offends you, feel free to stop reading.)

A trend that I’ve been seeing in conversations surrounding the movie business is this idea about representation. Everyone wants their side represented, whether it be race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Here’s the thing, though: In regards to film, valuing representation over quality is a bad idea. When you care more about representation over quality storytelling, that’s a sure sign that the quality of movies are heading toward a downward spiral.

This was evident to me with the release of BLACK PANTHER, which I thought was a good movie. It was fun, funny, well-acted, well-directed, and I could appreciate the cultural representation of African culture in the film. However, when wanting to get into discussion about the film with those who value representation over quality filmmaking, I realized that it was a losing battle and it would be best that I bow out of the conversation. It looked like I couldn’t have an honest discussion about the film’s quirks and flaws without being labeled as a racist. And for someone like me who despises racism, that hurts.

Now, I’m not Ryan Coogler, the director of BLACK PANTHER, so I can’t speak for him. However, I would make the case that, if he and I ever got into an honest conversation, I’d venture to think that I don’t believe Coogler would want to be recognized simply for him being a black filmmaker. He doesn’t seem like that kind of guy. I think he would want to be recognized as someone who tells quality stories. And he does. Seriously, have you seen CREED? Good lord, that movie was fantastic.

The same case can be made with women writers and directors in Hollywood. Patty Jenkins with the awesome WONDER WOMAN, and Ava DuVernay with the incredibly moving SELMA, for example. I don’t think they would say that they were able to get the job of directing these quality movies because they are women. I think they would say that they had a specific vision they felt would resonate with the audience, and that they believed they were capable of pulling it off. And that vision, in the hands of anyone else, wouldn’t have the same effect.

And these women weren’t just handed the director’s chair. They paid their dues and then some, and had quality work beforehand that spoke to the studio executives and made them believe in their vision. If you don’t believe me, look up the “Miscellaneous Crew” section in Ava DuVernay’s IMDB page. There’s a good example of someone who kept on working hard, more than likely having to deal with tons of rejection along the way, and got their chance.

Or, how about John August, the screenwriter of films like TITAN A.E., BIG FISH, and FRANKENWEENIE. August has been in the movie business since the late 90s with writing his first film, GO, and has kept working steadily ever since. He’s also a member of the LGBTQ community. Again, I’m not sure he would say that his sexual orientation mattered in getting work, but it was the fact that he knows how to write good quality stories that resonate with the audience. In fact, he was a guest on a recent episode of the ID10T Podcast with Chris Hardwick where he mentioned that he is often brought on jobs that aren’t exactly the warmest atmospheres because he’s good at making people feel comfortable on set and can work with difficult people to get the job done. I don’t see how sexual orientation has anything to do with it. I see it as here’s someone who has put in work and has proven that he can do a job and do it very well, and that’s why he is trusted with certain projects. By the way, if you haven’t already, I would recommend checking out his podcast, “Launch”, especially if you’re an aspiring author, or indie author looking to the traditional publishing route. He details his journey in writing a novel and going through traditional publishing, and it’s really fascinating!

Now, listen. I think it’s important to hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Hollywood doesn’t have its issues. Clearly, this year has uncovered a lot of them. Sometimes, people are put in positions of power where they have no clue what they’re doing, and some really talented voices are more than likely passed up because of that. There’s a really funny story about the making of one of my favorite movies, BACK TO THE FUTURE, where the head of Universal Pictures didn’t like the title and tried to get them to change it to “Spaceman from Pluto” because, according to him, no one would see a movie with the word “Future” in the title. Steven Spielberg sent a memo back to him, basically saying “Thanks for the joke”.

Look, I would love for everyone to be represented in film, if that’s what they are passionate about. However, I care more about telling a good, engaging story than anything else. And yeah, maybe we do need more people in the big executive chairs that will pay attention to the voices that haven’t gotten a chance. Ultimately, though, when it all boils down, I think what they’re looking for are stories that will captivate. If we are solely focusing on representation, then we’ve missed the point in what makes film so great, and why it has lasted for as long as it has.

A True Scary Story

I know, I know. It’s a Halloween post that’s a couple days late. I was too busy binge watching Stranger Things 2 in all it’s and nostalgic splendor and glory, so FREAKIN’ SUE ME!!!

Anyhow, it being the Fall season (which, honestly, it only started feeling like Fall yesterday. Thanks, California), where the wind starts picking up at night time, creating that haunting whistling noise as it maneuvers around the trees, causing those long, finger-like branches to scratch up against your window pane, begging to be let into your room as you attempt to sleep comfortably, I figured nothing would suit this season better than a true scary story from my own life.

We are going to rewind the clock twenty-one years back to when I was nine-years-old. I was a pretty eccentric kid, and very sensitive (I still am pretty sensitive for the average thirty-year-old dude). I do like my fair share of scary movies, but I hate being scared. I remember every single time we would go to the video store, I would always feel drawn to the Horror section, but the mere look at a horror movie cover would be enough to give me nightmares for weeks, and I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and crying. Seriously, ask my parents. I’m surprised they didn’t agree to some gnarly, unorthodox parenting methods to shut my crying butt up so they could get a good night’s sleep.

I remember one night in particular, though, that has been forever singed into my memory as one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had to this day. This was no nightmare. I was wide awake for this one.

The house I lived in was an old house built in the 60s or 70s that liked to make creaking noises as the night went on. And me, being the super sensitive nine-year-old who had trouble going to sleep and staying asleep, was feeling particularly restless that night, and the creaking noises definitely didn’t help the situation. My younger brother and I shared a room together, and he was out like a light at this time. I always envied how heavy of a sleeper he was. Seriously, one time my mom had to douse cold water on him to get him up for school. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that on nights where I got really scared, I would ask to sleep in his bed with him.

My bed was positioned at the end of the room facing the door, and the door was left open, leading into the hallway, so that our parents could hear us if something happened. I can’t remember if I was asleep and was awakened by the house making the creaking noise, or if I was restless like usual and was trying to get to sleep, with my army of stuffed animals surrounding my bed like a protective shield against evil night time visitors. I, myself, was buried deep under the covers, with only a small opening to keep an eye on the door left open. That’s how I always slept. It’s the only way I felt safe to sleep.

There may have been a particular loud creak that startled me as I tried to get myself to sleep, but I just remembered feeling very on edge, like I was sensing something off. My heart started to pick up speed and I used my finger to lift up the edge of my covers to create a small opening, peering at my opened door. My night light was on in my room, but outside my door was just pure black nothingness. I stared at that nothingness for a moment, and then I felt my entire body freeze, as I saw something that still sends shivers down my spine as I recall it.

On the door jamb of my bedroom door, out of the black nothingness, a long brown, hairy finger crawled across it.

Then another.

Then another.

Those long, brown, hairy fingers were attached to a hand that grabbed the door jamb.

I had a scream ready, but it seemed so stuck in my throat since my heart had momentarily stopped, that I couldn’t get anything out. I could only gasp. That’s all my body was capable of doing at this moment.

The long, hairy hand lingered there for a beat. Since I was frozen in fear, too horrified to scream, and too numb to jump out of my bed and shut the door on that hand from Hell, I did the only thing I could in that moment, and that was close the peeping hole in my covers and stay perfectly still for as long as possible.

I remained frozen still for what seemed like an eternity, sweating profusely from lack of air inside my protective blanket casing, until I had to open up another peep hole to breathe. Carefully, I lifted the blanket with my finger once again and reluctantly peered out into the black hole that was outside my room. The long, hairy hand was no longer grabbing at the door jamb. It was just a door, once again.

I don’t know if I ever got back to sleep that night. I’m pretty sure I did, but when something like that happens, you don’t really sleep. It’s more like an 8-hour terror meditation. I remember trying to tell my mom what happened when she was driving me to school the next morning, but she dismissed it as a dream.

We’ve temporarily moved out of our old house in my hometown while my dad is performing some renovations on it. But, I’ll be damned if every time I come home for a visit and find myself in my old room, I don’t feel the slightest goosebumps on the back of my neck as I look at my bedroom door.

Happy belated Halloween, everyone! Sleep tight tonight!

Being a Champion

Right-o! My very first blog post on this thing, and I decided that it’s going to be a controversial topic, because what better way to start off than by shooting myself in the foot before I even begin! Right? Am I right?

All joking aside, this has been something weighing on my heart recently. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein being accused of sexual assault with overwhelming evidence, Hollywood seems to have been shaken up, and its foundations are feeling just a tad bit wobbly at the moment. Remember what Jesus said about the house built on sand? Yeah…

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of the #MeToo posts on social media. Let me make one thing perfectly clear so that there is no misunderstanding: I have the utmost respect for the women that have come out to share their experiences. It definitely takes a huge amount of bravery to do so. I also understand the anger following these posts. Clearly, there are deep wounds that need healing, and the anger is coming from those wounds, justifiably so. My intention here is not to demonize the #MeToo movement, itself. I’m glad it is out there. But, this also leaves me a bit troubled, because there is a flip side to this whole thing.

Along with these posts, there comes the question of where are the good, righteous men who are gentlemen, and who know how to respectfully treat a woman? I’ve seen a lot of those pop up as well. I have a hunch, but you may not like the answer. Track with me here, and hopefully you’ll see where I’m coming from.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

I believe that one of the big reasons why men have not come out and spoken against these awful acts are because our current culture has bought into this trend of shaming men. “Toxic masculinity”, “mansplaining”, “male privilege” are all terms that are getting thrown around right now, and at its core, I believe, is a hatred towards men.

Yep, there it is. I told you that you may not like the answer. Again, I am not trying to invalidate the wounds that women have suffered at the hands of really crappy men. After years and years of perpetuating a culture where women are looked at as objects, it only makes sense that it comes back this way. I’m only shedding a light on the other side of the coin. We need to identify the problem before getting to the solution. Stay with me.

Again, it’s not to say that men didn’t have it coming for all the ways we’ve mistreated women for more than a century. When the pendulum has swung one way for such a long time, when it swings back, it swings wide. But, this presents a problem for the men who are honorable, who are wanting to treat women with the utmost respect and reverence, because they know that men and women are supposed to be each other’s helpers. It seems like the trend is to throw out the entire batch just because of a few bad apples, but is that really fair to the rest of the batch that can nourish and provide fulfillment? It’s hard for men of honor to stand up and say anything for fear of being shamed for being a man in the first place, because that’s honestly what is going on. It breaks my heart.

Look, I get it. Men have a history of being jerks. The media has been portraying them as such since the 50s and very likely even before then. But just because that is how some men are, doesn’t mean that all men are. That is the danger of these current movements and ideologies that paint everything with such a broad brush.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where I saw my father treat my mother with the utmost respect, even when they disagreed with each other. I consider myself incredibly blessed by that. And I also understand that other people have not been so fortunate. Many men grow up in abusive households, only to become the abusers they hated. Why not, instead of shaming them for who they have become, we have compassion for their shoddy upbringing and come alongside them to champion who they are called to be? It doesn’t excuse what they’ve done, because they will need to answer for it, but what it does do is create the possibility for transformation in their life. And, it also creates the possibility for healing within women’s hearts who were damaged by said men.

See, I’m all for bringing the problem to light, but unless it results in healing for both parties, all we’ve done by posting up hashtags, retweets, and social media blackouts is just digital naval gazing. The problem gets brought up, but if there’s no outcome other than demonizing the other party, we’ve done nothing. And it’s going to be an endless cycle of mud-slinging at each other until something changes. Honestly, unless we want a repeat of things like the Weinstein’s and other big Hollywood honchos, along with what’s going on in our own backyards, don’t you think we could do with a change?

I believe authentic masculinity means emotional vulnerability, teachability, the willingness to protect, and being a champion of the other sex. A true man is open about his feelings, willing to accept coaching for areas they come up short, is a protector to what matters most to him, and is a cheerleader for women so they can rise to their destinies. And there are going to be areas where us men are going to come up very short. I know that I’ve struggled with pornography since I was 15 years old, which is the ultimate way of objectifying women, and something I am not proud of at all. I have been putting in the work to change that. I’ve spent time around healthy couples, learning how they communicate with each other, even when they disagree. I am so thankful for the men of honor in my life that have helped re-shape the way that I view and treat women.

So, where are the men of honor to speak out against what has been done to women? They do exist. They’re not unicorns. And, I’d like to think that, despite my struggles, I am one. But, what makes me afraid is that, if I speak up, I would be painted with a broad brush that tells me that I’m just like every other man. Yes, I believe we can be better, but we need the help of women, too, to champion men and call them out to their true destinies.

So, what does that look like, exactly, to champion each other? In my opinion, it means calling out each other’s gifts, reminding each other of who they really are, even if they aren’t exhibiting it in the moment. The Apostle Paul says to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, and he was meaning to align your thinking with the way that God sees you, not as you see you in the moment. Our human minds are subject to flawed thinking, and we are quick to go by how we see ourselves based on our own thoughts, or our culture’s thoughts about us, rather than the One who knit us in our mother’s womb. Martin Luther says that we need to hear the Gospel everyday because we forget it every day. The Gospel is as stated in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. While you and I were still a mess in our own sins, Christ died to rescue us from sin and death to raise us up as new creations. I would love to see more of both men and women calling out the goodness in each other rather than each other’s faults.

We were never meant to go this alone. We need each other to call us out of our shells and bring out the honorable warriors within. We cannot do this without each other. Please, partner with us and let’s build each other up. Please, be each other’s champions.