Thursday, May 25, 2017

Monument Valley, Arizona

Recently bought a print of a road running through Monument Valley in Arizona. Had it mounted, hung it on the wall opposite my recliner.

I love the desert even though I have never been there. I wanted to mount that love on the wall where I could look at it every day.

This picture really gets to me; it brings me peace.......................and longing.

It hit me yesterday. I was looking at it and my body settled into this place of wistfulness.

I wanted to be on that road. I wanted to drive until I found a little town with a broken down bar with warped floors, where I would get hired on tending bar. A place where the men are hard, straight shooters, and the women are tough and sexy in an over the hill kind of way. A place where I could pour myself a shot to chug with my favorite customers.

A place where I could make just enough money to survive in my little shack on the desert.

Truthfully, I am tired of fighting. I want what I want. Which I will probably never have.

Even though I have entered a new phase, I would prefer to settle into something simple, something that fits comfortably.

Do not get me wrong. I am happy with the new job. Very happy with it. Even though I was tortured last night for two solid hours.

Tickets for the new season went on sale to the public for the first time. The Capitol Center does it right - they have a barbecue that is open to the public, beer and wine for sale, and people can order tickets for the shows they want to attend.

There are typically three of us in the box office. Last night there were four more people set up in the lobby to sell tickets also. That's how crazy busy it was.

I got there at 4:30. People were already milling about the lobby even though the sale didn't start until 6:00.

It was Day Five for me on the job and there were a lot of customer questions I just could not answer. Each time I had to flag down the boss man - "LORNE!!!!!!!!!!" - who was running around like a maniac trying to stay on top of things.

I hate being in that position - it's like a little kid crying for mommy. But there was no way around it.

It was a rough night but I survived it. Not rough like working in a warehouse or being a roofer, those are real jobs, but still...rough. And I still like the job. Got an internal vibe that this is going to work out beautifully.

My point is that everybody has a desert print in their life. Something or somewhere that, if they could make it part of their life, would bring them peace.

Or maybe we are all just dreamers. Always believing that a change to something or somewhere would make our lives perfect.

I have noticed that sometimes I look at the picture and it brings me peace. Sometimes I look at it and it makes me long for that broken down bar.

You gotta fight to survive. That is the reality for most of us. And we all will be fighting right up until the very end.

But if a little dreaming brings you momentary peace, even if it is tinged with longing or regret - what is the harm in that?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Peak Behind The Curtain

Let's discuss.

A woman I worked with at the thrift shop - a volunteer - wrote this in the good luck card that she gave me: "You have changed the pulse of this place. Your incredible humor, sensitivity, and brilliant sense of human awareness have contributed to a wonderful working environment. Kudos to you; the Capitol Center will love you also."

I worked with her one day a week.

What could these words possibly mean? Could there be a kernel of truth in them? Or was she sucking up - attempting to gain access to the vast fortune Carol and I have amassed over the years?

Because we gotta be rich, right? Me and Carol? Carol has been working for 46 years. I include the years she spent at home with our sons because, as beautiful a thing as that was, it was also a lot of work and an enormous responsibility.

I have been working for 40 years. I got a five year reprieve when I went to college and spent my time wisely, drinking excessively and playing pinball.

Truth be told we ain't got nuthin', so if my co-worker is after the dough she will be frustrated.

She gave me a bottle of Crown Royal. This woman I worked with one day a week and is a volunteer, gave me whiskey. I thought that was extravagant.

Another volunteer - again, a woman I worked with one day a week, wrote me a nice card and gave me a $20 gift card to the liquor store. Again, something I felt was extravagant.

Here's my point. I have been getting positive comments from co-workers for a long time. I am not trying to sound like an egotistical bastard, I a merely examining a phenomenon.

The first time it happened I was floored. I was leaving The Mitre Corporation, it was 1983 and a bunch of us were heading out for dinner and drinks. One of the guys I worked with said to me something like "You don't see it, do you?" When I asked what the hell he was talking about he said something like "the reason there are so many people here is because people want to be around you. There is something about you that draws people to you."

I never felt that, never noticed it, so I was surprised at the comment.

The next occurrence that hit me was when I was leaving YPB Library Services in 2005. I started out in the warehouse there after the business Carol and I bought went down the tubes and our life was almost destroyed. Got to know the warehouse crew.

Through a weird fluke I ended up in the accounting office, dealing with the "professionals".

On my last day, a friend from the warehouse came up to my cubicle and said "I respect you a lot because you speak to the executives the same way you speak to us on the warehouse floor."

Personally, I consider that to be the highest compliment I ever got from a co-worker.

I left the liquor commission in 2016. My co-workers gave me a $300 bottle of scotch. Three hundred fucking dollars. They gave me an oversized card signed by them, by most of the liquor distributor reps and by a lot of customers.

I got home that day, and it was a beautiful June day, poured myself a helping of scotch and sat on the screened in porch to read the comments on the card. Some of which brought tears to my eyes.

Here's the heart of the matter. I never took too much of this stuff to heart. Never let it get in my head; at least I don't think so.

BECAUSE I never believed I was being honest about who I was. I put on so much of a show to survive, that I thought people were liking me for the wrong reasons.

This time around, at the thrift store, it feels different. I exposed a lot more of who I really am. Through some strange thought process in my head it seems easier to relax in these part time situations. Maybe because it doesn't feel like our very survival depends on the job. I can probably pick up part time work anytime I want to.

So I got to thinking that maybe there is something to what these people said to me. Maybe I have something in me that people like, that makes them feel good.

Maybe I am not the phony I always thought I was.

All I know is that I feel more confidant now than I ever have.

Starting to think it is OK to like myself.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lakota Had A Nightmare

Lakota was sleeping in my lap the other night. Sound asleep.

Suddenly she jerked her head up and hissed.

I was startled but obviously not as deeply as she was.

She kept her head up for a minute or so and then settled back down in my lap and back to sleep.

I felt bad for whatever was in her head; I felt good that she felt comforted in my lap.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Feelin' Groovy

Holy Christ my brain is silly putty.

Week 1 of the new job is under the belt. So bizarre how a new experience speeds up time. The week blew by even though my time under the gun seemed to take forever. You know how it is at a new job - your mind is reeling while your heart is feeling (love to rhyme).

A new job also makes you feel like it is the only thing going on in your life, like nothing else matters, like there is no routine.

I like to make a good first impression, so on my first day on the job I ripped a computer monitor off the wall.

It was fucking hilarious.

There are three of us ticket sales impresarios situated in front of three ticket windows. Each of us has a computer on the floor and a monitor mounted on the wall next to us. Half way through the day I tried to re-situate the monitor to be more comfortable to look at.

It is attached to an arm that is attached to the wall - the arm moves in and out and side to side but does not move up and down. I tried to move it down to align it with my tri-focal glasses adjusted eyesight - the monitor came right off the wall. The bolts ripped right out of the wall, leaving raw, gaping holes and I was left standing there with the monitor in my hands.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

That was Tuesday - I had Wednesday off; they had a staff meeting that day. I was told on Thursday they had nicknamed me "The Hulk" at the meeting.

Anyway, I survived three days of "training". I always hate the word training - makes me sound like a fucking pet. But training it was.

My brain, my brain - whoooeeee baby. Going from tending bar to the liquor store, and from the liquor store to the thrift shop, I was dealing with different systems but still, essentially, cash registers - different but the same.

This job requires me to learn an online ticketing system. Pretty complex stuff. You know how it goes. "OK - to process this transaction all you gotta do is this. Unless this happens - then you gotta do this. But if that happens, you gotta do this. can actually access the information in this way and from this screen. And don't forget - if they are a member you gotta do this, if not, you gotta do that."

Still, on Day Two I was waiting on actual living human beings - not real smooth but not too bad.

On Day One they have a tradition in the office. After the boss bludgeons you with information for hours and after you spend some time watching your co-workers handle ticket orders, the boss man emails all the administrative people and invites them to come down and pretend they are customers so the new guy can get some practice in.

What they really do is torture you - they create the most bizarre situations, asks the most complicated questions, throw you the most challenging curves. It is actually kind of fun. And a good way to learn.

On Day Three I got to work a show. And.................on the day of a show there is a whole new set of rules and procedures.

It is pretty cool to experience "the feel" on the day of a show. Typically, the place is pretty quiet, pretty laid back. On show day, things start to heat up around three hours before the show begins. More activity, a little more intensity. Then two hours and one hour before the show - increasing activity, increasing intensity.

Suddenly people are filing in, picking up tickets, asking questions, shuckin' and jivin'. The box office has a "phone", more of a walkie talkie that picks up everything that is going on. You know, behind the scenes stuff, stuff the production crew is dealing with, stuff that maintenance is dealing with, stuff that ushers and house managers are dealing with.

You realize just what is involved in pulling off a show and the problems that pop up and have to be immediately dealt with.

And then...................the show starts. The box office stays open 30 minutes after the show starts so the music is pumping and shit be happening. Last night it was a Michael Jackson tribute performance so the place was really rockin'.

Pretty cool.

MAJOR PERK: I can attend any show I want to, FREE. As long as I am willing to stand up back (and sometimes get a seat if it is not filled after a while). AND I can bring Carol.

Pretty fucking cool.

Man, just walking up to the place is a blast. Walking under the marquee, looking up at it, thinking about all the very cool people I have seen here and all the very cool people I have yet to see here. Walking the walkway towards the lobby. Walking into the lobby. This ain't no corporate job, baby - no cold, impersonal corporate building. It has character. I am all about the vibe, baby and I ain't diggin' on no fucking phony, shallow vibe. I need the real deal.

The Capitol Center for the Arts is the real deal. Dripping with sincerity, history, and promise.

So I survived my first three days in show business, but I gotta tell you my brain was fried when I got home last night at 8:30. Leaking out of my ears. 24 hours this week of learning entirely new shit. Being put on the spot with real, live customers. Running reports, learning closing functions, getting to know the building and the people, soaking up the vibe and spreading some of my own around.

IMPRESSIONS: Gonna like this job. I already do. And the people seem to be very cool. Easy going. And the atmosphere is laid back and informal.

So there you have it. Another chapter in my life. Getting off the ground with a positive vibe.

I may figure out this life thing after all.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Act 369 (at least)

Jesus Christ, I lost a whole week? How the hell did that happen?

It was an eventful week - my last week at the thrift shop. I was breathing a major sigh of relief on the drive home Friday night. In fact I engineered my own private celebration for the famous final commute.

First of all it was a sunny, relatively warm night, which we have had precious few of in May. Delicious.

I brought along an Allman Brothers CD from the last concert they ever performed - October, 28, 2014 at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. Smokin' hot performance - the band understood the significance of the event and how very much it meant to their fans, and they were up to the task.

I still shake my head at parts of it in awe and disbelief.

I also brought along a nip of Crown Royal, which I snuck into the freezer at work so it would be properly chilled.

Before you start lecturing me about sippin' on a nip behind the wheel, save your breath. There have been times in my life (stupid, I admit) when I drove with a 750 ml bottle of Crown in my hand, merrily sipping it as I went. A nip ain't nothin', baby. If you get stopped you just chug it down, slide it into your pocket and say "Good evening, officer - how is your day going so far?"

Anyway, got the Brothers blasting, I'm leisurely sippin' away on fine whiskey, got the windows cracked a couple of inches, and I am feeling released, free as a bird, light as a fucking feather.

The thrift shop gig did not work out. It quickly became a burdensome weight, dragging me down into an ocean of despair, Mafia execution style, like a concrete block tied to my ankles.

(Editor's note: Wasn't quite that bad; I keep telling you I love words - just love to throw words together that sound good to me).

So here I go again. Starting tomorrow. Act 369. One more chance to reset my life.

Everything is apocalyptic to me. I don't see shades of grey, or stepping stones or neatly planned out life-moves.

I look at every move, every change, as this major fucking thing in my life. "Holy shit - I gotta make the most of this, gotta handle this right because if I don't I am positively screwed".

Truthfully, I have probably wasted chunks of my life with this kind of thinking.

Generally, life doesn't work that way - you bump along getting into this, trying that, little by little, no major nuclear explosions, and hopefully somewhere along the way you find this thing called happiness.

However, when you are suddenly sixty three years old, semi-retired, "shorter of breath and one day closer to death", to quote Pink Floyd - the challenge of getting it right does take on a little more weight.

I think I am making the right move with this job. The Capitol Center for the Performing Arts. I like the sound of that. I fucking love the sound of that.

I will try not to be apocalyptic about it. I just want to be happy there; I just want to be invested in and interested in and very good at this job.

I want to settle this work thing for a while so I can fiercely concentrate on making my soul happy, baby. Not hating my job will go a long way to opening up my diseased brain to possibilities.

Things I can do that emanate from my soul, my spirit, my essence, that will make me happy and bring a little more money in this house to make our lives easier and inspire hope of a dignified retirement.

Oh shit - did that sound apocalyptic?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lonely At The Top

Man, I recently discovered a country singer/songwriter named Jamey Johnson.

He's been around for about 12 years and I am just getting around to him. That's the way it works sometimes with me - especially with country singers.

Today's country singers suck, I mean they really suck - they suck big time. As long as they use the words pick up truck, beer, gun, girlfriend, and dog in their songs they think that makes them authentic country singers.


You want to talk to me about country you talk to me about Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny - Merle Haggard, George Jones - Hank Williams. Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton.

You get the picture. These people lived their songs and it shows. That, my friends is authenticity.

They have depth. And they are oh so cool.

Anyway I don't pay attention to today's country singers so that's how I missed Jamey Johnson. But I am glad I found him.

Love this dude. Kind of reminds me of Waylon, kind of reminds me of George Jones.

Fucking delicious.

Got a song called "Lonely At The Top". He's sitting in a bar whining to the guy next to him about how lonely it is at the top. As he says, kind of bragging, kind of whining.

He asks the guy if he wants a drink and the guy says:

"Thanks, I'll have a double, I've worked up a powerful thirst just listening to all your troubles, and while he makes that drink I'll smoke one if you got 'em, it might be lonely at the top but its a bitch at the bottom".

I love this guy. Jesus Christ, man, when I find new music to dig, especially when I find a new (to me) singer/songwriter to dig, I get delirious.

Love this guy's music. Something new to keep me happy.

Music is everything, baby.

Hope Doubled Up

Nothing like the prospect of a new job to fire up the hope gene.

You try to make changes in your life - gonna lose weight, gonna choose happiness, gonna learn new stuff, gonna treat yourself better, gonna get positive.

You know how it goes. You enjoy a burst of change-ness and then slip back into the routine.

Same old life. Same old you.

Change is hard. Because we are all hard wired to be who we are, even if who we are isn't who we want to be. Which is truly ironic. And tragic.

But over a lifetime you develop survival mechanisms, ways of reacting, faces you put forth, and these things become who you are even if they are not who you are. They become so deeply ingrained that thinking is not required to pull off the act.

And therein lies the problem. It takes thinking to effect change.

Changing jobs jerks you out of complacency.

Next Tuesday I start at a new job. I will be doing something completely new with people who are new to me in an environment that is new to me.

That is fresh, that is precious - that is a catalyst for change. I refuse to take it for granted this time around.

I am hyper-aware of my existence now - more so than ever before. Aware that I am alive and am living something called a life. Aware that I have pretty much pissed it away up to this point.

Aware that last year, when I semi-retired, was diagnosed with cancer, and took on a part time job, did not work out the way I thought it would.

Apparently it is not enough to sit back and say "Hey, I am semi-retired now - my life is about to get better".

I am going to attack this new job with a smile. Gonna learn it, gonna own it, gonna take full advantage of working in a creative environment that will lay every type of entertainment under the sun at my feet.

I am all about resuscitating my soul and it begins now.

Since I gave my notice at the thrift shop I started playing my guitar again. My theory is that this is the perfect time to rewire my brain. While I am hopeful, while I am positive, while I am jazzed.

I will dive into other pursuits as well, pursuits I have started and failed at before, things I know will make me whole.

The point is that I am immersing myself in hope. I am seizing on this change in my life to spark other changes in my life. Things I can control, things I can make happen - things that will make me happy and proud of myself.

And it is the time of year that some people describe as spring. You walk out of the house and the buds on the trees are ripe and ready to burst. There is pregnant beauty all around you, right on the edge of exploding into pure delight. You walk out of the house and you smile.

In another week you will walk out of your house and laugh, stunned at the amazing way nature keeps being reborn. Forcing you to realize that you too can be resurrected, rescued from the prison you have made for yourself into a life that satisfies you. A life that you feed and that feeds you back.

Hope bubbling up from my soul, hope provided by the beauty of nature - man I am getting such a strong and positive vibe that I feel so alive. So fucking alive.

At some point in your life, no matter how late it gets, you gotta give it your best shot. Otherwise your life trickles away in a sad, meaningless, waste of existence, which is the most heinous crime any human can commit.

I am jazzed, baby. I like who I am right now - at this very moment in time.

Gonna try to etch that me into stone.