Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

This is a rare, random communique. Not planned, not thought out, not designed to promote my sparkling career.
I am reading a book called The Bond. Simply put, it's a book about the relationship between humans and animals. I am an animal lover. I worship animals. They are smarter than us and kinder than us. This book might change my life. Might force me to become a vegetarian (sadly,I doubt it). It will make me smile and bring me tears. It will transform me into a vigilante. Be kind to animals, don't even talk badly or cruelly about animals or I will eradicate you. You have been warned.
Maka and Lakota have asked to read the book when I am done. I am happy to share it with them.
I see my future as a writer, cloistered in my house with my lovely wife, a herd of animals and occasional visits from my sons and their women. I will never leave, never venture out amongst humans. My skin will turn pasty white, a scraggly beard will hide my delicate features and I will weigh 73 pounds. This would be divine.
Ciao, baby.

By the way, the sausages I barbecued last night were absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Without Your Love

Without your love I would not be who I am; I would be less.
You inspire me, you protect me, you tolerate me and you love me.
You inflate my confidence and deflate my ego.
When I look in the mirror the lines are not clear; you look into
my eyes and see through to my soul, and use that clarity
to gently guide me and keep my dream alive.
Love becomes powerful with age (if it survives); our love has
reached the point of invincibility.
Without your love I would not be who I am, I would not like who I became,
my soul would be empty and I would not survive.
Without your love my life would mean nothing.

Maw and Paw T

Still hung up on this being a parent thing. Gonna talk about Maw and Paw T.
Those who know me intimately know me as a twisted mass of anxiety, barely able to function in the modern world. When faced with the decision between paper and plastic I have been known to freeze at the checkout counter, motionless, for hours on end. Occasionally they will close the store around me, and find me standing in the same posture when the sleepy eyed, coffee toting, underpaid, stressed out manager shows up in the morning to crank the store back up.
I have very little memory of my childhood. Can't tell you anything about the early years and the later memories I have are tinged with negativity. There are pleasant memories mixed in, I was happy from time to time, but my childhood does not scream out at me with joy. This is in stark contrast to my wife, who has endless happy memories of all sorts of activities and occasions and kitchen encounters on the tip of her tongue.
Maw and Paw T were into discipline. I had to do my homework immediately after coming home from school, before I could go out to play. When friends came
a-knocking, I would meekly reply that I had to do my homework first. There was a large emphasis on good grades. I have elsewhere told the story of me changing a B to an A on a very early report card; I was young. Most kids and parents would be content with a B; where did my fear come from? In the summer, when school was out, I had to be in very early. So early that when I was in bed I could still hear the neighborhood kids outside and playing.
One early memory I do have, strangely enough, is of the first day of kindergarten. When Maw walked out and left me behind I was crying heartily. I have a vision of seeing her legs go by the window as she walked back towards our home. It's possible my memory is warped, perhaps those legs were the legs of the neighborhood hooker, I don't know, but that is the memory that I have.
Another memory many years later. Maw was the disciplinarian. She slapped me one day and I stood there eye to eye with no tears for the first time. An uncomfortable look came over her and she said "you are looking at me with hate in your eyes."
I was The King of All Chores. My parents had a list of chores for me and my brother that stretched from our house all the way to Neptune and back. We washed and dried the dishes, set the table for supper, dusted, vacuumed etc. Painted the white picket fence when needed, cut the grass, raked it, shoveled snow. Spring and fall cleaning was like boot camp. Maw T was a fanatic for a clean house. You could literally eat off the floors, which, by the way, I think is a good thing. BUT my brother, my father and I trembled twice a year. She had a nasty temper and strict standards; we could never make her happy. Washing windows, taking down drapes, putting up the correct seasonal drapes, waxing the wood paneling, rotating the oriental carpets, and on and on and on. I suppose they would defend this obsession with chores as a way to teach us discipline. I think that was part of it, but I think we were more a source of cheap labor.
Although in reality we weren't that cheap. My parents spent a lot of money on us; we were spoiled. They bought us cars, paid for college, bought us nice clothes, took us to good restaurants, travelled on extravagant vacations, we got record players and TV's as presents. They came from sparse upbringings and they made sure we had good stuff, for which I am grateful.
I am proud of the life they made for themselves; my father came to America at the age of seven, speaking only Italian and was thrown into school. As an adult he owned his own business for many years and lived very well. That is the ultimate success story.
At some point I picked up the impression that I was less appreciated than my brother. I felt that I was the disappointment, the one who always got in trouble, the one who could not live up to the family standards. That feeling of inferiority persisted until my parents died. Please understand, I love and respect my brother deeply and consider him to be an incredible human being. There are no negative thoughts in my head for him and never have been.
I also became estranged from my extended family. Started to feel uncomfortable around them, again, like I was the disappointment. As an adult I have been distant and uninvolved with aunts, uncles etc. I still feel uncomfortable around them and rarely see them. Feelings of inferiority persist.
I am willing to consider that my memories may be twisted by my warped mind. My brother is well adjusted, close to our relatives and handles life like an adult. He appears to have lots of childhood memories and positive ones at that.
My overall feeling about my upbringing is that love and tenderness were missing; it was all about discipline and materialism. I am not saying that my parents didn't love me, I know they did, but maybe they loved me in a way that didn't make sense to me, didn't connect with me. And I understand that they were trying to do what they believed to be right for me and my brother, fueled by the memories of their struggles as children of immigrants who did not have a lot.
I have been on my own since 1978. It has been my responsibility since then to deal with my issues. Clearly I have not been successful. I absolutely do not blame my parents for who I am today. And obviously there are kids who were beaten, lived in poverty, had no opportunities whatsoever. Kids who make me look like an ungrateful, whiny lump of uselessness. I do not disagree. I am merely exploring my Joe-ness through the looking glass of my own life. Examining parenthood from the point of view of emotional repercussions, no matter what the environment was like.
My mother once told me that I am a late bloomer. I don't remember the situation, I don't remember how old I was, I don't know if it was meant as a compliment or an insult. I prefer to believe it was an expression of hopefulness. If there is an afterlife and Maw and Paw T are watching me, I hope they know that I am trying desperately to bloom in 2011. Giving it everything I got.
When I do, I'm hoping they smile in satisfaction and pride and that I feel those smiles in my soul.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Guitar

I love this guitar. A 1940 OAHU Hollowbody. It brings a royal presence to my humble apartment. I bought it thirty years ago at a very dear price but then money was not a problem; things are a little different now. Reminds me of that Dylan lyric - "I used to care but, things have changed." Simple lyrics with a powerful, kind of ominous feel.
Things are a little different now. That's an understatement, but I have learned to live my life in an understated way. Collecting guitars was a passion for me because to me they are works of art, beautiful in design, unlimited in potential; if you work hard enough at it, playing a guitar can open up a direct path to your soul. I don't say that lightly, having taken many different approaches to enlightenment. Most of them were self destructive and counter productive but it did not seem that way at the time.
Everything happened so fast that piecing together memories is an inexact science at best. Booze and drugs combined to blur the lines, but it really was a wild and unpredictable ride. Seems like I went from struggling to flying to falling behind in a heartbeat.
I picked up the guitar at a time when a small crack in time led to a revolution in music, lifestyles and attitude. I practiced that thing until I bled. Obsession lead to success for me and before I was really aware of it there were four other guys around me and 20,00 people in front of me. Blew my mind at first, but you can get used to anything, especially with drugs, booze and ill intentioned women to help you along.
Somewhere along that continuum I started collecting guitars, and it was done out of love.  My financial advisers insisted that the instruments were a good investment, a hedge against inflation,a guaranteed retirement fund, and they encouraged me to buy wisely. Advisers come with the territory when you become rich and famous; so does being treated like a child. These guys didn't understand a goddamn thing about music or the beauty and originality of instruments and they really didn't care about me. They did care about their commissions so they were always in my ear. Sorry to admit, decades down the road, they were right.
My house was huge, a mansion really, with unused rooms I never even visited. There was plenty of room for the guitars and the collection grew. I rarely got to look at them or play them because we were on the road so much, but I knew they were there, like children, and I took a great deal of comfort from that.
The mansion was the first to go. You get blind, so caught up in the insanity of it all that you forget that, just as you rode a wave of change, others would come behind you riding a wave of change, making you obsolete. You don't notice it until it's too late and suddenly you're playing reunion tours to much smaller crowds. Drugs, booze and ill intentioned women eat money, and suddenly your bank accounts are much smaller too.
Selling off the guitars was humbling. I hated to do it and avoided it for as long as I could afford to, but reality is a mother. As each one went, the pain inside me grew. You never anticipate the fall, and it is excruciating when it comes from glorious heights.
I live alone now in a one room apartment. It's not really cramped because I don't have a lot of stuff. Royalties trickle in, but we got screwed by management, which is the way of the music industry. I have enough to live on but my manager lives better, which tortures me when I allow my mind to go there.
I won't give up this guitar; it's the only one I have left. I care for it like a baby but I never play it. My skills have eroded to the point of embarrassment; the guitar deserves better. Still I have my ever present bottle of Jack and this beautiful piece of art  to please me. I don't go out much because, really, I have done it all. I don't need crowds or noise or company to validate my existence. There are memories, at least the ones that still live inside me, and the satisfaction of knowing I lived one hell of a life.
That's more than most people will ever have.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One More Time

Alright I am going to try and get this out of my system. Although you know how hard that is; I do go on and on. I'll probably repeat myself because I have addressed this topic before. If I do, tough. It is a privilege for you to read my words even if you have read them before.
I was watching a replay of The Bruins celebration from Fenway Park, held last Sunday. We had a couple of crazy people over that day for dinner and didn't get a chance to see it live.
So here I am sitting in my recliner one week later with tears in my eyes watching The Cup make it's way around Fenway. To rousing cheers and maximum emotion.
Listen, we need sports. We need something bigger than ourselves to lose ourselves in. Even if you are happy with your life, you need something large to wallow in, something that makes your life larger by experiencing it. Some people might choose god, but he is a fickle fellow. He gave us puppies and cancer. I don't understand that. The PATS will never give me cancer.
Looking at a filled to capacity Fenway cheer on The Bruins as they duck boated their way into the adulation, I was overcome with emotion. And it ain't the first time. Three times with The PATS, twice with the Sox, once with the C's. In the last decade. And I get choked up every time. So do you.
Because it is good to be a part of something bigger, to lose yourself and find yourself in passionate release. A positive vibe the size of Texas washes over you and makes you feel positive, makes you feel good, makes you laugh and cry and tingle. It makes you feel.
The parade passed by over a million people. I watched a chunk of that today too. Yeah, I taped it. Partially in my defense, I had to work at the booze emporium on the day of the parade. But I would have taped it anyway. Just like I taped The PATS parades, and The Sox parades, and the Celtics parade.
People spend good money to buy jerseys and T-shirts and sweatshirts and sweatpants just to be a part of something. To show their commitment and pride. If they are lucky enough to have a rich relative, money is spent attending games. Going to games now is a ritual, an event of immense proportions. Because it is so damn expensive. The tickets cost a million dollars, parking a little less, then you have dinner, booze, memorabilia, Tums and Advil. Part of me hates the inaccessibility of professional sports, but another part of me digs that feeling when I walk up the ramp at Fenway to see that beautiful field, that memorable park for the first time in a few years. Because that's about how often we can afford to make it. We don't see The Sox every year and that kind of sucks. Haven't been to a PATS game in a loooooooooooooong time, haven't been to The Garden for a C's game in a few years and haven't attended a Bruins game for decades. Would I take it for granted if I could make it every year? No.
I think true fans appreciate the work that goes into winning a championship. The odds against making it happen. The sacrifice and physical pain the players endure to get there. Yeah, they make millions but that does not diminish the effort they expend to bring a championship to a city.
Sports, and on a much larger scale, championships are a magical, mystical thing. Truly a religion. You have to have faith in something you may never see, you have to believe, even when the team is struggling. (Keith taught me that one). And when they get there, it is like a spiritual miracle. It lifts your spirit and changes your perspective, it elates you and gets those endorphins rushing like a raging river. It is good for your mind and your body (as long as you don't consume more than your body weight in alcohol).
It gives you hope. Hope is magic, hope gives you a reason to keep going. Every year as the season begins you are excited. You don't care what anybody says or how your team is evaluated by the "experts". You know they can win it all.
I'm done. I'm spent. I tried but probably failed to express my opinion accurately. I am lucky enough to have seen Boston teams earn many championships in my lifetime. The last ten years have been pure magic. They have brought me intense joy. I love it and I love the way sports makes me feel.
Let me tell you something. I have an awesome Bruins 2011 championship T-shirt. I love the hell out of the damn thing.
Think I'll wear it to church.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Small Life ( A one act play)

A man named Rick walks into an unfamiliar bar. It appeals to him because it is dark and quiet, somewhat upscale, and empty except for the bartender at 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. The bartender's name is Ed.

E: What can I get you?
R: I'll have a Blue Moon and a frosted mug, please. No orange.
The bartender places the beer on a coaster in front of Rick with a small bowl of peanuts to the side.
R: My life is small.
E: What do you mean?
R: I mean it is small. Tiny. Limited. There are so many things I can't do, so many things I can't have. I was reminded of that last night.
E: In what way?
R: I work two part time jobs. I hate one of them even though I only have to be there one day a week. The job is only worth maybe $60 a day to me but I can't afford to quit. Isn't that pathetic?
E: A lot of people would say you're lucky to have a job.
R: I know. But I'm not one of them. That kind of gratitude is like living on your knees. I hate my life passionately.
E: I'm sorry to hear that.
R: I mean the personal side is magic, pure magic. But professionally I am empty and my bank account reflects it. You can take this for what it is worth, but I know I am intelligent, charismatic, I have a sense of humor and talent and yet I have nothing. I don't understand how that can happen to a man.
E: Life is not easy to figure out.
R: I'm trying real hard to change things, but what if I fail? I'll keep living this insulting existence and missing out on a few laughs.
E: What do you mean?
R: I mean if I knew for a fact that I will never make it I would spend more time laughing in bars and less time fooling myself.
E: You never know unless you try.
R: I'll have another beer, please. And a double whiskey, neat. Top shelf, please. Man was not meant to be small. At least not a man like me. Life is huge. It is a precious gift. If you spend it on your knees you might as well not spend it at all.
E: What do you want?
R: Independence. I don't want to answer to anybody. I don't want anybody controlling where I have to be and when I have to be there. I don't want to be evaluated by anybody. I don't want to have to think twice before I spend $25 on a hardcover book. I want to take my wife to her favorite restaurant once a week every goddamn week. I want dignity. I want these things with every fiber of my being. I ache to have these things. Yet every morning my life taunts me with it's limits and pisses me off so much I want to scream.
E: That's tough.
R: I got depressed last night when reality was pointed out to me. Couldn't talk. Cannot believe I am in this position. It's like a prison sentence. Been doing it for thirty nine years since I started working while attending college. No time off for good behavior. Murderers get off with less time.
E: You shouldn't think of it that way, it will only make it worse.
R: I have to think of it that way. I am living somebody else's life and it tortures me. I am doing everything I never believed in and I don't know how I got here. And I don't know if my efforts at change will be rewarded. Maybe this is what my life is supposed to be. If so, I better go to heaven when I die because I am living in hell right now. Christ, even hell is probably better than this.
E: You can't give up.
R: I won't give up. I have never put this much effort into changing my life before. It's a new sensation and I have to see where it leads. But I need some breathing space, I need some slack in the rope, I need a goddamn sign. I cannot continue to function with the mortgage vampire's fangs on my throat, I cannot continue to endure the indignity of cheap restaurants, old trucks, boring clothes, stifling jobs. I am above that. Right now I feel like Sisyphus. The irony is that I created my own boulder. But if I could move the goddamn thing one inch I would know that I can get it all the way up the hill. And keep it there. But I need that inch. And I need it right now.
E: I know I only just met you, but my impression is that you will succeed. And that someday I'll be proud to tell my regulars that I once served you a couple of drinks. I wish you luck.
R: I hope you're right. You are a good listener and I thank you for that. Take care.

Rick leaves a twenty dollar tip on a forty dollar tab and walks out into a rainy, cold June afternoon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dead Technology

Wow, I walked into my room and noticed my dust covered CD player. I haven't paid any attention to it since the Ipod came into my life, haven't even noticed it. Suddenly today it caught my eye, neglected and covered with dust.
That machine served me well. Countless hours of pleasure, out loud and with headphones, rocking my soul, inspiring my tears, making me think, feel and live. I remember buying it on my limited budget. If I earned the money I should be earning I would have the top of the line very best audio equipment in the universe. In this case, as always, after feeding the mortgage vampire and making sure we had enough cat food in the cupboard for the cats, Carol and me, I had about $60 or $80 dollars left to spend on my soul. Still I listened to every goddamn CD player they had in the joint. I am very picky about my religion. Too tinny and skinny, vibrations with loud bass lines, not enough volume power, I am not going to buy it. For the money, this CD player had a nice sound. And now I have cast it aside.
I have gone from record players to eight tracks to cassettes to CD's to an Ipod in my life. Each time gleefully casting aside the previous medium. That's a lie. LP's and CD's I was very attached to. Treated them reverently. Still I moved on.
Really didn't give much thought to the situation as each medium became obsolete. because I was younger and I revere music and as long as everything is improving, I can dig it.
I am thinking about it more right now. The change is accelerating and it gets harder and harder to assimilate it all, make sense of it and understand it. When you are younger you absorb the new, you accept the changes and you get the most out of them that you can. But the truth is, at this advanced stage of my life, I am only using a small per centage of the capabilities of the new technologies. I am not a computer wiz, I am only functional. I am not getting the most out of the internet, not using all the power (?) of facebook, using only a fraction of my Ipod's capabilities, can't keep up with all the advances in TV's.
It occurs to me that that is how life works. When you are younger everything is fresh and exciting, nothing intimidates, everything informs and your brain travels at the speed of light. You get older and things start to pass you by. You are moving slower and the world is moving even faster.
My approach at this point is to squeeze whatever pleasure and advantage I can out of the new stuff. Figure out as much as I can and go to my personal consultants, Keith and Craig, when I am confused. I get intimidated at times, but I realize this stuff can help me and even improve my life, give me a little more pleasure (talking Ipod, baby) so it's worth the effort.
But it does make you realize that you are getting older and ain't nothing going to slow that deal down. I'm Ok with that. I am working like a dog this year to improve my life and I will succeed.
But the dusty CD player got to me this morning. These things have meaning in your life (if you are an oversensitive humanoid like me). You grab onto them and bing bang boom you are digging the good vibe they give you, the release, the emotional expression. They become a part of your life. A new and improved technology comes along and they get stuck in a corner or a museum, collecting dust.
This will happen to me. I might have a little dust on me already, even though I am trying to keep moving. But at some point I will become technologically obsolete. Happened to my parents, my grandparents and every goddamn human who came before me.
But I am going to keep on fighting. Changing, rearranging, living, laughing and loving. I'm not too old to stop learning. Far from it. If you try to put me off in a corner right now I will bite your hand off.
All this from noticing a dusty CD player off in a corner. Life is mysterious, life is cool. Especially when you have a magnificent family and magnificent friends to feed your soul.
And an Ipod. A wondrous, life giving Ipod. Sorry Cd player, I loved you when I could and fond memories will linger, but I have moved on. I had to move on. Ain't nobody gonna run me over until I am ready to get run over.
Ciao, baby.

Lyrical Support

I advanced my theory of Transference of Stupidity in a previous post. Here's Neil Young's take on it.

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool

That's from Keep On Rockin In The Free World. By the way, young 'uns, if you are not familiar with Neil Young, check him out. The man is an absolute rebel and has always been. He has fierce beliefs and he stands up for them. And he has flipped the bird at the music industry on more than one occasion, deservedly so.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Rusted White Truck

I stormed out the door, frustrated
by her angry words.
Failure, disappointment;
dagger words she used to cut me down.
My soul, once precious to me, had sold at
a bargain.
There was nothing left to give.

I staggered out, head down, into an ominous
chill; the hair stood up on my neck.
With nothing but hurt behind me,
I walked on.

A white pickup, rusted, tilted on an
Bracing my hand on the roof, I peeked
through the window and was jolted
by images that flickered to life and
were gone.

A toddler laughing in a car seat, fearless
next to a god driving with one hand
on the wheel.
A dog with his face in the wind,
safe, happy and trusting.
A wife sitting up high with proud eyes,
secure in honest  love.
A man, cocky and strong, anticipating a
dazzling future.

A runaway teenager furious at the words
of a clown (no longer a god).
An ancient blind dog, still trusting,
making his last trip to the vet.
A broken wife, makeup smeared,
fleeing to her sister's house.
A jobless man dead drunk, gripping the wheel
white knuckled.

Drained of energy I headed back,
weeping, and determined to alter my future.

I would start by changing her angry eyes to
proud eyes.

The Big Man

Gotta examine this whole Clarence Clemons thing. We had gone out to dinner last Saturday night. It was one of those lucky nights when, by saving two pennies every other week for a year and a half, we were able to afford dinner at a low scale Italian restaurant. It was lovely. Coming home, talking, Sox on the radio, I thought I heard one of the announcers say Clarence had died. Got home and that fact was confirmed on the news.
I cried. Tears running down my cheek.
I have thought about it a lot since then, still feel a hole in my soul. It caught me by surprise because I was not a guy who followed his career or visited his website, I was not specifically a Clarence Clemons guy. I did dig the man. A lot. His playing added so much to E-Street songs, his solos thrilled my soul time after time. I think the sax is the coolest, the sexiest instrument in the entire cosmos. If I could go back (or forward) I would make the sax my instrument of choice. And he was cool. Looked cool, moved cool, talked cool. He was the real deal, a genuine human being who lived life and gave us the gift of his talent and his passion.
I figured out that it was all about Springsteen and the E-Street band. They have had a huge impact in my life. I have embarrassed myself countless times wailing a Springsteen song while sitting at a red light in the summertime. Do you think I care about your opinion on my vocal abilities? Please. It ain't about the singing, it's about the release, the religion and spirituality, the pure, raw emotion that I release pretending to be Springsteen. It's about the way they make me feel and the way they allow me to release the true emotion that is buried just below the surface of my not so thick skin.
So many Springsteen songs stir up passionate emotion in me. It's a message about the magic of music. I am not a blue collar guy. Far from it. I was a pasty faced, beer bellied, cubicle dweller for most of my life. But the words got right into my heart and I said yeah he is singing about my life. The songs were not just about struggling at a certain level in society. The songs were about being human. Fighting, living, loving, losing , hurting, confusion, aspiring, dreaming, winning, being stomped on by your boss and giving him the finger after 7 beers and 3 shots on a Friday night when he is not around.
Like the work of any true artists, E-Street songs cannot be pigeonholed. They covered all kinds of experiences from all kinds of angles. All I know is that a great deal of them revived emotion in me and continue to do so.
Clarence was a huge part of that. The E-Street band strikes me as a family. Musical warriors who have survived an industry that has gone stupid. Danny Federici was Springsteen's keyboardist. He died at the age of 58 from cancer. I am embarrassed to admit that I knew little about him and that his death did not hit me as hard. It should have. He was part of their family and their family has given me thousands of inspiring moments. And now Clarence is gone.
I talk as if the band spoke only to me. Millions of people feel the same way I do and that is part of their magic. When you can tap into the raw emotions of every day people and translate that into lyrics and music that soars, you are a conduit and you are genuine. If your words did not ring true, you would be ignored.
I have never seen Springsteen live. How incredibly stupid of me. I didn't try hard enough. The significance of a mortgage payment pales in comparison to a Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street band concert ticket. I may still see them some day and I know in my heart and in my soul that they will rock. They will vibrate my emotions and make me feel alive in a world that attempts every day to strip me of any life, any originality, any truth.
But there will be two holes on that stage.
I haven't loaded any Springsteen into my Ipod machine yet. I'm running around like a decapitated zombie - I have this CD, oh yeah, forgot about that CD, gotta copy these CD's, need to get a taste of this in there. You know what I will be concentrating on now.
So I hurt, and millions of people are hurting because of The Big Man's death and that says a lot about his life.
If you read my words consistently you will come to know that I will hammer this point home until I vaporize. Music, baby. It is a gift. Bigger and better than any Christmas gift or birthday gift. Music is life. It is your life. Don't just listen to it. Experience it. Feel it. Dance around the kitchen in front of your bemused cats, sing in your car boldly. Somebody else is singing about your life, which means you have an ally, millions of people dig the same songs, which means you are not alone.
Your soul needs to be nourished, your heart needs inspiration. You can't get that from money or booze or false bravado.
Music. Period.
Thank you Clarence Clemons for giving me your passion in a way that softened my life just a little. I could never ask for more than that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day, baby

Father's Day, man. It's a gas. You don't go into this whole parenthood thing to get awards, but it's nice to get an official pat on the back once a year.
Being a parent is like being given god-like powers as a puny human being. Very dangerous. The power to create life. An imperfect, tangled web of contradictions, partly truth and partly fiction, the human mom, the human dad, so imperfect yet allowed to bring another life into the world.
That's a big part of what's wrong with the world and will always be wrong with the world. Transference of stupidity. My neighbors are a perfect example. They are the most rude, the crudest, stupid, inconsiderate people on the planet. Mom idiot and dad idiot are my age. We knew we were in trouble when they moved next door to us from down the street. Their neighbors from down the street told us "they are your problem now."
They are petty, unhappy people who chose to pass their pettiness and unhappiness on to their kids. They have a daughter living with them who now has kids and she is every bit as ignorant as her parents are. Never talks to her kids, always yelling at them in a piercing, exceptionally annoying voice. Does not allow them to just be kids. No patience. The one goddamn trait you have to have as a parent is patience. Along with sensitivity. The kids whine and cry all the time because they get no sensitivity. They will probably continue the chain of stupidity unless they can evolve; the odds are not in their favor.
These are people who do not see being a parent as a reverent thing, as a holy, spiritual thing. They don't see it as an opportunity to evolve themselves, to try to avoid passing unhappiness down. They ignorantly pass on all their frustrations onto their kids who grow up angry.
I tried to be different. I did not enjoy my childhood so I tried to rebel against my parents' recipe for being a parent. Now to be honest I don't know exactly to what degree I succeeded. Unfortunately for my sons, for most of the time they lived in this house I was a very unhappy man. An accountant/ slave, rock 'n roll wannabe trapped in the 9 to 5, never enough money to fuel my grand vision of what life should be. Drank a lot. So I'm sure there were times when I passed my own frustrations on or at least exposed my sons to this ugliness. Rookie mistake. My point is that I at least tried to learn from my own childhood, tried a different way of being a dad so that I could bring my best effort towards making my sons happy. I guarantee you that thought process never entered my neighbors' minds, has not entered their daughter's mind and will probably never enter her kids' minds.
What I do remember is that coming home to my sons was the glorious part of the day. It was my release and a high powered adrenaline shot of pure joy. As tired and frustrated and angry as I was, I always looked forward to wrapping my arms around them, playing with them, being silly with them. I looked at them as these magical creatures, mini-humans, who could pass their wonder and laughter on to me. They gave me laughter and potent love and they still do. I still look at them in the same way except now, compared to them, I am the mini-human.
A few years ago my magic wife broke out a cassette thingy and slammed it into the cassette thingy machine in an effort to embarrass Keith in front of his lovely lady. I imagine everybody was digging the family scene and enjoying Keith's littleness, but what I saw was the intense happiness vibe coming off of me, the absolute pure joy, love and wonder that was a result of being with my sons. Imagine the power they held to be able to cut through my frustration, anger and life disappointment to get me to just laugh, freely and with pride and abandon. It was a shock to see it because I don't often feel that way anymore. But I am working on it. Having the wife I have makes pursuing happiness a little easier.
I got off track as usual. Here's the point. Being a parent is sacred. You have the responsibility for a life. A LIFE. You have the responsibility to think about what made you unhappy as a kid and to try real hard not to repeat those mistakes with your own kids. That's called evolving. It's called improving the human race. You have to see the deal as a two way street. Your kids can teach you how to be alive again, how to look around with wonder, how to just laugh. They can give you a new perspective, even as they get older and craft their own lives. They have taken what you gave them and blended it with their own unique personalities to create a hybrid human who is probably better than you are. You can learn from that.
I hope my own frustrations did not hurt them too much and I hope I never did anything stupid that left a scar in their minds. I gave it my best shot with the limited capabilities available to me.
The only thing I do know is that being a dad is the single greatest thing that ever happened to me. Still is. There are only three people out of 6 billion who can inspire pure happiness in me. My two sons and the magical lady who brought them into this world and cared for them with such love and tenderness that they couldn't help but be happy.
That's powerful stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Cup (and more)

Have you noticed how quiet it is?
Basketball is done. Hockey is done. Although if you are a Boston fan hockey ain't over yet, baby. Parade on Saturday. The Cup is already back in Boston but it will be on display during the parade for all fanatic Boston fans to worship. I love this concept. The idea of an entire city celebrating a championship. Except for the nerds who are not into sports. The ones that say competition is unhealthy. They should be executed. Maybe during the parade. They could have these people hung on crosses at strategic points along the route. The Bruins could take turns shooting them as the parade floats by.
A city needs to celebrate. A people needs to celebrate. It is such a sweet relief from life, to lose yourself in sports. To imagine yourself a champion in life by joining in the joy of the athletes.
And the Boston fans will do it right. They are cool (sometimes) and knowledgeable. Every athlete says they have the best fans in the world. I think Boston fans are fanatics, passionate and sports-intelligent. More so than any other city? I don't know. I do know we have a unique perspective. 7 championships since 2001. SEVEN. I don't know how that compares to other cities but I know that it is pretty goddamn amazing.
The Vancouver fans showed their true stripes. Ugly, vindictive, destructive. Just like their players. Cheap shot artists who intentionally injured Bruin players and laughed about it. I knew they sucked but I was educated as to just how badly they suck by Keith while watching Game 7 at his house. I want Guido the Enforcer to break all of their knee caps with a pipe wrench so they never play hockey again.
Time to focus on baseball. I don't mind that. It's the right sport for the right time of year. If the right time of year ever gets here. I am not a huge baseball fan ( I am losing weight, you know) but I do like the game. There have been many times when I love the game. Slow your life down, grab an ice cold beer and a sack of nuts, and watch the Red Sox ROLL. They have been serving up some pretty tasty stuff lately.
I'll float through summer marvelling at Adrian Gonzalez and drawing inspiration from Petey. The laser show. If an ugly little dirt dog like him can rise to glorious heights of achievement, there is still hope for a little man like me. And while Carol is drooling over Jacoby, I can sneak an extra sip of whiskey. She won't even know I am in the room.
The length of the season makes baseball a dangerous sport to watch. You get lethargic, you take it for granted. At least I do. Maybe I am not a true fan. The point is, like Aerosmith, you don't want to miss a thing. Some games are explosive, some dramatic, some hilarious. No hitters, three home run performances, insane defensive plays, the tension of small ball with stolen bases, hit and run, bunts. Any of that can happen at any time. Even if there isn't much going on you can just sit back and dig the athleticism of the athletes. They make it look easy. But it ain't. If someone threw a hardball at you at 95 miles per hour, even Depends wouldn't be enough to save you from public humiliation.
But the truth is, at this time of year, I am hunkered down emotionally. Waiting for football. I am not going to discuss the possibility of no season. I am going to proceed as if the NFL is moving ahead with business as usual. I love football. Deliriously. Impossibly. Frightfully. The timing creates a conflict for me because I'm anticipating winter (September 1). I do not want the warmth to go away but I need football like Kirstie Alley needs her third, yard-long cheesesteak sub. Maybe that's one of the reasons I love football. It distracts me from the horror of cold weather. Winter is the cruelest, harshest, most punishing thing any human could ever experience. That's all I'm going to say about that.
Last point about football. I love my sons. Enormously. How the hell they ever became functional with a father like me is beyond comprehension. If aliens came to me and said "You can have your football season but we're taking your sons to the nearest parallel dimension for eternity, or you can keep your sons but there will never again be football", my reply would be "Take the kids."
Alright. Anyway. The Cup is back in Boston. I really dig that. There is something romantic about the Stanley Cup. The Big, Bad, Bruins, baby. The Sox are kicking ass, football is on the way, and Guido the Enforcer is making his way to Vancouver.
Low wage earner? Forgetaboutit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

jesus and my IPod

Want to find jesus? He's in your Ipod, baby.
Had a couple people over for dinner last night. Magnificent night. Good conversation and laughter, good food, good booze.
Little too much booze for me. Took the morning off. Been pushing myself real hard this year. Exercising, writing, living, learning and loving. Really driving myself in every spare moment.
Feeling kind of beat up this morning so I treated myself to a solid breakfast and some R&R before I head off to the booze emporium.
Cranked up the IPod while I was cooking and before you know it I was dancing around the kitchen. No energy, tired, beat up but that magic machine brought me back to life. Still cranking as I write these words.
MUSIC. IPOD. My soul, baby, my soul. I could not live without that machine at this point and I have NEVER been able to live without music.
Life is so sweetly good right now that I feel like a Joe-sized jar of honey. Dig it, baby.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bruno (I finished it - for better or for worse)

I kill people for a living. I wear makeup to relax. My name is Bruno.
Killing became my vocation the way it does for anybody else; I have no specific talents and zero patience for rules, corporate or otherwise. I tried on other careers but they never seemed to fit.  Growing up in the north end of Boston in a full blooded Italian family, I was exposed to a lot of characters. Shady guys who sat around a lot, outside the pork store, in front of Italian restaurants featuring exquisite cuisines. They all dressed the same; lots of gold, hip length two tone button down shirts, supple Italian leather shoes. Pinky rings. Their hair was immaculate and so were their nails.
I was encouraged to get an education so I could avoid “the life”.  As a youngster I didn’t even know what that meant. As a teenager, “the life” became an obsession. I wanted in.
My accounting degree meant nothing to me. My days were spent in a cubicle. The nights in front of Santoro’s.  Frankly, the education I got at night made more sense to me.  Black and white, crime and punishment. The sense of loyalty, the camaraderie, and the vibration of danger made me feel alive.
I got the hell out of accounting and immersed myself in the life. As with any other career, if you love what you do you will excel. I moved quickly through the ranks.
Killing people is not as hard as you might think. There is no emotional involvement; you are hired to shoot somebody you have never met before and most of the time you do it from a distance. Doing it up close and personal presents more problems, but I dealt with that by buying a bunch of cheap shirts. I got tired of cleaning the blood stains out of the expensive ones. Questioning the motive of your employer is not part of your job description so there is no conscience involved. And it pays very well.
I never really fit in and this created a problem for me. I am sensitive, my employers are not. Acting the tough guy, treating women like meat, being forever crude was not in my nature but it was a requirement of the job. My personality got buried down deep until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I really connected with the women, the strippers and hookers, in a deeply emotional way. The look in their eyes told me everything I needed to know. They took the shit but maintained their individuality and their hope. We had relationships and I began to believe they were tougher than the tough guys.
I wanted to be like them so I started wearing makeup. Eyeliner, rouge, mascara, lipstick. Only when I was alone in my locked and bolted apartment.  It made me feel sensitive and tough at the same time in some strange way, and I began to make a confused connection between makeup, toughness and killing people.
Things got difficult when I exposed my new persona to the light of day. The first time I killed someone in makeup (me, not him), the false eyelashes got crushed against the scope. Poked me in the eye; I pulled my head back and lost contact with the victim. Fortunately for me, he had stooped to pat a Dachshund. When he stood with a sappy smile on his face I shot him through the forehead. Animal lovers.
My boldness increased with my self-confidence and I took more chances. While shopping for some superb veal cutlets one day I was spotted from a distance by some of my co-workers. They noticed the eyeliner. Suspicions were aroused.
Carmine was assigned to keep an eye on me and to deal with “the situation” in any way he saw fit. If you think Luca Brasi was a fictional character you have never met Carmine.  Apparently he followed me around from job to job for a couple of weeks but I never noticed him because I was feeling so bold and so good about myself that I was getting sloppy.
Everything came to a head on the rooftop of the Bank of America. I was perched up there waiting for Johnny Scaggs to show his face on the streets of downtown. He was a gambler who didn’t understand that he couldn’t gamble his way out of what he owed. He was out of excuses and it was up to me to make sure that he was also out of time. Permanently.
I was focused on the door to La Tratorria, where Johnny was just finishing up a nice veal scaloppini, so I never even noticed Carmine until the cold steel of his silencer pressed up against the side of my head. When I looked up at him he let out a surprised laugh. Mascara, lipstick, and blush did not turn him on. At least not on me.
Carmine is a man of few words and I think in this instance he was positively speechless. Although he did regain his composure.
As he was pulling the trigger he said “Makeup and mafia don’t mix.” Not exactly a Clint Eastwood line but I took it with me to the grave.

Game 7

I threw up when I got to the hotel room. Nerves.
On the plane it was a heavy mix of elation and anxiety. There were moments when everybody was celebrating, feeling loose and on top of the world. But there were moments, unexpected and unpredictable, when each of us was wrapped up in thought. Strangely quiet after such an intense moment.
In the locker room and in practices, it is like a closed community, a unique gathering of like-minded people. We have all been through the same things, grown up with the same obsession, worked hard towards an intimidating goal with a focus that would burn most people out. On this plane ride that community has closed ranks, there is no one else. The atmosphere is as intense as it is ever going to get.
We won game 6. Convincingly. But you can't expect to ride that wave. This series has been too unpredictable; close, crushing, losses, blowouts, twists and turns, injuries and ejections with an undercurrent of an impending street brawl. Good hockey, exciting hockey, championship level hockey.
This is not always what you get at this level. I compare it to the Super bowl. How many boring Super Bowls have you watched? You invite your friends over, stock the house with meat and booze, dig a little pre-game imbibing just to loosen things up a bit, then settle down to watch your team lose 35 to 21. Not even close.
Seven game series are what championships should be; two teams fighting it out to the bitter end, the last possible moment, for the privilege of being called world champs.
It's been a good year for sports. The Heat got beat. A rare victory for the underdog against the purchased supposed supremacy of a star laden team. Made a lot of fans happy. Made a lot of athletes happy.
And now The Bruins are going to Game 7. For a shot at everything. Not just the everything of Lord Stanley's cup, I'm talking about the everything of being rewarded for a lifetime commitment, the everything of achieving your dream. Not many people get an opportunity like this no matter what their dream in life is. For most people, even for most athletes, their dream will always be just that. A dream. Never a reality.
The Boston Bruins. A storied franchise. I hate the cliche but it's true. We carry the disappointment of every team since 1972 on our shoulders. And we can be the vehicle of our fans' release, a chance for them to shake things up, forget about budgets, bills and jobs and just celebrate like they just hit the lottery. Give them the opportunity to show up late for work Thursday morning with a shit eating grin and a hangover.
So I threw up. I'm sitting here now in my room with a tumbler of Crown Royal. We are in enemy territory; I don't want to get abused in the bar no matter how much cleavage is floating around. I'm feeling too intense. I might hit somebody.
I can close my eyes and visualize all the heavy duty moments of all six games. Any athlete can do this. Ask a baseball player for the details of his first home run and he will tell you what the count was, who was pitching, what the pitch was that he hit, who was on base, how many outs there were and what the score was.
I flinch at some of the memories, grimace at others and smile a soul deep smile at the best ones. I feel good about our chances no matter what our previous experiences here in Vancouver have been. Because I know it's as much about emotion as it is about skill. And we have 39 years of pent up emotion to fuel us.
I'm thinking about my mother and father and all their sacrifice, worry and commitment. I'm thinking about every good coach at every level who believed in me and encouraged and pushed me beyond self perceived limits. I am thinking about my teammates who have been through the fire with me, the men who fought and scratched and endured exhaustion and pain and frustration to get to this moment. It takes a unique make up to be a professional athlete. It's a mixture of hard work, total commitment, a juvenile sense of humor and intense honesty. No political correctness allowed. We get in each other's faces and push each other constantly; criticizing, encouraging, questioning, sweating, swearing and spitting. It ain't pretty. But it's all about finding a way to make a team click.
I'll be dumping some of this whiskey down the drain. I was overzealous in my pour and I will not let anything compromise my performance tomorrow night. My head is where it needs to be. Every thought, every memory, every emotion will be focused like a laser beam to inspire me on the ice. I see in my mind Bobby Orr flying horizontal in front of the net in 1970. I crave that feeling and I want to pay tribute to him and every other Bruin in the right way.
The Cup is the right way. There is nothing else.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Please Don't Go (Inspiration is precious)

Clarence Clemons had a stroke. The Big Man. Saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E-Street band. Don't know how he's doing yet. Phoebe Snow died. At the age of 61. Exquisite voice. Had a monster hit way back called Poetry Man. Pinetop Perkins died recently at the age of 97. One of the original blues dudes. Played with Muddy Waters.
The world loses something special when people like this die, or when they suffer. It loses more. These are the people who make life tasty. They wake you up, perk you up and make you feel alive. Creative people.
There are other great ones, others who contribute to the world through sports, politics, philosophy, medicine. But the creative minds are the frosting on the cake.
When I come home all pissed off because I have to work for a living, I can dial up Springsteen on my IPod machine and I am singing, screaming right along with the E-Street band. I am one of them. And it makes me feel better. It would not be the same without the Big Man. LOVE his sax. He wails and vibrates understanding and emotion directly into your soul.
Phoebe could make me cry. Intense emotion ranging up through notes no human should be able to reach.
Pinetop. The blues, man. I live for the blues. Hard to believe some of these originals are still around. What the hell made a man like Pinetop believe he could make a living singing the blues in the very early 20th century? The man had balls.
You and me, we live a good life. We contribute in our own way. It's A Wonderful Life delivers an accurate message. I would never say the life of an average human means nothing. We live, we love, we touch people, we do the best we can. There are ripples spreading out from every one of us. People like Charlie Manson and Rush Limbaugh - these are people who waste space on this planet. We don't need them.
You and me, we are born, we get a job, have a couple of barbecues and a couple of kids, a couple of laughs and then we move on.
Creative folk CONTRIBUTE. They leave tasty stuff behind that will soothe, inspire and peaceify your soul forever. Or until republicans outlaw creativity.
I ponder this subject because Bob Dylan just turned 70. Blows my mind. Keith Richards, Mick, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo, Gregg Allman, Muhammed Ali, Joe Namath, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino. I got a million of them. Not long before they leave this planet. I don't know how I will handle that. These are the people who had a direct influence on who I am. The way I think, the things I want, the way I dress, the songs I sing. These people gave these things to me and they don't even know me.
That's what I am talking about. Lady Gaga does not do a thing for me but I dug and still dig Elton John, so I really have no right to criticize, yes? Point is they are out there. Poets and writers and musicians and playwrights and actors, some athletes. Whoever it is that turns you on you have to dig them deep. They are a gift and they improve your life. Make it a little easier to negotiate. That is an amazing gift and one that not many can provide.
They all took huge chances. The odds are a trillion to one that you will make it as an entertainer, athlete or any type of creative person. Most of them had no safety net. No backup plan to fall back on, as our parents are always advising us to do. They believed in themselves and succeeded, they open up their souls and allow us to draw life from them. And don't give me this shit about how much money they make. First of all they deserve it. Secondly, listen to any true artist and you will understand that it is not about the money. They HAVE to do what they do because it is who they are. It's passion, raw, pure and beautiful.
I hurt when these people hurt. I die a little when one of them dies. I don't know any other way to put it. I'll slip into old man mode and tell you that I don't see people coming up to replace the people I love. Maybe an unfair comparison. My generation was one of kind. The world will never again see an uprising like that of the sixties. An entire generation rising up and fighting back and changing EVERYTHING. Those times resulted in fiercely creative people who had deep convictions and raging passions. It is probably unfair to expect that from any other generation.
I worry because as these people fade away we have idiot republicans in this country trying to regress back to the sixties. Encouraging stupidity, racism, violence and apathy. But I digress.
I hope Clarence bounces back to full, robust health. I hope he once again, very soon, wails on that magic sax.
We need the Big Man. We all need the Big Man.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Jake is a quiet man. He was a quiet boy who grew into a quiet man. His life is small but he doesn't see it that way. Imagination does not enter into it; it is what it is, it is what it should be. Hard work, paying the bills, putting a roof over his head and food on the table, these were the lessons he was taught, the words he heard over and over again at the dinner table from his father.
Jake's father was a strong man, a hard man, an iron worker who's belt was in his hand almost as often as it was around his waist. The belt taught more lessons than any teacher ever could, and in a way that defied forgetting. Lessons were learned, they were burned into his memory and they shaped young Jake's personality and his view of the world.
He graduated high school at the age of eighteen and got a good job at the paper mill. College was out of the question. There was no money and frankly Jake could see no reason for it. Rich kids went to college and then sat behind desks wearing ties and white shirts. They got fat and they got an attitude of phony superiority. Some of these weaklings were managers at the mill, but most of the managers were guys who earned promotions through a combination of hard work, knowledge, and  the greasy political skills it takes to move up from worker to administrator.
In 1960 there was no way for Jake to know that he would work in the same place for fifty years. He was eighteen years old, had a steady job and a steady girl, good pay and the right attitude. His focus was on going to work every day and doing the best job he could do. Never calling in sick, never showing up late, collecting a paycheck every Friday, enjoying gratefully the two week vacation every year when the plant shut down.
Bale press, chip feeder, pulper, rewinder, roll kicker. He worked them all over the years. It was good to go from one machine to another because it broke the boredom and exposed Jake to another aspect of the business. Even though it never paid off in promotions. Some machines were loud, others were hot, some were messy and all of them were boring. But you had to pay attention because they could kill you or maim you in a moment of wistful daydreaming. He had seen it happen and it was a horrible thing to see.
By nineteen Jake was married. Bought a small house in a rural town and he took great pains to make sure that house was well maintained. The house was painted, stained, repaired, mended and improved as needed. The grass was mowed and the garden was tended to. Nobody could accuse Jake of being lazy,nobody called his property an eyesore.
Friday nights were for pizza. He would get to the bank before it closed to cash his check and take just enough money to pay for dinner and maybe a six pack of beer. The rest of the money stayed in the checking account to satisfy the bills. Never a late payment, never a visit from the bill collector. An honest, hard working man does not allow that to happen.
Jake and his wife would go out for pizza, sometimes they would talk, sometimes not, but it always felt good to go out, to break the routine and enjoy some of the money that was so hard earned. They lived this way for forty years. Until Jake's wife died with cancer. He was lost for a while but eventually adjusted because that's what you do. And because there was no great passion to fade away. Their love was quiet, it was dutiful, it was respectful.
He never had much of a sense of humor. This made Jake a target for the jokers and often the butt of their pranks. It hurt and was confusing but he dealt with it in quiet anger, as he did with anything that upset him. Once in a while he would lash out but  it wasn't in his nature to fight; the stress that it caused wasn't worth it.
Everybody was amazed when he retired, they all figured he would work until the day he died. He actually worked a couple of years longer than necessary because it was so much a part of him and he didn't know what to do with himself.
Jake retired with a great pension and a lot of money in the bank. His life was lived frugally and the savings account was swollen but rarely used. He's seventy years old now and spends a little time at the local bar. For company, because Jake is not much of a drinker. He doesn't have many friends, maybe nobody that you would actually call a friend. Travels to Florida once in a while to visit a woman he calls his girlfriend. She doesn't see it that way. Jake doesn't really see himself as lonely. His life makes sense to him.
Jake is a quiet man.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My daughter-in-law turned me into an addict. She should know better, she knows my personality. I tend toward excess and obsession. She introduced me to a website called 750 Words. The goal is to try to write 750 words every day or as often as you can. Roughly equivalent to three pages of writing. I love it. Try to hit it every day. 99% of that stuff ends up on my blog. Why not just write in your blog, you ask? Because I like to get my points on 750. You get so many points for this and so many points for that. And it tracks how many days you write. Yeah I'm just like a kindergarten kid looking for that good report card to please mommy and daddy. Reminds me of a childhood incident. I was very young, don't remember what grade I was in, but I got one B on my report card. This was in dinosaur days when you actually, physically got a report card. Today they probably twitter the goddamn thing to your parents. I was terrified of my parents so I took a pen and wrote an A over the B. Didn't try to erase the B, just wrote right over it. I was a brilliant child. Got in a LOT of trouble for that one. Imagine the pressure my parents exerted for me to be so terrified about getting a B. But that's a story for another place and time.
750 also tracks stuff like mood and attitude based on which words you use the most. You should see my rating. I won't be giving any Positivity Seminars in the immediate future.
As you well know I see myself as a writer. It's entirely possible that as they are etching "Formerly an accountant" on my gravestone my spirit will be silently, futilely screaming "No I was a writer!!!!." I may never make it. Not sure I have the talent, not sure I am going about it in the best way. That's a lie. I am damn sure I have the talent. But a lot of talented people are dishwashers and burger flippers.
750 has inspired me to write a lot this year and I love it. Brain drippings, musings, rants, inspired stuff, boring stuff, rehashed anger. Feels so good. I feel it is sharpening up my writing style. Who knows. I hope it leads to something. If not I have my books and my poetry to protect me.
So I haven't been able to write for the last two days. Life got in the way. My hands were shaking, I was sweating like Youkilis, my eyes were glazed, and I was doubled over in pain until I was able to crawl to the keyboard this morning. Sweet relief. Holy abandon.
By the way, regarding the pusher man, my daughter-in-law. I hate that expression. It qualifies and categorizes her. In-law my ass. Carol and I love her as a daughter and that is the way we think about her. She is a magnificent person who has made our lives better and more interesting by joining this family. Even though she has given me one more addiction to battle.
NEW THOUGHT (try to keep up) - Carol was getting ready for work the other day, seemed uninspired, so I asked her if she was OK. It's just another day, was her answer. Those words stung me, slapped me right in the face. She is a positive person, she is love personified, she is an optimist, she is a rock. If life can do that to her, it's no wonder I keep Seagram's in business. I am weak, she is strong like bull. It got me thinking how hard life is to negotiate. But then again all I have to do is look at the example she sets to see how you can make life softer with the right attitude. That comment was her being human. Normally she is super human.
That's alright. I am on a mission. I am puffing out my chest and taking on the world. We eat cat food three days a week because I don't hold up my end of the bargain. Not making enough dough. That will change this year. From writing, from The Wonderful World Of Booze, or from some source that I cannot even anticipate. I am pinging my vibe like Yo Yo Ma. You don't want to get too close to me because it will mess up your hair and knock you down. I am vibrating like a tuning fork. And I want to make Carol's life easier. Because she deserves it.
ANOTHER NEW ALTHOUGH RELATED THOUGHT - The cats were with me in bed this morning and Carol said she was glad she had turned me into a cat lover. Then in a somewhat related thought she said she made me a race fan too. I said yeah, having you in my life has changed me. She said, upon reflection, that she hadn't really changed me, she had just brought out what was already there, things I never had an opportunity to explore or express before.
The woman is a genius.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Solution

There was a young man name of Joe
Who didn't know which way to go
He looked up and down
He looked all around
And settled for whiskey and blow

Editorial comment (for family and friends) - This is only a limerick. I like limericks. Can write a million of them. I am only into the rhyme, not the content. I am not George Jung. I only do whiskey. Which my doctor recommends.



Cremation is all that is left,
now, while I’m alive.

Enlightened flame stripping away flesh
and pretense, fear and doubt,
leaving only the essence, pure spirit.

A seed from which a true life can begin;
an existence pure in intent, raw,
reverently approaching
peace of mind.

Self help, mysticism, religion, reflection;
well intentioned and disappointing.
Decades passing through a maze of
false starts and beliefs questioned.

Rich irony in discovering that each
wrong turn adds another layer;
the seeking smothers the soul
in an attempt to reveal it.

My intentions are shattered and
the clock moves too fast.
Ignite the flame, an inferno
to rival confusion’s intensity.

Melt away all misconception;
introduce me to my soul

Editorial comment: This is not a return to negativity. I wrote this years ago. Just wanted to give you a flavor for what I'm capable of. Dig it, baby. 

Bruno (a work in progress)

I kill people for a living. I wear makeup to relax. My name is Bruno.
Killing became my vocation the way it does for anybody else; I have no specific talents and zero patience for rules, corporate or otherwise. I tried on other careers but they never seemed to fit.  Growing up in the north end of Boston in a full blooded Italian family, I was exposed to a lot of characters. Shady guys who sat around a lot, outside the pork store, in front of Italian restaurants featuring exquisite cuisines. They all dressed the same; lots of gold, hip length two tone button down shirts, supple Italian leather shoes. Pinky rings. Their hair was immaculate and so were their nails.
I was encouraged to get an education so I could avoid “the life”.  As a youngster I didn’t even know what that meant. As a teenager, “the life” became an obsession. I wanted in.
My accounting degree meant nothing to me. My days were spent in a cubicle. The nights in front of Santoro’s.  Frankly, the education I got at night made more sense to me.  Black and white, injustice and justice, crime and punishment. The sense of loyalty, the camaraderie, and the vibration of danger made me feel alive.
I got the hell out of accounting and immersed myself in the life. As with any other career, if you love what you do you will excel. I moved quickly through the ranks.
Killing people is not as hard as you might think. There is no emotional involvement; you are hired to shoot somebody you have never met before and you do it from a distance. Questioning the motive of your employer is not part of your job description so there is no conscience involved. And it pays very well.
I never really fit in and this created a problem for me. I am sensitive, my employers are not. Acting the tough guy, treating women like meat, being forever crude was not in my nature but it was a requirement of the job. My personality got buried down deep until I couldn’t stand it any more.
I really connected with the women, the strippers and hookers, in a deeply emotional way. The look in their eyes told me everything I needed to know. They took the shit but maintained their individuality and their hope. We had relationships and I began to believe they were tougher than the tough guys.
I wanted to be like them so I started wearing makeup. Eyeliner, rouge, mascara, lipstick. Only when I was alone in my locked and bolted apartment.  It made me feel sensitive and tough at the same time in some strange way, and I began to make a confused connection between makeup, toughness and killing people.
Things got difficult when I exposed my new persona to the light of day. The first time I killed someone in makeup (me, not him), the false eyelashes got crushed against the scope. Poked me in the eye; I pulled my head back and lost contact with the victim. Fortunately for me, he had stooped to pat a Dachshund. When he stood with a loving smile on his face I shot him through the forehead. Pet lovers.

Positive Words?????????????????

Today is a GIFT. Could you imagine anything more beautiful?
Dropped Carol's car off last night - oil change (to what?) today - so I drove her to work this morning. I just got off a tough five day stretch - tougher than Lompoc. Had last Wednesday off then worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Sunday was inventory time at the booze emporium. Imagine yourself spending a Sunday afternoon and evening on your knees or on a ladder, pointing a high tech gizmo at the bar code on the back of a liquor bottle, then counting all those bottles and hitting enter. Over and over and over again. For four straight hours. Monday morning I had a job interview in the morning  before going to work in the afternoon. We'll talk about that a little later.  Anyway you can see it's been rough.
I have today off.
Went for a walk immediately upon returning home from chauffeuring Carol, so I was out at 8:30. Glorious. Cool, gorgeous day. The birds weren't just chirping they were singing. Birds are the coolest. They are completely free. They can fly. Except when humans shoot them down with rifles. Hunters suck. You can justify it any way you want, thinning out the herd, managing over population but killing animals for sport angers me. I would love to see the reverse. Imagine birds armed and hunting humans. No contest because birds can FLY. It would be hilarious to see all these knuckle dragging rednecks running for their lives while the birds swooped and taunted before shooting them down.
But I digress. Felt like the birds were singing to me today. "Keep doing what you're doing Joe. You are on the right track. Focus, discipline, believe and achieve." I'm pretty sure that's what they were singing. You believe what you want to and I'll believe what I want to.
Even the silly interview I had yesterday felt like the right thing to do in retrospect. My boss/ friend pushed me into it, said I have to get my face out there in the world of the NH State Liquor Commission. I'm a part time low wage earner and I'm done with chasing jobs, so I might as well make my way in the world of booze until I get rich and famous. I was calm because I don't take interviews seriously. I learned this approach from Keith. Yes, I learn a lot from my sons. I was interviewed by three people. A goddamn tribunal. One in front of me behind his desk, one to my left, one to my right. I was surrounded by corporate pretentiousness. These people take themselves VERY seriously. No smiles. It was hilarious. I loved walking into their boring world with my ponytail halfway down my back, and an earring. So now they know who I am. I probably won't get the job, it's a huge jump from part time to an assistant manager in one of the states biggest stores. But I kept the vibe going, baby. It's all about the vibe.
So anyway, by 10:00 a.m. this morning I had walked two miles, rode the exercise bike for 20 furious minutes, threw in some sit ups and a little light weight work to combat flabby old man arms. And most importantly I listened to the birds. What have you done today, small human?
The cats were thrown off their schedule. They had to wait for me to get back from driving Carol, wait for me to get back from the walk before I would let them out onto the porch. As I bounded up the porch steps they were sitting side by side at the sliding glass doors waiting impatiently. So goddamn cute. I released them, then walked into the kitchen to throw my wallet and cell phone into the drawer. Here's another glimpse into my diseased mind. When I walk I carry the cell phone and my wallet in my pockets. The cell phone in case I have a mild stroke or heart attack so I can call 911. The wallet in case I drop dead so people can identify the body. Does anybody else think this way? Anyway I walked into the kitchen and laughed. Maka had gotten into the cupboard and knocked plastic cups and my omelet shaking thingy onto the floor. She always gets the last word. "You won't let me onto the porch on a gorgeous day like today? Then you shall pay." Endlessly entertaining.
Those are today's random thoughts. Sorry I didn't get into feeling sorry for myself or whining or complaining. I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Bruin and a beer

It's dark in here. Quiet. Which is exactly what I need right now.
This is my favorite bar, the place I go sometimes to celebrate, sometimes just to sit and think. Dark solid wood bar, brass rails, Tiffany lighting, tables nestled in quiet corners where you can have a private conversation or be romantic with your lady.
I used to hang in dives and still actually enjoy them from time to time. The insanity, the noise, the camaraderie, the roughness. But I feel I've earned the right to pamper myself a little. It's been a long hard road.
Just flew in from Vancouver and I'm taking a little break to get my head straight. I'm sitting at the bar tonight and I keep catching my reflection in the mirror behind the bartender. I look tight, a little tense and concerned. There's a beautiful lady sitting next to me and she knows exactly who I am. The people in here know me and can read my moods, my body language. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes they leave me alone. She knows I play for the Bruins and it's obvious that she would love to strike up a conversation but for now there is a respectful silence.
We are down two to nothing and my guts are churning. Athletes are trained to supply the stereotypical answers to idiot journalists questions. "How does it feel to be down two zip?" We tell them we take one game at a time, we have to focus on game three, make them play our game and we'll be alright. Have to keep up the tough guy image, try to make everybody believe that we are superhuman with no emotions.
My mind is reeling right now. Hockey is my life. I have played this game since I was five years old. Fought and scratched and clawed my way through every level. It turned into work when people recognized I had talent. Potential. That was at a very young age. But I love the game and didn't mind the work because a career in hockey beats the hell out of a career in accounting.
When the Bruins signed me I cried. I'll never admit that publicly but tell me the truth, what would you do if you achieved your dream after decades of hard work and sacrifice? Accomplished the one thing you were born to do, the one thing you truly loved. You would cry.
I didn't realize it at the time but the work had just begun. Fighting for a chance, some day, to play for the Stanley Cup. A long, hard excruciatingly disappointing road. And here I am.
My life is so weird. When you're on the ice, in an arena with 17,000 screaming fans you would not believe how loud it is. Music, cheering, board banging, lights and cameras flashing. We tell people that we block it out, especially during away games but that's another myth. It is overwhelming but you adjust to it.
The game moves so fast that sometimes it looks like a blur to me as it does to you watching on the tube. It is surreal. You fly up and own the ice, hitting as hard as you can, getting hit, avoiding hits, doing the dance between finesse and violence for a few slim chances to get a shot on goal. Drag your ass to the bench for a breather then go out and do it again. it is a frustrating game and a beautiful game.
The game goes by in a heartbeat and then I'm sitting in a quiet bar. Alone with my thoughts at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from where I was during the game. And here's what I am thinking.
I have played hockey for twenty five years. It has consumed my life. The one and only thing I want is to get my hands on the Stanley Cup. It is within reach but we are down two zip. Here's another thing no athlete will ever admit. I'm afraid. I'm afraid we will lose this series. And if we do I'm afraid I will never get another chance. I am not saying I think we will lose this series, I believe we still have a pretty good shot. I'm saying that IF we lose, the championship might slip through my fingers and I may never get another shot at it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get this far? How rare it is to be in the position to play for The Cup? This is my whole life we are talking about here. Everything I have ever worked for with every fiber of my being. All my dreams, all my happiness, every good thing I have ever wanted wrapped up in that storied trophy.
I'm tired and I have to get some rest. Game three is tonight at home in front of our rabid Boston fans. Fans who know and love the game, fans who support their team fanatically, fans who deserve a championship as much as I do. They have been waiting and rooting since 1972 and they never give up on us.
I had to come here tonight because I am human. Had to give my mind and my emotions some breathing space.
We will win tonight. We have too much heart to go down three games. I am excited and I am ready.
I'm going home to get some rest.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vulcan Mind Meld

I'd like to get inside Keith Richards head. Roll around in there for a while and absorb the stuff I need. I'm sure some of it would be quite frightening but a good scare can sometimes vibrate the dust off your veneer and reveal the real you. You're a whole different person when your scared. I stole that line off Hunter S. Thompson who wrote it as part of a lyric for a Warren Zevon song. Warren was a cool guy. Check out some of his music. The lyrics will kill you. He wrote a song about a hockey goon, called hit somebody (The Hockey Song), that has David Letterman repeating the line "Hit somebody". This is fun cool stuff and all true. I don't lie. Any more.
I just wish there was a pill or some sort of cosmic approach that would allow you to get inside the heads of people you admire so you could experience their thoughts from the inside and then make that a part of your own personality.
There's a reason we admire the people that we do. I think they have traits that we wish we had. Keef knows exactly who he is and has never given a damn about how anybody else feels about that. Does as he pleases, dresses the way he wants. I mean, christ, just look at his hair. Would you leave the house looking like that?
Jim Morrison. I would have loved to get in that head. VERY dangerous. He pushed the boundaries. He tried to redefine the definition of being human, without limits, without restrictions. And he was a poet.
Muhammed Ali. The biggest, baddest black man in the land in his day. He took over the boxing world and he didn't do it quietly. Before him boxers were boring. He was intelligent, charismatic and BOLD. His mouth never stopped and he always backed it up. He embraced the muslim religion, he refused to be drafted into the war, he spoke his mind and he did all this when racism was rampant in this country. When it was fashionable to openly hate black people. He had balls. I could use some of that good stuff. I'd like to get into his mind today. Thank him for the joy he gave me and let him feel how much my heart breaks to see him today.
Bob Dylan. He brought intelligence and defiance to rock 'n roll. You had to have a brain to understand his lyrics, the references, the wording. He dealt with the issues of the day fiercely and he spit them right back into your face. He was a folk singer who grabbed an electric guitar and infuriated his folkie fans. He wasn't looking for adoration, he was looking for truth and exposing hypocrisy. His early songs made you want to get out in the street, scream and fight until the world became the kind of place it should be. He stills writes beautifully. The master of words. I love the man. He just turned 70. I hope he lives another 30 years.
George Harrison. A beautiful man. Kept down by John and Paul during the Beatle years, he exploded with an exquisite TRIPLE album when the Beatles broke up. All Things Must Pass. Buy it. Now. He embraced eastern religion deeply. Practiced what he preached. But he was not pretentious about it. It was who he was. It was how he lived his life. Had a wicked sense of humor. He financed many Monty Python projects. He died so goddamn young from brain cancer. Such a horrible way for a spiritual man to die. I got to believe that god needed beautiful music and a beautiful spirit in heaven to counteract all the assholes who were buying their way in.
Hunter S. Thompson. The man made me read about politics. I hate politics. But it was his approach. Completely irreverent. He was not afraid of anybody or any situation. And he was exceptionally knowlegable and intelligent. Wicked sense of humor, his writing was original, he came at things from his own perspective, he taught me, he made me question and he made me laugh. He was booze and drugs and guns and speed (motorcycles and cars), football and insanity. And writing. He was literally larger than life. His friends included actors and writers and politicians and journalists and athletes.
I've left many people off this list. I don't have the time and neither do you. But it would be cool to get into their brains to really understand how they think or thought. And another thing you have to remember is to not go for the easy stereotype.
It would be easy for you to laugh at some of the people on this list and dismiss them as clowns. Many people do. Many people are fools. I don't admire anybody who is not deep. Who is not an original.
Alright I'm not satisfied but I got to run. Working today and before I get there I got to exercise, shower and cook up a couple of supreme omelets.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sara Palin and the Doik

Sara Palin came over for dinner and we had to give her a bib.
The whole thing came about so suddenly, but we saw it as an interesting experience that we could not pass up. She called us one day out of the blue. We were lazing around watching MSNBC, the phone rang and it was Sara. Not an aide, not an assistant but Sara herself. It took a few minutes for me to become convinced but I finally recognized the sincerity of concern in her voice, her respect for the little man for which she is so well known. She was going to be in New Hampshire and wanted to take the opportunity to meet some real people, people in their homes, people livin their lives. Her politics are not my politics but she's kind of a babe for a politico so I figured why not.
The bus pulled into the driveway that night and we were blown away. Actually it didn't pull in immediately because Carol's car and my truck were in the way. The horn blew, we went outside and there it was. She asked if we could put our vehicles out on the street; the bus had to park in the driveway for security reasons. Seemed a bit pretentious but we did it for Sara. The bus was a bit of a shock. On the phone she had explained that she was traveling incognito, that she didn't want to draw any attention to herself because it was all about getting real with the little people. The thing was huge, it was adorned with a reproduction of the Constitution of the United States, it had her picture on the side with the slogan "Sara loves America more than anybody else" in neon lime green. Sara was behind the wheel.
It took quite a few swings for her to get the thing in the driveway but she eventually made it. One guy stepped out of the bus behind her with a smirk on his face; she introduced him as her bodyguard and we noticed him quickly grabbing a tag off his shirt and stuffing it in his pocket. The tag said bus driver. Kind of confusing.
Coincidentally MSNBC was on the tube when she strutted into the house. Her gigantic smile disappeared for half a second as she muttered something about the lame stream media, but her composure was quickly regained. She was wearing a wrinkled sweatshirt, jeans, and work boots. But her nails were immaculate and her makeup appeared to be professionally applied. The clothes didn't look quite right on her.
I offered her a glass of wine but she said 'Don'tcha have a beer? We Alaskans like our beer. Somethin American. Like Dos Equis."
The conversation was really cool. Sara explained that visits like these helped her to get in touch with the real workin class people of this country, to get honest insight into what we are thinkin and how we are gettin along. I sensed genuine concern in her voice, although making eye contact was like playing ping pong in a hurricane. I just assumed she was nervous.
When I asked specific questions to better understand her policies, her eyes would glaze over. It was weird. She would go into a trance like state and begin muttering things like Obamacare, and birth certificate, and killing grandma, almost as if these were comments she had memorized with no thought or understanding as to what they meant or how inflammatory they could be. I just assumed she was tired.
We finally sat down to dinner and I was proud. I had barbecued up a heap of meat and Carol had prepared her awesome green beans and her even awesomer potatoes.
That's when things got weird. Sara had trouble actually getting the food into her mouth. It kept falling off the utensils. When it did make it to her mouth she kind of snorted and sucked it in. She was making a mess and I could sense her embarrassment. Her neatly wrinkled sweatshirt was seriously stained. Looked like modern art. Finally she explained that Alaskans eat with their hands. They are into doin things naturally, gettin as real as they can get.
That's when I gave her the bib. Actually it was a doik. This is something my Uncle Carmen designed decades ago. It fits over your head and protects your chest AND your back. Sara really took to it. And she needed it.
The visit was over much too quickly. We thanked her for her time, she thanked us for our awesome insight into the little man's life and she promised to do everything in her power to make our lives easier. I thought I sensed a touch of revulsion, maybe a little disgust at having come in contact with the great unwashed, but I'm sure I only imagined it.
I didn't notice who got behind the wheel of the bus but I did notice that it backed out with ease.
A couple of months later we were watching MSNBC. Rachel Maddow was poking fun at Sara Palin's latest fund raising effort. Sara was selling doiks with her picture on them and the slogan "Sara Palin - Keeping America Clean for our Children and Our Childrens' Children." There is a lot of ad space on a doik.
Rachel reported that Sara has already raised $250,000.
I didn't get too angry. I left that up to Uncle Carmen's lawyer.