Saturday, July 30, 2011

J.D. Salinger and Me

I feel strangely compelled to write this morning. Really I have nothing in the tank, but I haven't written anything for two days running and this makes me uncomfortable. I am addicted to writing and I make no apologies. Been a little bit sick for over a week now and it has disturbed my rhythm. I'm all about rhythm. I was exercising like crazy, writing like a writer, I had established a new rhythm for myself and I like it. It felt right. Then life intervened, as always it must, with dizziness and fatigue, and reduced me to intermittent exercising and intermittent writing. Been sleeping later which leaves less time for life transforming activities. But I will bounce back with renewed vigor and extreme prejudice. Count on it.
Reading Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Fabulous. It's one of those well written literary type books I like to gush about. I am eating it up like a perfectly cooked (meaning delightfully rare) Porterhouse steak. It's a slim volume and eminently digestible. Soon I will move on to Raise High The Roofbeam.....
Salinger was fascinating. He wrote The Catcher in the Rye. If you haven't read it I don't ever want to talk to you again. I have read it 103 times and I intend to read it another 103 times. He achieved success and fame because of Catcher, which he admitted to wanting as an aspiring writer, but when he got it he turned his back on it. Became a very famous recluse. Catcher was published in 1951. In 1953 he moved to Cornish, NH and hid there from the rest of the world for the rest of his life. His literary reputation rests on essentially four published works. No one knows if he wrote anything in seclusion. He never published anything. A former lover claims there are at least two novels locked in a safe but she has never seen them. He died in Cornish in 2010 at the age of 91.
Interesting story, cool guy, great writer.
I want to be a recluse. I want to be a RICH recluse. Think I'll make that my new goal. Living peacefully in pampered seclusion with my wife, my cats, easy access to my sons and their families and a mind free of the burden of unnecessary conversation and goddamn telephones.
Just have to get the rich part down first.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


If you could see me in the morning before I dutifully trudge off to work, you would see my impression of Linda Blair when she was strapped to the bed in The Exorcist. Writhing in agony and defiance, strange lumps rising up in my blood stream and visibly travelling throughout my body, bones snapping, head spinning, speaking in tongues.
It's July and I am consumed with football.
I am conflicted. I love summer. I love football. The two are mutually exclusive. I am more amped than ever this year because the threat of a strike is over and because my football season last year was ruined by my job. I decided to become bar manager, office manager and to continue to work 4 bar shifts a week last year at my place of employment. I worked 200,00 hours a week between March and October. Did it for the money. Always the wrong reason. I barely survived it and escaped, a broken man limping and bleeding, into the warm and welcoming arms of the NHSLC. But it was too late. I had no time to get up to speed on football and my brain was broken. I got killed in my football pool. Please bear in mind that I have won this pool twice and consider my good results a point of pride. Even though it is a tiny pool and does not require total football knowledge. I dominated it two years in a row; you have to find something to feel good about in life.
Football came back to life this week. I have already watched a couple of hours of The NFL network and one episode of NFL LIVE on ESPN. And I'm just getting started. 2011 with a vengeance, baby.
The summer/football conflict is not as tense as usual because we are not having a summer. I have worn a flannel shirt in the morning multiple times in July. FLANNEL in JULY. Disgusting. I give up. I am doomed to suffer in the bitter cold of Evil New England until I craftily devise a way to escape it.
Football is in turmoil this week. Cramming a lot of activity into a short time frame to try to catch up. Free agent signings, the opening of training camps, and even the chance to cut players by the end of the week. I believe THE PATS thrive in this kind of atmosphere. They are an intelligent organization owned by a remarkable man and coached by a skilled leader. They are always prepared. They will come out of this whole and kick some NFL ass this year. You have my personal lifetime guarantee.
Robert Kraft. Lost his wife during the negotiations and still he was repeatedly cited as one of the major catalysts towards getting the deal done. A guy who once was a PATRIOTS season ticket holder who beat life down and ended up buying THE PATS. And still understands what it means to be a fan. I truly believe that. I don't think you will ever hear Robert Kraft refer to the sport as "product." Other owners who talk about putting good product on the field make me want to puke. Like Linda Blair.
Cynical types will laugh at the scene of Jeff Saturday and Robert Kraft hugging at one of the press conferences celebrating the end of the walkout. I believe it was genuine. I believe players respect Robert Kraft because he is an owner who's heart is in the right place. I think players know when they are considered team property and when they are considered people.
I am conflicted by the violence in football. I love it, absolutely love it. But the focus on concussions, the stories of retired vets who suffer physically and intellectually, wind up broke, these things put a human face on a brutal sport. I just finished a book this morning called NFL Unplugged. The author was pretentious, I hated the way it was written, but I stuck with it because football is my life. The overall tone of it was painful to read because there were many quotes and stories in there from players I know. I am not a caveman who says hey tough, it's a brutal sport, live with it. But I also don't want to see the game changed to the point where the cheerleaders could play it as well as the pros.
The book did confirm one thing I have always known - there is no other sport like football. None. It is brutal, it is beautiful, it is grace and speed, it is a SHORT season, careers are short and the players do not get the chance to earn what other athletes earn. It is intense, it is unique. Watching it, rooting for your team, makes you feel alive. ALIVE. You live and die once a week for 16 weeks. 19 or 20 if you are lucky.
So that's where I am at. Focused, determined and intense. Excited. Flipping the bird to an ersatz summer and vibing like a tuning fork in anticipation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Boehner and McConnell - Ugly Inside and Out

I can't take it anymore.
When President Obama was elected I was stunned amazed and amused. I could not believe this country had evolved to the point where it would elect a black man to the presidency. I could also not believe this country would elect an intelligent man to the presidency. This country is deeply prejudiced racially and we are intimidated by intelligence. But I dug it.
Since then I have watched him struggle. He has accomplished a lot but everything he has done is watered down. Our political process demands this. However he could accomplish so much more if republicans actually worked for the good of the country in support of their own point of view instead of focusing only on stopping President Obama, blocking President Obama and ultimately making sure he does not get re-elected. They have actually said this. That idiot Mitch McConnell said his goal is to make President Obama a one term president. All you have to do is look at that sagging face to know the man is a fool. Shouldn't his goal be to satisfy the needs of his constituents? The assumption being that if his constituents are happy and they represent a majority, than President Obama will be defeated anyway.
There are so many instances I could talk about to make the point that republicans do not care about this country, they only care about their party. But let's deal with the current debt ceiling, expense cutting, no revenue raising debacle.
These morons refuse to negotiate with the President; they continually chant no tax increase, no tax increase, exposing their mob mentality for what it is - sheer selfish stupidity. They want people who are already suffering to suffer some more. People who are out of work, people who are underpaid, people who are sick, people who are elderly. They say no more taxes as if they are defending the middle class, when in actuality they are defending the filthy rich. President Obama is looking to cut loopholes and deductions that allow the rich to pay ridiculously low tax rates. And again he is compromising beyond belief, getting much less than he wants, much less than this country NEEDS, in order to make it all happen.
And the republicans continue to disrespect him. The President made good points in his speech last night and acknowledged Boehner's genuine efforts to compromise, before Boehner was sidetracked by tea party cretins and weak willed republicans. Boehner came out in his response and attacked President Obama.
I have been disappointed by President Obama's lack of toughness. I hated watching him compromise so much on so many things. He inherited problems of huge proportions, many of them begun under the brilliant leadership of George W. Bush. I think President Obama underestimated the difficulty of negotiating through our bloated bureaucracy, and he underestimated the resistance he would get from republicans who are dedicated to fighting him on every single thing he tries to accomplish.
The republicans are willing to jeopardize the credit rating of this country, to push us into default, which will destroy the lives of "average" Americans. The rich will not suffer, the rich will smirk. Does this sound like politicians who are fighting for the good of the common man? They say raising taxes to business owners and the rich will destroy jobs. Are you serious? Forcing the government to cut spending will kill jobs.
I understand the government is inefficient and huge amounts of money get wasted. This problem has to be dealt with. But it has to be done intelligently. Cutting medicare and medicaid and social security benefits is a horrific plan. Cutting waste within those organizations is the way to go.
But the republicans refusal to raise taxes on the rich necessitates unreasonable spending cuts, and people will suffer. And they do not care.
I have since come to believe that President Obama's election was a fluke. I don't know how it happened; this country is no where near advanced enough to elect a man like him. But I'm glad it happened.
republicans don't want him re-elected because he will then rule with an iron fist, free of the worry of campaigning for another term. He will have four years experience under his belt and hopefully a taste for revenge.
This country is fighting for it's very soul, it's very existence. If republicans win you might as well change our name to The United States of America Inc. And you might as well prepare to suffer financially like you have never suffered before.
The President urged people to contact their representatives last night if they supported his position. Congressional websites crashed last night because so many people responded. This gives me tiny hope, but hope nonetheless.
I am not done. This is merely an outburst. When I soon write my manifesto it will be 14 pages long. I have that much anger stored up over the way reckless republicans toy with my life and yours while protecting the interests of the very rich.
This country is run by money. Always has been. And big money cares only about getting more money and protecting their own interests AT ALL COSTS. President Obama is trying to change this, to poke a small hole in the status quo, to protect and maybe improve your life. This is why they fight him so hard.
You better believe my reps and Senators will be hearing from me. I am tired of eating cat food three days a week. republicans want to scratch my neck, give me another bowl of water and kick me into a corner just as I begin to trust them.
I will scratch their eyes out given a chance.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life Timing - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Timing, baby. It can be your buddy, it can be your enemy. Life can turn on the smallest detail, chance encounters, found jobs, lost jobs, friendships, chronology. These things can determine the course of your life. What happens, when it happens, what doesn't happen, how you react, how you don't react. This is how a life is built.
I studied accounting in college. Silly choice. I hate accounting. Graduated in 1977. Went to work for my father for two years. Two miserable years. He owned a steel erection company. Save the jokes, I've heard them all. The ultimate hard on etc. My father installed me and my brother as ersatz executives upon graduation. My brother could handle it, I could not. I didn't understand the business and didn't have the balls to bluff my way through it. The iron workers hated me and deservedly so.
I left in 1979 for an accounting job and began a long, torturous "career" as a cubicle dweller. I even tortured myself to within a few credits of an MBA. Night school, baby. That wasn't exactly a laugh a minute riot. I hung in there for approximately 26 years, with many twists and turns along the way. Getting fired, getting laid off, promotions, good pay, bad pay, silly seminars, and a whole lot of biting my tongue. I had opportunities to change my life during this period but never seemed able to pull it off. That is food for thought right there. There were times when I was unemployed, times when the job market was booming, when I could have made a change, learned a new skill, braggadocioed my way into a whole new career. Timing, bad decisions, non-decisions, fate? Who knows. It's history now, baby.
I woke up in 2005 when I was laid off for the final time. My employer consolidated accounting departments with the company who purchased them and they wiped out our accounting department because another one existed in South Carolina.
I was 51 at the time. I did not want to spend one more second in corporate america, couldn't even fake it anymore so I decided to become a bartender. A brilliant decision on the surface of it. I have the personality, I have done extensive research on booze in my lifetime, and I dig the job. I figured I'd find a job in a cool blues joint and make some good money for a change doing something I enjoyed.
I didn't analyze the situation deeply enough. I overlooked the fact that I am not a 23 year old woman with epic cleavage. No restaurant, bar or music venue wanted me, and trust me I went out on a lot of interviews. I ended up at an American Legion where a 20% tip is considered extravagant, practically illegal. I made no money. I have left that job three times in 5 and 1/2 years, trying to improve my station in life. My current job at The Booze Emporium is the latest attempt.
At The Booze Emporium I have met restaurant owners and bar managers from many local establishments. This is where the timing thing comes in. The possibility exists that I could talk my way into a shot at bartending in one of these joints now that they know me. I could be dead wrong here, but personality is an integral part of being a bartender, and now that these guys know me as lovable and cuddly, they might be willing to take a chance. Ironically, years ago, I applied for bartending jobs at two of the restaurants that regularly buy their booze from us. Twice at each joint. Got blown off all four times. Kind of like telling Stephen King he would never make it as a writer. Well maybe not quite that dramatic but it feels that way to me.
So I'm wondering......if I worked at The Booze Emporium before attempting a bartending career would things have been different? If I got work in a busy, music oriented place and made good money doing it, I would have been a very happy man. Of course now I am burned out on the bartending thing and have no interest in getting home at 3:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, so if an opportunity came along I would say buzz off, buster.
It's an interesting thought, though. My life could be completely different based on the chronology of how jobs came at me. Of course I tell myself that it is all fate and that this is the way it is supposed to be and that I will go on to bigger and better things from where I am at now. But I have to wonder if previous decisions and experiences have affected this situation in a negative way, resulting in my current status as part time bartender and part time Booze Emporium clerk. A dubious status indeed.
Now I am plugging away, changing myself, trying to change my situation, trying to create my own timing, trying to influence the fickle hand of fate. I don't know if my professional life up to now has been a mistake, or if it was all meant to be, pointing me towards a golden ring that I cannot see just yet.
But at the ripe old age of 127, I think I am more aware, more prepared to jump on an opportunity that comes along, if indeed there are any left to come along. I'll keep my eyes open and my mind aerated, fresh with hope.
It's comforting knowing that if everything falls apart, I work in two places that can provide me with the raw material to deal with that eventuality. But don't bet against me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse is dead. This is not surprising. It is a shame but it is not surprising. As I was cruising headlines one caught my eye; it said something about her dying right before our eyes. That is so true and it has been true so many times before. Rock musicians who make consistent headlines with rehab stints and arrests and outrageous behavior as they travel a quick road to the grave. Jim Morrison did it quite extravagantly in my day. I loved the man; he was a poet first, a rock star second and he hated what the music world did to him, the way it controlled him and limited his creative expression. Imagine what a guy like that could have done without corporate restrictions, the pressure to sell so many records, or record a certain number of albums in a certain amount of time. And that was during the infancy of the music industry. It is horrible now, completely corporatized and stifling.
I am not familiar with Amy Winehouse's music except of course for the obvious. Rehab was cool and made me think of my lovely wife. "Joey - we should get you into rehab, it will do your soul good." I said no, no, no. OK that's not true at all but I could certainly envision it when I heard the song. Carol's problem is she sees alcohol as the problem; I am trying to re-educate her into seeing it as the solution. It's an uphill battle.
I enjoyed the irony of Rehab because Winehouse had to know deep down in the darkness of her soul that she was on a death trip, and that escaping the clutches of drugs and booze could save her.
I didn't pay her much attention. Maybe I should have. I read many articles in Rolling Stone about her, but only casually. I focus on members of my own generation, the people who satisfy my soul, and occasionally on a newcomer who blows my mind. And I really get furious when Justin Bieber shows up on the cover. Makes me want to cancel my subscription to the Resurrection but I can't; been reading the magazine since it came out in 1903; I have a soft spot for it. So I admit I probably miss people who might spark some life in my tired soul. Amy Winehouse might have been on that list.
And what's up with the 27 thing? Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Pigpen, Kristen Pfaff, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, Peter Ham, Rudy Lewis, and Robert Johnson, to name a few. A mathematician could probably come up with an equation taking into consideration various combinations of substance abuse relative to physical constitution and accurately predict who will croak at that age.
Another thing that caught my eye was Tony Bennett's high praise for Amy Winehouse. They recorded together in March at Abbey Road. He complimented her glowingly as a singer, calling her "an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist, and a lovely and intelligent person." Those are amazing words coming from a guy much revered in the music industry. And a guy who has demonstrated his open mind time and time again regarding young musicians and singers. Exceptionally rare for a member of that generation.
The flip side to that are the words from Universal Republic Records lamenting her death. "We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer." What they meant was " we are deeply saddened at the loss of a reliable revenue stream, and a general pain in the ass."
Another thought. It is a lucky thing that we wee folk do not have the money and time on our hands that well paid entertainers do. Or we would be dropping like flies. I work in a Booze Emporium and a liquor store; trust me I know. Friday night, baby - it is one wild rush to oblivion. In the Booze Emporium everybody struts up to the counter clutching their bottle of happiness; when you ask how they are doing, they point to the bottle and say "better now." And of course Friday night in the bar is an orgy of alcohol fueled release. We all drink excessively, and some mix it up with various drugs and other creative pursuits. It's called survival, baby. The only thing that keeps us on track is the fact that we have to work for a meager living so we can pay the mortgage vampire. And buy more booze. So I am always amused when a celebrity OD's, and people shake their heads and wonder how that could have happened.
No one is surprised that Amy Winehouse is dead. She died right in front of our eyes. But it is sad to see a talent snuffed out so publicly and well before she had a chance to establish a solid career, a deep body of work. And who knows what it was really all about. The intelligent approach is to let it lie and not judge too harshly, or not judge at all.
There but for the grace of god..........................

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Brain is Oatmeal (Continued)

And so it continues. I was dizzy Miss Lizzy Tuesday night. Saw Dr. feelgood Wednesday morning. Got some drugs which seem to be taking care of the dizziness. But on Wednesday an overwhelming fatigue took over my body. The kind where you do not want to move a muscle. The kind where you swear you could sleep all day. I slept 12 hours Wednesday night and 12 hours last night. Twelve hours. And still, today I want to go right back to bed.
Can't do it, though. Got to work at the booze emporium. I am a low wage earner. No work, no pay. Had to work yesterday at the bar. That wasn't quite so bad because it's slow and I could lean against the bar all day. But still I couldn't wait to get home and hit the recliner. Today will be tougher, much more physical but I will get through. We always do, don't we?
Thinking about health. Your health is whatever it is. You create your own definition of health. I don't believe in medical definitions of how to get health, how to maintain health. With all the knowledge today's doctors have, there are still so many things they don't understand about the human body. How can one guy drink 2 bottles of whiskey a day and smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day for 50 years and live to be 82? How can another guy jog 5 miles day, maintain a vegetarian diet, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and die at the age of 39?
At some point in your life you figure out what is healthy for you, how healthy feels, and you go with that. It's when your body suddenly feels different or reacts differently that you get nervous. You exercise or you don't, you eat "healthy" or you don't, you drink and/or smoke or you don't, but at some point in your life an equilibrium is established that you become comfortable with.
My regimen includes alcohol. There have been many times and years and decades when I have consumed way more than my body needed and I knew it when I was doing it. Did it anyway, which is a topic for another time and place. But when I am consuming what I consider to be the right dosage of alcohol for my health, I feel comfortable about it. It's possible I will be proven wrong. My liver may fall out one day or I may end up in Eric Clapton's addiction treatment center in Antigua (wouldn't that be soothing), but until then I will continue to do what I do.
But right now I am uncomfortable. The dizziness is gone, I think, except my normal dizziness resulting from processing the absurdity of life. But I am exhausted and I don't like it. Because I am outside my comfort zone. It makes you think about mortality and lifestyle, it makes you question your vulnerability. Or maybe I am just a drama queen. Maybe normal people laugh this kind of stuff off, maybe they just deal with it.
But I am sitting here wondering if I will feel "normal" tomorrow. Or Sunday. I am wondering how the hell I am going to make it through work today and tomorrow when I feel like I could sleep standing up. And of course I am pissed off that I feel pressured to go to work because we need the money, instead of staying home and resting, which is exactly what my body needs.
The irony of course is that when I start feeling better I will take it for granted. Maybe. I have been exercising my ass off this year (I haven't been able to since I got sick and that pisses me off) and I like the way I feel. Maybe I'll worship my return to health and start going to church and praying by my bedside at night and stop swearing so fucking much. Maybe not.
The doctor thing cracks me up too. I figured they would draw blood, do a stress test, schedule an MRI and a CAT scan, keep me in the hospital for a week and arrive at an accurate diagnosis. What she did in reality was check my blood pressure, take my temperature, look into my ears, nose and mouth, check my pulse and breathing, ask me questions and make a diagnosis (guess). Isn't that the way they did it in 1839?
Hopefully she was right. Hopefully my energy will return and I can get back to driving my wife crazy.
When I do feel better, will it be because I visited a brilliant and knowledgeable doctor? Or because she made a lucky guess? And what if I still feel this way Monday? What do I do? Visit a witch doctor, a shaman, a holistic healer? Or do I go right back to the hallowed halls of modern medicine and hope they guess right this time?
That's enough whining for today. Shortly, I have to get to the booze emporium. It might not be too bad. If I am not thrown on a register immediately upon arrival, I can hide behind the wall and slowly stock the shelves. And sit down on a case of Dewars to sneak a quick nap. If I do get thrown on the register immediately there could be blood shed. Everybody will be whining about the heat, whining about their jobs, whining about their poverty. And I will be asleep on my feet. Whining to myself about how tired I am. And thinking about how much I want these whiners to shut the hell up.
Life is bizarre, no?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Brain is Oatmeal

WARNING: Due to the graphic nature of some of what follows, viewer discretion is advised.

Some insight into the diseased nature of my innermost thought processes. Last night just before I went to bed I had a nasty dizzy spell as I was wrapping up the cleaning of the kitty litter box. Stepped out of the bathroom, it felt like the floor was moving beneath my feet. Thought I would fall over the railing. Woke up today feeling like absolute crap. Somewhat dizzy and completely exhausted. Called Dr. Feelgood - got an 11:30 appointment. I NEVER call the Doc - I suffer through pain and use my intricately cultivated knowledge of my body to get through whatever is bothering me.
The brain went into high gear. "Here we go, my man - 42 years of alcohol abuse and anxiety are finally going to bring you down. Heart attack. Cancer. Something very serious. You are about to be taught a lesson."
I've been here before. Had a testicle problem years ago. Convinced it was ball cancer. It wasn't.
Was greeted one morning by a toilet filled with blood. I am talking about an ocean. Figured I was definitely dead then. Turned out to be goddamn hemorrhoids. HEMORRHOIDS.
Today I'm thinking this is it. Got to change my lifestyle. Got to get serious about survival.
Saw Dr. Feelgood - she guesstimates that it is a viral infection affecting my inner ear. Prescribes drugs. Seems to make sense.
I'm feeling good. More positive. So I get home and celebrate with a beer and a shot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Me and John Lennon

Had a most immaculate dream yesterday morning. Woke up around 3:45 with this dream fading from my brain ( as more and more things seem to be doing lately) and an overwhelming feeling of sadness enveloping me.
John Lennon came to my house, knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to take a walk with him and Yoko. There was a third person there, but I have no idea who it was. I asked Carol if she wanted to join us but she was busy at the time and declined to join us.
I walked out the door blown away by my good fortune. Apparently me and John were good friends because we had a lot to talk about. He was in a very good mood, talking excitedly and displaying his typical pointedly intelligent humor. He and Yoko were considering buying a house in the neighborhood and they stopped to look at. This was the first time in the dream that Yoko acknowledged me; she came over and gave me a warm kiss on my cheek. She was wearing bright red lipstick and I remember thinking I would have that on my cheek when I got home. John and Yoko were checking out the house, excitedly talking about the changes they would make to it, tearing this down, adding that on. We headed back to my house and settled into the den, which my house does not in reality have. Carol was still busy and did not join us immediately. The conversation continued and it was happy and full of life. Eventually Carol did join us and she was psyched to be a part of the whole deal. We were all very comfortable together.
This is the point at which I woke up, and while I was in that half awake and half asleep stage I felt awesome. I could not wait to get together with John and Yoko again. A few seconds later I was fully awake and remembered that John is dead. I literally became very sad. My dreams seem so real to me at times that it actually hurts to wake up. This was one of those dreams.
I am not interested in figuring out the meaning of this dream; what fascinates me is how you respond emotionally to things your mind makes up. For a few brief seconds I believed that John was alive and that he was my friend and I felt so good about it. A few more seconds and reality intruded and sadness washed over me.
Most of my dreams are quite bizarre. I call them hallucinations, not dreams, because I swear they are LSD fueled, even though I never have dropped acid (although I wish I did). I want to invent a device that records dreams so you can play them back when you wake up. Maybe some kind of wireless electrode you attach to your head that transmits the dreams to a recording/playback device. You KNOW they would be better than any movie ever invented. Of course somebody somewhere is going to invent this thing and get rich while I remain a humble low wage earner.
Anyway, I am entertained by the hallucinations, but I think I like the semi-real dreams better because they inspire genuine emotion, and I am all about feeling. The Lennon thing is believable to me because I believe we could really have been friends had we ever met. You may think I am delusional and you may be right, but this is my world and I will believe what I want to.
I don't think dreams are random, I think they reflect thoughts hidden underneath the self protective layers of our brains, the layers that allow us to perform every day for the benefit of everyone around us. I felt emotions deeply through this dream and I believe there is something in my brain that made me dream it, some reason for those thoughts to briefly make an appearance in my reality. Maybe John came to me to tell me that I am a brilliant writer, one creative individual to another, and that I must continue to do what I am doing because it will lead to peace of mind and soul and eventually, great riches. I AM JUST KIDDING. Come on, my ego is not quite that big.
But I do believe my mind was trying to tell me something. There are thoughts swirling around my subconscious because of the enormous self change I am trying to effect in 2011. My conscious existence cannot possibly handle everything bouncing around my brain right now; my subconscious has to shoulder some of the load.
That dream is how my brain chose to try to tell me something. Maybe I'll figure it out, maybe I won't. But for a few brief moments John Lennon was a true friend of mine, he was in my life and my heart and my soul, and it felt so damn good.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shakespeare and The Verve

I love old school language. I'm talking Shakespeare and Dickens etc. These people spoke directly, no ah's, um's, it was lyrical and majestic. I just love it because it was full, not thin, it sounds so impressive. And they communicated directly. We never say what we mean. I loved Shakespeare when I studied it in school and I understood it; everybody else hated it. Mayhaps that was the beginnings of my isolation from functioning members of society.
When Bob Cratchit shows up for work a couple of minutes late on December 26 after making quite merry with his family on Christmas day, Scrooge booms out "CRATCHIT! YOU ARE LATE!" Bob Cratchit is trembling in his boots, afraid he is about to lose his job and his response is "I am indeed behind my time." Isn't that great? No excuses, no lies, no anger, pure honesty.
And it all worked out so well for poor Bob; Scrooge was a new man, more generous, less critical. Wouldn't it be great if all bosses could evolve like that? Never happen in corporate america; evolving is anathema (look it up) to the submission required in our corporate culture.
What would you do in that situation? You know exactly what you would do. You walk in 5 minutes late for work after a major holiday and your boss yells at you that you are LATE. You immediately launch into a shamelessly lame fiction, a tangled web of lies and imagination, designed to get you off the hook.
" I was brushing my teeth when one of my gold teeth popped out onto the floor. The cat got a hold of it and ran up to the attic. The tooth cost me $1,500 so I couldn't just let it go. I crawled up into the attic, squirmed my way through dust and dirt 6 inches deep, cornered the cat and lassoed it with dental floss. Grabbed the tooth as it fell from his mouth and was crawling backwards through the dust and dirt when the ceiling gave way and I fell through into my bedroom and on top of my sleeping wife. I followed the ambulance to the hospital, where it was determined that my wife had three broken ribs and an even deeper disdain for my stupidity. Given all that, it is amazing that I am only five minutes late." Your boss would roll his eyes, tell you to get to work and, after you leave, make a note in your permanent file to the effect that he believes he has gathered sufficient evidence to have you committed to the NH Home for Morons, Psychopaths, and Mental Defectives.
Shakespeare (from As You Like It); "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." This is roughly equivalent ( in my mind) to one topic that I am always raving about; the fact that we are all phoneys, that we are afraid to be ourselves, that life forces us to play different parts; father, son, husband, employee, drunkard, bondage queen. The "one man in his time..." chunk reminds me of The Verve - "I'm a million different people from one day to the next." I always loved that lyric because I am that and you are too; I feel and act differently from day to day, while those around me look sadly on in bewilderment. Do you know The Stones sued The Verve because the song sampled, without permission, an obscure orchestral version of "The Last Time"? The Verve had to sign away most of the royalties from the song in order to release it. IT WAS THEIR ONLY HIT. Love The Stones, hate the greed.
Anyway I love The Verve line, but I think Shakespeare said it better.
Imagine if I could communicate as efficiently and as beautifully as some of these old tymey guys did? You wouldn't have to wade through 15,376 of my words to finally figure out just what the hell I am talking about.
We'll never get back to those times because we tend to take the easy way out; we speak in cliches and phrases approved by society to be used over and over again by everyone until you want to scream. At least I want to scream. If I hear one more person say "not so much" I will club them with a Dunkin Donuts bagel stick. For a while there everybody was saying "Git R Done." I lost 18 pounds vomiting every time I heard it. I am compiling a list of these phrases which will be the subject of a future rant.
But I digress.
I dig language, I love words, song lyrics, poetry it is who I am. Unfortunately I must now prepare myself for work. Time to sling booze to people who are completely comfortable offering a 3% tip. So, if I may, "Good night, good night; parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight 'till it be morrow."
Ciao, baby.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It's hot and it's humid, not cold
I'm feeling alive and quite bold
The devil is here
We're drinking some beer
I ain't gonna sell him my soul (I'm not that drunk)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

George Carlin

Trolled around Comcast On Demand last night to find a particular Stephen Colbert routine. The man is hilarious. Got me thinking about comedy.
There are a few exceptionally intelligent comedians around today. They are really a combo deal; part social commentary, part humor. Although with the strange world we now live in it's hard to tell the difference. I guess that's the point.
Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, Robin Williams, Lewis Black. They are incredibly intelligent, incredibly well informed, insightful and wickedly funny.
I put Maher, Miller and Stewart in the genius category; these guys blow me away with their knowledge, their command of the English language and their ability to rip apart hypocrisy. Dennis Miller has disappointed me because it turns out he is a right wing conservative; I never picked that up in his stand up, but now that he has a radio program he is a ranting, conservative lunatic. Although I would never say that to his face; he would pick me apart with his intelligence and that piercing and sarcastic laugh. Still I respect his I.Q.
Stephen Colbert is brilliant at what he does. I love knowing that if a Fox viewer tuned him in they would take him seriously. Sarah Silverman has her own style and she really pushes the limits. I love that; it's good to make people uncomfortable.
I have worshipped Robin Williams for years because he works from a tightrope; sheer insanity that somehow comes up brilliant just when you think he's going to crash and burn. Lewis Black is awesome; his weapon is anger and he wields it mercilessly.
But what I was really thinking about last night was George Carlin. I miss him. I mean I really miss him like a friend or a relative. When he died I was devastated. HBO ran all his specials for a while and I DVR'ed a bunch of them. I had about 3 million hours of Carlin on that magic box. Eventually I deleted them and it hurt to do it. But I had to make room for Lassie.
The man was amazing. I would watch his specials and he would offer a point of view that would make me wonder why the hell I didn't think of that. And he did it to me over and over again. He exposed hypocrisy in the government and corporations and even in the daily lives of us wee folk. Sometimes he made me cringe because I knew he was talking about my own hypocrisy or stupidity.
In my humble opinion, and trust me I ain't no expert, Carlin and Lenny Bruce were the godfathers of all of today's edgy, intelligent comedians. Red Foxx and Richard Pryor were ground breakers as well.
Lenny Bruce did the heavy lifting. He dealt with race and drugs and language and hypocrisy and more; he died in 1966 so you can imagine how hard it was for him to get his message out there in such a backwards and conservative time. He was arrested many times and generally tormented; his beliefs eventually killed him. I think a lot of Bruce's humor, at least towards the end, came out of desperation. He was harassed everywhere he went; he had no peace and no validation.
Carlin is the guy who took it all the way. He fought, he was harassed and he was arrested. Famously in Milwaukee in 1972 for performing his "7 words" routine at a summer festival. A radio broadcast of the same routine eventually led to a Supreme Court decision to help establish the extent to which the government could regulate speech broadcast on radio and TV. Eventually he triumphed, because he could say whatever he wanted to no matter how inflammatory, no matter who's hypocrisy he revealed from under a rock. The man had a major impact on our society.
 And he was so damn lovable. I felt like he was a friend of mind; much smarter, more insightful, infinitely funnier, but still he felt like somebody I could have a beer with. Or snort coke with. He mixed in fart jokes and all kinds of bodily references, childlike humor at times, off the wall stuff, and little human detail types of stuff that offset the intellectual stuff.
We took our kids to a show of his years ago, they were fairly young, and people around us were offended. I loved it.
As I dig the current crop of smart, informed, inventive and ego deflating comedians that are out there today, I think a lot about George Carlin. He didn't just make me laugh, although I had tears of laughter in my eyes on many occasions watching him do his thing. He taught me; he taught me to think a little harder, to question a little  more, to be bolder and to never trust anybody in authority. That made him a hell of a lot more than a comedian. That made him an inspiration.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Killer In Your Heart

There’s a killer in your heart,
Fear rips your dreams apart.
Afraid to move forward,
afraid to stand pat.
What will my family say about this,
how will my friends react to that.
Taking what the boss man gives,
can’t afford to lose the job.
Success has no fear.
The stakes are too high to let
others slow you down.
This life is yours and it thrives
on fear’s death.

Murderers, Rapists and Corporate Executives

Murderers and rapists are not nice people. They are used as the most odious reference when you want to define a certain situation. For instance - "He got busted for possession of one joint and he got thrown in with the murderers and rapists."
Or - "That is a serious prison, man. Ain't nothing but murderers and rapists in there." Or - "There are more murderers and rapists in American jails than any other country. America must be a cesspool of humanity."
It makes sense. Killing and raping are not sociable things to do. Although I have a three page list of people I would like to kill. In a completely lawless society it would be so satisfying to snuff these people out, act on my grudges, and serve them a cold dish of revenge. But things being what they are, if I did execute these Joe-offenders I would be thrown in with murderers and rapists. I can't have that. I am delicate.
The phrase is time honored and well worn but it is time for an update. "Poor Butch - he stole thirteen cents from the cruelly vindictive NHSLC, was thrown in prison and now he is at the mercy of murderers, rapists and corporate executives." "Oh my god - corporate executives? He will never survive."
Corporate execs are ruthless people. They have to be. Being an executive in a corporation is no different than being a capo di tutti capi in the mafia. I used that phrase because I love the way it sounds. I love the Italian language, love the beauty of it. Started learning it seven years ago and stopped learning it seven years ago. Apparently I wasn't committed. But I do INTEND to learn it at some point. It is my heritage. I practiced with a woman I worked with who had previously spent seven years living in Italy. She said my pronunciation and inflection were excellent. I'm a natural, baby. Capo di tutti capi means boss of all bosses.
Mafia execs are actually much more versatile than corporate execs. Corporate execs start out with a skill, say accounting. They study it, get a degree in it, and become expert at it. They can manipulate spreadsheets with the best of them. The next skill they pick up is sucking up. That, combined with their accounting expertise,gets them promoted through the ranks of management. Once they become a manager their accounting skills erode because they are no longer practicing them. The new skill set revolves around managing people. Inspiration, intimidation, rewarding, punishing, lying to them to keep them complacent and get results. Being a good accountant or being good at any particular skill does not guarantee a good manager. In fact most managers are terrible at it. You have to have an element of humanity to be a good manager. 'Nuff said.
Your perspective changes as a manager; it's hard to look ahead because there is always an ass in front of your face that you have to kiss.
Mafia dudes might start out as leg breakers or numbers guys or drug entrepreneurs. They get good at it because practice makes perfect and it so much more fun than sitting in a cubicle. These activities are rewarding in and of themselves. You might continue to perform them endlessly even with no prospect of promotion. But eventually, their precision is noted in their performance reviews, they  achieve their quotas and they move up. It must be so much more rewarding to be a mafia exec as opposed to a corporate exec. One of your subordinates gets out of line, you can punch them in the face. Corporate execs want to do this but they must remain politically correct. So they have to stab you in the back (figuratively), get sleazy and weaselly, and maneuver the subordinate into a corner career-wise where they can then play with them like a mouse. Much more time consuming.
As mafia dudes become execs they do not lose their specific skills. They can still shoot you, or extort from you or beat you, even as they manage their subordinates. So obviously their skill set is much more complete than a corporate exec's.
Anyway there can be no doubt that corporate execs are horrible people, the very dregs of society, leaches that suck it all up and give nothing back. You can tell just by looking at them. Don't they always look kind of sleazy, kind of snake-like? They have a pseudo criminal aura about them only without the intelligence. The only reason they don't end up in prison is because they can afford to buy "justice". Murderers and rapists can't. And if a corporate exec does get convicted they get sent to "prisons" where their biggest sacrifice is having to play tennis with a wood racket rather than a graphite version.
If you feel compelled to commit a crime go right ahead. It really is the only way to get ahead in today's society. But if you get caught and the judge sentences you to serve your time in a white collar prison, get down on your knees and beg. You want Folsom. The inmates there are more honorable.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Climate Change and Gilligan's Island

We are doomed. Completely and irrevocably.
I thought I'd freshen up the day with a blast of positivity.
Just read a scathing opinion piece in Rolling Stone by Al Gore regarding climate change. I refuse to call it global warming because the pinheads in the world will say "It was a friggin' cold winter. There ain't no such thing as global warming." We humans have a remarkable capacity to deny truths that disturb us; and an even more remarkable capacity to be manipulated by the media, corporations, and politicians.
It was disturbing to read because he laid out some frightening truths about how our political system works, how biased some elements of the media are, and just how much power corporations control.
It hit me that this is the ultimate extension of greed. Companies that pollute the earth fight hard to dispute proof of climate change despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, so they can continue to profit. The ultimate outcome is the extinction of the human race. Capitalism is a beautiful thing, is it not?
Maybe the theory of capitalism assumed the existence of conscience on the part of those capitalizing. Obviously the theory of capitalism was formulated by an alien who had zero insight into human nature.With the absence of conscience, capitalism becomes a disease that has no cure, benefits the privileged few and exploits the great unwashed.
Got me to thinking about our gutless politicians who bend over so corporate cash can be inserted into the proper receptacle. People who previously admitted to the danger of climate change and have since reversed their opinion because they are campaigning for the presidency and THEY NEED THE CASH. Politicians and corporations lie to the public and misrepresent facts more than ever. This disturbs me as a child of the sixties. It was my generation that exposed the truth that corporations and politicians do not care about this country, their constituents, their employees, their customers or humanity in general. Profit is the goal, and lying, cheating and stealing is the way to get there. What truly bothers me is that the upheaval in the sixties accomplished nothing. Corporations are bolder than ever; both in their money grubbing and the callous way they openly defy anyone who tries to stop them.
Gore attacks the media in this article. Talks about the networks that disseminate lies or purposefully undermine the truth in order to promote a political agenda. And they call it news.
I got two words for you. They are vile and they are an oxymoron. Cover your eyes if you are squeamish. Fox News.
This is the ultimate display, the ultimate proof, of just how stupid the American public is. People actually watch this stuff, believe it and then go out in public quoting it. It is common knowledge that the news idiots are told just how their words should be slanted to pervert the truth and promote the lies. And people gobble this stuff up.
Gore makes the point that we get most of our information from the tube. People read less than ever (that ain't saying much; the only thing 98% of the American public has read since the dawn of the internet is lame forwarded jokes, and The All Inclusive Guide to Internet Porn).
In reality it's not hard to understand the followers of fox news given the popularity of reality TV. It's all the same and it is all about exposing the dark side of human nature. Viewers wallow in it; the pettiness, the drama, the ugliness. A country that celebrates the exploits of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians while simultaneously disputing the birth place of The President of The United States is a kindergarten country doomed to extinction. But I digress.
The right people will not read Gore's article. That is the frustrating thing about fighting the good fight. Corporate detractors will find ways to dispute his points, and if a Fox viewer tried to read it, he would be confused by the very first word of the article. Which is The. Assuming a Fox viewer can even read.
My wife and I are passionate devotees of MSNBC. We got turned on to it when President Obama was running for office. After flipping around and comparing news sources, we found it to be an intelligent and insightful source of information helping us to make a decision. There is a definite bias there, but overall I think you get facts, and lies are exposed. Devoted as we are, we flip over to Fox from time to time for comparison. We are often infuriated with the transparent stupidity and lies, and the brazen way they disrespect President Obama. Just as often we laugh and shake our heads at the grade school mentality of the "newscasters." Flipping back and forth is an emotional adjustment; kind of like flipping from Death of a Salesman to Gilligan's Island.
Anyway, we are doomed. If TV is where we get our info, and if the majority of Americans watch Fox news and reality TV, if politicians are controlled by corporations who don't care if the human race is wiped out (as long as it is not in their lifetime), then we don't stand a chance.
The Gore piece is excellent. Read it if you have the guts.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Evolving is really quite hard
You swim in a pool filled with lard
You fight and you try
You bleed and you cry
In the end you get feathered and tarred

Going Racing, Baby

We're going racing, baby. Going racing.
On Sunday, July 17, I will be sitting in the stands of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, chilling, thrilling and exceptionally willing to lose my mind in pursuit of a good time. With 100,000 of my closest friends.
Racing is one of life's extremes. You either love it or you hate it; there is no middle ground. Kind of like synchronized swimming. I was not always into racing; my family was not a racing family, but we did watch candle pin bowling on Saturdays. My wife's family got me into racing at the tender age of 24 and thank god they did. My father-in-law, brothers-in-law, and some friends made an annual trek to the Pocono Raceway, and when Carol seduced me into her family they included me in the trip. I sat there bewildered with absolutely no idea of what was going on. Didn't know who the drivers were, didn't know who was leading, didn't know why the fans erupted in cheers at what seemed to be random points during the race. But I did know that I had a cooler filled with ice cold beer at my feet. I was pleasantly amazed to learn that you can bring booze into the track. How bad could this sport be?
My formative years in racing were spent in drunken delight, soaking in the hot Pennsylvania sun, in complete ignorance of what was going on around me. Probably been to Pocono at least 20 times, and every trip was memorable. I just can't remember them.
Eventually the sport got under my skin. It's a spectacle, man. Once you begin rooting for a specific driver, you get passionate. I was a Rusty Wallace fan. I picked him because I loved his car. He drove the Kodiak car and there was a big ole bear on his hood. I know, that's a girly way to do it. Most race fans follow a driver up through the ranks and make an informed choice. I had no racing knowledge so I did what I had to do. I lucked out though; Rusty turned out to be a man, a real driver,a fighter, outspoken and controversial. And he won a championship, which is enormously difficult. He was not a soft spoken girly man like Jimmie Johnson.
Going to a race is a commitment. We get to the track at 8:00 a.m. and usually don't leave until 8:00 p.m. We hook up with Carol's brother and sister-in-law (very cool people) and a bunch of their friends from Maine. Park five or six cars side by side, set up the folding tables, break out the food and the day begins. The first drink of the day is a great ritual; Captain and OJ or mimosas, the joke from the designated bartender is "50/50 OK?" I'm talking 16 ounce party cups baby. We eat breakfast and lunch in the parking lot, with a shopping trip to break up the routine. Race fans are a strange lot; shopping is a religious ritual for us. Browse the trailers until you see a shirt you absolutely cannot leave without. I love it, and if you think it's silly you can kiss my ass. Gonna get me an awesome Kevin Harvick shirt this year; he's currently NUMBER 1 in the points standings, and the driver I have been rooting for since I got over the shock of Rusty's retirement.
It's 1:00 or 2:00, the race is about to start; you are in the stands, anticipation is delicious. "Gentlemen start your engines." When those engines crank for the first time I get goose bumps. Got 'em right now just writing this. You watch the first 20 laps in delirious joy and then settle in for the long haul. My cooler is perfect. A twelve pack of ice cold beer and six nips of Crown Royal. I have also left a bottle of Crown Royal in another cooler back in the car with twelve more beers for after the race. Heavenly. Crown Royal has gotten me and a lot of unsuspecting acquaintances in trouble over the years; it's part of the tradition.
The engines screaming, the smell of burned rubber, the huge crowd, the racing, the accidents, the speed - I love it all. Ever been in a crowd of 100,00 people? Passionate people cheering on their drivers, standing, gesticulating, just generally letting it all hang out. It's therapeutic, baby.
And no fights. Small minded people like to characterize race fans as ignorant red necks. I have been going to races for 30 years now and I have never seen a fight. Coolers at a Patriots game would result in bloodshed. Maybe race fans are a little more evolved than you think.
The race is over, we're back in the parking lot grilling supper and waiting for the traffic to ease up. We create our own community on race day and it is very cool. Twelve hours of shooting the shit, eating, drinking, shopping, sharing a common passion with friends and relatives. It is a mega event made personal by the continuity of racing friends. We may not see some of these people until next year's race but whenever we get together it is free and easy and laughter makes it all work. We go to two races in NH every year; some of the faces change but the core group has been together for a long time.
I am excited. I am ready to roll. I predict that Kevin Harvick will win on July 17 and that Jimmie Johnson will wreck.
And you can take that to the bank, Eric.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Saga of a Low Wage Earner

This past loooooooong weekend, as I was driving to work on Friday and Saturday afternoon, I got to contemplating what it means to be a low wage earner. My weekend didn't start until 8:30 on Saturday night, and by then most of the rest of the world was swimming in beer and evil intentions; joyously so. Although I cannot whine too loudly because I had Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off (yeah I am still wallowing in the satisfying respite of my weekend).
On Friday, July 1, I was passed by approximately one million cars heading in the other direction. People gleefully fleeing work, laughing uproariously in their cars, tossing empty beer cans out the window, going home, going to the lake, the Cape, to barbecues and happy mayhem. I expected this and have experienced it before; I have been a low wage earner for 5 and 1/2 years now. Still it plays on the mind. Driving in to work at 12:30 on a warm, sunny afternoon when everybody else is scampering towards temporary freedom is difficult. Although I was smiling; just cruising in that kind of weather with the windows down makes me a grinnin' fool.
Saturday caught me by surprise because as I got close to work I sat in traffic on the highway for a few minutes. It was close to 2:00 on Saturday afternoon on July 2 and people were still flocking like lemmings to well earned and desperate escapes.
Many of these lucky people are those we like to call professionals. People who have salaries and paid vacation time and paid sick time and lots of wiggle room generally to be irresponsible. I know, I was one of them once. These lucky folks get paid for the holiday, can extend the weekend and get paid for it, call in sick whenever the hell they feel like it and get paid for it.
Low wage earners have no options. You don't go to work, you don't get paid. And we typically work nights and weekends, or at least hours that are outside "the norm." No paid sick or vacation time, no paid holidays, much less control over our lives.
General wisdom says professionals are more educated, they have more responsibility and they deserve more. The truth is they are no better than the hourly workers they supervise, they only think they are. More education does not mean they are smarter and it definitely does not guarantee that they work harder.When I was a white collar guy, I got to work late on a regular basis, took long lunches, played on the internet when I should have been creating spreadsheets, called in sick whenever the spirit moved me. Didn't affect my pay, although it might have impacted my phoney baloney "career." Is this the definition of professionalism?
I always got along with the people in the warehouse or the factory and had a real hard time taking the professionals seriously. I also hated the condescending attitude of the cubicle dwellers towards the real workers. That's because I wasn't really a professional, I only played one on TV.
I have seen both sides of the fence because I have worked both sides of the fence. My eyes were opened wide the first time I got laid off from an accounting job and took a cleaning job out of desperation. My family was always unreasonable, they were forever demanding food. When I began emptying trash cans at night I noticed the late working professionals treated me like dirt; some didn't acknowledge me at all, others talked to me like I was Jethro Bodine. When I was wearing a shirt and tie, just one week before, they would have treated me with respect. This behavior only confirmed what I already knew but it still pissed me off. Since 2006 I have been solidly entrenched in the world of hourly wage earners, primarily as a bartender. I was forcibly ejected from the professional world in 2005 by a corporation that consolidated, and since then I have felt so much cleaner after scraping all that slime off my body.
Here is what I have learned. Many professionals are phonies; they hold their subordinates to higher standards than they themselves are evaluated on. They enjoy  turning petty issues into monumental transgressions; it gives them a feeling of power. I can't tell you how many times I have witnessed warehouse workers being reprimanded for being two minutes late from lunch by the same people who take one and a half hour lunches and return with beer on their breath. I was working second shift for a book distributor; one night after dinner they shepherded us all into a conference room to tell us drinking on the job was grounds for immediate dismissal. I found this hypocrisy amusing. It was even more amusing because me and my buddy Mike were drunk.  
Low wage earners work hard and have to fight for dignity. Professionals get soft and are automatically given respect because they have a degree. I have a B.S. in Accounting. The only impressive thing about that, is that I earned it through a haze of pot smoke and alcohol consumption.
Hell, the world ain't fair, I know that as well as anybody. But it would be cool if we could achieve a little more balance in the work place. A little less hypocrisy and pomposity, and a little more team spirit.
It will never happen. At least I am free from cubicle hell. The only thing that disturbs me now working in the booze emporium as a low wage earner, is the very real possibility that I might break a bottle over the head of some wine snob who treats me like Jethro Bodine. That would feel really good.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Rynborn

Used to be a blues club in Antrim, NH called The Rynborn. The greatest blues club in the history of the world.
At least in my mind.
I moved to NH in 1986; I don't remember when I discovered The Rynborn but I thank god that I did. I worship music, it is my religion and my savior and my release, and I worship the blues above all other genres of music. I hate the word genre because music is one religion and does not need to be analyzed and categorized; I use the word to make a point.
The Rynborn became my church. I spent countless nights in that smoke filled atmosphere, listening to music that elevated my soul and made me forget about my small life and actually transported me to a sublime existence in a spiritual world.
The club was started by two guys; one I never knew, the other I did. Doug Aborn.
I went there early one weekday afternoon to buy tickets for an upcoming show. There was no one else in the place. Doug stepped behind the bar, he sold me the tickets, I had a couple of drinks and somehow I ended up telling him the story of my life. I will never forget that afternoon. Doug told me he thought I was a pretty honest guy because I talked of my failures and did not place blame. That encounter earned me the right to talk to Doug whenever I was at the club. When I was there with friends I felt like a king because of that. Even though I was probably sucking up, he never made me feel that way; he remembered my name and talked to me respectfully.
Doug got it. He wasn't just running a bar, he was a blues lover. I never had to check the paper to see who was playing because I knew that whoever was there kicked ass. If I wanted a blues fix on a Tuesday night, I just went. And I was never disappointed. Even on open mic nights you got people who cared, who loved the music and who wanted to express themselves without making fools out of themselves. I specifically remember one week night when there was a dude playing who I never heard of before. He was from LA and he rocked. Walked right up to my table with his guitar slung low and wailed within one foot of me; I was blown away. Can you experience that on a random week night? I doubt it. I'm not even sure that opportunity even exists anymore.
Luther Guitar Junior Johnson. Played with Muddy Waters. Do you understand that lineage? It is a direct link to blues royalty. He lived in Antrim for years and was a regular at The Rynborn. I saw him as often as I could. I celebrated my fiftieth birthday in his presence and have an autographed T-shirt to commemorate that night.
There is a guy named Skip Philbrick who I completely dug and still do. Mississippi Skippy. He toured with Luther, and has a million cool stories to tell about that and all the other cool authentic blues dudes he has played with over the years. He was a regular and even managed the hotel across the street where many of the musicians stayed. Better believe there are some amazing stories connected with that gig.
I applied for a bartending job, 5 and 1/2 years ago where Skip hangs, but I didn't know that at the time. Walked in and saw Skip standing there. I was speechless. Did the interview, and then walked over to Skip to tell him that I always dug him at The Rynborn and to thank him for the many, many great nights I spent digging his soul while swilling whiskey in complete, joyous abandon. I now have the privilege from time to time of having a drink with Skip. Amazing how life works. I worship the blues, and I get to drink with a guy who is directly linked to the very history of the blues.
The Rynborn closed years ago, and I have been completely lost since then. As far as I can figure out there are no good authentic blues bars within shouting distance of where I live. This is an unforgivaeble sin. I'm not the kind of guy to spend every night sitting in a bar UNLESS you got some soul saving music to vibrate my spirit. The Rynborn was my home for many years and I will never forget the many, many nights I sat and drank and breathed in an atmosphere and a music that helped me make sense of my life.
I pray that things will change and that an opportunity like that will come alive once again. For me and Skip and Luther and everydamnbody who understands that the blues connect with your very soul and confirm the magic of life. That is not exaggeration and I will stand by that statement until the day I die.

Love and A Long Weekend

Used to be the long weekends were filled with the laughter of our sons.
Laughing as they played when they were young, laughing as they came
and went when they were older, always filling our hearts with love.
It’s quiet now, just the two of us, and we are surrounded by the sound
of who we have become.
Sharing omelets and Ray LaMontagne in a quiet moment that tells the
Two people who have built their lives around one another and traveled
to the very depth, the very definition of love.
It’s good to be away from work for a couple of days, to briefly control
my own life, get a taste of freedom.
It’s overwhelming to have this woman sitting next to me in this peaceful
moment, treasuring what has passed, and looking forward to what is to come.
This is love in its most spiritual form, soul deep, and the answer to any
doubt about the beauty of life.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Slaughterhouses and The republicans

I am not deep into The Bond but already I am at dilemma city. Talking about slaughterhouses. And egg farms and turkey farms and pig farms. It's not like I don't know these horror houses exist, I have read enough articles and seen enough exposes on TV to be aware of the cruelty humans are capable of in the name of profit. But having a book in my hands is more intimate; I can re-read passages and really absorb the nastiness of it.
I toy with the idea of moderating my diet from time to time. I don't think I could go completely veg, and this says a lot about my commitment. But even if I ate less meat it would be helpful to the poor, suffering animals. Who knows, I'll see how it all plays out by the time I get to the end of the book.
What infuriates me is the focus of these large corporations, although it doesn't surprise me. They find ways to puff up these animals as quickly as possible to get more meat with complete disregard to the animals' health. They cramp them into tiny spaces where they cannot move or even lie down so the corporation can maximize their space usage and their profits. They torture them on the way to slaughtering them. Turkeys are the most striking example I can cite without getting gross. They have discovered ways to increase the size of the turkey breasts to the point where the birds can barely walk; they sustain all types of injuries because their bodies are so grossly exaggerated. I hate myself for saying this but I LOVE turkey on Thanksgiving. Should I?
The food is sometimes tainted because of the horrible conditions these greedy corporations impose. Filth, squalor, a horrible environment that these animals are forced to live in for their entire existence.
The corporations lie about their abuses until they are prosecuted, then they pay fines and keep on torturing. The USDA is in their pocket. Many high ranking officials in the USDA were once corporate executives in the beef industry. Tells you all you need to know about our corrupt system.
It's a perfect example of how corporations act. They take a natural thing like farming and pervert and distort it to suck every last dollar of profit out of the process with complete disregard to nature, the environment or the living creatures they are slaughtering or altering to feed us. And they destroy the careers of real farmers and take their families down with them.
Which brings me to the republicans. Not a big leap if you give it some thought. By the way I refuse to capitalize the R because republicans are small people.
I have been relatively quiet since President Barack Obama was elected but I have been slowly building up an intense anger which will soon be vented for all to enjoy. This is a dry run.
republicans right now are systematically attacking the middle class, the elderly,the poor, and anyone who takes an intelligent approach rather than a mindlessly religious one. They say they are doing this to save the economy. The irony is they are in the hip pocket of major corporations, the very people who have all the capital and all the resources to save this economy. Except they would rather hide their money in foreign countries to avoid paying US taxes, and exploit their employees by reducing their wages, cutting their benefits and laying them off. The philosophy is fueled by two things - greed and the commitment to defeat President Barack Obama. Not to save this country or to do politically what is best for this country.
The connection to food industry abuses is this. Middle and lower class Americans are helpless right now. republicans (corporations) are systematically stripping us of our rights and our very ability to survive. They will abuse and insult us, cause us to suffer, take away all the things we have fought for over the last 50 years, and they will feel no remorse because their wallets will be bulging. They will cause poverty and suffering, they will make it impossible for sick people to get well, they will cause some people to die. All in the name of profit and all hiding behind a very thin mask of supposed patriotism.
I am talking about a mindset here. Our lives are dominated by corporations who care nothing about us. And they are in control. They control politics, they control all sources of power. republicans want corporations to become government. This is a horrifying concept and one that has a real chance of becoming our reality. I despise it and any thinking American should too.
Vote to re-elect President Barack Obama. And eat some goddamn broccoli.

Reflections on Humanity

I work in a state liquor store
Sell booze to the alkies and whores
They get drunk as hell
Then don't feel so swell
But still they will crawl back for more

Editor's note - I include myself in this reflection so please don't be offended

Friday, July 1, 2011

July 1

It's July 1. A day of reckoning heavy with implications and accusations. Listen I need signposts, measuring points, I need to evaluate and ponder. On January 1, I began my fifty eighth year on this planet. Determined to make change, to make my way, to wrestle my life to the ground and get out of it exactly what I want. Today I am officially half way through my fifty eighth year.
And I am not pleased, seemingly for the silliest of reasons. I weighed myself on
June 1. 173 pounds. My goal was to get under 170. I cranked up the exercise regimen dramatically. Went from 20 minutes on the exercise bike to 30, and walked 2 miles as often as I could. Of course June sucked and I could not get out there nearly as much as I wanted to. I weighed myself today. 175 pounds. I GAINED TWO POUNDS. How the hell can that be? I was completely bummed out. Then I rationalized - it has to be muscle. I am doing a little light weight work to avoid flabby old man arms, and I am working my legs like crazy - gotta be some muscle increase there, right?
But I am still bummed out. I need to see measurable progress, and weight loss is the only area I am going to get that. Let's face it, nobody is going to walk up to me and say "Gee you're a great writer, here's $400,000 - write a book." Nobody in the liquor commission is going to say "You are an accomplished low wage earner, we're promoting you and your salary is now $120,000." These things are going to come hard and they are going to happen slowly.
But weight loss for christ sake. I bet I averaged five days a week on that goddamn exercise bike and that is no exaggeration. And I walked every day that I possibly could. This is a lesson for you youngsters. When you are young, you can eat three double quarter pounders a day every day for a week, drink a twelve pack of Bud every day and eat five complete pecan pies, and if you do three sit ups you will lose 6 pounds. I can run a marathon every day for a week, do 100,00 sit ups, ride the exercise bike for 2 hours every day after running the marathon, eat one cup of yogurt a day and nothing else, but if I eat one cheeseburger during the week I will gain 9 pounds.
This is the point where I would normally give up. Grab a bottle of civilized whiskey, cook up some cheese covered eggs and butter slathered toast, and curl up in my recliner with a five star porn flick. But you are looking at the 2011 version of me. I don't have to leave for work until 12:30 today. And before that happens I will walk two miles, ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes, and mix in a couple of sit ups and some light weight work to avoid flabby old man arms.
Because as of this morning I am operating on faith. The weight scale flipped me the bird big time (it's lucky I didn't smash it to death with a hammer). I got nothing else, absolutely nothing else to go on except my belief that I am doing the right things. I know it in my soul and I will not quit. Evolving is not easy, cracking your way out of the egg takes effort, and if the world will not give me positive feedback I will create my own.
You say "But Joe, think about the good you did for your heart and circulatory system." I don't care. Fernando Lamas is the life guru who said "Remember, darlings, it's better to look good than to feel good." Pure genius.
So that's where I is today. I went from crushed desolation to grim determination. I cain't be beat, I won't be beat. I will exercise, I will write, I will pursue a phony baloney career within the liquor commission and I will come out of this thing bigger, better and happier than I have ever been before.
It is a noble thing for a man to better himself, to take a look around and decide that he doesn't like the surrounding landscape and to set about making changes. I am trying to reinvent myself in my own image (it's complicated, I know), I am digging down through layers of filth and muck and nastiness, trying to get to and polish up that rare and beautiful diamond.
It will happen, and the hell with that scale, it's probably inaccurate anyway.