Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Sometimes you don’t even know you have it.
Worse still, there are times when you know it and abuse it,
ignoring its fragility.
You can think it is wrong when it is right or think
it’s right when it’s wrong.
Your mind is not qualified to interpret love because you
don’t see things as they are, you see things as you are.
Love speaks to your soul, your spirit, your essence and
your heart.
When your defenses are down, when you are
being instead of acting, you will feel it, if you are lucky
enough to be loved.
And that’s when you need it the most.

Ida Santangelo

My aunt Ida died on Tuesday, August 23. She was my father's sister, her name originally was Ida Testa. Both my father and my aunt were born in Italy; my father was seven when he came to this country, my aunt a little younger. I have so much respect for them and for the whole family. My grandfather came over first, got a job as a tailor, eventually brought the rest of the family over. Two more kids were born in this country, Carmen and Lydia. Carmen and Lydia are still digging this world, my father passed away in 1999. Imagine moving to a foreign country where you don't even speak the language and making a life for yourself? Amazing stuff. Could you succeed in school when you didn't even speak the language?
I have a lot of impressions from last Friday, the day of the funeral. In the church at the end of the service a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote was read - it blew me away.
" To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of close friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
I know there are a million quotes like this in the world; I like this one because it seems to nail things down.
To laugh often and much - that's a basic one but it can be hard sometimes. It's hard to laugh when every day is a struggle to survive. I have to assume he is talking about genuine laughter, not diseased laughter or laughter at the expense of another. Laughing like children laugh. That is a worthy goal.
To win the respect of intelligent people - I like that one. Maybe sounds a bit elitist but really, who cares what an idiot thinks about you? If you concentrate on intelligent people it narrows the field considerably.
The affection of children - Kids, when they are young, are living, breathing bullshit detectors. If a kid likes you, you are doing OK.
To earn the appreciation of honest critics - There are a lot of people willing to criticize everything you do. Because that is how they validate their own existence. Small minds. Honest critics can help you see through the fog of self image. Valuable stuff.
Endure the betrayal of close friends - I have never experienced this but I have discovered people to be idiots who I thought were friends. This is probably more my fault than theirs.
To appreciate beauty - Every day, baby. You have to look around and breathe it all in. Every moment of beauty is a bullet you can use against the world's harshness.
To find the best in others - Most of us are not capable of being honest critics, so be gentle with others. We are all in this together.
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition - I love this beause it widens your perspective. You don't have to end racial discrimination to improve the world, you can do it in small and satisfying ways. However if you CAN end racial discrimination......................
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - I don't know how to take that one. It sounds simple and overwhelming at the same time. I would need to do the It's A Wonderful Life Thing to see if I qualify. I really hope I do.
I have a lot of impressions from that day. You can't get that close to death without thinking. And feeling. Another one that blew me away - as we pulled away from the funeral home in the funeral procession heading towards the church, there was a man standing on the curb watching us go by with an infant draped over his shoulder. Says it all, baby - says it all.
On a lighter note. We were deep in Massachusetts, in the noise and traffic and fast moving insanity of an overpopulated area. All the stuff we moved to NH to get away from. It took a while for the funeral directors to coordinate the movement of the procession out onto the street and towards the church because of traffic, which kept on getting backed up by a traffic light down the street. As we sat and waited, Carol turned to me and said "In all aspects of life AND death, everything is easier where we live." Words to live by.
RIP Ida. Your life is worthy of love and respect. And I absolutely know deep in my heart that right now you are sharing wine with my father and laughing your asses off. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Carol

Not much of a storm, at least for us. I know that a lot of people lost power, a number of people died, so I consider us lucky that we didn't really get hit. We got a ton of rain and some crazy wind but nothing really frightening.
We never lost our power, which blew me away. I noticed after moving to NH in 1986 that if I sneezed forcefully enough, the power would go out. This pissed me off endlessly because I am essentially a city boy and I am not accustomed to inconvenience. I don't miss Massachusetts at all, never want to go back but I also don't remember losing our power every other week in the winter. And we didn't have to dump water into the toilet to go to the bathroom if we did lose our power. So I took it for granted I would be reading by candlelight, but it never happened.
During the week I didn't take the hype too seriously; Carol did. I worry about stupid things, she worries about important things; it's a wonderful relationship. Her nervousness increased right along with all the media hype. She talked about the storm quite a bit and it was obvious that she was worried.
I didn't get nervous until Sunday morning when I got up and it appeared this thing was really going to happen. Started to get concern in my gut. I like to slide through life; I don't want to deal with inconvenient things like broken windows and falling trees and no electricity and jobs. But Sunday morning it felt like I was going to have to be an adult. Of course Carol had already done a lot to prepare on Saturday while I was working at The Booze Emporium. So on Sunday we moved some more stuff from the lawn, pulled the grill onto the screened in porch and did some other minor stuff. As we were doing this I noticed a strange sensation. I felt calm because I had Carol to share the burden of what was to come. Something about all the years we have been together, and the tremendous respect I have built up for her, along with the love she gives to me and inspires in me, changed my gut feelings from nervousness to confidence. This whole long term marriage thing just keeps on taking on new dimensions for me. And I like it.
The media. After it became apparent that the storm would not be as bad as predicted around here, I was entertained watching the local "newscasters" try to make more out of the situation than was necessary. Because in 2011 if there is no news, than the news has to be manufactured. Again, I am not belittling the people who did suffer at the hands of this storm, I am commenting on the way media works today.
They were calling local police chiefs and trying to whip up some panic. But this is NH; these people know how to handle tough weather AND they are short and to the point; not interested in elongating a five word answer into ten paragraphs. "Is the weather horrific in your town?" "Nope, a little rain, a little wind." "Are people jumping off of roofs and drowning in their front yards?" "Nope, but we did have to cancel Bingo." "How long do you think it will take your town to recover from this horrible disaster?" "About a day, unless Mrs.Grubers cows get loose, they can be crafty and hard to catch."
You get the point. I also enjoy the helpful hints they put out there. Like don't approach fallen power lines. I was actually preparing to go out in search of fallen power lines because I wanted to supercharge my nose hair trimmer, but Carol stopped me, saying "Look at the ticker at the bottom of the screen. They say it could be dangerous." The woman is always looking out for me, and the media makes it a little easier for her by offering up information the common man couldn't possibly know intuitively.
The situation also inspired efficiency in me. I cooked a delightful breakfast early, shaved so I could look pretty for The Booze Emporium today, and washed all the dishes. All in anticipation of losing our power. Which never happened. So the chores were done early, which made the day long, slow moving and kind of delicious.
So we got lucky and I am thankful for that. If we lost our power or had our picture window shattered I would be whining like a little baby right now. I would just like to point out that Carol semi-panicked and I pretty much kept my cool. And I ended up being right.
Still next time around I think I might go out and buy some batteries and water and canned food.
Just to keep Carol happy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

They Give Me Hope

Just read an article in Time magazine about veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who come home to use their leadership skills to do positive things in this country. I gobbled it up.
So much of what I read about these vets concerns the horrible injuries they sustain, the psychological torture the war imprints on their brains, their struggles to rebuild a life in America. And rightfully so. Their sacrifices are way out of proportion to the justification of the mission. An American Idiot, George Bush, sent these people over there to fight, be injured and to die for reasons that are increasingly exposed as purely political and even completely unjustified.
I come from a generation that gets a bad rap for their opinion of the military, maybe justifiably. Viet Nam was a stupid war, and we protested vigorously against it. But Viet Nam vets were forced to pay the price when they got home; the treatment they received was shameful. They were not the problem; our politicians were the problem. I hate war but I deeply respect our warriors. They do what they do for the right reasons; because they love this country and feel compelled to protect it. They have more guts than I will ever have. I sat in front of the TV when they were drawing draft lottery numbers for the Viet Nam war and prayed I would get a high one. I was terrified. I don't think I was tough enough to deal with a situation like that and I am thankful I never had to.
What I dug about this article was the attitudes expressed by the vets. Their endeavors include doing handicapped-access projects for other veterans; sending elite teams to disaster areas to organize logistics; running an employment agency for veterans; running for public office; running a mentoring program for first-time criminals and much more.
Heavy duty quotes:
"The returning veterans are bringing skills that seem to be on the wane in American society...crisp decision making, rigor, optimism,entrepreneurial creativity, a larger sense of purpose and real patriotism (as opposed to self-righteous flag waving)." Dead on. This country is going soft and we are getting beat. I especially agree with the flag waving comment; so many people use phony patriotic rhetoric to hide their prejudices and hatred.
"We're a group that really wants to see America become a better place. We hate the divisive politics of the baby-boom generation. They're running the country into the ground." I am a baby-boomer and I am embarrassed by the childish display of politicians since President Obama was elected. It disgusts me.
"..conservative sense that is common to veterans: that American society has gone soft and is filled with whiners, an entitlement culture lacking a sense of individual accountability." I consider myself guilty as charged; I have a home, a most excellent family, a couple of part time jobs and my health. And I complain.
Talking about their opinion of politics, "they feel closer to one another than they do to either political party." They said it didn't matter to them whether a colleague ran as a Democrat or a republican; they would support them because they know they have the right leadership skills and their head and heart is in the right place.
As potential employees (paraphrasing) "there is no decision they would have to make harder than decisions they have already made; no amount of pressure to equal the pressure they've already experienced." You cannot possibly argue with that logic. We make our jobs so much harder than they have to be because we wallow in drama.
It must be such a shock to return to this country after laying your life on the line and be exposed to the stupidity, greed and selfishness that destroy us. People who sue McDonald's because their coffee was too hot. Politicians who put their own careers ahead of the future of this country. Wealthy Wall Streeters who put large salaries and huge bonuses ahead of the financial health of this country.
I loved the article because it gave me hope that there is a group out there with the right mentality to save this country. Or at least try to. People who are physically and mentally tough, people who feel they should earn what they get, people who see the need to make America strong in a global economy that is inter-dependent.
I have enormous respect for these veterans as I do for all veterans. But I think some of the older veterans have a sense of entitlement similar to what society exhibits. I work at a legion and I see it in some of the members. My sense is that younger vets do not feel that way. In the article one Iraq/Afghanistan vet is quoted as saying "You know, our generation of vets isn't really into joining organizations like the VFW or the Legion, but we do have a need to share our stories and experiences."
I love the fact that they are vocal about the problems they see and they they are direct in their criticisms. I respect their dedication to put in the work to make the changes this country needs. If the majority of our society felt that way this country could be amazing once again. But I think we have gone too far down the road of laziness, greed and political in-fighting to get us back on track.
One more quote: "It will be a phenomenal waste if 10 years from now, we turn out to be just another interest group, limiting ourselves to veterans' issues" - Michael Breen, VP of the Truman National Security Project, which has provided a home in the Democratic party for returning veterans with a desire for public service.
That quote to me represents an all encompassing point of view, one with the betterment of this country in mind. A desire and willingness to fight in this country as they fought overseas. Proudly with courage, intelligence and determination.
I hope this generation of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets has a huge impact on our society. We desperately need it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Will Hunting (As I Hunt Myself Down)

Good Will Hunting. Unbelievable movie. There is so much more than meets the eye to that movie. I dig it every time I watch it. One of the scenes that always blows me away is with Affleck and Damon in the parking lot after getting done for the day working hard ass construction. They are standing there, leaning on the truck, having a beer. And a conversation.
Damon makes a comment about how his future is being a lab rat, doing all that math stuff. (A and D from now on). A tells him that might be right but "it's better than this shit. It's a way out of here." D gets into all the why do I wanna leave stuff, we'll be neighbors, have little kids, take them to Little League up at Foley Field stuff.
A replies "Look, you're my best friend so don't take this the wrong way, but, in 20 years, if you're still living here, comin' over to my house, watchin' the Patriots games, workin' construction, I'll fucking kill ya." And he continues " you owe it to me because tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be 50, and I'll still be doin' this shit." "I mean you're sitting on a winning lottery ticket. And you're too much of a pussy to cash it in. Cause I'd do fucking anything to have what you got."
Heavy duty. Because when I watch that scene it is me talking to me. Every time I see that scene it makes me shiver. The movie was made in 1997, I have seen it many times in those 14 years and I am still having that conversation. I have had that conversation in my head all my life. Always knowing I am on the wrong path professionally, always knowing I can do a lot better, always being too much of a pussy to cash it in. There are two me's. Actually I am a million different people from one day to the next but for all intents and purposes there are two me's. The one who is living this life and the one that knows I got something inside that would make me a lot happier if I could just tap into it.
I love the scene for it's intensity and honesty; two friends being right up front with each other. That intensity is inside my head and sometimes fuels my insanity. The last time I watched that scene I reacted a little differently because I am working hard to make changes this year and I feel like I am doing the right things so I won't be working construction when I am 50. It used to depress me to identify with that scene. Suddenly it acts more as a motivator. It's a good conversation to watch and a good one to have with myself from time to time. Keep me inspired towards change.
It occurred to me recently that with all my ranting about my part time jobs I might come across as thinking I am something special. I do not think that way. I think all jobs are noble, one type of work is not above or better than another, and I never judge people by the work they do.Anybody holding down a job deserves respect because it is hard physically, emotionally and mentally. Except high level corporate types; they are sharks and I just can't respect them. My opinion is just that I am doing the wrong things; if I make use of whatever talents and abilities I have I will be happier, regardless of whether or not I get rich.
By the way, that scene with Affleck and Damon is revealing in another way. Watch how they hold their beers. Damon holds it like a man. Affleck has his pinky extended like a little girlie. Now you might argue that is acting, character affectation. I don't think so. I think that is indicative of their true personalities. christ just look at the movies they have been in since GWH. I think Damon is more down to earth and Affleck has become more the Hollywood type and I think the extended pinkie was an early indicator.
Just thought you should know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One More Time

One more parting shot at dreaded winter (unless I change my mind). We are paupers, so we keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees. 68 degrees is not warm. 72 degrees is warm and that is where the thermostat should be set. We cannot afford to do that because the oil prices are so goddamn high and our incomes are so goddamn low. So not only am I uncomfortable outside in the harsh reality that is New England winter, I am also uncomfortable in my own home. I usually wear four long sleeve t-shirts, a heavy flannel shirt, a heavy duty PATS sweatshirt and a long winter coat with a double lining, and extra heavy sweatpants over my  thermal trap door underwear as I sit in my recliner.
Sometimes I'll open a window for an hour or so, just so it actually feels warm in the house when I close the window. When we entertain, I fill the ice cube trays and set them on the kitchen table to freeze. Usually takes about 15 minutes and is actually quite handy.
Just thought you should know.

rush limbaugh and his Triple Double Oreo

I collect phrases and words. When I hear something that strikes me, I write it down for later inspiration.
Brilliant idiots. I don't remember where I heard it or maybe read it but I liked the sound of it and knew I could use it. republican politicians and right wing talking heads fit the bill. They are america's brilliant idiots.
rush limbaugh recently made nasty racial comments tying President Obama and his wife to the brand new Oreo cookie - the Triple Double Oreo. This is a cookie with three wafers and both chocolate and vanilla creme filling to separate them. This is a brilliant innovation and one I cannot wait to stuff into my already over sized belly. You would thing a fat bastard like rush would be in ecstasy looking forward to his first five package binge of the new Oreo delicacy, assuming he hasn't already experienced it. But being the intellectual visionary that he is, he took his joy one step further by turning it into a diseased political statement. He called it a "biracial cookie" and said "it wouldn't be long before it's called the Or-Bam-eo, or something like it."
He also suggested that the creation of this cookie is some sort of bizarre backlash to Michelle Obama's focus on healthy eating.
Comments like that should enrage even his listeners but they don't; there is no backlash because there is an audience for comments like that. Which tells you everything you need to know about america.
In 2007, CBSNEWS.com disabled comments on stories about Barack Obama because so many of them were vilely racist. That was before he was even elected. The website explained they don't typically edit negative comments, but that  the volume and persistence of racist comments directed towards the future President made this decision unavoidable.
Glenn Beck called President Obama a "racist, with deep seated hatred for white people or white culture."
Pat Buchanan in a recent discussion with Al Sharpton on MSNBC called President Obama "your boy", which enraged Sharpton who responded "he's nobody's boy, he's your president and he's our president, and that is what you all are going to get through your head."
A woman in NY came a cross a five dollar bill with "let's keep the white house white" stamped on it.
Senator Harry Reid, during the presidential campaign, said Obama as a black candidate could be successful in part due to his "light skinned appearance", and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
If I had the time I could dig up 100,00 more racist comments indicating the mood and mentality of this country. Now that President Obama has been at it for a while I think it is even worse, because everybody wants to blame him for every thing that is wrong with this country; they want to see him fail because he is black.
republicans and right wing talking heads are brilliant idiots because they use racial hatred to fan the flames. Sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, always stupidly and dangerously, they appeal to this cancer of american society in an attempt to incite people against the President and to condemn him to one term in office. His republican opponents openly admit they want to make him a one term president, which they focus on, instead of the issues that are eating up and destroying the middle class and america itself. They are brilliant at manipulation, although I hesitate to use that word because their approach is vile. They are idiots because they cannot see how dangerous it is to play games with racial hatred; a lot of people died in the sixties because of racially motivated violence.
President Barack Obama is in a dangerous position because of all the issues facing him in this country. Middle class americans are getting royally screwed; screwed out of retirement, out of jobs, out of the value of their homes, out of any kind of a comfortable future in their declining years. And they are afraid and angry and feeling helpless. republicans use these emotions to manipulate opinion against the President; it is difficult to think clearly when you are afraid, when you are emotional. President Obama has not been tough enough, he has been bullied by republicans and he has been overwhelmed with the enormous issues facing him. But his intelligence makes him our best option. He can succeed with the right support.
My biggest fear is that racial hatred will defeat his re-election bid. I don't even understand how he got elected initially; I never believed this country was enlightened enough to elect a black president. If republicans slither into the White House there is no future for this country.
If the voting public was intelligent and unbiased, President Obama would get every single vote cast. Only a pure idiot could vote for the garbage republicans are putting out there. Only a moron could consider people like Romney and Perry and Bachmann as viable candidates.
But this is america. A country whose people wallow in hatred, violence and stupidity.
Some people say that blaming criticism of President Obama on racism is too easy, that there is more to it. I say bullshit. The people of this country can't stand the fact that their President is black and they can't wait to see him defeated. And there are a lot of people who would like to see him assassinated. These people disgust me in ways I cannot even describe.
President Obama cannot eradicate racism in this country, the people in america are not smart enough for that. But he can get re-elected by showing strong leadership and solving some of the huge issues facing him. Maybe. I'm banking that if people realize he is doing the things that will protect them and bring more stability to their lives, they can overlook their hatred, (not solve it, just overlook it) long enough to do what is right for america.
In the meantime I hope Rush Limbaugh chokes on a Triple Double Oreo on camera and on mike, and that as he gasps for air with a red face and jiggling belly, people see him for the immoral buffoon that he is.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Discussion With Myself

I am endlessly entertained by myself in 2011. I'm sitting in the recliner this morning on a glorious day off, reading, sipping coffee and thinking. By the way, reading and sipping coffee is my number one way to relax, my most enjoyable moment. I would choose it over whiskey any time. How's that for a shocker?
The thinking involved plotting how I'm going to attack the rest of this year. Summer is gone spiritually; it will officially end on September 1. It meant nothing to me; too many cold days, rainy days, and many of the beautiful days were, of course, work days. I wasted it and it mocked me.
Four months laid out ahead of me to DO. This is what amused me. I was thinking positively; OK what do I have to do to greet 2012 with a smile? How can I make myself proud of myself? I experienced these thoughts as if I was watching or listening to somebody else. Because in reality that is exactly what is happening.
I have changed. Internally. They say change has to come from within and that is perfectly accurate. I can feel it. I know it. I breathe it. I have been trying to change for approximately nine or ten years. Seven years definitely; turning fifty was a major motivator. But I remember at forty eight already dreading my fiftieth. That was when the drive to stay alive ( I was inspired to sloganize), the need and desire to change originated. "He was born in the winter of his forty eighth year."
But you have to be ready to change. I have been trying to force it since then with no success. Continuously falling back into the welcoming arms of Crown Royal while simultaneously shunning the open and loving arms of my wife. A guaranteed formula for failure, but we all got to learn the hard way. At least I do.
Change is hard. At some point in our lives we all settle for a pattern. A way of dealing with life that gets us through. Even if it is self defeating we stick to it because change is hard. We give up. I have been curmudgeonly at times, set in my ways, floating on a sea of despair and surrender.
But this year I discovered that I have the capacity for change. I can do it. I want it. I changed my habits drastically and my outlook changed as well. Or I changed my outlook drastically and my habits changed as well. Who knows. Who cares. What matters is that I know I am a different man. The irony is that nobody else (except Carol) knows it. Because nothing external has changed. I am still grotesquely obese, I work two part time jobs and we eat cat food. No new car, no fancy vacations, no nice clothes, no fattened bank account, no more freedom than we had before.
But I will get there. We will get there. Because I am determined, which is a commitment I have never had. And I am putting in the work. You cannot crawl into a bottle of whiskey whining about change and expect it to happen. You have to make it happen. Christ, I sound like a televangelist.
It was fun sitting in that recliner this morning, listening to my mind and saying "who the hell is this guy?" More than that, it felt good. I bent quite a bit from mid July through mid August. Got sick, fell apart physically and mentally. Wasted the summer away, which normally would depress me beyond reclamation. And here I am on August 21 inspiring myself to keep moving, keep trying, keep doing. I used to give up all the time. It's so much easier. That's why they make bar stools.
But another thing I am noticing is that I am developing a sense of self worth. Another VERY foreign sensation. And infinitely more enjoyable than self loathing, which I have indulged in, in heaping helpings, for a very long time.
Gonna stick with The Booze Emporium, see where it leads. Gonna keep exercising, and I will lose the weight. Do not bet against me. Continue to write and look for ways to turn that into a semi-career or, if I get lucky, a career. And I am going to continue to change and to look for ways to improve myself. Because now that I experienced it I realize I have a taste for it. What I have done this year is open up a window to myself. I have caught glimpses of the real me and I am starting to think there is a real cool guy buried under all the muck. Some guy who can really LIVE, really experience life, really accomplish things. I want pride to shoot out of my eyes like laser beams. Not boastful pride; I'm talking about the pride that successful people exude naturally. I am defining success as those people who are naturally themselves in every situation.
I want that one. I hunger for it. Pride. Don't need compliments from anybody else; just need to look into the mirror and think "You made it, baby - you are you, and the you that you are is magic. Pure magic."
I'm looking forward to many more amusing moments with myself and the self I am evolving into. It's fun, it's entertaining. But I don't think I will miss it all that much when there is just me. Pure, unadulterated, soulful, no pretense, purely confident Joe.
That I think is what life is really all about. Discovering your true essence and sticking to it and nurturing it against all odds. I see it coming. I feel it coming. I imagine that there can be no better feeling in life.
I'm plugging away. I'm on my way home. I'm on my way back to me. I was me once, probably for one day. January 1, 1954. But I sure as hell don't remember it. And since then I have been hell bent on veering drastically off course. I am grateful for whatever it is that inspired me to change directions. I'm rockin' and rollin' baby and it feels so good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weather and Weight

Gonna talk about two things today. Weather and weight. Try to deal with these topics and move on. Although as I examine myself truthfully I know that never really happens. I'll spew today, continue to obsess about these things, and spew again at some point in the future. That's part of what makes me so lovable.
I'm also going to try to be positive; stick to the facts, offer level headed opinions. But I am an emotional son of a bitch, so you never know.
Weather. I am talking secretively to you about this so my wife won't hear us, so let's keep the volume down. My theory is that we have only two seasons in New England - winter (September 1-June 30), Summer (July1-August31). This past winter/summer cycle proved my theory beyond a shadow of a doubt. Never-the-less I'll try to approach this from the conventional wisdom angle.
Carol hates summer, I hate winter. She hates heat, I hate cold. We try to outdo each other with our season specific whining every year. She thinks the playing field is even. It isn't.
If we get 10 scorching hot days in the summer that's a lot. Maybe 15. Those are the days she suffers. The ONLY days. If we assume winter begins on 12/21 and ends on 3/21 (approximately) we are talking about three months. A mild winter would give us average daily temperatures of 30 degrees. THIRTY DEGREES IS COLD. And you know we get a hell of a lot of days that are much colder. So during a mild winter I would suffer for ninety days. NINETY DAYS. And the truth is, it gets cold in November and sometimes in October, which is supposedly considered autumn (what a pretty and deceitful name; I prefer fall because we are about to fall into shivering, suffering and despair). I can conservatively estimate that I am uncomfortable for at least 100 days between October and March. That is almost 1/3 of the year. I rest my case. If any of you can make a more eloquent case, please contact Carol at 100 Freeze Road, Ice Cold, NH 00000. Maybe you can help her to see the light. She typically doesn't listen to me because there is often whiskey involved.
Please, someone, buy me a winter home in Arizona. I swear to your god that I will pay you back when I am a rich and successful writer.
Weight. I have busted my ass to lose weight and get healthy (in that order; remember Fernando Lamas/Billy Crystal) in 2011. With very little results. Actually I am probably much healthier than when I began this regimen, I'll give you that. Anyway, with all the effort, sweat and sacrifice I have bounced back and forth between 175 and 173; 173 on June 1, 175 on July 1, 173 on August 1. Mid July I got sick and stopped exercising. Came out of it after about ten days, but I have been exercising sporadically since then. Very little, in fact. And I could feel myself getting fatter. Kind of like David Spade to Chris Farley in Tommy Boy - "I can actually hear you getting fatter." Climbed into my truck the other day and I could feel my gut. Which hasn't happened in quite a while. I was disgusted and decided to get back to exercising.
I also decided to weigh myself, just for the fun of it. 178. I GAINED FIVE POUNDS SINCE AUGUST 1. Just because I took a month off. And it's not like I suddenly started eating 12 cheeseburgers a day and washing them down with five strawberry milkshakes. I didn't change anything else. I just stopped exercising.
Life is relentless, kids. It is evil, calculating and punishing. I have set my sights on 169 on December 31. I think I can do it. For the next two weeks I am going to drink only water and eat no food whatsoever. And I'm going to follow the Bulimic Handbook and dispose of said water in the recommended way. That will be a good start.
December 31 because I refuse to celebrate my 58th birthday weighing more than 169. If I weigh more than 169 on December 31, I will do whatever it takes to get down to that goal by the next day. I'll ride the exercise bike for 7 hours and if that doesn't work I'll attach the vacuum cleaner to my gut and perform home liposuction. I imagine that would be the point where Carol and the cats leave the room.
That's it. Weight and weather. I'm done. Spent. Gotta gear up for another eight hour round at The Booze Emporium. Looking forward to tomorrow. Day off with my lovely wife. We'll watch the race, watch The Sox, and I will prepare a delicious gourmet meal I call Purina Cacciatore. Life does not get any better than this, baby.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nobody Left To Run With Anymore

I am essentially insane. Deeply, entertainingly, disturbingly insane. Most people are unaware of this because I cover the truth with a thin veneer of niceness. I do the nice guy thing to smooth my way through life, and because if I revealed my true self in every circumstance and in every way, people would avoid me like the plague. And my permanent place of residence would be The New Hampshire Home for Morons, Psychopaths and Mental Defectives.
The Allman Brothers have a song called Nobody Left To Run With Anymore. I would call it one of my favorites, but they are ALL one of my favorites. The song has always appealed to me because it taps into my opinion about the maturing process. Which is AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS. Responsibility and respectability are two words I despise. Except when I am looking for respect; then it's a good word, if I get it. Howard Stern once said that when he went to school functions for his kids he felt like all the other parents were adults and he was still a kid. That's how I have always felt.
But I digress.
"Nobody left to run with anymore; nobody left to do the crazy things we used to do before." Lyrics that talk about how everybody has grown up, become responsible and respectable, and given up on the insanity that once made them interesting. I have not given up on that aspect of my soul and it is revealed, in the right situation, with the help of whiskey and boldness.
That's what last Sunday was all about. And I have a friend named Ed who I can still run with, can still do crazy things with. We were insane behind the bar that day; we let it all out and neither one of us had a shred of self consciousness about it. Because it felt so good, so right, so natural; it was who we are.
Could you stand behind a bar with a room full of people facing you, and sing at the top of your lungs and dance like a madman and enjoy it to the max? Not too many people with the cojones to pull that off; me and Ed did it effortlessly. And don't get me wrong; I'm sure there were people there who said "look at those two morons." But I don't give a damn about people like that. And I'm willing to bet there were more people there who laughed right along with us and dug the show.
Ed is 72, I am 57. Still crazy after all these years. I have only known him for 5 and 1/2 years but we are kindred spirits. Certain parts of our personalities mesh and we are both whiskey fiends. I am grateful to have a friend like him that I can get crazy with, blow it all out, and feel comfortable doing it. He doesn't judge me, I don't judge him, we indulge our insanity separately and together (it's much more potent when it's together), and we know that it is the right thing to do.
We do the responsible thing, we take care of business, work for money and empty the trash, BUT we become raving lunatics when we feel the need because we cannot deny that aspect of our souls. In fact we celebrate that aspect of our souls because it is the raw release of our essence, it allows us to express something not everybody has, and because it is FUN. Fun is hard to come by as a responsible, respectable adult, which is why my friendship with Ed is entirely therapeutic to me. You could say it is cathartic. Feels so good, feels so right.
So yeah, nobody left to run with anymore. Very true. None of my friends are willing to get entirely crazy anymore. Worried about payback, worried about appearances, beaten down by the crushing weight of that terrible affliction called adulthood.
But I have Ed and his insane soul and I have me and my insane soul. And when the stars are aligned, as they were last Sunday, it is better than the best fireworks display. Two human beings soul to soul exposing their very essence for the world to see and not giving a damn about opinions or repercussions. That is called living.
The Ed and Joe show will go on as long as we say it does. And I will look forward to it every year, knowing that at least once during that year I will get to be exactly who I am. With a good friend who is real, deep down; ragged and real.
Nobody Left To Run With Anymore. Except Ed. And that is more than good enough for me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Holding Hands

Happened to look out the window during a momentary break in the insanity at The Booze Emporium the other day, and I saw a young couple walking across the parking lot holding hands.
Now typically I'm moving at 120 m.p.h. at work, politely ushering closet alcoholics through the register line, facing shelves, worrying over displays, giving advice to booze neophytes who are "throwing a dinner party', trying not to slap the wine snobs who ask questions as they simultaneously look down their noses at this bug with the name tag that says Joe. You know, generally doing everything I can to improve the financial strength of the NHSLC, that omnipotent and omniscient board of advanced intellects who guide and control my job. I can't call it a career yet. They haven't allowed that, even though I have applied for three full time jobs at this point. It's still just a job, but someday I hope that they will recognize me as a human being and maybe bump my pay 13 cents an hour so I can graduate from cat food to dog food. One can only hope.
But I digress.
As I stood there catching my breath, this couple caught my eye. A young couple holding hands. Symbolizing the hope that is young love. All they know at this point is that they are attracted to each other, they think they love each other, although they are too young to even begin to know the definition of love. Maybe they even laugh a lot together. I'm talking about natural laughter derived from pure happiness and easy joy, not the laughter that comes later in life that emanates from sex jokes and sarcasm. Maybe they are starting out in careers and actually believe that their employers will reward them for their hard work, intelligence and dedication. It was tempting to go out and warn them a little bit about life, but it is not in my nature to spoil someone's happy reality, even if it is delusional. That's why some people at the legion like me as a bartender. If a guy drunkenly tells me he helped to build the Eiffel Tower I say "Wow that's really cool." Everyone else will call him an asshole and laugh in his face. What is the point? Everybody needs their version of happiness like a junkie needs the powder. Let them be.
But I digress.
I was thinking about the next fifty years for this couple. How they will learn harsh lessons about life, especially about employers. They probably won't make the money they thought they would, probably won't have the lifestyle they dreamed of. They will hurt each other, make a lot of mistakes that they would love to take back, drink too much and get very, very tired. Disillusioned. We all start from the same place and we all go through the same shit.
But maybe they can take these experiences and get through to reality. Maybe they will figure out what love really is. If they have kids that process will be accelerated. Maybe they will survive this economy that republicans are hell bent on destroying, Maybe they can create a future for themselves even though republicans would try to prevent that. Maybe they can find a way to live comfortably even though the definition of that phrase is being shrunken down every day.
We all get bent and beaten and taken advantage of, we lose close friends and family members, we get fired and laid off, manipulated by executives with the intelligence and personality of a cockroach, we scale back our dreams and scale down our expectations, we trip and fall and cry inside and wonder why.
Some of us wind up bitter. Sarcastic, giving up hope for cynicism, spending our adult lives spitting poison, crouched in a position of defense against life. We lash out inappropriately and at the wrong people because we are so disappointed we don't even know what the proper response to any situation is. Just assume everybody is out to hurt you and make sure you hurt them first.
Others somehow, someway, end up digging life deeply. Stripping away the meaningless crap and getting to the heart of what is real. Living, loving, laughing, surviving and doing it genuinely. Holding hands.
I am trying to get there myself. I have been a very angry man for a very long time and I don't want to live that way anymore. I want to feel peace as much as possible in the time that I have left. I want laughter. Genuine laughter, not the kind that comes at someone else's expense.
I hope that couple end up holding hands. I hope they never stop holding hands. If they lose it, I hope they regain the natural laughter derived from pure happiness and easy joy.
I hope they walk by The Booze Emporium again in fifty years, smiling and holding hands. I'll be 107 years old and still working there. And even if some phony, conniving pseudo-executive from the NHSLC is in the store criticizing the fact that the bottles are 1/2 an inch from the edge of the shelf instead of the corporately mandated 1/4 of an inch, I will walk out into the parking lot and give each of them a kiss on the cheek.
Then I'll go home, kiss my lovely wife and say "Honey you'll never guess who I saw today."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Proper Use of Alcohol Abuse

I would be the first to admit that I have a tempestuous relationship with alcohol. Actually that's not true. Carol would beat me to it. Because of the thousands of times I have gone over the deep end over the years, now every time I pour a glass of whiskey, Carol begins to shake and tremble like someone in a trance. She levitates up off the couch in recriminating frenzy, grabs the broom and sweeps that glass right out of my hand. There is a pile of broken glass three feet high directly behind my recliner. Then she beats me over the head with the broom until I fall unconscious, which is her goal because it is really hard to drink when you are out like a light. The top of my head has become flattened down to the point where it is a major asset at The Booze Emporium. When unloading a truck filled with cases of booze, I can carry one in my hands and balance another on my head. Which explains why I am so much faster than the rest of the crew.
Booze is essential to human survival. Go back as far as you want to in the history of the written word and you will find stories of drunken abandon. It so amuses me when  do-gooders wring their hands pontificating about the evils of alcohol and drug abuse. Are you serious? The problem is not the booze or drugs, the problem is the way the world is set up. The rich elite want us all anesthetized so we don't rise up and revolt, and for us low wage earners it is a damn good release. Win win.
The hard part is keeping a balance. It's good to drink to excess, to achieve whatever balance you need to survive, but you don't want to get violent or non-functional. But it feels so damn good to escape for a while that you just want more. Aye that's the rub. And that's why the earliest caveman wall scribbles are translated to say "when the hell are they going to invent Advil?"
So you drink to get happy and then you drink beyond happy. Or you are depressed, you drink, your soul is soothed and you drink some more. Then you get depressed that you drank so much. It's very hard to get it right.
But every once in a while you get it exactly right. And those moments are transcendent. Sunday was such a day. Working the bar for the outing at the legion, and because we were volunteering our time, in wonderful legion-logic, we are allowed to drink as we work. So me and my buddy Ed are behind the bar and we are both whiskey fiends. So somewhere around 9:30 a.m. we start doing shots. And we keep doing shots all day long with a few random beers sprinkled in for good measure. It's an annual deal for us, we call it the Ed and Joe show and we do put on a show. Because me and Ed are both extroverts, we like the attention and we love to get crazy, to beat down all inhibition and just let loose.
We were dancing behind the bar, singing, laughing, joking with the barflies and generally having a great time. Shot after shot. I started to worry after a while that it would all hit me at once and I would just fall down, so I started looking for signs that I should slow down. Those signs never came. I drank so much whiskey that it was staggering; any other time I would be on the floor and severely hung over the next day. But the planets were aligned, jesus smiled down on us in protective benevolence and we kept going, rising to a crescendo with the atmosphere and the band (who kicked ass). Me and Ed danced together, alone, we strutted, we sang, we laughed, gyrating, jumping, playing off the barflies and each other and it was one hell of a good time. We don't give a damn about what people think about us and it is truly liberating to just be, to air out your soul in free form insanity.
It was a perfect day and we had a magnificent blast. How do you capture that formula? That's the problem. What was the combination of things that allowed us to drink a river of whiskey and just have fun with no resulting payback, no remorseful suffering? The food, the atmosphere, the music, our mental state? Because I guarantee you if I drank that much whiskey today I would pass out and suffer like a dog when I woke up.
Who knows. It's a mystery. It was a day when alcohol was the perfect fuel for an excellent time, one feeding the other in a cycle of laughter and release. Best not to question it. Even better to forget about trying to duplicate it. That would probably be disastrous. I'll take it for what it was and dig the memory. And yeah, I do remember it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fall In Love With As Many Things As You Can

Watched a movie called Country Strong last night. I dug it. Carol picked it. She has a knack for picking movies that we are not familiar with that turn out to be pretty tasty. I agonize over a decision as I scroll through 250,000 choices on On Demand, trying to pick the perfect movie. The movie that matches my mood that day, and my taste, and Carol's taste, and the time of year, and the weather, and the mood of our cats and every other goddamn thing under the sun. Carol scrolls through and says "This sounds good", flicks the button and lo and behold, nine times out of ten, it is enjoyable. Amazing.
Anyway, at one point Gwyneth Paltrow says " Don't be afraid to fall in love. It's the only thing that matters in life. Fall in love with as many things as you can." It's that last part that got me thinking. We all want love, love really is what life is all about. The testosterone crew at The Booze Emporium would never admit it publicly, the pseudo-macho crowd I sling booze to at the legion would never admit it publicly, but love is everything. If we could all wallow in true love as my cats do, we could all be as happy as my cats are. It is a basic human longing, to love and to give love (if you are capable of unselfishness), it satisfies your soul and it fires up endorphins in your brain. Love is safety; the world is harsh and unforgiving, you struggle financially and emotionally and physically to just survive. Coming home to love is sweet release, a warmth, protection, validation of the human spirit.
But "fall in love with as many things as you can" really opens up the playing field, and I agree with the sentiment. What a great way to put it. You can't always be with the one you love; you have to go to work and there are other odious obligations in your life that keep you apart. Having only 1 minute and 13 seconds to feel loved in a day is not healthy. Because everything else in your day is designed to break you down into a non-feeling automaton. That's how society functions.
I love The Allman Brothers Band. They thrill me and give me great pleasure, but I don't listen to them every day or think of them every day. If I did, that would be one more oasis of humanity. Football. Huge in my life. A daily fix of some sort would be magic. Music in general. Like blood to me, but there are days when I don't listen to one note of music. What a waste of love, of feeling uplifted and alive. Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, writers that I worship and yet after fifty seven years I have not read every one of their books. Why not? The time I spend reading them is love, it is life.
I love to write. It is a major release for me. I don't write every day. Am I a simpleton? Some would say yes, I say no. I'm human and fallible. And I'm keeping a list of those who would say yes for when I buy a gun.
Everyday things. Sun, warmth, flowers, friends. I don't give a damn if you think this list is corny; it is real.
My sons. An enormous source of love for me; magical, fun filled, independent, intelligent creatures, and I don't even think of them every single day. How can I not think about my sons every day? How stupid. Just writing this, forces me to think about them and I am filled with pride and happiness. They just made my day so much better.
You get the point. You have your own list. Hopefully you are as lucky as I am to have a magnificent spouse to come home to at night, a woman who makes me feel loved and appreciated, a woman who makes me happy. One more oasis of humanity in my day. But when you are away from that person you need to concentrate on the other loves in your life.
Fall in love with as many things as you can. Chances are you have already done a lot of that, although I believe there is always room for new discoveries, new passions that can vibrate your emotions. I think we fall short in not focusing on these things, not recognizing them for the power that they hold. Not paying attention to the fact that whatever it is, just made you feel alive and human, just resonated directly with who you are. Life is very, very hard and it never turns out the way you thought it would. But if you can absorb love from everything that means something to you as often as possible, you can soften the blow. And really flip an imaginary bird to every controlling cretin who tries to strip you of your humanity.
Fall in love with as many things as you can. Make it a mantra.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Demons (in my head)

There are demons in my head. Little troll-like beings, ugly and repulsive, and they are digging around, rooting out original ideas, magical words, piling them all up and setting fire to them. This happens to me from time to time. Maybe I get a little depressed or thrown off course, maybe I become disillusioned with life in general or my life specifically and suddenly there they are. Demons. They want to keep me from succeeding. They work on commission for Beelzebub and like any good salesmen they are quite determined.
Leonard Cohen said "There is a crack in everything, it's how the light gets in." The demons have sealed up the crack in my skull so that at this moment in time there is no light getting in. This is a crack that has been there since Revia dropped me on my head as a wee child, so you can imagine that it is a substantial part of my psyche. They have sealed it before but I always manage to blow it open and I will again. Probably by Monday. I keep candles in my skull for just such an eventuality but the demons snuff those out pretty easily. I miss the sensation of wax dripping into my brain crevices.
I am working today. I am working tomorrow. Today at The Booze Emporium, tomorrow at the legion. So it is a given that somewhere during the next two days someone will say or do something so stupid that the only sane reaction for me is to smash my head against a wall. That will re-open the crack and chase the demons away at the same time. They don't like turbulence.
All I have to do is get through today, get through tomorrow.  08/15 will mark the dawn of a new day. The light will get in once again and inspiration will spirit me away to that magical place where my soul dwells.
Until then................

Thursday, August 11, 2011


This is the way life works.
The alarm clock wakes you up. It always wakes you up even though you sleep like crap. Your mind and body don't allow you to sleep comfortably. And your mattress sucks. Sags in the middle and is cruelly uncomfortable but you cannot afford a new one. Once one of the springs broke through and sliced you to the bone. You had to call 911 and be rushed to the hospital. That was a memorable day. After tossing and turning all night you fall asleep at 5:25 a.m. The alarm blows at 5:30.
You fall out of bed and a rather large man is standing there with a sledgehammer in his hand. He winds that thing up and smashes you direct in the face. Drives you to your knees. You get up, spit out a couple of teeth, swallow some blood and say thank you.
You brush your teeth with your raggedy ass toothbrush. Some of the bristles get stuck in between your teeth, others tickle your lips. You wonder why you can never remember to buy a new one.
Climb into your 14 year old truck and pray that it doesn't break down on your way to work, again. Although part of you wants it to break down. Any excuse. But you can't afford it to break down and you stopped paying AAA, so you touch the feet of the St. Christopher statue that stands proudly on your dashboard, say a silent prayer and head off to the dungeon.
Your boss is waiting to greet you as you walk in the door. Your boss is a neanderthal who, true to the Peter Principle, has risen to his level of incompetence. (Except Rich). He is a bitter man whose boss and whose wife torture him. He takes it out on you. He doesn't inspire you or teach you or support your advancement; he grabs you by the neck and forces you to do things his way so he can look good.
Standing next to your boss is a rather large man with a sledgehammer. He winds that thing up and smashes you direct in the face. Drives you to your knees. You get up, spit out a couple of teeth, swallow some blood and say thank you.
You make it through the day by shutting down completely. You don't need to think and especially do not want to FEEL, to do your job. You learned that from your boss.
You kiss your recliner when you get home, caress it and tell it you love it. Sit down with an 18 ounce tumbler of whiskey and you begin to read. If you are a reader. Which represents exactly one tenth of one per cent of the population in this great country of ours. The rest of you watch Survivor 244 - Australian Outback (Torture, Mayhem, Swamps and Alligators). You consider this mentally challenging.
You read The Secret. You read Kill Regret-Ignore Worry-Live in THE NOW. You read Your Future, Your Fortune in Real Estate. You read Dream Like John Lennon Without Being Assassinated. You read all these books but you never follow the advice. But you keep reading them because you fear you need something more to grab onto than an 18 ounce tumbler of whiskey. Turns out you are wrong.
After reading for ten minutes and sleeping for three hours in your recliner, you straggle upstairs to bed. Lie there with your eyes wide open. And wait for the alarm to blow five minutes after you finally fall asleep.
You do this for 65 years. Starting at the age of 18, dying at the age of 83. There is no retirement because the republicans have taken that away from you. The same republican scum who drink $2,200 bottles of wine with their corporate cronies, smoke Cohibas, eat Brazilian steak and laugh at you and everyone you know every single day. The same republican scum who don't even realize they are being cuckolded by their corporate cronies.
You wake up in front of Jesus, who has a sarcastic grin on his face. You feel uncomfortable because you didn't think sarcasm would be Jesus' reaction at a time like this. You blink and say "What the hell happened? Is my life over? Eighty three years went by just like that?" His smile regains a touch of benevolence as he replies "Yes, your life is over. Life is good, no?" You say no and ask if there is an afterlife. The sarcasm returns to Jesus' face as he replies "Oh yeah, there is an afterlife, baby."
Standing next to Jesus is a rather large man with a sledgehammer in his hand. He winds that thing up and smashes you direct in the face. Drives you to your knees. You have no more teeth, but you do swallow some blood as your eternal journey begins. Your last conscious image is of the words GO TO HELL imprinted on the surface of the sledgehammer, just before it meets your face for the final time, rewarding you appropriately for a life well lived.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10, 2011

My assessment of today, August 10, 2011:

Supposed to be a day off:
1) Dentist 11:00 - Wasted one more hour of my life; experienced some pain and discomfort
2) Sold my soul for $44.60

Today sucked. Today is pathetic.
No days off until Monday. I will wrestle that day to the ground and kick the living crap out of it.

Bend But Don't Under Any Circumstances Break

Today is August 10. I just flipped my calender from July to August. Went from a 1951 Gibson ES 350 to a 1972 Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean, but that's a story for another place and time.
The late flipping is a bad sign. I have been religious about flipping because I have attacked this year vigorously, and I feel like I'm doing all the right things so moving from month to month has not bothered me. Now I'm dealing with a bit of a funk. Got sick in July and it disturbed my rhythm. Exercising became periodic instead of an obsession and it has remained so. I'm skipping days at a time even though I definitely feel better. I'm funked out and punked out. The mind is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.
I'm looking for results but suddenly it feels like I'm going backwards. Exercise like a fiend, lose one quarter of an ounce. Winter hits on September 1 and I won't be able to walk anymore because there will be four feet of snow on the ground. And walking is key to weight loss, coupled with riding the exercise bike. At my age you cannot just ride an exercise bike and expect to lose weight. I expect to gain 45 pounds between September 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.
I applied for two full time NHSLC jobs and they disappeared. Maybe they decided they would rather continue to exploit their part timers because they don't have to pay benefits or OT, than to move people into full time positions. I don't know. I do know I am not getting enough hours at The Booze Emporium and it is killing us financially. We are barely getting by and I hate the stress on Carol's face every time the goddamn mortgage vampire waits expectantly for his slice of our pie. What should I do? There are no jobs out there, options are minimal or non-existant, I am not achieving anything at all from writing and I am damn sick of eating cat food.
Summer brought hope on July 1, now it is slipping away unappreciated. We have been unable to do anything because of my work schedule and the lack of cash. At this point I don't give a damn, let it go and I'll just immerse myself in football and look for grand release.
Bought tickets to a Gregg Allman concert scheduled for August 30 figuring that would end my summer on a high note. He is sick and the concert is cancelled.
I woke up at 4:39 a.m. this morning to go to the bathroom. Couldn't get back to sleep. Lay there waiting for the alarm to go off at 5:30 for Carol, eventually crawled out of bed at 6:30. I have the day off today. I sleep like crap. I NEVER get a good night's sleep. I am tired from the minute I get out of bed until the minute I crawl back into it. I am sick of being tired. And I am pissed that we can't even afford one of these high tech mattresses that might help me sleep restfully, although I doubt it.
Even having the day off creates stress. I like not working and I spend a full day doing positive things trying to get healthy and create new income, BUT I am not getting paid. Sinking deeper into the hole.
I am reading George Carlin's autobiography. Fascinated by his description of his mindset and the difficulties he had evolving into his true self. When he was doing Hippy Dippy Weatherman and Wonderful WINO it drove him crazy because he wasn't expressing his true self. Even after he evolved and got into the 7 dirty words, he regressed at another point in his career, focusing on fart jokes and bodily fluids etc. He admits in the book it was a mindless, easy way to keep his career going and he wasn't proud of it. I found that interesting because I never understood why he did that stuff, I never liked it, and I'm glad to know he didn't either. Beyond that I am absorbed with his evolution because I am trying to evolve right now and it is a struggle.
I am bending right now. I have been tough and dedicated all year, absorbed with change and trying real hard. But the past month I am really pissed off and I have slowed down, gotten weaker and less focused.
The only proof I have that I have fundamentally changed is that I refuse to give up. The old me would be sipping whiskey right now in an expression of self defeat. That is not going to happen. I will suck it back up and keep fighting right on through until December 31. The next day will be my 58th birthday and a day where I can sit back and figure out what all my efforts in 2011 got me. And a day when I will figure out what I need to do next.
The NHSLC can screw with my ability to earn money, I might remain obese, the writing community might continue to ignore me and I might have to keep eating cat food right along with Maka and Lakota but I will not give up. I need to prove to myself that I am better than I have been, I need to align my physical reality with the reality of my soul, I need to be comfortable in my own skin, I need to live a life I can be proud of, the one I am capable of, not the one I settle for.
I am so damn restless right now I could scream. Actually I would do that except it would scare the hell out of the cats. Although I know, as naturally intuitive as they are, they would understand exactly what is going on in my mind. Thank god they are so generous with their food.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman has cancelled a few dates this summer do to illness. Unfortunately this includes a show I bought tickets for. I saw Gregg and his band early this year and I saw The Allman Brothers at The Beacon in March. It's not enough.
It's been a weirdly unsatisfying Allman Brothers year. They tour every summer and I typically see them twice every summer. They are not touring this summer and I don't know why, although now I suspect it may be related to Gregg's illness. He had a liver transplant a few years ago and it seems he has had a tough time of it since then.
The Beacon was a highlight, an excitement that should carry me through the rest of 2011 and on into 2012. But this band is an addiction; I cannot get enough of them and they cannot get enough of me. Alright, that second part is not true but I'd like to believe that because I have seen them so many times, dug them mightily for so long (since I was 15), that maybe there is some sort of strange Joe Testa vibe floating around them wherever they go. Maybe they hear my name supernaturally on stage and wonder what the hell that was. Or maybe my face ethereally floats in and out of their backdrop videos when they perform. Their background video stuff is hilarious, stuck in the sixties; little mushrooms marching around. I love it.
I worry about the man. He has lived a harsh life, fully embracing the rock lifestyle; his brand spanking new liver attests to that fact.
His brother Duane died in 1971. Two short years after the band finally made it big. Duane was the rock, Duane made the band happen, he was a much revered guitar player who other guitar virtuosos looked up to. Pure magic. His death in a motorcycle accident was a shock. Gregg has kept the band together off and on since then. More importantly he has kept their tradition alive, their legacy, their dedication to and demand for perfection in their music. Or the pursuit of perfection.
I have heard many people over the years dismiss the band as a bunch of long haired druggies. Those people must die. What I love is when I drag some unsuspecting individual to a concert and they are blown away by the musical genius of these guys. They are consummate musicians who are so tight, so good, so soulful, so accomplished at the art of improvising, that if you have a soul, if you understand anything about music at all, you will be blown away to see them live. I am every single time, and I have seen them many, many times.
They have survived many tragedies and even disbanded at times. But they bounced back strong in 1989 and have grown ever stronger since.
That's why I worry about Gregg. He has an upper respiratory illness right now. When you hear of him being sick you can't help but think about his mortality. I am not being morbid and I am putting out strong vibes of health into the universe because I want this man to live another 37 years. That would bring him in at 100.
No one thought the band would survive Duane's death. They have survived it but they are a different band without him. He cannot be replaced. I cannot imagine The Allman Brothers without Gregg's rough, bluesy, distinctive, heartfelt voice. And I refuse to think about it.
Amazing how these people become your friends. I checked out his site this morning and there are posts from his fans wishing him well. They talk to him as if he were a lifelong friend. Because he is. It feels that way to me. One thing I love about ABB is their dedication to the fans. They keep their ticket prices low. Very low. They have always been accessible, you don't have to remortgage your house to see them. Because they care about their fans, it is a genuine community, much like the Grateful Dead community.
I'll sacrifice this concert to Gregg's health, which means I probably won't see him or ABB again until 2012. But that's OK as long as he gets healthy so I can thrill to that magic voice again and be blown away by the musicianship of his solo band and The Allman Brothers band. I need that annual fix, have to have them, have to see them, have to hear them, have to continue digging them with every fiber of my blues loving soul. Because they have been in my life for 42 years and my life is better because of it. Joy, happiness, elation, these things are hard to come by in life. Gregg Allman and The Allman Brothers Band have given me that for a very long time. Get well Gregg, keep on rockin' and I will see you soon. Count on it, brother.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kevin Spacey and Playboy Magazine

I read a Playboy interview with Kevin Spacey about 100 hundred years ago. Actually I think it was 1999. In it he talks briefly about his father. His father wanted to be a journalist but never made it, and ended up writing technical manuals, which is very boring stuff. Spacey said his dad spent  a lot of time in his room writing creatively because he was a creative writer at heart. He was never published and apparently never tried; he said he felt his writing wasn't good enough. Spacey said he has boxes of his father's stuff.
Those comments really hit home because I could see my sons saying that about me after I begin tormenting them from beyond the grave. At the time I read it, I was exchanging a series of E-mails with Gary in Sweden, one of my top five buddies who married his Swedish sweetheart and eventually abandoned me to move to Sweden. He has been there for quite a while now; speaks the language fluently and has raised three kids who speak Swedish AND English. I have a great deal of respect for him.
We are both insane and the E-mails are funny and creative; he has saved them all and Carol says we should publish them, and she is probably right.
My point is, at the time I wasn't really working hard at writing, I was dreaming about it with a close friend. I have since written 45 million words and recently begun trying to peddle those words in a more committed way. So Spacey's memories of his father hit home now even more than they did in 1999.
But at the ripe old age of 57 the odds are hugely against me making any kind of serious coin with the magic of my words. You can't get published if you are unknown and you can't get known if you aren't published. And even if someone showed an interest in my writing they would want to know about my background. As soon as they met me they would think "the guy is 57 years old with grey hair IN A PONYTAIL, with a beer belly, an ex-accountant (kind of sounds like a recovering alcoholic) who is currently working part time in a bar and a liquor store. How the hell are we going to sell this guy?" A creative type would recognize this as a great story, but in today's corporate dominated world you can't count on dealing with creative types. "Besides he would come across as dumpy and over the hill on Letterman."
The good part of my brain believes that all this effort and talent (?) will lead somewhere. I am a good writer, but there are a million good writers out there in central NH alone who are making a living as cab drivers, hookers, drug peddlers, junior accountants and part time NHSLC employees. The bad part of my brain accepts that this is a dream and will end up in boxes after I end up in a box. I take some comfort in knowing that my words are out there in various websites; I will at the very least leave that behind, which is more than most people can say.
I am not giving up. Not even close. I will keep on writing and submitting until somebody finally says "For christ sake, this is the 3,477th poem this guy has submitted to us. Publish the damn thing and maybe it will satisfy his ego and shut him up." Little do they know............................
A couple of asides. I like Kevin Spacey as an actor. I have enjoyed him in many cool movies. Except The Usual Suspects. I hated that movie and to this day I'm still trying to figure out who the hell Keyser Soze was. You want a kick, Netflix yourself Glengarry Glen Ross. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey. It is a great critique of the sales world and corporate america, and the language pissed my mother off so much she walked out of the theatre and forced my father to do the same. I don't know if Tony ever got to see the whole thing; I hope so - it was his kind of movie.
Anyway I love Spacey as an actor, but in interviews he comes off as a bit pretentious. Maybe I am intimidated by his intelligence. I'm not sure I could enjoy a beer with him which, of course, is the ultimate test of a man's character.
Playboy. I subscribed for many years. The pictures were great, but I loved the interviews, the fiction and the overall aura of class the magazine and its advertisers exuded. I aspired to that lifestyle; expensive clothes, fine dining, fast cars and financial independence. They interviewed intelligent, controversial and interesting people, and the writers featured in the magazine were superb. Ultimately I could not handle the juvenile comments found underneath the pictures of the naked ladies. That attitude undermined the class and intelligence of the magazine. And maybe I recognized the distinct possibility that I will never achieve that lifestyle, and felt tortured to have it in my hands once a month.
That's it. I'm done. It's Sunday and we're going to visit two special people with whom we can actively pursue the sweet release of laughter, which comes easily every time we get together. Very special stuff.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Room

I came up here to my writing room (that's how I think of it) with absolutely nothing on my mind. Or maybe too much on my mind. Some times I confuse the two. I hate it when I feel that way because I am a passionate man and I like to write passionately. I don't like to force it.
I am feeling a little spiritual because I just started reading George Carlin's autobiography. I didn't even know he had one until I stumbled upon it recently. He had been working on it for years and it was unfinished when he died; his collaborator finished it. I worship Carlin so I am reading it reverently.
Any way I came up here feeling empty/full and wondering what the hell to say. Started looking around the room. My room. I obsess about decorating the room to reflect the true me; I'm gonna buy this, hang that up, add this, do that. Of course I never have the money. As I looked around it hit me that the room is already decorated in True Joe.
Piles of CD's and lots of books. Magazines. A dusty boombox. A plastic bag with The Allman Brothers logo on it. A shot of a French cafe, believe it or not.
On the wall: stuff that inspires the hell out of me. A picture of Keith Richards, sitting, hands up, cigarette smoke partially obscuring his face. He has that look on his face. Looking right at me. I fantasize that he is saying "I've done something big with my life, when are you going to do something with yours." Because he would say that to me, challenge me like that if we were friends.
I have a small picture in my bookcase of Janis Joplin laughing, really laughing, and pointing her finger at me. I fantasize that she is laughing good naturedly at my efforts to make something of myself while simultaneously encouraging me to do so. Or maybe just laughing at my hangups and twisted thoughts. Who knows.
There is an Allman Brothers poster I bought AT THE BEACON THEATRE IN NYC. The first time I went there. I'm not going to get into it deeply,but for an Allman Brothers fan, seeing them there is like going to church, to a holy place, it is a musical pilgrimage of immense proportions. I have been lucky enough to do that twice. Most recently this past March. I have goosebumps as I write this.
I have one album cover on the wall. Delaney and Bonnie and Friends ON TOUR with Eric Clapton. One of my favorite rock pictures. It's a Rolls Royce parked in the desert; someone is lying casually across the front seat, their boots hanging out the passenger side window. It's a place I want to be and may never get to see.
I have another album cover that fell and shamefully I have not hung back up. Yet. It's The Allman Brothers first album. 1969. The album that had such a huge impact on my life. It's an iconic picture and I shall raise it again soon.
Jim Morrison sitting bleary eyed in a diner, one eye closed, bottle of beer, bottle of ketchup in front of him, couple of rocks glasses, long flowing hair and a full, dark beard. The tortured poet.
A framed picture of George Harrison on the cover of Guitar World magazine. A beautiful spirit snuffed out too early, and frustrated early on when he was not allowed full expression on Beatles albums. He remedied that with a vengeance when he released All Things Must Pass.
A sketch of John Lennon, the arms crossed iconic NYC wearing the shades one. Very cool. Another sketch that I absolutely love of all four Beatles leaning into the wind, their hair blowing behind them.
A huge plastic Crown Royal bottle in a huge Crown Royal Christmas stocking, hanging on the wall. 'Nough said. Doc gave that to me. Thanks Doc.
A picture of Bob Dylan and George Harrison on stage side by side, ripped jeans, denim jackets, amplified acoustic guitars. Way cool.
In the bookcase again, essentially side by side, a framed Playboy cover with a picture of a gorgeous playmate, shirtless with her arms crossed in front of her, next to a framed Rolling Stone cover with a picture of Keith Richards, shirtless (frightening) with his arms crossed in front of him, holding his guitar. The poses are similar, which of course is what amused me. I call that shelf beauty and the beast.
A Rolling Stones poster nailed to the door from their 1989 Steel Wheels tour. A guy I worked with at the time had it hanging on the door to his office and I used to constantly admire it. One day he just took it down, handed it to me and said "It's yours." How cool is that. Thank you Bob.
A miniature Patriots flag commemorating Super Bowl XXXVIII, saying World Champions 2003.
An acoustic and an electric guitar, both collecting dust. For now.
Point of reference - the pile of books is heavily populated with those written by Hunter S. Thompson, and Charles Bukowski. Look them up - if you know me you will understand.
On the windowsill - plastic skulls, a Keith Richards bobble head doll and an empty Jack Daniel's bottle that made the trip with me and back to that first Allman Brothers at The Beacon trip.
I haven't covered everything in the room and I'm sure I bored you completely with the list. But remember, it's my blog and I can do whatever I want with it.
The point is I obsess about "making this room" mine, decorating it just right, when the truth is it is already done. It has been decorated by my life, by my living, by absent mindedly collecting and admiring the things that inspire me and define me and make me feel and make me think. My personality and my true nature is captured in this room.
John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
I will add more cool things to this room when I have some money. But I love the vibe right now. This room is my life happening.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm Getting Wimpy

What the hell is going on with me? I am becoming domesticated, mature and adult-like. That might be overstating it a tad, but still I am developing habits that were once as foreign to me as kissing corporate ass. Could that be the next step in the evolution? NEVER. Corporations must die. Sorry, I got off track there a bit.
Goals. Suddenly I have goals. Fortunately I am not the type to make lists or to put together a detailed game plan on how I am going to accomplish my goals. That would just be too damn organized. I am not organized. I am a dreamer.
But I'm all caught up in this exercising fetish. Can't get enough. I have been dogged, consistent and determined in 2011 and it has paid off. I lost one quarter of an ounce in 7 months and four days. The funny thing is, true to my nature, I didn't become Jack Lalanne II to get healthy, I did it to lose weight, to look pretty. Carol is deeply in love with Jacoby Ellsbury and I must compete. Currently, I'm losing. Anyway I feel guilty when I don't exercise and I immediately figure out when the next opportunity will present itself and how I must organize my time that day to get it done. Deep down inside I know the new regimen is doing wonders for my heart, lungs, circulation etc, which is a good thing; maybe I'll be around for another 40 years to torture my family.
Work/employment/$/career. Whatever the hell you want to label it, I am obsessed. Goal oriented. I want my freedom and I want it NOW. Want more money so Carol and I don't have to eat cat food three days a week any more. Want dignity. Want stability. I want to achieve my dream of making a living from writing. I am working hard at all of this, pursuing a phony baloney career in the NHSLC, writing, writing, writing, and consistently buying Powerball tickets. Stay tuned.
I wear a seatbelt. I used to think I was cool because I didn't wear one, as wild and reckless as a Hell's Angel, and it was annoying anyway. Say you have a mini bar set up next to you on the passenger side seat. Ice bucket, cocktail shaker, strainer, swizzle sticks, mixers and a couple of bottles of booze. A seatbelt can only get in the way as you try to concoct the perfect drink at 70 m.p.h. Carol had been campaigning for years to get me and my sons to wear our belts; she amped up the argument when a seatbeltless tragedy occurred to the son of Carol's boss. She won. Now I buckle up every time I climb into the truck, as docile as a little lamb.
I floss my goddamn teeth. Can you believe that? It's been going on for about a month now and I am deeply ashamed. One day my gums just started to hurt. I mean really hurt. I was chomping on a magnificent steak, fresh off the grill and my gums were killing me. Everywhere. There was no part of my mouth where I could chew pain free. I was pissed because the steak was glorious so I defiantly devoured that thing and then went upstairs to swallow some Advil. And that's when I started flossing. My first thought was fatalistic as always, cancer of the mouth. But on the outside chance that maybe I was wrong, I started massaging those gums. After wiping the residue off the mirror I became convinced that it was a good thing to do in general. I am now a convert.
I cook at least three times a week, sometimes four. I enjoy this tremendously; I see it as another creative outlet. As I was writing this I was cooking up some chicken breasts in the oven. At 7:30 in the morning. I am making chicken salad tonight and I want everything ready to roll when I get home from slinging booze all day. I am slipping into the abyss. By the way, as a recent devotee to the world of cooking, I find things like chicken salad and meatloaf and omelets absolutely inspiring; you can do anything with these babies, and I do.  Weekend breakfast has become an event; omelets, sausage, toast. Because I do almost all the cooking I also do the food shopping. I also wash the dishes 99% of the time. I package up the leftovers in the fridge with the date they were cooked duly noted, and I clean out the rejects when their time has expired. Other chores include cleaning the kitty litter box and emptying the rubbish. And I don't mind doing any of this, most of the time. What the hell has happened to me?
Thank god I still have my addiction to and abuse of Crown Royal to keep me from disappearing completely. The day I give up whiskey is the day you can start calling me Ward Cleaver.

Monday, August 1, 2011

You Came Into My Life

You came into my life so long ago; then my heart, then my soul.
Long blond hair and the color green; a 1973 fire engine red Trans Am
that never exceeded the speed limit with you behind
the wheel (Sarge was a different story).
Green eyes and a bubbly spirit, laughing across the office with your
stoned partner in crime after lunch.
Quickly I learned that you were even more beautiful on the inside;
a genuine spirit, strong in convictions and true to your nature.
My life became yours and yours mine.
Your strength has been our strength, your love our salvation,
when I was angry and bitter and lost.
The light that is now at the end of the tunnel has been
you from the start.
My eyes and heart and soul are finally open.

August 1 Thoughts

OK I'm back. Walked two miles yesterday, rode the exercise bike for 20 minutes, cranked out some sit ups and did a little light weight work to avoid flabby old man arms. Gonna do the same today. Bouncing back like a rubber ball. Remember Super Balls? Those things were amazing. One bounce and they would go to the moon and back. Wish I had one today. I'd bounce it in the Booze Emporium and see how much damage it could do.
Apparently I cannot be stopped in 2011. It's the new me. Super Joe. I'm on a mission, several missions, and life might detour me or slow me down but I will bounce right back up and continue flailing away until I get what I want.
Sometimes good literature can ruin you for anything less. Finished Franny and Zooey yesterday, picked up a new book today and I could not read it. You have no idea how hard it is for me to put a book down, to not read it. Reading is religion to me; I start a new book thrilled with anticipation and I want to dig it, want to be entertained or informed or challenged or made uncomfortable. I was bored, couldn't get into the book. Now I'm lost, off balance. Have to find new inspiration later today or tomorrow; I need a book in my hands like my lungs need air.
Franny and Zooey ended with Zooey explaining life philosophy to Franny. Heavy duty stuff, makes you stop and think kind of stuff. I'm always blown away when I read stuff like that because if you pull back, you realize this is the author speaking. His thoughts, his philosophy. I am amazed at the depth of thought some authors, some people, are capable of. And I wonder why my brain doesn't function in that way.
There was a lot to it, but the thing that smacked my face was the "doing things for the sake of doing them" philosophy. If you are an actor, act for the sake of acting, because you love it. Not to achieve any end result, not to make money. The only way to be happy is to do it for the sake of doing it, with love, and with all your heart. Good things will come from that. You can apply that to anything you do in your life.
It makes sense to me but I can't quite get my head to that place. I love to write. I AM writing. I can't say it any simpler or more dramatically than that. But I am pushing in 2011 because I want to make money from writing, I am not doing it for the sheer beauty and release of it. So even though I enjoy doing this, I am frustrated because I am not making any money from it; I worry that maybe I am wasting my time, that I don't have an intelligent plan for making money from my words. So the dream is tarnished somewhat, pressure is added to the act of writing. Apparently I must continue trying to purify my mind.
Hope is an amazing thing and very difficult to sustain or even to have at all. The beginning of any sports season resurrects hope in its purest form. Every fan believes their team has a chance before the season starts, as the teams prepare, as the hype intensifies. Except the groundskeepers in Major League who are convinced the Cleveland Indians suck. Even Carolina Panthers fans think they have a chance this year.
It's a tasty feeling and one that would make life more enjoyable if you could experience it every day. But you can't. Life beats you down and your mind distracts you and suddenly you are drunk and without hope. I am going to bottle up some of my New England Patriots hope and store it away for future reference. I won't need it as much as usual because I am strangely hopeful about the New England Joe this year, but you never know; hope can be a good thing to have in reserve. By the way, the Red Sox have me psyched too, and I am sucking some of that hope into my bloodstream as well. I am fortified for anything that comes down the road baby; you better believe it.
Read an interview in Rolling Stone this morning with Larry David. Excellent stuff. Carol and I were watching Curb last night and I told her that I thought Leon (the guy that lives in Larry's house) is absolutely hilarious. I laugh every time he opens his mouth. Coincidentally, in this interview, the writer describes him as "perhaps the single funniest character currently on television." I rest my case. Watch the show, it's excellent on it's own merits, but if you enjoy nothing else, at least dig Leon.
OK it's August 1. First of all I want to warn you that you have exactly one month left to summer. So you better get out and dig the hell out of it. On September 1, winter officially begins. We'll probably get hit with two feet of snow and temperatures dipping to 5 below on that day. I weighed myself today for the pure hell of it. I have accepted that this weight loss process will be slow given my advanced years but I am still committed to getting under 170. Today I weighed 173. Two pounds less than on July 1. ????????????? Thanks to dizziness and fatigue I only exercised 4 times between July 19 and July 31. I modified my diet in July, more cereal, less cheese, taking only half sandwiches to work, cut down a little on the booze ( turned my typical two nip trip home from work into a zero nip trip - probably saved 10,00 calories right there). So what happened here? Did I lose fat? Did I lose muscle? Am I healthier? Am I on the right track? The human body is a mystery, even to highly trained and overly paid doctors. I'll just keep on plugging away, pushing myself and making adjustments, until I reach my goal.
And I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum.