Monday, October 31, 2011

Magic and Wonder

Winter could not defeat us.
Had a celebration of two birthdays yesterday despite being buried in 100 feet of snow. IN OCTOBER.
Overnight Saturday and into Sunday the get together was not a given. Keith and Emily had to get back from Washington, D.C. from a celebration of Emily's parents 40th wedding anniversary which, unfortunately, went horrible awry thanks to the goddamn weather.
My brother Ed had to make it up from that horrible state - Massachusetts, where he had no power, so it was particularly satisfying to be able to offer him warmth and food, and Craig and Karen had to escape from snow-pounded Keene.
Carol and I trudged out to begin digging out around 10:00 a.m.. Unbeknownst to me Carol had the phone in her pocket. She is infinitely more advanced than I in the common sense area. Of course I was blind angry and not thinking straight anyway, so its a good thing she was in charge. Before I realized she had the phone I heard her talking and thought I had finally pushed her over the edge.
Phone calls started coming in, and over the course of an hour the whole thing had come together. They were all going to be arriving in shifts between 1:00 and 5:00, but they would all be here, with an intersection of time when we were all together.
After one and a half hours of shovelling, we came in exhausted. At least I was. Carol is strong like bull. She then proceeded to put a lot of effort into assembling a fine dinner.
Family humans began to arrive and conversation and laughter commenced. It hit me with powerful force how magical family can be. We were all inconvenienced and pissed off at winter's lack of respect, tired from dealing with it, tired from travelling, and yet seven people came together in a small home in rural America and nothing else mattered.
The air felt supercharged to me. Something happens when we get together, and it seemed more intense given the circumstances. It is so natural that it feels unnatural. There are no games being played, no walls of self-defense, no phony-baloney words. Family gives you a chance to be purely human; at least my family does. Each of us shines our unique personality into the mix and what results is family.
Awesome dinner prepared by Carol, real conversation and genuine laughter around the table. I really enjoy that piece of the action. All sitting face to face more or less, and the interaction is free and easy. Makes me feel so safe. Keith and Emily were the last to arrive and chowed their dinner solo, but they oozed into the mix as we sat and "watched" football and racing, and all was right with the world. We focused like lasers when THE PATS played but that turned out to be painful.
The cats got a lot of love.
The day ended as inevitably it must and I am sitting here now alone in a silent house. I could crank up my Ipod machine but I don't want to, not just yet. The contrast between now and yesterday makes yesterday linger in beauty in my mind. I don't want to lose that until reality blows it all away. Elvis Costello - "Welcome to the working week. I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you. Welcome to the working week." That's how I am feeling right now. Work seems pointless to me today, meaningless. I will go through the motions because I have no other choice, but yesterday was living, today is surviving. And there is a very big difference.
I am obsessed with DOING something with my life, as opposed to just gliding through meaninglessly to the bitter end. It is hard work but well worth it. Family sits somewhere in the middle of wasting life and making a life, but it sits above and beyond these two contrasts like a fiery sun. Family is sweet release, natural love and mutual respect, it is humans being genuinely human, and it gives you fuel to go on. Thanksgiving is right down the road, the greatest holiday ever invented. I have a month to keep trying to improve myself and maybe I will have something cool to show to my family on that day. But if not, I know they will still accept me with all my imperfections and I will FEEL their love. No words needed. That's what blows me away. I felt love in this home yesterday, felt it like something tangible that I could hug and hold. What a gift. What a precious blast of living.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Got Dem Bone Chillin Winter Blues

Let's get something straight right now.
I got up at 7:00 yesterday morning - it was 38 degrees and there was snow on the ground. First snow of "the season". Yesterday's date was October 28. A storm is predicted for today overnight into tomorrow - 6 to 10 inches of snow. It is snowing right now. Today is October 29, in case you lost track.
I would like to refer back to comments made in this very blog about the unbearable length of winter. This is directed to those who still cling to the belief that winter starts on December 21 and ends on March 21. Bullshit. Obviously this winter began on October 28. If you persist on believing that it will end on March 21, that is still 145 days of winter. And you know, you know deep down in your frozen bones, that winter will not be even close to ending on March 21.
I'm telling you right now I am not going to be able to deal with the winter of 2011/2012. I thought maybe I could impose some of the discipline and focus I have developed this year to help me to deal with this crap mentally. I was wrong. I was furious to see snow on the ground yesterday, and I guarantee you that each shovel full of goddamn snow that I heave tomorrow will be punctuated with the foulest of vulgarities.
Many years ago I performed an experiment. It was somewhere around 2003-2004-2005 - I was still an accountant. I decided that since I am imprisoned in this hell, I would try to embrace winter. I decided that dealing with it was a state of mind and that my hatred and suffering could be overcome with a shift in attitude. I was woefully wrong. I would go outside on my breaks and inhale the icy air, tell myself it was invigorating and healthy. I would drive around on my lunch hour with the window opened a crack in an attempt to forge a peaceful relationship with the killing winter wind. What a complete waste of time. I froze my ass off.
I am prone to dramatic statements. You might hear me say that humans were not meant to be cold. I can admit that is not true 100% of the time. I talk to customers in the Booze Emporium who are excited about winter. Snowboarders, skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoe-ers. I will allow them their cold weather pursuits, misguided as they may seem to me. The honest truth is that some people can handle the cold, some cannot. I absolutely cannot. I would rather be forced to watch reality TV 24/7, than to be cold. In fact if you want to kill me quickly, tie me to a chair outside my picture window in January facing the TV in the living room tuned to reality shows. I will be dead in a matter of minutes.
This winter is going to make me very, very angry. I will have to kill someone; it may be my only release. We are supposed to be celebrating Craig's and Emily's birthdays tomorrow. A big family gathering. The dinner may be postponed because of the sheer horror of this weather event. Getting my family together is harder than trying to negotiate worldwide peace. We have to start six months in advance just to try to arrive at a mutually agreeable date. And I only have two kids. What in hell was it like for the Partridge Family?
But that's what winter does. It postpones, it cancels, it slides your car off the road, it kills your electricity and makes you freeze in your own house, it increases your cost of living through artificially inflated oil bills, it forces you to dump buckets of water into your toilet, it steals time out of your day through shovelling and hairy commutes that take twice as long as normal.
I will not go gentle into this good winter. I will rant and rave and fight back with every fiber of my being. I gotta find the ultimate blues joint where I can raise a glass of whiskey among fellow music enthusiasts and flip a defiant middle finger at the snow storm raging outside the ice encrusted windows. And then hop into my truck with the heater that barely functions and freeze my ass back home on dangerous roads in complete abandon.
There may be no celebration here tomorrow. If that is the case, there will be an inferno of focused anger directed towards evil winter that will set my yard on fire. And we will celebrate Craig's birthday and Emily's birthday on July 21, 2013, which will probably be the next time we can agree on a date.
I will never be free until I can afford to get the hell out of this prison for a couple of months every year. Arizona sun love.
I am accepting donations as we speak.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Joseph Conrad

"If one looks at life in its true aspect then everything loses much of its unpleasant importance and the atmosphere becomes cleared of what are only unimportant mists that drift past in imposing shapes. When once the truth is grasped that one's own personality is only a ridiculous and aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknown, the attainment of serenity is not far off. Then there remains nothing but the surrender to one's impulses, the fidelity to passing emotions which is perhaps a nearer approach to truth than any other philosophy of life. And why not? If we are "ever becoming - never being" than I would be a fool if I tried to become this thing rather than that; for I know well that I never will be anything. I would rather grasp the solid satisfaction of my wrong-headedness and shake my fist at the idiotic mystery of Heaven."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dr. Buzzkill

You chow a bowl of pudding and it multiplies your flab.
It tastes so good you just don't care, there's no way you feel bad.
Your doctor says you are obese, you must lose weight to live.
You want to rap him in the mouth and stick him with a shiv.
You calm your wrath and head on home, dump ice cream in a bowl.
The doctor may be skinny but the slug ain't got no soul.

JoeDog in the Morning

Been listening to conservative talk radio lately, purely for the entertainment. It happened by accident; it's the same station that broadcasts the Red Sox and sometimes the Bruins and they also do sports talk stuff; the rest of the time it's this conservative pudding.
First of all, half the guys on the station call themselves SomethingDog; there's Bulldog, a conservative talk dude, and J-Dog who is on the Bob Lobel show. You want to talk about pathetic, you should check out Lobel's show. Long periods of dead air, absolutely no enthusiasm and NOTHING exciting or inspiring. I think he had a lobotomy. Bob Lobotomy. Makes me think I could have a radio show - Wacky Joe's Insane Ramblings and Rants. Based on Lobel's example, I would only have to fill eighteen minutes of air time out of a one hour show. The rest would be consumed by commercials and dead air.
If you are going to be SomethingDog, you should be tough. A guy who physically inspires fear; a guy with a gravelly voice. These guys sound like they should work in ladies' lingerie. A name doesn't make you, you make a name. Dale Earnhardt was known as The Intimidator - perfect. Kyle Bush has been nicknamed Wild Thing by racing analysts. That's like naming your new-born, Killer. You have to earn a nickname, otherwise you are a fraud.
Anyway.....................I had my eyes opened a little the other day. Some dude was on defending Herman Cain's 9-9-9- plan and it made sense, sounded perfectly logical. I wondered what was wrong with me. That night it was discussed on MSNBC and I realized how dangerous it is, how unjust. Now I am reasonably intelligent - I have a sixth grade education, and someday I plan on being either a fry cook or a brain surgeon. And I got fooled. This is the danger of being uninformed - you are easily manipulated. This is what conservatives count on. Unfortunately, with the average intelligence level in this country below that of your common garden slug, the voting populace are easily manipulated, especially since many of them would believe anything to defeat that black guy in the white house.
I get additional exposure to conservative candidates on right wing radio. Rick Perry was interviewed last week for about a minute and a half. He had been running late and the show was almost over so they squeezed in what they could. It was a tease, kind of like losing your electricity in the middle of a Three Stooges episode, but I was at least briefly amused. Perry managed to squeeze in a slam on the EPA and it's devotees. He said he wouldn't dismantle it, just revamp it so environmentalists couldn't use it for their own jobs-killing objectives.
That was beautiful. republicans know people are desperate for employment so they throw the phrase jobs-killing into any nook and cranny, any situation. A cousin of Beavis and Butthead hears that phrase and gets crazy. "Goddamn environmentalists are killing jobs." If you ask what an environmentalist is, they would probably say "I don't know; maybe somebody who plays a violin? But if I catch one killing a job, there's going to be a beatdown."
I get a kick out of the regular callers whose entire life is defined by their celebrity on these tiny talk shows. "Who is this? Bobby John. Hey Bobby John, how are you doing today? Well not so good. I found a couple of trash bags on my lawn, somebody must of put them there." A few seconds of silence as the host was expecting Bobby John to make a point. The host feels obligated to Bobby John because he calls every damn day, so he picks up the conversation and makes two trash bags on a lawn sound like mass murder. Bobby John is satisfied, so he gets back to his bag of Funyuns and another scintillating episode of Days of Our Lives.
Why is it that most of the callers on conservative radio sound like they are unemployed? And education averse?
I get a kick out of listening to this dribble; the hosts are so unprofessional and the callers are usually a brick shy of a load. The station confirms the wisdom of my support for liberal, and sometimes radical views. It also makes me feel good that I at least try to do a little research on the things that interest me or piss me off.
Ultimately, they make me laugh, which I guess is good, even if it is at the expense of people with small minds.
I won't be laughing if President Obama gets defeated, though. If that happens every talk show in the country will be run by conservatives. Maybe I'll jump on the bandwagon.
My show's promo - "Check out JoeDog - he hates blacks, social security, the middle class, unions, democracy, gun control, the elderly and the poor. JoeDog - just your average fun-loving american."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Me and You and Jerome and Life So Fragile

Life is a precious thing, but we always need reminders to shake us up and remind us of that. We whine and complain and criticize and waste precious time on such petty things, even though we know somewhere in our being that life is short, it is precious, it is random, and it is a gift.
Being alive is better than being dead. As far as I know. Every time somebody I care about or who inspired me dies, I want to grab their soul before it flies away and say "Tell me what you know. Is there an afterlife? Is there a god? Should I behave, or can I indulge my evil side and sin gleefully? Can I drink a bottle of whiskey a day and live forty more years?" I need to know these things; everybody needs to know these things. But we will never have those answers until shovels throw dirt on our grave.
If you want to get one more jolt proving to you that life is precious and life is random, place a phone call to Jerome Harrison. Running back for the Detroit Lions. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, but the trade was rescinded. Every trade requires a routine physical, kind of like when you squeeze a melon at the supermarket to make sure it is not too soft. Jerome Harrison's routine physical revealed a brain tumor. The Eagles prefer their running backs not to have brain tumors, so the trade was nixed.
He was traded on Tuesday, October 18; he underwent brain surgery on Friday, October 21. This is the very definition of the fragility of life. Harrison was earning $1,759,000. Not a lot for a professional football player, but still a damn good living. He was playing in the NFL on the biggest football stage in the world, and for a team that is experiencing a renaissance, kicking some butt and shaking things up. He had been having headaches but had no inkling that he had a brain tumor. Now he is recovering from major surgery.
Had he not been traded, had he not been subjected to a physical, the tumor might have gone undetected until he had no chance, until his life was threatened. How random is that? It is overwhelming.
I hope he bounces back 100%; I hope he gets to play in the NFL again, I hope his trauma makes an indelible mark on my brain that forces me to love every day that I am able to fall out of bed.
I don't earn $1,759,000 a year. At my present rate of pay it would take me 86 years to earn a total of $1,759,000. That would make me 143 years old. I am planning on retiring at the age of 130 so I am guaranteed to fall short. The money isn't the point. There have been countless tragedies and reminders and shocks and awakenings in my life ( and in yours as well) that should have hipped me permanently to the fact that I am lucky to be alive and healthy with an amazing family and amazing pets.
But I forget. And so do you. I worry about stupid things and I get petty, and I snarl when I should laugh, and I close me eyes when they should be wide, fucking open. I know this in my soul and, if that isn't enough, I have read it a million times in words telling me to live in the now and forget about regret and worry, to appreciate what I have.
Transcending our petty existence is a very hard thing to do. But I bet Jerome Harrison is digging life right now in a way that he never has before. Outside the context of football and bank accounts, and within the precious circle of family and friends. And breathing and heartbeats and waking up to sunshine in the morning. Or maybe just a cup of coffee and a kiss.
I don't know why we are so small, so petty. Maybe because we are all disappointed; our lives are never as glorious as we expected. But for christ sake, read about and think about Jerome Harrison and how quickly his life went from glamor to brain surgery in three days. And realize that every time you complain about something small, or worry about something material, you are wasting your life. WASTING YOUR LIFE. I cannot think of anything more hideous than that.
I'm trying, Jerome, I'm trying. I wish you luck, man, and love and life and beauty.

Monday, October 24, 2011

republicans love Iraq

This is a political eruption. As I follow President Obama's struggles, I form my opinions, they burn and  build with anger and then I write. But sometimes I have to explode my thoughts onto the page, like a burp or other more violent bodily excretions, because I get so goddamn angry I cannot contain myself.
These eruptions are always precipitated by republican scum who are trying very hard to destroy President Obama and this country. Immoral fools.
President Obama has committed to having all of our troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. After nine years wasted in this land, thousands of needless deaths and families destroyed, and trillions of wasted dollars that are desperately needed in this country, we are bringing our people home.
republicans are criticizing the President for leaving Iraq vulnerable to Iran. If he keeps us there they accuse him of mismanaging the war effort and wasting american dollars; if he brings our troops safely home they are suddenly concerned for the welfare of Iraq.
You cannot have it both ways. Do the work, make informed decisions and express you opinions intelligently. This "we have to defeat Obama at all costs" strategy is killing this country and is on the same intellectual level as a twelve year old's thinking.
These people disgust me.

A History of Cats and Love

My cats are the most adorable, loving and lovable animals in the entire recorded history of pets. I get to spend a lot of mornings with them and random days off when it is just me and them. I pet or pat them (which is it?), hold them and kiss them on the top of their little heads.
When they want love, they ask for it. Rub up against my legs, jump up on the desk and harass me when I'm writing, crawl into my lap in the recliner. Humans could learn a lesson. We need love as much, if not more than they do. But we are afraid to ask for it or go get it. We are repressed. Our souls grow cold as we play the part of happy idiots struggling for the legal tender. Next time you need love, get down on your hands and knees and rub up against somebody's legs. Let me know how that goes.
As I explore the depth of my love for these precious animals it reminds me of a dark time in Testa pet ownership.
Carol and I had three cats early in our life, maybe even before the kids were born. My memory is about as reliable as a Jaguar. Bandit was our first pet. We stole him. In the first year of our marriage we lived in Dracut, MA. People across the street owned Bandit, who was a kitten. They left him outside all the time. He was dirty, alone, cold and downhearted. One day when nobody was around we scooped him up and brought him into our apartment. Suddenly he was abundantly loved, warm and happy.
Lucifer was next. I wanted a black cat so we bought him at a pet store. The first and last pet we acquired that way. He was an asshole. Unapproachable, unloving.
Nugget was next. We were on a beach somewhere in the world (there's that Jaguar thing again) and some kids had some kittens in a box. Nugget was tiny and adorable - we made him ours.
I had an asthma attack one day that sent me to the hospital. They blamed it on allergies. I decided we had to get rid of the cats. I was colder then, less sensitive, more selfish. I told Carol the cats had to go; didn't give her a choice. I dropped them off at a shelter that does not kill cats if they are not adopted. We came home to an empty house.
I cannot imagine Carol's pain. If the roles were reversed today I could not handle it. Maka and Lakota give me pure joy every single day. I love them and cannot live without them. Carol felt the same way about Bandit, Lucifer and Nugget and yet I ripped them out of her life.
I have come a long way since then. I understand the beauty of pets in my soul. I want pets always and forever. They bring an awareness into your life that softens you and makes it possible for you to understand there is a lot more to life than soul crushing jobs and ego destroying paychecks.
I don't know if I have ever said this before. Carol, I am sorry for taking our pets away from you and I am sorry for the tears and pain that caused.
As usual, you stuck with me despite stupidity and selfishness. Maka and Lakota are the ultimate reward. Our relationship with them is deeper and more loving and intimate than with any of our previous pets. I hope this in some small way makes up for my insensitive decision.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tears For Fears

Sobbing is a uniquely human expression. I have never seen my cats sob and I pray to god I never do because I could not bear to know that they were that profoundly sad.
I'm talking about really crying; body wracking uncontrollable weeping. I have sobbed many times alone in my home and it is a deeply disturbing experience.
Crying is one thing. Tears rolling down your face as you feel sad or lost or unhappy, an emotional reaction to something you have seen or heard. Sobbing is a direct connection between your mind and your body. It is your body expressing what your mind and soul are feeling and thinking spontaneously and uncontrollably.
Sometimes it happens as the result of something you are consciously thinking of, but your reaction is so passionate that you go beyond tears to sobbing. I think on those occasions it is probably a given that you are not upset because you just discovered that you ran out of peanut butter. Although, the human mind being as strange as it is, sometimes a little thing like that sets you off, forcing you to recognize a deeper dilemma.
Weirder still are the times the sobbing comes out of no where. This has happened to me. You are alone at home going about your business and suddenly your body is shaking, strange sounds are emanating from your mouth and the tears are flowing down your cheeks. This is unnerving. This is your mind, your soul saying "Hey - wake up - look at what is going on here - you are deeply unfulfilled and you cannot bury it. We will not let you bury it."
I have never felt a sense of resolution after an episode. There is definitely a physical relief, an emotional release, but it never feels like anything has been solved. I have been blown away by the intensity of it. My god, where did that come from? How could I cry so deeply, so completely. The connection between my mind and body is so direct that it almost feels like I have been zapped with 1.21 jigawatts of electricity. Like when you accidentally come in contact with electrical power and get zapped, and realize that had the surge been stronger or your contact more direct, you might be dead.
It would be better to sob in someone's arms; that level of emotional distress requires warmth, love, compassion and an attempt at understanding, to even get close to feeling comforted. But humans are not equipped to deal with emotion of that magnitude; it is awkward and frightening, and the observer no doubt feels helpless in trying to know what to do. I'm guessing that most sobbing is done alone.
It is overwhelming to realize that unhappiness can grow to such proportions in a human being. That it can become bigger than your mind can deal with and almost bigger than your physical body can handle. When you are convulsing, it's like your body is saying "There should be a better way for me to handle this, a more efficient way to provide relief, but this thing is just too damn big and this is the best that I can do."
I am betting that there a hell of a lot of tears being privately shed around the world. Probably a good thing. Maybe it's good to release that steam before the top blows off, or before you end up swallowing emotion-smothering pills to keep Nurse Ratched off your ass.
I haven't sobbed in a long time and I'm glad. I'm taking the approach that my mind is s-l-o-w-l-y making sense of things and that my adjustment to functioning in society is coming along nicely. But you never know. I'm dreaming big things right now and expending major effort. Failure is not an option.
There could be more sobbing in my future. If so, I'll try to read the message. Keep the lines of communication between my mind, soul and body directly open immediately after the episode for as long as possible. That is probably the most honest and deeply raw glimpse into my soul I'm ever going to get. I'd be willing to shed a few tears for that vision.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World of The Booze Emporium

Rules of Etiquette and General Observations from working at The Booze Emporium.
Generally when working the register I try to be friendly, upbeat and sometimes funny if I detect a sense of humor. This is not easy; you get hundreds of people every day saying the same things and making the same jokes. I am also well informed about weather conditions.  But this is the public and you do the best you can.
If I ask "How are you?" and get no response it's time to get mean. Would you totally ignore someone who is being politely inquisitive? I stop talking; don't say another word. Even to the point of handing them their receipt wordlessly, arm extended in silence. I have noticed that many times these people will say thank you, apparently to break the awkwardness. I feel I have taught them a valuable life lesson.
There are those who just say "Fine" and don't inquire as to my own well being. Are you serious? It's a basic societal contract - I ask about you, you ask about me. I get cold with these people, strictly business. No humor, no sensitivity. Take your precious booze and get on with your selfish life. Had I the resources I would hand out copies of Norman Vincent Peale's "How To Win Friends and Influence People".
There are people who get loud, apparently in an attempt to show that they are in control of the situation, their life and the world. "I'M FINE HOW ARE YOU?" I find myself trying to out-loud them initially then I just get quiet. No sense trying to communicate with someone buried under that many levels of self delusion.
There are people who are painfully shy. I try to be exceptionally considerate towards them. They need me as a friend.
There are socially awkward people, people who are difficult to communicate with. Their words interrupt mine, mine interrupt theirs. They have no sense of timing. These people throw me off because I am all about rhythm. Initiate the conversation, process the transaction, end the conversation, on to the next booze hound. I try to move them along quickly; I am a professional and cannot allow myself to be thrown off my game.
There are people who criticize my choice of box, or worse still choose their own boxes (always inappropriate) and even worse, try to help me bag. They misunderstand the dynamic. I am the professional, they are the amateur. I don't tell them how to fill out their TPS reports, they shouldn't interfere with my smoothness. I'll indulge them up to a point, but when bags are flapping and bottles are stranded I am forced to take control.
Change counters. These people drive me out of my mind. The total is $19.98. "I think I have the change." These words strike fear into my heart. They count out 98 cents, and most of the time they have only dimes, nickles and pennies - NEVER QUARTERS. Is it that important to get rid of your goddamn change? Have a heart; throw it in a jug when you get home and give me crisp bills instead.
Change hoarders. These people pay you entirely in change. This should be embarrassing for them but they seem to enjoy it. Eight dollars in quarters and a combination of dimes, nickles and pennies to settle a $11.34 bill. When they leave, my cash register drawer is groaning under the weight, and I WILL HAVE TO RECOUNT ALL THAT CHANGE AT THE END OF THE NIGHT WHEN I AM TIRED AND WHISKEY THIRSTY. These people should be executed; no excuses, no mercy.
I had a guy come up to me one day and ask me if the large wine bottles used to be 1.75 liters, because he felt the bottles now were smaller and costing him more money. I patiently explained that booze comes in the 1.75 liter size, wine comes in the 1.5 liter size. He looked me in the eye and told me I was wrong. Simple rule - don't ask me the question if you don't want to hear the answer. The only place wine comes in 1.75 liter size bottles is the land of Brobdingnag.
Some people come to the register with fifteen nips (I don't know who they think they are fooling) and they lay them down. Please note - most nips are cylindrical in shape - THEY ROLL AROUND. Use some intelligence, show some consideration - stand the damn things up.
I have 315 more observations but I see you yawning. Have a great day and be kind to your Booze Emporium clerk. After all, he or she is the doctor with the antidote to what ails you, no?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Versatility of Books

The power of books, baby. I love books because they let me escape and they don't give me a hangover. I can learn from books, laugh with books, cry with books, dream with books.
I have kind of a random deal going on. The supermarket I shop at has a used book bin on the way out. Donations - $1 for paperbacks, $2 for hardcover. Just a bin piled high with books. In some ways it offends my sensibilities. I like my books in bookcases, proud and protected. They are my religion, as is music. I handle my Ipod like a sacred religious artifact. I dropped it one day, only a short distance onto the kitchen table. My head almost exploded. I prefer my books to be in pristine condition. Not beat, banged or dinged. I have had to make allowances though because we live below the poverty level, so I buy most of my books used through Amazon. Sorry Book Depot - I miss you dearly.
From another angle though it is kind of cool to see those books piled in that bin. All those words read by other people and put out there for more to enjoy. A rich community of choice representing a variety of topics. Quite random from day to day. I stop by the bin almost every time I'm leaving the store. I can pick up a book, read one sentence and know if it is something I will dig. I won't spend more than a minute or two going through the pile because it doesn't feel right book browsing in a goddamn food warehouse. The cool thing is I end up with books I wouldn't normally go after.
Like the one I am reading right now. About Rosamon Pinchot written by her grand-daughter Bibi Gaston. Rosamon was discovered at the age of nineteen by Europe's top theatrical producer aboard a cruise ship coming back from France. She came from a very wealthy family. This was in 1923. She had absolutely no acting experience but the producer convinced her to star in The Miracle, Broadway's largest production at the time. She was a smash. In 1927 at the age of 23 she was described as the "Loveliest Woman in America". Ten years later at the age of 33 she committed suicide on the opening night of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
That is one hell of a story, and yet I never heard of her until I randomly picked up this book in the cavernous confines of a food peddler. Now I am lost in this world of the super rich and the arts and I am digging it with feverish abandon.
That's what books are all about. Say your boss calls you a moron in front of eighteen of your co-workers. Say he tells you that every time you think you weaken the nation. Your hand moves slowly towards the sheathed knife strapped to your thigh as you envision his blood spurting across the floor like the spray from Niagara Falls smashing onto the rocks below. Something in your head tells you that prison is not your kind of place, that the people you will meet and socialize with there are not exactly what your mother had in mind when she told you it's good to meet other people and benefit from their unique life experiences. You hold your temper, tell Devil Boss you will try to do better and call him asshead as he walks away, loud enough for your co-workers to appreciate it. You have kept your job and impressed your peers. Brilliant strategy.
You go home that night, pick up a book and forget all about your boss, your job, your small life and smaller paycheck.
If your rage is so huge that reading cannot soothe you, bring the book to work the next day and beat your boss unconscious with it. I recommend hardcover over paperback.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Blazing heat, sun-dried desert, lizards and snakeskin boots.
Full figured, raven haired, morally ambiguous, ill-intentioned women.
Tequila, cloudy with worms, harsh and free spirited, testing your commitment.
Greasy, mustachioed grifters fleecing hungover gringos.
A corner bar with swinging doors flapping in the breeze, sign hanging
crookedly on one hook above, sawdust and flies.
Dangerous bartenders with crooked smiles.
Serapes, mariachis, Besame Mucho, sombreros;
tamales, chili, black beans and rice, Mexican sangria (more kick).
Dusty children fleecing hungover gringos.
North Americans live to work; Mexicans work to live.
Long, crazy nights and late, lazy mornings.
Sounds good to me.

Damn You, Gordon Gekko

The other day a guest on Morning Joe was talking about a conversation he had with the CEO of a major corporation. The CEO admitted that his company was so big, with locations spread all around the world, that he felt little national identity or connection or obligation. The global economy changes the perspective of major corporations so that The United States, the country where they are making their fortunes, is only one of many considerations.
These are chilling words. Since corporate greed and deceit were exposed in the sixties, it has become increasingly obvious that corporations are in it for themselves. They do not care about the welfare of this country or their employees or our society in general. The fact that the middle class is shrinking, that millions of people are afraid and on shaky ground, that America is sliding backwards in relevance to the rest of the world, all of this means nothing so long as they can increase profits and reduce expenses while minimizing tax liability. These are the people President Barack Obama has to deal with as he tries to save this country from financial collapse.
This is not new. Dig this excerpt from a speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Madison Square Garden in 1936:
"We have had to struggle with the old enemies of peace. Business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They have begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."
These are chilling words. Chilling because they were spoken seventy five years ago and are perfectly applicable today. Nothing has changed. In fact technology, the pace and scope of life today, have made it even easier for the big money boys to amass huge immoral fortunes as they openly mock the citizens of this country while simultaneously controlling our government.
This more than anything else gives me a sense of doom. It has always been this way and it will always be this way. Money buys power. The great unwashed know this even at the lowest of levels. A fat wallet gets busted with three pounds of pot and buys his way to freedom. I get caught with one joint and go away for 136 years. (I still love Willie anyway).
President Barack Obama is an intelligent man who I sincerely believe hungers to change the way this country is run. He recognizes that it is wrong for the great unwashed to spend a lifetime breaking their backs for the reward of poverty and an early death, while some pasty faced fat boy manipulates a couple of computer keys and earns millions in one day. Millions that do nothing to improve the quality of life in this country or get us a competitive advantage or raise up this society in any way. Millions that are used to buy yachts and $470 Cohibas and custom made suits and political influence.
Even if President Obama can somehow overcome the colossal stupidity and shortsighted partisanship of the republicans, if he can triumph over harsh racial prejudice, if he can reverse the disasters set in motion by that American Idiot, George W. Bush, I do not believe in my heart that he can ever overcome the opposition of obscenely rich vampires who care only about swelling the size of their bank accounts and hiding the profits in overseas banks.
Money rules the world. It is the way the world works, the way it has always worked, and we (the poor) will never be able to do anything about it.
Your only option is to find some independent way to support yourself, something to free you from the shackles of working "for a living". A means to earn more.
The truth is, very few of us have that option. 99.9% of us are condemned to a life of poverty under the thumb of those who sit lopsidedly on fat wallets.
We will not triumph, and I fear this country is headed for financial collapse. The pace of decline will be exponentially accelerated if President Obama is not re-elected.
The blame can be squarely placed on the filthy rich who laugh at us, laugh at our government and laugh jubilantly as they rape and kill anything that is good or dares to stand in their way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Love, As Life Revolves

It was just the two of us in the beginning; young, idealistic
 enthusiastic and in love.

We had plans, we had dreams, we had each other.

Hard work brought us rewards and sometimes frustration,
but we never gave up believing that we were on the right track, that

our life together and our love was meant to be.

When the kids were born our home was filled with laughter
and energy; we learned to be parents, they learned how to live.

We did the best we could, time flew by and we enjoyed every minute.
Life has come full circle and it is just the two of us again.

Experienced, idealistic, enthusiastic and in love.
I love you deeply; my life only makes sense with you in it.

New Orleans, Baby

Just finished a book called Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza. Written in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by a guy who lives in the city. Wasn't born there but was drawn to the majesty of the place and relocated from New York City.
The book is raw emotionally, written as it was immediately after Katrina's massive destruction. His love of the place is all over the pages, and his knowledge of the history and his appreciation for the culture give you a great feel for New Orleans.
This is a city I have always known I could dig, known it in my soul. However I have never been there. Not yet.
We have too many disasters in this country and around the world and they happen too fast. We have become jaded. Those of us who are not directly affected just move on, get back to clipping coupons and putting pennies in a jar. I was blown away in 2005 by the scope of this disaster, and of course by the truth exposed that it was essentially a man made disaster. Had the levees been properly maintained, New Orleans would not have been destroyed.  I watched the coverage, read about the aftermath and worried that a city that fascinated me would not be the same when I finally visited it.
Now I hardly think about it.
"New Orleans is the most religious place I have ever been, even though much of the population is profoundly profane, pagan, and steeped in the seven deadly sins and some others not even listed." Piazza's words. I get this. I love this.
The musical heritage alone is mind blowing. I could live there just for that. My brother was there on a business trip; he walked into a corner bar and heard music that blew his mind. That is so cool; you don't have to go to a concert to inhale the vibe; you can get it in some no name place off the beaten track. This is because they take the music seriously; it comes from the soul of the musicians and the soul of the city.
There is amazing food and ritual and tradition and voodoo; Mardi Gras; The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest). The place has a soul. New Hampshire doesn't have a soul. New Hampshire has foliage.
That's a big piece of what I find attractive; New Orleans has a personality, a feel, a smell, a sound - when I visit it the trip will be mutual - it will be visiting me as well.
Little corner stores and restaurants, from shacks to fancy joints, walk in and the food will blow your mind. From crawfish to barbecue and everything in between; the cuisine is varied and unique and alive. More of the ripple effect from the soul of the city.
People sitting on porches, on folding chairs in the street; community, the funeral processions and resultant celebrations where life and death are recognized as a tag team and mourned and celebrated accordingly. The funeral procession starts out with musicians playing dirges but quickly changes to life affirming party music that people dance to behind the procession. How cool is that. The mix of cultures and religions and points of view; the heat. New Orleans has got to be a mind blower.
Piazza first visited New Orleans to experience Jazz Fest. He booked his room through some fly-by-night agency; his description of the accommodations: "If the Addams family had run a guest house, it would have looked something like Longpre Gardens." His host told him that do to a scheduling overlap his room was occupied, but he was welcome to sleep on a cot in the kitchen or - a significant pause - in the host's room. His host was a sweet natured old queen. Piazza chose the kitchen.
That is a great New Orleans story.
Piazza talks about the traditions behind Mardi Gras, the heritage of it, the heart and soul, what goes on leading up to it; all the stuff that gets overshadowed by sweet young things covered in beads. He describes Jazz Fest, which happens on two consecutive weekends, late April, early May. It is an outdoor festival. The unbelievable musical lineup, the wide array of food available from booth to booth, the fascinating people who attend and the soul deep vibe of sweet release.
The main feel that came across in the book is the personality of New Orleans and its people. A soulful, living, breathing atmosphere of originality steeped in music and food and religion and ritual.
It must be a lot harder to be bored in New Orleans than in Anytown USA.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goddamn Football Pool

Ok look - all you good Christians out there, I need  you to identify for me The Patron Saint of Football Pools. I need to pray to him immediately or bribe him or handcuff him to the furnace in my basement; I need that son of a bitch on my side. I am getting killed.
I literally spend hours during the week watching football, watching football programs on both ESPN and the NFL network, reading Peter King on line and reviewing his weekly picks and those of the Inside The NFL crew on Showtime. Then I confidently make my picks. I have had two - TWO - horrendous weeks out of six and those two weeks have destroyed me.
I have won this pool twice, BACK TO BACK. I am legendary. Pool participants seek me out, beg for my autograph, ask my advice. At least they used to. This year they fart in my general direction.
There are eleven people in the pool and I am in ninth place, ELEVEN points out of first. That's roughly equivalent to being in 333rd place, five yards from the end of the Boston Marathon. It ain't pretty.
The entertaining part of all this is that I take it so seriously. I hate to lose. I checked yesterday's results a few minutes ago and found that I am in last place for Week 6. I was furious. How can I put so much effort into this, with a lifetime of football knowledge lodged in my tiny brain and still be getting my ass royally kicked?
I figured it out. It's a conspiracy. NFL teams, my fellow pool participants, and jesus himself are working together to destroy me. They monitor my picks and adjust accordingly. How else can you explain this? Me sucking at football picks is exactly equivalent to Albert Einstein not being able to understand the theory of relativity.
But this is 2011. The Year of The Joe. I am not giving up. I just quit my job, and read a scientific journal explaining how to get by on zero sleep. Starting tomorrow I will devote 24 hours a day to football. I will make up those eleven points and more.
And once again my minions will worship me in awe and fear. And I will have my revenge. I will fart in their general direction.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another Chapter Ends

And so another chapter in my life closes. Bartending.
This one hurts a little. As I have explained ad nauseum, I spent somewhere around twenty five years being a professional or an accountant. Horrifying, torturous years. The size of my liver can attest to that fact. What marks those years consistently is the fact that I never tried very hard to change things. I was fatalistic, lazy, stupid, dazed, uninspired - choose your adjective - but for whatever reason I never really TRIED to liberate myself from that world. As unhappy as I was, as lost and confused and uncommitted as I was, I never really TRIED.
In 2005 I was laid off from my last accounting job. At that point I knew that I could never do that again. Never again pass day after day after day imprisoned in a cubicle, where the air is stale and the future is on hold.
I decided to become a bartender, which I considered a brilliant decision. It was a brilliant decision in some aspects. First of all it was the first decision I had made in decades actually designed to take control of my life, to do something that made sense to me, something I could enjoy, regardless of the financial considerations. I did it for me, not for the mortgage vampire and that felt good. I have the right personality, and I am certainly well acquainted with booze and the world of booze. Made sense to me.
Took a one week bartending course and ironically almost quit after the first night. I was overwhelmed at how much I had to learn in a week and came home telling Carol I didn't think I could do it and should quit while I could still get my money back. In her typical supportive style she convinced me to stick it out; she believed in me (as she has consistently for 33 years, with little payback from me). She was right. I survived it and went out interviewing.
At almost every interview I would sit in the parking lot gagging for a couple of minutes, one breath away from throwing up, which would have made quite an impression on my potential employer. But I was that nervous. No bartending experience at all, and all I had was a little piece of paper from bartending school, and yet I had to walk into that bar or restaurant and ask them for a job. I did it over and over again. Nobody was interested. I forgot to factor in the fact that I was not a gorgeous twenty three year old babe. No bar wants to hire an inexperienced fifty two year old, grey haired, pot bellied bartender.
My dreams of working in a funky blues joint, making good money and dancing behind the bar went down the toilet. Eventually I started interviewing at legions and vfw's. Ended up getting hired by Ralph Luongo, a guy I never thought would hire me, at an American Legion post. I will always be grateful to him for giving me a shot.
It was a tough transition because this was not even close to what I had in mind the day I decided to become a bartender. And a legion is not the easiest place to learn the trade. The audience is tough and vocal, and you are as much a personal secretary as you are a bartender.
But I learned, through many painful barshifts. I stuck it out and became good at it. I proved to myself I could do it but the money wasn't there, not even close. Tipping and generous are two words that do not co-exist in the world of veterans' bars. There are many reasons for this, and I am not whining about it, because it is what it is - if you can't handle it then you shouldn't be working there.
After a couple of years experience I did another round of interviews, which proved to me that I was too old, too grey, too fat. No one was interested, even though I had experience this time.
I did leave the legion twice but neither opportunity worked out, so both times I went crawling back and was lucky enough for them to take me back. I ended up working there for 5 and 1/2 years.
Now I am at The Booze Emporium and finally getting enough hours. I recently quit the legion for the third and final time.
Feels like a failed experiment, bad timing, strange circumstances. At another time in my life I would have thrived as a bartender. I would have loved it. But it was not to be.
I have reached the end of another chapter in my life. I can survive that because I am proud of the decision and proud of the effort I dedicated to it. I have started another chapter, in many ways, and I am hoping to make something work for me in some way. Because I am not in a hurry to get to the end of the book. I just hope that when someone else reads that final chapter they will say "Goddamn he did it. He pulled it off. He beat the odds."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Let's Crazy Go Nuts

You got to be nuts to get by
Insanity keeps you alive
Focus on crazy, and
please don't get lazy
Dementia will help you survive

Steve Jobs

Just read a piece on the man in Time magazine. It wasn't long enough but I guess when you deal with a man of his vision it's hard to capture the essence in any length. However I was pleased to learn that Walter Isaacson has written a biography coming out on October 24. A must read.
The man was a visionary. He didn't invent things (I didn't know this)  but he took what he saw, looked at them differently and vastly improved them and integrated them into our lifestyle and mindset.
Apparently he was a bastard to work for, but I guess that's what you get from a perfectionist and an innovator. And somehow, even though he became a corporate giant and one of the richest men in the world, he maintained an image as a rebel, an outsider, one of us. I don't know about you but I don't have a billion dollars in the bank. But I am working on it.
I read about people like this and I try to osmosis-ize something about them into my own DNA. I can never achieve at that level; my brain is too small and whiskey soaked - I have crossed the 50/50 line - more of my brain cells are dead than alive. But most of the human brain is wasted anyway, so there is hope.
The consistent thing about geniuses is that they see things differently. I think for many of us, that ability would drastically change our lives. We get trapped into a certain way of thinking, a specific view of the world and we are afraid of change. But a slight shift in perception, a more open perspective might just blow your world wide open. We don't have to be as small as we are, even though that is what life demands. Flapping your wings and puffing out your chest in a constructive way might free you of the chains that bind; easier said than done, however, which is why genius is few and far between.
I think at his core he was a sensitive man. The words he spoke at a commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005 certainly give you that impression, although this occurred after he was diagnosed with cancer. I don't know if he was reborn, or if this was the way he always looked at the world. In any event, dig this:
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other peoples' thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
Straight to the heart, baby and words to live by. Not easy to do; we are all as pliable as Gumby, easily influenced and driven off track. We think (myself included) that by drinking excessively we are rebels and we are living our lives. We got to think bigger than that.
I'm going to read the book and dig into the man a little deeper. What have I got to lose?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

To Winter With Love

Winter is here and nature is dying,
bright colors signal the grave.
The cold pains your bones as oil heats your home,
and oil companies measure their gains.
Your shovel is ready, your gloves and your boots,
you'll soon be the Michelin man.
You hunger for warmth but suffer instead, and
still do the best that you can.
Winter oh winter, please leave me alone,
I hate the way you behave.
Please let me have heat, live life on my feet,
save all of your cold for my grave.

Don't Talk To Me

I don't believe in verbal communication. That's why I write. We'd probably be better off as a species if we grunted to each other or, even better, used sign language. Imagine how much more of the world you could experience if nobody talked. You would suddenly be exposed to the sounds of the world in wonder. 'Twould be amazing.
Oh my god - what is that music I hear? What is that missile flying over my head? Birds? We have birds on this planet?
A personal aside on the grunting thing. I very often reply to Carol's comments with a grunt and she likes to point this out to me in amusement. I am perpetually tired and talking requires energy. And honestly, she talks a lot more than I do. I am not a talker, as previously mentioned. But the other day in The Booze Emporium I made yet another unoriginal comment about the weather to a customer ( the least challenging way to make contact with other humans) and the guy grunted. I was like "Holy shit, that must be what I sound like to Carol." I wanted to smack the guy. Sorry, babes.
People don't really listen when you talk and even worse, they interrupt you. Don't you hate that? I despise it. I think that is the most blatant form of disrespect and self absorption. Someone who believes that what they have to say is so important that they have to interrupt what you are saying to regurgitate their own thoughts and opinions.
The whole opinion thing amuses me. I try not to be too vocal about my opinions in speech (I'm probably kidding myself) which is why I volcano them out in here. People are always trying to change other peoples' opinions. Are you kidding me? Do you really think that at the age of fifty seven I really give a damn about your opinion? I am not interested in your opinion of my opinion and I am REALLY not interested in your trying to prove me wrong. Opinions grow through experience and are warped by our own delusions and prejudices. They are uniquely unique. And they are rarely factual. In addition we are all in constant combat to prove ourselves superior to one another, so there is a lot of chest thumping involved in opinion rendering. You can offer me your opinion if it is completely in sync with my own; if not, just tell me a joke, make me laugh. I would rather laugh at your joke than to suppress a laugh about your opinion.
People who are forceful with their opinions are endlessly entertaining to me. The kind that talk to you as if their opinion is solid fact and that only a fool would disagree with them. I call them GOP's. Grotesquely Opinionated People. You get this all the time in retail. I have people say things to me at the register that make me want to break out my machete and behead them. Instead I yes them to death as if I agree with them because talking to a blockhead is an exercise in supreme frustration.
At this point I imagine there are hundreds of Booze Emporium customers who have walked away thinking "Wow I really connected with that pony tailed booze clerk." And I'm standing there thinking "I wonder if that moron can even find his way home."
I think the whole opinion thing springs from the need to feel important. You want to display your supreme intelligence and flawless reasoning ability to the world and, more than that, you want someone to agree with you. You lose all bowel control if it appears that you have changed somebody's opinion. If the listener appears to be considering your comments and then responds "You know, I think you're right", you start clapping your hands like a little child and jumping up and down in glee.
As far as not listening goes, when you tell somebody something, most people use it as a springboard to talk about themselves. You walk in to work with your arm in a sling and tell your buddy you fell and broke your arm while reaching for an apple in your orchard while riding your unicycle. He immediately launches into his remembrances of breaking his own arm playing flag football in a girls' league, followed by a brief history of unicycle riding leading into his opinion of circuses and novelty acts. It's forty five minutes later and your head is spinning. Empathy is hard to come by, baby.
I am not a fan of verbal communication. We don't say a lot that is meaningful or even true. We try to force our opinions on others as if our life experiences make us omniscient. They don't. They only make us unique. Uniqueness should be appreciated and enjoyed, not watered down by spreading it around like a communicable disease, or by trying to attract converts.
Keep your opinions to yourself. Say something to me to make me laugh. I'll laugh at your opinions in private.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Scatman Testa

I am riffing today. Improvising, scatting, flipping and flopping and hippity hopping. Haven't written a word in three days. Painful word spewage back up.
I write therefore I am.
My work schedule has gotten crazy insane. I'm finally getting the hours that I need, but now that I am working almost full time like an adult, it is wreaking havoc with my schedule. Because of the nature of the biz, the work schedule bounces - in early out early one day, in late out late the next, five hours here, eight hours there, seven and six etc. Exercising, writing - I actually have to look at the work schedule and figure out how, when and why I am going to accomplish these all important things. However, as a confirmed low wage earner, it's good to get the hours and I will continue to swallow up everything I can get. Until I become rich and famous. Then it will be up all night, sleep all day.
Looking at the republican front runners over the past year. Palin then Trump then Bachman then Perry - can you take any of these people seriously? It is fascinating to watch the gop stumble around trying to find a worthy candidate for President Obama, while using scare tactics, lies and exaggerations to disorient the American public. American politics at it's worst. But still I fear President Obama's re-election is not in the bag. Strange times we live in, me thinks.
If I am in the mood for comedy tonight after work, it will be a tough choice between Stephen Colbert or the republican debate.
Steve Jobs is dead. That one threw me a little. He was such an iconic figure. I have a special issue Times magazine dedicated solely to him sitting next to my recliner and I can't wait to dig into it. Every once in a while, the death of someone notable flips me around and this is one of them. Not a hundred per cent sure why that is. Maybe because he is one of those people you can learn something from, a man who saw things differently and acted upon his visions. I am trying to break out of my own predictability and re-direct my life; maybe after reading this tribute I will invent something amazing. Similar to that awesome meatloaf pan on TV - the one that lifts the loaf right out of the pan. I covet that.
Al Davis is dead too. That one has me thinking too. He was no Steve Jobs but he was huge in the world of professional football. He was a rebel always, who translated that rebel swagger perfectly into the image of the Raiders. Did a whole bunch of other stuff also. Have to read up on him some more.
The special on Prohibition. Got that on the DVR machine, watched the first part but slept through chunks of it. But what I did see was excellent. Gonna re-watch that, then watch the other two parts. With a tumbler of civilized whiskey in my hand, in defiance.
The George Harrison special. Watched part one. SPECTACULAR. I saw clips I have never seen before, heard stories I have never heard before. I am close to being a Beatles fanatic, so it was so cool to see new stuff. Cannot wait to see Part two and read the companion book, put together by George's wife.
This whole year for me has been a search. With all the verbosity about losing weight and exercising and writing and making more money, what I am really trying to do is find myself. Digging deeper and trying harder than I ever have before. It occurred to me watching the Harrison special that I probably don't have to go any further than The Beatles for inspiration. It always comes back to The Beatles. At the age of ten I was shaken to the core by the Ed Sullivan experience. I will never forget it. I knew then how my life should be. Before I knew it, I was an accountant. Something went horribly wrong.
They were seekers and thinkers. That's what I dig about their legacy. After The Beatles split, John and George spent their lives questioning and learning and pursuing the meaning of life. In the special, George comments that acid opened up his mind, but at a certain point it became obvious that what he needed was a spiritual answer, not a chemical one. LSD opened the door, spirituality pushed him through. That is a man who is aware, a man who could step back from massive celebrity and conduct a journey inwards towards peace. That is somebody I can look up to and learn from.
That is what is on my mind today. Some of it will be fleshed out in future ramblings and used to torture you accordingly.
Please note: Most of these words were written with Maka on my lap. It was challenging, and my back hurts from the position I had to adopt to get it done.
That's how much I love that damn cat.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Will Hunting Again?

So yeah, maybe I have a bit of an obsession with Good Will Hunting, but obsessions are good for the soul. The movie is damn good and digs deep into human frailty, self delusion and walls of defense. In other words it deals with all of us, in all of our self created worlds of illusion.
The scene where Robin Williams gets up close to Matt Damon, right up in his personal space, and repeats: "It's not your fault." Over and over again. He's referring to the abuses Damon suffered as a child. "It's not your fault." Over and over and over. Damon goes from shrugging it off, to showing some emotion, to questioning Williams' sincerity, to getting somewhat violent, to eventually breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably. It is a release, a breakthrough, a catharsis.
We all need this. We need to be pushed to this point and then broken down completely, forced to face the truth and then pushed beyond it. Recognizing your own reality and living in complete harmony with who you genuinely are, understanding the true source of whatever pain you carry around and getting beyond that, these things can be insurmountable. And they can completely distort your life and suck spontaneity from your soul, draw a curtain over your mind and send you through life living a lie.
Somehow you have to work yourself to that breaking point and then be around someone who can push you over the edge into peace. Unfortunately, for the most part, we are on our own. You can't afford a shrink, you don't have the time, and Robin Williams isn't going to walk into your life and wrap his arms around you.
Life is weird because we all walk around acting out parts and there is no truth, no honesty. When you walk out of your house it's like walking onto the set of a movie because there is no reality. There is only what other people choose to show you, which is just an act. That's why true friendship and genuine family love are so valuable.
"They say that what you mock will surely overtake you, and you become a monster so the monster will not break you." Peace On Earth - U2. This is what life does. You take whatever damage your parents did and combine that with the need to survive in a harsh world and you become a monster. It is not always deep and dark and soul crushing, but I do believe that most people have hangups that crept into their lives somewhere along the line, that keep them off balance, that prevent them from achieving the sweet peace that comes from fearlessly exposing your soul to the world.
"Children, insane people, fools and mystics are more interested in what is than in why it is." Another quote I picked up somewhere. This is what our essence aspires to. Simplicity. Innocence. Life experiences, pain, and self delusion all complicate things. Layers are added on as you move on down the road until you wear them like a soggy, wool blanket.
I have become overly dramatic, as is my way. My point is that almost everyone you meet is acting to some extent, including yourself. So what is this world that we live in? We really don't know.
And what would it be like if everyone was true to their soul, free of pain and hangups? We might not be able to handle it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eight A.M. Whiskey

If you enjoy an eight a.m.shot of whiskey before you set off to work, you have declared your independence from society and I salute you.
Social guidelines are generally silly, and the one about not having a drink before noon is especially so. What are you kidding me? Booze is medicine, and medicine is what is required to negotiate your way through life. If you wake up with a cold, you don't wait until noon to guzzle your Nyquil.
We taped the Ken Burns documentary on prohibition and I can't wait to watch it. That was the most misguided attempt at controlloing the general populace ever conceived.
People need their booze, it's the only legal drug you can openly consume, unless you have a laid back, forward thinking physician writing you prescriptions on demand. Everybody needs a Dr. Feelgood. Having spent the last five and a half years behind a bar, and the last year at The Booze Emporium, I am consistently overjoyed to see people embracing their love of the sauce. Openly, unabashedly and with great vigor.
True drinkers understand that there are no rules; do whatever works for you in whatever combination works for you, at whatever strength, and whenever you decide you need it.
When I first started working at the legion, the bar opened at 9:00 a.m. Friends, relatives and acquaintances were shocked when I told them this. "You mean people actually drink at 9 in the morning?"  Of course they do; it's a great way to start your day and gain some valuable perspective on life. I loved serving drinks that early; felt like I was in some alternative universe or parallel dimension, a subset of humanity that lived by their own rules. My kind of people.
Here's the way I look at it. If you need an early morning shot to get your juices flowing, to get ready to face the world or just to get your energy level up to par, do it with abandon and sweet release. If you start with an 8:00 a.m. shot and continue drinking throughout the day (frequent furtive trips to the bathroom at work, nips in your pockets) then you have a problem. This I am not condoning.
But a shot of whiskey with your eggs in the morning is delightful. I was recently taken aback by my own strangeness, but I quickly adapted and found it quite amusing. I am on a health/losing weight kick, so I have been experimenting with my diet. Had a cup of yogurt for breakfast, followed shortly thereafter by a shot of whiskey. At first I thought "What the hell am I doing?" But it felt so natural that I knew it was the right thing to do. I should write a diet book; I am willing to bet that I could find a large number of devotees.
The psychological aspect is almost as rewarding as the physical. You set yourself apart as a rebel, a rule breaker, a rugged individualist when you consume early morning booze. You are thumbing your nose at society's arbitrary rules and setting a wonderful example for your children.
We all have to conform to get through the day. Individuality is not condoned or rewarded in the work place. But conformity is not natural. We are all born individuals who are then shaped, molded and intimidated into conforming for the sake of society. You have to do whatever you can to re-capture a tiny piece of your soul. I suppose you could go for a 5:00 a.m. jog, but it takes a hell of a lot less effort to raise a shot glass.
Side note: I cannot drink beer in the morning, my body rejects it. But if you were standing next to my bed as I awakened, with a delicate crystal tumbler holding a touch of civilized whiskey, I would consume it appreciatively, then stumble off to brush my teeth.
Do what you gotta do, folks. Life is way too short to live by other people's rules. Enjoy your vices with extreme prejudice, but try not to allow them to control you. Early morning moderation is sensible. You can go nuts when the whistle blows at 5:00 o'clock.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

President Obama's Reality

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
President Obama is a victim of circumstance and timing. I voted for him in 2008, and I will again next year, and I refuse to back down or apologize for that.
I was blown away by his persona, his speeches, his intelligence and his intensity during the first campaign. Since then, I have been disappointed by his weakness, his insistence to try to work with republican scum, his compromises, his confusion. He has not governed as he campaigned.
He is campaigning again and the old President Obama has been resurrected. But this time around I need more. I need him to kick republican ass as well as make new promises. I need victories in government, I need him to stand tall and win a few battles against enemies who are vastly inferior in ever single measurement of humanity.
I believe President Obama was naive about what he could get done. He is learning and adjusting and he needs more time. Four more years. When you start a new job you are confused, nervous and inefficient. Over time you adjust and eventually you get comfortable. This is true of all of us.
Imagine your new job is as President of the United States. I rest my case. In addition I am willing to bet his presidency has had to deal with the most and the worst crises in history. If not the worst, his problems are right up there at the top of the list. In addition to that, he has had to deal with republican scum who REFUSE to co-operate with him, whose only goal is to see that he is not re-elected. I can't make this point strongly enough. These people do not care about the welfare of this country, about us wee folk, about anything of substance. They only want to stop President Obama and they will allow us wee folk to lose our jobs, our pensions, our futures; they will allow our homes to be grossly de-valued, they will stand by and watch the lives of the working people in this country disintegrate. Do you understand how dangerous that is? THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT THIS COUNTRY AND THEY HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED TO RUN IT. I believe President Obama has had to deal with more opposition than any other president, and absolutely no co-operation.
Why? What is the basis for this stubborn opposition? Intelligent analysis? Please, look at who you are dealing with. I am convinced the roots of this disrespect stem from racism. Don't take my word for it; go online and research racist comments about President Obama made by members of our own governing body. You should be enraged and disgusted; if you are not than you are worthless as a human.
I said President Obama is a victim of circumstance and timing. He was elected at a time when corporate greed, political greed and inefficiency are at an all time high. They are out in the open for all to see and there are no or minimal consequences. None. Enron, AOL Time Warner, Arthur Andersen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Halliburton, Merck, Tyco, Xerox. That is only a partial list. All corporate scandals. Look at what happened on Wall Street in the last couple of years. Look at what the banking system has done. Look at all the politicians who are backed by huge corporations. Who openly vote against energy alternatives because their campaigns are financed by major oil companies, as one small example.
The integrity of our political system has deteriorated for a long time and President Obama was elected at a time when it is at an all time low. He inherited huge problems created by that American Idiot, George W. Bush. He walked into the middle of all this crap and he had the lack of foresight to be BLACK on top of everything else.
I am not naive. I know that President Obama has been the beneficiary of funding from major corporations and this bothers me. I know he bailed out Wall Street when they should have been jailed. I know he bailed out the banks when they should have been jailed. I know that he has continued to try to work with republican scum even as they continue to disrespect him, and I know this optimism on his part has hurt this country. All of this bothers me.
But I also know that this man has not been given a chance. I know that if he gets re-elected he will kick ass because he will have nothing to lose and he will have learned his lessons. The first time around there was a lot of white guilt tied up in his votes. If he wins this time, it will mean that the wee folk finally figured out that republican scum don't give a damn about them, that they are destroying middle America while simultaneously kissing the ass of Wall Street, the banking system and the Big Money Boys. Unfortunately his re-election would not be a sign that we are becoming more intelligent when it comes to race; this country is way too stupid to ever stop judging people by the color of their skin.
If President Obama gets re-elected, this country will have a future. If he is defeated this country will be destroyed. That really is the magnitude of this election.
Do not vote republican unless you are OK with losing your home, your retirement, your future and your dignity. These people are openly mocking you.
Fight back.

I Am A Lucky Man

I went out for "a drink" with Bruno Richard Gulla last night and I am not hungover today.
I consider myself a lucky man. Apparently I am maturing.

Another Reason To Hate Winter

My cats become prisoners in the harsh New England winter. We have a screened in porch which they absolutely love. On those three or four good days that we get during the year, they spend the whole day out there being entertained by chipmunks, squirrels, birds, bears, rhinoceroses and woolly mammoths. Winter hits and they no longer want to be out there. I let them out because I want it to be their decision. Invariable, after five minutes, they are huddled up against the door meowing "Let us in, let us in." This has already happened a number of times in the harsh cold of September and young October. But the need to be entertained remains. I have come home from work to find tiny kitty beer cans and roaches scattered about the house. Crumpled bags of Doritos, squeezed out limes and salt residue next to miniature Jose Cuervo bottles.
I am worried about their health and sanity.
Damn you winter.

Words and The Image Projected

I would like to incorporate the term "much obliged" into my everyday speech. If movies are an accurate indicator, apparently this was a much used term in the wild west. I like the image of me tipping my hat and humbly mumbling much obliged to someone instead of saying thank you. However if I do this I risk setting myself even further apart from people typically described as normal. And I would have to start wearing a hat.
Lord have mercy is another great term. You hear it all the time in great old blues tunes. I would like to use it, but it would have to come from a place of profound belief. In other words, if I truly believed that there is a god floating around up there gleefully waiting to judge my life, if I truly felt the need for his forgiveness, then it would be cool to say Lord have mercy in certain circumstances. I will work on that.
Lastly, I am still inspired to make "he's the honey badger" a natural part of my conversation.

A Brief Moment Of Clarity

At precisely 8:16 a.m. this morning I put down the book I am currently reading, a biography of Keith Moon, to rest my eyes and revel in the warm and comforting feeling of not having to go to work today. Maka was sound asleep in my lap, Lakota perched on the back of the couch.
I looked through the sliding glass doors and saw sunshine. I did not immediately recognize it as such; had to do some online research, but I was eventually able to confirm that it was indeed sunshine dancing on the dead and dying New England leaves.
I was thrilled, stunned, amazed and amused.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September 11

On September 11, I was driving home from three days of peace, love and understanding at Old Orchard Beach. Feeling rested and content having grabbed a fleeting piece of independence from responsibility and life's general boredom.
Passed a couple of places where flags were flying at half mast and I felt sad, reflective, still in disbelief even after ten years. It is so hard to accept that hateful religious fanatics (similar to many republicans who are currently running for president) breached this country's security and killed so many innocent people in such dramatic fashion.
Further on down the road, we passed a pick up with two big American flags waving in the bed of the truck and I was disgusted. There is a huge segment of this population who engage in mindless flag waving and call it patriotism. These are the people who operate from hate, who judge entire countries and religious sects by the actions of a few, people who will spit in your face or wave their goddamn guns around if you dare question anything about this country, people who use vile racist words to refer to President Obama, people who compare him to Hitler. People like Hank Williams Jr., who's music I will delete from my Ipod. I am not going to talk about Ole Hank, he is not worth my time.
You have to approach your love of this country intelligently. America is a great country and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else except, maybe, Jamaica, for obvious reasons. Are you with me Craig? I think it makes sense to be outraged at the scum who perpetrated so much suffering and death on September 11 with continuing repercussions to this day and to make sure they pay for their crimes, but it does not make sense to allow yourself to be overcome with emotion and decide that all Muslims must die or to believe that this country is innocent. By the way, I never use the term 9/11. We have to convert everything in this country into a jingle or a slogan or a catchy phrase; referring to it as 9/11 like a catch phrase trivializes one of the most horrific moments in this country's history.
We are at a dangerous intersection in 2011. There are intelligent people praying for a better way and there are fanatics content to spew hatred and threaten violence. Only one side can win. Mindless judgements can only hurt us. I was not joking with the republicans reference; many of them are religious fanatics with close minded points of view, who criticize and condemn without batting an eye. The same qualities we use to define our enemies.
This country indulges in many of the same unacceptable practices that we criticize other countries for and we run around pretending to a higher moral purpose. We used to lead the world in all the meaningful categories or measurements of civilization; now we lag far behind, even in categories like infant mortality. That is completely insane.
Love your country. I do. It may be hard for you to believe me because I am willing to criticize, but I do love this country. I can be who I am, I can do what I want, and even though it is shrinking and becoming almost impossible to do, there is still an opportunity to achieve your dreams.
But love it intelligently. Recognize it's faults and do what you can to fix them. Think. Don't get caught up in hate filled emotion just because your life is small and you need someone to take it out on.
This country has gone backwards because we have indulged in all the wrong things and ignored all the right ones. We are so far away from the principles this country was founded on, that if James Madison and Benjamin Franklin took a walk around, they would think they were in a foreign land. And they would probably be attacked for the way they were dressed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Terry Francona

I watched Terry Francona's press conference and I watched the Epstein/ Lucchino/Werner press conference. My initial reaction was one of overall sadness. It is the end of an era in Red Sox baseball, a very short, spectacularly successful era.
I was a little surprised at the emptiness I felt; sometimes you don't realize how big a part of your life something is until it is gone.
You would think two world championships in four years would give you what you need to overcome any differences, but this is sports in 2011. Nothing means anything.
How many MLB coaches have won two championships or more? I guarantee you it is a very short list over the history of baseball.
The press conferences reinforced what I have felt for a very long time - they are an absolute waste of time. If a journalist has the balls to ask a tough question he will get a softball answer. If they ask softball questions they get condescension. That's why people like Ozzie Guillen and Charles Barkley are so valuable - they speak their minds. Might not be the truth, might not be accurate, but at least they have the guts to say what they think. And it makes you think or respond or pay attention, as opposed to nodding obediently and sheep-like to meaningless drivel.
It feels like this was largely Francona's decision. I can handle that better than if he was forced out. I woke up briefly, and with fire in my soul, when he talked about not connecting with or being able to motivate some of the players (which was repeated by ownership later on). I HATE this about professional sports. It is not a managers job to motivate athletes or "connect" with them. They should motivate themselves, just like they did in high school and college and the minors when they had a burning desire to make it to the majors. Fat paychecks result in fat egos which results in complacency and babysitting. I got two words for you - Manny Ramirez. He should have been fired the first time he didn't run out a ground ball; not benched - fired. He wasn't because he is a rich, pampered athlete who has more clout than his manager and can do whatever he wants to do. Francona should have been allowed to punch him in the face with the rest of the team lined up behind him for their turn.
A manager should be the guy with all the knowledge to try to make all the right moves in every situation. He should be the guru who can look ahead as well as think on his feet to put his team in the best situation to win as often as is possible. That's why I have always hated coaches pre-game or post game talks, especially in football. One out of a hundred are intelligent or motivational; the rest come across like a third grader trying to compare and contrast the political advances of the Mesopotamian Empire with the those of Ancient Greece.
The Epstein/ Lucchino/Werner show was boring and had that phony corporate feel. I guarantee you that those three refer to baseball as product. I was amused at John Henry's absence; I think he would have been the most emotional, most outspoken and honest of them all. Although I can understand him injuring himself on his yacht; happens to me all the time. They echoed the babysitting/ connecting/motivating bullshit, which continued to disgust me. However I was infinitely amused when they expressed surprise at Francona's comment that he wasn't sure he had management's support. That is the issue right there. I think Francona could have stuck around to continue changing diapers, because that is the nature of professional sports today. It is unavoidable. I think The Holy Four were unhappy with Terry's player relationships and with the teams colossal failure, even though The Sox dealt with devastating injuries during the year. Many key players who lost a lot of time, especially on the pitching staff. You can only have so much depth.
I feel empty. I don't know where The Sox go from here; I think they are in for a bumpy road. The phrase "there's always next year" holds no comfort for me this time around.
Went out to see Moneyball last night. There is a scene where Billy Beane has been invited to Fenway to interview for the GM job, which he eventually turned down, opening the door for Epstein. The scene shows him walking up the runway into Fenway Park. The woman sitting next to me said in wonder "That's Fenway", when she recognized the ballpark. She audibly gasped when the view opened up from the runway to reveal the field in all it's glory.
That's what's missing from professional sports today. That's where it started, but it has gotten a long way away from that over the years.
Good luck, Terry Francona and thank you for two precious, Boston baseball memories. 2004 and 2007. They are part of my soul and no one can ever take them away.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 1, 2011

It's October 1 (which sucks in and of itself).

I weigh 174 pounds.