Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Only Fools Are Happy

Feeling a little raw.

Dialed up Not Dark Yet, and Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan.

His music has been darker in the last ten years, a little more accessible, got more of a blues feel to it, more of a life feel to it.

From Not Dark Yet:

"Well my sense of humanity
Is goin' down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing
There's been some kind of pain

I just don't see
Why I should even care
It's not dark yet
But it's gettin' there

I've been down on the bottom
Of a whirlpool of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin'
In anyone's eyes

Sometimes my burden
Is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet
But it's gettin' there"

Nothing dishonest here, nothing that is too surreal to understand. Nothing to be avoided either. A taste of reality. Beauty and pain. Pablo Picasso said "Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." You don't get one without the other.
Not expecting anything from anyone after too many lies.
A sense of what is coming.
It's not dark yet but................

From Things Have Changed:

"I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand

I hurt easy, I just don't show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed"

Feeling like your own worst enemy. Trying to get away from that. Hurting easy and hiding it.
No empathy, no awareness of consequences.
Sensory and emotional overload.
Can't care anymore. Just can't do it.

Only fools are happy all the time.
These things are real. Just a part of the deal. You can try to let them pass through you if you are that good but I'm pretty sure they will leave a scar. Maybe it's better to face them dead on. Feel them, lose yourself in the pain and doubt, the deception, the dark side of the light side, overwhelmed.
And then move on.
From time to time. No need to dwell there. Take what you need, take what you can stand, put your head down and move forward.
Be human instead of just playing the part.

Incontrovertible Ugly Truth

I am not saying everybody who votes for Romney is a racist.

I am saying that a lot of people who are voting against President Obama are.

And I am saying that if racism were not a factor in this election, Romney would not even have a chance.

That is an offensive, but honest, commentary on the millions of people who still live in this country wearing white sheets, imaginary or real, to cover their vicious truth.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dig This

"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."

William James

Cold House

I knew the house would be cold as I approached it with my teeth gritted in anger.
It was thirteen degrees outside as I spent the day working my dead end job. The heater in my truck sucks. My mood was dark.
The thermostat is enemy to my wallet and I resent that. Warmth is a basic human need, it is life. But when the wallet is thin then so is the comfort.
I settled into the recliner with layers, a blanket and brown liquid heat in a glass.
And wondered where the logic was, the justice; wondered how much more dignity was left to sacrifice.

Two Crazy Guys

Carol and I were watching the weather channel and she made a casual comment that inspired what is to follow. She said "Jim Cantore is the Richard Engel of weather."

Jim Cantore is insane in the membrane.
He's the dude you see on the Weather Channel hanging onto a stop sign, with his feet flying out horizontally, reporting on hurricanes, snow storms and "weather events."
Weather event is a revolting phrase. This is a two pronged strategy by the "experts" to simultaneously create something and water it down.
The watering down part stems from the fact that the word storm is too stressful for delicate Americans. Kind of like little Johnny losing his tennis match. He didn't lose. He was the second winner.
The create something part stems from the insatiable need of experts to sound like experts. Weather event makes it sound more mysterious. If pressed I'm sure they could supply a 15 minute dissertation on the difference between an event and a storm.
Which would be complete bullshit. But the big words would mesmerize, and the audience would be convinced.
If P.T. Barnum were alive today in America he would be a trillionaire.
But I digress.
What I dig about Cantore is his enthusiasm. You can feel it even as he is dodging tree limbs and flying puppies. There is no sense of fear there, only a sense of wonder.
I did small research before diving in here and came across a video of the Jimster that explained it all. It showed him walking in the woods around his home, narrating as he goes.
His love of and respect for nature was obvious in the way he talked. He said "When people see me they know Mother Nature is about to be cruel." He said nature can be awful, nature can be incredible. He said "there is a vastness to the world that we often don't realize."
These are the words of someone with a passion, someone who loves what he does.
Working for the Weather Channel was his first job out of college and he has been there ever since. Twenty five years.
I think he loves what he does.

Richard Engel is insane in the membrane.
He is the chief foreign correspondent for NBC news. He's the dude you see reporting from war torn Arabic countries as insanity swirls around him. The guy with fires burning behind him, gunshots in the back ground and angry mobs writhing in uncontrollable fury.
After graduating college he headed to Egypt as a freelance journalist where he lived for four years before moving on to Jerusalem where he lived and worked for three more years.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq he headed that way and began working in and around that area as a foreign corespondent for NBC.
He speaks and reads Arabic fluently. If you know anything about the language you know it ain't pig latin. Although I give the Three Stooges credit for mastering pig latin. It was the right language for their skill set.
Engel is also fluent in Italian and Spanish.
The guy blows me away. He voluntarily travels to the most dangerous and volatile places in the world, throws himself into the situation and reports on it.
I see enthusiasm with him as I do with Cantore, but it seems to be seasoned with a hint of fear or at least an awareness of the risk.

Both of these guys are adrenaline junkies, although I think Cantore gets his in measured doses. If a redwood was falling, Cantore would step aside before reporting on it. Engel would report from under the shadow of the falling tree until he had to leap out of the way or be crushed.

I am fascinated by people who intentionally put themselves in dangerous situations to do their job. It ain't just the money, baby. Neither one of these guys is getting paid enough.
Although there are probably perks. Cantore probably has a nice collection of slickers with the Weather Channel tastefully stenciled on the back.
Engel probably has a fabulous collection of bullet proof vests which come in handy when he goes to dangerous places like the movies or college campuses here in America.

It's about passion. It's about being fully committed to what you do. These guys are whole. They don't have to separate who they are from what they do. Makes for less psychoses. And is rare. And I mean R-A-R-E.

You might shake your head as you watch what they do. But your soul gets it, inspiring it to whisper sweet encouragement to your dreams as they struggle on life support.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Pool

I hate to lose.
I came in here today fired up ready to let loose because I thought I had a bad week in the football pool. Was distracted yesterday and couldn't keep an eye on outcomes. Actually we had a fabulous family day yesterday, the kind where you don't mind being distracted from football.
I drank pumpkin beer with a shot of vanilla Stoli.
And they say I can't change.
I did not have a bad week in the pool. Relatively. I only got eight right but no one else displayed any brilliance either so I am hanging in there.
Overall I am sixth out of twelve, two games out of first.
Pretty respectable considering that I have flipped and I have flopped.
I have a fair amount of football knowledge, my cells are saturated with love of football and it has been marinating for 48 years.
But I am not a detail guy. That's why I was an accountant for over twenty hideous years.
So I don't carry a lot of facts around in my head.
I try to make the obvious picks and go with a completely unfounded gut pick once in a while. Like this week. I should have picked Tampa Bay against Minnesota. I wanted to. If I did I would have been the only one in the pool to do it. My gut told me to do it but all the evidence was against it and I wussied out.
That's one of the problems. When to go with your gut. You have to know when your gut is intuitive and when it is emotional.
I make emotional gut picks and get screwed every time. Like when I pick against the Giants. They really piss me off.
Then there is the informed system of making risky picks. When I have a game that I want to go against the tide I go to my go to guy. This years it's Chris Mortensen. Actually I'll look at Peter king's picks, Craig's pick and Chris Collinsworth. But Mortensen is kicking ass this year so if I am out on a limb and he is going with it, so will I.
But you gotta be careful. You gotta catch the rhythm. A couple of weeks ago he picked the Browns when most people weren't and I doubted him. I picked against the Browns and lost.
The next week he picked the Browns again when most people weren't and I went with it.
The Browns lost.
So now my vibe with Chris is off and I have to be careful. There's a yin and yang with these things and right now I am yinning when he is yanging. Very dangerous for my standing in the pool.
In addition this year I am competing against my sons in this pool for the first time.
They cheat. One son has a friend who, I think, works for the Bruins, so he obviously has an in into the world of professional sports. I am sure he shares this knowledge with my son who uses it against me.
My other son has been into sports since before he was born. And he IS a detail guy. He is a formidable foe who uses his knowledge against me, which is unfair because his brain is young and thriving and mine is failing at an exponentially increasing rate.
My lovely wife is in the pool. She is superficially knowledgeable about football but she ain't no expert.
In Week 1 she beat everybody in the pool. This week she is beating everybody as well.
I think she cheats too. Maybe she is in collusion with my two traitorous sons.
I got a lot on the line this year. I have owned this pool. I won it two years in a row. I don't think anyone else has done that.
I also finished in last place last year.
I need a victory this year. None of my other efforts are being rewarded. I need to regain my position of prominence in this pool.
I have mocked up a Chris Mortensen voodoo doll and shrine in my pick room.
I'll be all right. I am feeling supernaturally confidant.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Curious To See

It has been quiet in here for a few days now. Here is the reason why.

I have been dumbing myself down for so long, for so many years and decades, that my brain finally shut down. I dumbed myself down to the point of actually becoming dumb.

I sat down Thursday to write. Had the day off from work. When I have a day off I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want nothing less than to completely redirect my life, to do something or somethings that will erupt me out of the rut, change the path I am on and get me the life that is lurking below the surface. The real life. My life.

I am not kidding.

So I am often disappointed. Very disappointed. I try honestly, I try earnestly, I push myself. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Up until 2010 I would waste my days off. I'd write a little and then justify a whiskey reward which would lead to whisky surrender. That screaming quiet voice in my head told me, and I believed it, that I was wasting my time, that my life was over. I always expected to die young. Apparently I expected to die of disappointment.

Something changed in my brain or my soul, maybe both, and since 2011 I have been pushing hard. I wish I could pinpoint what it was that convinced me I have something to offer but I cannot remember. I am looking for epiphanies. I am an epiphany kind of guy. But I think changes happen more often on a cellular level, a gradual progression. I think even as one voice was telling me to lie down, another voice was saying "Hey Bubba, you are talented, you are intelligent, you can do something with your life."

The lie down voice was louder but the do something voice was persistent.

I spent two hours on Thursday morning writing on two different topics and walked away from the desk screaming inside. I had nothing.

You have to understand. Writing is the one thing I have that flashes lightening from my soul. I feel so alive when I write that nothing else compares to it. For me to have nothing to say or to be unable to say something in a way that makes me proud, is the worst possible reality.

I would rather be dead than to be unable to write.

I jumped on the exercise bike, took a shower, had some lunch. All the while I was thinking. And I realized that I have been shutting my brain down for a long time. A criminally long time.

To escape my reality. As if whiskey wasn't enough, apparently I decided to stop thinking. Lately I have noticed a fog around my brain, a thought fatigue that makes me uncomfortable. I have written a lot of words, put a lot of good stuff out there in my humble opinion, but I was like an athlete running on instinct. At some point, if you haven't built a solid foundation, time catches up with you revealing you for the fraud that you are.

I can do so much better.

After lunch I sat back before the almighty computer, the computer that I see as the instrument for my salvation, and read. I went on line and read stuff by Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Ayn Rand, Baudelaire, William Blake, Bill Maher and William Carlos Williams.

I am not kidding.

Stuff that challenged my brain, that forced me to concentrate. From philosophers and psychiatrists and social activists and poets and a comedian. People who accumulate knowledge and use it to THINK. Brilliant people. The cool thing about that is that one thing leads to another. These people reference other works, other people who inspire them and you end up checking out that stuff and those people. It is a perpetual cycle of thoughts, analysis and ideas and opinions to be drawn from.

For inspiration. I am filling the tank. I am building the foundation.

It was one more revelation that shocked me into realizing that I have let myself down in yet another way. It is amazing how consistently and in how many ways we humans can trivialize our lives, waste them and blind ourselves to our own realities.

Me first on the list.

It was one more revelation from which I can learn. From which I have already learned.

I have been deeply introspective for the last two years. I have honed in, narrowed things down, been surprised by truths and disappointed by false hope.

I am trying to rise to the level of my own potential. It could get messy. It could get painful. I have been hacking away at this for a couple of years now. Bit by bit. Figuring out what the pieces of the puzzle are, figuring out how they fit together.

Some people do this when they are young. I envy them. Some people never do it. I refuse to be one of them.

This is where I am at on October 27, 2012 at the ripe old age of fifty eight.

I am curious to see what is to come.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Approach of Winter

Sounds like winter to me.

Approach Of Winter

The half stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine -
like no leaf that ever was -
edge the bare garden.

William Carlos Williams 1883-1963


Apparently Charles hated winter as much as I do.


Soon we will plunge ourselves into cold shadows,
And all of summer's stunning afternoons will be gone.
I already hear the dead thuds of logs below
Falling on the cobblestones and the lawn.

All of winter will return to me:
derision, Hate, shuddering, horror, drudgery and vice,
And exiled, like the sun, to a polar prison,
My soul will harden into a block of red ice.

I shiver as I listen to each log crash and slam:
The echoes are as dull as executioners' drums.
My mind is like a tower that slowly succumbs
To the blows of a relentless battering ram.

It seems to me, swaying to these shocks, that someone
Is nailing down a coffin in a hurry somewhere.
For whom? - It was summer yesterday, now it's autumn.
Echoes of departure keep resounding in the air.

Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sad Commentary

I think it is a sad commentary on humanity when you have to immediately question any commercial on TV that sounds like it is coming from a company that wants to protect you, make your life better, or make your life easier.


Look. I'm going to give you my take on the whole election thing.
I stole that "look" opening from President Obama. I love when he is going to make a point how he starts a sentence with "look".
I watched the republican national convention, the Democratic National Convention, all three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate.
Here's what you need to know.
Mitt Romney is a fraud and a very dangerous man. Ryan is his puppet.
Romney was proved to be lying or exaggerating over and over again. He was proved to have switched positions on major topics, topics that have direct impact on our lives, consistently. He consistently avoids giving details of his "plan".
He is a used car salesman. The kind when he first opens his mouth after you walk onto the lot, you just turn and walk away without saying a word.
He was rude to the President. You might laugh about that but when he put his hand in the President's face and said "You'll get your turn" I wanted to punch him in the throat. When he said "I'm still speaking" I wanted to punch him in the throat. This was after he consistently interrupted the President and all the moderators over and over again. You are not rude to The President of the United States. That says something about his character.
To be fair I know the President got some stuff wrong as well. I went to fact checking sites and there were things he exaggerated and things he got wrong. I am not happy about that.
It pisses me off when I hear professional journalists evaluate the debates by deciding who looked "more presidential."
It doesn't matter who "looks presidential". What matters is who is intelligent, who has a command of the facts, who is decisive, who has the capability of handling the world.
Chris Matthews made that comment before this last debate and it struck me. He said something like which candidate looks like he can handle the world.
That is what the president is required to do. Because of our role in the world and because the world is shrinking, because everything is interconnected and there are consequences, the president has to be a diplomat. He has to handle the world.
Romney is a neanderthal. I don't think he grasps foreign policy at all. If you forced him to sit down and explain the complicated relationships between middle eastern countries and how their religions conflict with one another I don't think he could do it. He would come across like the male Sarah Palin.
President Obama could do it with his eyes closed.
I will give you one concrete example of what republican policies lead to.
I am a part time employee of the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission. These people recently re-wrote the rules so that part timers cannot get paid time and a half or any kind of pay increase if they work on holidays or Sundays. Currently Sundays and holidays are voluntary. Part timers do not have to work them.
But that wasn't enough. Now they are trying to reclassify part timers into a sub human category where they can FORCE us to work Sundays and holidays, and for straight pay.
The employees' union in NH is weak and ineffectual. So part timers have no recourse, no one to defend them, and the commission does whatever they want to. Just like in Dickensian England in the 1800's.
republicans support a "Right To Work" platform. Sounds like they will protect the working man.
Wrong. They want to destroy unions so employees have no one to protect them. So all you need is an immoral and unscrupulous employer and as an employee you have absolutely no rights.  Ultimately it's the lack of conscience, the lack of morality that makes these employers so dangerous.
And there are lots of them out there.
That is one perfect example of how republicans mislead the voting public. They give a strategy a name that suggests the exact opposite of what it is. Then they lead you down a path to your own destruction.
Look. Romney is out of his league. He tries to cover that up with bluff and bluster. And he openly insults the voting public by lying to them, changing positions and denying doing it, and refusing to give facts to back up his proposals.
You do not want this man running this country.
If you bought a used car from him it would break down a hundred yards down the road. And when you walk back to demand that he remedy the situation he would say "Sorry. No warranty."
That will be his response to the middle class, the elderly, women, minorities, gays, college students, teachers, firefighters, the police, employees' unions, and foreign countries if, God forbid, he is elected president.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vin et Fromage

I am surrounded by rock 'n roll, baby. I am looking at a postcard sized photo of Elvis in black leather, sweating and snarling as pretty women look up at him in awe.
Got lots of other pictures, album covers and memorabilia, all rock related.
I have one inconspicuous picture hanging on the wall just inside the door, of a restaurant on a funky street in France.
On the wall above the awning it says Monmartre and Cabaret underneath that. The name of the restaurant is cut off; under the restaurant it lists Vin. Fromage. Wine and cheese for those who flunked seventh grade French.
I love this picture. I love the longing it inspires in me.
There are tables and chairs outside on the sidewalk. I want to sit at one of those tables and sip fine French wine, nibble on strong cheese and watch and listen to colorful people as they walk, talk and gesticulate past my seat.
I have nooks and crannies in my personality. We all do. Things that are there that others would not suspect.
I would love to visit Europe. Italy especially. Absorb the culture and flaunt my last name to full effect.
I started studying Italian almost nine years ago and it came to me easily. Felt natural. I love the language, I think it is lyrical, beautiful, and expressive. I am pure emotion, and as volatile as I can be I think the Italian language would allow me to express myself even closer to the heart.
A woman I worked with at the time had lived in Italy for six years. I practiced with her and she continuously complimented me on the pronunciation and how quickly I learned.
Unfortunately I only lasted six months. Other stuff got in the way. Other very important stuff that I cannot even remember today.
I still plan on learning the language. Especially now that my brain is atrophying and I need all the intellectual stimulation I can get.
Germany. England. Greece. Sweden. Spain. Portugal. Ireland.
I would love to experience them all, immerse myself in the culture and make some international friends.
Let the ancient beauty and history soak into my soul and change me in some imperceptible way.
I have never been to Europe. The way things are going I may never make it. Right now I am budgeting for new underwear. I think in six months I'll be able to afford a three pack. That will be quite an extravagance and a big day of celebration.
So in addition to all the places I want to experience right here in the good ole USA, Arizona being Numero Uno on the list, I have all of Europe to conquer.
And Japan. And Australia. And..................
After learning Italian, I'd like to learn to speak Spanish. I love that language as well. I could learn a couple of expressive words to wrap around the word puta to form some common and potentially offensive phrases.
I might have to settle for speaking a foreign language or two to minimally sooth my soul's taste for revered and ancient culture.
Sometimes you gotta take what you can get.
I can walk into this room a hundred times and not pay any attention to the picture of the restaurant on the funky French side street.
And then there are times like these when it is all I can see.
It is bittersweet, creating a mood of intrigue and romance while simultaneously reminding me of how little I have travelled, how much world is out there to nourish me.
In closing I would just like to say:
Arrivederci alla prossima.

Bill Maher

Bill Maher is a genius and he is hilarious.
I think he is the ultimate evolutionary step in comedy from Lenny Bruce through Redd Foxx through Richard Pryor and through George Carlin.
He is sharp, well informed and has large balls. All of the aforementioned comedians had balls.
It's the combination of brains and balls that makes these guys so good.
The ultimate test to me is their willingness to make their own audience uncomfortable. They do not suck up to anyone. They say what they want to say to get their point across, to make you think as well as laugh.
I recently watched an HBO special from 2010 with Bill Maher. Blew me away.
He criticized Americans for the amount of shit we take, asking just how much will we take before we rise up and kill bankers.
We were all victimized by the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in the banking world and yet nothing has changed. There should have been rioting in the streets and a complete overthrow of the status quo. Instead the rich continue to thrive and the rest of us continue to die.
He talked about how manufacturing has essentially died in this country but we are real good at inventing Snuggies, cheese-filled pizza crust and talking tombstones.
They actually have these things. You can get one with a self made pre-recorded message; you can even get them with video screens so people can look at you while you talk. I suppose my message would have to be "I'm still trying."
Bizarre. And oh so American.
It got real uncomfortable in the room when Maher said that people who blindly profess love of our troops is the ultimate in phony patriotism, pointing out that they are paid crap, are sometimes tricked into deployment, and get crappy medical care when they are out. He said Americans love their troops the way Michael Vick loves dogs.
It takes guts to say that and it is true in a certain per centage of cases. There was not much laughing going on.
I saw that at times with Carlin. A minimum of laughter with a maximum of discomfort and some introspection mixed in.
Saw it a lot from white folks in Red Foxx's and Richard Pryor's audiences. Lenny Bruce made his audience squirm because they were so prim and proper back then (on the surface) and he was so direct. They knew he spoke the truth.
Many times while watching Maher's current HBO show, Real Time, I have seen him hold up his hand or look at his audience in disgust when they mindlessly applaud something he himself has said during a discussion before he gets a chance to make his point. He discourages his audience from merely applauding talking points. He wants them to think.
That takes guts.
There was a guy sitting in the front row of Maher's audience wearing a sweater vest and not laughing very much. Maher got right in his face and insulted him repeatedly.
It's all about comedy with an edge, baby.
He talked about the science of freezing stem cells and extrapolated it to envision yuppies with the option of freezing their baby. "We have never been to Italy - let's throw the baby in the freezer and defrost him after the trip." Given the shallowness of Americans I can accept this as a possibility.
He equated religion and politics with mass delusion and said the republicans are pining away for the fifties, that they use fear to get people to vote against their own economic interests, and that the only freedom they want is the freedom to live under a white president.
Talked about how when president Obama speaks he fills stadiums while the only stadium republicans can fill is the Super Dome during Katrina.
Another uncomfortable audience moment.
He did criticize President Obama saying that he needs to grow the balls that Cheney and Bush had, and I have heard him criticize the President since, so he is obviously not blindly partisan.
He is a thinker.
What passes for comedy on TV is bland and predictable, which of course is why it is so popular. Americans don't want to be challenged.
I enjoy the moments when Maher makes me cringe. I'm sitting there thinking we are on the same page and suddenly I am questioning my own beliefs. Carlin did that to me a lot as well.
This type of comedy is important because it exposes people to uncomfortable truths they are trying to avoid, uncomfortable truths they might not be aware of or understand. And it makes it more palatable through humor.
Hopefully it makes people think.
Of course the message is limited in scope because the audience by definition is limited in numbers.  I don't imagine many dedicated Fox TV viewers are interested in Bill Maher's humor or could even understand it.
That's how the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and Jeff Foxworthy get rich.
But if Maher is getting his own audience to test their own beliefs, if he can give them more information to work with and if he can make them laugh while doing it, he is transcending the role of comedian.
Others have done it in the past. Bill Maher is the best there is right now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

You Gotta Laugh

Life keeps coming at you and it is typically not smiling.
Most of what you have to deal with is stuff you'd rather not deal with.
Happiness does not come at you; happiness happens.
But not often enough.
Insanity is a pleasant escape but most of us don't have the stomach
for certifiable and permanent insanity.
Temporary insanity is only a tease.
Most of us do not have the physical constitution for eternal anger.
That kind of anger, that bitterness, grinds you down.
You have to be a special kind of person to be angry every minute
of every day.
You gotta laugh.
When life kicks your legs out from under you, you gotta laugh.
Laughter makes you feel good even when you don't feel good.
Laughter confuses life.
You have to keep life off balance to have even a shot at winning.
When you can laugh at the dark, you win a battle.
If you can look life in the eye, in its sinister, soul sucking eye,
and laugh - you buy yourself another moment of existence.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Glass In The Intestines

I was talking to this guy the other day who was really a frustration machine. Brimming over with the stuff. It was toxic.
The vision he had for his life didn't match what his life was, so there was friction.
Even though his life contradicted his vision, the vision never changed. Apparently he felt it was his God given right, or it was in his DNA or he was permanently hallucinogenic.
This guy was terrible with tools. If he was told he had a heart attack on the way but it could easily be fixed with a hammer and a pipe wrench, he would be dead.
Home ownership magnified a contradictive nightmare.
No tool skills and no money to fix problems.
As his house aged, the problems multiplied and intensified.
As they did, each crisis brought on more severe reactions. Shortness of breath and tightly controlled internal hysteria.
He was under attack and unable to move or respond in any meaningful way.
These situations mocked him, threw a spotlight on the futility of his position in life.
Beyond a certain point you cannot keep a house standing with duct tape and bubblegum.
It doesn't work for a life either.
The vision he had for himself was one of a money maker. A guy who called up plumbers and electricians to ride to the rescue.
The lack of money turned those rescue missions into financial, life altering, disasters. Disasters that close down a life, cheapen it, rob it of options.
Like eating well.
And the rescue missions became physical and psychological nightmares, pure torture. Gut wrenching, glass in the intestine pain.
This guy had to endure the smirks and condescension of the talented tool wielders as they looked around at the duct tape and bubble gum. In fact it was often tough for them to get at the root of the problem because they had to duck under, step over, and brush aside the silver savior.
He said a lot of conversations from these overpaid tool junkies began with "All you gotta do is......." or "If you had only.........."
They would often show him what to do but it was painful and frustrating because they spoke a foreign language.
He always felt judged, he always felt inadequate.
And, toughest of all, he always felt these situations brightly illuminated the irony, the shortcomings, the severe stupidity of his life. Forced him to deal with the failure that was his life.
Nobody, not one person on the planet, could come close to understanding the truth of this pain, the severity of it, the breath stealing, heart racing, fist clenching intensity of it.
As he was talking to me he blew up.
Not blew up as in anger.
Literally blew to pieces in front of me. Not with gory splatter, more like a balloon.
I made a note to myself right then and there to evaluate my frustrations and look for solutions. To re-chart the course of my life.
Lately I have been feeling sharp, shattered glass in the intestine pain, with increasing regularity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pure Love

I was digging on my cats last night. It is a non-stop and eternal process.
Giving them their snack before I collapsed into bed and thinking about how much I love them and how much they love me.
Thinking about love, really. (Which reminds me of Love Actually - the movie. This is the time of year to watch it. Do it. You will love it with laughter and tears.)
The love between me and the cats is pure. There is nothing in the way.
They trust me perfectly, 100%, they are innocent and gentle and cute. They ARE love. They give it, they ask for it, they receive it. There is no jealousy, no lying , nothing hurtful, no games.
I contend this is why pure love between humans is impossible.
We say things to hurt each other, we do things that hurt each other, we have hang ups that prevent us from loving honestly, life cranks us up to the point of meltdown causing us to treat our love objects imperfectly.
But we keep looking for pure love. We want it because it is the ultimate escape from this hard world. It is the ultimate comfort.
Imagine the feeling of coming home from your typical beating at work into the arms of someone with whom you are engaging in pure love. You hug each other and there is this warmth, this vibration of love that soothes you immediately and completely. A feeling of sweet relief, total relief that takes the death that your job makes you feel and turns it into life.
I am talking about complete abandon, a new reality, an existence of complete safety and shelter and acceptance; a melting of one human being's essence into the pool of the other.
I don't believe it exists. And this is one more reason why we are all hungry and searching and frustrated and tilted to the side.
When I pick the cats up and look into their sleepy eyes looking at me, it is a perfect moment.
They are not questioning anything about me, they are not remembering last week when I was mad, they are not afraid that I will throw them against the wall, they are not wondering what my mood will be that night, they are not condemning me for a mood I was in three days ago, they do not doubt that what I give them back is pure love.
This is what fascinates me about pets and maybe it is what pet ownership is all about.
Replacing our craving for pure human love, which we will never have, with the sensation of pure love we get from them. It is kind of like taking a hit from the crack pipe of pure love, and it is addictive.
I used to think ugly people could get closer to pure love than the pretty ones. Jealousy is taken out of that situation. Like Mike and Molly. I have never seen that show and have no intention of watching it but have always assumed it is there to pander to the obese and to maybe demonstrate that ugly love is more genuine that pretty love.
I could be wrong.
But even without jealousy, you still have to deal with hangups and anxiety and pressure and human imperfection. The underused and petty human brain.
No pure love there.
As I write that it occurs to me that the brain is the problem. Love is all about heart and soul. The brain gets in the way. I want to say that we humans think too much, but we really don't think. We plot and plan and worry and invent and imagine and generally put on a drama production in our heads. We take reality and distort it into fiction.
I am not saying the cats don't have brains, but their thinking is simpler, more direct, more spiritual than the human brain. They are one with the universe, we think we are bigger than the universe.
These thoughts were swirling through my tiny mind as my head hit the pillow last night. I almost got up to write this then but, goddamn, the pseudo-sleep that I get is important to me. It does not refresh me, I am always tired, but bed is a great place to be.
Ain't nobody trash talking me in bed. At least not to my face. And if you are lucky like me, the person who lies next to you gives you more comfort than any other human in the world.
It ain't perfect but it IS magic.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

One Man, One Life, One Mission

Thank God for the f***ing Beatles.

I decided to get a little music in me before writing, now that I have these magnificent speakers. 'Cause I am shaky and lost right now and there is a pretty even battle in my soul between despair and hope. I had no idea what I was going to write about except that it would burst out of me because I am filled with emotion today. Wobbling, staggering under the weight of expectations and fighting hard, harder than I have ever fought before against this foreign life that I live, this strange existence that I have created and now must find the strength to get out from under.
Went to YouTube and dialed up Let It Be.
The piano just vibrates with your soul. Deep, resonant, simple. Piano is a beautiful and spiritual instrument when played with exquisite delicateness.
The song blew me away as it always does. Such a gorgeous song, a hopeful song, inspired by a simple phrase that Paul's mom (Mother Mary) used to say a lot. He took that phrase and blew it up into something that recognizes the struggles in the world and the immense need people have for peace, for relief, for hope, for sweet, simple recognition of humanity. The song drips with emotion and that piano vibrates it into life, deeply, you feel it in your bones.
George sitting quietly in a chair taking the lead, a short and simple lead, caressing out of his guitar what we all feel in our souls and cannot express. What we agonize to express and drown instead in bitterness, despair and booze and drugs.
Looking directly into Paul's eyes and knowing that he is singing to me and about my life. There is expression there and a hint of tears.
Yoko sitting close by John as he strums chords, the two of them against the world. Swaying in time to the beauty, living in the hope of that single moment.
The song resonates because we ache. We all ache and we have no answers.
But for that four minutes and six seconds you do have an answer because you realize that you are not alone and that your pain can be turned into beauty. And if The Beatles can turn your pain around on itself and create hope, than maybe you can to. Maybe. Just f***ing maybe.

I dialed up Imagine. Again with the piano. The piano, the piano, the piano. Direct connection with my soul and my heart.
Birds kick it off, sweet chirping leading into that magnificent piano. And John's voice. John's voice that can scream out the blues, and torture his throat expressing indignation and frustration, wistfully singing words that capture what we all crave. A world of peace.
Just a man and his piano. So simple, so powerful.
In the iconic video John and Yoko are in a white room in their house. Everything is white. Carpet, paint, piano, Yoko's dress. John is dressed in black.
The room is in darkness as the song begins. As John sings, Yoko walks to each window and opens the shutters allowing sunlight into the room. I won't cheapen that image with words. Just dig it.
Then she walks to the piano and sits next to John.
Near the very end of the song he turns and looks directly into her eyes and she smiles softly. John gets the hint of a smile on his face as he sings the final lyrics.
The expression on John's face as he sings is matter of fact. Like he is saying I dare you to challenge the truth of these words. Simple words, delivering a simple message with all the power in the world.
The song ends as it began with the delicate beauty of birds chirping.

And who better to deliver this message? Two people whose love was ridiculed by the world. No one understood their love but it doesn't f***ing matter. Because they loved each other. Openly, unashamed, deeply, honestly. Part of the reason they were ridiculed is precisely because we didn't understand it. We all crave that kind of love. It is a soul deep human need. If we can't have it, if we see it and don't understand it - we ridicule it.

I tried to sing along with both songs. I couldn't. I was choked with emotion.

This is why these songs resonate. Why they endure. Because they express simple truths, they take emotion and make it universal and they plant the tiniest seed of hope.
My world is moving sideways. I am grabbing on to anything I can reach to stop it and there is blood on my hands from the attempt.
The world itself is out of control in violence, in racist and religious stupidity, on the verge of economic collapse.
There is a battle being waged politically in this country that has enormous implications for the future of the people upon whose backs this country was built.
People are out of work, out of hope, out of money and out of luck. I see so much despair around me that I can barely breathe.

I wrestle with it myself.

But for seven minutes and thirty eight seconds this morning I was filled with hope. The Beatles expressed my emotions better than I could myself. They took my reality and set it to music, exquisite, soul resuscitating music. They sang lyrics, direct and concise, to express what I want to say, what I need to say if I am to survive. They looked me in the eyes and said "Is this what you meant to say Joe?"

I walked into this room today positively shaking with emotion and a need to express myself, to do something to dig in my heels, to take what I know I have and DO something with it. Against all odds. Against the doubters and my own self-doubt and against the weight of this world that is all about backing you into a corner and keeping you there.

I will not give up.

I will fight with everything I have to DO something with my life. To polish the goddamn thing until it shines. I want my life to sparkle so brightly that jewelers are inspired to create a new precious stone called Joe's Life.

Take your inspiration from a place that makes sense to you. But take it.

Breathe it into your soul, nurture it and use it as a weapon and for self defense. Use it to express your own truth.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Really Random Thoughts

I'm wrestling with myself today. Trying to crawl out of, stand up from the funk and get back on the positive energy train.
Got a lot of time on my hands. Don't have to be at work until 5:00 because it is inventory night, otherwise known as hell night.
It is a slow moving, boring process counting bottles and boxes of booze. Everybody hates it so we all do the phony baloney cheery thing to get through the night. I'd prefer the entire process be conducted in silence. It would be more fitting. Kind of like the silence one encounters in a morgue.
You are on your hands and knees a lot or stretching to get to the top shelf. Peering at columns of wine bottles that are askew and trying to count them accurately. Counting nips is the absolute worst and really hammers home the stupidity of the event.
It is a ridiculously dehumanizing process.
I learned a long time ago that speed is what counts; accuracy is irrelevant. So that helps.
I am trying to make positive use of my time so I am continuing to solicit newspapers in the hope that they will recognize my wit and facility with the written word and offer me an escape from the hell I presently occupy.
I'm cruising Colorado and come across this headline in The Berthoud Recorder: "Firestone man pleads guilty to poisoning neighbor's dogs." This guy laced meat with strychnine and fed it to Kyera, a German Shepherd, and Dozer Boy, a chocolate lab. They both died. This hump later sent an intimidating letter to a neighbor who was a witness in the case.
You should see the picture of this guy. He looks like he wouldn't mind replacing footballs in the NFL with infants.
He will be sentenced on December 12 and faces up to 7.5 years in prison.
How the hell am I supposed to cheer up when there are people like that in this world? Lots of them.
If cruelty could be erased from the human race there would be a lot of people wandering around aimlessly looking for a purpose.

Completely unrelated: If I could grow a bushy, black beard, I would. My beard comes in pure white now and it doesn't really get bushy. It just frizzes in on itself and becomes an age accentuating thicket.
I have a picture of Morrison on the wall with a full head of hair and a dark, bushy beard. I love the look.
I'm kind of in between right now anyway. Can't sport the scraggly beard because I'm still kissing ass in the pursuit for dignity. A few more years though and I am thinking I wouldn't mind a scratchy beard or goatee, a wild growth of facial hair to support my image as a lovable curmudgeon.
Something free roaming and slightly dangerous with a permanent reserve of pea soup for long, cold winter nights away from the domicile.
We'll see.
I even entertain the thought of cutting my hair and slicking it back. I like the look.

These are the thoughts that pick at my brain as I wait for the torture called inventory.

Crucify Your Mind

To all my doubters:

"Soon you know I'll leave you
And I'll never look behind
"Cos I was born for the purpose
That crucifies your mind"

Powerful lyrics courtesy of Rodriguez from the song Crucify Your Mind

If Music Is Your Religion

If music is your religion, than Bose is the church where you worship.

I just hooked up two Bose speakers to my computer, courtesy of my amazing son Keith and his equally amazing wife Emily.
Music is everything, it is spiritual. The equipment it is delivered on changes everything. Cheap speakers deliver a cheap experience.
Good speakers deliver magic.

The sound overwhelms me. It is pure, it is powerful, it is exquisite. I christened the speakers with Crucify Your Mind by Rodriguez, and Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.

I gave these speakers a treat I'm sure they will return to me many times over.

Dig This

"When I am without self-doubt, I am a f***ing genius."


We Need The Things We Love

We need the things we love.

I was thinking about this as I watched football yesterday.
My earliest football memory is at age ten. Watching Jim Brown bring cool to the field. To this day the Browns very basic helmet strikes a chord with my soul.
I have been loving football for 48 years.
I watched THE PATS yesterday, a chunk of the Cowboys game, switched back and forth to the Niners and caught pieces of the Packers.
I don't watch football passively. It is an intense experience to me. I am not talking about screaming, I am talking about the emotions the game stirs in me.
I appreciate the game, I love it, I understand it, it connects with something in me that I probably can't name and maybe am not even aware of.
I can tell you I love the combination of violence and grace, the precision and the insanity, and all of that is true but none of that communicates what I feel when I sit in front of the TV. Because it is a personal thing, a meaningful thing, an experience that communicates with and comes from the soul, from my essence.
I sat silently watching football yesterday because I am dead right now, stranded on an island of nothingness. But inside I was feeling intensity. Inside I could actually feel myself smiling.

This morning I started reading Gregg Allman's autobiography. The Allman Brothers Band has been a force in my life since I was fifteen. I have been loving The Allman Brothers band for forty three years. I feel no less passionate about them now then I did in 1969.
I have read everything there is to read about the band and from band members. I have seen them in concert easily over thirty times. I have seen Gregg solo a number of times. I have listened to their music a million times.
And yet I sat there with this book reverently. I was excited to dig in. I am reading it with fierce focus. I stared at the jacket cover for a minute, I felt the book in my hands, I opened it up with anticipation.
I read constantly. Can't get enough. I love to read. But when I pick up a book like this it is a whole different thing. It feels different, it moves me, brings me alive, makes me happy. It is a personal thing, a meaningful thing, an experience that communicates with and comes from the soul, from my essence.

I have read many biographies and autobiographies. All walks of life, all kinds of people. They are people who interest and inspire me. More importantly they are people who LIVE their lives.
I have the feeling I have been only scratching the surface of my own life for around forty years.
I want to dig in, I want to dive beneath the surface, but the surface is beginning to freeze.
This disturbs me.
I think in part I read these life stories in the hope that they will connect with me on a soul-deep level and super charge me to get up and go. To move and shake and do and uncover my essence and discover my purpose.
I am partial to rock 'n roll biographies and autobiographies because that love occupies a huge chunk of my soul.
Two of the tastiest were of Neil Young and Willie Nelson, and they weren't even autobiographies. However Neil just came out with his autobiography and I cannot wait to devour it.
Pete Townshend just came out with an autobiography, and that is another one I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. He is an outspoken guy who has lived a large life. I guarantee that story will not bore.

We need the things we love.
I feel sorry for people who have no passion, no interests. How the hell do they get through life? Why do they keep trying? Intellectually I would think it impossible to have no passionate interests, but I come into contact with it it all the time in vacant eyes and mindless, petty conversation, and stooped shoulders and the smell of defeat. The stench of surrender.

Football resurrected emotion in me yesterday. Gregg Allman's autobiography did the same this morning.
I am happy to indulge in these passions, proud to be fiercely committed.
These things keep me alive. They allow me to escape and they inspire me to hope and to fight.

Souls need passion to survive. There is nothing sadder than a dead soul in a living body.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When We Are Dead

So Jack London led me to Richard Hovey which led me to this magnificent poem:

When We Are Dead

"When we are dead I firmly do believe
We shall slip back into the primal sea
Of the universal life, that there shall be
No false joys as on this earth deceive
-Nay-nor no truer ones- no cause to grieve
Nor terror nor despite nor mockery
Nor love, life's strongest, bitterest mystery
And while we still are struggling in the strife
Surely it is a gracious boon though small
That one brief sweet real joy at least there is,
To be about to die and know that all
The anguish and the agony of life
Will not last longer than a lover's kiss."

Wrapping Up Jack London

Jack London lived an extraordinary life. Tried all kinds of things including living life as a hard working low wage earner.
On one of his attempts at every day living he decided to become an electrician. So he went to a local power plant of an Oakland street-railway. He was willing to start at the bottom and he told that to the superintendent he met with. The job he was given was to shovel coal to the firemen who shoveled it into a furnace which created steam which was in turn used to create electricity.
The terms of his employment were "a ten hour day, every day in the month including Sundays and holidays, with one day off each month, with a salary of thirty dollars a month."

The organization I work for - the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission - apparently is in agreement that this approach to treating employees is a blueprint for success.
They have recently re-written their payroll rules to deny part timers time and a half or any increase at all for working on Sundays and holidays.
Currently, part timers can choose not to work on Sundays and holidays. However, the NHSLC is trying to re-classify part timers into some other sub-human category that will allow the commission to force part timers to work on Sundays and holidays. For straight pay.
I'm tempted to say nothing ever changes. But what bothers me is that unions were created to protect workers and to improve working conditions and pay rates and to see that workers are treated fairly.
This was a great thing while it lasted but unions now are under attack and workers are once again vulnerable.
In a climate like this, unscrupulous employers like the NHSLC will take everything they can away from employees and dare them to fight back. In the year 2012.
It is immoral, unconscionable, vile and disgusting.

After busting his hump for a while, London got to talking to the firemen he was shovelling coal to. Guys that looked at him with an all knowing smirk. They finally opened up to him and told him the job used to be done by two men, one on the day shift, one on the night shift, each earning forty dollars a month.
The superintendent had fired them and replaced them with London, saving the company fifty dollars a month. And the super warned all the other employees not to tell London the truth. As a result, London ended up working a twelve to thirteen hour day and was not paid overtime.
It's hard to believe this type of employer mentality could be embraced in the 21st century but the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission does it every day. Openly and defiantly.

John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoir is London's attempt to prove the evils of alcohol. Although he lustily indulged for a major portion of his life, he ended up believing it was detrimental to men. He voted for womens' right to vote because he believed if they got that right they would force Prohibition.
He theorizes throughout the book that most drinkers are not physically addicted but they are psychologically addicted. They called alcoholics "dipsomaniacs" in the 19th century. I love that term. I want to bring it back into common usage.
Dipsomaniacs were considered vile people in those days; the lowest of the low. London contends that there are very few dipsomaniacs; that it's all in the head.
He maintains over and over again that he had no physical craving for alcohol, that it was social situations, social norms and rituals that led him and most people to over indulge.
Sounds like an alcoholic's justification to me but he states it eloquently so I will let it be.

After becoming a successful author, he travelled in different circles. He blames another one of his bouts with drinking on the people he socialized with.

"And I was not pessimistic. I swear I was not pessimistic. I was merely bored. I had seen the same show too often, listened too often to the same songs, the same jokes. I knew too much about the box office receipts. I knew the cogs of the machinery behind the scenes so well, that the posing on the stage and the laughter and the song, could not drown the creaking of the wheels behind."
This is a variation of Hemingway's "I drink to make other people more interesting."
There is much logic in that point of view.

It is an interesting book. I think it boils down to a tough guy's perspective, eloquently expressed, defending his weakness for booze from an intellectual perspective.
Like many drinkers attempt to do.

There was a cool quote from a poem by Richard Hovey near the end of the book:

"Abstain not. Life and Love, like night and day,offer themselves to us on their own terms, not ours. Accept their bounty while ye may, before we be accepted by the worms."

Dig it, baby.

I'm done with Jack London.

On to Gregg Allman.

The Root Of All Happiness

Money is the root of all happiness.
An evil depression, dark and suffocating, invades a home stressed with financial hardship.
We humans strive harder, plot and plan, move quicker and with more urgency, to get more money to lighten the load.
We are as trained laboratory rats performing tricks to get the cheese. But evil moves the cheese always just beyond our reach.
Lines deepen on the face, the body feels weaker, the mind has no inspiration and becomes dull with sacrifice and repetition.
Dreams of a sack full of money falling off the back of a truck pass as hope.
Or a lottery ticket.
The darkness of futility, of oppression, the awareness of being forced to play a game that cannot be won invades the home, the life, and the weight of it all slows you down at precisely the time you need to move faster to survive.
There is only one escape. One path to a lightening of the load.
Opportunities are lost, the world closes in tighter every day and stacks the odds ever higher against escape.
And yet one truth remains incontestable.
Money is the root of all happiness.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dig This

" I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity."

"I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active - not more happy - nor more wise, than he was 6,000 years ago."

Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, October 12, 2012


Fall is a gorgeous and a foreboding time of year.
I am looking out my window at multi-colored leaves on the ground, the long dead and the recently dead. The wind is blowing as sunshine filters through branches creating patches of brilliance, leaving spots of shade and areas of darkness.

That is what fall is all about.  Contradiction. The beauty of foliage and invigorating crispness in the air soon to give way to howling white landscapes and a desperate need for  warmth.
I can’t help but think about my life at this time of year in terms of the contradictions I have created for myself.

I am a respected college professor.  Students enjoy my classes because I promote an atmosphere of open communication and discerning critique. We laugh, we argue, we read, we write, we learn from each other.  I am paid well enough that I have no worries. I am free to taste of and enjoy life.  
And yet I yearn to become a famous, world renowned, sought after and revered author. My brain tortures me with potential. I write everything. I sell nothing.

So I teach.
If my students could sense the intensity of my anger, the power of my frustration, they would avoid my class at all costs. The danger lies just below the surface of a fragile self-control.

Jill is a student and a very talented writer. I hate her for that. I know she will make a living from her writing, a very good living. She takes what I teach her and expands upon it, experiments with it and improves it. She takes my knowledge and makes it better.
She tells me she has completed a book and is testing the waters to see if there is any interest. I have never taken this seriously because she has not once asked for my advice or allowed me to read even one page of her work. The endless enthusiasm of youth.

Sometimes I swear I see condescension in her eyes but then I dismiss it as imagination colored by my  self-loathing as a failed writer. Still, I think she knows she is better than me and that the only way she will end up in a college auditorium is as a guest lecturer promoting her newest book and sharing her sharply original writing techniques.
We have had drinks together and enjoyed intimate and challenging conversation. In class she shows me a hint of cleavage, she dances more than walks and her confidence is as erotic as it is intimidating. I want more from her, have hinted at it but she is too smart for that.

I am looking out my window at fallen branches compressing twisted fallen branches. Tangled intricately and hopelessly together.  The wreckage of many a winter.  I don’t clear, I don’t rake, it is just not my thing. So the debris piles up, shifts and changes shape and decays in front of my eyes.
I had promise. I still do. But I don’t have the stomach for the rejection, the ass kissing, the contacts that have to be made and the humility implicit in trying to sell bits and pieces of my soul. I went at it like the literary lion I pictured myself to be when I was young. Submitting to magazines and websites, going on literary retreats, reading every book ever written about writing (how ironic is that?), contacting agents, publishers and editors, querying book ideas and following up with submissions that were rejected.

I taught so I could eat. Now I teach and eat shit.
This apartment is small. Not cramped small just smaller than you would expect from a tenured college professor.  I can afford better, much better.  It occurs to me that the closeness functions somehow as  an unconscious admission of my diminishing prospects. Too much space suggests too much potential.  I am floored by this realization.

The phone startles me from this deep reverie and I am edgy and off balance.
Its Jill passionately telling me that she has just sold her first book. My fingers dig into my thigh as I congratulate her through gritted teeth and tell her she is on her way. I suggest we should go out for a drink to celebrate but she says she is already partying with friends.

I am looking out my window during a season where many things begin to die. Beauty thins out every day and suggests something I don’t want to think about.
I will not teach tomorrow. I am not up for it. I think I’ll take a walk and put the note up on the classroom door.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guess What?

Nobody over the age of ten should be allowed to use the phrase guess what.
It sounds juvenile.
When an adult uses it I shudder. There is a journalist on MSNBC who uses it a lot. He frightens me.
I might cut you some slack if you begin a sentence that way.
"Guess what?" "What?" "I just won 18 million dollars in the lottery and I am not giving you one thin dime." "Drop dead."
Even then I am not sure. It still makes me cringe.
I really hate when it is stuck in the middle of a conversation. You make a bunch of points, then hit me with the guess what?
I don't want to guess what. Just f***ing tell me.
I drove a special ed kid back and forth to school for a while. A close friend of Carol's bailed me out with a job when we were desperate, for which we are forever grateful.
Anyway it was just me and him alone in a van for a 45 minute ride each way. Despite the fact that I had been warned the kid was difficult, he opened up to me and talked to me. A lot.
Kids and animals dig me because I have no agendas. Unlike most of the "adults" I know. But that's a story for another place and time.
This kid started every sentence with guess what. "Joe - guess what?" "What?" " My father this, my father that." "Joe - guess what?" "What?" "My mother this, my mother that." "Joe - guess what?" "What?" "My dog this, my dog that."
My favorite one was when he told me he planned to open a museum when he grew up. But it would be a different kind of museum. It would only have animals like spiders and snakes in it.
Pretty cool.
The point is, he started every sentence with guess what and I didn't mind. It made perfect sense.
He was about six or seven.
My ultimate goal is to become King of the World.
If I ever get there, guess what?
There will be hell to pay for the guess what adults.

An Interesting Trajectory

Been searching for redemption since 2006 and fighting hard since 2011. Fighting, scratching, clawing, experiencing, absorbing, adapting, evolving and hoping.
Gave birth to a vibe. Barely perceptible at first and growing ever so slowly.
Truthfully I don't know if I gave birth to it or uncovered it under the slime of self loathing but it started out as a tiny flame and is now a roaring fire.
Been knocked down a few times and lied to a lot.
But I keep coming back. Stronger.
I thought tending bar would be my salvation. It would have been if I was a twenty year old babe with enormous cleavage. It haunts me that maybe I didn't try hard enough. I should have fought to get into a blues bar or an upscale restaurant/bar. Could have made some coin in the right atmosphere.
I didn't. But I learned and got tougher.
Became a part timer in a liquor store with hopes of moving on up. I was not prepared for the level of corruption, the condescension, the lack of respect, the agendas and the absence of fairness from the liquor commission and within the store where I work.
On paper it should have worked out. But in reality it has not.
But I learned and got a lot tougher.
Recently hope and opportunity have opened up in areas that make sense to me, areas that resonate with my soul, with my dreams, with my purpose on this planet.
But even those have been slow moving and up and down and here and gone.
I remain resilient.
The latest blow came in the form of an unnecessary financial disappointment. After one solid year of getting screwed at every turn in my job I had one thing, one reward to savor. That got taken away.
I was intensely angry for one night. I have forgiven and gotten over it.
I learned and got even tougher.
Whiskey used to be my painkiller. It numbed me deliciously (when I could afford the good stuff), removed me from reality, allowed me to indulge in escape and denial.
I sip it now to fuel the fire. Sitting in the dark, slow sipping out of a pseudo crystal glass, taking everything I have learned, coalescing all the pain and unfairness, slowly feeding vengeance so it doesn't get fat and slow.
I am a fighter now. I never used to be. Or if I was I didn't know it.
My goal is to succeed, to become one with myself, to be who I am destined to be.
To get what I want. To get what I deserve.
My goal is not to hurt anybody, but I will hurt anybody who hurts me. I will hurt anybody who stands in my way. Anybody who conspires against me. Especially and specifically behind my back.
It has been an interesting trajectory. And it ain't over yet, baby.
But I am learning. And getting tougher.

Except In America

I ragged on President Obama after the debate and rightfully so.
He turned in a poor performance. A mighty leader has to be able to rise to the occasion, to meet every challenge, to instill confidence in those for whom he is responsible.
Of course he IS running a country. And he has been forced to deal with enormous crisis after enormous crisis. And he has been forced to deal with defiant, partisan, racist republicans who have consistently put their own partisan interests AHEAD OF THE SAFETY AND ECONOMIC SURVIVAL OF THIS COUNTRY.
Compared to that a debate might seem trivial.
Except in America.
The Prez opened the door to slime. I have watched as political journalists pointed out over and over that Romney lied in the debate, that he misrepresented his position, he reversed positions, he gave voters nothing of substance to go on. I am not just talking MSNBC. I'm talking CNN and revered life long journalists.
Romney has been schooled on the pettiness of Americans. His advisers sat him down and told him he can say anything he wants to say and then walk away from it. Even in a day and age when every word is recorded and can be played back to illustrate lies.
Because the American public is stupid and lazy. They want the sizzle, not the steak.
Romney gave them the sizzle at the debate.
I hate polls because, like Romney, they flip and they flop. We are inundated with poll information sliced and diced in every way and it becomes meaningless.
But the general trend after the debate shows the race to be about even.
This causes me to suffer through repeated bouts of projectile vomiting. You think Linda Blair was bad; I have had to repaint the walls in my house three times since the debate.
Tonight we got Joe versus Paul. Mr. Sincerity versus The Lying Machine.
I am nervous. Biden is an emotional guy. Ryan is a button pusher. If Biden gets off track, if he loses his cool, Ryan will shred him.
Biden has a little of Bill Clinton in him. He has the ability to connect with the little man, maybe more so because Clinton is an intellectual.
Ryan is as phony as they come but real enough for petty republicans.
Biden knows he has to kick ass tonight and I am sure they are preparing appropriately.
Ryan is preparing too, and given the fact that Romney came up with a strategy that worked I gotta believe Ryan has something up his sleeve.
I give the republicans credit for coming up with strategies. They are bold in their lies, bold in their false promises to desperate Americans and audacious in their plan to turn away from suffering Americans if, God forbid, elected.
After the assassination of JFK and a brief upheaval in the sixties, this country has been sliding backwards into the arms of corporate America, Wall Street and immoral politicians.
Sliding backwards into the arms of those who will squeeze until the spine is snapped.
I'm not sure one man can stop it. Not sure one man can change the culture of a country that has grown to revere corruption, greed, drama, pettiness, stupidity, laziness and racism. President Obama stands alone against that tide.
Tonight I hope Vice President Joe Biden digs in his heels and exposes Paul Ryan for the fool that he is. Gets the Democrats back on track.
But I am not sure Biden can withstand the American public's voracious need for drama and pettiness and Ryan's ability to deliver it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Didn't You

Condescension blinded you to my transformation and arrogance made you vulnerable.
You thought I would quit.

Mistaking the body blows I took for softness opened you to vengeance.
You didn’t know me at all.

Slowly I suffered and evolved; an inexorable process that made me hard.
Your lies and laughter and manipulation continued as
I got smaller and tighter and dangerous.

Fear and contempt, incubating inside me, acted as catalysts to audacity.

When the moment was right I looked directly into your dilated eyes as we switched roles.
It felt good to hurt you.

May you never recover as I continue on to savor a serene destiny richly deserved, and painfully earned.
You thought I would quit, didn’t you?

From The Mind Of Bob Dylan

I just read an amazing interview with Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone. It blew my mind because he was quite direct.
You know from his lyrics that he draws from a wealth of knowledge and experience, that he is a poet and a pragmatist, that his references can be obscure and still go directly to your heart.
In interviews he is famously evasive. Does not want to be pinned down.
I think all artists are like this. Journalism takes illusive magic like art and tries to explain it as if were black and white. Artists try like hell not to be pinned down in interviews, to avoid explaining what something means.
A lot of that comes from the fact that there is no true meaning to an artistic statement. It was inspired by an emotion or an observation or an experience in the artist's life and he expresses it through art, which changes it.
If it connects with others that is all that matters; not why or how.
But Dylan has raised evasiveness to an art form. I love the man and I have found most of his interviews frustrating.

Not this time.

Selective and edited quotes:

"But let's not forget human nature isn't bound to any specific time in history. ..........My songs are personal music; they're not communal. I wouldn't want people singing along with me. It would sound funny. I'm not playing campfire meetings." Boom.

"You don't write the kind of songs I write just being a conventional type of songwriter. And I don't think anybody will write them like this again, anymore than anybody will ever write a Hank Williams or Irving Berlin song. That's pretty much for sure. I just think I have taken things to a new level because I've had to. Because I've been forced to. You have to constantly reshape things because everything keeps expanding on you. Life has a way of spreading out." Boom.

"Some people are called to be a good sailor. Some people have a calling to be a good tiller of the land. Some people are called to be a good friend. You have to be the best at whatever you are called at. ............ It's about confidence, not arrogance. You have to know that you're the best whether anybody tells you that or not." Boom.

"Maybe people have to have a simplistic way of identifying something, if they can't grasp it properly - use some term that they think they can understand, like mortality. Oh, like, these songs must be about mortality. "I mean Dylan, isn't he an old guy? He must be thinking about that." You know what I say to that horseshit? I say these idiots don't know what they're talking about. Go find somebody else to pick on." Boom.

"I have enough faith for me to be faithful to myself. Faith is good - it could move mountains. Not that bloody-mary faith that you have, but the kind of faith that people like me have. You can tell whether other people have faith or no faith by the way they behave, by the shit that comes out of their mouths." Boom.

A quick aside - a great lyric from Sugar Baby on Love and Theft - "Every moment of existence seems like some dirty trick."

"Some people never really develop into who they are supposed to be. They get cut off. They go off another way. It happens a lot. We all see people that that's happened to. We see them on the street. It's like they have a sign hanging on them." Boom.

"Oh, of course (receiving the Medal of Freedom) it's a thrill. .......... And the kind of people they were putting me in the category with was just amazing. People like John Glenn and Madelaine Albright, Toni Morrison and Pat Summitt, John Doer, William Foege and some others too. These people who have done incredible things and have outstanding achievements.  ............I loved spending time with them. What's the alternative? Hanging around with hedge fund hucksters or Hollywood gigolos?" Boom.

"People like to betray people. .........They want to deliver you up. Like they delivered Jesus. They want to be the one to do it." Boom.

"Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. ..........These are the same people who tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? Playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherf***ers can rot in hell." BOOM.

In addition to expressing raw truths,  Dylan throws off meaningful philosophical opinions or statements effortlessly:

"If you're not fulfilled in other ways, performing can never make you happy.......................Is it a fulfilling way of life? Well what kind of way of life is fulfilling? No kind of life is fulfilling if your soul hasn't been redeemed."

"If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today."

"The thing about it is that there is the old and the new, and you have to connect with them both. The old goes out and the new comes in, but there is no sharp borderline. The old is still happening while the new enters the scene, sometimes unnoticed. The new is overlapping at the same time the old is weakening its hold."

"If we're responsible to ourselves, then we can be responsible for other people, too. But we have to know ourselves first. People listen to my songs and they must think I'm a certain type of way, and maybe I am. But there's more to it than that. I think they can listen to my songs and figure out who they are too."

On top of all that tasty stuff, Dylan introduces the concept of transfiguration into the interview. I didn't know what the hell that was so I checked it out. It is defined as a marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis, a change that glorifies or exalts. It is originally attributed to Jesus taking Peter and James and John up on a mountain where Christ became transfigured. "his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow."
In 1966 Dylan had a devastating motorcycle accident and disappeared from the scene for a long while to heal. When he returned he was writing radically different music. He somehow connects this occurrence, through the concept of transfiguration, to the death of a Hell's Angel a few years earlier in a motorcycle accident. The bikers name was......................Robert Zimmerman.

Dylan is one interesting cat.

Most people won't make the commitment to read through all the above quotes. They are lazy and easily distracted. If you have made it this far, I hope it all meant something to you.

In closing I can honestly tell you that Bob Dylan's name projects the same power and mystery with me as the name Jesus Christ.

Maybe more.

Dig This

"youth ever grins scornfully at the wreckage of age"

"And here is another complaint I bring against John Barleycorn. It is these good fellows that he gets - the fellows with the fire and the go in them, who have bigness, and warmness, and the best of the human weaknesses. And John Barleycorn puts out the fire, and soddens the agility and, when he does not more immediately kill them or make maniacs of them, he coarsens and grossens them, twists and malforms them out of the original goodness and fineness of their natures.
 ............... Oh - and I speak out of later knowledge - heaven forefend me from the most of the average run of male humans who are not good fellows, the ones cold of heart and cold of head who don't smoke, drink, nor swear, nor do much of anything else that is brave, and resentful and stinging, because in their feeble fibers there has never been the stir and prod of life to well over its boundaries and be devilish and daring.
 ...................And so I draw the indictment home to John Barleycorn. it is just these, the good fellows, the worth while, the fellows with the weakness of too much strength, too much spirit, too much fire and flame of fine devilishness that he solicits and ruins. Of course he ruins weaklings; but with them, the worst we breed, I am not here concerned. My concern is that it is so much of the best we breed whom John Barleycorn destroys."

From John Barleycorn - Alcoholic Memoirs - Jack London

(Editor's note: Lest you be confused, later in life Jack London was a big supporter of Prohibition.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

6:54 on 10/09

6:54 on an already dark October night.
Empty Blue Moon sits above the keyboard.
Bob Dylan staring at me.
Judging me.
Challenging me.
Tension at work.
Tension about work.
Financial stress at home.
Family members who are ill.
Cold coming on, oil bills and snow.
These things define a life.
A movie awaits.
Hoping a bowler returns happy.
The cats.
Two days off.
These things define a life.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Digging on 60 Minutes last night and I was blown away by this story.
There is a guy named Rodriguez who cut a couple of records in the 60's. He was born poor in Detroit and spent his life poor in Detroit.
His records bombed in America. Did nothing, went no where.
What he didn't know was that his records sold like crazy in South Africa. He was bigger than Elvis there, bigger than The Beatles. Steve Segerman, a record shop owner in South Africa said: "To many of us South Africans he was the soundtrack to our lives. If you walked into a random white, middle class household that had a turntable and a pile of pop records you would always see "Cold Fact" by Rodriguez. To us, it was one of the most famous records of all time. It was the 1970's and apartheid political repression was at its height. Rodriguez's lyrics resonated with people who had had it with the system."
How the hell nobody in America knew about this pisses me off. Record companies are notorious for ripping off artists because they are creative humans, not businessmen. But considering his popularity it would have been in the record companies interest to drag him around the world and puppet him on stage to perform. I don't get it.
Anyway for the past FORTY years he has been living in Detroit in a house with a wood burning stove working as a day laborer; demolition, roofing, heavy construction. AND he got himself a degree in philosophy.
Four years ago a Swedish filmmaker heard about him and decided to make a documentary. The filmmaker was struggling. He shot a lot of the film with an iPhone 4 and a $1.00 Super 8 app. Still he almost went broke doing it and pretty much gave up. He finally found producers who submitted his unfinished film to the Sundance film festival in Utah. They liked it so much they opened the festival with it.
It's out there now and it's called "Searching For Sugar Man." I will watch it as soon as possible and suck that bitter sweet vibe directly into my soul.
You should too.
Rodriguez is currently on a sold out tour across America.
His music is beautiful. Exceptionally Dylanesque.
And the guy is incredibly humble. No bitterness. Even though he is now 70 years old, has trouble walking and trouble with his eyesight. He is an incredibly cool cat. During the entire interview he wore humility like a lesson for humanity, accepting his fate as it was and digging his current resurgence gratefully and graciously.
This is probably why his music resonates. It is a direct reflection of a delicate, evolved soul.
This is what I am looking for. Late life redemption.
This is what we are all looking for. "We" being elderly folks like myself.
At least the ones who have not given in to bitterness and cynicism. Hopelessness.
My professional life went horribly wrong forty years ago when I went to college for the wrong reasons and continued down the path blindly. I have been scraping and clawing and hoping my way back ever since. In January 2006 I dug in my heels and tried to stop the negative momentum, but it's like trying to turn an ocean liner on a dime.
A story like this gives you hope that things can change if you try and fight and believe. That a subtle twist in your life vibe can occur that will turn everything around.
Sometimes it is one small occurrence, one simple turn of fate that can bring you face to face with yourself and with the life that you deserve.
It is intimidating to think that many of us are right up against that which will make us whole......and we don't know it. Buried under regret and worry and repression so our senses don't sense.
Rodriguez is the perfect inspiration because of the amazing way he has handled all this. The best of human nature intersecting with the unknowable time table and potential rewards of fate.
His music is delicious. Check it out.
His story is magnificent in its outcome. Learn from it.
There is always hope if you give it room to breathe.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alcohol, Drugs, Gambling and Prostitution

A major casino-hotel complex is proposed to be built in Spain to help the economy.
The proposal is being opposed by some in Spain on the grounds that it will bring with it prostitution and drug traffic (alcohol and gambling are already covered).
Spain's economy is fragile and heavily in debt. Unemployment is at 25%.
The project will create an estimated 260,000 new jobs and a huge increase in tourist business and all the perks related to this type of venture that will benefit many types of business and the economy as a whole.
Alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution are more natural than working for a living. More natural than breathing. Holier than thou types need to stop avoiding the truth.
People need these things. They want them. They deserve them. There is nothing wrong with them.
This truth has existed forever. It will exist forever.
If these opponents would take their hands away from their eyes they would see these things already flourishing in Spain. As they do everywhere in the world.
People are bored. Life is boring. Life suffocates with boredom and rules and expectations and responsibility and routine.
Life disappoints. Alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution deliver.
Booze and drugs make you feel good. Gambling offers a chance at riches. Prostitution allows the indulgence of fantasy.
All of them get you away from a life you never imagined for yourself. A life of sacrifice and budgets and manipulative bosses, no freedom, no dignity, no luxury.
I just started reading John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London. An autobiography of a short life.
Jack London wrote Call Of The Wild, White Fang and many other stories and a few more books. I was blown away to find out he was a legendary boozer. My mind did not connect the dots from a nature and wild life lover to monumental booze consumption.
Somehow it made more sense with Hemingway.
Here's a great Jack London quote: "Intenseness and duration are as ancient enemies as fire and water. They are mutually destructive. They cannot co-exist."
This is where I am coming from. The Holy Four (alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution) offer intenseness which is exactly what human beings need. Something to spike your life with excitement. But you cannot enjoy these things continuously or you destroy your health and wind up broke.
So you keep coming back to them. They are as important as a yearly health exam. And more exciting than a prostate exam. Unless you really like your doctor.
London says he first got drunk at the age of five when he slurped some beer from a pail he was carrying to his father in the fields. I'm not sure about that memory but he says he got very sick and learned to never touch alcohol again.
He describes another episode as a teenager when he drank with some seafaring men and got loaded - and sick as a dog - again. But he developed a different perspective based on the drunken conversation and the camaraderie he shared with these guys. "I had caught a myriad enticing and inflammatory hints of a world beyond my world, and for which I was certainly as fitted as the two lads who had drunk with me. I had got behind men's souls. I had got behind my own soul and found unguessed potencies and greatness."
I propose The Holy Four all offer this potential.
Jack London worked brutally in a cannery for a while, a minimum of ten hours a day and sometimes as many as eighteen, before deciding to buy a sloop and become an oyster pirate. I don't have time to explain that. Look it up.
On the night he closed the deal for the sloop he drank on the boat with the owner and his crew. "Here in this atmosphere of bohemianism, I could not but contrast the scene withe the scene of the day before, sitting at my machine, in the stifling, shut-in air, repeating, endlessly repeating, at top speed, my series of mechanical motions. And here I sat now, glass in hand, in warm-glowing camaraderie with the oyster pirates, adventurers who refused to be slaves to petty routine, who flouted restrictions and the law, who carried their lives and their liberty in their hands. And it was through John Barleycorn that I came to join this glorious company of free souls, unashamed and unafraid."
The Holy Four, baby. The Holy Four.
Excess can destroy you when it comes to these delicacies just like working too hard can kill you.
I am merely campaigning to strip The Holy Four of their evil reputation, to advance the theory that they are good for humans and society, are indeed necessary.
Spaniards opposing a casino-hotel complex that could seriously boost their economy because of The Evil it would invite is hypocritical and not economically wise.
The Spanish are a lusty people, passionate, fiery and alive.
The human race needs to take an honest look in the mirror and lighten up.