Saturday, December 29, 2012


When I went downstairs, Carol read to me a newspaper blurb about a 54 year old boxer who just suffered a stroke after years of being confined to a wheelchair.

Damage done from repeated blows to the head. 

It occurred to me that a career in boxing is no different than working for The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission.

Coming Up For Air

My plan as the year wanes is to write a couple of brutally honest entries in this beast known as Whiskey Wisdom. A warning to family members and those who care about me - some of this may make you uncomfortable but please read all the way through. You'll feel better.

After writing that paragraph, I laughed inwardly at the pretentiousness. As if there are those waiting breathlessly to read my words, as if I am so deep that the words require a disclaimer. I'm leaving the paragraph intact.

I have had very little urge to come up here and write in the last couple of weeks. Which, for me is the same as saying I have had very little urge to breathe in the last couple of weeks.

Which is not far from the truth.

I am down. About as down as I get.

I have had periods of depression in my life all my life. Periods when it is excruciatingly hard to even leave the house. I do not want to talk to another person. When somebody gears up to say something to me, I cringe inside because I know I'll be forced to respond.

I cannot control this. I cannot think my way out of it. I have tried. It is brain deep, soul deep and physical. I just have to ride it out.

A memory just dredged up in my brain from many years ago. A depression summit meeting with my parents. As is typical with these memories, I don't remember the circumstances surrounding it. I must have done something to upset them or not done something that upset them.

Anyway, we met in a restaurant and I defended myself by explaining the crushing nature of this depression. How I can barely leave the house, how it is difficult to have a conversation with another human being. They suggested I see a psychiatrist.

I could see a psychiatrist. I could take a pill. I choose not to.

Our Christmas tree is invisible this year. I usually meditate upon it. It brings me peace. It hit me this morning as I clicked it on that I barely noticed it last night. And every night that it has been up.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day were beautiful. Family moments. Truth and emotion. Other than that, I feel nothing this year. Less than nothing.

When I crawled into bed Christmas night I thought to myself it would be a good night to die in my sleep.

I despise 2012.

I started a blog in 2011 and was excited about it. I honestly believed it would lead me somewhere. It has lead no where, other than to lead me into a couple of extreme moments of hope that subsequently crashed me to the ground. I made the pain worse by talking to family members about how this was going to happen and that was going to happen. These things never materialized and I looked the fool. Like a child believing Santa is coming down the chimney.

I worked hard in 2011 to lose weight and get down to a goal of 169 pounds. I did it. I now weigh close to 180.

I had hope in 2011 that the liquor store job would lead to stability. It has not. I travel to work now in anger and despair.

I wasted a year. I don't have years to waste.

I am afraid to think a positive thought or hatch another brilliant plan before the end of the year. I am afraid 2012 will kill it at it's inception. I am keeping my head down, crawling on my hands and knees towards 2013.

Having said all that, I can also say I am not done. Having started the blog, having lost the weight, having made the job move, I know I can do.

I can do. I am better than this.

I am not giving up. I am hungrier for a life change than ever before. And for concerned family members, no, I do not want to die.

As superficial as it sounds, I want to prove that I can rise to the level of my potential. Obviously inwardly but, and here is the superficial part, I want to prove to family and friends and enemies that I am not a lifetime underachiever. Even if they don't expect me to prove it. It is important to me.

I hope I come up for air on my birthday. I want to be happy on that day. New Year's Eve will be tough. Emotional. You can count on me giving the finger to 2012. The hope I direct at 2013 will be tentative, a little wiser, a little more protective, given my performance this year.

I have thought about this a lot through the weight of despair over the last couple of weeks. I recognize the need to make changes but I am not going to name them, I am not going to make promises.

Sometimes I think the depression is good because it shuts down my emotions ( no easy feat) and allows me the opportunity to think. I can wallow or I can think.

I am not looking for empathy or sympathy or understanding. I am not looking for anything other than something from myself.

Years come and go. Some are good, some are bad. I can accept that but I cannot accept that I contributed to failure in 2012. I thought I was trying as hard as my diseased brain would allow, but we humans are delusional, me first among you.

I have to examine that possibility.

I need to go deep. It is important. It is everything. Apparently I have been using the wrong tools because up to now I have only scratched the surface.

I will be fifty nine years old on January 1, 2013. Fifty nine years completed.

Sixty is a nice round number. A milestone. I could accept success at sixty. Happiness at sixty.

We'll see.

About Schmidt Again

Watched About Schmidt again the other night. Jack Nicholson. Nicholson shows his acting chops in this one by playing an everyday schmuck. A retired insurance dude who's wife has just died. He buys an RV and travels cross country to his estranged daughter's wedding.

There is a scene in the desert that haunts. It is night and he is sitting on top of his RV, a blanket wrapped around him, looking at the stars.

As he looks up, he asks his wife's spirit "Am I the man you truly wanted to spend your life with? Or were you disappointed and too nice to tell me?"

That is a naked question. As naked and down to the bone as it gets.

That question festers in our minds but we never ask it. Because we might not like the answer. Truthfully, because we already know the answer.

I know what Carol's answer would be.

At the end of the movie,  he returns home after failing to prevent his daughter from marrying the loser.

He is thinking about his life. Wondering if his life has had any impact. Wondering if his life has affected even one other human being.

He has been sponsoring a poor child in a foreign country. Writing letters, sending money. There is a letter from the child in the pile of mail that greets him upon his return from the trip.

The letter, written by the person taking care of the child in that country, says how happy Schmidt's letters and support have made the kid.

There is a crayon drawing included, drawn by the kid. It shows the kid reaching his hand out to touch the hand of Schmidt.

Schmidt breaks down crying and that is how the movie ends.

A good movie.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dig This

"I believe no energy system will solve our problems since the problems come from within us and not from our turbines."

"I believe in red wine. And the scent of women. And the nuzzles of all dogs of all ages."

"I believe the politics of the right and left matter not at all to the bird on the wing or the trees dying on the hillsides."

From "Some Of The Dead Are Still Breathing" by Charles Bowden.

By the way, I snuck a couple of more books in when you weren't looking.

"The Thin Man" by Dashiell Hammett. Written in 1933. A wealthy couple that solves crimes. Fanf***ingtastic. Probably quite scandalous for the times because besides solving crimes all this couple does is sleep late and drink. They are irreverent and independent. Nick and Nora Charles.

Great quote: Nora - "Would you like breakfast?"  Nick - "It's too early for breakfast. Fix me a drink."

"The House Of Sand And Fog" by Andre Dubus III. Tremendous and tragic story involving middle eastern culture running into American prejudice and stupidity. Broken lives, misunderstandings, cruelty, hope and the death of hope, murder and suicide. Heavy.

See you later.

Dig This

"I'm running out of time to divine the grand design."


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Lifetime In Eight Words

"Beyond myself somewhere I wait for my arrival."

From The Balcony by Octavio Paz

Another Take On The TV Thing

"Furthermore, those late nights I have driven back to the pooldar apartment in Berkeley after working, I have seen in the windows the pale blue glow of at least one television in every home. And I am told that many family meals are eaten in front of that screen as well. And perhaps this explains the face of Americans, the eyes that never appear satisfied, at peace with their work, or the day God has given them; these people have the eyes of very small children who are forever looking for their next source of distraction, entertainment, or a sweet taste in the mouth."

From House Of Sand And Fog by Andre Dubus.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Is Magic

Christmas truly is magic.

I am up early. There are no presents under the tree. And I feel no different than any other Christmas.

I am excited. Looking forward to the arrival of my beautiful, precious sons and their magical, mystical women. My brother spent the night.

I feel happy.

Christmas truly is magic.

Happy Christmas to those who read my words regularly. I appreciate it. When you look upon my words you look upon my soul.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

Ahhhh, Happy Holidays is a complicated thing, baby. Maybe you are happy to have a couple of days off if you are lucky. Maybe you are happy to be with family. Maybe you are happy to be alone. Maybe you want to just sleep all day and regenerate your frayed nerves. Maybe you want to get mercifully and forgivingly drunk.
Unhappy Holidays to some. Alone, broken and broke, lost without a compass. A thin, greasy burger in a McDonald's Parking lot on Christmas day. Coffee in a styrofoam cup. Watching your breath escape your lungs into the cold and praying a piece of hope has not gone with it.
There's a yin and a yang to the whole thing. Whatever makes you happy versus the impossibility of being happy to some at this time of year.
It ain't black and white, baby. Not all shiny lights and bulging bellies. We would all do well to remember that.

Spirit Of Generosity

Working in a liquor store I hear people wishing each other a Merry Christmas 19 million times a day.

Friends run into friends, they have a conversation, they part with "Merry Christmas, Raoul. Merry Christmas, Claude."

It is easy to differentiate between those who mean it and those who don't.

Everybody is running around mindlessly at this time of year stressing out about shopping and traffic and parking spaces and maxxed out credit cards. It is even more noticeable to me this year because Carol and I have removed ourselves from the process.

No Christmas shopping.

The words "Merry Christmas" become one more mindless part of the process. People say it without thinking because that is what you do at this time of year.

I waited on 16 million people over the last five days, and I actively tried not to say Merry Christmas. I tried to say it only to people who gave off the right vibe. And to children. Because saying it to every single customer I saw renders the expression meaningless.

Of course I slipped many times and said it to people who didn't deserve it, but I'm not worried about that because the words just bounce off people like that. They don't penetrate the leathery skin to get anywhere near close to the heart.

Anyway, the people who say it and mean it are the ones who fascinate me. These people say it with a warm spirit of generosity and an honest sparkle in their eyes. It comes across. You can't miss it.

I like these people. I don't think it is just about Christmas with them. I think it reflects an attitude. An attitude of caring, about recognizing humanity.

These people represent one tenth of one percent of the general population. But they are out there. So there is hope.

I got to talk to many kids this past week. We are one of the few liquor stores that sells to children. If you can prove that you are at least six years old, you got yourself a bottle, no questions asked. All you gotta do is hold up the right number of fingers with a confirming age accuracy nod from Mom or Dad.

Anyway, those eyes sparkle. The smiles light up their faces. We talk about Santa and presents and Christmas. They laugh, I laugh, it is a basic happiness I feed on like a starving tiger.

I survived the madness. Now I am sitting here waiting. Waiting for the spirit to move me. It may not happen on my own. But it will kick into gear when the family gets together and starts percolating.

That's a gift, baby. That's a gift.

Laughing Stock

Just a little more evidence concerning why this country is the laughing stock of the civilized world.

I saw Tim Huelskamp being interviewed on Morning Joe this week. Timmy is the republican representative from the great state of Kansas.

He is also an idiot.

He was asked if he would be willing to vote to raise taxes on the wealthy to help to avoid plunging over the fiscal cliff. He said absolutely not. He said that raising taxes will not solve our financial problems. That is typical republican bullsh**. Everybody acknowledges that higher taxes on the rich will not solve our problems, but it will HELP to solve our problems. What he is really saying is that I will sacrifice the financial stability of 99% of the struggling people in this country to protect my wealthy, fat cat friends.

He was asked if it is time to re-consider assault weapon bans. He went into this mindless rap about I have children you have children we have to look at cultural problems before we overreact and try to pass some sort of legislation. What he is really saying is that I will not defy the NRA and I don't give a damn that first graders were massacred.

This man is scum and he is the perfect example of the diseased attitudes of republicans who don't care about the people who are fighting just to survive financially in this country and who would also like to feel just a little bit safer when it comes to their kids.

After President Barack Obama was justifiably re-elected, the republicans all pretended to sound contrite. They said they had to reconnect with the American public and that they had learned their lessons and were going back to the drawing board.

They lied. They picked up right where they left off, playing games with the fiscal cliff crisis. Refusing to work with the President to try to ease the lives of the majority of Americans. This is unacceptable to the point of revulsion.

The first time around their focus was on defeating President Obama. They failed. He is in for a second term. Re-elected because the American voting public said "You guys are a bunch of morons, you don't care about those who suffer, and if your policies increase the suffering in this country you don't care about that either."

The two party system was created to allow for compromise. A blending of opinions to do the best you can. When idiots like Timmy Huelskamp refuse to negotiate, as the entire republican party refuses to negotiate, you sabotage hope for financial relief for hundreds of millions of people. This is the ultimate proof that these low lifes care nothing about the people of this country. President Obama has won twice. It is time for these scum to act like men and actually govern. Americans depend on these fools to act in our best interests. Instead they are 100% removed from everyday life and feel no remorse, no empathy, they have no understanding what it is like to wake to fear every morning.

I despise them with every fiber of my being.

And the President needs to get tough. Boehner and his clowns pulled that Plan B stunt and then went home for the holidays. They do not have the right to spend the holidays with their families. They have not earned it. And the President was still holding out hope that compromise could be reached.

I would love to see him stand up and say "republicans are actively pushing your life further into the ditch. They are acting like children and are jeopardizing the stability of this country as they simultaneously increase the fragility of your ability to survive."

Let's throw Wayne LaPierre into the mix. The leader of the NRA. His contribution in the aftermath of Newtown was to recommend that we employ armed guards in every school in America. What a moron. What an unfeeling fool.

He said the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

We are rapidly approaching the point in this country where there will be as many guns as there are Americans. That is not an exaggeration. We are talking about a one to one ratio of guns to people. And we are, by far, the most violent country in the civilized world.

So your argument, LaPierre, is bullsh** and you know it.

He blamed movies, video games, blah blah blah for the violence in this country. Not guns.

He was interviewed on Meet The Press last Sunday and came across like the brainless robot that he is. He would not admit that smaller magazines could reduce violence, he would not admit that an assault weapons ban could reduce violence.

Kept falling back on the second amendment. Mindlessly.

He cares about money. He cares about power. He does not care about first graders getting massacred. He does not care about the spirit of the second amendment. He cares only to hide behind the second amendment as a smoke screen to hide the fact that all he cares about is the money the NRA makes and the power it wields in Washington.

Watch the man speak. He looks like a lunatic. He has that idiotic aura of the unthinking possessed.

I despise him with every fiber of my being.

That is where this country is at, folks. Being governed by cretins who are completely removed from the best interests of the people who work hard to keep this country afloat so these fat cats can eat steak, smoke cigars, screw high priced hookers, as they spit on the people they pretend to represent.

Having a mindless low life representing a huge organization that is so wrapped up in it's own agenda it can ignore the source of the slaughter of innocent first graders.

That is only a couple of reasons why America is the laughing stock of the rest of the civilized world.

There are many more reasons that I don't have the time or the energy or the stomach to even get into.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How Bizarre How Bizarre

On Friday morning I woke up at 5:10. Of course the alarm was set for 6:00. I slipped into that in between dream state that I find fascinating.

Every year end they come out with lists of who died that year, the famous people who died that year.

In my dream/hallucination, all the famous people who died in 2012 were filing into my house. Slowly and somberly. The catch was, I couldn't see their faces. They wouldn't let me see their faces.

They would walk past me and walk into a corner, facing into the corner with their back to me. Or just turn to face a wall.

They kept filing in and kept turning away.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finger On The Trigger

Theodicy is defined as the defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.

In other words, when religious leaders tell you that God knows everything and that suffering is part of God's plan, that he has his reasons, that is theodicy.

The logic is hard to swallow, and even harder to deal with when you push these people into a corner looking for a definitive answer and all they can tell you is you have to have faith. Faith in God, faith in God's plan. That it is impossible to know God's plan but, because he loves us so much, it will all make sense in the end.

This is unacceptable to me.

Because if God is omnipotent, then he had his finger on the trigger at Newtown.


As I drove home through Massachusetts Tuesday morning I re-discovered an old love.

Package stores.

No I did not stop and buy booze for the ride, although it would have been a wonderful compliment to my reflective mood on that day. I know where all the packies are on this road because I used to commute from NH to MA to work. I hate highways, I love the back roads, so this is the route I used to take.

 A one and a half hour commute one way. Truthfully I used to drink my way home at the time. The job ripped my guts out every day because I was over my head and it was a fast paced, highly competitive environment.

I'd blow out of there and stop fifteen minutes down the road to buy beer. The rest of the ride would be enjoyed as I casually sipped my beer-way home. It wasn't heavy duty. I might only drink three, but it relaxed me and allowed me to believe that I could still find Jesus.

On the really bad days I'd pick up a bottle of ginger brandy to go with the beer. I'd take a swig of brandy right out of the bottle, then sip that heavenly ice cold beer. A few swigs, a few beers, and before I knew it I was cradled in the safety of my driveway.

I loved those rides. I felt so free. Especially in the summer when the windows were down, the radio was up and I was in good voice.

Packies have character. Especially the countrified ones. Crass neon beer signs in the window, creaky wooden floors and usually a gruff kind of guy behind the counter.

And you can buy beer, wine and booze all in one place. And cigarettes. And beef jerky. What a concept.

States like NH have made the purchase of alcohol antiseptic. You buy booze in the liquor store and beer in the grocery store. The liquor store is frightening because they interrupt the piped in music every 4 and a half seconds to run ads. You hear cheery, faux friendly voices telling you how wonderful the employees are and how amazing the sales are and how very very much the customer is appreciated worshipped ass-kissed. You want to strangle these people.

The beer in the grocery store is incongruously placed next to the bakery or the pharmacy or the men's room. Anyplace that can detract from the religious rite of choosing just the right beer for a specific mood. Unless you drink Natty Light. Then it doesn't matter.

And you pay for the beer at a checkout counter with a 10 year old clerk.

I have been in package stores where I was afraid of the owner. And I liked it. There should always be an undertone of evil around booze. It makes it taste better.

When I was a kid we had our favorite packy. It was called Magee's Corner Liquors and is still there, although I am sure the ambiance is radically different. We called it Harold's because that was the owner's name. A very strange guy but he was good to us kids.

One of my fond memories was rushing back to Harold's at 10:55 p.m., five minutes before close, to buy more booze. We had already consumed more than enough at that point, but there is no lonelier feeling than wanting a drink after the packy closes. We would take an inventory around 10:30, see who had what left, and then make a run to Harold's.

This happened a lot.

When I first moved to NH the liquor stores closed around 4 in the afternoon. I remember my first booze crisis when I decided I needed something and drove out to a closed liquor store. I was horrified.  In this state you have to plan your booze purchases ahead of time. No last minute decisions or cravings. This is unacceptable. It relegates buying booze to the same category as computing the family budget.

You could also buy single 12 oz. beers in those days. Rip them right off a six pack or visit the cooler section where the loose beers accumulated. Now if you want to buy a single beer it has to be 144 ounces. It's pretty hard to inconspicuously drink a 144 ounce beer while you are driving.

The point is package stores had personality. An element of mystery, a hint of evil. Rumor has it that there was a robust drug business pumping out of Harold's. I don't know. I bought my drugs elsewhere.

Which reminds me. Another fun angle to booze buying was Gaff. This guy's parents died young, leaving him sole owner of the family manse. He was a delicious derelict a few years older than us. A role model. A real likable guy.

Never worked, his house was a constant party scene, he could always get us drugs and he was never averse to making a booze run. His hair was grey at the age of 22. We'd pool our money, including a little extra for Gaff, and he'd run out to buy us booze.

My childhood was idyllic.

I miss packies. I really do. They are an oasis of originality in a world of blandness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Appreciating Reality

Spent the night with my brother last night. Drove my ass down to civilization after work to dig steak, wine, football and cognac and carrot cake.

And conversation. Real conversation. And genuine, soul nourishing laughter. Maybe a few tears.

I walked out the door this morning to climb into The Peace Mobile to drive home and was jolted. Literally jolted.

After a night like that I feel physically and emotionally jolted to walk outside into what some people call reality. I literally stopped before opening the car door because I had to get a grip.

From the minute I walked in his door last night to the minute I walked out the door this morning, I was completely at ease. I was with a man who knows me better than anyone else in the world except for my wife. He knows my flaws, he knows my strengths, he knows the lies I tell myself, he knows how hard I am trying. And as inconceivable as it might be, apparently he still loves me.

He tells me I am stupid when I need it, he supports me when he senses the truth. We talked all night and picked up again at breakfast (omelets). Talked about everything and more.

 We are both far enough down the road to have an appreciation for how hard life can be. How unpredictable. How beautiful it is when you are on a roll, how ugly it is when you are struggling. Our conversation has depth.

Walking into a night like that is like laying down a 5 ton load off your back. That is reality. Everything else is just a game.

For me it was like recharging my battery. I was shocked into thinking "Oh yeah, this is what it feels like to be alive. To feel vulnerably human with no threat of attack."

Reaching for the door handle on The Peace Mobile this morning was like sticking my hand back into the fire.

On the ride down I set the mood perfectly with the choices of music I made. Listened to a live CD featuring Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter and James Cotton. That's a mind blowing lineup and if you don't think so you don't know nothing about the blues. I followed that up with a Billie Holiday retrospective. If you ever hear the song Strange Fruit, it will blow your mind. The fruit she sings of is lynched black bodies swaying in the breeze.

I took the back roads on the ride home, which adds about 18 hours to the ride. I was OK with that because it allowed the beauty and the emotion of the night to saturate my heart and mind and soul as I reflected upon it. And as I listened to Townes Van Zandt. The perfect soundtrack for pensiveness.

I scuttled by Carol's workplace on the way home to drop off The Peace Mobile and pick up my truck. I did that because I love her and I didn't want her to have to freeze her ass off for one more commute. Giving me her car for the trip meant she had to drive to and from work in my truck yesterday, and back to work this morning. The heater in my truck sucks.

She wasn't expecting me and showed genuine surprise. And affection. Made me feel so good. One more person in my life who knows everything about me and, as inconceivable as it might be, apparently still loves me.

It's a little after 6:00 right now, and I am trying to hold on to the precious peace my brother gave to me by just being who he is. And allowing me to just be who I am. Tomorrow morning I jump on a roller coaster that will take me right through Sunday. Picture if you will a liquor store during the last week before Christmas. It is sheer madness.

And I will have to play the game and hold my tongue and do my job like a trained rat.

But in my mind I will be thinking about Ed and the magic of this visit. I will be thinking about Carol's smile at my unexpected appearance.

I will remind myself of what is real and what is illusion.

Keith Richards At Sixty Nine

Happy Birthday, Keith Richards.

69 years old today. Your longevity is the biggest and best f*** you to all the shallow people who knew nothing about you but judged you anyway.

You are an inspiration to me. If I had your balls I would be a successful writer today.

Keep on rockin', keep on provin' them wrong and keep on giving me something to smile about and to draw inspiration from.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The United States of America is terminally ill and in need of a miracle.

I was driving to work early Friday morning. It was still dark and very cold. I noticed a lot of houses with their Christmas trees lit. People up early, getting ready for work, taking the time to click on the Christmas tree for a while.

I thought that was pretty cool. It tells me that it means something to people. Whatever it is, Christmas spirit, or hope or happiness or a break from the norm, it means enough  to light up the tree for an hour or so before leaving for work. It made me feel good.

A few hours later I was absorbing the news that a soul-less ghoul killed five year old kids. When you kill kids, you kill innocence. You kill hope. When you kill adults and adolescents, jaded points of view are already in place. Cynicism. Mistrust.

I am not saying it's OK to kill adults and adolescents. What I am saying is that every fresh wave of children offers hope. Maybe someone in that crowd will figure out a better way to live, a humane way to treat each other. Maybe they can get that message out there and watch it grow. Maybe they'll cure cancer. Maybe they'll invent a vaccine that will eradicate racism.

They are a blank slate, a pristine soul. They just might be the only hope we have. Killing that is killing everything.

My heart broke to hear this news, more so than any other mass tragedy before it, and I noticed the same reaction on the faces of the people I talked to, the news commentators I watched covering it when I got home. These deaths are incomprehensible in the abrupt end to innocence before ever having a chance to turn that innocence into a positive thing for humanity.

And the parents. Parents who sent their kids off to school in a presumably safe environment to get an education that would have given them options, an opportunity to improve their lives. Instead their lives were cut short. I cannot imagine the pain, I cannot understand how a human being endures that kind of pain.

I shed tears to see the look on the face of the President of The United States as he fought back tears to get through his statement. A statement that included words that suggested it is time to do something meaningful to reduce the violence.

I heard his statement on NPR on my way home from work. The commentator introduced The President as the Commander in Chief. And The Mourner in Chief. How true.

Immediately, and once again, the debate over gun control became hot. I heard a Congresswoman say that we should not call it gun control because it creates the wrong reaction in small minds. We should call it gun safety.

I agree with her because that is truly what it is all about. Not lack of guns, but gun safety.

Sometimes when I get an idea for something to write about I do some research to inform myself. I have been collecting notes and stats for a while concerning the fact that this country has fallen so far from the world leader we once were. Areas like infant mortality, homelessness, education, life span, medical costs, poverty. There are many, many civilized countries that do a much better job than us.

It's embarrassing.

I realized Friday I should have been concentrating on the one thing we excel at.


We are light years ahead of the rest of the civilized world in violence, gun related or not, and in mass shootings. It is not even close.

This is symptomatic of something sick in our culture.

There will be hot debate over gun safety and the NRA will mindlessly oppose any changes. This is part of the problem. This unthinking gut reaction of small minds regarding their right to own weapons.

Tighter controls are necessary. Period. The civilized countries of the world who have exponentially less violence have much stricter gun laws.

There will be hot debate on profiling potential mass murderers. Suggestions on ways to counsel people and reduce violence. This is part of the problem as well. You can't do it. Not thoroughly enough, not effectively enough.

There is a lot more going on here.

There is a culture in this country, a vibe that has gone horribly wrong.

You have the soft underbelly, people who manipulate the system, people who don't work and yet drain the system for unearned benefits. You have the cold hearted crust, the companies who lie, cheat and steal to the point of endangering our economy and never look back. And exploit their employees while doing it.

You have politicians who ignore the desperate plight of their "constituents" as they play games and fatten their own wallets.

You have a government that has become unresponsive to the needs of the population. Slow moving and deadlocked because of ideologies that do not address the needs of people just trying to survive.

Obesity is an epidemic in this country. Alcoholism, drug abuse. We are unhealthy, overindulgent, weak and vulnerable.

You have a work ethic in this country that produces nothing but heart attacks and strokes and cancer. Most of the civilized countries in the world offer their employees much longer vacations. They take longer breaks during the work day. In other words they recognize their employees as humans.

And the irony is with this work ethic that we are always bragging about, we are still falling behind and callously sacrificing worker health.

In today's economy it is even worse because there is little chance for reward or advancement. We are rats on a wheel chasing cheese we will never taste.

There is a frustration in this country that is enormous. And an anger and an apathy and a cynicism.

On the night of the shooting I watched little kids being interviewed. Little kids who were there in the school. I was furious. We don't even know what is going on in their minds yet, how they can possibly interpret what they just lived through. The only people they should have been talking to were their parents AFTER hours of hugging and crying and on your knees gratitude. Shoving cameras and microphones in their faces was an injustice almost as heinous as the crime itself.

And the worst part is knowing the parents had to OK those interviews. We are indeed a sick society.

Maybe this is the end result of this grand experiment called democracy. The founding fathers probably assumed all people were as strong as them and would always appreciate this new form of government. They had to be tough and intelligent to do what they did. They could not imagine a lazy, unmotivated, self serving population like the one we have now.

On the other hand, when you consider that we lied to, exploited and massacred the native population of this land to get what we wanted, maybe that tells you everything you need to know right there.

I am not talking just about violence. I am talking about a mentality in this country. A mentality that is making us weak. I don't know if it is human nature or what human nature evolves into under this thing we call freedom.

I am saying that all this violence, all these mass killings are a sign of something going on in this country at a very deep level. A disease that took root at some point and is spreading throughout our culture.

That is what needs to be addressed. I have no idea how that can be done.

I only know that there is some sick a**hole out there right now trying to figure out a way to out- sensationalize this horrible mass murder.

And given our current culture he will probably succeed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Take My Word For It

For those of you who were inclined to believe that my recurring virulent criticisms of The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission were the words of a disgruntled employee, please note:

Last Thursday the NH State Employees Association filed two unfair labor complaints against the liquor commission alleging the commission has illegally cut pay and benefits for part time workers, and harassed the union representatives trying to represent them.

After announcing the complaints, union officials picketed outside liquor commission headquarters.

The commission employs 1200 part time workers, with a ratio of part timers to full timers of 6 to 1. Earlier this year the liquor commission arbitrarily declared the part timers as not public employees, and therefore have none of the rights legally afforded to the state's 10,000 public employees. The union alleges that this decision is in violation of personnel rules and state law.

The union alleges that the commission has harassed union reps who work in the stores by relocating them to stores that require long commutes and by making it hard for certain employees to return to work after being out on sick leave and by delaying payment of supplemental sick leave pay to employees who exhausted their regular sick time.

The union has been negotiating with the commission for four months on these issues to no avail so they felt they had no recourse but to file the unfair labor complaints.

Bear in mind that the liquor commission was just investigated by a legislative study commission for a laundry list of alleged violations and mismanagement.

In addition, Law Warehouses Inc. has filed a right-to-know petition against the liquor commission alleging the agency improperly negotiated with a competitor. The company recently lost a 20 year liquor warehouse contract that could put 80 jobs in jeopardy.

Where there is smoke there is fire, baby.

As employers, The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission are the lowest of the low. Cretinous, scurrilous dogs all.  But they are by no means unique.

A Right To Work law was just signed by the governor of Michigan. The law is exactly the opposite of what it is titled. That's how republicans work. They cannot deal in straight ahead truth so they try to dupe people into believing they are working for them when they are not. The law is designed to destroy unions and strip workers of the protection of collective bargaining rights.

The governor of Michigan says the law will increase employment in Michigan based on results in other states because businesses want to do business in that environment. What he doesn't tell you is the reason business like that climate is because they can exploit employees mercilessly

The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission is the perfect example of that. Creating fantasy labor classifications so they can strip workers of their rights and their dignity and eliminate any possibility of improving their lives financially. Using intimidation and sleazy tactics to punish employees who speak up. These are Dickensian tactics, baby; tactics I wouldn't believe could exist in the 21st century if I wasn't living them.

Unions evolved to protect workers from immoral employers who would stop at nothing to exploit their labor and minimize their pay and rights. Union activism became high profile in this country in 1866. 146 years later and the vicious, manipulative mentality of employers has not changed.

It is unconscionable to me that an employer could be so callous, so cold and devious in the treatment of their employees at a time when people are fighting with everything they have just to get by.

It's payback time, baby. The pigeons have come home to roost. Let's hope the commission is appropriately punished, employees are appropriately rewarded and permanent worker protection is put into place so that employees at least have a chance of surviving in this shaky economy.

Carlito's Way

Man, I watched Carlito's Way last night. Again. Love Pacino. Love the movie.

It is so much more than a gangster movie. Dreams, man - dreams. Carlito gets out of prison after five years and is determined to go straight. It doesn't work out that way. He was the king of the streets before he went to prison and now that he's out everybody wants a piece of him again.

But he's trying so hard. He lucks out and lands a job running a club for his sleazy lawyer friend. He is putting money away, saving for his dream of escaping to the Bahamas to go into the car business with a friend.

He runs into his girlfriend Gail who he hasn't seen in five years and their romance reignites.

She has dreams too. She wants to be a dancer. She tells Carlito that she is auditioning for parts and that she is getting closer to her dream. The truth is she is working in a strip club because she just can't make it.

She said something that killed me. After Carlito finds out she's a stripper she says: "Yeah, I had a dream, Charlie. But now I'm awake, and I hate my dream."

Toughness too. The movie is about toughness, real and feigned. Carlito is a true tough guy. Kingpin on the streets, successful and respected. His lawyer is a pretend tough guy. He wants to come across as tough but he is an idiot and does not know how to act, how to survive in a tough guy's world. Benny Blanco from the Bronx is a street punk tough guy trying to become a Carlito.

Carlito and Benny Blanco from the Bronx get in a beef and the situation dictates that Carlito should kill him. But he doesn't because he is trying so hard to change.

Of course it is Benny Blanco from the Bronx who kills Carlito in the end just as he is about to escape and realize his dream.

People are dreaming so hard in this movie. Carlito trying to make a new life in the Bahamas, Gail trying to believe with every bone in her body that Carlito will win out in the end and they will live their dream together.

All the dreams get crushed and Carlito dies.

People dreaming dreams that will never materialize, people trying to define what tough is and losing themselves in the attempt. Sounds like real life to me.

You want to see them make it. You want it so bad. To see somebody, anybody, pull their life together and realize their dream.

But reality intrudes.

And what really sucks is that Carlito gets killed by a guy who calls himself Benny Blanco from the Bronx.

There are nobler ways to die.

I Miss The Man

Hunter S. Thompson's suicide note:

"No more games. No more bombs. No more walking. No more fun. No more swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No fun - for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - This won't hurt."

He titled the note: "Football season is over."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dig This

"I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness, and a dread of some strange impending doom."

Edgar Allan Poe

Untamed Heart

It recently hit me, once again, that my favorite movies involve damaged people. I believe this to be more real. Watched a movie called Untamed Heart. Christian Slater plays a guy who was sickly as a child and grew up apart. He cannot relate to normalcy. I like characters that show their pain on the outside, characters who can do nothing but.
These are honest people.

Two Things

Two things uniquely suited to depression. Alcohol. Darkness.

Alcohol consumed sparingly vibrates at the frequency of despair.

Sunshine gets in the way. Better to keep your head down until darkness falls, where evil and introspection can co-exist comfortably.


Another reason I dig Ralph Waldo Emerson is that he dug up his wife's corpse.

There is dispute over this fact but I prefer to believe it. Because he was a thinker and a searcher and an intense man.

Robert D. Richardson, in his biography on RWE, says there is an entry from Emerson's diary dated a year and two months after his first wife's death that "indicates Emerson dug up his beloved's grave to behold her rotting body." "Here is a man who........... has really and truly death considered, looking at it under the stars, under the stars on a deep dark night."

The man was trying in every way he could to understand death. He was known to have a powerful craving for direct, personal, unmediated experience. He insisted that "one should strive for an original relation to the universe. Not a novel relation, just one's own."

This reminds me of William Blake and Jim Morrison. Going beyond the norm, going beyond what is expected and considered normal, to get to an intense knowing.

I don't find it ghoulish. I don't think he was twisted to do that. He so grieved his wife's death that he was desperately searching for ways to understand it.

The biographer compares what Emerson did to one aspect of Hinduism which involves those who renounce the world and practice asceticism - self denial as a measure of personal and spiritual discipline. Within this discipline are those called Saivite sadhu. One of their rituals is to smear crematory ashes on their body and to carry around human skulls. This is intended to show they are beyond the terror inspired by the transitoriness of the world.

Our rituals towards death are antiseptic and probably rooted in our deep desire to ignore the inevitable.

We probably need more direct, personal, and unmediated experience in every facet of our lives to truly live.

El Nino

Found this very beautiful Christmas song. El Nino as performed by Willie Nelson.

Simple lyrics set to music with a Spanish flavor. I love it because to me it offers a different take on the whole Christ is born thing.

"He is born
There's a reason now to carry on
Toot your horns
Write another song

Love is here
Seated at your table, now
Not living in a stable, now
Love is here

So let us sing
Let us sing
Love is king
Love is king

Angels sing
About the King
Let it ring
Let us sing"

I like the way the focus segues from Christ to love. Love is seated at your table, love is king. It takes the intimidation out of the equation and introduces you to what you already know.

Love is everything.

Listen to this beautiful song and celebrate love this Christmas.

Sad And Deep As You

One of the saddest songs I know and love is Sad And Deep As You, by Dave Mason.

The lyrics suggest sadness while simultaneously hinting at truth. The music is what puts it over the top. The music releases the sadness from your soul.

"Tears that are unspoken words, tears that are the truth."

Those words slammed me as I rediscovered the song this morning. They inspire me to write a poem. Perhaps I will.

Dig This

"You cannot be yourself, fiercely, unless you know yourself."


Life Is

Standing, cocked to one side, with your cat perched on your shoulder like a parrot, listening to World In Changes by Dave Mason. In it's entirety. 4 minutes and 34 seconds.

As your head swirls in all the emotion of the moment.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Better Than I Could Say It

A quote from a character in the movie Masked and Anonymous:

Jack Fate: "Beautiful animals."

Animal Wrangler: "They don't have time to bother with the success of getting rich, don't have fantasies of glory, don't borrow money to buy things that decrease in value while they own it. See, they're beautiful because they just are. They do what they do. Lion don't try to be a tiger, rabbit don't try to do an impression of a monkey. They don't try to be what they are not. Not like us, we human beings.

The cheetah, the tiger, the snake, the monkey, the baboon, the muskrat, the bobcat, the pig that's fat, the hippo, the rhino, the dodo, the honey badger, the slithy toad, each one, each perfect in their own original form. Then man came in. Who created him, or for what purpose, is still a mystery. Why is he here? It's a mystery. We know he's trespassing, doesn't know his own place. Of course he doesn't know his own place, he doesn't have one.

Man, the bear hunter, the fur trapper, the deer chaser, the baby seal clubber, the dolphin snagger, lowest form of existence, lowest form of existence............ He goes around sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. The zoo, the aquarium, they are prisons for the animals, those animals can't learn anything from man, man don't have a thing to teach them.

I don't even like looking at human beings, they disgust me so much with their atom bombs, their blow dryers, their automobiles. They build hospitals as a shrine to the diseases they create. Human beings, along with their secrets, masked and anonymous....... If I see a crack in the sidewalk, to me it's more beautiful than any human being. A crack in the mud at the bottom of a sun dried dead lake, I count that more beautiful than any human being. You know what I mean?"

Jack Fate: "Yeah, I know what you mean, it's kind of like a curse being born."

Masked and Anonymous is a funky movie co-written by Bob Dylan so you know it's got some fascinating dialogue. It features Bob Dylan, John Goodman, Val Kilmer, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Jessica Lange and more.

The movie is not for the faint hearted. there are lots of acerbic Dylan quips and odd conversations but it's typical Dylan, baby - dig deeper and you'll see he's saying a lot more than you think.

Anyway, Val Kilmer is the Animal Wrangler, an odd character, odd only in the fact that he speaks the truth. He's an animal lover and a human hater. You cannot argue with that point of view.

These are perfect sentiments for the Christmas season. What you want to do at this time of year is strip away all the mud and get to pure emotion. The best way to do that is to stay away from other people, except family. The ultimate goal should be to live only in the company of animals, but you don't have the time to make that happen between now and 12/25.

For the time being, focus on minimizing exposure to and interaction with toxic humans. When they talk to you, look away - don't respond. This could be a fun experiment. They will become bewildered and bewilderment cracks the facade.

Surround yourself with family and pets - the love will rise up around you like the oceans as the climate changes (only faster). Your soul will come alive; it is smarter than you and will recognize a better way of living, it will relish the taste and want more of that.

This will get you through the holidays and give you the drive to completely recalibrate your life.

Beginning on January 1, 2013 begin to find a way to strip all humans out of your life except family. Acquire as many pets as you can, buy a farm and cloister yourself there on into eternity.

How you survive financially is up to you; trust me I am no where near being qualified enough to give that kind of advice. I ain't got two nickels to rub together, and the one thin dime I had slipped out through the hole in my pocket.

Let's meet on June 1, 2013 and compare notes. Maybe we can learn from each other as long as we don't get too close.

Dig This

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, December 8, 2012


December 8 always scrambles up my mind.

It has been 32 years and it still scrambles up my mind. I will never accept the reality of it. On December 8, 1980 a useless piece of crap put four bullets into John Lennon's body and killed him.  Using a gun to cut down a man who worked tirelessly to make the world aware that we all share our humanity and that it makes so much more sense to love than to hate. To live than to kill.

John Lennon was a man who inspired people. He gave people something to believe in, he made their lives softer by singing to them, making them laugh, encouraging them to think. Here was this larger than life man talking to you on your level and helping you to forget about the severe emotional limits a normal existence can impose.

He fought the government, he fought narrow mindedness, he fought against a lack of hope. He made his life a controversial thing to fight for what he believed in.

Not just for himself. For the world.

He sincerely wanted people to live in peace. Without fear. The sincerity of that message came from his heart and you would have to be dead to have missed it.

He talked to us, not down to us. One of my favorite videos of him, in 1980, shows him walking and asking "How are you doing? Did you make it through the seventies all right?" he goes on from there and you get the message that we are all getting older together, we are going through stuff, we are learning and adjusting. You feel like you are walking with him, no pretensions at all. I wish to God I could have had one conversation with that man.

Chapman came up for parole again this past August and was denied. The parole board said: "Therefore, despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime."

They got it right.

 John Lennon was a Beatle. A leader. An inspiration. A sweet soul and creative innovator.  An influence on my generation  in a way that cannot be overstated. Not having him around for the last 32 years has left a hole in me for 32 years. A hole that no one can ever fill.

John Lennon would have been 72 on October 9. And he would have still been challenging us and making us uncomfortable to docilely accept the cruel world we live in.

December 8 is also Jim Morrison's birthday. Morrison is another on my list of people who inspired me. His approach to life was to push everything to it's limits for the sake of experience. He was inspired by William Blake who wrote: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Morrison himself said: "I believe in a long, prolonged, derangement of the senses in order to obtain the unknown."

Both believed there was a lot more to our minds than we know and that what we don't know holds us back. I believe that as well. They believed that if you assaulted your mind with experiences and avoided predictability and routine like the plague, you will break through to an honest understanding of who you are and you will be much more engaged with life.

Morrison devoted himself to life experimentation and rode that approach to an early grave. He did more living in those 27 years than I have in 58, and learned more because of it and contributed more to the world's experience. Well worth the sacrifice.

He left behind rocking, sometimes dark, sensitive, philosophically informed music and beautiful poetry. The Doors music was so different than other rock music that it hit me right between the eyes. All kinds of references to explore and learn from. And an underlying darkness that exposed the harsh underbelly of life.

He turned me on to Blake and to many other philosophers and poets who contributed to my point of view, my opinion of how life should be lived, what it should mean.

Jim Morrison would have been 69 today.

December 8 is also Gregg Allman's birthday. I cherish this man and The Allman Brothers Band.

The Beatles woke me up to a new philosophy of life and blew my head apart with beautiful, lyrical, intelligent, challenging music. Jim Morrison took that music and made it deeper, more poetic; he also added another layer to my evolving philosophy of life. The Allman Brothers came along with an attitude that got right in the face of hypocrisy and they took me so deeply into the roots of the music I loved that I am still learning from them today.

Gregg and Duane took rock into a new old direction, inspired by the old blues masters and putting their own spin on this music that more than any other comes from the soul and from pain and from being lost and expresses it in a powerful way.

I would look at the credits on their albums and realize they didn't write a lot of the songs. That lead me to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker and Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins and many, many more.

The love and care and respect with which The Allman Brothers approached the blues gave me a new love. The blues vibrate my soul and wrench my heart more directly than any music I have ever heard.

Gregg's voice is distinctive. His voice is the blues. I have seen him in concert anywhere from 25 to 30 times, solo, and with The Brothers. His voice brings me to life and stirs raw emotion in me.

Every single time.

The Allman Brothers put rock and roll attitude right in your face. They were tough and talented, they took risks, they believed in what they were doing and stayed true to it. Record company schmucks tried to get them to change their style, get more poppy, write more hits. The Brothers told them to kiss their ass and kept doing what they were doing.

Which partially explains the fierce loyalty of their fans. Their fans are a community just like The Dead's. I have been at concerts where I talked to twenty year olds who love this band and follow them closely. And I have talked to many grey beards like myself whose lives have been made richer with the soundtrack The Allman Brothers provide. Their integrity is translated in the music and connects to true music lovers regardless of age.

Gregg has been looking frail lately. He has had a number of health problems that have left him weak. This disturbs me greatly. Duane died in 1971, ripping apart some of the soul of this band. But they survived and evolved to excel. Gregg is fighting back, bouncing back, but you can't help but consider his mortality, especially when you think about the lifestyle he has lived.

When he goes, it won't be The Allman Brothers anymore. I have no idea how the band will handle that and truthfully I cannot think about it. Gregg has given me so many smiles, so many tears, so much exhilaration, so much soul deep blues beauty that he has made my life softer, he has given me relief and inspiration.

Since 1969. That is a heavy duty gift.

Gregg Allman is 65 today. Happy Birthday, Gregg and I am hoping for at least 30 more.

It pains me to talk about John Lennon and Jim Morrison in the past tense. It pains me to worry about Gregg Allman's health.

But that is where I am at in my life. Thank God I had these three guys to smooth things out a little for me and to keep alive the low flame of hope that continues to burn in my soul.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Backs (And My Mind) Against The Wall

I finished Incognito - The Secret Lives Of The Brain this morning. It caught me by surprise because it is has 60 pages of notes, bibliography and index. I thought I had a ways to go and suddenly I was reading the last sentence.

It ended on a high note for me. The author pointed out that anybody who thinks they can fully understand a human being by breaking the brain down into it's smallest components, is delusional. He noted the difference between the brain and the mind and admitted that we still do not understand the ultimate essence of what a human being is.

That left the door open for me. I need magic. The concept of a soul is spiritual magic to me. It makes us more than a byproduct of evolution.

I enjoyed the book because it challenged my mind, got me thinking differently which is the key to making change. Change your mind and change your life.

I finished the book at 6:39 a.m.; it would be 20 minutes before Carol came down and we dialed up Morning Joe. I reached for Eckhart Tolle. I keep The Power Of Now next to me like a bible. I also keep The Tao Of Willie next to me as well. Always.

These two books give me peace every time I read them. They are filled with wisdom expressed in completely different ways. I tell myself I need to pick one of them up every single day to calm my nerves and give me direction. I haven't read either one for months.

I dove in and my blood pressure dropped, I breathed easier and my mind cleared. Talking about pain and how we are consumed by it, which is one major reason we cannot evolve to a more spiritual existence. You need to recognize your pain and then rise above it, use it as a tool to move forward.

At that point I put the book down to blow my nose and for some reason two glasses on the table next to me caught my eye. A shot glass sitting on a Carol-crocheted coaster and a cocktail glass sitting on a copy of Rolling Stone.

This is how I manage my pain. It is not an intellectual approach. Whiskey to soothe the savage beast. In the right doses it works magic. Problem is I tend to exceed the right dosage on a regular basis, although I am getting better at it. The only way I can succeed at getting to where I want to be is more Eckhart and less Crown Royal.

Back to the book and I read: "A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth." "The truth is that the only power there is is contained within this moment: It is the power of your presence. Once you know that you also realize that you are responsible for your inner space now - nobody else is - and that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now."

I obsess in wondering what kind of childhood I had. I have few memories and most of those are negative. I never felt a consistent and powerful love flowing in either direction between me and my parents. It bothers me and I cannot put my finger on the why.

We are paying for our house for the second time. If I had played my cards right it would have been paid for in 2001. We could have been free of mortgage payments for the last eleven years. Now we are committed to  25 plus years and a payment that is double what the original was.

I cannot get past that point. It eats me up.

I also consider it entirely my fault that we are struggling. As an accountant I made enough money that our combined income would make life easier. I despised being an accountant. I opted to chase happiness and as a result we have spent the last six years royally struggling.

The truth is, none of those things matter anymore. It's up to me. My mind can hold me back or my mind can set me free.

There are powerful vibes, positive and negative, bouncing around this house to the point I cannot believe Carol and I don't get knocked down.

Since October we have been hit with $1,700 of bills that we cannot afford. Because we are barely paying our regular bills we had to make payment arrangements to deal with this additional load. And on and on it goes.

We are both considering second jobs because we recognize that we just can't live this way anymore. A very unpleasant prospect.

In the meantime I am trying to dig a little joy out of Christmas. In the meantime I am trying to evolve myself to the point where I can succeed and we are not financially terrorized. In the meantime I hunger to come home to a house with a happy vibe as opposed to the thickly smothering sense of dread that I am greeted with every night.

There's a lot going on in this house.

I'm a dreamer. There is probably nothing in here that I have not said before. 10,000 times.

Life is pushing us around pretty good right now and we have to deal with it.

Whatever it takes, baby.

The point is I think I can use my mind to get me through this and get me past this. I have to do that. I am getting too old to sit in dark corners with three fingers of brown fluid glinting wickedly in the candlelight.

I don't know what I got. I don't know what I can do. I don't know how much I can take.

I do know that I cannot go on like this. I do know that honest effort will get us through.

No words of inspiration here, no promises. I am putting my naked soul out there. Admitting that I have done an awful lot of talking and very little doing.

Don't have that option anymore.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brainiacs On Parade

I continue to read the brain book and I continue to have my mind blown.

One major theme that runs throughout the book is that the conscious you, the you you believe is you, is merely the tip of the iceberg. There is so much activity going on behind the scenes in our brains that consciousness is an incredibly tiny aspect of the whole works. It may be that we have even less control of our conscious mind than we think. That there are all kinds of functions and analysis and sifting of input and analyzing and re-analyzing going on, and that what we interpret as conscious decisions are just the end result of what our brain has figured out. Almost like our brain controls our consciousness and that the consciousness itself is not independent or not as independent as we think it is.

The chapter I just read suggests that "you" are what your brain is, and if your brain changes, you change. This challenges the concept of having a soul. I am not comfortable with this idea because I have a romanticized opinion of what the soul is, but I at least have to consider this theory.

Your brain is affected by genetics and environment before you even have a chance at influencing it. Your parents get drunk, you are conceived and BOOM. You have a set of rules right there. The mix of your parents genetic makeup creates your genetic blueprint and has direct impact on your brain.

In addition, where you are raised and how you are raised have consequences. The foods you are fed as a kid, the chemicals that are in the water you drink and the stuff that is in the air around you all have an effect on your brain. If your parents are loving there is an effect; if they are monsters, there is an effect.

There are so many variables to consider and all of this happens when the conscious mind has little input or control. But all of it shapes and influences how your brain works and affects your outlook on life. Because of this, brains are vastly different and everybody is not created equal. I can dig that concept. It explains a lot. Could be a clue as to why some people are natural a**holes and others are a joy to be around.

Tumors in the brain can have direct consequences on how a person acts. There is a case of a normal guy who suddenly became a pedophile. When they checked him out, he had a tumor. After it was removed, he returned to his normal life. The tumor came back and suddenly he was back into pedophilia.

In 1966, Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, then climbed up into a tower at the University of Texas with an assortment of weapons and killed 15 people and wounded 30 others before he himself was killed. He left notes with his mother's and wife's bodies essentially saying I don't know why I did this. He left a note requesting that his brain be examined after his death. Doctors found a tumor but never agreed about whether that was the cause of his shooting spree.

The point is that our ability to detect tumors is crude right now. We might be able to detect tumors the size of a pencil point but even smaller tumors could impact brain function, along with genetic mutation, brain damage, small strokes, and hormonal imbalances that may be undetectable today.

Epilepsy used to be considered demonic. Psychiatric patients used to be treated with deprivation and torture. We learned more about how the brain functions and developed more humane and effective treatments.

Egas Moniz invented frontal lobotomies and got a Nobel Peace Prize for doing so. That blows my mind. Lobotomies are no longer all the rage but that is no comfort to Randall P. McMurphy.

The point is there may be things going on in our brains that we cannot even detect and yet these things may have a direct impact on who we are and what we do. In the future as we continue to refine our diagnostic techniques we may look back on the 21st century as a most barbaric and cruel era. I already do anyway but that's a topic for another day and time.

One thing the author said gave me hope. He says we can train our brains. In some cases peoples' anti -social behavior can be eradicated by changing brain patterns. I'm not talking shock therapy here, I'm talking mental exercises that re-wire your brain.

That's exactly what I need to hear. Right now my brain is a big bowl of mush. It sloshes around when I shake my head.

But I am doing mental push ups, baby, in training for the famous final push. So stay tuned and I'll, ahh, what I'll do is, ahh, I'll try to - wait a minute - what was I saying?

Dead In My Tracks

Shuffle mode on my magical iPod machine is going to burn out my mind and my emotions.

Had the thing playing yesterday as I segued from writing to washing dishes to exercising to showering. Heard an Elvis Christmas song, Bruce doing Santa Claus is coming to town, Tom Jones doing My Way, The Stones, Hank Williams (Sr., not jr. the a**hole), Woody Guthrie, The Allman Brothers, Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker. By the way if you love the blues and want to hear some primal, guttural blues, dial up Howlin' Wolf. If you want to hear menacing blues dial up John Lee Hooker.

Last year I created a Christmas play list but forgot to delete the Christmas songs from the general body of songs I have accumulated so when I hit shuffle, a Christmas song will occasionally pop up. In July this annoyed me. Right now it is a treat.

After all this variety both of emotion and music to which I alternately sang along with, danced to, or both, Warren Zevon pops up singing Knocking On Heaven's Door.

I was walking across the living room and literally stopped dead in my tracks. When he recorded this song he WAS dying and he knew it. The lyrics might have been more of a prayer for him or a release or an understanding or a warning to Jesus. Whatever he had in mind, the lyrics had to mean more to him than anybody else who has ever recorded the song.

On the surface he had a great attitude about his impending death. Dave Letterman and he were close friends, which gave Dave the courage to ask Zevon's advice to those of us lucky enough to be alive and healthy. Warren said: "Enjoy every sandwich."

I have always loved those words. They break life down to the basics and  highlight his wicked sense of humor.

Internally I'm guessing Warren was struggling with fear and astonishment and anger and disbelief. I don't know how many takes it took to get that song down, but it had to be as gut wrenching for the musicians playing along with him as it probably was for him.

EMOTIONAL LANE CHANGE: I have been using The Kinks "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" to fire myself up almost every day. Listening in rapture on my new Bose speakers as I sit in front of the keyboard. I was looking around YouTube as I listened and there was a Sopranos video off to the side with this song listed.

At the end of every Sopranos episode a great song accompanied the rolling credits. It was different every week and it was an amazingly eclectic mix. I looked forward to the credits almost as much as I did to the show.

I have a feeling that Steven Van Zandt had a hand in the choosing of the songs. He is Bruce Springsteen's guitar player and he played Silvio on The Sopranos. Beautifully, I might add. He is deeply knowledgeable and respectful of music and DJ's his own eclectic radio program.

Anyway I dialed it up and it was a bunch of great clips from the show flying across the screen as The Kinks kicked ass.

I listen to that song and picture myself breaking free. Free from my own self imposed bonds, free from the bonds imposed upon me by society and my job and responsibility.

Suddenly I'm listening to the song in relation to clips of violence and death and insanity, sensitivity and family and happiness within the weirdness of a fully committed criminal existence. A lifestyle that could not be farther from the norm. You can't get more free than that. And it made perfect sense.

Music, man. I will write about it forever because it continues to surprise me and inspire me and move me.

It stops me dead in my tracks.


I just flipped my calender to December. The final flip in 2012.

I think a procrastination tax should be in effect. The calender purveyor sold me the calender based on the assumption that I would use all 365 days available to me. Because I am slow moving and largely unaware I don't always flip on Day One of every month. That makes the remaining days on the calender more valuable and I should pay a surcharge for increasing the value of the calender through procrastination.

The purpose of this tax would be to make me more responsible. More efficient. More organized. It would inspire me to timely flipping and plug me in, make me more aware of exactly where I is at in the calender year.

The above philosophy was inspired by the fact that I am trying to crank up the writing machine this morning. Sometimes you just have to write to get the juices flowing. No matter what dribble fills the page. If you think the procrastination tax is brilliant, contact me and we will start a movement. If you think it is silly give me some leeway. I am not awake yet.

This calender is an SPCA calender. It was cool and disappointing as well. Cool because I love animals infinitely more than humans, disappointing because it was almost exclusively dog oriented. Only a few cats featured. Unacceptable.

And December is a real disappointment. Maggie is the dog and she is UGLY. A real fru fru dog. Looks like a mutated Afghan hound. Not a good way to end the year.

I may buy an Edgar Allen Poe calender for 2013. It caught my eye. But I am not done yet. I want something awe inspiring or bizarre. I want a calender that cannot be ignored. To keep me awake and alert  next year. I'll keep you posted. You have a right to know.

I have begun the search for a second part time job. I am done with poverty. The scum I currently work for are committed to keeping part timers down and stripping them of all rights, opportunities and dignity. I am tired of sleeping cautiously with one eye open fearfully trying to anticipate the next financial crisis and how to handle it.

I continue to exercise, I continue to write, I continue to work a soul sucking dead-end job, I have initiated a search for a second part time job, I eye the rapid approach of yet another year end with hope, anxiety, anticipation, wonder and amusement. I meditate, evaluate, push, rearrange, adapt and evolve.

Flipping to December has ignited a riot of thought and emotion in my tiniest of brains.

I am ready to write now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Morning Glow

Just be a human being, for Christ sake.

On the mornings when our schedules are in sync, Carol and I watch Morning Joe on MSNBC as we did this morning.

The show is politically oriented and highly contentious. The host, Joe Scarborough, is a conservative, a republican who drives me crazy. He served in the House. He's the kind of guy who thinks he knows everything and everything about him, his body language, his tone of voice, his facial expressions tells you so. I want to smack him in the head every time I see him.

There is often lively debate as they pit conservatives against liberals and debate the issues of the day. There is a hard edge to it and the people involved are usually intelligent and well informed. There is often a hint of anger, sometimes it is even overt, and conversations are interrupted and switched right off the track.

You get the point.

Today they had a guest who has a son with Aspergers disease. Apparently he and his son travelled around the country experiencing stuff including meeting Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Sounds like a great story and I will probably read up on it. But that's not why I am here.

This guy talked about the trip and about his son and all of a sudden everybody on the show is talking about their kids. And laughing. And exuding warmth. The tone of the show changed completely because these people were being openly human. Exposing true emotion and laughing freely.

Turns out Joe has a son with Aspergers. He told a number of stories about him and you could see the love pouring out of him, the humanity, the emotion.

Others on the panel told stories about their kids and Carol and I were laughing right along with these proud parents.

THAT is what it means to be human. That is living. Not just the parent thing but the openness, the ability to talk honestly and expose your essence without fear of reprisal.

Everything else is just a game.

It is rare to see in settings other than family or very close friends. Because like a dog that's been beat too much, we spend half our life just covering up (thanks Bruce).

Work is the worst environment for truth. We all feel that we have to prove how much we know and how tough we are and we are damn sure not going to flat out trust anybody else. You end up with this weird and surreal environment where people are trying so hard to prove their amazingness that nothing is real. Every comment, every conversation must be questioned. And really what is going on is that everybody is trying to protect their fragile souls by projecting invincibility.

Absolutely ridiculous.

That and countless other situations and disappointments in life force us to shrink our true selves down to the size of a peanut because that size is more easily protected. Easier to cover up.

This is an eternal source of frustration for me because I am a sensitive guy and I want pure human interaction in every circumstance. Of course I have learned to play act and to protect myself but I slip up from time to time because sensitivity is my true, inescapable essence. And when I do slip up there is always somebody there to slip the knife in.

I have to assume that this stuff gets to me more than other people. Most people take the "suck it up" approach and I understand that. It's called survival. Both in the work place and emotionally.

It just annoys me to think how easy it would be to make life exponentially more enjoyable. Let's face it - we are all making $100,000 less than we think we deserve, we all sacrifice and compromise, we are all astounded that our adult life is nothing close to what we imagined as kids. Just think how much more pleasant today would be if EVERYBODY you dealt with was just human. Having the guts to admit they are not perfect, being honest enough to admit they are confused, being tough enough to admit that they are just trying to figure it all out.

Being honest enough to stop pretending to being something they are not.

This will never happen. It can never happen. But at least I started my day out with a smile in a place where I did not expect it and with an honesty from others that caught me off guard.

For that short segment I looked at these people differently. Especially Joe. I didn't want to strangle him for a change. I caught an unguarded glimpse into his true self.

Moments like that are worth the price of admission.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Vengeance And Furious Anger

I continue to beef up my brain. With facts, challenging reading and memorization.

I memorized Jules' great blurb in Pulp Fiction. You know the one: "The path of the righteous man........." great vengeance and furious anger and all that.

Fantastic blurb. And it makes me feel powerful when I repeat it. Except for this sentence: "I thought it was just a cold blooded thing to say to a motherf***er before you popped a cap in his ass." Because "popped a cap in his ass" doesn't sound right coming out of my mouth.

It's like in Reservoir Dogs when the cop is schooling Freddy Newendike, an undercover cop, on his story so he can pass as Mr. Orange and infiltrate the gang.
The cop tells him "You got to make that shit naturalistic as hell."

That's what I'm trying to do. Make that shit naturalistic as hell. But I just can't pull it off with the popped a cap in his ass stuff.

Still, it feels good to say it. I even worked in that menacing look in Jules' eyes as he circles around and says "with great vengeance and furious anger."

I am working on my brain. I believe it can still be saved. It is hard work as I race against Alzheimer's.

But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.

Struggling Towards Optimism

I am trying real hard to be hopeful about humanity but it ain't easy with 60 Minutes around.

Two stories last night that slapped me in the face.

The first was about Health Management Associates, a multi billion dollar health management company with no soul. What a surprise. These people buy up hospitals and then institute goals and guidelines that force doctors to act in the interest of profit and against the interests of their patients.

Their approach is to set admissions goals of 20%. Doctors interviewed for the piece said typical admission rates are 10%. The only way to meet the 20% goal is to admit patients that do not really need to spend time in the hospital. Doctors are measured on their performance and if they are too far below the goal they are fired.

This is so despicable it is beyond belief. Playing games with peoples' health to essentially increase sales. This is the #1 reason I despise hospitals and fear ever being in a helpless position where I am forced to be hospitalized. I believe there is a good chance that decisions will be made about my care that have nothing to do with my health.

For people over the age of 65 the admissions goal of these monsters is 50%. Think about that. The most vulnerable people are the ones who are being victimized the most. One of the doctors said that this is dangerous because elderly people are more prone to "hospital acquired infections". In general the doc said the practice is dangerous to all of these patients, no matter the age, because of the possibility of medical mistakes. Imagine being unnecessarily admitted to a hospital and then having something go wrong because of some hungover bozo with the wrong medical chart.

Sounds like The Twilight Zone.

Health Management Associates installed software programs in their hospitals that automatically schedule a series of tests upon admission based on a person's age or situation BEFORE a doctor ever takes a look at the patient. The software also discourages doctors from sending patients home. When the doctor recommends that and hits send, a message automatically pops up that says "This patient is approved for admission - do you want to override that?" If the doctor does override it, he is questioned about it.

This is not original news in todays' world. But it sickens me to know that medical treatment is manipulated to increase profits regardless of the risk to the patients. And it sickens me to hear these types of stories over and over again. Because multi billion dollar companies can afford whatever fine is levied and then move on to find other ways to steal while callously risking lives.

The second story was about political prison camps in North Korea. They have a policy called Three Generations of Punishment. A person who commits a political crime is imprisoned and their kids and grand kids are imprisoned as well for their entire lives. This is designed to eliminate the lineage of opposition.

The largest number of political prisoners in these camps today are the children and grandchildren of the original prisoners. Innocent people who never see life outside a prison camp.

Unbelievable that this can exist in the 21st century. The guy featured in this piece was born in a camp and spent 23 years there.

They have public execution fields where inmates are forced to watch executions of people who have tried to escape or hidden information about escape attempts or who have helped somebody else to escape. The guy in the story watched a kid beaten to death in a prison school for hording corn. They also have underground torture chambers.

He was emotionless as he told the story. Up until he escaped he knew nothing of the outside world, nothing about normal society and how it functions. All he knew were the rules of the camp.
He turned his mother and brother in for plotting to escape and watched them executed. He said he did it because they violated the rules of the camp and he knew no better. Family meant nothing under those conditions.

That was hard for me to stomach. But who knows how a mind develops that is born and raised in this bizarre world. Maybe normal connections and relationships and understanding is impossible from the start. He said the public executions were not as bad for the rest of the inmates as you might expect because it was a break from the hard labor they were forced to perform. Strange logic in our world; maybe not in that world.

His eyes were opened when he met a new inmate. Someone who told him of the outside world. The two of them tried to escape. The new inmate died on the electrified fence. The featured guy was able to escape by using the body as insulation. He travelled through China and eventually made it to South Korea where he lives a normal life today at the age of 30.

Neither of these stories told me anything new about the level of corruption and evil in the world. It's just the scope of it that I find so disheartening. These are not isolated incidents and they are not small.

I don't get the human race at all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

One Hell Of A Day, Baby

I am getting sucked into this Christmas thing in a most spiritual way and you will suffer accordingly.

Driving to work yesterday in The Peace Mobile - listened to a Mariah Carey Christmas on the way in, a Willie Nelson Christmas on the way home. Two people and two styles that could not be more different.

Didn't matter. My soul was moved.

I really dig Christmas music. The spirituality, the hope, even the broken hearted I miss you most at Christmas stuff. It is pure, raw, emotion. It lays bare our eternal and deep seated need for SOMETHING.

We want Christ. We want Santa.

Weird time of year when two mythical figures are so revered. I hesitate to call Jesus mythical. I want him to be real. It is so hard for my tiny brain to accept the fact that I die into nothingness. Evolution is a cold concept. It is also so hard for my tiny brain to accept the Jesus story. I am going to have to make a choice soon. The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

Our dear Savior's birth. The new born King. Glorified references to this dude that we ache to believe in, that we ache to save us. There is majesty in Christmas songs. To me it is a time when the essence of humanity's struggle is laid bare. But it is done in a spirit of hope, not despair. Bill Maher may not like it and I dig where he is coming from, but what harm can it do? In fact I argue that it is good for us to be honest about this fear that gnaws at us and express a hope that there really is an answer.

At least once in a while. Open up the valve and let out all that frustration you have hidden all year. Speak hopeful words, sing hopeful songs and screw anybody else who mocks you. It is extremely detrimental to hide behind a thin and disingenuous veil of false bravado 24/7 365. Only a fool refuses to admit they are human once in a while.

Annual Rant: Carol and I watched Love Actually last night. It is a tradition with us. Every year I tell you about it. The movie is pure fluff. It is also pure feel good. Just watch the goddamn thing. You will laugh, you will cry, you will absorb Christmas directly into your cellular make up.

The movie opens up with Hugh Grant talking over a scene at Heathrow Airport where people are arriving home and everybody is hugging and kissing and laughing and crying tears of joy. He talks about how everybody says the world sucks and is filled with heartbreak. Says he doesn't see that. That if you look around you will see that love, actually, is all around us.

He's right. There really is a lot of love in the world. Families, friends, compassionate people for struggling strangers. We tend to hide it a bit. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. We humans are eternally stupid. I will try to look for it more closely. Maybe it will soften some of my writing.

Carol and I made a pact to also watch A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott), It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th Street. Personally I plan on watching Love Actually and A Christmas Carol more than once. We will also watch the David Letterman Christmas special show with Dave and Jay Thomas knocking the meatball off the Christmas tree with a football, Jay's Lone Ranger story, AND Darlene Love singing her heart out on Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) with Paul Shaffer and his magnificent band wailing behind her. Another tradition of ours.

Big News: Technology, baby. You gotta love it. I have been chasing a Christmas song for a couple of years now. A song that I love, that gives me goosebumps every time. I never knew the name of it so I chased it on YouTube, chased it on Google, typed in lyrics, could never find it. Drove me out of my mind.

The song pops up on the sound track at work yesterday. I go into a frenzy. I ask this guy Rich "Does the soundtrack include song titles?" "No". He walks out under a speaker, holds up his magic phone device for a few seconds and says "The Winter Song. By Angel."  BOOM. I don't know if he had to sprinkle the phone with holy water or say a quick prayer or work up some alchemist's potion but goddamn it, it made my day.

I am listening to it right now. For the second time this morning. I OWN it now. It's mine and it will never escape.

What a day, yesterday. Mariah and Willie, Love Actually, and The Winter Song. I am bursting with pure, unadulterated passion. Yeah, baby - Christmas passion. And I am just getting started.

For the first time in a long time Christmas is evolving into sweet magic for me instead of regret.

Feels pretty good.