Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Unlikely Couplings

CMT has a series called Crossroads.

They pair artists together you might not envision performing together, almost always with exquisite results. They perform each other's songs together.

I saw Zack Brown and Jimmy Buffet and was thrilled. Together they were mucho excellento; I was also turned on to Zack Brown in a big way.

Last night Carol and I watched Mumford & Sons performing with Emmy Lou Harris.

My God what a beautiful, soul enriching, spirit enlightening show.

In between songs there are little mini, sit down conversations with the performers. I love that because whenever the soul of an artist is exposed in other than the medium in which they excel, you are getting a little closer to the essence of the creative spirit.

And the soul of sensitive and expressive people is exactly where you want to be as a human being.

It's the sweet spot, baby.

Although I was a little disappointed with the two Mumford boys (Marcus and????) who sat down with Emmy Lou. They cut her off in conversation a couple of times, when they should have been groveling at her feet.

However, Emmy Lou took the high road. She is an elegant lady, a woman who gives off an air of supreme confidence. She is quietly intimidating.

She let the boys ramble, then she made her points.

And her points carried weight.

Just like when they performed. Emmy Lou was not loud, she just added a sweetness, an ethereal nature, to the songs and lifted them closer to God in so doing.

And she did it effortlessly.

Together they performed "The Boxer." Simon & Garfunkle. The Mumfords and Emmy Lou did an exquisite job.

I don't know what it is about this song but I do know it goes right to my gut. I love thousands of songs. LOVE. THOUSANDS.

That is not an exaggeration. Music is everything to me. At my autopsy, the inventory will go like this: Swollen liver, bloated heart, damaged lungs, acid embattled stomach and..............whoa, what the hell is this? Oh, here it is - music. Yeah we got some music here. LOTS of it.

There is a short (relatively) list of songs that just knock me down. "When A Man Loves A Woman" is one.

"The Boxer" is another.

I listened intently, looking for something I can take into the new year.

I am truly a desperate man. I am on my knees at the end of 2013, in pain, exhausted, trapped in a job that is literally killing me. 2011, 2012, and 2013 were all intense years.

I need to bring something to the table in 2014. I need it like I have never needed anything else in my life.

"I have squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises." Mumbles, false promises I have made to myself over the years.

I need the truth. My own truth. Not anybody else's.

"All lies in jest, 'till a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

My weakness. I hear what I want to hear and that has done me no good.

I have disregarded the truth. The raw truth.

"In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that layed him down, or cut him 'till he cried out in his anger and his shame, "I am leaving, I am leaving", but the fighter still remains."

I am that fighter who still remains. Fighting the same battle, the same battles.

It is time to leave.

I have reams of words spinning around my head. Thoughts and impressions I have collected over the last few months regarding my 60th birthday and 2014.

Inevitably, I will attempt to lay them out here. I don't know if I will be able to connect them all. I don't know if I can make sense of it all.

But you know I will try.

You better mix a drink on that day. You will be in for a long read.

It's The Little Goddamn Things (and a Sleep History)

The more that gets taken away, the more you dig what is left.

I have to sleep on my back. Period. I can't call it sleep because I can't sleep on my back. It's more like slipping in and out of a coma. I take a pain killer before I go to bed and within half an hour I pass out. Out of exhaustion, because I haven't slept well in a solid month, and out of TPC - temporary pain cessation.

For some strange reason I seem to wake up right around 3:00 every morning. I visit the porcelain God, crawl back into bed and then the games begin. The lying there, mind racing, can't get back to sleep games.

My sleep history is as follows. I slept on my stomach my entire life, contentedly, until 1990 when I hurt my back in a strange and twisted weight lifting incident. (Hyperbole).

After that incident I could no longer sleep on my stomach; it killed my back. So I had to learn to sleep on my side and have not had a solid night's sleep since.

I have never been able to sleep on my back.

Now, with the pinched neck bullshit, I cannot sleep on my side. Serious pain.

So when I'm awake I lie there like a corpse, hands folded over my chest, bemoaning my fate.

Every once in a while out of sheer desperation I roll over onto my right side just to get some relief. The left side is far out of the question. When I roll to the left everything goes crazy. Neck, shoulder, tricep, forearm, back. Yowza, baby - I am a masochist but this stuff is not in my pleasure zone.

Anyway, I am lying on my back, the hip starts to hurt, the knee starts to hurt, the back starts to hurt, I get pissed off and roll to the right.

I get five minutes of relief. My body actually says thank you, I am comfortable here. I sink into the mattress.

Until the pain begins. Then I furiously roll back onto my back.

This morning Carol crawled out of bed and I was on my back, uncomfortably. Pissed off I rolled to the right. The pain never came. What?

I fell asleep. I fell agoddamnsleep. I woke up at 8:30, stunned, amazed and amused.

After Lakota nudged me to complete awakeness I got down on my knees and thanked Jesus for the temporary reprieve of pain.

I don't know where it came from or if it means anything at all, but Jesus Christ, that little break, that exquisite ability to sleep for a while on my right side was quite as good as if someone handed me a million dollars.

It's the little things, baby.

Symphony of Snores

I spend a lot of time now, lying awake between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. listening to my women sleep.

Carol. Lakota. Maka.

It's soothing to lie there listening to the breathing patterns, although the breathing patterns very often become snoring patterns. A snoring duet, if you will.

Lakota is a quiet sleeper. She purrs like a Mack truck but sleeps quietly. Very often she curls up next to me and right under my chin, purring away. I take great comfort in listening to her purr. Strongly for a while, then it begins to fade and finally, almost always, with a deep sigh she purrs no more. Sound asleep.

I get a lot from knowing how content she is to lie with us, and in being aware of her peacefulness as she coasts off to sleep with no cares in the world.

Carol is generally a quiet sleeper. When she snores it is in that gentle female way.

But occasionally she snores like a long haul trucker and those nights are rumblers. I had to push her awake and away just the other night because now that I am forced to lie on my back, she was facing me and snoring directly into my ear.

Maka wheezes, but in my mind it passes for little kitty snores. It's kind of cute.

The duet comes in when Carol is doing her truck driver impression, Maka is wheezing, and they are alternating - on the off beat, so to speak.

Carol lets loose, and as that rumble dies down, Maka wheezes. It cracks me up. It's like they are in sync, like they have practiced this performance and are putting on a show just for me.

It's amazing how often it happens, this timing thing.

In the interests of saving my marriage, I don't want to overdo it on the long haul trucker thing. Carol doesn't do that very often. Which is good because I like the subdued performances better; there is more balance, less overwhelming contrast, more subtle nuance.

Front row seat for a 3:00 a.m. performance.

I feel like a VIP.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Perennial Suspect

I am getting tired of the cops knocking on my door and asking: "Where were you last night?" and "Can you prove it?"

Must I always be a suspect?

No Tomorrow

I no longer feel I have a tomorrow in my life.

I heard a meaningless marketing term in a commercial - "own your tomorrow." I think it was one of those commercials where you have a couple who already have money, sitting pretentiously in their financial adviser's office, wondering what to do with all their excess wealth.

An ad that connects with 1/2 of 1% of the population of this country. The rest of us sit in the Mortgage Vampire's office, squirming, explaining unconvincingly how we are going to catch up on being three months in arrears.

But I digress.

For some reason the tomorrow thing really slapped me across the mouth. It has a lot to do with the unlimited thoughts and impressions and concerns and realities that have been coursing through my brain over the last few months.

Three days from 60. I am three days away from 60.

I no longer have a tomorrow. I have only a today.

I have backed myself into this corner. You have heard it all. The whining, the anguish, the confusion. You choke on it over your Wheaties in the morning.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change."


How can a sixty year old have a tomorrow? I have only a today and a today and another today.

Courses must be departed from.

There is no time left for whining, anguish and confusion.

An ominous realization.

Every day has to be TODAY! The pressure is enormous to negotiate change immediately, especially considering health concerns and employment idiocy.

And age.

It would be dangerous to smile upon tomorrow's potential when today finds me a walking time bomb.

There is no comfort in tomorrow.

Because whatever tomorrow is, it is tiny compared to what the past has been.

These are just thoughts.

Thoughts I am thinking today.

I hope I derive some benefit from them.

3 in 24

We took a pretty good whack at the Christmas spirit thing. We really did. No word of a lie.

I never use that expression. But a guy I worked with many years ago did constantly. "No word of a lie."

I am not sure of his intelligence level. His philosophy was no food shopping. He was young, married, two kids and they did not food shop. They went out every night for supper - McDonald's, Burger king etc. I am not quite sure how that worked, what they did for breakfast and lunch, but that was his philosophy and he stuck to it. Said it was no more expensive than shopping and a lot more fun.

I imagine his kids today weigh 430 pounds each. At least they were not exposed to the unforgivable trauma of food shopping.

Christmas Eve, man - we really went at it. Watched "A Christmas Carol" - George C. Scott version, naturally. And right after that we watched "It's A Wonderful Life." Clarence got his goddamn wings again and Zuzu knew it.

Zuzu. What an incredibly ridiculous name.

If I was George Bailey, I would kill my brother Harry. Harry gets all the glory, all the attention, everybody kisses Harry's ass. And he's so damn clean cut. You can never trust a man who looks clean cut. At least George had a bit of a wild shock of hair falling over his forehead. And when he was thrown into "No George" world, he had a wild look in his eyes. I liked that look. He looked capable of serious violence. Get Harry out of the way and George is The Bailey in town.

Just a thought.

You gotta love James Stewart, though. What a unique guy and what a unique way of talking. I just wish he threw that loose banister thing threw the window just once in the movie.

So we took quite a risk watching those two movies back to back on Christmas Eve. Who knows what kind of vibe you could trigger under those circumstances.

We survived it.

I love Scrooge in the cemetery, kneeling before his own grave, pleading with and crying in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Future, saying: "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from,  the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."

"Good spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life."

I love that scene deeply. A man who has laid out before him the consequences of his current approach to life, with the subtle message that he can change the outcome with an altered life.

We all need a moment like that, baby. And apparently we need a ghostly spectre to accompany that moment, to provide exactly the gravity we need to initiate change.

As if all that was not enough, on Christmas day my son Keith spent about an hour and a half setting me and The Ole Lady up with Wifi. I could not believe it would take that long. I tried it once and hung up on the poor woman after five minutes. You would think you just call up and say OK, my numbers are 3 and 9 and bing bang boom the magic works its way through the airwaves.

Not so and thank God for Keith's patience. We signed up immediately for Netflix streaming, something I have been dreaming about since I was a small boy.

As the day wound down and the family departed, I dialed up Love Actually. The first movie to be streamed (??????????). Yeah we book ended it. Already watched it earlier in the week, but we love the goddamn movie and it was the perfect way to end Christmas day.

So three Christmas movies in 24 hours. We took a solid whack at Christmas spirit and were rewarded with hours of escape, smiles, thoughts and sensitivity.

I'd say it worked out pretty good.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dig This

"I've lived a lifetime, acting out a part, it's been a long, uphill climb, now all the things that used to mean so much to me, have made me old before my time."

"Old Before My Time"           The Allman Brothers

Last Exit, Baby

I started reading a book titled "Last Exit To Brooklyn" on Christmas morn. Written by Hubert Selby, Jr.

This is one dark book. Seemed appropriate.

It is set in the late fifties and revolves around the lives of those who exist on the fringes. Petty crooks, transvestites, dopers and drinkers. It also includes the lives of average people, but people who are one step away from broken; desperate people smiling through clenched teeth and barely maintaining the facade.

Like you and me.

Selby is heavy duty. He wrote a book titled "Requiem for a Dream." Haven't read the book yet but I have seen the movie. A few times.

It is the darkest, most hopeless movie I have ever seen.

Understand, I watch many a dark movie. Not to feed my depression, not to build on my own despair, but as a way to explore life. Experimentation. To see how far a movie will go to get to the truth.

"Requiem" takes the cake. Do not try to watch it. You will not be able to handle it. And because you are more deeply rooted in the blasé American norms than I am, you will quickly dismiss the movie as trash.

I am fine with that. I understand the concept of gratefulness as anesthesia, and the entire lifestyle that implies.

Anyway, from "Last Exit". The scene is in an apartment filled with transvestites, and drunken guys looking for a thrill but not sure how far they will go to get it. Everybody is digging on speed, pot and booze. Georgette is taking in the experience and musing about love. These are "her" thoughts:

"She took another bennie with her gin and listened to the music. The Bird was playing. She tilted her head toward the radio and listened to the hard sounds piling up on each other, yet not touching, wanting to hold Vinnie's hand, the strange, beautiful sounds (bennie, tea and gin too) moving her to a strange romance where love was born of affection, not sex; wanting to share just this, just these three minutes of the Bird with Vinnie, these three minutes out of space and time and just stand together, perhaps their hands touching, not speaking, yet knowing,...............just stand complete with and for each other, not as man and woman or two men, not as friends or lovers but as two who love.............these three minutes together in a world of beauty, a world where there wasn't even a memory of johns or punks, butch queens or Arthurs, just the now of love."

Later in the book. This is Harry: "....gripped the pillow with his hands, almost tearing it, his face buried in it, almost crying; his stomach crawling with nausea; his disgust seeming to wrap itself around him as a snake slowly, methodically and painfully squeezing the life from him, but each time it reached the point where just the slightest more pressure would bring an end to everything: life, misery, pain, it stopped tightening, retained the pressure and Harry just hung there his body alive with pain, his mind sick with disgust."

Describes a lot of lives.

I recommend this book for light holiday reading.


Six and 1/2 Words

Maka is persistent.

We have been struggling with, really suffering with, the unimaginable cold and discomfort of winter for what, four or five months now? A maddeningly, torturous hell.

Still, when I descend the stairs in the morning, Maka saunters over to the sliding glass doors hoping I will let her out on to the screened in porch. Her favorite place to be in the entire world.

I had to jolt her back to reality yet again this morning, and it pained me to do it, with these words:

"Sorry, Little One. It's fucking winter."

When Is It Over?

Now, as I drive home from The Asylum each night, and I see Christmas lights twinkling in each window, Christmas trees illuminated, I want to pull into each and every driveway, knock on the front door, and greet the inhabitants with these words:

"Rip the goddamn lights down and kick over the tree. Christmas is over, for Christ sake. It was never really here. It was nothing. But it is gone now. Rip down those lights and stop putting out false hope illumination into the world."

I want to scream those words into their faces at the top of my lungs, really shock them out of yuletide lethargy.

Not really. Just kidding. The lights soften me and make me a better man.

Friday, December 27, 2013

What I Got For Christmas

 I was digging on a pretty cool day on 12/25. Keith, Emily, Craig, Karen, Eddie and Carol.

Ultra family magnificence.

After a few cocktails, Keith sidled up to me and told me that his gift to me this year, as he handed me some paperwork, was to disown me as a dad. Small d.

He told me that I was a lovable loser and a no account boozer. Accused me of stealing his allowance money and some of his girlfriends from time to time when he was younger. He suspected me of drug addiction and petty crime. Said the words I never explained to him as curse words, got him suspended from school a couple of times. Told me he had no sense of fiscal responsibility due to the example I set by consistently buying Allman Brothers tickets rather than paying the mortgage.

In summation he told me I was a lazy, shiftless guy who set no kind of responsible example as a dad, nearly ruining his own life as he tried to figure the world out on his own.

I couldn't really argue, so I said thanks and immediately sat down next to Craig.

Who reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out some paperwork and told me he was disowning me as a dad. Small d.

He told me he never felt he could trust me as a child. That his hip hop CD's were constantly going missing and that he suspected I was the thief. But he was afraid to confront me because he thought I would beat him. He told me he figured I was the one who kept stealing his stash of booze from down in the cellar and later, his stash of pot from his bedroom. Said he felt I was drugged up and boozed out and that the example I set of always travelling with nips gave him a warped sense of what he could get away with in life, resulting in a night or two in jail with friends he never sent Christmas cards to.

In summation he told me I was a lazy, shiftless guy who set no kind of responsible example as a dad, nearly ruining his life as he tried to figure it out on his own.

I was struck by the similarities in their closing arguments.

I retired to the relative safety of the recliner.

After everyone left I asked Carol if she was happy with the necklace I procured for her at Jared's. She said she loved it and then told me she had filed for divorce. Said I was a spineless, weak willed guy, constantly leaking tears, who does not even come close to the definition of what a man should be. Told me I kiss like a fish and that I leave soap streaks on the dishes. Said she loathed the way I play dumb all the time so I can get her to do whatever it is I don't want to deal with. And she said she could never respect a man who cannot even fold a T-shirt neatly.

In summation she told me I was a lazy, shiftless guy who set no kind of example as a husband, nearly ruining her life as she made her way down the road with me as a handicap by her side.

Again, there were similarities in her closing argument.

It was an eventful Christmas. Not exactly what I expected.

But I've had worse.

December 26

So December 26 rolls around and it ain't quite the same.

It doesn't pack the same punch as December 25. For most Americans it means going back to work. There was a time when the holidays were sacred. People got to stretch them out, grab an extra day here and there and enjoy them for what they truly are. A chance to relax, to catch your breath, to reflect.

That was accepted.

Now you have to work 18 days before the holiday and 16 after just to get paid for the holiday. Employers have taken the concept of free time and turned it into an ordeal.

And people work three part time jobs, they work everywhere and all over the place, they work Sundays like any other day, so there is no sense of specialness to weekends or holidays.

Christmas and Thanksgiving especially, these are holidays that people should be allowed to bask in. To really kick back, to stop and remember what it is like to feel like a human being instead of a crazed machine doing every employer's bidding to collect three paychecks that in total fall short of the bills due.

I am saddened by the number of people who tell me they are going to get drunk on Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is the goal. "I am going to sit home and get drunk as hell." I heard that over and over again in The Asylum as I sold mega amounts of booze to jittery looking, addled, stressed out semi-humans.

That does not sound like holiday spirit to me, it does not sound like a human being who is preparing to slide into a glorious day off and dig it for the peace it provides.

We have perfected the art of inhumanity in this country. We literally work ourselves to death. Vacations are dreams, holidays are brief breaks, there is no relief, no sense of peace.

The rest of the world doesn't operate this way and they are healthier for it.

I worked long hours on Christmas Eve day and was dutifully up at 6:30 on 12/26. Me and millions of others. I drove to work in a daze yesterday and cursed every goddamn customer who came into the store.

Retail is especially thrilling. Retail is the serial killer of holiday spirit. When you work in retail you develop a deep and abiding hatred for the holidays and for all the greedy little, beady eyed, ungrateful customers who shop with angry pretense.

The irony there is that job growth today is in part time, retail employment. Precisely the type of jobs that pay tiny wages and deliver maximum stress.

The holidays don't feel like holidays anymore. Soon all businesses will be open 365 days a year and employees will be reduced to groveling flesh blobs whose lives revolve around their horrific jobs rather than revolving around their precious lives.

I want to believe that when the economy bounces back in 30 or 40 years, and jobs outnumber potential employees, that balance will be restored. That humanity will creep back into our lives.

But once you lose something, it is gone. Employers have grabbed another piece of your existence which they will never let go of. The more control they have, the happier they are.

Regardless of health consequences, regardless of the festering anger that bubbles violently below the surface in working America, that threatens to rip this country apart.

Happy Holidays, kids.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dig This

"You can shine your shoes and wear a suit, you can comb your hair and look quite cute, you can hide your face behind a smile, one thing you can't hide, is when you're crippled inside."

"Crippled Inside"    John Lennon

Happy Christmas

So I'm driving home digging on Mariah last night and ruminating on this whole Christmas bag.

By the way, Mariah drives me crazy. Girl keeps on stalking me. She called me up and told me how impressed she was with me. She heard I was Assistant Manager of a New Hampshire State Liquor Store. Figures I got a lot of coin. Figures I got a lot of responsibility. Figures I'm going somewhere.

She wants to party with me on New Year's Eve. Tells me she has been invited to Jay-Z and Beyonce's Italian villa. Wants me to join her. Tells me George Clooney will be dropping by.

I told her, first of all, I am married. Spending New Year's Eve with the only woman who has ever loved me for over 35 years. Off and on.

Besides, I explained, I am working on New Year's Eve day from 7:00 in the morning until 7:30 at night. The NH State Liquor commission, in it's infinite wisdom, has decided the store should be open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on 12/31/13.

Greedy, vicious, inconsiderate, stupid bastards. What about employees who want to celebrate New Year's Eve JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD?

This is why I don't put it past these cretins to decree all stores open on Christmas day in the future.

Anyway, Mariah backed off on the Italy thing but was even more impressed about my work ethic. Said she would call me around Valentine's Day.

I hope Carol answers the phone.

"Christ the savior is born." from "Silent Night."

"Oh Holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, 'till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."     "O Holy Night"

I was thinking how amazing, how unbelievably tasty it would be to know that Jesus Christ was born on December 25, 2013. Imagine if he was actually born today and everybody in the world knew it. Everybody knew the human race would be saved, everybody knew that war would end, that we tiny brained humans would learn to live together in peace and love and forgiveness and understanding.

That would be a special Christmas.

Imagine how you would feel to know that you could live your life in peace. And safety. In a world where juvenile gunmen do not slaughter innocent children. Where  a redneck with a concealed weapon can sit next to a black man in a bar and not have a an overwhelming urge to shoot him in the face. Where religions co-exist instead of slaughtering one another and taking innocent lives in towers to make warped statements.

Those words in those songs and many others like them express a longing so deep in the human psyche that we have to deny its existence.

Lest we appear weak.

Gotta suck it up, don't you know.

I lost myself in imagining, I allowed myself to believe that our dear Savior had truly been born, that it was undeniably true and that he would save us with beauty and love and grace and wisdom and inspiration.

It felt very good.

Of course my next thought was that it would probably be at least twenty years before he could accomplish anything and by then I would be 80 years old, for Christ sake. I thought he better be good.

And if he held off until his thirties I was doomed because 90 looks pretty unlikely for a lost soul like me.

Anyway I was thinking that we really do need a Jesus  event. A birth. An all encompassing miracle to give hope to and provide results for the entire world.

We are so far gone that a star flashing miracle is our only hope.

Anyway, short of a miracle birth, I hope your Christmas is at least peaceful and comforting. I hope you smile genuinely, I hope you laugh from your heart.

I know I will. With my family a spectacular Christmas is a given.

Happy Christmas to you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mariah Carey Gave It A Shot

If you are going to sing me a Christmas carol, make it emotional.

Rudolph can kiss my ass.

Ear-i-fied the Mariah Carey Merry Christmas CD yesterday and today. Especially today.

The first four songs are Silent Night, All I Want For Christmas Is You, O Holy Night, and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

I dabbled with the CD yesterday. On the way to fucking physical therapy. Checked out a lot of it. I pounced on it today. Nothing but the first four songs. Over and over as time would allow.

Stuff intensified me. It did not ignite Christmas spirit. That is not going to happen this year. I am dead inside. Feel nothing. Something is stirring inside. Maybe it is just fear of the end of 2013.

Another pisser of a year. Dead ends all around. Some ugly fucking stranger in the mirror. A joke of a life.

But 1-4 on the MC CD get a response. Raise emotion. As I sit here exhausted after an 11 hour Christmas Eve day in The Asylum - pure goddamn hell - I'm thinking maybe the response is connected to what I wish Christmas was. Some intense feeling of wanting someone to come home, or some overwhelming feeling of hope and reverence towards a new born king.

This ain't coming out so smooth but try to follow me. Christmas is a groove. With my family it cannot be anything but.

Tomorrow will be pure.

I will wake up next to Carol, a woman in every sense of the word. The woman who has given me her life. The woman who I cannot imagine being without. I always say if it weren't for Carol I would either be dead or in prison. That is true but it is really kind of a punch line. What she gives me goes infinitely deeper than that.

I will look at my sons at the dinner table, in the living room, in the kitchen. I will be blown away to recognize once again that these two men, these amazing men, are my sons. That they are good men, intelligent and wickedly funny. That they still love me.

I will look at Emily, I will look at Karen, I will feel so good to see the connection made between these women and my sons. It is not a one way thing. It is not just a "wow look at the amazing women my sons have attracted" thing. It is a "wow isn't this amazing that these two magical women with their unique talents and perspectives and personalities have meshed with what my sons have to offer" thing.

I will look at my brother and how easily he connects with the most important people in my life. My wife, my sons, my daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law-in-training. I will relax to the release in tension brought on by the way my brother makes me laugh. The easy way he makes me laugh with his humor that is so intelligent, so juvenile, so sharp and so quick. I will amaze at how lucky I am to be close to a man like this. Lucky to call him brother.

Thursday, December 26, they will all be gone and I will be back in roasting hell. Fucking Asylum at 8:00 a.m.

I want Jesus to be born, I want Carol to come back to me after her fling with Raoul the pool boy, to tell me that yeah, after some consideration, I really do have something to offer.

I want something big, something dramatic, to happen on Christmas day. Christ at this point I would even settle for one good night's sleep and one pain free day.

That's all I'm saying. Christmas will be magnificent because my family will make it magnificent. They will make me forget the incredibly stupid decision I made in 2013, against my gut.

For one day.

I think I had tears in my eyes tonight to tunes 1-4 on the MC CD because I WANT so deeply. I hunger for massive change. I want Christmas to be transformational. I want it to turn me around and flip me upside down and give me myself as a gift.

That probably ain't gonna happen. But I did buy myself some nice black Nautica athletic socks. It's my new obsession.

That's about as good as it gets for me right now.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Punch

Driving to work this morning digging on John Lennon. I grabbed a CD on my way out the door assuming it was the one that has both "Imagine" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" on it.

It was not. It was the "Imagine" album.

My plan was to alternate between those two songs for the entire commute. I have done this before, sitting at this desk, just those two songs at Christmas, over and over again.

It means something to me.

But alas it was not to be.

But as I listened to the CD I realized he was the perfect Christmas guy anyway. He was all about peace and love. A lot of the songs on this album feature John's caustic wit and his straight shot to the gut approach. But there are also plenty of sensitive songs, the ones that make your heart ache at how open and vulnerable he could be about the love of his life and his hopes for humanity.

Peace and love. He hammered those bizarre concepts home for most of his life.

And what the hell is Christmas about, if not peace and love.

His words, his intentions, his message were largely wasted.

We humans are not in a position to let love and peace into our hearts and minds. We are not at a place where we can allow those things to guide us. We are too far gone.

We do not have the integrity.

We are so far removed from what John Lennon envisioned, what he hoped to achieve, that we should not even call ourselves humans anymore. We are some mutated form of monster.

December 14, 2013 marked the 1 year anniversary of the day that 20 children between the ages of five and ten - FIVE AND TEN - were massacred in Newtown, Connecticut. The day that 6 adults were murdered at the school.

The day was commemorated, the children and adults have not been forgotten.

But the world, the entire world, should have stopped 8 days ago. Everything should have stopped for a moment in time, everybody should have stopped moving, stopped doing, stopped talking, stopped breathing.

To relive and to think about the atrocity that was perpetrated.

We should have made that rock bottom in 2012. The stopping point.

No more senseless death. Every resource in the world should have been directed towards steering humanity in a new direction.

Instead all we have done is experience more horrific violence.

Because we cannot accept love and peace as real things. We laugh at them.

We laugh at them cynically because we all know there can never be peace on earth. We all know that those who love are vulnerable.

It says unspeakable things about humanity that we just keep on digesting more horror and more injustice to keep on moving on.

John Lennon. Peace. Love.

I planned to look for Christmas spirit this morning. Hoped to suck it up from deep in my soul to permeate my emotion.

Instead I was assaulted with the twin concepts of peace and love. Those two pesky words.

A short while later I was punching some boxes.

What does it take to make it stick?

Might Be Time To Do Something About It

I'm at The Asylum this morning.

Get a phone call from another store - the store I used to work at - the store where five older gentlemen worked together smoothly, slickly and with constant laughter.

Call was from The E Man - the guy I was closest to due to his emotional vulnerability. He wears it on his sleeve like I do.

We had many honest, heartfelt conversations. And we laughed. A lot. A whole hell of a lot.

I have explored this topic before, how it makes me feel to reconnect with him on a purely honest level for a minute - maybe two - on the phone and then have to go back to the intensely meaningless and phony atmosphere that permeates the store I currently inhabit.

But today I put an exclamation point on it.

I released a couple of belly laughs while talking to him and tried to keep him on the phone as long as possible.

When I hung up, my head was inflated to twice its size out of rage. Rage at the painful and intense realization of where I was before and where I am now.

I was standing at a register. Boxes piled up next to me for easy access to better accommodate our deserving customers.

I let out an angry groan and slammed my fist into the boxes, knocking four or five onto the floor.

The only problem was, there were a lot of customers in the store. Many of them up front near the registers, all of whom stopped to look at me.

I quietly picked up the boxes and commenced to smiling again.

It might be time for me to do something about this unforgivable situation I have boxed myself into.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


"Ubiquitous" - present, appearing or found everywhere; existing or being everywhere at the same time.

This is an excellent word.

I intend to use it with ever increasing repetition in 2014.

Desperately Searching For Christmas Spirit

Boom, baby, Carol and I crammed in two Christmas traditions this week and we are better for it.          

Love Actually. Yeah we watched it again. The most unbelievable movie in the history of movies. Unbelievable in the sense that you have to suspend disbelief to watch it.

I always hated that phrase - "you have to suspend disbelief" - but it is true in this case. This movie is not rooted in reality in any way, shape or form. It is cheesily romantic, the plot is mushy with ridiculous occurrences - like Colin, the English dude who decides his love life will explode in America - so he travels to Wisconsin - and the first bar he walks into, he meets three, gorgeous, sexy ladies who invite him back to their house to meet the fourth gorgeous, sexy lady. They have only one bed and are too poor to even afford pajamas, so Colin has to spend the night in bed with the four of them - naked.

That is only one mild sub-plot.

One more. Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister. Need I say more?

But it doesn't matter. The movie oozes Christmas spirit, it oozes love, it oozes romance, it is touching, emotional and funny.

We love this movie and it ignites Christmas spirit and raw emotion in us every year.

I came across a web entry ripping the movie apart. I assume it was tongue in cheek - you could not possibly proceed from the assumption that the movie was made to be taken seriously. This person ripped every little thing - plot, actors, acting, clothes, coincidences. It was actually pretty funny.

I cannot hear "Love Is All Around" without thinking about this movie. Or Bill Nighy. With a ferocious smile.

 I am vibrating at the speed of life right now because I hurled myself upstairs after watching our second Christmas tradition. The David Letterman Christmas special. Yeah, baby this one will rock your soul and tickle your funny bone.

We had to make concessions this year. Jay Thomas could not make it. So John McEnroe stepped in to tell the Lone Ranger story and to knock the meatball off the Christmas tree.

It wasn't the same but McEnroe did a pretty good job of filling humongous shoes.

And then........................Darlene Love performing "Baby Please Come Home" accompanied by Paul Shaffer's orchestra and a choir or two.

Darlene loses no power from year to year. The song is  powerful and it rocks and she makes it happen. I have to replay it every year; one listen is not enough. And last year on Christmas day I played it for my brother and he dug it, so now that will be part of the tradition this year.

Get ready, Edward - Darlene will rock your bones on Christmas day.

We used to have one more tradition. "A Christmas Carol" on Christmas Eve. The George C. Scott version. We watched it with the kids. Not the kids as kids, the kids as adults. And their women.

Carol and I loved this tradition. But it got away from us and I am sad that it did.

"Are you in love, Ebenezer?"

Banking dudes: "You don't know us." Ebenezer: "Nor do I wish to."

Lines that we looked forward to, along with others. And laughed about.

But things change and traditions melt away.

Anyway, a couple of solid emotional highs this week synced right up with this Christmas thing.

Traditions are cool, baby. Doesn't matter what they are, doesn't matter what you think of mine or what I think of yours. Traditions are comforting. They tend to inspire emotion and memory and softness and love.

These are all good things in this arctic world we live in.

Christmas has not burrowed into my heart yet and it is running out of time. I have not listened to "Winter Song' yet, not even once. Or "And So This Is Christmas" or "Imagination" (which I have linked to Christmas in my heart.

But we did "Love Actually", we did the David Letterman Christmas special.

They made us feel good, they flashed our memories, they made us softer and they made us smile and emote.

That is some pretty good bang for your buck.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dig This

"The main reason Santa is so jolly is that he knows where all the bad girls live."

George Carlin

"Happy, Happy Christmas that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home."

Charles Dickens

"What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day."

Phyllis Diller

"The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."

Jay Leno

"Moving between the legs of tables and of chairs, rising or falling, grasping at kisses and toys, advancing boldly, sudden to take alarm, retreating to the corner of arm and knee, eager to be reassured, taking pleasure in the fragrant brilliance of the Christmas tree."

T.S. Eliot

Happy 70th Keef (One Day Removed)

Missed another one.

Keith Richards turned 70 yesterday. I've always felt connected to Keith because his birthday is  exactly one week before Christmas and mine is exactly one week after Christmas.

However he is better looking and healthier than me; I will have to work on that.

I won't go into my usual defensive rant about how foolish people condemn him without knowing a damn thing about him, other than what they read in the papers and see in the news. I have a much more intimate understanding of the man, having spent many a night and day in his company.

Not true. Wish it were.

I'm looking at him a little differently this year because of the health pickle I find myself in.

You gotta respect a guy who gambles with his life. Not a lot of life coaches would have said to Keith in his twenties "Yeah, go ahead, drink all the booze you want, take every drug out there, ride a 10 year heroin addiction to nirvana and you will be all right. Nothing to worry about."

He felt he could handle it and he took the risk.

I checked my bloody blood pressure yesterday and it is still right where Dr. Feelgood does not want it to be. 164/96. I was and am bummed.

I have not taken the radical leap but I have modified my behavior. Eating broccoli and cauliflower for lunch instead of cold cut sandwiches, exercising as regularly as this damn job will allow, cut back on the booze.  Taking the medication.

No results.

Apparently the next step is to start wearing white silken robes, eating sunflower seeds, meditating and training for marathons.

When I got home from blood pressure central (Rite Aid) I shoveled snow furiously. I was pissed. Maybe I was trying to shovel myself to death like Jack Lemmon tried to exercise bike himself to death in that movie. No I cannot remember the name of it.

When I walked into the house I wanted a tumbler of whiskey. Got to thinking what is the goddamn point. I like the way whiskey tastes and I like what it does for me. Got to thinking that if I knew definitively that I would live 20 more years no matter what, I would stop exercising, increase whiskey consumption and live on a diet of cheese steak subs and thick juicy steaks.

I do not know that definitively and I don't have the guts to take the risk. Not right now, anyway.

I did not have the whiskey. I didn't drink anything at all yesterday until one glass of wine just before bed. And I rode the bike.

There are a lot more substantial reasons to respect Keith Richards and I dig them all. I dig the whole package.

I love the man.

Trivia: For you novices, his real name is Keith Richard. The "S" got added somewhere along the line.

Happy Birthday, Keith Richards. Glad to have you in my head.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Only 52 Years Ago

In "Drunk On Sports" Cowlishaw tells a story about his dad, Willis.

Willis worked for Zales jewelry stores for 28 years. In 1961 the family had relocated to New Jersey, where he worked for an east coast Zales outlet.

Cowlishaw's dad was managing the store, a woman named Elvina (wow) was managing the costume jewelry and handbag department.

They had a dispute over an employee, and later on Willis called Elvina into his office after she had come back from lunch to lay down the law. As they were talking Willis told her she sounded like she had been drinking. She admitted that she always had a couple of martinis at lunch with her cheeseburger. (Martinis with a cheeseburger?) Willis told her she couldn't drink while she was working and she laughed in his face.

The next day Willis put a sign up on the bulletin board in the employees' break room saying that there was to be no drinking during store hours, including lunch breaks. Some employees were not happy about the new policy and went to the big boss, who called Willis into his office.

The big boss said to Willis: "I have a drink at lunch. You're in the East now, Willis. There are bars all over the place here. This isn't Oklahoma. I've got to tell you, you're not right about this. You cannot tell your people not to drink at lunch."

Ah, the good old days.

When our business went down the tubes I went to work for a book distributor. This was in 1999. The company had been family owned since  it's creation but it had just been sold to a huge corporation when I started.

 All I ever heard were stories of the good old days. On Friday afternoon the owner would buy beer and after the close of business, people would gather on the loading dock and have a couple.  I missed out on that.  That tradition was immediately killed by the new owners.

Who knows what's right?

Given the opportunity, some people would drink too much at lunch. Somewhat problematic for employees operating dangerous equipment.

Overall I think most people would not overdo it and it might do them some good to unwind a bit. By lunchtime most people are one step away from hitting that red nuclear launch button to destroy the world.

Or at least their job.

The truth is lots of people drink at lunch. And during working hours. We sell one hell of a lot of nips, in multiple quantities, to the same people every day at The Asylum.

A HUGE number of people smoke dope before and during work.

Bottom line: If the employer is going to ban drinking at lunch, then lunch break better be a paid break. Otherwise it is the employee's time and boss man don't own that.

Life's Bizarre Moments

I just spent fifteen minutes watching the NFL network while eating a lunch consisting of a bowl of broccoli and cauliflower.

Who would have thought my life could come down to this?

By the way, the dressing on the veggies was a combination of blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette. I was emptying two bottles.

It was not horrible.

Just One Drawback...................

Just one drawback with The Big Ride.

When snow accumulates on it, it is a lot of snow.

One helluva lot of snow.

Mario Lanza, Tony and Revia

Sammy Cahn was one cool dude.

I rip myself away from CD mania in The Big Ride (every once in a while) to listen to NPR. Always interesting stuff. Heard a thing celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sammy Cahn's birth.

Sammy Cahn was a lyricist, songwriter and musician. As a kid, Cahn learned to play the violin. He played in a lot of Bar Mitzvah bands and then, while still in his teens, played the violin in pit bands of burlesque houses. I have never associated the violin with stripping; apparently I must once again broaden my horizons.

Cahn hooked up with Saul Chaplin, who was doing the burlesque thing with him, and they began writing songs together. At first they wrote specialty numbers for vaudeville acts, but they did score a couple of hits with the Jimmy Lunceford band.

In 1940 Cahn went to Hollywood and began writing with Jules Styne. They wrote songs for 19 films.

Frank Sinatra was a friend of Cahn's. Sinatra introduced him to Jimmy Van Heusen, who became Cahn's last great writing partner. They wrote a bunch of songs for Sinatra movies and albums. Old Blue Eyes ended up recording 89 of Cahn's songs.

Sammy Cahn became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.

I give you that brief history to provide a feel for the depth of this man's talents.

Sammy Cahn was a character. When he wrote a song, he insisted on performing it for the recording artist so he could get across exactly what he was feeling. He did this repeatedly with Sinatra.

Imagine the balls.

In fact, in the NPR interview he offers a quick reference to illustrate what chutzpah (balls, for those of you with no ethnic frame of reference) is. Which goes: "A guy kills his parents and then pleads for mercy because he is an orphan."

I love that. I absolutely love that.

All of that is background for this story of Cahn's association with Mario Lanza. Mario Lanza was an Italian crooner who Cahn describes in this way: "Now Lanza, who had a voice that you could not believe unless you heard it in person - no mechanical reproduction of this voice does it any gestures. In a room with him, it was a staggering experience."

Cahn wrote "Be My Love" for Lanza and, in his way, sang it to Lanza to give him a feel for it. This is how Sammy describes Mario's reaction: "So Mario looked at me after I talk-sang "Be My Love" for the first time, he took the lyric out of my hand as contemptuously as you can take a lyric out of someone's hand, and he sang "Be My Love" back at me. And I tell you, that was an experience."

Now here is the thread that ties all this rambling together. When I was a kid, my parents had many Mario Lanza albums. And Sergio Franchi. And Enzo Stuarti. Italian crooners all.

Bet you don't have any of them on your iPod.

I hated that music.

Towards the end of the interview, NPR played a clip of Mario Lanza singing "Be My Love" and I was blown away.

I actually got goosebumps. This guy had a powerful voice and he sang magnificently.

My mind is a slow learning thing. Had I been more open minded as a kid I might have enjoyed that music with them. Instead I wasted a shot at getting closer to Tony and Revia, the couple that, for better or for worse, brought me into this world.

But that is how life works. You are supposed to rebel against your parents and every thing they stand for and everything they love.

Unfortunately we do it blindly. At that precise time in my life, I was discovering that music was enormously important to me. It remains so to this day.

But I limited my enjoyment by automatically shunning what my parents loved. It is kind of sad for me, at the age of 59, to realize that this Lanza guy had a hell of a voice.

Might have been kind of cool to sit on the green couch in the living room in the company of Tony and Revia and rock out to Mario Lanza. Share a few smiles.

Just a thought.

You never know where an NPR piece will lead you.

An Early Christmas Present (A Little More Spirit)

Carol came through again. She always comes through.

I staggered home through another snow storm and 8 consecutive at Lompoc just dying for a day off, which I have today.

Settled in on a cozy December night with the woman I love.

She told me she had a surprise for me; it was obvious she was excited. We settled in with food and the safety, the warmth of this house we have made a home, our cats and the itty bitty Christmas tree.

She dialed up my surprise on On Demand. The Colbert Report. We watched the show, she fast forwarded through the breaks praying that Colbert would not give away the secret when she hit play.

She did it masterfully and I had no clue. Finally..........got to the rare musical segment of the show.

Featuring Gregg Allman singing "Silver Bells" with The National. It was exquisite. Colbert even joined in; I have seen him do this a few times with other groups and it is obvious that he digs doing it. He didn't ruin it.

It was subtle, it was pretty, it was Christmas.

I asked Carol to rewind it so I could see Colbert's intro - I didn't know who Gregg was singing with and I really dug them, especially the lead singers deep, baritone voice. And I asked her to let it run through again.

This time I had tears in my eyes. Tears to listen to possibly my most inspirational musical influence singing a Christmas carol so softly, so reverently; tears to discover yet another musical group that deserves my attention; tears in recognizing the masterful way Carol wowed me with a simple moment.

She didn't just play a clip; she gave it to me like a present.

And it was a present. She gave me something. She softened the night. She opened up my diseased brain to a little more Christmas spirit. The itty bitty Christmas tree glowed beautifully in my line of vision as I listened to Gregg and The National (and Mr. Colbert) caress a Christmas carol delicately.

This is what Carol does. She gives me the simple moments that connect directly with my heart. And she does it with genuine excitement, genuine enthusiasm. It makes me realize the nature of giving, and how a life can be made more beautiful with such simplicity. And that pure happiness can come from the giving. Carol gets so much pleasure out of doing something like that, it forces you to face truth dead on.

You can make yourself happy by giving to others, and the giving can be exquisitely simple. No big gift, no grand expenditure. Just love and consideration and purity of intent.

I run around fighting the world, fighting myself, furiously trying to make my life simpler.

Carol grabs a remote and in a few short minutes, makes my life simpler. Reduces it to us, over 35 years in the making. Focuses me in on a man she knows I love and a moment she knows I will dig deeply.

She softens me up.

If it wasn't for Carol I would be granite.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PT And The Future

This physical therapy thing is really spooking me.

Strange when I walk into the facility. It is a clean, kind of modern, antiseptic looking place. I glide in on the upper level and am greeted by the receptionist, which in truth is a sign. The desk looks like a receptionist's desk, but no one sits there. There is a sign sitting right in the middle of it, pointing to this and pointing to that.

Kind of like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, but not really.

I head downstairs and there is where the haunting begins. If I walk straight ahead I am headed towards the orthopaedic side of the building.

That is where all the old people hang out. You know, the people over sixty. Wheel chairs, walkers, canes, slow moving bodies, bodies for which movement is challenging, slow moving bodies with pained, sad faces.

Instead, I hook a left towards the sports medicine side of the building. Here there is energy. Lots of energy. The people who are there have injuries. A lot of them appear to be athletes or at least athletic. People don't look sad on this side of the building, they look annoyed.

There is not a lot of distance separating the two areas of the building. In fact there is a small demilitarized zone in between them, a waiting area with a TV, of course, and a little coffee shop thingy.

I have noticed the demilitarized zone seems to be used by the old folks, or those waiting for the old folks.

I never hang there.

Even the therapists are perky in the sports medicine area. I like the guy that is working me over. He shares a measure of my sense of humor. This is a rare find for me.

The torture cubicles are separated by curtains that can be drawn or not. At one of the sessions he kept brushing up against the curtain. Suddenly he leaned back against the curtain and said "Look at me - I am in a puppet show."

I loved it. I know you more conservative types are horrified. That is why I don't spend time with you. No sense of humor.

We talk a lot. When he asks about my job I can say "It sucks" to which he replies "Sounds like it does suck."

He is still searching for answers. He found something last night that made him wonder if I have problems in two areas. It was indeed a painful find, both physically and mentally.

Because the progress is slow. I am still in almost constant pain. I am still not sleeping. It has been almost three weeks.

I am quite irritable.

Today is Day Eight of eight in a row at Lompoc. I had a particularly sleepless night last night. It would not take much for me to explode today and rip somebody's head off.

Most likely my boss. She is an ass.

Disclaimer: I am undergoing physical therapy. Not chemo-therapy. I understand that. (For those who feel the need to act as my conscience).

The progress is slow and I don't know if I have made the right decision. I don't know what I am risking. Maybe I should have gone chiropractic. Maybe I should be simultaneously undergoing acupuncture.

I don't know. I don't know.

Last night was the first evening appointment. Apparently right up against their closing time.

When I walked out of the sports medicine area, there was not a soul on the lower level. Not one.

I stopped for a moment and looked around. Looked over at orthopaedics, and back at sports medicine. Stood there for a moment and took in the vibe. The overall vibe. The "this is the present, this could be the future" vibe.

It gave me chills.

I went upstairs - same thing. Not one human being.

I stood in front of the Scarecrow's desk, looked at the sign, looked left, look right. No movement, no sound.

Took in the antiseptic feel of the place. The steel. The stone. The forced attempt at appearing welcoming.

It was eerie.

I walked out into a very cold December night knowing I will be walking back through those doors many times in the next few weeks.

Walking back through those doors not knowing exactly where it will lead me.

I am uncomfortable in many more ways than just physically.

Ain't Got No Christmas Spirit..............(????????????)

Ain't got no Christmas spirit.

At least up until yesterday. I was feeling completely dead about it. Felt nothing at all and didn't care.

We didn't have the tree up, no decorations, no nog on the lips. I was content to coast up to the big day, do the Christmas dance and move on.

In addition, Carol and I made The Big Decision. Screw the tree.

Every year we drag the damn thing up out of the basement and pretend to enjoy ourselves as we spend an hour putting it together and decorating it, when truthfully it was just a pain in the ass.

Then a couple of weeks later you gotta break it all down.

For what? No more little kids to dig on it, no more 2,000 presents under the tree. The only people the tree benefited was the cats. Lakota liked to sleep under it, Maka liked to climb up on and/or play with the branches and baubles. And frankly, the cats are easily entertained with little fake cloth mice that don't even move. Why the hell go through the effort to put up a tree?

Truthfully, I did enjoy meditating on the tree lights. Recliner bound, drink in hand, lights in eyes, thoughts in head. Those were always peaceful/depressing/reflective/sad/happy/throwing in the towel/gonna make something of my life moments. I dug it. Really dug it.

We didn't go hard core no tree though. Decided to go with a small one that we can put on a table.

So while I was suffering like a beat down dog at The Asylum last night, Carol went itty bitty tree shopping and came through like she always does.

Went I crawled home there it was sitting on the table next to the television machine - lit up, decorated, and looking perky. Directly opposite my recliner.

And best of all Carol said it took her four minutes to put up. FOUR.

I was instantaneously pleased. I won't say I got Christmas spirit. I don't know what Christmas spirit is. It should be feelings of love for my fellow man but there ain't no way that's gonna happen. Human beings are regressing at an exponentially increasing rate.

We suck.

The tree sparks reflection in me. That's what Christmas spirit is to me. Maybe because it only happens once a year, maybe because things are suddenly different for a few weeks, the change in vibration, the change in the air plugs into my brain and triggers pensivity. Is that a word? If not, I made it up. I have earned the right.

I like this little tree. I love it. And I will get to christen it with my thoughts appropriately tonight. Tuesday is bowling night. I will be alone for exactly 1 hour and a half hours.  Used to be I could be alone for four hours on bowling night. That is just one more thing this fucking job has taken from me.

But I will have that 90 minutes to gaze at the lights and look into my brain. Better than nothing.

If I come up with anything extraordinary, you will surely hear about it tomorrow.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Drunk On Sports

Started reading Tim Cowlishaw's book, "Drunk On Sports."

It has already sparked a few memories and a few connections.

Cowlishaw is a sportswriter, and was a raging alcoholic who didn't really know it or couldn't really admit it.

The guy is a year younger than me, so we grew up in the same relaxed times. The times when you could get pulled over drunk with a beer in your hand and the cop would tell you to dump the beer and drive straight home. I had a cop ask me one night "Are you Tony Testa's son?" I said yes, so he followed me home. Did not arrest me, did not tell my Dad.

Those were glorious days.

For those with absolutely no sense of humor..............I am kidding, for Christ sake. Those were stupid times. I should be dead many times over for driving drunk. I cannot tell you how many times I fell asleep behind the wheel. I drifted over on the highway once, bounced off the guard rail, woke up and kept on going.

Sheer stupidity. Cowlishaw is quick to point this out as well.

He refers to a six-pack of beer as a six. Memory. We all drank six-packs back then and we called them sixes. "Gonna go grab a six of Bud." Which cost $1.25 back then, $5.50 for a case (four sixes).

Nobody drank 12 packs. They didn't exist. Or 18 packs or 30 packs. I wonder if our need to buy beer in larger quantities reflects an increase in our insatiable need to self-medicate? Reflects a continuous decline in our national morale?

That is a topic for another day and time.

Cowlishaw talks about electric football as a kid. I played electric football. A lot. The stupidest game ever invented.

I loved it.

You had a playing board that plugged in. You set up tiny football players in formations, both offense and defense. You snapped the start button, the board would vibrate and the tiny football players would jiggle randomly around the field. As soon as the offensive player with the ball was touched by a defensive player, the play was over.

The craziest option was the passing game. You had this tiny foam or cotton or whatever the hell it was football that you could set into the quarterbacks hand. You pulled his arm back a bit and let go. It would snap forward and release the ball. If it hit your receiver, you would then snap the start button and vibrate the dude as far as he could make it. I guess if it hit a defensive guy, it was an interception.

I don't remember interceptions. I had a 100% completion per centage.

This sparked a memory of the most favorite game of my life. No kidding. It was a board football game, not electric, that involved cards and dice. I played it constantly. Kept records. If I could get my hands on this game today I would play it.

If I remember correctly, I had to choose an offensive card and a defensive card for each play. Roll the dice and the cards would tell you what each side did, determining the outcome of the play. A football clipped to the side of the board was used to mark the line of scrimmage. You would just slide it up and down the field.

I played all the teams and kept records, but for some reason my favorite rivalry was the Raiders vs the Chargers. I don't know why. All I remember is that whenever I had those two play each other I was more excited than any other contest.

That game is a fond memory for me, a soothing memory. It was a big part of my youth.

This book will be a good read. Cowlishaw is brutally honest about himself.

He also makes interesting points. He talks about how there is a bond between sports and drinking that's unlike anything else. Tells great stories from an insider's point of view.

Tex Schramm was the original president and general manger of the Dallas Cowboys. Schramm was a big drinker and believed alcohol had a prominent place in the sport. The dining area behind the press box at Texas Stadium became a full open bar once the game was over.

Cowlishaw, Jim Erkenbeck (offensive line coach for the Cowboys) and Schramm were discussing drinking strategies over a few drinks. Erkenbeck said "I'm just going to quit drinking when I'm 65." To which Schramm replied "Don't be so damn sure about 65."

Cowlishaw also says things to make purists uncomfortable. Like alcohol actually helped him in his career. For instance granting him insider access to Jimmy Johnson, who like to hoist a few.

I prefer this approach to discussing addictions to the puritanical "Devil's drink" approach. At some point in the arc, everybody's addiction is a positive thing. It becomes negative when it assumes control.

This book will be a good read.


Friday, December 13, 2013

The Strangest Thought

Sitting here with the latest issue of Rolling Stone in front of me.

The one with Will Ferrell gracing the cover as Ron Burgundy.

The thought popped into my head, uninvited, that he would be the next big name to commit suicide.

I am probably wrong.

Not Necessarily Uplifting

"I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
so I jumped in and sank."

Langston Hughes

And Now It Is Today

All I could think about yesterday was getting home.

I was in a lot of pain. Bolted out of The Asylum at 3:00 and fled down life's lonely highway (poetic license).

Cleaned the kitty litter box, threw the pork roast in the fridge, the red potatoes on the counter, and hit the recliner.

The only position I can adopt that is pain free is in the recliner or in bed, on my back, with two pillows under my head.

Sweet fucking relief.

I did that, awaited Carol's return from her own private hell, we had a quiet night together, very enjoyable (when I was awake) and a nice dinner.

Yes I got out of the recliner to cook dinner. Give me a break.

And now it is today.

I have noticed that today always rolls around. I am always on the run trying to escape something, whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, human contact, the reality of this life I have created, whatever, but I am always running away.

Unfortunately today keeps running towards me.

It was sweet relief to get home and hit the recliner and enjoy Carol's company.

And now it is today.

Physical therapy and work. And pain.

One of the goals of enlightened philosophies is to re-wire your brain. Because it is easier to re-wire your brain than it is to quickly change your life.

Searching for the strength to run towards today.

Swinging Past, Baby

Came across a great John Mellencamp lyric, from "Between a Laugh and a Tear".

"I know there's a balance/I see it when I swing past."

I often feel like I am veering from one extreme to another, all the while lurching out to try and grab some sort of balance.

Not necessarily balance as in normalcy. But balance to satisfy my own definition and fit within my life's blueprint.

By the way, my life's blueprint is lost. Searching for it is like investing in an archaeological dig.

It is out there somewhere, buried in dust and stone and dirt and gravel, dry like a desert.

When I find it, delicate piece of parchment that it is, I will frame it on the wall in front of me and supplicate myself before it.


Just finished an amazingly violent book.

"Donny-Brook" by Frank Bill.

The story centers around bare knuckled fighting, which is violent enough. In addition all the characters are into meth or cooking meth, they are all broken trailer park people, there is an incredible amount of fighting, killing, violence, stealing, meanness, poverty, mutations and sex.

Witness a description of the Hound Round:

"Four men entered the ring carrying lidded, ten-gallon buckets. Two walked towards Angus, the other two split off toward Ned. They removed the bucket lids. Dumped the contents on Angus and Ned. Twenty gallons of steaming cow's blood. The dogs, and the onlookers, grew even more agitated.

The Hound Round rules had been laid out for Angus and Ned the night before. Two fighters had three minutes to beat each other 'till one was without fight. If both men were still standing after three minutes, then a hound was released - turning the fight into man versus man versus hound. If another three minutes passed and both men and hound were still mobile, then another hound was released. The key was beating an opponent before the three minute mark. The round went on until one fighter, on two legs or four, was standing alone."

I need to read a book like this every once in a while to flush out my insides.

By the way, this book was recommended to me by my loving, sweet and sensitive wife.

The Three Year Arc

Really what I am looking at here is three significant years.

2011, 2012, 2013.

2011 was a year of achievement. I dedicated myself to health, set a weight loss goal and I achieved it. I was just amused as I went back and re-read year-end stuff because there was darkness there. I really accomplished a lot that year and yet I could not be happy about it, could not pat myself on the back, could not just savor the flavor of accomplishing something.

Of course, this is my way.

Why, Joseph, why.

2012 drifted by on nothingness. I remained a part timer and was frustrated royally about my lack of progress and the money woes we wallowed in.

2013 rolled around and on 2/22/13 my life changed. Full time job. Decent money. Dramatically less financial woes. High blood pressure. A pinched nerve in my neck.

A dramatic roller coaster ride from hope and happiness to wild eyed despair and surprise.

These three years mean something to me because I took a shot. I tried.

Actually since 2006 I have been bouncing around my life with eyes towards new horizons. You have heard it all before but it bears repeating because it is the track record of a man desperately trying to grab hold of his life.

Fled accounting, got into tending bar at an American Legion, which I loved, worked for a food distributor, tended bar at an inn which I loved, worked part time for the lovely and talented New Hampshire State liquor Commission, landed a full time job with the same people.

But the last three years felt more intense. Hence my intensified anger at where I am right now, what I am dealing with.

It is an eye opener, though. A physical ailment has intruded, alerting me to the fact that procrastination might not be the best choice with regards to the rest of my life.

I am trying to function with the pain, but I can tell you when the pain is gone....................

No sense in finishing that sentence.

So that's the story.

2013 sits like a turd in the middle of my dinner plate.

Gonna grab me a clean plate for 2014.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dig This

"That if desperate times call for desperate measures, then I'm free to act as desperately as I wish."

Suzanne Collins

2012, 2013, 2014........................................

I ain't gonna lie to you, I am distraught.

Last year cruising towards the end of 2012 I was bitter, angry and my hair was a mess. I ranted about how much I hated 2012 and how I wanted it to die a horrific, painful, stretched out death.

I did not have a feel for 2013, really had nothing to hope for except hope. Hope came around in Feb of 2013 but it turned right around like a rattler and bit me right on my ass.

19 days before the end of 2013 and I am lost, angry, and in pain.

This neck thing has turned into a war. Fucking hurts.

Had a physical therapy session this past Monday night and lo and goddamn behold I felt some relief. The first time in weeks. I was driving home and thinking that I felt a little better. Even more hopeful, on Tuesday morning on my way to The Asylum I still felt better.

Then my fucking job reared its ugly head and I wrecked my neck. I have been in extreme pain and discomfort since then. So much so that I parked myself in the office today and lifted nothing. I did not work a register, I did not move boxes. I basically pretended to be busy. I'm sure my little workmates were impressed.

 I have a 2:00 physical therapy session before going in to work tomorrow and I am jonesing for it like an addict.

Still, I am lost. Should I file workman's comp and drop out of site? Part of me believes this is the only way I can heal.

Then again I could lose my job. Remember, I work for scumbags.

I called the therapist yesterday because I was concerned. The pain spread from my neck, shoulders and back, to my right forearm, the back of my hand and my pinky finger went a little numb. I asked him if I was risking permanent damage. Believe me if I had to live the rest of my life like this I would jump off a fucking bridge.

You should see me drive. You would laugh your ass off. I have to contort myself into an awkward position just to get small relief from the pain.

I consulted a friend of mine, a union guy, about the workman's comp thing. He suggested I do it. Said I shouldn't gamble with my health. He also cautioned me that if I am put on light duty I could be fired because I am on probation, having been in the new job only 9 months. I do not even understand that logic.

Talked with my Swedish ex-pat friend and he suggested curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory herb, which I am now taking. You should see the size of these pills. I have to shoot them down my throat with an air rifle. He suggested acupuncture, and chiropractic. He poo pooed physical therapy.

I have no clue which course is the right course. For now I am sticking to the physical therapy thing but I think it will be a long road and one that is armed with the land mine of my goddamn job.

Disclaimer: I do not have cancer. I have not had a heart attack or a stroke. I don't have it that bad. Those words are for those who feel the need to act as my conscience.

So I am facing the end of 2013 beat down, depressed, lost, angry, sad and in pain. In goddamn pain.

Two years in a row is too much, man. I gotta get me some light.

Maybe if I could live entirely in my head I would be happy. I sure as hell can't figure out your world.

I am bone tired. Life is a vampire that oh so slowly, oh so insidiously, sucks the marrow from your bones. Until you fall to the ground a jellyfish.

I didn't think I would be going out this way. I do not want to go out this way.

I want 2014 to be a real year. A year of life. A year of living.

I want 2014 to be the highest high I have ever experienced.

How do I do that. Light it on fire and inhale the fumes?

Woke Up Got Out Of Bed Dragged A Comb Across My Head

Woke up at 4:30 this morning.

Did a lot of thinking waiting for the alarm to go off at 5:30.

Didn't make much progress.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Just A Thought

"He died in his sleep."

Quite possibly the sweetest words in the English language.

Dig This

"When you are driving to work at 6:15 on a cold, Tuesday, December morning - before the fucking sunrise, and you are driving to a job you fucking hate......................then you are totally immersed in life."


Monday, December 9, 2013

Intelligent Language Is Succinct

As you know, I worship words.

I made my way downstairs yesterday just before THE PATS game. Carol was watching Law & Order. She loves that show. So do I.

But my go to show when I just want to chill is The Sopranos. For Carol it is Law & Order.

She also loves Jack McCoy (AKA Sam Waterston). Absolutely loves the man. He is a threat to our marriage.

I am feeling a little more secure now that Jacoby has defected to the Yankees. She adores Jacoby Ellsbury. But he is a yankee now and I'm hoping this will inspire a flame of hatred in Carol that will grow into a towering inferno.

Of course Sam Elliott is still lurking out there. She's in love with him too.

I don't know what I'm going to do about that. He's a pretty cool guy.

Anyway I descend the stairs and hear Jack McCoy say "the power that we vest in the Almighty."

Intelligent language is direct, it is precise. It says a lot in a short phrase, a quick punch.

I know you are not impressed by this but I was, and I couldn't wait to wake up and tell you all about it today.

Today Minus One

I blew it yesterday.

I found a position that provides almost complete relief from the pain I have been enjoying.

In bed on my back with two pillows under my head, or in my recliner with two pillows under my head.

I spent as much of yesterday as possible in that position.

Its hard to type in that position.

So I forgot to remind you that yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of John Lennon.

I thought about it. It always upsets me. My mind has never accepted the reality and it never will.

May Mark David Chapman suffer endlessly and rot in hell eternally.

I loved John Lennon. I cherish his memory.

In a related incident, yesterday was Gregg Allman's 66th birthday. Its always a bittersweet day for me because I am supremely happy that Gregg is still around and  giving my soul a reason to breathe, while my mind is clouded with the sadness of the death of John Lennon.

I guess I will reconcile all that with the comforting thought and soul deep appreciation that both of these men have been a part of my life and as such, have made my existence on this earth more beautiful.

Happy Birthday Gregg.

Rock on John.

Dead Pigeons And The NFL

As I watched Rob Gronkowski get carted off the field yesterday with a season-ending knee injury my diseased mind engaged itself with dark feelings of the future of football.

Strange premonitions entered my brain and I felt uneasy.

Has a major sport ever disappeared from the landscape before? I don't know and I am too lazy to do the research.

More importantly, has a major sport that I absolutely love ever disappeared from the landscape before?

Not in my lifetime, and that is all that matters.

Live pigeon shooting was featured in the 1900 Olympic games. 300 birds were killed. That was the last we saw of that.

Solo synchronized swimming was featured in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics. I'm not kidding. Solo synchronized swimming. What the hell is that?

One swimmer who apparently was considered to be in sync with the music.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

That's gone too. But those are hardly marquee sports.

The knee thing has become the latest trend. There has been a major focus on violence in the game, especially head trauma, so the league creates rules to define legal hits, penalizing those that go for the head and upper body. As a result, defensive players are forced to go low and the knee often ends up being the target.

Target is not the right word. There are only a few scumbags in the NFL like Ndamukong Suh. Players who intentionally hurt other players.

In most cases the knee gets exploded because the defensive player has to go low and that is the end result. It just happens.

But it has happened a lot this year and has ended a lot of seasons.

The game is too fast to legislate specific hits, specific areas of the body that are OK to hit and others that are not. The defensive dude flys in and sees an opening, the offensive player makes a move and suddenly you got helmet to knee. Or helmet to chin.

The game has to be dealt with in an all encompassing way, and that is the thing that could kill it.

A decision is going to have to be made about what level of violence is OK. Since violence is inherent in the game and is part of what fans like me love, that decision carries a lot of weight.

I will not love THE PATS if they play flag football.

The NFL exacerbates the problem with its cold, corporate image. It is a billion dollar business and big business is always callously disconnected from its employees.

But to try to hide the connection between playing the game and early onset Alzheimers and dementia is amoral. It reveals a league to whom its players are nothing but product, easily interchangeable with all the young product lining up to fill the void.

Morality has entered the picture as something to be considered. Morality is not something big business gives a damn about.

It was weird. When I saw Gronk get hit and reach for his knee, a weird foreboding crept into my thoughts. It was not a comforting feeling.

On the light side, I read a Boston Glove article on Gronk's injury this morning written by Christopher L. Gasper.

He called Gronk a sui generis tight end. Isn't that spectacular? What an amazing phrase to connect to football.

I have heard the phrase before but had no idea what it meant. Until now.

Sui generis means "of its own kind; unique in its characteristics."

Perfect. That is exactly what Rob Gronkowski is. I have no idea what Gasper's motivation was for using the phrase. Impress his boss? Maybe he gets a bonus paid for using Latin phrases in a sports column.

I'm glad he used it. Maybe he got other sports fans to look it up, thereby raising the intellectual level of the country just a tad. We could certainly use it.

Next time I walk up to the counter in Wal-mart with a package of Charles Manson underwear I'm going to say to the clerk "This underwear is certainly sui generis."

My expanded intellect will create a ripple effect that will run through the store like lightening, incidentally improving the shopping experience at the behemoth.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Eve Ensler

I recently broke with tradition.

Typically I buy books and store them like ladies in waiting. Usually there are only two or three in the queue. I pile them on the bottom shelf of the end table sitting next to the recliner.

The most ostentatious display of my new found wealth is the increase in the number of books in the queue. I now have six or seven or eight books vying for my attention. So many that I had to create a second stack.

This gives me a warm feeling in my battered gut. I love books. I worship books. They are my religion. They are my life.

I read constantly. I read incessantly. I devour books and cannot satiate the hunger. So I read more.

In fact the case could be made that the most damage this hideous job has done to me, other than to push me to the brink of death, is to greatly disturb my reading schedule.

I need to read every day. There have been times - many times - since 2/22/13 when I haven't picked up a book in a week.

Yup it is all my fault. Yup I can do something about it. Yup there are worse things in the world.

The previous sentence is for those who feel the need to act as my conscience.

I tend to be somewhat methodical. I work my way through the queue. It is not easy to continuously type the word queue.

On a recent commute, listening to NPR, I heard an interview with Eve Ensler.

Eve Ensler is a Tony Award winning playwright, performer and activist. She wrote The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. She is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls.

This woman is a one person army.

In 2010 she was diagnosed with Stage IIIB/Stage IV cancer. In nine hours of surgery she lost her rectum, sections of her colon, her uterus, her ovaries, her cervix, her fallopian tubes, part of her vagina, and 70 lymph nodes. She survived 7 months of grueling treatments. On May 25, 2013 she celebrated her 60th birthday.

She wrote a book titled "In The Body Of The World", describing the experience and relating it to much bigger topics, which she spoke about on NPR. She spoke so eloquently and excerpts from the book were so moving that I had to have it.

As soon as I received it, I read it.

The following quotes from the book are preceded by Ensler's observation that when you are raped or lose your money and your home or when you have been diagnosed with cancer, people tend to shy away. They don't want to know you. They don't know how to deal with it.

Dig: "What if our understanding of ourselves were based not on static labels or stages but on our actions and our ability and our willingness to transform ourselves? What if we embraced the messy, evolving, surprising, out-of-control- happening that is life and reckoned with its proximity and relationship to death? ........................ What if our lives were precious only up to a point? What if we held them loosely and understood that there were no guarantees?.........................What if, rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category, you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart, and all the while - even if and particularly when you were dying - you would be supported by and be part of a community?.........What if this were the point of our being here rather than acquiring and competing and consuming and writing each other off as stage IV or 5.2B?"

This is one small example from this book of the amazing way Eve Ensler thinks. The book is filled with them.

It is also filled with great stories of all the friends who supported her through cancer with all their unique and innovative approaches towards keeping her sane and moving forward.

It is filled with horrific stories of the women in the Congo who are savagely brutalized on a regular basis. As well as horrific stories about how their children - born and unborn - are brutalized.

She relates violence against women and the trauma they suffer to the diseases that afflict them.

She talks about the enormous effort she put into building The City of Joy in the Congo, even as she was struggling with cancer. A city where women can go to heal physically, spiritually, and psychologically.

I am not even scratching the surface of what this book is. It is 217 pages short and it will fill your heart with hope and love and determination, and your brain with new concepts and approaches to life.

It will make you feel small and it will make you feel huge.

Read it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Silver Tongued Devil

I have three drafts sitting in limbo. Three recent attempts to write.

It sounds pretentious when I say "to write." Like I am some literary genius sharing my gift to the world.

Its just a blog. When I originally fired this thing up, it made me feel special. I was excited. I now realize that trillions of people maintain blogs. I am facing the fact that this may lead nowhere and that all I am doing is fooling myself.

A harsh thought indeed if all I am left with is the most predictable of lives.

Anyway I hate it when the words do not come. I hate it because writing comes easily to me. Which probably explains why I am just a wannabe. I am probably not trying hard enough.

Sometimes I'll look back over what I have written and realize it just sucks, so I don't post it. The drafts sit out there waiting for me to come back and give them another shot. Sometimes I do and I succeed. Sometimes I don't and I delete.

But that is not why I came here today.

I talked Dr. Feelgood into prescribing for me..........................pain killers.

I am a silver tongued devil.

I figured I had no chance in hell. She is aware of my loving relationship with the brown liquid. She is one of these by-the-book, dried-up, old school types who leaves no room for improvisation.

But I had to try.

Had the first session of physical therapy yesterday afternoon. The dude figures I have pinched nerves in my neck. He is theorizing that the constant one sided lifting that I do has closed up the hole between some vertebrae so the nerves are under constant attack. We talked a lot and then he did some manipulatin'.

The joint is called  the Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Rehabilitation. It was interesting to me because on the sports medicine side, which is where I was, patients were coming and going energetically. Apparently  a lot of them are athletes. It felt odd to me because typically a hospital environment is kind of downcast, kind of slow moving and pain filled.

However, on the orthopaedic side of the house were a lot of elderly people. When I came to the bottom of the stairs, one direction led to the old folk who were congregated around a TV, the other direction led to sports medicine and happy, shining people.

I was pleased to be heading to sports medicine.

Anyway, nothing the therapist did caused me any increase in pain. Some of his moves seemed to lessen it.

Nevertheless, by the time I got home the pain was significant. I had placed a call the day before to the good Dr., seeking relief. Her office called back around five last night.

One of her minions. She is too valued to talk directly to a low level substance abuser like me.

Anyway Dr. F took pity. Five minutes after I got off the phone I was back on the phone to the pharmacy. "Has my Doctor called in a Vicodin prescription?" "Nope."

I waited 45 minutes and called the pharmacy again. I felt like a drug addict. This time the answer was yes.

I was standing in the pharmacy before I got off the phone. Fifteen minutes before they closed. Felt like I had won the lottery.

The first pill disappointed me. It lessened the pain but did not kill it. Kind of like separating from your spouse but not getting divorced.

Took a second at bed time which enabled me to sleep until 4:45 a.m.

I woke up in pain and dropped another magic pill.

That's when I realized how easy it would be to become addicted to pain killers.

I crawled back in to bed with my neck, shoulder and back throbbing. Laid there waiting for sweet relief. It took some time and it was difficult to lay still. I felt it begin to kick in; I felt the pain slowly slip away. It was an absolutely delicious feeling.

Which was great until I woke up - in pain - at 7:30.

That cycle would be so easy to repeat.

I have not taken another one yet today and I will not until bed time. Unless work really kicks my ass.

Perspective: I don't have cancer, I haven't had a stroke or a heart attack. So I am not that bad off.

What I am learning though, is that constant pain is maddening. It never stops, you clench your teeth, you keep moving. It keeps you awake, which exacerbates  the strain.

I was on the phone with a customer at work, a guy who kept hammering me with questions, when I suddenly threw the receiver down on the desk. The two co-workers who were in the office with me were stunned.

I picked the phone up and told him I had dropped it.

This is what constant pain and lack of sleep does to you.

I am now scheduled for eight more physical therapy sessions - two a week for four weeks. How the hell I am going to pull that off with my work schedule is beyond me.

But I am going to give it a shot because it feels like the right solution.

When this pain is finally gone I will be one grateful son of a bitch.

As I was leaving the therapist's office I asked if he had any advice for helping me to sleep.

He showed me how to stretch my spine by placing my hands under my chin and pushing my head upward, as if I were trying to remove my head. Said this would temporarily free up the nerves a little bit, maybe enough to allow me to fall asleep.

An image haunts me of Therapist Man laughingly mimicking the head removal technique in front of his friends as they sip fine wine in an ultra chic health food spa.

But you gotta trust somebody.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pain & The Good Doctor

Went 15 rounds with Dr. Feelgood yesterday.

And lost.

Had a physical. She gave it to me good.

Been taking blood pressure medication for a couple of weeks now, but the pressure ain't where they want it to be. The number that pushed them over the edge at the beginning of this saga was 162. Two weeks later it hit 180 so it became prescription time.

The medication has only got it back down to 162. Prior to all this drama it was at 132.

So immediately Dr. Feelgood begins ranting about how we are going to have to up the dosage.

And change my lifestyle.

Unfortunately last year at my last physical I was brutally honest with her. About alcohol. About exercise. About diet. About stress, depression and anxiety. She caught me at a weak moment. So now she has all those arrows in her quiver and she drew them all out and fired away yesterday.

She became quite testy. After sternly lecturing me she gave me the following advice: Eat healthier, exercise regularly and drink less.

What a quack.

Then she decides to throw the whole goddamn book of modern medical community wisdom at me. Tells me I need a flu shot. And a tetanus shot.

I argued strongly with her about this because I believe these things make you weaker. I doubt there is any empirical evidence that proves the value of this approach.

I get the flu shot from an argumentative standpoint even though I disagree with the approach. But a tetanus shot? She somehow went round the bend and connected it with the possibility of my contracting whooping cough. In both cases she used fear as her weapon: "With your history of asthma, either of these conditions could lead to death. The odds are minimal but it is still a risk."

Please understand where I am at. 2013 has beaten me down to a wisp of who I once was. I am exhausted, bewildered, depressed, lost and confused.

I agreed to both shots. I cannot believe I did it. I despise this bullshit but she would not let up and I am so fatigued, so weak, so vulnerable. I gave in just to shut her up.

Please forgive me.

I woke up today with two Snoopy band aids on my shoulders, one on each one. Snoopy.

What the hell is wrong with the medical community today?

More proof: The technician or aid or whatever the hell she is that took my vitals, gets me up on the scale. I don't take my shoes off. This is the third time I have been there in a month so obviously I wasn't expecting to take my shoes off. I did not on the last two trips.

She tells me to take off my shoes.

We go into the sterile little examining room, she begins to go over my chart and says: "Wow, you have lost four pounds since the last time you were here. And we just had Thanksgiving. That's amazing."

This did not inspire confidence in me.

She ended up being the one to administer the shots. I was praying for heroin.

On top of all this I have been struggling with muscle issues on the right side of my neck, across the right shoulder, down around to the shoulder blade, down my triceps and even onto my chest.

This has been building for six months and I have let it go. The pain now is disturbing. I have not slept for the last three nights. Two of them I spent on the recliner searching for  the least painful position. There is no sitting, standing or prone position I can adopt to ease the pain.

Advil does not help, nor does whiskey or pot.

I talked to her about this and now I am scheduled for physical therapy.

In addition she scheduled me to have a tube stuck down my throat to check up on acid reflux damage. Apparently they were supposed to do this simultaneously with the colonoscopy I had last year but they forgot.

2013 has not been my year. All of the distress has been job related. This job has ravaged me physically, health-wise and psychologically.

A lesson has been learned.

The only good news I got yesterday was that my prostate is fine.

We had a good time arriving at that conclusion.