Thursday, January 31, 2013

Even Dung Beetles Dig Fedoras

Man, I love NPR. One of the reasons I listen to it, is for the variety. The topics they discuss are all over the place and I am happy for that. As an intellectual, kind of pretentious medium, public radio could stick to boring stuff or cover the same topics endlessly. And I guess boring is subjective so I will not assume any divine right of evaluation.

When they get into the conflicts in the middle east I tune it out in my consciousness because my limited information processing abilities cannot even come close to keeping track of all the players; who are the good guys, who are the bad guys; who are our allies and who wants to see the United States vaporized. Most of the time I'll leave the radio on hoping that some of this will seep in subconsciously. Other times I turn the radio off and dream of big paychecks, fame, exquisitely tailored suits, fine dining and 12 carrot diamonds for my long suffering wife.

Dung beetles were a recent topic. That satisfies my need for variety quite nicely.

Harsh fact: Dung beetles eat dung and everything about dung beetles has to do with dung in some form. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

Five years ago scientists began studying the navigational skills of dung beetles. You and I are struggling to survive, commuting to work every day praying to not get sacked, hoping for enough "hours", watching our checking accounts closely so we don't run out of money before the next paycheck, having to look up the definition of "savings account" in the dictionary and finding the phrase stricken from the English language as irrelevant.

And there are scientists inspired to study the navigational skills of dung beetles. This fascinates me. How do you get jobs like that? What even makes you begin to pay attention to dung beetles?

The working world is strangely skewed.

Apparently dung beetles are competitive little buggers. They climb fresh feces in the desert, shape their loot into balls and roll them away. They have to be quick about it because there are lots of beetles competing for the same prize AND there are lazy beetles who will steal dung from industrious ones. Not much different than humans.

A straight line is their most efficient means of escape. Scientists originally assumed the beetles used the sun and the moon for navigation but they couldn't understand how the beetles navigated on nights when there was no moon. They then theorized that the Milky Way was the source of the dung beetles accuracy.

The whole evolution of this thought process amazes me. And I waste my time trying to figure out how to improve my life.

This is my favorite part. The scientists tested this theory by taping little cardboard hats on the beetles' heads so they couldn't see the sky. With the hat on, they moved in circles. With no hat, they moved in straight lines.

Who is the guy who got to put the hats on the beetles? How many graduate degrees does he have?

They also tested the beetles in a planetarium. First allowing them a view of the Milky Way on the ceiling, then altering the star pattern. With the Milky Way in view they were cool. With altered star patterns, they were lost.

We now know conclusively that dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate efficient paths to dung nirvana.

I have slept better since I learned that.

I also developed a theory that little dung beetle hats are worn by most republican congressmen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The View From The Back Seat

The view from the back seat.

This is not what I had planned. I thought I would always be up front with the best view and the best opportunities. They asked me to sit in the back temporarily, to make room, and I have never been able to make it back up front.

I can mock them from the back seat. Silently, with contorted facial expressions and specific sign language. I am not distracted by the road so my comments are more pointed, and have more depth. Sarcasm and irony floating right over their heads.

They wear their seat belts religiously. I do not.

What's the point?

Bukowski At The Sweetwater

Listening to Bukowski on the way to work on Saturday. I have a CD of him reading his poetry at a place called The Sweetwater in Redondo Beach, CA in 1980.

If you don't know him, he was a drunken poet. I prefer drunken poets to pretentious poets and, fortunately, there have always been lots of drunken poets around. I believe that is because fiercely  creative people are supra sensitive, cannot deal with the arbitrary rules and regulations society imposes, straight jacket-like, so the creative souls check out and hope to survive on creativity alone.

Drunken poet doesn't capture the whole deal. He also was a novelist and short story writer. His stuff was gritty and raw. He lived in flophouses and with bums, drunks, losers, tough guys and tough broads. He wrote about these people and his own life.

Lives lived day to day, taking whatever jobs are around, moving from apartment to apartment, room to room, planning and scamming, living on false hope and booze. Always the booze.

These people are no different than you or I. They are maybe more honest. We accept our roles, work jobs that we hate, kiss the asses that need to be kissed to survive, allow disappointment to become our reality, and become bitter and jaded. We pretend that we are happy, that we got it made but nobody is being fooled.

And there is the booze. Always the booze.

We are broken people with better clothes, a bank owned house that we pretend to own, barbecue grills and lawn chairs. But we don't hide our broken dreams any better than people crawling the streets. And I am not sure that being chained to a job and a mortgage is a better way of life.

But I digress.

Bukowski became a caricature of himself and this is what people came to see. Kind of the Charlie Sheen of poetry. He would sit at a table, bottle at hand and read. People would heckle him, try to get insanity out of him because they knew he was drunk. They wanted drama and didn't appreciate the poetry. At least didn't appreciate it enough.

Many of his poems make me cringe, they bring tears, sometimes laughter, they capture the broken human spirit perfectly. They explode with emotion and pain and reality. Sensitive souls might call them vulgar. Truth is expressed in many ways, and if you can't get past the language you are probably the type who is critical about everything in life except yourself.

Hunter S. Thompson had the same problem. Early in his career he said he felt he was a prisoner of the persona he created. People wanted to see the insanity, the show. Instead of appreciating the writing and the mind of  a man who created an entire genre of writing.

It is a shame to know how much originality and creativity is ignored because of the shallow nature of what is considered entertainment in this country.

As I listened to Bukowski read as the audience hooted and hollered for all the wrong reasons, it occurred to me that the majority of us become caricatures of ourselves.

We start out with good intentions and wind up with scraps, leftovers, small hints of the life we thought we would have. We create a persona to survive and then waste our lives living up to that persona.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Pope Tweets

A big deal was made out of the Pope's first tweet a while ago.

I could handle that. The Pope-meister trying to look like a man of the people. Even though he exists in a world of unimaginable wealth and presides over an operation rife with corruption, child abuse, lies and intimidation.

I thought "OK, one and done."

He did it again. He tweeted again just the other day.


I have to be honest here, I have no use for tweeting. I watch people tweet, I watch people text and they look brain damaged to me. Looking down at this electronic device, disconnected from the world even as they convince themselves they are ultra connected to the world.

The next logical step is a tweeting/texting neck brace for serial typists. A new debilitating disease, similar to carpal tunnel "syndrome".

Although..................the idea of being limited to 140 characters fascinates me, because as a word worshipper with some talent at expressing myself, I KNOW I could kick ass in the tweeting universe.

The Pope should not be tweeting. Period. He is the goddamn pope, for Christ sake.

If he wants to impress us, he should communicate telepathically. Just so long as we don't get propaganda and lies. A little beauty and truth could go a long way.

Be comfortable. I am taking care of the situation. Got the Pope coming over for dinner today. Beer and Brats. He actually enjoys and looks forward to the Pro Bowl. This alone convinces me that I can influence his behavior.

Invitation To An Execution

Rolled out of bed this morning and read about an execution. Not your typical Sunday morning and that's the way I like it.

As a part timer I rarely get more than one day off in a row (not enough ever to re-charge the batteries and recalibrate a perspective; part of the torture.) You would think I would want to spend it in sunshine and smiles.

However, reading about an execution tightens my stomach and makes me uncomfortably happy.

Reading "Blues For Cannibals" by Charles Bowden. He was assigned to cover an execution In Arizona, was invited to attend.

Dig the invitation:

"You have been selected by inmate Michael Kent Poland to be invited to witness his execution at Arizona State Prison Complex at Florence, Arizona, at approximately 3:00 p.m. on June 16, 1999. You are under no obligation to appear as witness to this execution. Under the law, this inmate has the right to choose his method of execution. Inmate Poland did not choose a method of execution, therefore, he will be executed by lethal injection."

Kind of perverts the idea of invitation. Wedding invitation, birthday invitation, graduation invitation. Should invitation be linked with the word execution? Seems like we need to come up with another word.

It is such an odd and clinically cold thing. People sitting eight feet away from the condemned who is strapped to a gurney, everybody able to look at everybody else.

I believe in it from a revenge standpoint because I am a deeply vengeful man. I'm trying to lighten up but I got a lot of baggage there. Maybe witnessing an execution would be cathartic, turn me into a gentle lamb.

I don't believe in capital punishment because it is administered by humans. We are weak and prejudiced and corrupt and imperfect and if we knew how many innocent humans have been executed, we would be unable to breathe.

Unless you are a member of the NRA.

Imagine the exquisite torture of knowing you are about to be killed for something you did not do.

Anyway, there is a mike hanging over the head of the condemned as he is asked for any final words. The ultimate moment of false bravado and lie, from many accounts I have read. Which fascinates me because most of us false bravado and lie our way through life. Imagine having the cojones to take that to the very end. Even staring death in the face. That is commitment, baby.

And the ultimate proof that humans are delusional.

I wonder if anyone ever breaks into a rendition of "Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life".

It fascinates me to think how many people plot and carry out crimes believing they will not be caught. It also fascinates me to consider how many people actually do get away with heavy duty crime. They are the ones with the last laugh at us working stiffs.

Anyway, I read about an execution to start off my day off. With a cup of coffee at hand and my precious cats within my field of vision.

I am beginning to wonder if I am still qualified to use a term like field of vision, given how my life has turned out, but that is a topic for another time and place.

The book jumps from observation to observation, chapter by chapter. Offering interesting perspectives on life based on various experiences. I could not move on to the next chapter today. Tomorrow is another day.

Just another manic Sunday.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cornered By Life, Wounded By Hope

I was wounded by hope in 2012. Almost mortally.

I spent 2011 laying the ground work. Put a lot of work and belief into it. 2012 fought back with great vengeance and furious anger, really backed hope into a corner.

I have hope in 2013 but it is a more cautious hope. Less romantic. I really lost something there.

Life is a bizarre animal. Life is something you have, it is something you live. Life is also something that exists outside of you but still interacts with you, is influenced by you and by others.

You stumble through life doing things, making decisions, sinking below the surface, coming up for air and you believe you are moving forward. At least up to a point.

For most people at some point you lift your head up and take a look around and realize that your life is in stasis and will probably stall there until the end. This is not a happy realization. This is where booze and drugs and depression and hostility and  a jaded point of view take over.

This is why there are so many angry people out there.

Still, up to that point you live your life and believe you are in control, believe that you can effect change.

What you don't realize is that there is a life is moving along parallel to the reality in your head, being affected by the decisions you make. What you don't realize is that you are being monitored.

Somebody is taking notes.

This somebody notes your inconsistencies, the times and the way you deviate from the expected path, and they write it down. This somebody is also the somebody who makes the rules. Who defines what is acceptable and what is not. Rules that really have no context in your life except for the fact that you must live your life within this larger, more detached parallel life.

Nobody tells you this.

When you are young the odds are 10,000 to 1 you will ever have the life you expect. Nobody tells you this either but you can figure it out by looking at all the unhappy adults surrounding you.

A few decades down the road the odds are 4.4 billion to 1 you will be able to change your course. Because your life has been charted and it doesn't measure up against the rules. If you try to change your approach, there will be a backlash. A harsh, unforgiving backlash.

You think you have been living your life accumulating knowledge and experience, that these things are valuable and that you can use them to negotiate a new path, a more informed life.

You find out that if that knowledge and experience does not conform to the rules of the game, it means nothing.

You become cornered by life and you cannot understand why. Your mind recoils in disbelief.

At this point if you are lucky, hope survives as a low flame. For many, it is extinguished completely leaving behind a wisp of smoke and the echo of hollow laughter.

Hope is meant to be a bonfire. It works better that way.

Life is a lot more delicate than you could ever conceive of when you are young. It is as delicate as Waterford crystal when it comes to negotiating it, making sense out of it, working it to your satisfaction and happiness. One small thing gets out of line and the whole thing crashes down around you.

Cornered by life, wounded by hope.

Still, even with hope on a low flame, fighting is preferable to kneeling.

You just might assert your individuality. You just might align your life with your soul and experience sublime peace.

Stranger things have happened.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cruel And Cold

I am sitting here on a cruelly cold Thursday night looking at the moon. The temperature is single digits, the wind is howling, it is January 24 and you wonder what this is all about.

You wonder why.

When I came up here it was just beginning darkness, now it is full on.

The moon is bright and will be full on 1/26, although it looks pretty full right now. It looks cool sitting up there with billions of years of knowledge that it trys to beam our way, futilely of course. We humans are not sensitive to the things we should be sensitive to.

Although there is a song that says "The moon is a harsh mistress. It does not surrender it's secrets easily." That is probably closer to the truth than my romantically jaded vision.

By the way, the age of the moon was recently downgraded. Scientists believed it to be 4.6 billion years old. It is now estimated to be 4.4 billion years old. That's a difference of 200 million years.

I wish I could downgrade my age by that magnitude.

I have to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning. It will be graveyard cold and I am not looking forward to it.

I am thinking about a couple of rays of hope that are dancing in my life right now and wondering why they do not bring me warmth.

It's time to make a shopping list for when I get out of work tomorrow. It's time to cook supper.

I'll figure it out.


Watched a movie called Elegy. Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. Powerful co-stars.

Kingsley is a college professor, Cruz is a student, he is 30 years older than she is, they have an affair/fall in love. Kingsley is not married, he has been divorced and now lives a life he calls "emancipated manhood."  Of course Cruz throws a monkey wrench into his philosophy of life.

I think Kingsley is one of the greatest actors around. He exudes power and class and intelligence and sophistication and spices it with a taste of intimidation. I haven't seen enough of his movies.

You want to see an excellent portrayal of evil, rent yourself Sexy Beast. Kingsley plays an amazingly intimidating and cold hearted evil dude in a very straight on but original way.

Please help me. I am suddenly sounding like a phony baloney film critic.

Elegy could have just been a cliche, but Kingsley and Cruz bring tremendous emotion to it. I was focused and on high alert as if I was watching a thriller.

Dennis Hopper plays Kingsley's best friend who talks him through this relationship with wisdom and bemused detachment. He is Kingsley's age and is getting a kick out of the infatuation.

I'll give the plot away because you won't rent it anyway. They have a torrid, sensitive, intellectual mature affair that eventually ends because of Kingsley's self consciousness of the age difference.

They don't see each other for years until she suddenly comes back into his life having been diagnosed with breast cancer. During the movie there are a few love making scenes where you get to enjoy Cruz's beautiful body. Some of the intensity of their relationship comes from Kingsley's worship of her beautiful body. They talk about it.

The night she reappears in his life she asks him to take pictures of her body before it becomes deformed through surgery. She takes off her shirt and sits on his couch in just her jeans as he takes the pictures.

The scene is not erotic. It is powerfully painful as she poses with tears in her eyes.

Another twist to the movie is a long term lover that floats in and out of Kingsley's life. They think they have everything figured out but she becomes upset when she finds out about Cruz. Even though they say they have no claim on each other.

Humans, baby, humans. There is no end to how we delude ourselves.

There are great quotes concerning age in the movie that I really dug considering how far down the road I am in my own life.

Kingsley says "I think it was Betty Davis who said old age is not for sissies. But it was Tolstoy who said the biggest surprise in a man's life is old age."

I love the following quote although I have no idea what it means.

Kingsley: "When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life."

And a bit of philosophy from Hopper: "Beautiful women are invisible. We never actually see the person. We see the beautiful shell. We're blocked by the beauty barrier. Yeah, we're so dazzled by the outside that we never make it inside."

I am not doing the movie justice because I am flat tonight. No energy.

The point is, actors change or improve a movie or create something more than the script because of what they bring to it. Their talent, their interpretation, their chemistry.

Kingsley and Cruz bridge the age gap and bring intensity and meaning to their relationship. Hopper is excellent as the wise old friend and it breaks your heart when he is felled from a stroke and eventually dies because of it. Kingsley's lover brings another level of intensity to the story.

Kingsley has a son who resents him because Kingsley divorced his mother. They are estranged. The son has marital problems brought on by an affair, he doesn't know who to talk to so he turns to his father. They have amazingly full on brutally honest discussions conducted in a matter of fact way.

I am too tired to make my point in the intense way that it deserves. Suffice it to say that Elegy made my Tuesday night. It captured my attention and made me feel.

One more level. The definition of elegy is: a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation, especially for one who is dead.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Just Kidding

“You see that Hummer? That full sized Hummer with the hkymom license plate? She has our money. She’s got so much money that she is actually taking money away from us. She couldn’t even get upper case hkymom because somebody else already has it. So she settled for lower case because she is so desperate to make an unoriginal statement.

She thinks she’s better than us. Better than everybody else on this road. Did you see how she blew by us in the left hand lane? Didn’t even bother to look at us. To look down on us from the height of her precious and ostentatious vehicle.  She’s probably a princess too. Doesn’t appreciate what she has. How easy she’s got it.

She’s probably a wine snob who would walk into the liquor store and treat me like a servant. Barely talk to me as if everything about me is inferior to her and then make no comment as I humbly humped her case of expensive wine out to her goddamn Hummer.

 I would have to threaten her, to hold my box cutter up against her throat and tell her how valuable I am, how unique and interesting I am. Intimidate her to tears.

That’s the only way to deal with a woman like that. I hate her.”

My wife is often surprised by fantasy rants like these. Maybe a little tired of them as well.  She is also amused and entertained. They often result in a smile or a laugh accompanied of course by the prerequisite head shaking.

She hears them all the time. It’s how I entertain myself. It’s how I reveal and distort my true self at the same time, mixing opinion and impression with fantasy, anger and hyperbole.

I suppose some people would consider this form of expression to be unhealthy. “Wow, you have a lot of anger in you. Ever consider seeing a psychiatrist?”

These people are misguided. What is healthier? Talking about putting a box cutter up against her throat or actually holding a box cutter up against her throat?

At work after enduring another customer I’ll turn to Eric and say “Who the hell are these people? Who do they think they are? Talking to me. They don’t have the right to talk to me. They should keep their mouths shut, hand over the money and walk out silently with their precious booze tucked under their arms. Go home to their jaded spouses and eat Spam Burgers until a myocardial infarction sweeps in and makes the world a more tolerable place.”

Eric’s eyes will usually glaze over, he’ll hold out his hands and say “Take it easy, take it easy. You gonna be all right?” Then he’ll walk away and find something else to do in a safer place in the store.

Even though I am just kidding.

I am a people person. I really am. We are all in this together. As unique as each of our lives is, we all share a lot of common struggles and confusions and disappointments and pain. It’s just that some people are not smart enough to understand this.  They pretend, they deny, they mislead, they create a lot of unnecessary turbulence.

It gets in my way.

The Beatles sang about love a lot, universal love and how it could save the world. I bought that message, believed in it, still believe in it. We need to give each other space and understanding, we need to fan the flames of empathy and be gentler with one another.

We would have a lot less stress in our lives with a lot more empathy. And really all you have to do is remember that the person you are dealing with is just another human being.

I don’t see enough of that. It drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to slap these people. Tie them up, throw them in the back of my truck and drive them out to Lake Winnipesaukee. Pilot a row boat out to the dock and drag their body up onto the splintered wood. Dangle their head over the water in the middle of March. Say to them “Are you going to be nice? Are you going to treat people with respect? Or am I going to have to kick you into the lake and make the world a more tolerable place?”

I’m just kidding.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Being A Kid

The ultimate definition of being a kid:

I just watched the inaugural. During the President's speech the camera panned over to his wife and daughters.

Sasha was yawning.

Magic And Loss

There has to be an element of magic in anything to make it worthwhile. To make it work.

Efficiency is wonderful, gotta have a plan, discipline, commitment. Without magic you got nothing.

THE PATS have put together a system. A system that has achieved amazing results. Talent that runs deep allowing them to plug in people to fill in for injuries, often without skipping a beat. Even without Tom Brady in 2008 THE PATS went 11 and 5.

They are disciplined when it comes to avoiding making stupid comments. For the most part. They carry themselves professionally and act truly as a team. They broke Super Bowl tradition in 2001 by coming out as a team as opposed to being introduced individually.

They have an approach and that approach is enforced. The players buy into it because it works.

To an extent.

Between 2000 and 2004 THE PATS had The Magic. They had an amazing roster of talent, maybe the best ever. Yeah I know they went undefeated in 2007 but they didn't win the Super Bowl, did they? They had The System chugging at maximum efficiency between 2000 and 2004.

But between 2000 and 2004 they had The Magic and that made all the difference.

No matter what situation they were in, you always believed they would win. If they were down by 15 points with 9 minutes left you settled back and waited for them to win. Expected them to win. The enthusiasm and belief and confidence just emanated off the players. The vibration travelled out of your TV into your head and rattled your brain to believe.

When THE PATS were up 3 zip yesterday I began to think they would lose. They had marched up and down the field, they forced the Ravens to start deep in their own territory time after time, but it felt to me like the Ravens were controlling the game.

They were and they did.

When Brady/ Belichick mismanaged the time out just before the half, my soul began to take on water at an alarming rate.

By the time they lost the game I was not surprised.

Today I am not devastated. That is what bothers me the most. I have been crushed by big losses before, literally taking months before I could talk about them without cringing inside.

I have been conditioned to deal with PATS' big game losses over the last few years and that is part of the reaction.

But it is the lack of magic that has me so flat. For me to experience doubt so early in the game is all the proof I need that The Magic is gone.

Magic is the intangible. It is somehow created by the mix of players and coaches and the atmosphere that becomes what everybody breathes.

I don't think you can control that. I don't think you can make that happen. I can only tell you that I miss it painfully.

I am more upset that I am not devastated than I am at the loss.

In one way I don't give a damn who wins the Super Bowl because I was convinced THE PATS would be playing in it.

In another more elemental way, I hope the Niners win 788 to 0.

Maybe Joe Montana would go out and get all tatted up as a tribute to Colin Kaepernick.


Intellectuals have a lousy sense of humor and limited appreciation of sports.

I listen to NPR quite a bit. The hosts and guests have such an elemental, goody two shoes sense of humor. No sense of irony or sarcasm or surprise. I usually laugh more at them than at what they find funny.

And to listen to sports being discussed is like listening to the president of the chess club talk sports in an effort to become more popular. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)

My brother turned me on to this song by Mighty Sam McCLain called Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey).

This is a philosophy I can whole heartedly embrace.

His friend gives up partying to party with Jesus, ends up running all his friends off, now he's questioning what has gone wrong even though he picked up the cross, because something doesn't feel right. Sam is there to explain it to him.

We are all looking for something. We can't exist in a vacuum. We need answers. Actually I take that back. There are those who stop looking for answers. I see the dull look in their eyes and hear the predictable jaded rationalizations. They bore me.

It's not that much of a trade off to give up whiskey for Jesus. Personally I would rather drink whiskey with Jesus. I would love to get the man drunk and get at The Truth. But you know he is too cool for that. Reality is, I'm sure I would get a belly full and end up talking myself straight to hell.

I have this vision of me tumbling out of the sky followed by a plume of empty Crown Royal bottles as the gates of heaven clang shut with a sonic boom. I end up lying at the feet of The Devil who is towering over me with a wicked grin. He dumps the last half inch of whiskey onto the ground out of the only Crown Royal bottle left in Hell and says "Why don't you crawl over there and tend to that furnace, little man."

Whiskey has as much chance of saving your soul as Jesus does. Anything that loosens you up and allows your mind to operate outside the straight jacket of daily life gives you a chance at understanding. Gives you a chance to investigate things from a different, sharper angle instead of taking things dead on.

Life comes at you dead on. You have to look straight ahead. To do your job, balance the budget, manage the details of your life. This is what prevents you from seeing what is real. The real beyond what we pretend to be real.

Cock your brain to a jaunty angle and you can see light leaking around the corners, slipping under the edges of the rules that constrict you. That light is life. It is what you are missing.

Judicious use of drugs will get you there too.

Hunter S. Thompson knew how to manage this. Keith Richards knows how to manage this. Hunter kept a copy of the Physicians Desk Reference handy and studied it. He knew how drugs interacted with each other and was able to ingest copious amounts and variations without kicking off. Keith consumed only the highest quality drugs and worked only with dealers that he knew and trusted.

I maintain that sort of discipline and knowledge is comparable to that practiced by successful people in their careers and is as admirable.

Judicious is the key word. You can drink too much whiskey, you can drink too much Jesus.

I am going to start a movement of Enlightenment And Compromise. Inspire churches to replace holy water with whiskey. Instead of dipping your fingers in holy water and making the sign of the cross, you grab a 3 ounce Dixie cup from the holder next to the basin and grab yourself a quick shot.

That will fortify you to withstand the feigned piousness of the person next to you and get you through the sermon.

And if priests develop a relationship with whiskey like they have with wine, the sermons might start sounding like Richard Pryor at The Apollo.

I could dig that.

Dig This

"Out the window is an office tower and I can see that early secretary puttering at her desk, and all the men in suits, young men, faces grim and joyless, voyaging toward the heart attack of their dreams."

From "Blues For Cannibals" by Charles Bowden

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From A Low Burn To Internal Insanity

I've kept it on a low burn this week. Until last night at 11:00.

As I rose to head bedward the news came on and the lead story was THE PATS. I sat back down and consumed it.

It was all predictable stuff but I am such a football freak that I thrill just to see football footage, to see PATS uniforms and helmets, to see Tom Brady's pretty boy face plastered on the screen making the rehearsed comments we have all come to expect from PATS players.

By way of comparison my excitement became gritty and grounded to see Vince Wilfork's face and massive body on the screen making the rehearsed comments we have all come to expect from PATS players.

Where the hell do they get sweatshirts big enough to fit him?

One game away from the Super Bowl is one game away from the ultimate definition of and expression of intensity. Could be a step towards another shot at sweet vindication, achievement, over the top emotion and chest bursting pride. Another chapter written in eternal football history and lore. Could be the end of the road and a crushing of hope and emotion that stings for months.

We have had it both ways. At this point and in the Super Bowl.

The machine is humming now. Nothing I can do.

It feels good.


Excuse Me

I think the phrase "excuse me" should be used in a practical way. There should be a truth evaluator in our heads that alerts us to disingenuous comments that we make and forces us to apologize.

As in "Excuse me, I was really trying to intimidate you even though I am no tougher than you."

Or "Excuse me, I was trying to prove that I am smarter than you even though I am not."

Or "Excuse me I was just trying to prove that my interests, my approach to life, my experiences and my knowledge are more valuable than yours when that is obviously not true."

The excuse me confession would eliminate a lot of guessing and tortured interpretation.

Not Just A Recliner

A recliner is actually a tool to be properly used.

I see my recliner as a place of respite and a place of cowardice.

When I get home from work, late, and I am tired and hungry, that recliner is  a leather caress, welcoming me to my life, encouraging me to rest my mind and my body and cut myself some slack.


When I find myself sitting in it with time on my hands and a voice in my head saying "Get up, work on your life, the bomb is ticking, you can do more", that recliner is a leather siren song of doom.


Cold Inspiration

We keep the temperature down now and I am cold in my own home. Cold in my truck.

I am cold a lot.

I recently started thinking that there are benefits to winter. Winter is not a comfortable or an easy time. When you are uncomfortable, when you struggle, it is impossible to be complacent.

Maybe that is the function of winter. To keep you moving, to feed the hunger for change.

If you can roll into the beauty and the warmth of spring having accomplished something during the winter months, that hopeful spring feeling gets amplified. Even if that accomplishment is simply a changed perspective, a vigorous determination, a more open mind, it is still fuel to be burned in spring's beauty.

If it is something more concrete like a new job, elevated income, lost weight, an outlandish paisley silk tie, all the better.

Rationalization is at the root of human survival.

Dig This

"There is something missing, some vivid touch that the cool computer screen we now all stare into at work and at home cannot deliver. The last common feeling we have left is depression, and it is so common, we only notice it when we cannot bear any longer to go on. We can grow hair on our heads, and stuff new breasts in our chests and suck fat from our hides but we cannot seem to paste a smile on our faces. We are not the people who will die of laughter."


"If I had my life to live over, I would live very, very little of it the same. When people say they would change nothing in their life, I think they are either liars or fools. Life is about learning, and if you respect life and learn from it, you would of course not do things the same way."

From "Blues For Cannibals" by Charles Bowden

A Great Beginning

"Blues For Cannibals continues the quest Bowden began in Blood Orchid: to discover the headwaters of the sickness that seeps through the American soul, and to consider what it might mean to come fully alive in a time of exalted consumption, global pillage, gated communities, and wholesale destruction of the environment."

From the jacket cover to "Blues For Cannibals" by Charles Bowden.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hef The 3rd

Hugh Hefner got married for the third time on New Year's Eve.

To Crystal Harris. She is 26 he is 86.

I have no problem with the age difference. She signed a pre-nup so she is obviously insanely in love with the man.

I'd like to marry a woman 60 years younger than me but that would make her negative one year old. I would have to marry a spirit, the essence of a woman about to be conceived. I'm not sure how that could be arranged but I think it would be complicated.

Somewhere around 2003, Hef had seven live-in girlfriends at the mansion. Apparently nine years later he has decided that marriage would be more exciting.

Why does Hef get married? This is his third marriage. He is the opposite of the typical male. The typical male gets married and then tortures himself with fantasies of gorgeous, morally ambiguous women who just cannot keep their hands off him.

Hef lives with gorgeous, morally ambiguous women and decides to get married.

I don't get it.

I admire the man because he brought class to female nudity. There are those out there who would argue that that is an oxymoron. I have no time for those people. Their minds are inflexible.

I hate all men's magazines except Playboy. Always did. Because there is no respect for women, no awe, no appreciation of beauty. They are juvenile.

Hef came along in the fifties - a time when people were easily outraged at the things they were told to be outraged about - and created a new approach. Talk about guts.

The magazine was and is about lifestyle, not just women. I had a subscription for many years. Although pages occasionally fell open in my hands to the photo spreads, I truly dug the magazine for the writing and the dream.

Informative, cutting edge articles, amazing interviews with fascinating people and an aura of success liberally sprinkled throughout the pages.

The dream I reference is the dream of a better life. The magazine was about the best - cars, cigars, clothes, booze, restaurants, clubs, literature and authors, theatre, music. I read all that stuff, looked at the pictures of gorgeous cars and softly tailored suits and believed that my life could get better. Maybe not at that level but good enough that I could indulge a bit.

Hasn't happened yet but I ain't done either.

I killed the subscription years ago because I couldn't stand the juvenile comments under the photo spreads that occasionally fell open in my hands. They were so out of place compared to the class of the rest of the magazine.

I think part of me was also killing the dream. I think I gave up on the possibility of indulging a bit. Gave up on having class in my life. New Hampshire will do that to you.

Recently I have been entertaining the idea of renewing the subscription. I think it would be good to have that inspiration around me again. Keeping alive the idea that I might be able to take my lovely, long suffering wife out to a fine restaurant for a mind blowing meal. And drive there and back in a comfortable, looker of a car dressed in fine clothes and listening to beautiful music on my Bose in car sound system.

That's the kind of thing Hugh Hefner delivered with Playboy. It is a lot more than a magazine, a hell of a lot more than unclothed ladies.

It offers the possibility of better and challenges you to get there.

Trust Me

Those words should be stricken from the human language.

Precisely because we are human.


I love the word robust.

Robust is a word that sounds like exactly what it means.

Dig This

My favorite moments are those of lucid insanity.

Praise Of A Collie

She was a small dog, neat and fluid -
Even her conversation was tiny:
She greeted you with bow, never bow wow.

Her sons stood monumentally over her
But did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
Till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.

Once gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollochan said "Ah,
It would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie."

And her tact - and tactics! When the sheep bolted
In an unforeseen direction, over the skyline
Came - who but Lassie, and not even panting.

She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea dog.
Where's a burn? - She's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind.

But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled...
I grieved for Pollachan when he took her for a stroll
And put his gun to the back of her head

By       Norman MacCaig

I heard this poem read on NHPR on my way home last night and almost veered off the road. I was numb from work and the jolt of emotion staggered me.

It says it all. The relationship between pet and pet owner, the love and respect, the mutual understanding, the recognition of a unique personality, and the pain of deciding when they die. A decision we are not deserving of. Because our pets are wiser than us.

I have been involved in the death of three pets.

With Onyx, our sweet, loving dog, it caught me off guard.  It was my first time putting a pet down. I thought the vet said he would give him a shot to relax him and then administer the final shot. Turned out it was a one shot deal and he was gone before I was prepared for it. I was stunned. I went home and got drunk and cried.

Witk Lokai, our spiritedly individual cat who used to swat Onyx's nose if he got too familiar, I don't remember the circumstances but I do remember not feeling satisfied, feeling like I didn't handle it properly. I do remember Carol's tears when I walked back into the house without Lokai.

With Max, my cat buddy who only let me pick him up, I got down on my knees next to the table he was on so I could look into his eyes. I was determined that he know I was there at the very end. I stroked his head, looked him right in the eyes and told him over and over that I loved him. When his eyes closed I broke down completely, sobbing uncontrollably. So much so that they ushered me out the back door of the vet's office.

I don't apologize for that. I am not embarrassed. I am proud to have finally said goodbye properly.

Each time I felt unworthy of making that decision. The pain of those three experiences ranks right up there with any pain I have experienced.

But I cannot dwell on their deaths. What I think about is the sweet, innocent relationship that developed between us. The way they made us laugh, the rock solid love they gave us and we returned to them. The sense of peace and contentment they magically, effortlessly graced our home with.

I never want to be without pets. Pets complete us, they dig out our humanity from deep under the charade. Directly honest and powerfully loving, completely trusting.

All that and a sense of humor too.

(Editor's note dated 01/19/2013 - I am driven to make the following chronological correction, lest my family write me off as prematurely senile, if they haven't already done so. Lokai was the first pet I was forced to put down. Then Onyx. Then Max. However I refuse to change the narrative. I will live with my imperfection.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dig This

"If you're going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use both feet."

Keith Richards

Corpse Reviver

I'm reading an in between book. I'm on a quest this year to dig deep  in the reading arena but my quest has been temporarily stalled by poor planning on my part. The quest is in the mail.

Anyway, TWO years ago Carol gave me a book at Christmas called Imbibe. It is written by a guy who did mammoth research on drink recipes in this country. He is also an old school guy who believes that drinks are better made in the old traditions.

I have picked that up to fill the gap.

There is a lot of history in there, which makes it readable. When the guy goes over drink recipes and then dissects ingredients and approach - it gets a tad dry.

Jerry P. Thomas was a legendary bartender back in the 1800's. They called him Professor Jerry Thomas. I like knowing a bartender can be legendary. I would have been legendary if I were a 23 year old babe with endless cleavage and a hypnotic smile. But that's a story for another place and time.

He was born around 1830. He was a gold miner, a Broadway dandy, a minor theatrical impresario, an art collector, an artist, an inventor, an author and a gambler. he owned bars, he lost bars, he worked in seedy places, he worked in upper crust places. It was a wide open world in those days. Now you inadvertently slip into a "career" and you are stuck. Ain't nobody looking for free thinkers.

He worked as a bartender wherever the bartending was good. As the party moved from city to city and even across the ocean - he followed it.

He lived at a time when drinks were changing at a rapid pace. Used to be punch was the big deal. Everybody gathered and drank out of a bowl. Then ice came upon the scene and new liqueurs and mixers and the cocktail was born. And along with that came creativity.

Apparently Jerry P. was a creative sort, experimenting with recipes, ice (shaved, chipped or chunk), garnishes etc. He wrote a bartending book which is long on drinks but short on recipes. His recipes were not exact. Like any good artiste in the kitchen or behind the bar.

As I read about booze I continue to develop an impression of the soul of this country. I recently read a book about Prohibition. The driving force behind that was the level of boozing in this country. It was massive and destructive. But as I read this book, the author continually refers to the massive drinking being done in the 1800's. I propose drinking copious amounts of booze is part of the marrow of this country along with unconscionable violence. Which is frightening. But that's a topic for another day and time. 

As cocktails evolved it's hilarious to read how they were hyped. Initially they were passed off as a sort of medicine to be consumed upon rising to ward off the effects of the night before. Drunkenness being implicit but not explicit in "the effects of the night before." It was routine to crawl out of bed and have two or three drinks as "eye openers." My favorite description from this book is "corpse revivers." That will be the phrase I use from here on in to describe a morning cocktail providing relief from a night of revelry.

Morning drinks considered acceptable. Gotta love that. Today if you have a drink before noon there is some phony standing by, hands on hips, to accuse you of having a problem. Then they walk off to beat their children and make love to their pets.

There are many amusing descriptions of drinks and what they do to you and for you but I am running out of time. So I leave you with the last stanza of a verse written as an ode to the champagne cocktail, which enjoyed a considerable reputation as a corpse reviver when it first came upon the scene:

"And the morn shall be filled with cocktail,
And the cares of the early day,
Like disappointed collectors,
Shall silently slip away."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sandy Hook Promise

I have had hope for change brewing in me, at a low pitch, for a while now.

I resist it because I come from a generation that tried to effect enormous change and was defeated. We identified the enormous evil in America, shined a brilliant light on it, marched and protested and rallied and speechified and fought and sang and introduced imagination and the power of truth and a completely new perspective to the conversation. We were persecuted, shot and killed, and bullied in response.

For a while that evil incubated while it hid from the spotlight. Eventually it reared it's ugly head brazenly, and now evil rules this country defiantly with no fear of retribution.

The things we protested against have flourished to make this country weak and a laughing stock compared to other civilized countries in the world. These forces have combined to make life for most Americans an enormous struggle, devoid of hope.

The election of President Obama was the birth of hope for me. But I told myself it was a fluke fueled by white guilt. I had no other way to explain it. Hope was a flickering flame.

His re-election fanned the flame a little higher because I recognized it as voters fighting back against the juvenile stupidity of politics. The republicans exposed our political system for the joke that it is and voters fought back against that. I was amazed.

Along the way you had Arab spring. A revolution fueled by communication at a basic level between the persecuted many.

You had Occupy Wall Street. A movement fueled again by communication and infused with intelligence and defiance and a coordinated effort.

I think these protests are better informed and better organized than we were and they have more and better tools at their disposal to publicize the injustice in the world.

There is a sisters crusade vocally fighting against regressive republican politics AND standing strong against the Catholic church and the pope himself. These are nuns openly contradicting the church on issues ranging from gay rights to abortion, and taking on issues like income inequality, universal health care, corporate responsibility and immigration reform.

This one blew me away, even as it cranked hope a little higher, knowing that a corrupt, immoral and supposedly untouchable organization like the church is not above being challenged from within and by humans with seemingly little influence. I love it.

The Sandy Hook community is the latest beacon of hope for me. People banding together and responding to an unspeakable tragedy in an intelligent way. With compassion and determination. The image of grieving parents standing together, holding pictures of their slain children in front of them, was heartbreaking. And inspirational.

They appeared to me to be standing together in defiance of apathy.

They started a website called Sandy Hook

Go there and read The Promise. Put your signature to it. It is open minded and filled with determination, looking to  turn the tragedy into a moment of transformation, to respond with love, belief and hope instead of anger, to be remembered not as the town filled with grief and victims but as the place where real change began.

These people just experienced the worst pain any human can endure. And they respond with intelligence, compassion, open mindedness and determination.

As opposed to the NRA, which just ran an ad suggesting that President Obama feels that his children are more important than yours because his are protected with armed guards even as he doesn't believe armed guards are the answer.

The stupidity is incredible; the callousness is repugnant.

There are a hell of a lot more people who would love to see President Obama's kids dead, than there are psychos looking to kill kids in general. And the majority of these are probably zealots who fiercely defend their right to own assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons with over sized clips.

To see these parents stand tall against whoever chooses to fight against gun safety reform, to see and hear and feel the determination in this country to put an end to an epidemic of violence, this gives me hope.

I don't know. Maybe things are changing. Maybe the human spirit is coming back alive, resisting fifty years of oppression and abuse and exploitation from those who wield power, those who have money.

I am feeling a ripple of optimism. I will nurture it carefully.

Gimme Shelter

It has become a rite of passage for female singers to sing Gimme Shelter with Mick Jagger.

They all approach it differently and they all ignite a different dynamic with Mick. But they all give it their all. It's a great song to perform because it wails - it gives these women a chance to show off their chops, to really cut loose. I'm sure many invitees have declined in fear of not being able to handle it.

Lady Gaga recently joined the list during a Stones 50th anniversary concert.  I didn't know what to expect because I haven't paid much attention to Lady G. She belted it out pretty good, she definitely held her own. She also made a lot of eye contact with Mick. I love to watch the interaction between these femme fatales and The Mickster. They all want to express their individuality and avoid looking like sycophants, but you know they are awestruck. Ain't no avoiding it.

And there is always sexual tension (real or affected) in the air.

That's what legend is all about. Mick is 69 now and has more lines on his face than cocaine on Charlies Sheen's mirror, but he is STILL Mick Jagger. He is in great shape and he has the mystique; the mystique of success and excess and fame and creativity. The mystique of being the lead singer and co-founder of one of the most famous and ground breaking bands in the world. In history.

Women want him.

By the way, Lady G wore a pair of shoes on stage that night that amazed me. They made her a foot taller and how the hell she rocked on them is beyond me. I'm gonna get me a pair and wear them to my next job interview.

Florence Welch did the duo at another of the 50th anniversary concerts. I didn't know what to expect because I didn't know who the hell she was. She is Florence from Florence + the Machine, a British indie rock band.

She blew me away with attitude. The women jump into the song about a minute and a half into it. The band cranks it up, Mick builds to wail and the women strut onto the stage. Florence walked across the stage and got right in Mick's face. I mean right in his face. She wailed pretty good but I got the feeling the song was right at the edge of her range.

But she kept up the attitude. Got close to Mick, staked out a chunk of his space and delivered emotion raw and suggestive. I loved it.

Mary J. Blige took a whack at it at another 50th anniversary gig. I wasn't as impressed. She didn't establish a presence on stage and she didn't give the vocal the power it needs.

The best I have seen recently was Fergie. She took it on a few years ago at the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. U2 was playing, and Mick Strutted on stage as Fergie stood up back and ramped up her intensity slowly. She made her way to center stage and WAILED. Nailed it. And she kept teasing Mick and then walking away from him. Like, yeah, you turn me on but I don't NEED you.

Very cool.

Lisa Fischer earns the title The One Who Comes Closest. Lisa has been touring with The Stones since 1989 as a back up singer. She steps up for Gimme Shelter and rocks it to the moon. She has a powerful presence and even more powerful voice. Let's face it, The Stones are not going to keep anybody around for 23 years who cannot deliver the goods. She vibrates the rafters and  raises emotion to quintessential expression. She can handle Mick.

Nobody can beat Merry Clayton. She's the original. On Let It Bleed. She redefines the meaning of the word wail. She put her heart and soul into it and raises goose bumps on my weary, aging arms every time I hear her raging voice.


There are 6,374 women I have omitted. Do some homework if you care. I did mine this morning. Watched a bunch of YouTube, which brings me to a predictable aside.

I have said it a million times and I will be saying it on my death bed. Charlie Watts' smirk, his sardonic smile, is one of my favorite things in the world. Check out The Stones live, check out videos and you will always catch Charlie smirking. You will always catch eye contact between him and Keith and a smile.

You will also see the reverence with which Keith approaches every song. Even on the 347,000th performance.

I have pledged to myself, when I get personal in here, not to make promises any more in this blog. To try not to talk about what I want, to talk only about what I have accomplished.

Gonna break that here. I have set certain short term goals for myself in 2013 that I WANT. Not gonna tell you what they are.

But I will say that I hope to get Carol up on stage to sing Gimme Shelter with Mick when The Stones come back around.

She would dig that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

On The Road To................

The Super Bowl has an aroma to it. Delicate as a flower.

I detect traces of that aroma right now - even as we speak.

But I refuse to get ahead of myself. We got the Ravens. We got Ray Lewis. We got a game.

THE PATS looked good yesterday. I look pretty good myself but that's a topic for another day and time.

There is life in this body thanks to THE PATS.

Dig it, baby.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dig This

"To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell."

Marquis De Sade

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cool Lyrics

From a new album from Dropkick Murphys.

There is a Christmas song on there called "The Season's Upon Us" with the following lyrics:

"My sisters are wack jobs/I wish I had none/Their husbands are losers/ And so are their sons"

Pay Attention

President Barack Obama is the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.

Junior Seau In Death

It's getting too deep to avoid, too serious to ignore.

Junior Seau's brain showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss and depression. It is a progressive disease associated with repeated head trauma.

Seau was never diagnosed as having had a concussion in the NFL.

I believe there is a lot more going on here than concussions. First of all, I am sure Seau had concussions, they just weren't diagnosed as such. I am sure there were times he came off the field and addressed his coach as Tweety Bird.

Secondly the emphasis is on helmet to helmet hits. That's an obvious cause but I believe the problem goes much deeper than that.

I believe that when two huge bodies collide violently at high speed, even if it is strictly body to body contact, the brain still takes a beating.

This is an ominous consideration for football players.

There will be huge changes in the NFL as a result of all this and it will probably radically change the game. I am not one of those who says these guys know the risks going in, so tough luck, boys. I think that is callous and cruel.

I worship football. I don't want it to turn into flag football or become a sport with cheerleaders and players becoming interchangeable. But it bothers me to know the damage being done even as I thrill to big hits.

I do not want to see pictures of Tom Brady in fifteen years in a wheelchair, diaper clad, drooling into a plastic cup secured to his chin (making his chin look like Jay Leno's) as Gisele gaily dances the tarantella with Giacomo the rich Italian olive oil magnate. That is too high a price to pay for my football enjoyment.

I hope a combination of rule changes and equipment upgrades will protect players' health without destroying the game.

My gut tells me this ain't gonna happen. I don't think there is a viable way to protect players from the violence of this game. I think ultimately the game will go on with it's inherent risks only slightly minimized.

At that point I will have to make a decision. A decision that is a test of character. Of commitment.

I am embarrassed to admit that I am not convinced I have the strength to make the right choice.


Someone has elevated the word "so" to lofty status and I don't like it.

I listen to NPR a lot and I have noticed lately that a lot of interviewees begin an answer with "so."

Here's an example:

Q: Your book purports to prove that drinking two quarts of whiskey daily is not only not harmful, but is actually beneficial to your body and your mind. What type of research did you conduct to arrive at that conclusion?

A: So, I went down to the Bowery and hung at Dino's Bar and Grill for 6 months running.................

What is the purpose of the word "so?" I think it makes these intellectuals sound stupid.

I have noticed it creeping into TV. I also watch a lot of MSNBC and have picked up on interviewees beginning their conversations with that meaningless, little word.

Here's an example:

Q: You claim to have proof that president Obama is Superman. Not metaphorically but literally, with an ability to fly, to bounce bullets off his chest and to engage in shy romantic episodes with Michelle. How did you arrive at this conclusion?

A: So, I went down to Washington, D.C. and hung at The White House for 6 months running...............


I'm wondering if this is the intellectual equivalent of Git 'Er Done, which I also despise.

Why do we need verbal crutches to lean on? It is the antithesis of individuality. As I write that it occurs to me that the question is asked and answered.

Got me thinking about the phrase "How so?" Not many people use that. It sounds weird.

I'm thinking I might adopt it to better express myself and further distance myself from the herd.

Him: "Joe - you are fat, lazy, numb, dumb and shiftless.You are sabotaging our entire operation"

Me: "How so?"


Him: "Joe - you are vulgar and graceless, uninspired and annoying. Don't you realize you are driving customers away and profits down?"

Me: "How so?"

It's something for me to think about.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Vultures And Psychos

We have regressed in this country to the point where we ignore facts. Numbers mean nothing.

Not everything is black and white, in fact most things are not. I am glad for that because it is the color, the cracks in between, that make life interesting, the things that give you hope.

However it is a fact that we have the most lenient gun laws in the civilized world and the largest number of guns owned (1 per person) and we have the highest occurrence of violence.

Other civilized countries in the world with much stricter gun safety regulations experience much less violence.

That's it. Black and white. Direct correlation.

There are subtleties there, there are other contributing factors to the violence in this country, but it is a safe bet that if we tighten up gun safety regulations, violence will decrease.

It sickens me to listen to Wayne LaPierre and the mindless gun owners rage angrily against any change in gun safety regulations. They say that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to give a good guy a gun. A lack of logic which directly contradicts the facts.

Even the multiple deaths of five year old children cannot inspire in these people one shred of logic or compassion. 

They hold their guns more dear than the lives of  trusting, innocent children.

By the way there are responsible gun owners - millions of them. And I'm sure they have no problem with lack of access to automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons with over sized clips and to assault weapons.

It's the gun owners who sit at home at night caressing their UZI and shouting out SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS in their sleep that turn my stomach.

These people fear the slippery slope - they feel if we increase gun control, eventually gun ownership will be outlawed outright.  It worries me to know unthinking, hysterical people like this are the ones who love these weapons of mass mourning.

There is no slippery slope. We will always have guns. We need them to defend ourselves against The Banks.

Which brings me to my next point.

Just read an article in Rolling Stone written by Matt Taibbi reviewing the results of the bank bailouts - four years later. It sickened me.

It exposed the whole thing for the game it was, enriching banks even further and leaving everyday people even more vulnerable.

The banks were deemed too big to fail. At the time, the five biggest banks held 37% of all deposits in this country. Right now they hold 44%. They are now too bigger to fail.

Included in the bailout were provisions to help people facing foreclosure. Also included were provisions to prevent executives from getting huge bonuses.

The banks managed to skirt the foreclosure provisions to the point that only a tiny fraction of the funds made it to desperate people. They also found a way around the bonus restrictions and gleefully handed out big money to fat cats.

My point is this. Where were the numbers guys? You hand out $700 billion to companies that have already proved themselves to be crooks and then just trust them to do their thing?

We are talking about banks here. The ultimate black and white (supposedly). It would have been simple to employ auditors at every big bank to monitor activities on a daily basis if necessary. It didn't happen and it amazes me.

Last year Citi arbitrarily reduced the credit limit on one of our credit cards. We found out the hard way when we tried to use the card to pay for an automotive emergency and were denied.

There is a clause in the agreement we signed that says they can do anything they want anytime they want for any reason. I am paraphrasing but trust me, that is what it says.

They ultimately explained that they were worried we might default in the future. We had never missed a payment, never even been late with a payment.

Citi (one of the bailout banks) can penalize me for something they think might happen in the future, but the government cannot monitor bank activity after a $700 billion bailout.

In other words they can monitor my tiny little balance and limited financial activity but the government cannot monitor the activity of banks who hold the economic fate of the world in their hands.

There is no accountability. No numbers analysis. No connection with reality.

I feel alone in this country. I feel more than ever that I am on my own. That the only way to dig myself out is to find a thin road to independence.

My own road that can give me some distance from the vultures and the psychos.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Movies

The movies. Some consider it an escape from reality, but really it becomes your reality for a while. And if you are watching Pink Flamingos that is a definite problem.
I have fond memories of sneaking food and booze into the theater. Carol sold Tupperware and had awesome cups with tight seals that did not leak. I'd fill a cup with whiskey and she would throw it in her bag. As I think back on it I am amazed that no do gooder ever turned me in. Hard to disguise the whiskey aroma. But then again, being concerned with everybody else's business was not as big a disease as it is today.
Carol would make popcorn and sneak that in too so we didn't have to pay $45 for 1 oz.
Movies rest my brain from worry and regret and stimulate my emotions. Some make me think.
I love movies for that. For giving me a different reality to live in for a couple of hours.
Sweet release.

Why Do I Love Her Again?

The alarm had gone off, Carol was up and I was lying in a cocoon of warmth.

You know what I mean, when you are curled up in the fetal position on a cold January morning and you are perfectly comfortable, perfectly warm.

And then........................Lakota climbed up on top of me and laid down on my side. And began to touch my ear with her paw. Would have been cute except her claws were not fully retracted.

I moved my head a bit and then her paws were exploring the side of my face. Again with claws not fully retracted.

Gently but annoyingly.

I jerked my head a bit and she got the message and climbed down. She walked to the foot of the bed and I drifted back into a semi-sleep state.

Until she attacked my feet. If I move my feet at all under the covers and she is in a playful mood she will savage my feet.

I'm talking scratches.

I sat up and she immediately curled up in the warm spot where my bloated body had been.

I got out of bed and kissed her on the head.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stay Amazed

Stay amazed. The perfect goal. To experience life, always, with eyes wide open like a three month old child. Maybe even with a silly grin and saliva on your chin.
You get bludgeoned, though. Distracted. Numbness replaces amazement and before you know it the only thing that excites you is not getting excited.
Periodic amazement ain't a bad compromise, though. If you can be periodically and genuinely amazed from time to time, your battery won't die.
Gotta make it happen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Banner Day

I have been distracted for weeks.

I finished a book a day or so ago and realized exactly how distracted.

I had no other book lined up for consumption. This is so rare that it disturbed me greatly. I felt lost. Completely lost when I discovered this.

I have other books in the house. Books I could read. But they are books I keep around as fillers and I rarely can get myself to read them.

Because I want the next book always to be a book I have chosen.

I am very weird that way.

There is a book winging it's way to me as I speak but I cannot wait.

I'll choose a book and read it and enjoy it but my mind will be distracted.

I am too old for filler. For killing time. For killing books.

I have 73 books on the Amazon wish list. 73. That is not a lie.

One of my indulgences when I get back on my feet will be to buy every book on the wish list all at once.

That will be a banner day.

A.M. Hallucination

Had a dream a morning ago.

Carol and I decided to drive over and visit Johnny Depp. Apparently he is a good friend of ours.

We walked into his house and he was hanging around with his mother-in-law and his sister. A casual day.

And he was fat.

From the waist down. His ass was huge and we could not avoid staring at it. He kept getting up and walking around the room and we just could not believe how fat he was.

After a while, with his back turned towards us, he slowly peeled down his pants.

He was wearing fat man pants as a joke.

He laughed. We laughed.

He wasn't fat after all.

I love my dreams.

The Switch (And Regret)

When one switches from Crown Royal to Jim Beam to save money, one suffers greatly and sacrifices enormously. The compromised and offended taste buds become a driving force towards acquiring full time, respectable employment. However, the lazy thought lingers in the back of the mind that it would be easier to chow cat food seven days a week and spend the savings on that magnificent Canadian whisky.


I feel it coming on. My guts are tight, my mind flashes on and off the upcoming game.


Sunday, January 13th, 4:30 p.m. in the AFC Divisional playoffs.

I'm tempted to call Keith to ask him how I should feel. He knows so much more about sports than I do. I know a lot about whiskey, and rich, dark semi sweet chocolate.

I feel confidant. Like there is nothing to worry about. Then again we spanked Houston a few weeks ago when everybody thought they were a powerhouse. Embarrassed them.

I know when people embarrass me I want to destroy them. Banish them to hell for longer than eternity.

But THE PATS are magic, baby. They are not invincible as they once were but they are goddamn impressive.

It's been five decades now yet I am still amazed at what football does to me. Especially when THE PATS are brawling their way towards a shot at another ring.

It will be a long week. It will be a short week.

We will gather at Paula and Bill's, as is the tradition. Fabulous time always. There will be laughter, conversation, YELLING, intensity, excitement, food, booze, illegalities, and, hopefully, a celebration.

I can not wait. There is a chance my sons will be there, possibly their magical mystical women. That would be the icing on a very tasty cake.

But no promises. The negotiations have begun. They are complicated.

Either way, it will be a day of FEELING. I like to feel.

You want me to be grateful for something? All right I will give in this one time.

I am grateful for football. I am grateful for THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.

Because they make me feel alive.

Empty Words

We throw words around carelessly.

"Where does it all end? It's too much for me to take anymore."

Words made meaningless through repetition and drama.

What happens when you really get there? When you get to a point where you genuinely cannot take it any more?

What do you do?

"It's too much for me to take anymore."

Those words imply a resolve few of us have.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dig This

"We are always reaching out to touch a world we can neither fully trust nor flee."

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

Turning A Deaf Ear To The Fat Lady

I was driving home on Friday night, January 4. In the cold. In the dark. On my beloved back road.

Noticing the houses who have given up on the holidays. Lights out, trees gone. That included two of my favorite houses that brought me a lot of pleasure over the past few weeks. I was disappointed to see them give up so easily.

We don't know how or when to end this. You have the twelve days and all that, but the extinguishing of the spirit happens randomly, on no schedule.

On Monday night when I am coming home, 99% of the lights will be out. But there will be a few who keep lighting the lights. For a while.

I love those people. They like the feeling and they keep it going until it suits them to stop. They always bring a smile to my lips.

The transition is too abrupt. We should light candles on the mantel to ease our re-entry into the day to day.

Put six of them up there, big fat colorful ones. A few days after the new year, light five. Then four.

Do it on your own schedule, do it in a way that is gentle with your soul.

People dig the lights as more than a celebration of Christmas. I think people dig the lights for the color and the change it brings into their lives. I truly believe this.

Throw the rule book out. Be an individual.

The Fab Four

I have Leonard Cohen for the ride. And Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan.

Leonard with his Armani suits and Fedora, always a gentleman, a scholar and a romantic; Kris with his grizzled countenance and the words holy and spirit and truth and beauty and honesty; Townes with his humble "Thanks y'all" after every live song, a songwriter's songwriter who never got his due; Bob with that voice and the mystery and the talent and the passion to speak for a generation - any generation.

I keep company with these men regularly.

Without them, I have a specific perspective. Narrow.

With them, the perspective opens up and learning occurs. And emotion and introspection and self evaluation.

And hope. And inspiration.

I have Leonard and Kris and Townes and Bob for the ride.

They are strong enough to bear the weight of my life along with their own, as I lean on them.

And on the day I can stand on my own, we will celebrate together.

Growing Up (Growing Old)

We start out growing up and end up growing old.

We start out wondering if she will dance with us, grace us with a kiss; and end up wondering if we will ever be able to retire, wondering what awaits beyond the grave.

It happens quickly. Too quickly for the mind to absorb. The mind remains young as the body betrays.

A lot of what happens in between is a crap shoot.

I met my magic wife because I attended Northeastern University and made the mistake of majoring in accounting. The first work-study assignment was at the company where Carol worked.

Accounting was misery for me and a mistake as an academic concentration and later as a career. However, had I chosen writing or psychology or anything else more suited to my soul, I would not have met Carol and would not have Keith and Craig and Emily and Karen in my life.

My life would be darker for that. I wouldn't make that trade for anything. Not for anything.

A crap shoot.

My aunt called me to wish me a happy fifty ninth birthday. Couldn't believe that I am fifty nine. She cannot believe that she is 82. Her mind tells her differently.

Somewhere along the arc of my mother's too short and health challenged life, she told me the same thing. I don't remember which birthday it was, but she told me she couldn't believe it. That in her mind she was twenty one.

When people getting to know me ask me questions about my life, there is always the inevitable question about kids, and then how old are they. My cutesy answer, practiced hundreds of times, is that "they are 32 and 29, which makes no sense to me because I feel like I am 32 or 29."

Those words are honest and there is a touch of fear there.

There is so much chance in our lives that you have to wonder if you have any control. But you at least have to act like you have control or you will lose your mind.

The best you can hope for is to learn. Keep learning. Learn from your mistakes so you don't keep hurting yourself.

Sounds basic but we humans are masochistic. And often trapped in cycles or learned responses born of stubbornness.

Learning has to occur on a higher level too. Learning about life. How things work. Figuring out how to negotiate your time on this planet to make your life as much your own as is possible.

A lot harder to do today than ever. Choices are minimal and they are harsh. The people who have their hands on the reins of your life are more callous and less caring than any human has a right to be.

Then again, I could be completely wrong. There are those who see endless opportunity in limited choices. Learning to sing for the sake of the song.

Growing up. Growing old.

There is a lot of chance in between. There is also some choice about when the growing old begins, even an ability to never grow old in the minds of certain magical, mystical people.

One More Truth

One more painful truth.

Writing is the only talent I have. A true talent, a thing I was born with and was born to do.

It could change my life, improve it, even if only in a small way.

I have not tried hard enough to do anything with it. I have not even come close to trying hard enough to do anything with it.

I have lied to you and I have lied to me about my Herculean efforts.

That is one more harsh and painful truth that comes to me as I look into the mirror in 2013.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Herman Melville

"Melville's words fly out like sea spray and there is no saving him or his book. He knows it as he looks out on Mount Greylock, all serene and lush and green. He will fail as a writer and his failure will be this: his only audience will appear after he is dead. His life will turn inward, fame will not come to his home, his family will dissolve around him. He will struggle with life until the end of his life and when he dies people will be surprised because they assumed he had perished decades before."

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

As Far As I Can See

"The only advantage to being grotesquely obese, as far as I can see, is that you are never cold."


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

No Better Words

"This year I will be more thoughtful of my fellow man, exert more effort in each of my endeavors professionally as well as personally. Take love wherever I find it and offer it to everyone who will take it. In this coming year I will seek knowledge from those wiser than me, and try to teach those who wish to learn from me. I love being alive and I will be the best man I possibly can."

Written by Duane Allman in his diary on New Year's Day 1969.

I quoted this on January 1, 2012 and I am going to make it my New Year's tradition.

I can think of no better words, no better inspiration to begin a new year.

Reflection Part Two

I have been thinking deeply about my life. I have been thinking deeply about this blog.

The blog has become a part of me. I can't stay away from it. I tell myself that it is because I am trying to build a following and that writing erratically won't help that.

That is bullshit. The blog is one and a half years old now and my average daily hits are around 15. Sometimes 45, sometimes 2. Obviously I have not created a burning desire on the part of the blog reading public to read my words.

It is my blog, my words, my brain and my life. It is my fault that nobody reads it. If people found it compelling I would have been on Letterman by now.

For now I write for myself. It is the only place I can get as close to honest as a human can get. I air out my soul here and it makes me feel good.

The blog has an interesting (to me) history. I started it as My Brain Is Oatmeal because I felt it described my mental state at the time. Decided I didn't like that title, changed it to Booze And Blues, which  is closer to what I am all about. Found out there are 63 million blogs out there with that name so I went with Whiskey Wisdom, which I am comfortable with.

In the beginning, it was all about me whining about how horrible life is and especially how horrible my life was. At some point my son Keith, who  has an amazing zen-like approach to life, told me that he skipped over the really negative stuff and said nobody wants to read stuff like that.

Side note: I love the fact that I am at a point in my life, have been for years, where I learn from my sons. I did the Dad thing, did the best I could do, and now it often seems to me that they are wiser than me. Pretty cool.

Anyway at that point I made a concerted effort to write better. Less whining. Obviously I have not succeeded completely but I do believe I have changed.

Recently I started re-training my brain. Reading deeply of inspiring minds. For two reasons. To make me smarter, and to see that reflected in my writing.

It is a work in progress and one that I will continue because I believe in it. I am wrestling with evolving, with changing the way that I write and the things that I write about.

I got naked with my mind and tried to truthfully critique what is wrong with my writing.

I still whine a lot. Too much negativity. That is a waste of time and it is not good writing.

I swear a lot. I think it makes me look strong and passionate. It doesn't. It makes me come across as less intelligent than I am. Truth be told I use it for shock effect as well. That is immature.

I go off on rants about things that inspire me and talk about how that is how a life should be lived, that is what life is all about. I think that is disingenuous because I don't change my life to meet those loftier standards. If I write about it and forget about it, what is the point?

I talk a lot about what I want my life to be, how I want to live, what I want from myself, what I think life should be. But again I do not follow through. So the words are empty.

I am a passionate man. I want the passion of my writing focused to a laser point.

When I talked about my life previously, I admitted that changes have to be made but refused to name them. Those things are personal.

Here I am laying out my weaknesses right in front of you because that pushes me to rise to my own challenge.

In a way what I want from this blog in 2013 is to document my own progress as I force myself to evolve.

Not with empty promises, hopes, and dreams but with solid words carefully considered, and hopefully, with a telling of things I have accomplished.

Happy New Year to anyone who stumbles across my writing today.

May 2013 be The Year for all of us.

There Is No Magic (?)

It would be nice to have a clear line of demarcation between 2012 and 2013. But life doesn't work that way.

On December 30, our water heater crapped out. 2012 just had to have the last word. I despise that year and hope it rots in hell. We have been without hot water entering day three now. The water heater gods will be here tomorrow.

On December 30 I woke up with what I thought to be a cold. We visited Craig and Karen, and by the time we left I knew it was much more than that.

I woke up yesterday in sweat soaked clothes, I woke up today in sweat soaked clothes.

I started a tradition last year I named The Annual Joe Testa Birthday Bash And Open House. It was an attempt to make sure my birthday was not overlooked ever again. This is year two and the party has been cancelled due to illness.

As much as I wanted to wake up this morning - my birthday - to blazing change and energetic hope, I instead sit in a house with no hot water, no birthday celebration and I am physically pretty well punked out.

Not what you want from a fresh start.

My plan last night was to get home from work, eat steak and nap until midnight when Carol would wake me up for our wild celebration. We always stay up for the transition and I am glad we do. There is something there, there really is magic in that moment. Somehow I stayed awake for most of the night. Watched The Three Stooges Marathon during some of it.

Anyway I felt like crap but was glad to have celebrated in the coming of a new year.

Strange thing this morning. Standing in the kitchen shortly after seven, meditating to the Keurig drip, and I felt this determination. It was not a mind thing. It came from within and it came unbidded.

Surprised me. Because Carol and I have been savagely raped and beaten by 2012 and the poison has dripped over into 2013.

I don't know what it means but I do know it means something.

All this crap might seem like the end of the line. Apparently my spirit doesn't think so.

I love my birthday. I love the uniqueness of it. I will miss Craig and Karen and Keith and Emily and Edward and Paula and Bill today. Miss them deeply. Because I love them. And because if we do celebrate my birthday it won't be on my birthday, and that has become important to me.

But I have the best wife who has ever existed. Two magic cats. A recliner. College football. And an excuse to do absolutely nothing.

You gotta take what you can get.

P.S. - Happy Birthday to me. I am not a bad guy.