Monday, February 25, 2013

Skip, Luther, Muddy And My Soul

I never know where it is going to come from but it keeps coming and I am glad because it keeps me alive.

Working in the new location has reunited me with a friend that I dig. His name is Skip Philbrick and the man can play the blues. He lives in the town I'm working in, he came into the store the other day and zappo we were laughing and talking. I haven't seen him in a year.

I first became aware of him from visiting the Greatest Blues Club In The History Of The World. I was a regular and Skip played there a lot. I got to know him personally when I tended bar in the joint where he used to hang.

Skip played in Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson's band. Toured the country with him. Luther Guitar Junior Johnson played with Muddy Waters for eight years. Do you understand that lineage? Do you get the connections? Absolutely amazing. Mind blowing.

When I decided to learn to play the guitar, Skip encouraged me. Me. Another guitar player wannabe. We are all over the place. Guitar sitting in the corner of the room collecting dust. But Skip took an interest.

I knew three chords, had been playing for a very short time and Skip encouraged me to come to the club and sit in with him and another primo guitar player. I was shaking inside, had to drink two double whiskeys to get up the courage, but I did it.

And they did not treat me condescendingly. Made me feel damn good. This from a guy who played with Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson who played with Muddy Waters.

Skip always referred me to bands and musicians and songs that he knew I would like. I checked them out and loved them.

He just did it again. Told me about a radio station - 88.7 on the dial - WUMB -  told me they bring the funk. I checked it out, he was right and it made my commute gentle. Music for the soul at a time when I feel pressured and unsure. Sweet escape. Skip did that for me.

Today WUMB celebrated George Harrison's birthday. Which is today. I am ashamed to admit I didn't know that. But it got to me. This evolved, spiritual, intelligent, sensitive man who had such an impact on the world and on my life.

I would not have known it was George's birthday if not for the radio station Skip turned me on to. And it gave me peace. Huge peace. To reflect on this man who tore into life inquisitively - who investigated religions and spirituality - who changed his life to reflect his beliefs - who never stopped seeking.

I am hacking away at myself trying so very hard to evolve and George was right there today to inspire me.

Thanks to Skip.

I heard a song lyric today that blew me away. On WUMB. "It's a long, hard road but you got to pick a lane." Blew me away.

I just picked a lane. Don't have a clue where it will lead but I picked the damn lane and I am cruising down it right now for better or for worse.

I would never have heard that lyric if it wasn't for Skip.

I live for this stuff. I hunger for it and it comes randomly and when it comes, my mind is blown wide open and I am so goddamn happy to be alive.

I read a line in a book yesterday that made me think hard. From a guy feeling pressured. "I had to decide how to use that pressure. I had to decide whether it was going to crush me or turn me into a diamond."

That is exactly where I am right now. Exactly.

I have been wobbling back and forth in four short days of the new job between confidence and fear.

Skip gave me some fuel for confidence, he gave me sweet peace and inspiration.

That is not insignificant. It is goddamn huge.

It came out of no where but then again it came from somewhere. It came from the life I have lived, decisions made, decisions avoided, the good great people I have come in contact with and come to love and respect.

It is magic it is my life and I  am so grateful for these "random" connections that feed my soul.

Thanks Skip.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Job (Again)

Yowza, I'm shaking the cobwebs out.

Haven't walked around in here for four days. An eternity.

Crazy week. Life changing.

Stumbled through the last three days of my old dead-end soul sucking job. Said goodbye to the guys who made me laugh. That was tough. I am an ancient mariner. Held many jobs in my life. Don't know what that says about my employability but that is a topic for another place and time.

I have never laughed as much as I did with this crew. Ever. We got it done and we made it as much fun as possible. People loved coming into our store because they got service and they got a show. I don't think I will ever experience that again. It was a pleasure working with these guys and I miss them already.

Yesterday was Day One of The New Job. I survived it. That is good enough for me. I don't know how cool you are, but for me the goal on the first day of any new job is to survive. I am ultra nervous and confidence fights a battle with the lack thereof.

I made bonehead mistakes, I handled some stuff all right. I am an assistant manager. That ups the ante. I never think of myself as better than anybody else so it is tough for me to think of myself as a boss. But these people are looking to me for guidance. I have no choice.

I met them, I made my impressions, they made their impressions and we all got through it. I was so tense I never ate lunch, I never took a break. I tried to hide the look of bewilderment on my face but covering up with a hood is frowned upon in retail so I just went with it. I gave off as much false bravado as I could and limped home.

But the gut tells all. I still have a good feeling about this situation. I think I can make it work for me. Work for Carol. Just gotta suck it up.

Day Two today. I am mulling over the bonehead stuff, hoping to avoid that today. I am planning ahead as much as possible. Thinking the day out. Who is there, how to orchestrate it all. Try to be more of a manager.

Still nervous. That's me. I make myself nervous without provocation. I'll work hard to control that so I can focus on doing what I know I know how to do.

I am my toughest critic. If I can satisfy me, I can satisfy anybody.

New approach today. I am wearing a hockey mask.

Ciao, baby.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Smoke and Mirrors

I am anticipatory. Mulling over learned lessons. Grabbing hold of solid facts, letting the abstract slip by.

I am thinking furiously. Smoke pours from my ears and the cats are fascinated.

I am boning up. Studying. Asking questions in my mind and out in the open.

I am a machine right now. A machine with a focus.

A lifetime of experience coalescing in my mind - learning from the bad as I simultaneously beat it down, squeezing knowledge from the good.

There is a fork in the road and I recognize it clearly. There is meaning in what is about to happen and consequences to how I approach it.

Learning will be involved and I must embrace it. Mistakes will be made and I can't allow them to derail me.

An opportunity, however twisted, that I can use to my advantage. An opportunity that I cannot allow to use me or use me up.

(A glimpse through the smoke into a mind at work)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mumford & Sons

I just discovered Mumford & Sons. They are a Celtic flavored English folk rock band.

I love their music. Absolutely love it.

I randomly discovered them on NPR. They were being interviewed and they played some of their songs. My soul came alive and I realized I had discovered a band I could truly love. As is my way, I immediately procrastinated about digging into them.

Until yesterday. I was doing that Sunday thing, that lazy recliner thing. Came across a concert documentary thing called The Road To Red Rocks and my head exploded.

Allow me to explain. There are certain things in my life that I definitely want to experience. Not just want to experience, have to experience. As I get older I have to cross more things off the list. This distresses me but that's life, baby. There are a few things I refuse to give up on. One is digging a concert at Red Rocks. Another is visiting Arizona. If I don't make it, there will be a clause in my will binding my loved ones to travel my corpse to both destinations before they set me on fire and dance around my memory.

The Red Rocks Ampitheatre is a gorgeous outdoor concert venue literally carved out of the rocks in Red Rocks Park near Morrison, Colorado. Do yourself a favor, go on line and look at the pictures of this place. It will blow your mind.

The Allman Brothers play there almost every summer. It has been a lifelong ambition for me to see them there. That would be the ultimate concert for me and I would drown in tears of happiness if I ever pull it off.

It may not happen, but it hit me yesterday that Mumford & Sons would be a worthy second. That is how much I love their music.

I am so happy to discover new passions at the age of 59. It gives me hope, keeps me vibrating at the frequency of life and revitalizes my soul.

Their debut album Sigh No More came out in 2009. Their second album, Babel, was released last September. So I am only two albums behind and I will own them soon.

They just won a Grammy for album of the year for Babel.

As I dug this concert yesterday I was blown away by their energy and enthusiasm. They love what they are doing, they bounce around the stage, they rock and sway, they are passionate, I almost had to leap out of my leather heaven to experience them fully.

Guitar, mandolin, drums, banjo, keyboards, accordion, electric and stand up bass - an eclectic mix of instruments that levitated my soul out of lethargy and floated me to ecstasy. I am smothering you in hyperbole but I am not exaggerating my emotional response.

What a great thing to be lying in repose, resting, marshaling all my energy and intellect (?) for the life change that looms ahead of me, and to be suddenly blasted off to a place of pure joy and experience, to revel in pure emotion, to experience someone else's take on life set to music that made me smile continuously and washed the worry out of my eyes with intermittent tears.

Their energy became my energy and I felt so damn good.

And the lyrics. Always the lyrics with me. I have to do a lot of reading and you can bet I will come back to bore you with my opinion, but what I have picked out already, I love.

Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwayne.

Music, sweet music, I love our relationship and life long commitment. I picked you out as a companion somewhere around 50 years ago, my soul assuming you would enrich my life.

My soul was not wrong.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Evolution Of Bruce Springsteen vis a vis Rock "n Roll And Other Thoughts

Driving to work yesterday in The Peace Mobile listening to The River. Springsteen.

Started thinking about how a skinny young rocker evolves into a worldwide icon and what that does to the music.

You start a rock band as a kid on purely idyllic footing. That is assuming you are not a fraud. I think if you go into it expecting to get rich and famous, you will not get there. That's because it has to come from the heart. You have to to do it for love and from love. That is what connects music to an audience. Adele is not kicking ass because her music is pretty. She kicks ass because her songs come from the heart; she is expressing raw emotion, taking pain and converting it like a musical alchemist into universal understanding.

Adele kicks ass because her audience - male and female - raise their fists and metaphorically shout "Goddamn right! Take that, a**hole!" Coming straight from their own hearts.

You start out as this guy Bruce Springsteen, you put together an awesome band because talent attracts talent, you write from the heart, you perform with everything you got (Bruce looks like his head is going to explode every time he rocks; he gives it his all; I dig that) and suddenly you have an audience. Because they identify with what you are saying.

I identify with the songs and I have only been a blue collar worker accidentally in my life. Even as a pampered white collar professional I was still stuck in something I didn't understand, I worked for the boss man who didn't know or care that I existed, I hated my job and felt trapped with limited choices. 

And still when I'm out on the street I walk the way I want to walk, when I'm out on the street I talk the way I want to talk.

That's the point. He hits universal points, universal concerns, universal confusion, disappointment and suffering.

And suddenly the whole world loves your music, your band and you become BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

The man assumes great responsibility and addresses mature themes, political agendas, human injustices and still his music rocks and still his audience loves him. He is maturing, they are maturing, the music and the message are maturing.

Nobody saw this coming when The Beatles took the world hostage. Not in 1963. By the end of their career it was obvious that there is a magical, mystical relationship between how a human changes and how the music changes.

Springsteen handles this gracefully. He has gravitas but I sense that he is still grounded. I love U2 but sometimes Bono comes across as a pompous ass.

I was listening to an album released in 1980 and was right there with it. I listen to and love his new stuff. I love what this band has to say and I love to just lose myself in the music sometimes. Listening to Independence Day yesterday, a song about change, a song about moving on, a song about a Dad and his son going in different directions. An achingly emotional song. The Big Man cranks up his sax for a solo and it just aches with emotion. No words, just a man and his sax, and it is every bit as emotional as the words themselves.

Connecting on every level. That is real, it is honest, it is the human experience expressed in  a raw and elemental way.

This man and his band have become bigger than rock 'n roll, bigger than the music industry, bigger than a success story and they still maintain a sense of perspective. They still rock and they still connect with their audience.

Amazing stuff and food for my soul. Contunuously evolving. Probably into my twilight years.

That is one hell of a statement and light years down the road from where that skinny kid got his inspiration.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Charles Bowden

Just finished reading three books by Charles Bowden.

Blood Orchid; Some Of The Dead Are Still Breathing, and Blues For Cannibals. This is in line with  my commitment to depth in 2013 and maybe for the rest of my life. I read one, liked it, and decided to dive in and get a solid feel for this man. This is something I used to avoid like the plague. I like to jump from book to book, author to author, to keep things fresh. I figured out it also keeps me superficial.

He is another random and glorious discovery for me. When I have time to kill (I hate that expression; it gives me goosebumps to say it) I navigate the TV on demand menu looking for something different. I work hard to avoid ruts and predictability; I want newness and exercise for my brain and emotions. However I must admit when The Sopranos was available it was a definite go to. And of course there is the endless cycle of Sex In The City reruns which I actually ENJOY watching with Carol.

Came across a documentary about a photographer, Eros Hoagland, covering his work in Mexico photographing drug traffic violence and casualties. Charles Bowden was interviewed in the documentary, he interested me and before you know it I had his books in my hands.

He is my kind of guy. Most people would characterize him as dark. Coincidentally this is a description I have heard applied to my writing and point of view on more than one occasion. I have never understood this because I am a huge fan of Tweety Bird.

But I digress.

The guy lives in the Southwest and loves it, which created an even stronger bond between us because I have a bone deep longing to experience Arizona and other arid climates. It is my deeply held belief that I could live there in mind blowing peace. Maybe one day................. His writing includes frequent references to the climate and the land and the culture, they are offered lovingly and they stir my soul.

He has a fatalistic (I consider realistic) opinion of where our society is headed, but he manages to convey a skewed sense of positiveness. He makes the point that our worship of technology and progress are actually accomplishing the opposite of what we intend. We are going nowhere but committed to doing it at warp speed. As our lives become increasingly more complex, more and more people get left behind. That is why you see this society of unemployed and underemployed and why you see vacant stares on so many faces that chill your bones.

The more "advanced" we get, the less human we become.

I wholeheartedly agree, even as I admit my opinion means nothing.

He references Indian culture a lot and has a lot of admiration for their principles and a lot of disgust for what we did to them. He made one analogy that I absolutely dug. Talking about how we harassed Indians onto reservations, introduced disease and whiskey into their lives and destroyed them through desperation. He compares that to our dope addicted, booze swilling, prescription drug solution society. A society that has come full circle and is now declining in desperation.

He describes the Southwest as a place where people go when they have nowhere else to go. Outsiders, non-believers, lost people looking for some truth. Some reality. His books are full of hard people, alcoholics, druggies, people broken by relationships and society and lies and disappointment and disease. But they are real people who refuse to swallow the cool aid our society so easily hands out.

This may all sound depressing, but I think it is more a dose of reality than anything else. As we continue to amuse ourselves with toys like iPhones, real, bone deep life passes us by as we look down at that little screen.

Here is a reference from Blood Orchid that thrilled me:

"This is a stretch of highway where the Navajos are said to believe that all the dead Indian drunks wait by the roadside as ghosts - as the wolves of the Dine - and at say two in the morning when you're tired and loaded, they reach out with their cool, bony hands and pull you off into the ditch to join them."

I choose to believe that is more than a myth. It satisfies my sense of karma.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Anything But

Joy can come unexpectedly and when it does it is magnified tenfold.

Yesterday was our 35th anniversary and also Carol's bowling night. Because we wanted to spend the night together I agreed to go with her to the bowling extravaganza. Carol LOVES her bowling nights. It is her chance to shine. She kicks ass on the lanes, currently sitting in 3rd place for female average. Bowling night is her chance to forget about the goddamn bills and just have fun; to laugh with her very good friends Jason and Stacey.

As I have said before, I bring shady people into our life. Lovable losers and no account boozers. Carol brings quality people into our life. Jason and Stacey are prime examples.

Anyway it was a simple plan for a simple night.

When we got there Jason had secretly spoken to the desk jockey and suddenly there was an announcement over the intercom of the 35th anniversary of Carol and Joe. Hundreds of people applauding and cheering. Goosebumps, baby.

Then Jason and Stacey hand us a bag with a bottle of Asti Spumante and a cool card. One of those cool corny cards where you open it up and hear a cruise ship honking it's horn, suggesting warm and peaceful times. Unbelievable.

Jason and others bought my beers. A simple night had turned into a celebration.

One thing I really dug was that over the course of the night people kept coming over to congratulate and talk to us. People who had been married a long time and understand what it means to spend your life with someone. Their comments had meaning, our conversations were real because we had the shared experience of spending decades fighting back against life's challenges using love as a weapon. I really, really dug that.

We laughed all night long. Jason and Stacey are fun people, real people, no bullsh** people. We laughed.

One thing that kept me grounded was the little boy in a wheelchair in the lanes next to ours. He was a little guy in a very big wheel chair. I don't know what his ailment is but I kept looking over at him. He was so well behaved, so content. He sat there with his parents and entertained himself with toys and snacks. He smiled a lot. As my heart swelled with the joy of this impromptu celebration it also broke to see that little boy in that chair. I felt grateful for my healthy and amazing sons. I don't know who that little guy is but I love him. I love him for being stronger than me.

Carol is the secretary of the league and gets stuck hanging around after her team is done to take care of administrative duties. and Jason and Stacey drove ten minutes down the road to the bar where my son Craig works. He was not expecting me. We walked in the door and I got a big hug and a happy anniversary from my son. We sat at the bar and laughed and talked. Carol showed up a little while later and basked in the hug and happy anniversary Craig-glow.

Part of our simple plan was to hit D'Angelo's on the way home. Instead we opted for bar food to go. The night wound down and we said warm goodbyes to Jason and Stacey and Craig.

Walked into the house and there were anniversary messages on the machine from my brother and from my magnificent son Keith. Icing on the cake, baby. Icing on the cake.

Brief aside: Before we left to go bowling at the beginning of the night, we read a card my brother had sent us. It was a beautiful card that he had personalized in a way that brought tears to my eyes.

I sat my fat ass down on the recliner at 10:30 and chowed a pulled pork sandwich and a mountain of fries as if I had not eaten in a month. We watched TV for a while and I managed to stay awake. For a while.

Predictably, I fell asleep.

I awoke just before midnight, gave our awesome cats their snacks, refilled their water bowl (Lakota loves her water fresh and cold), kissed my lovely wife and wished her happy anniversary one more time at two minutes to midnight. Got it in under the wire.

We planned a simple night to enjoy our anniversary together.

It was anything but. It was a true celebration. Joy and laughter and depth and friendship and love and family and reality. It was the kind of night that you do not want to end. The kind of night that makes you want to call in sick the next day just to continue to take it all in.

In reality, a celebration like that never ends. We have the memories. Memories so deeply meaningful that they became a part of our essence, our spirit, our us.

Absolutely beautiful.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Autobiographia Literaria

A poet I discovered yesterday. Take a taste.

"When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!

Frank O'Hara

I heard this poem sung yesterday and it blew me away. You can interpret it anyway you want; that is the beauty of creativity. I have ideas but I haven't read enough of Mr. O'Hara to opine.  But I will. I like this guy. All I can tell you is that the opening stanza grabbed my emotions and the poem ended for me in an unexpected way.

Creative people keep coming into my life in unexpected, unplanned ways. I love that.

There is a story connected with how I came in contact with Frank but I haven't the time or the energy to get into it right now. But I will.

Poetry rocks.

The Plan (Shaped By Cold Honesty)

I have found it hard to get in here as often as I used to, as often as I would like to.

At the end of the year of our lord 2012, I was down and dirty depressed, distressed, lost and wondering. I bounced around for a while as 2013 began, bobbing to the surface from time to time, sinking deep at other times, feeling life screaming past me and my brightly illuminated confusion.

It is amazing what hope can do and how it intertwines with perspective.

I know my life will improve, at least financially, on February 22, 2013. That is Day One of The New Job. This lifts me up. I take deeper breathes now instead of those made shallow by fear. But I am giving the situation a lot of thought.

We learn from our mistakes. That is a hopeful sentiment and one we use to fool ourselves more often than not. But I am sure it applies to a lot of people.

Except me. I have perfected the endless cycle of mistake repetition. Because my mind is truly warped, often crippled by psychological walls I can never break through.

I sit here two weeks out considering my weaknesses and plotting a strategy to defeat them. This in and of itself is an amazing evolution for me. In every other new job situation I immediately sabotaged myself because I knew I would hate the job before I ever set foot in the door. I did not prepare, I went in with a feeling of doom, walking through the doors on the first day like Jacob Marley walking through eternity with ten tons of chains wrapped around his ethereal body.

 Time after time after time after time I would come home from the new job and lie to my wife, lie to my sons. "How was your first day? Do you think you will like the job?" I told them yeah the people seem cool and the job will be good. I said this with my guts twisted into a knot, my heart and soul simultaneously suffocating and screaming in horror.

 That is not an exaggeration.

I have no illusions this time around. I work for an organization that is decadent and depraved. Knowing that makes it irrelevant. My only obligation is to make myself as happy as I can within this new reality.

These are the things that defeat me every time:

I have no self confidence. None. I struggle with the origin of this trait endlessly but I am not interested in analyzing it here. In every work situation around other people I always assume I am low man on the totem pole. The least intelligent, the least efficient, the least understood, contributing the least to the equation. I always assume everybody else knows more than me and functions more efficiently than me. 

I have managed people before and was not good at it because I am easy going. I don't believe you have to be a tyrant to manage people but I do believe you have to bring whatever strengths you possess to the responsibility. I never did this because I assumed I was not good at it anyway.

Knowledge. I never dug into any job because I was always fatalistic about it. Hated the job, figured I would go nowhere with it, was not interested in expending the energy to learn what I should have known. That approach makes you vulnerable.

Fear. I am always afraid to try something I think I cannot handle instead of just diving in and learning from the experience. Every job has aspects that you hate; I always avoided them instead of conquering them.

I recognize these short comings and I have a plan to neutralize them. At least as much as a diseased mind like mine can neutralize anything.

This is not a plan to become the best assistant liquor store manager in recorded history. This is a plan to make myself as happy as I can be within the parameters of a new reality.

Of course, this being 2013, I won't tell you what the plan is. I will only talk about accomplishments in here, not intentions.  I am proud of the fact that I have snagged this job, proud from the point of view of being able to go public with an accomplishment instead of whining about my current job or the interview carousel.

The money will contribute to my happiness. I am hammering out this plan to intensify the happiness. I will take a specific approach that makes sense to me considering my sordid employment past and recognizing my weaknesses. There is hope in this plan. Hope for personal evolution.

I might even set myself free.

But I am getting ahead of myself............

The Ultimate Oxymoron

Senate intelligence committee.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Apparently I Have Matured

My brain is like a freight train and it's running off the rails.

You move from job to job, if it ain't no big pay increase it ain't too exciting. Good for a change of scenery, a change of faces. I have had plenty of those.

You get a job that improves your life, now you got something.

I am monitoring my brain waves on this life change, paying more attention than I normally do. I have coasted through a large part of my life accepting the fact that I screwed up and would be made to suffer to the grave. And I always believed the grave was one foot step away.

That prophesy has largely been true, although some of the suffering has to be called self fulfilling. And I have avoided the grave so far.

Amusingly enough I artificially created this situation by searching for happiness and accepting a 50% pay decrease along the way. The new job seems huge by way of comparison, but in reality I am only getting back to what I was earning in 2005, when I began this strange odyssey of hope and failure.

Everything is relative, baby, everything is relative.

If I got a healthy jump in pay years ago I would immediately have begun plotting to buy things. All the things I felt I deserved and had been cheated out of.

Apparently I have matured. This time I am plotting to pay down all our credit card debt. I am plotting to give birth to a fat, bouncing savings account. I am plotting to pamper Carol, to buy her stuff, go out to dinner, go to Red Sox games and have a lot more fun. I am plotting to attend Fishercats games with Keith, Monarchs, maybe Sox and, if the good lord smiles down upon me, PATS games. I am planning on attending NRA meetings with Craig and being his caddy from time to time. "Another beer sir?" I am planning to spend more time with my brother and to buy a really good bottle of wine when I visit. I am plotting to buy a car. Used. With a super powered, nuclear intensity heater. My truck is 16 years old and that is one area where I do believe I deserve a break.

My plans are modest. I have learned that when you are without cash, everything closes in on you, chokes off any chance at living, and makes stress your evil companion.

The pay increase signifies to me a chance to elbow my way to breathing room. To sleep soundly and wake without fear. To make life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable.

Every extra dollar I get will have the face of Carol or Keith or Emily or Craig or Karen or Eddie on it reminding me that they are what this is all about.

I don't need to keep up with the Joneses. They are idiots.

This family is what I need. Along with the ability to enjoy their company fully alert without the crushing anxiety of worrying every minute I am with them about tomorrow.

Apparently I have matured.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are You Serious?

Got some news today. Good news.

I snagged a job as assistant manager of a NH liquor store.

Think about how bizarre that is.

I began a love affair with alcohol at the age of fifteen. Got drunk for the first time in 1969 and never looked back. I have continued a spiritual relationship with booze for 44 years. Sometimes the booze called the shots, sometimes I called the shots. Played around with drugs here and there but booze gave me exactly what I needed. I'll take booze any day over any drug. (Except love).

Learned physicians would scream to the heavens that my relationship with booze is extremely unhealthy. I think they are quacks. Even when booze was calling the shots, there was something there, some sort of guidance that booze provided to keep me from running off the rails.

In the past eight months I have scaled back whiskey consumption dramatically. Carol would never agree to this but she is not objective. If she sees me raise a glass to my lips she jumps up from the couch and calls every twelve step program in New England begging them to admit me.

I don't blame her. I did this to her. There was a time, going back beyond eight months, when I would have a glass in my hand before I took my coat off. And that glass would stay refilled until I fell asleep (passed out).

I don't do that anymore. Not even close. But she can't see it.

Anyway, considering my history with booze, imagine my amazement two and a half years ago when I found myself with the keys to a liquor store along with the alarm code and the combination to the safe.

Who could believe it.

Imagine my amazement today to be poised to call myself assistant manager of a liquor store.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

Here's the irony of the last seven years. I left accounting in December of 2005 to get happy. Thought bartending was a chance for me to excel at something I could dig, and make money.

Didn't work out (although I was a damn good bartender). I began hopping around like a flea at any opportunity that came around. Desperate to find happiness in work.

Didn't work out. I was even more unhappy than when I played an accountant on TV. I was one with the 99.9% of the people in the world for whom work equals hatred and results in poverty. The number of people who love what they do is minuscule. Lots of people say they love their jobs; most of them lie. People say what they think they are expected to say; they say anything that doesn't make them look weak.

I thought I was smart enough to find a work path to happiness. I am not.

So after seven years of earning half of what I used to earn, of struggling financially and worrying with every single breath, I have come full circle.

This job will not make me happy. Except to know that my deeply loving wife will not have to wake in fear ever single goddamn morning. We can be ourselves again. We can stop eating cat food and cut back to just cat snacks every once in a while.

A brief aside: Eating cat food was not pleasant, although the food was no worse than what the Olive Garden serves. But eating on all fours gave me a valuable perspective. I shall continue to do that.

The timing is unbelievable. February 12 marks our 35th wedding anniversary. THIRTY FIFTH.  Of all the things that tortured my soul with reminders of how painfully we were struggling, our anniversary was one of the biggest.

We settled every year. For affordable restaurants. Sometimes for no restaurants at all. No gifts. February 12th ripped my guts out every year.

Not this year. We will go out to eat wherever the hell we want. I will pamper my wife and be gentle and considerate and grateful for her putting up with a silly seven year odyssey that caused her a great deal of pain.

And that's just the beginning. She will be sixty this year. Her birthday was the other thing that flopped my guts on the ground. I could never spoil her.

This year she gets it all. All my love, all my attention, all my gratefulness. And a damn nice present.

That's what this job means to me. Ain't got nothing to do with ego or career or accomplishment or pride.

This job will give me the chance to restore dignity to our life. It will give me the chance to say thank you to my wife who endured the fantasy of my dreams, who never gave me sh** about it, who suffered silently.

Time and circumstances change your perspective. If you are willing, you can learn.

Gonna be a hell of a year.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Devil And Mercedes

There will be a Mercedes ad during the Super Bowl featuring Sympathy For The Devil.

I love that with every fiber of my being. Rock 'n roll has come a long way, baby. Mercedes is catering to people like me except in my case it's tough to afford a Mercedes when you bring home $300/week.

Sympathy is a dark song. Of course Mercedes is banking on people not being knowledgeable about the lyrics and they are right. There are still millions of fools who believe Born In The USA is a patriotic anthem.

It's all about recognition, and the baby boomers will immediately identify with the song.

Me personally, I love the interplay of dark lyrics with the image of luxury.

I am sure I will be babbling in detail about the commercial very soon.

I have never liked the selling out of rock 'n roll for commercial exploitation but Pete Townshend put it all in perspective for me years ago when somebody asked him about it.

He gently responded: "They are my songs, I wrote them and I will do with them whatever I f***ing please."

He's got a point.

"So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste"

A marketing message to live by.

I Blew It And Now I Am Lost

In November of 2012, I committed to a solid retirement plan.

I had gone out to retrieve a shopping cart and found a fortune cookie sitting in it. The cookie was unopened.

I ripped the plastic off and ignored the meaningless message, but I zeroed in on the lucky numbers.

I knew this was my chance. I of course played those numbers in the Mega Millions drawing at the time, which was worth $12,000,000. The draw date was November 30.

I thumb tacked the ticket and the fortune cookie fortune together up on our dream board for luck and, believe it or not, forgot about it for a while.

I finally checked it in late December.

We got nothing. Not even one number.

I was stunned. I was already making retirement plans. Plans that required the expenditure of a great deal of money. Comfort costs, you know.

I have been unstable ever since.

But not without hope. I have an extensive background in accounting and believe I can come up with an equally solid and well thought out retirement plan.

I am considering my options as we speak.

ASmile Amongst The Ruins

Amidst the dead-end, soul sucking nature of my job I occasionally come across something that makes me smile.

Danzante wines, an Italian wine maker, has the following slogan:

"Dance the pure emotion of Italian wine."

I love that. It says it all.

Rules And Regulations

"I understand that my last meal shall be reviewed in conjunction with food items which are readily available, either in the prison food inventory or which can be obtained locally from a grocery store. The quantity of food afforded to me shall be in reasonable proportions that normally would be consumed at a meal and which could be eaten within a (30) thirty minute period.
This is my last and final meal request. I will not resubmit my request."

Those are the rules governing the final meal request of a person about to be executed.

We have too many rules. Everything has to be defined down to minutiae. These rules strangle us, rob us of opportunities, keep us cornered and under control.

They are generally arbitrary rules that have no basis in fact other than to benefit those making the rules. Supposedly designed to maintain order, give you a sense of what you need to do to fit in. They define what is acceptable.

The needs or the psyche or the humanity of the people affected by the rules is not considered. Nor is the fact that humans are individuals and are unique. This is why we are all so frustrated. We are forced to conform to rules that deny our essence. We are evaluated by these rules, judged by them, when our very existence transcends them.

Initially rules develop out of need. Something is observed that is deemed disruptive and rules are written.

We are way beyond that point. Start a new job and read the employment agreement or contract or rules for behavior and you have committed yourself to 18 hours of boredom. Eight pounds of paper. And the words chill you. Make you feel like a machine. A robot. A thing to be kept down. Like a human resource rather than personnel.

I understand the food choice restriction for the condemned. Do you really need to clock the final meal at thirty minutes max? It's all about control, baby and the illusion that control equals power.

Brief aside: Anybody who is hungry shortly before being executed demonstrates amazing mental toughness. The rest of us are babies by way of comparison. Considering the soft, whiny nature of our society in general, maybe we are executing the wrong people.

Last year Carol and I got screwed by Citi. They arbitrarily reduced the credit limit on a credit card, even though we had never been late with a payment. Never. They had not mailed out the notification letter yet nor had they called to inform us; we found out when we tried to use the card to pay for an emergency car repair.

After a lengthy fight we were told they had reduced the credit limit because they thought we might get into financial trouble in the future. I was blown away and asked them to send me a copy of the clause in the contract allowing them to do that.

They did. I have been searching frantically just now for the letter because the exact wording will blow you away. I can't find it but when I do I will quote it. Trust me when I say the paragraph essentially says that regarding the credit limit they can do whatever they want whenever they want regardless of circumstance.

This is the nature of rules. This giant financial organization can do whatever it wants regarding my financial existence because they created that rule. The rule benefits them and them alone; it created a great deal of hardship for Carol and me at the time.

What happens to the condemned when he reaches minute 31 of his last meal? Do they yank the plate away and force him to hit the StairMaster one last time?

It's in the rules, you know.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Wine Is Marijuana Marijuana Is Wine

Wine is marijuana. Marijuana is wine.

They vibrate at the frequency of life.

Marijuana is a delightful drug. I don't think of it as a social drug. I would much rather get high alone than in company.

Alone I can think thoughts, alone I can move to a different dimension in my mind and change my perspective, even if only temporarily. Socially it seems that conversation suffers as pot smokes the mind like pork in a smokehouse. If you get to the laughing point it can be cool but todays' pot ain't the pot of my youth. It is ultra strong and I like it like that.

It bends my already warped mind.

I once had a conversation with a tree thanks to pot. At one difficult point in my life I was working a second shift warehouse job. We were in a heap of trouble and I was pretty pissed off. I didn't have to be to work until 4:00 and I felt an obligation to drink whiskey and smoke pot before going to work.

It was a gorgeous summer day, I sat a lawn chair in the yard and fired up a beauty. I smoked more of it than I intended and was suddenly captivated by this tree that was a couple of feet away from me. I started talking to it. Looking for wisdom. Looking for answers. I believed the pot had transported me to a natural place where I was one with that tree.

I never got any answers, no insight at all, but the conversation was no less fruitful than most conversations with humans.

True story.

An aside: I was frequently reprimanded on that job for sloppy work. I could never understand why.

I also don't like to mix pot and booze, although I do it frequently. If I smoke first then drink, the high alters the chemistry of the drunk. I don't enjoy the booze as much. If I drink first and then smoke I might as well put a lampshade over my head and stay close to a toilet.

Pot is harmless and provides great benefits. It is a natural high that is in tune with your body. And there ain't no hangover. Those in power have been demonizing pot for decades, to no avail. They cannot prove addiction or health risks so they fall back upon the lame "gateway drug"  paranoia.

Pot is as much a gateway drug as milk is a gateway drink. All drug addicts and alcoholics have consumed milk in their lives. It is time for the government to commission an exhaustive study investigating the potential connection between milk drinking and addiction.

Wine is a delight. When you pour wine down your throat, your body thanks you. Wine is natural, it is healthy, it is in tune with your body. The health effects of wine have been touted by the medical community for years and I believe them to be true.

I love whiskey but I have to admit whiskey is not gentle. Whiskey speaks to me, I choose it over any other hard liquor, but I know it ravages my body. Slowly if I live in this dimension, exponentially if I live in the dimension of my mind which sees the truth but can't get at it.

My budget prevents me from drinking the wines that I need. I end up drinking cheap wine that is acidic and gives me no pleasure. No, I am not talking Thunderbird and MD 20/20, although I was not adverse to drinking those along with Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill in my formative years.

You need to spend some coin to get good wine. I can't afford the better wines that I have tasted, which frustrates me because they infused my body with taste and warmth and health and created within me a desire to continue along that path.

When I am rich and famous I will drink fine wine and cut down on the whiskey. My liver is on it's knees praying for that day to come quickly.

I soulfully believe that marijuana and wine are natural, they are good for you, they promote health in your mind and your body.

They have an elegance and a subtleness about them that makes you a better person.

The world desperately needs an exponential increase in better people.

Sunshine Of My Love

Sitting comfortable in The Recliner this morning, book in hand, cup of coffee at hand, cats effortlessly being. Precious, peaceful moments that I cherish and have cherished all my life.

I haven't always had the cats, haven't always had The Recliner, haven't always lived in this house, but I have always had the books. The one constant that holds it all together and makes it work. And nourishes my soul and frees my spirit to fly.

But I digress.

Put the book down for a moment this morning just as the sun was slanting through the window at just the right angle to shine upon the three frame pictures of Keith and Emily. The pictures were positively illuminated.

Some of that came from within.

I thought how appropriate it was for the sun to sparkle off those images. Three pictures from their wedding - looking deeply into each other's eyes and laughing. Laughing honestly, in pure joy and celebration. Carol and I cherish those pictures. There is so much love in those pictures that when you are feeling down you can run your hand over them and revitalize your soul a little bit.

They have no idea how much they amaze me. They are a creative couple and I worship creativity. Keith a writer, Emily a songstress. Both exceptional at what they do.

They give life a jump start, they kick it up a notch by putting their creativity out there, by doing what they love, which syncs them up with the vibe of the universe and separates them from those who toil joylessly.

They are light years away from the mundane.

I learn from both of them; what a delight for a parent to be taught by the child.

I was grateful for that slant of sun, that sparkle of light and warmth. It took me from my own natural high, my precious peaceful moment, and moved me even higher.

The high of my love for Keith and Emily, spiced with respect and admiration.

Pretty good way to explode into a day.


Cats sleep 27 hours a day and still inspire glorious amounts of precious love into my home.

How the hell do they do that?