Friday, February 28, 2014

Death Quotes

I was looking for some darkness to offset the blog entry that follows and I came across death quotes.

There is a website that offers quotes about death that "are suitable to be used as part of a eulogy speech."

Man, we humans got it all covered, don't we?

I came a cross a couple that I like.

"I believe that if I should die, and you were to walk near my grave, from the very depths of the earth I would hear your footsteps."

Benito Perez Galdos



"Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time.....it tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other."

Leo Buscaglia


Not exactly dark stuff but, what the hell, you can't always hit the mark.

Birds

Man I'm telling you it seems like every time we get blasted with a snow storm - the next day is blue sky gorgeous.

Do not expect me to tell you the snow looks pretty - I could never bring myself to utter those words - but, perhaps by way of comparison, when the storm is over and you have wrenched your back shoveling the snow and endured a 3 hour commute home from work after having your car towed out of a ditch and settled into your recliner wearing long johns and a winter coat because the power is out and your house is an ice castle - the next day, if clear and sunny, looks gorgeous.

If you look up.

Not down.

The birds though, the birds are the thing. Could be that birds are the most optimistic creatures on God's green earth.

They are out there chirping away. Unfazed. Singing their song and getting along.

It hit me yesterday when my ass was parked in this exact spot on a cruel, cold February day - and the birds were singing.

Loudly. Confidently. Irrepressibly.

That got me thinking of all the times this winter that I have staggered out of the homestead on the day after another vicious storm and been greeted with beauty and music.

Birds are for the soul.

They keep you company in the summer when you are at peace. They flit and fly, exposing their beauty to the world, giving you something to thrill to. They perch on tree branches and allow you to appreciate their uniqueness and beauty; they hover next to a hummingbird feeder and allow you to marvel at their delicateness.

They sit on the railing of your porch and laugh at your deadlines and commitments.

They remind you in the dead of winter, when all you can think about is murder, suicide, drug addiction, hangovers, disappointment, lies, misrepresentations and broken promises, that this too shall pass.

Not only will it pass but you might as well sing as you suffer.

There is the magic of flight. We are all jealous. We try to get there through booze, drugs, meditation, spirituality, and avoidance of reality but we fall short always, stuck to the ground hopelessly like bugs pinned down in science experiments.

It ain't all about flying. It is more about the general nature of birds.

They just seem happy. And industrious. And enthusiastic.

Energetic.

They are so cool they are willing to call attention to themselves through song as if to say "Come on, it is not all that bad, lift up your eyes and take a look around. You can do better. You can get better. You can grab yourself a chunk of happiness and nibble on it for sustenance. Nothing is accomplished through looking down."

They share their life philosophy with us every day of every year no matter what the circumstance, no matter what their circumstance.

That is spirituality.

Dig This

"Pride and drug addiction are forever at odds."

From "Kansas City Lightening" - Stanley Crouch

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Paul

It was thirteen degrees with a wind chill of five below and Paul was rocketing down the slope with a manic grin on his face.

Paul was a cocky son of a bitch. He had all the answers or at least gave off the practiced air of having all the answers.

Paul believed in living life. He snow skied, water skied, snow boarded, surfed; he owned a motorcycle and a private jet. He played tennis and golf and drank single malt scotch that cost more than a week's pay for most people.

What Paul didn't do was respect sedentary people. He despised computer nerds and bloggers. People who sat in front of the hypnotic screen taking in useless information and texting drivel.

Hell, he even hated readers. What was the point of reading about something in a book when you could just go out and do it?

Paul was a body guy. Not a mind guy.

He was  so goddamn successful that you couldn't argue with him. You know the type. The obnoxious, grossly opinionated fool who never hesitates to tell you where you went wrong with your life as he puffs on a $125 cigar.

Makes it tough to argue with him when you are wearing second hand clothes bought at a second hand store with change you saved up over time.

Even tougher when you have to borrow money from him from time to time.

Paul had family; parents, a brother, but he really did not care for them. Family makes you weak. Families demand love. Love does not result in success. It is the lack of love that drives success.

Paul did well with the ladies. Always had one on his arm. Stunning and beautiful. The kind of women who would smile for the cameras and squirm  provocatively close to his athletic body. The kind of women who would sneer as soon as they were out of his sight, even as they appraised the new piece of jewelry around their neck.

So Paul had his success and Paul had his hobbies. He never stopped moving. He wore a tattoo of a shark on his bicep.

Paul was joyfully indulging himself in these thoughts, thoughts of his own superiority, as he rocketed down the slope.

Indulging himself until he sensed the tree in front of him.

The tree of his death.

There were many things written about Paul after his death but the best was the one written by his brother Knox.

In his blog.

It was glowing.

Knox was a blogger and made a few bucks writing freelance. He wore second hand clothes and was a tad overweight. He planned on losing a few pounds, he was always planning on losing a few pounds.

When friends asked Knox how he could speak so well of  Paul he said, "Always looking for opportunities to sharpen up my fiction writing skills."

A Painful Correction

After The Beatles tribute on February 9, featuring Ringo and Paul, I heard a commentator on NHPR gushing enthusiastically about how good the show was.

Which it was. It rocked, it was beautiful, it met the legacy of The Beatles head on and did them proud.

She was talking about when Paul and Ringo performed together. She said "The Beatles, the surviving Beatles.............."

that correction jumbled my stomach.

And it always will.

Crucifixtion - Part Deux

Kris Kristofferson wrote "Jesus Was A Capricorn" in 1972 and it is still relevant today.

This pisses me off.

Actually the song came out on an album of the same name in 1972. I don't know when he wrote it. I wasn't there. Although I wish to hell I was. Maybe I could have used my refreshing creativity to punch up the lyrics a bit.

Maybe not.

"Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods, he believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes, long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends. Reckon they'd just nail him up if he come down again.

"Egg Heads cousin Red Neck's cussin' hippies for their hair. Others laugh at straights who laugh at freaks who laugh at squares. Some folks hate the whites who hate the blacks who hate the clan. Most of us hate anything that we don't understand."

                                                        And the chorus

"Cos everybody's got to have somebody to look down on. Who they can feel better than at anytime they please. Someone doin' something dirty, decent folks can frown on. If you can't find nobody else, than help yourself to me."

I hope those words made you flinch. They may not apply to you personally but they do apply to this diseased country and to this crumbling world.

Guys like Kristofferson wrote lyrics like that to expose our hypocrisies and weaknesses with hope towards evolving towards tolerance and maybe even.....................love.

Poets, novelists, essayists, film makers, song writers, philosophers, all these gifted and sensitive minds trying to alert us to the things that are destroying us.

Instead of getting the message, we accelerate our travel towards doom.

The level of hatred in this country and the world, the coldness, the viciousness, the selfishness, is suffocating us as a race.

My generation, maybe, feels it a little more because there was a bright, shining light of hope in the sixties. A light that was quickly extinguished.

It's almost as if the powers that be thought "Wow, that was a close one, we better make damn sure it can never happen again. Let's pit them all against each other at renewed intensity."

The chance of ever learning from lyrics like Kristofferson's is infinitesimal. We are dumbing ourselves down at an accelerating rate. There are fewer open minds and a lot more closed hearts.

We are racing towards destruction and we don't even know it because we are distracted by all our toys and devices.

What the hell happened here?




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2/26/14 (Eddie)

You know, I got up this morning at 6:15 specifically to write.

Didn't have to. Could have stayed in bed until 7:00 or later. But I had the urge.

Got in here and couldn't write for shit. I keep a notebook full of ideas and add to it regularly as things strike me. When I don't wake up with something burning in my brain that I absolutely have to write, I fall back on the notebook.

I started three different things today. Deleted them all. The juices weren't flowing.

I blame winter. This winter has been cruel. The Marquis De Sade of winters, without the sex.

It has me off balance. It has everybody off balance.

I talk to hundreds of people every damn day. Hundreds. That is kind of bizarre when you stop to think about it. Think about all the people in the retail trade and how many people they deal with every single day.

That is not natural, baby. A few good conversations, hell, even one good conversation makes a good day. Although, in retail, you are not having good conversations. You are wearing out clich├ęs.

I'll complete that thought someday.

Anyway, everybody is sick of winter. Even those strange birds who love winter.

"I love winter." Those three words make about as much sense to me as "Blurp finko deflarge."

If God wanted us to enjoy winter we would be born wearing down parkas.

My body is geared for struggle every day. As soon as I fall out of bed, the body tenses.

Ready to shovel more goddamn snow. Ready to shiver against fearsome cold. ready to shovel more goddamn snow AS it shivers against fearsome cold.

The winter has been relentless. Like the honey badger.

Around this time of year people start saying "Spring is right around the corner." It is true and there is usually a glint in the eye when the words are spoken.

I am hearing those words this year, but spoken without conviction. No energy to them. They sound so hollow. People are beat down like dogs and they know that, even though spring is truly right around the corner, still, it is only February 26. And it feels like a very long way to warmth.

A winter like this has only one purpose.

To make spring your lover.

When spring rolls around and the body comes alive, you gotta recognize it, celebrate it, and revel in it. Spring this year has to be a celebration. You gotta bleed joy out of it for all it is worth. Hold on tightly to it as it bleeds over into summer. Then dig in your heels and slow down to breathe in every stray summer breeze that comes your way. Bask in the heat.

When fall begins to peer around the corner, put up your fists and fight back. Impede its progress.

And above all, at that point in the year, do not think about what is coming.

I plan for spring this year to be an epiphany. I am feeling much better. I am definitely on the road to recovery. I envision the onset of spring coinciding with the onset of health.

I am going to be so goddamn happy that I am going to savor every warm breath I take. I am going to kick up my heels and dance like a whirling dervish, arms akimbo.

I am going to live and love and re-connect with my family and get out and do barbecue and sip wine and look at the stars and thank the sun and find peace in Carol's magic garden.

My goal is to be aware. To take it all in with eyes wide open.

Still, it is February 26. Only February 26. Winter is not going to let go. It will frustrate and torture us right up until the last gasp.

At that point, with winter lying prostrate and helpless on the ground, I will wind up and kick it in the balls.

And feel no remorse.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Toll Taker On A Sunday Morning

Toll taker taking tolls.
Sunday, mid morning, doing what has to be done.
I don't think when he was a boy, that he dreamed of
becoming a toll taker.
I don't think he dreamed he'd be divorced and working
two jobs, missing his kids.
Or working part time, smelling exhaust, and living
on mac 'n cheese.
I don't think he dreamed about growing up single, alone,
ghosting in a rundown, single wide, watching re-runs
on his days off.
Whatever his life is, it's a sure bet he did not dream it.
Sundays as a kid were family dinners and football,
ma and dad relaxing, kids goofing.
I don't think he knew Sundays would become
just another day.
A day he had to have, to survive.
There was magic then, and a vague sense of hope.
There is no hope in a Sunday morning toll booth.
Still, he smiles and says "Have a good one."
Putting feelers out for the revival of hope.

Blue Canvas Promise

We were driving up to Maine on Sunday.

Going to a Daytona 500 party. Bummer, racewise. An almost 7 hour rain delay. We got to Maine at 12:00. Race started around 1:30. Rain delay started around 2:15. We left Maine around 6:30, got home around 8:45 and the race was just then re-starting.

Helluva party, though.

Anyway, we were driving up. The ride is pleasant; we take the back roads for a good chunk of it and the scenery is soothing and ripe with personality.

We are be-bopping down the road and I see up ahead what looks like a field full of blue tents. Somehow elevated and lined up like soldiers.

I had no idea what it was and could not understand what a field full of tents was doing out in the February cruelty.

It was a boatyard. A boatyard, baby. A purveyor of boats. The boats were all lined up expectantly and covered with blue tarps that were raised above them like tents.

The promise of spring was laid out before us. The promise of exquisite warm weather, lakes and oceans calling out with joyful potential, barbecues by the water, late night drinks under a gentle moon and even gentler breeze, laughter, conversation, t-shirts and shorts, peaceful contemplation, escape from life's hard edges; friendship, family and fun.

The boats are sitting quietly, patiently and bursting with potential. Reminding us that the winter that won't quit has no choice but to quit.

And when it does, we will breathe again and feel human. Feel alive.

Blue canvas promise, baby.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Can't Believe

I can't believe I read the following exchange in a recent Dear Abby column.

Dear Abby: If I am unwittingly thrust into a situation where I will be smoking some dope and drinking some alcohol, how shall I go about it so as to not get too high or sloppy drunk?

Signed: Semi Wide-Eyed Innocence

Dear Semi Wide-Eyed Innocence:

We have all been caught in that situation once or twice. It is inevitable for bon vivants and elites about town. There is a recipe for success and it  is as follows:

Get high first and make sure the dope is primo quality. The kind that gets you where you want to be in two or three hits.

Where you want to be is elevated, above the fray, looking down on and into reality as an interested observer, in a detached, released-mind kind of way. You don't want to become a blubbering idiot, a stereotypical stoner dude projecting slack jawed stupidity.

Once you have laid down a solid foundation of high, grab yourself a beer. Preferably ice cold, as you will be thirsty. Resist the urge to suck it down like soda pop. A couple of glugs are OK to start, but after that, consume what is left like a normal human being would.

Upon finishing that beer, pour yourself a healthy but not overly generous portion of whiskey.

Sip it. Don't shoot it.

Upon finishing the whiskey, grab yourself another ice cold beer and arrange for a maintenance hit of pot with somebody else who is high. You are not looking for greedy here, just a hit or two to level out the high and avoid the return of reality.

You will find yourself in an enviable position, a place of total command.

From that point on you may consume one more beer and one more healthy portion of whiskey, spaced out over a reasonable amount of time, and punctuated with one or two more maintenance hits of weed.

This discipline will produce the desired effect and keep you floating for five or six hours, without resulting in foolhardy behavior on your part.

Enjoy yourself and feel free to invite me to your next home party. I think we could really hit it off.

Sincerely,

Dear Abby

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Progress Report

I have begun to be able to go to sleep without swallowing a pain killer.

Three or four nights in the past week and a half.

Significant progress.

I am now stockpiling the pain killers for fun and recreation.

I'll keep you posted.

Life, Once Rich, Getting Thinner

Our lives have become maddeningly bland.

I can't figure out whether we actively set out to do this to ourselves or whether it was done to us by the ruling aristocracy.

I continue to read Charlie Parker's biography. This is one of those books that devotes fifty pages to his childhood, in great detail. The author does a fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere of the time.

That atmosphere was rich. It was exciting. It was crackling and vibrant.

Parker grew up in Kansas City. Apparently Kansas City was a hot bed of jazz at the time, as well as corruption and nefarious activities and people.

As the author, Stanley Crouch describes it...."the mayor was a pawn, the city boss was a crook, the police were corrupt, the gangsters had more privileges than honest businessmen, and the town was as wild with vice as you could encounter short of a convention of the best devils in hell."

The wide open atmosphere contributed to the development of amazing musicians.

John Tumino, manager of the Jay McShann Orchestra: "In Kansas City the joints didn't have locks on the doors. Threw them away. Didn't need them. They were never closed anyway. ............................All this meant you could have a good time morning, noon and night. That stimulated God knows how much music - music of all kinds - and the musicians playing so much they got better than just about anybody in the country.  .......These guys were playing all the time, long hours, and then they went out jamming and might not get home until the next afternoon."

The city was not far removed from cowboy days, the tradition of wildness and lawlessness carrying over to gangster times. Kansas City was considered a safe place for guys like Dillinger to hide out when they were on the run. Nobody would rat him out there.

Racial tension was heavy duty as black people fought to just be who they were, to get fair chances and respect.

There was a gay community that was brazen about expressing who they were, with Halloween parades and other celebrations where they dressed as they pleased. Like black people, they knew how to walk the fine line between personal expression and angering the authorities.

This is a unique moment and set of circumstances in time, but the point is as you look back upon our history you continually come across  moments like this that were full of life. Full of struggle and the hope for transcendence. Evil things, good things, evolving things. But always a sense of moving forward, of a sense of the possibility of triumph.

As history moves forward towards today it becomes increasingly less thrilling. Watered down, compromised, diluted to the point of lifelessness.

Our lives today are consumed with technology at the expense of human interaction. Corporations abuse employees, the environment and the concept of morality while stuffing cash into their collective mattresses. Politicians spit on their constituents and kiss the asses of their financial supporters, while simultaneously redefining the definition of stupidity and pettiness. Concepts like getting ahead in the world and ideals like hope become increasingly more restricted. Restricted to the point where the 99% benignly spend their lives avoiding risk (and the potential of reward) because the odds are not just stacked against them, they are impossible.

There is no sense of adventure. Of struggling to overcome. There is no life.

The things that make a life worthwhile, make it exciting and interesting, are disappearing before our very eyes.

There existed between 1987 and 2005 a blues club in Antrim, NH known as The Rynborn. It was a premier club featuring talented musicians on a daily basis. People came from Massachusetts, Maine, New York and sometimes farther away to dig the atmosphere and be amazed by the musicians.

The place was revered.

It closed in 2005. The economy? Lack of support?

How is it that people could get out after the depression to see Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie and countless other supremely talented musicians, but they can't make it out in the 21st century to dig heavenly talent.

One small example. But a sign. A sign of the boring place we are headed.

Actually it may be that we are not headed in that direction anymore.

Could be we are already there.




Friday, February 21, 2014

The Wicked Could Win

Maybe the Catholics got it all wrong.

I mean nobody has spoken to us from beyond the grave yet, so all we got is theory.

What if Hell is Heaven for the wicked?

The goody two shoes, the well behaved, croak, go to heaven and live benignly in God's grace.

Picking daisies, eating tofu, being grateful.

The wicked go straight to hell and party. They dance, dig the blues, smoke dope, eat Delmonico steak and drink whiskey.

This is a comforting thought to me.

The Birdman

So dig, I wrap up "Hitch-22" and I'm wondering what to read next.

I have built up a nice stockpile of books in the queue. It is comforting to me.

I amused myself with the thought of reading "Fifty Shades of Grey." You know, go from one extreme to the other.

My brain wouldn't accept it. Apparently it is slowly coming down from the intellectual high Christopher Hitchens provided. I read a few passages and realized I am just not ready for that yet.

Picked up "Kansas City Lightening", a biography of Charlie Parker. Good move, Joe.

Apparently this is volume one of what is to be an extensive, two volume biography.

Very tasty.

It is well written and really captures the atmosphere of life in Charlie Parker's time.

I know. I was there.

Actually when you think about it, when you are a music lover, aren't you everywhere at once? Music being the magic that it is, gets into your soul and transforms you into a timeless human being. When I listen to Robert Johnson, it is 1936. When I listen to Mumford & Sons, it is 2014.

Just a thought.

Bands competed like athletes back then. It was all about pride.

The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem was the place to play in New York. It had two stages, so when one band finished, the next band could start up immediately. Keep the people dancing and satisfied. The bands would go back and forth over the course of the night and the audience, through word of mouth, would decide who was King.

The author, Stanley Crouch, describes a duel between the Jay McShann band, featuring Charlie Parker, and the Lucky Millinder Orchestra. The McShann band was from Kansas City and considered to be oakies; Millinder's band were Kings of the Savoy.

The thing went off like a prize fight. Pretty interesting stuff.

Some beautiful descriptions:

"They were also part of an artistic tradition, one that had been eroding stereotypes for years by using music to express emotion in terms that were both brand-new and continually evolving. Though the music was filled with references to inside stuff - a particular person, a street corner, a club, a nickname - the penetration of the rhythm, the swing, the harmony, and the melody made it one with the external world. Once there were physical replies to the music in the form of dance, the beat had such irresistible vigor that it transcended all lines."

"The world had constantly disappointed Charlie Parker. For all the satisfactions of his music, for all the light jokes and deep laughs on the road, he was basically a melancholy and suspicious man, a genius in search of a solution to a blues that wore razors for spurs."

I am forty pages into this book and in love with it deeply.

Ciao, baby.

Bode And A Scumbag

Christen Cooper is scum.

She is the NBC reporter who badgered Bode Miller after he earned a bronze.

This is the state of reporting in this country today. It is not about getting to the truth. It is not about serious questions designed to elicit serious responses.

It is about scoops. It is about sensationalism.

It is about exploiting the death of a man's brother and the emotions that go with it..........for ratings. And for the chance to brag to one's peers about relentlessly pushing a man to tears and getting it all on tape.

The first couple of questions were OK. I didn't know Bode's brother had died because I am a turtle. I don't read the paper, I don't watch the news.

This is bad and a habit I am trying to change.

Her initial questions opened me up to the truth of what was going through Bode's mind.

Then her thirst for fame and recognition pushed her over the edge.

She was not content with the fact that Miller was already struggling emotionally and shedding some tears.She moved on to the looking up in the sky question which made me want to punch her in the face.

The question did not need asking. It was obvious what the sky thing meant to Bode, and even if it wasn't obvious she should have recognized the man's anguish and left him alone. Treated him with dignity. Walked away.

Reporting today is devoid of consideration, absent of respect. You have to be a soul-less scumbag to satisfy the networks.................and the audience today.

Bode defended her, asked people to be gentle with her.

I think she should be executed on live TV.

And then have her family interviewed.

"How did that make you feel? What was going through your head as she slumped to the ground? Can you believe that she is dead or has that reality not sunk in yet? What will you do with her wardrobe? Can I have some of it? Are you crying as hard as you can or will it get worse? If so, when, so we can get it on camera?"

Christen Cooper is scum.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dig This

"When a non-fatal heart attack seems like a good option, it might be time to change your life."

Anonymous

Learning How To Be Positive

I finished "Hitch-22" this morning.

What a read. Christopher Hitchens had a mind to be envied. Mine by way of comparison is jello.

I read a sentence this morning and I thought I knew where he was going with it. His sentences tend to be flowing and it gives the mind time to anticipate.

As I desperately try to make up lost time in my post-60 life, I increasingly get the feeling that everything is moving too fast.

Technology, information, innovation all happening at a pace that is dizzying. My thirst for knowledge is unquenchable but the information that is available grows exponentially and I despair of ever catching up, never mind keeping up.

It feels overwhelming to me.

So that's where I thought he was going with the following sentence.

He certainly taught me a lesson.

"It is not only true that the test of knowledge is an acute and cultivated awareness of how little one knows (as Socrates knew so well), it is true that the unbounded areas and fields of one's ignorance are now expanding in such a way, and at such a velocity, as to make the contemplation of them almost fantastically beautiful."

With Apologies To Babel

I fell in love with "Sigh No More." Mumford & Sons debut CD.

Wore the damn thing out. Melted it down and shot it into my veins, achieving a musical high better than sex.

Mystical, magical, beautiful.

Scarfed up "Babel", the follow up, and couldn't quite get the same high.

I don't know why. I don't know what I was expecting, I don't know where my head or my heart or my soul were at, but wherever they were located was not on the same plane or in the same vibe as "Babel."
So the CD got set aside for a while. Collected dust.

It called to me a week or so ago. I picked it up and jammed it into the CD player of The Big Ride and my head was blown off. Right through the roof of my magnificent new car.

I am tired of shoveling snow off my front seat.

My God, this album is delicious. Fragrant. Every bit as good as the first one.

So religiously inspiring that Jesus has commuted with me to work a couple of times tapping his toes and nodding his head. He just appears next to me and throws me a look daring me to say anything.

Or to criticize his singing.

The man cannot sing. Little known fact.

I sing unabashedly and, damn, I am good. Jesus does not like to be shown up so I don't sing when he is grooving next to me. Not easy but I figure it is a decent trade off for a shot at eternal heaven.

It's funny how subjective pleasure is. When I first listened to "Babe;" it was just OK. Now I cannot get enough.

Obviously the music hasn't changed, so what has changed in me?

I couldn't tell you. But I got a little more pleasure, a little more escape in my life and I will take that every time.

Mumford & Sons won a Grammy for "Babel". They should have won a Grammy for "Sigh No More" but the record industry doesn't work like that. The world doesn't work like that.

It's like the big wigs decided "Hey, we can't give a Grammy to these dudes for their first album, that would be unacceptable."

It's like Bruce Dern and the Oscars. If I was a betting man I would bet that Dern gets an Oscar for Nebraska. I haven't seen the damn movie yet, much to my chagrin, but I know it rocks. Everything I have read dribbles superlatives.

He'll get the Oscar because he is 77. "Let's give Bruce the Oscar, for Christ sake, before he dies."

I have dug his acting for years. Understated and powerful. He came close in 1978 as Best Supporting Actor in "Coming Home." Jack Nicholson said that Dern was "the best of the new breed of actors who had been born just before WWII and were coming into their own in the 1970's."

But I digress.

Whatever the politics, whatever the universal vibe, whatever is wrong with my head, "Babel" is an excellent musical meal.

Uplifting, inspirational and soaring.

Dig it, baby.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's All Move To Maine

As you cross the border into Maine the sign says "Welcome To Maine. The Way Life Should Be."

To some extent, that could be wishful thinking.

For several years now overdose deaths have come close to or exceeded traffic fatalities in Maine.

To be fair, this is a trend in our country, beginning in 2009 so you can't single out Maine as a problem drug state.

Kind of gives you a hint as to what is going with the citizens of our country as well.

And to be honest with you, although I have never OD'd on drugs in Maine, I have overdosed on alcohol.

Many times.

But that is a story for another place and time, and one that must be cloaked in anonymity lest members of my family be incriminated.

Narcan, an overdose antidote drug, attaches to the same receptors in the brain as opiates, and can reverse overdose effects when someone is in respiratory distress.

Federal drug officials recently encouraged more widespread use of Narcan.

Maine Governor (republican) Paul LePage opposes a bill that would make Narcan available to more first responders, as well as relatives of addicts. He vetoed a similar bill last year saying "it would provide a false sense of security to drug abusers."

According to NHPR, LePage recently proposed hiring 14 more drug agents and expanding drug courts; he did not address treatment.

"We must hunt down the dealers and get them off the street. We must protect our citizens from drug- related crimes and violence. We must save our babies from life-long suffering."

The last comment refers to what is described as "drug-affected" babies; babies born to addicted mothers, many of whom are Medicaid recipients. The bill would require Maine's Medicaid program to pay for Narcan prescriptions.

Call me insensitive, but Pauly doesn't sound like the most open minded guy in the world. He's pretty much old school, the war on drugs and all that.

The war on drugs was signed into law on January 28, 1972 by none other than Richard Nixon. When you consider the man's stellar reputation you have to automatically question the concept.

We just celebrated the 42nd anniversary of this "war."

When will those in authority finally recognize that people want drugs and that the war on drugs probably hurts more lives than the drugs do?

More importantly to the powered elite, when will they recognize the income potential of legalizing drugs? Imagine the kick backs and payoffs and graft that could be enjoyed by our reputable politicians in a world with legalized drug trafficking.

Maine is a cool state. Beautiful. I am related to some cool people up there.

What Maine does not need is pig headed officials. The kind who stroke their moose heads every morning for luck.

On my next trip to Maine I am going to organize all the addicts and put together a movement to dethrone Pauly.

We'll have a rally. In Old Orchard Beach.

Join us. It is bound to be one hell of a party.



PSH, Again

This Philip Seymour Hoffman thing hangs overhead like a dark cloud.

It is one of those deaths. He was one of those life forms.

I read a tribute to him in Rolling Stone this morning.

On the title page it says "The tragic last days and brilliant career of the greatest actor of his generation."

Many times when prominent people die they are eulogized as "the greatest.....................

Many times the compliment is undeserved. Sometimes it is.

Apparently in Hoffman's case the description is deserved, and corroborated by his peers.

When I die I will be eulogized as the greatest whiner of my generation, and well deserved. I have worked hard at it and have perfected the art through persistence and consistency.

Still I don't see myself in the same "greatness" league as PSH.

He was known for total commitment to whatever part he played and for fleshing out each character by "empathizing with a character's vulnerabilities."

That last part makes so much sense when you consider the sensitivity he brought to the screen, so obviously originating in his soul. You could sense it in interviews, you could just see it in his face, wordlessly. There was raw emotion in his eyes, his facial expressions and his body language.

I saw an interview with him re-broadcast on 60 Minutes a week ago. I squirmed in my seat, in admiration, for the raw vulnerability he was unafraid to reveal.

Apparently he was driven, obsessing about every small detail and unafraid to criticize fellow actors when he felt they were not giving a part their all.

Hoffman had enormous talent. Cameron Crowe said "He was the greatest of his generation and more. He was an actor's actor." The last comment, as I tirelessly point out ad nauseum every chance I get, is the ultimate compliment. But Hoffman did not take his talent for granted; he busted his ass to make every performance as good as it could be.

That is what makes a human successful and worthy of respect.

Writer-producer and friend Jeff Roda wrote about Hoffman, "Phil taught me something about genius. It commits without prejudice, believes wholeheartedly and toils tirelessly and without restraint. It is always pushing, pushing, pushing toward the edge, wherever that may be."

In addition to all that the man remained humble. Friends say that when he won the Oscar for Capote it changed nothing. He appreciated the award but cared only about his work.

Personally he seemed a bit lost. In a 2005 Rolling Stone interview he said: "No one knows me. No one understands me. That's the other thing that changes as you get older. It's like everybody understands you. But no one understands me."

I understand why sensitivity kills in this world. I don't like it but I understand it.

I'm starting to think there is a conspiracy against it. The world does not need sensitivity. Sensitivity reveals truth and communicates directly from one human heart to the next.

In a sense, sensitivity is akin to individuality, and that cannot be tolerated in a world like ours.

I have no credibility to say that the world lost a great actor and a great man in the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, although I know it in my soul.

That knowledge is more than substantiated by his peers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Goddamn It - Get It Straight

My cheek turned bright red as it got slapped with reality interpreted as epiphany.

I used to drink 1.75 L of, delicious, Crown Royal per week.

I have not bought a jug in 2014 yet. Still pulling on the gift I received on January 1.

That is remarkable.

Been experimenting with wine.

Doctors say wine is healthy.

But.......................

This thing runs on NHPR that says the Center for Disease Control says 8 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men is............................bad.

Including wine.

Previous studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health.

Especially wine.

Now they are saying that a study that showed that Europeans who drank up to three glasses of wine daily had better cardiovascular health, didn't prove that it was the wine that made the difference.

As a result, the American Heart Association says it "does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to get these potential benefits."

What the hell is a drinker to do? Conflicting information leads to increased alcohol consumption.

The CDC - not content to kill the buzz - goes on to investigate binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as more than four drinks at a sitting for a woman and five drinks for  a man.

Most people define this as survival.

 In NH, according to NHPR, baby boomers have been identified as problem drinkers.

Policy makers and public health advocates are keeping a close watch on those 55 and older.

They say those with age related symptoms - like depression and frequent falls - often mask the symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse.

They also say that among people between the ages of fifty and fifty nine, illicit drug use has more than doubled since 2002.

For Christ sake, give us all a break. We are facing death, an impoverished retirement, diaper changes by our offspring - alcohol and drugs are an entirely reasonable solution to those dilemmas.

And a damn enjoyable one as well.

The image of a senior member of society smoking a joint, doubling up on shots and beers, snorting a line or smoking or injecting heroin is perfectly acceptable.

Damn near desirable.

Moderation is goddamn boring. And in the context of keeping the little man in line, with regards to the moneyed elite and the power brokers, self serving and self perpetuating.

Do what you will, seniors. Life is short and it is deceptive.

Grab whatever truth resonates with your soul.

Pieces

If a life has been one of deprivation and disappointment,
something special introduced into the flow can
splatter light on ugliness previously unperceived.
Unperceived or ignored.
When, suddenly, you get something you want out of life
it can illuminate harsh edges of the things you despise.
This new happiness does not fit with the life you
have been enduring.
You want more of the happiness, less of the enduring.
Pieces of the jigsaw fell into place against your will;
force a new piece into the puzzle and everything gets
unbalanced.
Awkward.
The chaos feels pre-ordained, feels like motion in
the right direction.
Dig the special.
Force the rest of the pieces to fit.

If

If a beautiful woman said to me:

"You're a great thief. But I want  a great man."

I could live with that.

Sometimes

Sometimes too much comes in waves.
Most times too much is in the mind.
Everyone gets overwhelmed from
time to time.
It's inevitable. It's life.
Didn't see this coming, didn't plan for that.
Sometimes the unexpected is crushing.
Cancer.
Death of a loved one.
Most times it is not.
Most times it is not even unexpected.
But it is unwanted.
When too much accumulates, when it
becomes frequent, the mind is
overwhelmed.
Or
when the mind perceives too much as
too frequent
Logic shuts down.
Other people's logic.
The host brain retreats into its own logic
and the corners get dark.
Life is relentless but, thankfully,
dark corners have no limits.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Opus Dei

Religion is a many headed beast, like the Hydra.

There is no end to the varieties of bizarreness religion can offer up.

Opus Dei is an organization, a lay organization, founded in Spain in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. The published goal of Opus Dei is to "spread throughout society a profound awareness of the universal call to holiness and apostolate through one's professional work carried out with freedom and professional responsibility."

Sounds innocent enough, at least within the framework of predictable religious intent.

In the real world, the intentions sound a bit grandiose and pretentious, exhibiting the typical assumption that this organization has all the answers and everyone else must be educated.

That is not unusual when you filter religious dogma through the lens of rationality.

The intent was to achieve spirituality through everyday life, to make religion a lay person's experience rather than experiencing it through priests and holy leaders.

Opus Dei "recruits" young people initially by offering them a way of life, a place to go. They organize activities, classes, and trips that are interesting to the young and spark their curiosity.

The organization focuses only on attractive people, intelligent people, charismatic people.

Once a person shows an interest, the real recruitment begins. A "friend" is assigned to them who coaches them and gently nudges them towards becoming a member. The "friend's" progress and opinions are communicated to higher ups who continuously evaluate whether or not the person is worth the effort.

At some point if the decision is made that the effort is not worth it, the candidate is cut off.

Completely.

After having established friendships within the organization, no contact whatsoever is allowed.

When members offend the organization they are cut off in the same way.

Vows of celibacy are required at certain levels, and certain levels of membership require......................... corporal mortification.

Corporal mortification is physical suffering. Members whip themselves with a knotted rope, some wear a cilice - a spiked metal chain bound to the thigh as a reminder of Jesus' suffering.

People like this would be quick to condemn sexual fetishists as perverts, even though logic might suggest that the short term goal of an orgasm through pain might make more sense than the long term goal of redemption.

But what the hell do I know?

As if that wasn't weird enough, please note that Opus Dei was recognized as an organization by the Catholic Church by Pope John II in the early 1980's, essentially welcoming them into the Church's mainstream.

Even though Opus Dei members are forbidden to confess to Catholic priests; they can only confess to Opus Dei priests.

The Hydra was a terrifying monster in mythology with the body of a serpent and many heads. According to pantheon.org, the number of heads deviates from five up to a hundred, but generally nine is accepted as standard.

It's good to have standards.

None of the heads could ever be harmed by any weapon, and if any head were severed, another would grow in it's place.

The stench from the Hydra's breath was enough to kill man or beast.

In some ways, the definition of the Hydra could be substituted for the definition of many religions and religious practices.

Sometimes A Moment

Sometimes coincidences come together to create a moment.

I was driving to where Carol works this morning. Digging my beautiful ride, a dozen roses on the seat next to me. The sky was blue and gentle, the sun was brilliant and dancing as if in empathetic celebration.

Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait" - suddenly playing on the radio.

36th wedding anniversary.

I was perfectly happy. Carol was not expecting me and I knew I could make her happy as well.

I did bring a smile to her face and I'm glad I did it.

It was a perfectly balanced moment of love, happiness, appreciation, peace and contentment.

They say to give is better than to have received.

This could become my next drug of choice.


For Those Striving To Express Individuality

Michael Madsen writes poetry.

This is the kind of poetry that inspires some people to say "That's not poetry. It doesn't rhyme."

Whatever.

When I write poetry it tends to be of this type. I have submitted it to websites and magazines and been rejected, sometimes with the critique - "It's too conversational."

There should be no rules for poetry, no expectations.

Hitting home hard with conciseness and preciseness of word usage is all that counts.

Anyway..................

The opening lines to one of his poems go like this:

"People don't understand me a lot,
but the more that happened
the more I understood myself.

So I guess I should thank them.
They accomplished something
in their singleminded idiocy."

From "Prado" by Michael Madsen

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Whining Maggots On Parade

My last post sucked. The last one that came out of my brain. I hated it.

The one I called Life, Or Something Quite Like it.

When I wrote it I convinced my self I was explaining how recent health challenges came together to inspire motivation.

When I re-read it, it  just sounded like whining to me.

Again. And again. And again. And again.

I posted it anyway because I have such a love affair for seeing my own words in print.

I left not having a good feeling in my gut. I am trying - desperately - to evolve. Right here. Right now.

I knew intuitively that that was not evolving.

Reality slapped me hard yesterday, slapped me hard, drew blood and made me wince.

I was talking to a friend. He told me he was taking a few days off this week and that he knew I had recently taken a few days off from work and he asked me how it went.

I started out telling him how it brought me peace. Then I segued into the fact that I was hoping the layoff from The Asylum would rest and rejuvenate the pinched nerve in my neck, but that it didn't happen and I was still suffering.

I went on to whine about high blood pressure, high blood sugar and all the rest.

You know the deal. You have endured it all.

He listened patiently, and then we had a break in the conversation.

After fifteen minutes we resumed the conversation. He told me that, yeah, he was taking a few days off. Told me that Friday he was going in to the hospital to have a lump removed from his neck.

This guy is a health freak. Runs fanatically, lifts weights, drinks handmade fruit/veggie shakes daily, doesn't drink excessively, never smoked.

Recently when he was exercising he got dizzy. He got it checked out and they told him he had a growth that was pinching his carotid artery. When he exercised, blood flow to his brain was restricted and he got dizzy.

He went on to tell me that once they discovered the growth they checked him out thoroughly and discovered a bunch of growths in his chest.

He was diagnosed with Stage Three cancer.

He is early to mid thirties.

Usually you get news like that second hand. It was devastating to have him look me in the eye and tell me this.

Especially after all my insignificant whining.

I felt like a weak, foolish, petty jerk. Which is exactly what I was.

He told me that he wakes up sad every day, that doctors have not been exactly cheery about it, that the diagnosis to date has been grim.

Somehow we found a way to work some laughs into the conversation.

I, and many of you, have often been in the position of recognizing through our whining that somebody else has it much worse off and that since we recognize that fact we intend to stop whining.

Then we raise the whining to new levels.

Looking into his eyes, knowing that he waited to tell me this truth with full knowledge that it would crush me given my own weak-ass complaints, has devastated me.

I pledge to never whine again in these pages and hopefully in my life.

Given my nature to date, there could be many days flowing by with blank pages in here.

But I refuse to go back to such a meaningless, self serving approach.

My friend has a great sense of humor. We laugh a lot.

As we parted company he said: "Hope your neck feels better."

No bitterness, pure humor, pure reproach.

He showed me strength.

I am going to try tenaciously to learn from his example.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dig This

"The country is in deep trouble. We've forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that's the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word."

Cornel West

Dig This

"Many men would take the death-sentence without a whimper, to escape the life-sentence which fate carries in her other hand."

T.E.Lawrence

Life, Or Something Quite Like It

My thoughts are as follows.

I have received a good bit of disturbing news about my health in a very short time.

In bullet form:

I "turned" sixty.
Pinched nerve in the neck.
High blood pressure.
High blood sugar.
Blip in kidney function.
Degenerative arthritis in the neck and spine.
Bi-focals.

I have made adjustments.

The timing is fascinating to me. Sixty has kind of become the line in the sand. In my diseased mind, if I don't get my shit together NOW I will never get it together. The birthday alone was enough to inspire me with fear and determination.

Throw in everything else and there appears to be a crystal clear message there.

I am not claiming some sort of divine warning system or ethereal kick in the ass. Could be all this is merely the culmination of a life not lived in harmony with the requirements for longevity.

Apparently I am not Hunter S. Thompson or Charles Bukowski.

But given my opinion - expressed within these pages ad nauseum - that my life has never been "my own", and given the fear and determination inspired by the number 60 - it is interesting that all these things have come together to add weight to my perspective.

And to force me to make a choice.

The operative word is choice. I can keep doing what I have been doing and gamble that all this bad stuff is merely medical hysteria. Or I can assume that these things are dangerous and that now is the time for change.

Obviously I have opted for change.

It feels like someone, something, circumstances - whatever - have come together to say "Listen, Buddy - it is obvious that you want to shake up your life and get yourself to a place of dignity, accomplishment and pride. Just so you know, here is where your health is at, with all that implies. Do what you think is right."

It's the old -  Why me? Why now?

I am actually glad all this stuff has clubbed me about the head, except the goddamn pinched nerve, which continues to torture. Although even that, I can look at as a lesson. It came on quickly when it decided to go from annoyance to pain. It has made me feel vulnerable and given me a renewed appreciation for health.

I cannot wait for the first day I climb into The Big Ride and enjoy a trip that is not punctuated with sharp pain. I cannot wait for the first full night's sleep. I cannot wait for the first morning that I am not waiting for the pain to first appear.

So something is going on here. Some sort of vote of confidence combined with a warning shot.

If I did not submit to annual physicals I might never have known about the warning signs and I might have been in my grave before I could ever have a chance to salvage what is left of my life.

The bad boy in my brain still scoffs at the restrictions even as I endure them. I used to buy one 1.75 L bottle of Crown Royal a week. I got a bottle as a gift on my birthday - January 1. I have still not purchased a bottle in 2014.

Yet the voice is back there. "Come on, drink a little whiskey. Be a little bad."

However I have been an angel. And I am exercising, I am eating much better.

It feels, in a strangely dangerous and challenging way, as if everything has come together to allow me to be me.

I am glad for the wake up call, especially considering the wake up call could have been a heart attack or a stroke or cancer or the big sleep.

Life is one mysterious game.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dig This

"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis preserve their neutrality."

John F. Kennedy

The quote is attributed to JFK but his brother Bobby explained that it is actual an interpretation of a part of Dante's Inferno.

In the third canto, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These souls, when alive, remained neutral during a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike.

That is heavy duty, baby. Repugnant to both God and Satan. That is no-wheres-ville, man.

I take no credit for the knowledge or the analysis. I have not read Dante's Inferno. Yet.

The brother Bobby thing and the summation of the scene from the Inferno came from the JFK fast facts section of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, on line.

I came across the quote and that lead me to the rest.

Love the quote, love the explanation of where it was derived from.

I need to stop being morally ambiguous.

Dig This

"Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way."

Christopher Hitchens

Every Day Is Monday

Sometimes on my commute home I catch "Writers Almanac", which is about a five minute segment Garrison Keillor does on NPR.

He celebrates birthdays of the creative, things they wrote, maybe tells a quick story. He always reads something, usually from authors or poets I have never heard of.

I love it.

The way Keillor talks drives me right up a wall. Is it affectation, something practiced over a lifetime for specific effect? Or has he always talked that way?

If he talked that way as a kid I guarantee he got beat up a lot.

I have to overlook the voice, though, because he brings me beauty and wonder.

He read "Roustabout", a poem written by Jack Ridl the other night.

Had a line in there that resonated with my soul-ache for the plight of all of us who work endlessly at meaningless and spirit sucking jobs.

"It's a bed. Can't gripe. Plenty of coffee. Have my mug. Been here with the show ten years. Once took off to try some factory work. Hated it. Every day was Monday."

Every day was Monday. Man, that is painful and true. We rationalize our way through the week.

Get through Monday and Tuesday. "Survived another one." Wednesday is hump day. Thursday is almost Friday. Friday is thank God.

Those are just words.

The truth is that every day is Monday.

Bulworth

Caught a little of "Bulworth" on the tube the other day.

There is a cool character who keeps popping up in Bulworth's path. Keeps telling him:

"You gotta be a spirit, not a ghost."

Those are words to live by.

An Innocent Scene

Had a little whiskey, a little beer on Thursday night.

This morning the empty bottle and the prism-like tumbler were sitting next to me as I read.

My eyes took in the scene, and the cells of my body reacted by thinking "My God, these are true weapons of mass destruction."

The Beatles

I know all the youngsters are sick of all the "50 years since The Beatles" hype.

All the articles, all the remembrances, the Paul & Ringo Grammys thing, and the special that will be aired tomorrow night commemorating their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show featuring a performance by Paul & Ringo together (which you goddamn well better believe I will be watching).

Maybe they are sick of it because they feel my generation is bragging that we had something no other generation has ever had or ever will have. Like we are more special than anyone who has followed us.

They cannot understand the scope of it because they didn't experience it. So the hype must seem like more hype than fact to them.

Punk music created waves, hip hop was a major musical explosion, grunge flattened the earth but none of these came close to doing to the world what The Beatles did to the world.

They changes lives because they gave us something to hang on to. We were transformed from the typical teenage rebels without a cause to rebels with a cause and a kick ass soundtrack.

The fiftieth anniversary thing is an excellent time for reflection by my generation.

We fought hard, rebelled against all injustices and took thunderous steps towards changing this American society.

We achieved great things and then got beat down, and ended up selling out.

If that fire of righteous rebellion could have been carried forward unstoppably, our society would be a completely different animal today.

An animal recognized  for racial equality and intolerance for prejudice, for gender equality, for equality of sexual preference, for lack of corruption, for accountability of corporations and political "leaders". Recognized for a celebration of the human being as sacred, with all the dignities that accompany that thought process.

The power of the "establishment" was greater than we knew, and it had slimy tentacles that could infiltrate any admirable philosophy and destroy it.

The weakness of human nature was greater than we knew, as many of us took advantage of the new permissiveness to focus on getting high and getting laid and pretending that we were participating in a generational revolution, when in reality we were really undermining it.

Later on, many of us sold out to the enticing vision of commercialism and success, turning into precisely the people we once loathed.

Society's wicked ways today are an embarrassingly loud declaration of the failed promise of the baby boomers. They also confirm the unstoppable power and corruption of the rich, and our political system.

Bill Maher was talking about The Beatles thing last night, and he put an interesting twist on it. He talked about the price of fame in this country. John Lennon was assassinated. A maniac broke into George Harrison's home, stabbed and almost killed him.

In 1964, Beatles lovers could never imagine such viciousness occurring in the lives of these icons. Although President Kennedy's assassination could have been a hint, along with, later on, those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Manson provided another clue to the evil bubbling just below the surface of the grand intentions of a generation.

Still, we had The Beatles. As I wrote those words I got goosebumps. Fifty years later The Beatles still mean everything to me.

It would be cool amidst all this nostalgia, if my generation could muster up the strength and righteous indignation to fight back one more time. On any scale, as long as it is meaningful and just.

Even just in the spirit of making "the rest of our lives" admirable, something to look to as an example of independent thinking, something to make us proud and make others realize "Wow, those guys have balls."

The Beatles are as powerful as a concept as they were as musicians.

That experience got into our molecular makeup. It is there for inspiration, for guidance, as a moral compass and as a measure of our lives.

I cannot wait for tomorrow night.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

You Really Gotta Dig This

"In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last nine months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish of as an orgasm."

Woody Allen

Dig These

"Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young."

Theodore Roosevelt


"It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age."

Margaret Mead


"The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm."

Aldous Huxley


"Old age is no place for sissies."

Bette Davis

Saving Lives

I was reading "Hitch 22" and choked on the phrase "Dickensian old age" that Hitchens used to describe poverty stricken, back breaking elder years.

Many of Dickens' characters struggled with poverty, hunger, and cold; their lives were daily battles to survive.

This is the fear that gnaws at my diseased brain as I and the wife approach 70.

We have no retirement and social security buys  a loaf of bread and a cup of tainted water.

If our circumstance does not change, we will be working until the day we die.

Which I refuse to do, by the way.

I also refuse to become the diaper wearing dad whose kids get to soil their hands on their father's feces.

Presents a bit of a pickle.

I have to make something happen if we are to enjoy even 30 seconds of retirement before we become fertilizer.

That's a load, baby; a lot of pressure.

Especially at the age of 60.

Ain't nobody looking to hire a 60 year old. You walk into an interview and the receptionist starts chuckling behind the hand that she quickly raised to her mouth to pretend she was coughing. She lies and tells you that Mr. Bronstein is not in then, when you leave, she walks into Bronstein's office and laughingly says "I did not know the guy was a goddamn dinosaur."

It all comes down to independence. Independence in reality is the only way to enjoy a fulfilling life. As long as you work for someone else you will be manipulated, lied to and abused and eventually kicked to the curb.

You will be forced to grovel for benefits and then have your access to them narrowed over and over again by changes to the Godly policy and procedures manual.

So independence is the key. A lesson hopefully learned early in life.

It is a bit daunting to realize at the age of 60 that your only hope of survival, a comfortable survival, is independence.

Life has a nasty way of catching up to you. The one thing I will say about those pretentious financial planner ads that stress planning for retirement - they are dead on right. Because life blows by and when you get to a certain age nobody is going to help you. Society would prefer that you just die and decrease the surplus population.

But the times they are a changing. There are opportunities out there to achieve independence, more so than ever before. With diligent research, determination, a little luck and a little talent, you can probably find a way to at least bring in additional income to supplement social security and whatever else you got going on.

With a lot of luck maybe you can find a way to become independent.

There is an AARP commercial that depicts successful elders and sells the whole thing with the slogan "Not everybody peaks in their twenties."

I dig that. I have to dig that. My back is to the wall and I need to grab on to whatever presents itself as hope.

The next 10 years of my life and Carol's life are critical. In reality, the next couple of years are crucial. We need to get the ball rolling ASAP to even have a chance at a few good years.

No pressure.

I am hopeful.

This is no time to give up. Breaking away from society's stifling rules and regs, even at our advanced age, would be sweet icing on the cake of life.

I'd love to sit and chat but you will have to excuse me.

I have to save a couple of lives.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman

As I was ramping up the adrenaline to watch the Super Bowl last night, I found out that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died, most likely from a heroin overdose.

My immediate reaction was chills. Chills because I love every movie of his that I have seen. Chills because his sensitivity in many roles connected with my heart and my soul.

Chills because the sensitivity that he exuded on screen seemed to me to be a big part of who he really was. He felt real to me.

Great actors can make you feel. But you can often sense a separation between the actor and the emotion.

Sensitive actors somehow use that as part of their performance. There is no separation. You know, you feel in your soul, that the character is them and they are the character. They draw you in and make you feel what their character is feeling.

You lose yourself in the movie just as the actor loses himself in the part.

I don't know how they do that without destroying themselves.

Maybe it can't be done.

Heroin always catches people by surprise. You expect to know that a junkie on the corner will OD. You don't expect Philip Seymour Hoffman to die with a needle in his arm.

Except when you consider the sensitivity  angle. Some people just cannot deal with this world. It is cold and aloof, it is unpredictable, quick to punish and slow to reward.

Even a successful and loved guy like Hoffman can be tortured inside. Being an actor is a handy tool for hiding anguish.

That doesn't explain it all, though. From what I have read, he had been off the stuff for 20 years.

So why now, why again in the last few years?

Nothing is ever black and white, nothing is ever what it seems.

"Jack Goes Boating" is a movie of his that I have not seen included in one write-up of his life. But it is a movie that moved me deeply.

He played a sensitive and shy guy who goes on a blind date with a sensitive and shy woman. They end up in a delicate romance.

He played that part with aching vulnerability and it blew me away. He brought tears to my eyes. He summoned emotions in me that brought delicate human nature to the surface.

An actor who can bring that depth of emotion to a character is a born actor. A man whose purpose it is to make us feel human again when the world wants nothing less than to strip us of all emotion.

The sensitive and the truly creative souls in this world burn out early, while the hard hearted endure.

There is something so wrong with that equation.

Couple of quotes for you to chew on:

Jim Carrey: "Dear Philip, a beautiful, beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart."

Philip Seymour Hoffman on acting: "For me, acting is torturous, and its torturous because you know it's a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, 'That's beautiful and I want that.' Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great -- well, that's absolutely torturous."


Football Season Is Over

On Sunday, February 20, 2005, Hunter S. Thompson killed himself, leaving behind a suicide note.

He titled it: "Football Season Is Over".

I can identify with the sentiment.

I love football even more than dark chocolate. It is the one sport that consumes me.

It makes hideous New England winters easier to bear, it excites me and makes me feel alive, come alive; it gives me something to focus on and thrill to, it awakens passion in me that is otherwise dead, killed by jobs that pour acid on my soul.

This football season was torture. I missed 85% of it because of my servitude to The Asylum.

This is unprecedented. I never let anything get in the way of Sacred Sundays.

To short circuit the vipers who are ready to attack me and call me a sniveling, whining maggot..........yup it was entirely my fault that I missed the season. I have held the goddamn job since 2/22/13 and I knew two days in that it was a colossal mistake. Plenty of time to engineer a "Great Escape-like" escape.

Yet I dug no tunnels.

That being said, the frustration was enormous.

A lesson has been learned. A steely resolve to never put myself in this position again.

Football season is over now and I have nothing to look back on. No vibes in the tank I can draw on as we wait for slow moving baseball to  saunter back into the spotlight. As I wait for racing to crank itself back up, another sport I enjoy and missed out on entirely.

There is an emptiness that stretches back over four months, a void that has never been there before.

I am feeling uncomfortable in myriad ways lately. The discomfort, rather than feeding into depression, is serving as a wake up call on many fronts.

As far as football is concerned, I will make it my lover come this September. I will be attentive to its every desire, I will wallow in the most minute of details, I will reacquaint myself with the fragile balancing act between violence and grace.

I will do this faithfully and with devotion.

I am not in a rush. Football season is over and spring is promised as a result, groundhog be damned.

I am looking for nothing less than catharsis this spring. I expect my health to return to robustness as gentler weather awakens my soul to its potential.

When that happens I will dance like a madman and sing like a bird.

I will mine that beauty for all it is worth, and when September, unfortunately/fortunately, does roll around in 2014, I will possess a strength of mind, body and character that will allow me to experience football better than I ever have before.

I mourn the 2013 NFL season.

I celebrate the coming of the 2014 NFL season with purified anticipation.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Something To Shoot For

I am getting viciously attacked and beaten on all sides by harsh truths.

Life truths.

When I visit Chiro Man, the first minute is spent engaged in conversation. The obligatory ice breaking joke, then a quick analysis on where I am at and how I am feeling.

Thursday he changed things up on me with this opening line: "I want to talk about your family history."

I had to fill out reams of paperwork when I first started with the guy, just as I have had to do over and over again throughout this fascinating process.

The paperwork included a family history.

We talked about my mother's life long struggle with heart problems and her unfair and undeserved, premature death at the young age of 69.

We talked about the way my father died and the brain trauma he experienced.

Then he asked about my health issues. I rattled off the list (and believe me it pisses me off royally that I have a list) - high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma.

He began to make his point by saying "You are at the age"........................

This immediately got my attention. Because I am well aware of the age I am at. Because right now I am hating it.

Previously I would have envisioned myself as a hale and hearty sixty year old. Now I feel weak and vulnerable.

He made the point that I am at a vulnerable age and that I am also at an age where I can still do something about it.

With lifestyle changes.

He said "I have people in their seventies and beyond who come in here that are still vigorous."

This got my attention too because 70 is my new fear. The decade between 50 and 60 went by lightening quick and I am not happy to be here. 60 sounds old. 70 sounds even more finite.

This is the fourth time in three months that I have endured this lecture.

The first time it came from Dr. Feelgood, but it did not have as much impact because she did it in anger and was reacting to my audacity at even questioning her.

The second time it came from the first therapist I dealt with. He was cool and we talked well.

The third time it came from my optometrist, who has a holistic approach to life that I respect.

And now, Chiro Man.

None of them lied to me.

I know exactly where I sit and I know what I have to do. I have begun. Whiskey is an afterthought and exercise is back in my life. However I still have a very long way to go in the dietary arena.

I need more discipline there and I do not expect to fail.

My point is, it is quite sobering to have a number of people tell me, in effect, that if I do not change my wicked ways, I will die prematurely.

As if I don't think about death enough as it is.

I have always had a sense of invincibility in the back of my mind. I knew I wasn't taking the best care of my health, but I believed that what I was doing in conjunction with my iron constitution would get me through to my 113th birthday.

I no longer believe that.

Lemmy Kilmister is the front man for the group known as Motorhead, who still tour and still record.  This guy was legendary for living the rock 'n roll lifestyle long after the rest of his generation began sipping water on stage, instead of Budweiser.

He lived in the back of a bar or up above a bar or next to a bar. Something like that. A bar known for live music and Lemmy.

He drank Jack & Coke around the clock and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. He did not strike me as the kind of guy who could change his lifestyle.

I liked that about him.

Last year Lemmy had heart trouble.

He said: "There is nothing weirder than having everything you are taken from you in one day - bingo."

He now drinks diet coke and rides an exercise bike.

He says: "Let's face it - it isn't as much fun. But it can't be as much fun if I die. I don't believe that's much fun either."

Reflecting back on his partying days he said: "I suddenly realized I was waking up in pool's of other people's vomit, and I had no recollection of them. That's a bit much. I'm not saying don't have fun, don't snort the occasional line - but don't make it your life."

Lemmy Kilmister is 67.

That's a fifth voice in my head telling me what I already know. And I am lucky enough so far to have not experienced any major health eruptions.

I will never be a choir boy. That just ain't me.

But I wouldn't mind being a witty and healthy 80 year old, dancing with my deeply loved 80 year old wife, and enjoying the company of my 53 year old and 50 year old sons.

Enough, already.

I get the point.

Dig

"Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity."

Gustave Flaubert

I was introduced to this quote by Christopher Hitchens in "Hitch 22".

Of course.

It moved me deeply.

It's my own thing, a reflection of what I love, what is important to me and who I am. I'm talking about my reaction to the quote.

I read words like that and I feel something inside. I put aside the book for a few seconds, I absorb the reaction, then I re-read it.

When I say "of course" I am referencing the fact that Mr. Hitchens brought these words into my life. This is what I am talking about when I say that reading writing of a certain caliber flexes the brain.

The brain hungers for newness. Hence the sad, blank stares on most of our faces as we stagger out of bed and off to work every boring day.

Another reason it will take me longer than usual to read this book is the goddamn footnotes. I never read footnotes. They annoy me. They distract me.

I cannot not read the footnotes in "Hitch 22". Even the footnotes are enriching and enlightening.

Anyway....................., Gustave baby, I dig your words.