Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Major Breakthrough

Last night's post was written on the laptop in my lap. In my recliner.

I have rocketed into the 21st century with a piece of five year old technology. Maybe even older than that.

Courtesy of my son Craig. He had a laptop he doesn't use anymore because he has all the up to date technology. So he gave the magic machine to me.

This could prove quite dangerous. I may become impossible to shut up.

Carol has an unstoppable relationship with computer games. Once she starts she can't stop. She goes upstairs to the computer saying "I'll be down shortly."

Two hours later, after numerous, quite loud exclamations of "I can't beat this goddamn game", she drags her ass downstairs and deigns to feed me.

Up until Sunday night, if I had something burning I just had to get off of my mind......................it had to wait. And when the opportunity finally presented itself, inspiration and energy had often waned.

Not anymore.

The world is at my mercy.

I feel smugly in control and quite hip.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Same Old Same Old (except Sadly Completely Different)


Back to work today for a semi-extended period.

Three days. That's about all I can handle.

12/29. 12/30. 12/31.

Then........................I'm off for four days. Gonna be with Carol for those days. In comfort and peace. Gonna celebrate my birthday on 01/01 with whoever shows up.

Looking forward to it.

I was in a daze today. Barely functioning. Too much sorrow. Too much pain. Especially in contrast to the enormous superficiality of my totally meaningless job.

I really didn't give a shit. I never will again.

I work with a couple of insignificant people. Selfish. Delusional. Back stabbing, agenda driven scum.

Other than that they are perfectly OK.

Given the shock and loss of the past week, I have been driven deep within myself. Thinking about the 61 years I have spent on this earth and wondering how I can make what's left count.

As lost as I was today, as disillusioned and sad and broken as I felt.........................I thought over and over again about Eddie and Kathy and Cori and Carol and.....................

You have to fight to make your life meaningful. The more loss you experience the more driven you become to make a statement, to actually do something with your life.

What the hell is the point of living life on your knees? It is meant to be lived with fist extended drawing blood from any face that gets in the way.

I hurt a lot today and I don't give a shit whether I did a good job or not because the people I work for are exploitive, manipulative, condescending and COLD HEARTED.

They do not deserve my loyalty or my concern.

My family does.

Recently I told you that I only evolve when I am broken.

The past week has broken me significantly.

Ultimately I care only about the healing of those who I love. The people who were hurt the most by untimely death.

Two more days before I can withdraw once again. What will be the benefit of that withdrawal?

I can't say. This is uncharted territory.

Will time soothe the pain of the ones I love?

No.

Even time is not that powerful.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Jonathan

My nephew, Jonathan Testa, passed away on Wednesday, December 17.

He was 27.

He was my brother's only son.

His death was drug related and is a testament to the hideous power of heroin and the immense inability of our society to deal with it.

As I walk around my house and live my life and get distracted by the little things that have to be done, suddenly, my mind will jolt me with the fact that Jonathan is gone.

Every time that has happened I have grimaced and shaken my head in disbelief.

My mind will not accept it, and will not for a long time to come.

My brother's grief is ten fold. I cannot imagine the enormity of his pain, the helpless sense of loss, the emptiness he is experiencing.

My heart aches to know how deeply Eddie is suffering. My mind recoils at my inability to truly comfort him.

I am ashamed to admit that I did not know Jonathan as well as I should have. Did not see him enough. Did not spend nearly enough time with him.

I do know he was exceptional. He was intelligent with a wicked sense of humor, he was talented in sports and very talented musically, he painted and he probably did ten other things well that I am not even aware of.

He was that kind of man.

 When I was lucky enough to be around him I was aware of his confident sense of self. You couldn't miss it.

I vividly remember the phone call I got from my brother eight or nine years ago telling me that Jonathan had been busted.

I was completely off balance. Had no idea, no clue at all.

He was in college, playing in a band and appeared to be kicking ass. I would never have associated Jonathan with hard drugs.

That is how insidious drugs are, how evil and all consuming. That they could be introduced into a life with so much promise and just ruin it.

Since then it had all been about ups and downs. Sometimes Jonathan was doing well, sometimes he was not. Eddie and Kathy, Jonathan's mom, did everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - to help him out, to support him, to protect him and to let him know he was loved.

So much so that it negatively impacted their own lives.

Didn't matter. They were trying to protect their son.

I don't understand what happened. I don't know if Jonathan got into heroin for kicks or if he was trying to deal with a pain that I knew nothing about.

One small insight into the nature of Jonathan's personality was that when he was doing well he could always land a job. After losing a job, falling back into the clutches of heroin, entering rehab and cleaning up, he could walk into a restaurant and get hired. It happened over and over again.

He even got hired back to a place where he had been previously fired.

I know people who have been unemployed for years and cannot land a job.

That tells you a lot about the kind of man Jonathan was. That people could see his true nature through the confusion and that they would trust him with a job.

Jonathan cooked. He did it well. Another creative aspect of his personality.

He brought a lot to this world and should have brought a lot more.

His wake was a steady stream of family and friends for three solid hours. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came through that funeral home.

Imagine how many more lives he would have touched had he lived another sixty years.

But I'll tell you something. I have memories of Jonathan as a baby, as a little boy, as a young man. Memories that cannot be taken away from me. I have pictures of him in my house that I will look upon with pride.

Forever.

At some point my grief will fade into a fierce pride and happiness at having been Jonathan's uncle. I was lucky to have him in my life, lucky to have experienced his amazing essence.

Until then I will ache for Kathy.

I will ache for my brother Ed in a way I have never hurt before. My heart is broken at Jonathan's loss and in the knowledge of the pain Eddie is going through.

Eddie and Kathy raised an exceptional son who became an exceptional man. He brought a lot of love, a lot of happiness, a lot of caring, and a lot of laughs to a lot of lives.

You cannot ask for more from a human being.

We who knew and loved him are grateful.


Sarge

I read this at the get together after Sarge's memorial service. I was going to write something else today but there is nothing more to say.
 
 
There are a lot of people in this room today, a lot of life, and yet there is a huge void. A distinct feeling of emptiness. Feels like something’s missing.

That’s Sarge.

The people in this room know they are lucky to have known Sarge. Those of us who were related to him were even luckier.

 That says a lot about the kind of man Sarge was.

But there are a hell of a lot more people outside this room who also consider themselves lucky to have known Sarge.

And that tells you everything you need to know about the man.

He brought magic to your life, he made you laugh, he made you feel important and you knew he cared.

The phrase “celebration of life” has become a clichĂ© over the years because it is all about people trying to find a positive way to deal with death. Trying to make sense of something that hurts so much.

In Sarge’s case, the words “celebration of life” mean exactly what they were originally intended to mean.

Because he lived his life full throttle, he did it his way and he made so many other peoples’ lives better.

Everybody wants to live life on their own terms, but for most of us, it is much easier said than done.

Sarge was true to his spirit, always.

He was tough, gentle, loving and considerate, funny, insane, free spirited, sensitive and self-less.

The thing that made him so cool was that he did it all so effortlessly. He didn’t have to get in your face to be who he was.

His personality was just there for all to enjoy. He projected strength, quietly.

Unless you pissed him off. Then you were on your own. Sarge didn’t take shit from anybody.

And that is another personality trait we all we wish we had.

I could tell you a hundred stories of insanity I enjoyed with Sarge in various states of altered consciousness. Stories about crimes we committed in the vicinity of the Pocono International Raceway, and much more.

And for every story I could tell there is somebody inside this room or somewhere else who could match it.

Sarge made insanity fun and fear non-existent.

I could also turn around and tell you about a hundred conversations I had with Sarge. Sensitive, thoughtful, meaningful, quiet conversations about life and experiences and hopes and disappointments.

Those were special because I knew I was talking to a man who meant everything he said, who felt everything he said.

No bullshit. Just real life.

I know I am not the only one he spoke to in that way. He touched a lot of people with his openness and his honesty.

Sarge loved to give gifts. I could fill a room with the gifts Sarge gave me. Collectibles and T-shirts and hats and mirrors and lights and memorabilia.

And every time he gave me a gift he made me feel special. Like he had given it a lot of thought.

I loved it when he would take me down to the basement at the Grille and paw through a bunch of racing stuff he had stashed there until he got to whatever it was he had in mind.

He had other stuff stashed down there too, and that made the treasure hunt even better.

On one of his last visits to our house he gave Carol a bright red VW bug. A metal car.

Carol drives a VW bug and it is the love of her life.

She also created a garden in front of our house that is her passion.

Sarge told her to put the bug in the garden and leave it there. Leave it there in the rain and the snow and all the seasons. He told her to let it rust there because that’s what it was meant to do.

The car is covered by snow right now.

That is a perfect example of the thought that Sarge put into giving gifts.

Lots of people have gifts from Sarge that they can hang on to as a reminder of the kind hearted, generous man that he was. But none of us need those reminders.

If he was in your life he was in your heart.

I knew Sarge for something like 38 or 39 years. More than half my life. Many in here knew him longer than that.

I’m standing up here trying to explain what he meant to me, the good things he brought to my life but, ultimately, I can’t do it.

What I am really doing is representing everyone who knew and loved Sarge.  Because he gave all of us something to remember. Something special.

He was a rare individual who made you feel good about yourself. He was always there to listen to you, to give you advice and to help you out.

And he made you laugh. Above all else he made you laugh.

Sarge was larger than life.

His shoes will never be filled.

 

 

Friday, December 26, 2014

12/26/14

Not sure what is going to come out of me today. I have never been in this situation before.

And hope never to be again.

Today is December 26. The day after Christmas, 2014.

Sarge is gone. Jonathan is gone.

My family has been through a lot of pain, a lot of tears in the past week and it will not stop for some time to come.

When I say my family I include Carol's family and Cori's family and Kathy's family.

And all the friends.

These deaths have touched so many people it is overwhelming.

Sarge's wake and Jonathan's wake were an endless stream of people mourning for hours.

Any death sucks. But it was strikingly obvious to any outsider that these two lives were special. The number of people whose lives they affected was overwhelming.

We, the family and close friends, already knew this. We were lucky enough to live it.

Two wakes, two days in a row, that communicated the message loud and clear that these two men didn't just live, they intertwined their life with yours and made your life better.

That is a rare and meaningful situation.

My brother Ed came up on Christmas Eve and spent the night. We had a magnificent meal, courtesy of Ed. We talked, we watched a movie and laughed.

My sons and their women came up on Christmas day. Despite the circumstances, we had a very good day. Lots of conversation, lots of laughter, lots of emotion.

It was deeply meaningful in a way it had never been before. It is the worst crime to take life and relatives and friends for granted. It is a shame that it takes death to jolt you out of complacency.

I will never again take anyone I love for granted.

Never.

I kept looking around, I fought back tears over and over again. I looked at my brother, who I have looked up to forever and marveled at his strength.

He made everybody laugh over and over again with his typical laser-like wit.

Cori worked on Christmas day. I'm sure she did it in part to keep her mind off Sarge, as much as that is possible. I also have a sneaking suspicion she also did it to allow someone else to spend the day with family.

She is that loving and considerate.

I thought about Eddie and Kathy and Cori all day long. I have no idea what they are going through. But I know they were strong and gave strength to those who mourned their pain.

These are amazing people.

I watched my strong wife Carol, who I love so much, put on a magnificent Christmas feast. Even though I know she is in a great deal of pain, mourning the loss of her baby brother.

She is an amazing woman.

I was lucky yesterday. I was surrounded by family on Christmas day. Close to my brother who is mourning the loss of his son. Close to my wife who is mourning the loss of her brother. I got to talk to Kathy, Jonathan's mom, and Cori, Sarge's wife.

I was with my sons and their women, four people who I worship and love so deeply it consumes me.

I am lucky to have these people in my life. I have always known that.

From now on I will hold them tighter than ever before. I will keep them closer than ever before.

They are my magic.

They are my life.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

To Cori

Cori and Sarge. Sarge and Cori.

You might as well get rid of the "and" and create a new name.

CoriSarge. Or SargeCori.

Because that is what they were. They were one.

Man, they were amazing.

No other woman on this planet could have been married to Sarge. Nobody. She was perfect for him.

She knew when to let Sarge be Sarge; she knew when to stand up to him. She did it naturally because she knew exactly who her husband was and she knows exactly who she is.

Sarge could never have been married to a wimp, nor could he ever have been married to a piranha. He needed a woman he could love. He needed a woman who would love him as he was. He needed a woman he could respect.

Cori is all that and more.

She did not make him better, he did not make her better. He was and she is perfect exactly as themselves.

But there was a magic there between them, something special, a vibe that everyone could feel. When you stepped into their aura you knew good things, fun things, were about to happen.

Cori did not exist in Sarge's shadow, as a weaker woman would have. She casts her own shadow and it is formidable.

Let me tell you something. I never would have messed with Sarge. He would have kicked my ass. And I will never mess with Cori either. She can kick my ass too.

Together they created an atmosphere at Sarges' Tailgate Grille that was perfect. I have never been in any other bar or restaurant where I felt more comfortable.

And believe me I have done my homework. I have been in a lot of bars.

The comfort Carol and I felt there was not just because we are family. If we weren't family it would not have mattered. The Grille was an extension of who Cori and Sarge were. When you walked in there you were among friends.

You felt it. You knew it. It was in the air, it was in the contentment of the people sitting at the bar, the happiness of the people dining in the restaurant.

The Grille would not have been the Grille without Sarge. The Grille would not have been the Grille without Cori.

Period.

Cori is her own woman, she is sharp, a no bullshit kind of woman. She also has a direct, wicked sense of humor, a streak of insanity, a compassionate and caring and loving nature, and a quiet cool.

We visited Cori and Sarge a lot when he was at Seal Rock. I looked a round a lot. I took it all in.

Because it broke my heart to see Sarge in that setting because I know he hated being in that situation.

The thing I noticed most powerfully was the way Cori looked into Sarge's eyes. I saw it time and time again as she tended to his needs, worked so hard to make him physically comfortable and tried so hard to comfort him emotionally.

She look directly into his eyes as they talked. And he looked up into her eyes with complete trust and pure love. Words could never have expressed what their eye to eye contact did.

The intensity of that emotion blew me away and broke me down every time. It was the ultimate expression of the ultimate love.

No one could have comforted Sarge the way Cori did. No one would have been strong enough to do it.

None of this surprised me. I have been around Cori and Sarge for almost 40 years. I have seen the love she gave him, the laughter she inspired in him, the strength she drew from him and the strength she gave to him.

 Cori told us she was looking into Sarge's eyes as he was looking into her hers at the end. Holding him and talking to him.

He was a very lucky man. He took that look and that love with him into his new existence. That's all the ammunition he will need to deal with his new situation.

Cori is loved and appreciated and respected deeply. Always has been. Always will be.

Sarge was an amazing man.

Cori is an amazing woman.

Carol and I love you deeply, Cori.






Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cancer And Drugs

I'm a little pissed off at death today.

Actually I am a LOT pissed off at death.

On Wednesday morning at 3:45 a.m. Carol and I got a call that her brother Sarge had passed away.

He was 59.

He had been battling cancer for years and doing it with courage and style. He kept his sense of humor, he maintained his fiercely individualistic personality.

We could all see it coming but it doesn't matter.

It hurts.

This morning we got a call at 6:00 a.m. from my brother telling us that his son Jonathan died from an overdose.

He was 27.

He had been dealing with addiction for years. Had his good periods, had his tough periods. Put his parents through hell. Obviously he was living his own personal hell.

We were all aware of the possibility but it doesn't matter.

It hurts.

Sarge lost his life to cancer; Jonathan lost his life to drugs.

59 and 27.

If you add their ages together you get a sum that should represent one life. And even that is too short.

What the hell ever happened to natural causes? What the hell ever happened to living a life and dying naturally in old age?

Life is tough enough. Death is tough enough.

Why do we need disease? Why do we need torment and twisted ways to deal with it?

Sarge's obituary should have read: "Kenneth "Sarge" Sargent died today of natural causes at the age of 93. He lived a robust, independent life, staying true to his soul always. He touched so many lives they cannot be counted. He made his mark on the world and leaves a void that can never be filled."

Jonathan's obituary should have read: "Jonathan Testa died today at the age of 93. He was an accomplished musician and credited his father Ed as his inspiration. He was naturally gifted at sports, which he always said he inherited from his father's genes. He leaves behind three children and five grandchildren. He lived a successful life and gave back as much love as he received."

That is how it should have been.

But life does not play fair. Death does not play fair.

Sarge lived his own life and brought so much happiness to so many people. His life was cut way too short. He had a lot more to give. There will be people whose lives will be smaller for not having come in contact with Sarge.

Jonathan's life got cut short before he had a chance to live it. He never had a chance to redeem himself, to overcome his demons and to see what the world had to offer. To see what he could bring to this world to make it a little more enjoyable.

These two deaths are overwhelming.

Enough already.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cycles Of Emotion

Got a different perspective on Christmas.

Specifically Christmas carols.

I have been examining my reaction to these songs. I get a gut feeling, an immediate reaction to the real Christmas carols.

Not the Rudolphs, not the Jingle Bells, not the Frostys.

The real songs. The soaring, majestic ones that inspire reflection.

Call it melancholia, call it mild despair, call it insanity. It is not a happy feeling. It is a deeply emotional feeling. A thoughtful emotion. A longing.

By the way, and you have heard me rage about this before, I must also dismiss "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney.

Here you have two creative geniuses. John Lennon and Paul McCartney. McCartney writes "Wonderful Christmastime." Lennon writes "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

Paul's song is sappy and simplistic. Unworthy of his creative powers.

John's song is reflective and challenging. I don't like the political correctness of the title, though. Although knowing John personally as I do, he was probably attempting to make the message all inclusive.

Anyway, his song encourages you to take a look at the past year of your life. What have you done? His good wishes go out to all people and all races. He has the balls to suggest that war could end, if you want it. He wishes you a happy new year and hopes it's a good one without any fear.

Listening to an all Christmas song station on the radio in the Big Ride the other day. They played "Wonderful Christmastime" and followed that immediately with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)."

I found that quite appropriate.

But I digress.

Visiting Sarge last Sunday and Christmas carolers stalked the halls. At first I thought "Oh, Christ, here we go."

Until they got close to us. Remember the elderly lady who kept us company? The one who rooted for the team in the yellow pants?

Her eyes lit up as the carolers approached. I was watching her. Her eyes lit up in pure joy. It meant something to her. It meant a lot to her.

It was so good to see happiness spread across her face.

The carolers handed out homemade Christmas cards to the residents. Cards created by the children in the group.

She was thrilled to get hers. She thanked the kid from her heart. She was so excited to show it to us.

Sarge even sang a bit, along with the carolers.

It meant something to him too.

As I continue to dissect my relationship with Christmas carols, it is comforting to know the magical effect they can have.

Carol erected our Christmas tree last Saturday as I worked. I don't know how she did it alone. She wrestled its massiveness into Christmas solace.

I was meditating on the lights the other night. Wondering if my reaction to them is as a child with no previous experience. An infant mesmerized by the lights.

I don't think so, though. Because they inspire the same reaction in me as do real Christmas songs.

And the wheel goes 'round and 'round.

Can We Change

Watching Morning Joe this morning.

They were discussing the subject of torture vis a vis (always wanted to use that phrase) national security.

Need to have a national discussion.

Been absorbing all the horror of race killings and the refusal to indict.

Need to have a national discussion on race.

That's what I keep hearing from the talking heads. We need to have a national discussion. A frank, open and honest debate. With the noble goal of achieving a meeting of the minds.

That is the problem, folks. All we do is talk.

These problems are huge. They are of a moral nature.

The only true way to address them is to look into the souls of men. The only true way to change them is to change what is evil in the soul of mankind.

Call me pessimistic (and many do) but I don't think we have that capability.

The mutation that has warped the soul of humanity has created permanent damage.

I am not even sure a mutation has occurred. Maybe this is just the way we are. However, I don't want to believe that. I think we started out on a higher moral ground and were corrupted along the way.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. A well worn phrase.

I think moral evil is an all consuming evil.

We need to look into the soul of mankind. Can you imagine how horrifying that would be?

What would it be like to look into the soul of a person who despises another because of the color of their skin. How poisonous, how offensive, how bile-coated, how cold and lifeless must that soul be?

Access to a soul like that would probably result in death. Death of the observer, unfortunately.

Evil lives on.

Can we change?

The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. The law forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created to implement that law. The EEOC's role has been expanded to enforce laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age in hiring, promoting, firing, testing, setting wages, apprenticeship and all other terms and conditions of employment.

Blood was shed to bring about the creation of this law.

It changed the legal environment.

It did not change minds.

Racial prejudice bubbled below the surface since then, although there is no shortage of instances when that prejudice has erupted like a volcano.

In actions, in discussions, in arguments.

Racial prejudice blew right back into the open in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. It has gone even more public in the last few years with endless instances of racial killings gone unpunished.

It has been 50 years since the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Can we change?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Little Humor To Help You Digest What Follows

"Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck."

George Carlin

Bleak Verse

"He thought, the most indecent sight on earth, a pawnshop window. The things which had been sacred to men, and the things which had been precious, surrendered to the sight of all, to the pawing and the bargaining, trash to the indifferent eyes of strangers, the equality of a junk heap, typewriters and violins - the tools of dreams, old photographs and wedding rings - the tags of love, together with soiled trousers, coffee pots, ash trays, pornographic plaster figures; the refuse of despair, pledged, not sold, not cut off in clean finality, but hocked to a stillborn hope, never to be redeemed."

From "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand

The goddamn sentence builds from a dark perspective, grows and takes on a life of its own.

And hammers you with "the refuse of despair"

and

"a stillborn hope".

Stillborn hope?

Nothing could be darker.

Mighty Big Car (Thanks Skip)

My friend Skip turned me on yesterday to the perfect song to celebrate my love affair with The Big Ride.

"Mighty Big Car" by Fred Eaglesmith.

"Down on the corner, up on the avenue,
people are pointin', calling out after you.
Hands on their hips, their eyes getting wider,
They can't believe the thing that yer drivin'.

28 feet from bumper to bumper
The last of the sweet old time gas guzzlers
Hard to drive harder to park but
when you do somebody remarks
That's a mighty big car

Elvis had one and so did Hank
It don't look like money
It looks like the bank
Makes a scene every time you stop it
Rides like a dream
Goes like a rocket
That's a mighty big car

Headlights thick as mason jars
Everybody says it looks like Mars
Shinier than a country star
And nothing ever looked as good in your front yard
Brighter than an aluminum trailer
Curvy windshields and tinted mirrors
Grill looks like a café sign
And the whitewalls drive ya out of yer mind
That's a mighty big car"


Heavy Duty Lyrics

From "Kiss The Children" by Gram Parsons.

The song is about his woman who is leaving him. Leaving him and the kids.

One line that breaks your heart is "and kiss the children for me, please, before you go."

And then there is this:

"so don't play this crazy game with me no longer
'cause I won't be able to resist my rage
And the gun that's hangin' on the kitchen wall, dear
Is like the road sign pointing straight to satan's cage"

Something Broke - Redux

In a nutshell, what I was trying to say is this.

I create a lot of my own pain. The dark hallways of my diseased mind twist reality into a personalized suffering that suffocates my soul.

That does not matter.

The pain that did me in on Sunday, the pain that broke me, was the pain of others.

People that I love.

The pain of watching Sarge struggle. The pain of knowing how hard Cori is suffering. The pain of knowing how much Sarge's struggle hurts Carol. The pain that Keith and Emily experienced that night over an out of the blue and frightening emergency with a beloved pet.

It was too much pain in one day for me to comprehend.

I complain about my own life. What I realized that night is that what I really care about is the happiness and the health of the people I love.

What I realized that night is that I allow petty things to consume me. To distract me and waste my life and waste my happiness.

What I realized is that I allow petty people to steal my time.

Something broke in me that night.

There will be consequences.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Something Broke (As NASCAR Drivers Always Say)

Grab a drink. This is a long one.




My brain is tiny so it's easily overwhelmed.

But for one solid year now it has been receiving input designed to foment change. Change of a deep and personal nature.

Life saving change.

You know the early chapters. Last year around this time I got the pinched nerve in the neck thing. Lots of pain for quite a while.

Then I went from reading glasses to bi-focals. The bi-focals sucked so I progressed merrily to tri-focals.

Then I was diagnosed with high blood pressure for the first time in my life.

The blood pressure saga continues a year later. Initially Dr. Feelgood started me out on 5 mg of a drug. It did not produce the desired results so she upped it to 10 mg. Had a physical last Thursday, she was still not happy so she switched me to a higher dosage of a different drug.

While I was there she also felt impelled to hand me and discuss with me the "Advance Care Planning Guide." A pamphlet that reviews decisions you should make and documents you should sign before you become incapacitated and cannot do it.

So everyone knows whether or not to shut down your life support systems, or just inject whiskey into your intravenous tubes as you lay helpless close to death. (Editor's note to family: Please choose the latter, and it better be Crown Royal. I can identify cheap whiskey even in a coma).

That was a cheery discussion to have weeks before Christmas.

And of course my job continues to be ice picks in my eyeballs.

All of this is background noise for where my head is at right now.

Carol and I have been motoring up to Maine a lot recently to visit Sarge as he continues to spit in the face of cancer.

Yesterday was cool because Paula and Bill joined us; Kevin and Wayne were there as well. Sarge was sleeping when we arrived so we all congregated in a waiting area along with Cori.

It was good to sit and talk.

An elderly lady walkered her way into the room. We had football on the TV. She asked me who was playing. I told her it was the Steelers and the Bengals. She asked which ones were wearing the yellow pants. I told her the Steelers and she said she would root for them.

Very cool.

She settled down and began working on a puzzle. I think she was just happy to be around other people.

The rehab place is exceptionally nice as long as you don't look around.

If you look around you see the future.

People in walkers and wheelchairs shuffling and creeping along with nothing to do. Trying to kill time, which is pretty ironic when you consider the situation.

Last time we were there I saw a guy in a bed in the hall, asleep with his head tilted back and his mouth open. He looked like the living personalization of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch.

That image has stuck with me.

Eventually Sarge woke up and was wheeled out to the room we were in. It is so tough to see him in this condition. It is tough for me because of all the laughs and insanity we have shared together. Laughs and insanity we will never share again, at least not in that way.

It is exceptionally tough for Carol. Sarge is her baby brother. It breaks my heart to know how much her heart aches. But she is tough and she handles it well.

Externally.

Sarge is Sarge. We talked, he made us laugh. In fact when we first got there I was alone in the room with him and Cori. Cori gently woke him up and told him I was there. He said hi, I said hi, Cori told him everybody was there and asked if he wanted to wake up. He said "I don't want to be forced to wake up."

He maintains his sense of humor and his independence.

Paula brought some fudgy, peanut-buttery goodness. She offered one to Sarge which he enjoyed. He also asked "You didn't smuggle in a joint, did you?"

He also tried to tell a joke about five nurses which Cori immediately put an end to because the elderly lady was still in the room.

Carol and I cannot wait to hear that joke on our next visit.

Once again I  was overwhelmed by the love between Cori and Sarge. She stood over his wheelchair looking down into his eyes, he sat looking up into hers. You could feel the love, the tenderness and the care. You could feel Sarge wishing he was not in this situation, you could feel Cori vibing that she would take care of him.

You could sense as Sarge looked up at her that she is the one person in this world that he trusts without exception.

We got home and there was a message on the machine from Keith talking about a bad experience with his dog, Cooper. We called him immediately.

Keith and Emily had a frightening experience with Cooper the night before, which resulted in a 2 hour drive in the middle of the night to a pet care facility for emergency evaluation and surgery.

It was heartbreaking to listen to Keith talk about it. Cooper is still at the facility and will be there for a week or so. Keith and Emily plan to drive up during the week to visit and comfort him.

Then there will be rehab; the emergency involved his back and his ability to walk.

My nerves were raw from the visit to Maine. Carol's were too. Then to listen to Keith's story and to know what my son and his wife went through just overwhelmed me.

Apparently I am not much of a thinker. I don't seem able to absorb bad things and to learn from them.

I need to break.

A few weeks ago we visited Paula and Bill and watched THE PATS. I got very drunk. Afterwards I was disgusted with myself. I did not enjoy the game, I did not enjoy Paula and Bill's company, I ruined my wife's day.

I broke that day. Since that day I am drinking much less.

I felt like something broke in me last night, listening to Keith.

I started thinking about all the petty shit I allow to waste my life.  I thought about all the warnings I have received in the past year.

Sarge didn't get any warnings. He went from larger than life to a wheelchair in a relatively short time.

My friend Alan didn't get any warnings. He had a stroke many years ago that ruined his life. He hasn't been able to work since and one of his arms is extremely limited in mobility.

He hates it.

My friend Chip didn't get any warnings. He died of a heart attack in his driveway after a day at work.

At the age of 45.

When I was looking at Sarge yesterday, I thought I should be the one in that wheelchair. He should be visiting me.

Sarge has lived his life with gusto. He has always been his own man, fiercely independent and true to his soul.

That is how life is meant to be lived.

I have wasted a large chunk of my life walking in someone else's shoes.

When I got off the phone with Keith I realized that I am not the one in the wheelchair. That it would not solve anything for me to exchange places with Sarge.

I realized that what I want is for Sarge to get healthy and for me to start living.

What I want is happiness for my sons and their women. Contentment and happiness for my wife, who I love so much. Peace and happiness for my brother.

Felt like something broke in me last night.

Feels like maybe I am learning a thing or two about life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

When Will I Learn?

It pisses me off that every single time I type the word judgment, I spell it j-u-d-g-e-m-e-n-t.

Pain So Deep

Just read a scene in "The Fountainhead" that scorched my soul.

The kind of scene that left me numb, sitting quietly with the book in my hands, for a few seconds until I could snap my mind back  to my own reality.

Or back from my own reality.

A broken character sits in the office of a man he respects. A man of muscled individuality. The man is broken because his entire life has been a fraud. He achieved great monetary and professional success as an architect. But he never had an original thought. He succeeded by stealing other men's ideas, and by schmoozing and politicking his way to the top.

His career is fading; he has taken up painting for solace. He rented a shack in the woods and disappears there from the business world for days. Painting. Alone. It gives him peace.

He shows the paintings to this man that he respects. No one else has ever seen them. He waits quietly for an opinion without coming out and asking for one.

"He handed to Roark six of his canvasses. Roark looked at them, one after another. He took a longer time than he needed. When he could trust himself to lift his eyes, he shook his head in silent answer to the word Keating had not pronounced.

'It's too late, Peter', he said gently.

Keating nodded. 'Guess I.....knew that.'

When Keating had gone, Roark leaned against the door, closing his eyes. He was sick with pity. He had never felt this before - not when Henry Cameron collapsed in his office at his feet, not when he saw Steven Mallory sobbing on a bed before him. Those moments had been clean. But this was pity - this complete awareness of a man without worth or hope, this sense of finality, of the not to be redeemed. There was shame in this feeling - his own shame that he should have to pronounce such judgment on  man, that he should know an emotion which contained no shred of respect.

This is pity, he thought, and then he lifted his head in wonder. He thought that there must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue."

Dig

"That's the sort of thing I want you to understand. To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does, every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul - would you understand why that's much harder?"

From "The Fountainhead"

Don't Read This - It Might Become Your Mirror

"I often think that he's the only one of us who has achieved immortality. I don't mean in the sense of fame and I don't mean that he won't die some day. But he's living it. I think he is what the conception really means. You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. When you meet them, they're not what you met last. In any given hour, they kill some part of themselves. They change, they deny, they contradict - and they call it growth. At the end, there's nothing left, nothing unreversed or unbetrayed; as if there had never been an entity, only a succession of adjectives fading in and out on an unformed mass. How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard - one can imagine him existing forever."

Two characters from "The Fountainhead" discussing another character - Howard - who remains fiercely committed to his own soul, his own unique identity, no matter the consequence, no matter the situation, no matter the social recrimination.

A Trillion?

I have read a trillion books, so it always delights me when a book intrigues me.

There is a certain predictability to stories. As different as each is, there are threads that run through them that unite them.

Subtle for the most part because the books I typically choose are more demanding than every day tripe.

Still that commonality exists, however thin, however non-transparent.

"The Fountainhead" intrigues the hell out of me.

On one level, it feels like subliminal advertising. Ayn Rand's theory of Objectivism twists throughout the plot. But since I am not yet well versed on exactly what that philosophy is, I feel it gently nudging up against my mind instead of bashing its way through my skull.

On another level, from the standpoint of just digging on the characters and the plot, nothing is predictable. Relationships between characters surprise me, things that they do amaze me, the things they say challenge me, twists and turns abound.

And the story keeps manipulating my emotions.

I have no idea where this book is headed. And I am 583 pages in.

What a delightful experience.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nothing Is Ever Clean and Green

Went to see Bob Seeger and J. Geils Saturday night.

Fucking amazing show. I will tell you all about it further on down the line.

Monday I'm driving to Hell at The Asylum, listening to sports talk radio on WEEI. I have been doing that lately to shake things up. Who the hell needs music?

They are having a debate about who's legacy is greater - Bob Seeger's or Meatloaf's. Because one of the hosts was at the concert.

I'm driving to Hell at The Asylum on Tuesday morning and these same guys are having a discussion about Mark Parenteau. He was a DJ on WBCN back in the day. Back in my day.

Parenteau was at the concert too. He is 64 and suffering with spinal stenosis. He felt this could be the last concert he ever attends. He made the effort because he claims he is the guy who introduced Bob Seeger to Peter Wolf in 1967. Wolf is the singer for the Geils band.

Neither Seeger nor Wolf made the effort to say hello to Parenteau.

Could be a story there or not. I was more interested in the fact that I heard  references to the concert two days in a row.

I say that because the concert was huge. Much bigger, much more amazing than I expected. Ripples afterward made sense to me.

I loved Parenteau. He was the afternoon drive time guy. He lit the smoking lamp every afternoon at 5:00. We all knew what the smoking lamp signified.

He had a canned prelude to the official lighting of the smoking lamp with spoken snippets of this and snippets of that. Same thing every day and I loved it.

Part of the shtick was the "what we have hear is a failure to communicate" quote. Somehow he worked in a reference to "morons, psychopaths and mental defectives." I stole that phrase, I love it and I have used it all my life.

A horn went off after the prelude and it was officially smoking lamp time.

I dug the guy, I loved the station and I wish that kind of radio freedom and innovation still existed. BCN was considered one of the most progressive stations in the country for decades and many of their DJ's and other  "on air" talent are famous.

I got nostalgic for Parenteau after hearing the pseudo jocks talk about him so I looked him up this morning.

And found this.

Mark Parenteau served three years in federal prison for sexually abusing a child. He had been indicted for sexual abuse of minors, prostitution and conspiracy. He pled guilty to a single charge of child sexual abuse.

Now he has spinal stenosis. Punishment? Karma?

That is not what I am focusing on.

I went digging with a warm feeling of nostalgia. With a sense of awe and contentment that I experienced the WBCN era and that I was smart enough to know what it was all about and to appreciate it.

And I end up stumbling over child sexual abuse and a debilitating disease.

Pure joy does not exist except in the relationship between parent and child. If you do it right.

I suppose it has always been this way. Humans are frail, weak and spiteful. We are an insult to the promise that we hold as "higher" life forms.

It's just that the way it is now, you can't get away from ugly reality. It is in your face every second of every day.

I am not saying I want to ignore Parenteau's failings as a human. I am saying that I wish just for once a dream, a memory, a feeling could be untainted.

Too much to ask.

For those who dug BCN, here is a list of names and references to spark you and bring some life back into your dullness:

Charles Laquidara
Oedipus
The Cosmic Muffin
Duane Ingalls Glasscock
Tank
Tami Heide
The Big Matrress
Carter Alan
J.J. Jackson
Cha-Chi
Danny Schechter The News Dissector
Ken Shelton
Billy West
Peter Wolf (yeah, he DJ'ed)



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Warning

Please be exceedingly careful.

2014 is about to end. Went by pretty damn quick didn't it?

Don't trip over the line, don't fall into 2015.

Above all - don't stumble around in 2015 the way you stumbled all across 2014.

Take a different perspective. Manufacture change.

Change your life in some small way just so you can prove to yourself that you are actually alive.

Feeling dead inside is not a good precedent to carry forward from year to year.

A Most Romantic Line

"I don't want no damage, but how'm I gonna manage with you?"

From "Hold Me" - Fleetwood Mac

Christmas Oozing

Christmas is leaking all over me.

It's inevitable. Christmas oozes.

I noticed it today at The Asylum. Got the Christmas music cranking and it got to me.

I'm not sure how it gets to me, or if it gets to me the way it is meant to get to me, but get to me it does.

In a melancholy way.

First of all I hate the happy time songs. The kiddie songs. Frosty the Snowman. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Holly Jolly Goddamn Christmas.

They don't make me happy. They don't make me smile. They make me shudder.

I like the heavy duty songs. White Christmas. Silent Night. Oh Come All Ye Faithful. These are the songs that summon what passes for Christmas spirit in me.

I think my Christmas emotion is one of wishing. I wish it was truly a season to bring joy. A season that could make people happy in a transformative way. I wish Christmas magic actually existed.

This cross references against my despair at the phoniness of the season. The hype. The pressure people feel to shop and buy and wrap and give against all logic.

My despair at how quickly the season evaporates.

I like the novelty of it. This sudden explosion of trees and wreaths and decorations and quality baked goods and lights in windows.

The whole world suddenly looks different. It is change. It snaps you out of life-lethargy, makes you sit up and notice.

I heard my first "Merry Christmas" tonight. I was in Rite-Aid checking my blood pressure. On my way out a woman wished a friend a Merry Christmas. She sounded sincere.

How's that for contrast? Here I am measuring my mortality against a backdrop of manufactured merry.

I don't want anyone to say "Merry Christmas" unless they mean it. You can hear it in their voice either way. If they are saying it because it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas and that's just what you do, I want them executed.

If they say it with sincerity, if they are truly wishing you good things, I want to kiss them.

I am nowhere man again this year. I feel nothing. Winter snuck up on me and I am furious at it, Thanksgiving snuck up on me, and now Christmas is lurking in the cold right around the corner.

(Editor's note - Thanksgiving was magnificent. It always is with my family. I will probably talk about it at some point).

Christmas is stirring in me. I felt it today with the Christmas music. A melancholy twinge.

I don't know where it is heading though. I don't know how much I will feel or whether or not I will enjoy what I feel.

I want magic. I want special. I want joy.

I'm pretty dead inside but I can probably squeeze some happiness out of the blackness.

It is an odd sensation. To hear a Christmas song that I like, for my emotions to be stirred in a hopeful "I wish Christmas could actually do good" kind of way. To have that feeling surface against the complete lack of hope I am experiencing right now of ever twisting my life around to be something I could look at proudly in retrospect.

Something is better than nothing.

Carol and I will erect our massive Christmas tree and I will meditate on it in the surrounding darkness.

Could be cool.

One never knows.