Thursday, May 25, 2017

Monument Valley, Arizona

Recently bought a print of a road running through Monument Valley in Arizona. Had it mounted, hung it on the wall opposite my recliner.

I love the desert even though I have never been there. I wanted to mount that love on the wall where I could look at it every day.

This picture really gets to me; it brings me peace.......................and longing.

It hit me yesterday. I was looking at it and my body settled into this place of wistfulness.

I wanted to be on that road. I wanted to drive until I found a little town with a broken down bar with warped floors, where I would get hired on tending bar. A place where the men are hard, straight shooters, and the women are tough and sexy in an over the hill kind of way. A place where I could pour myself a shot to chug with my favorite customers.

A place where I could make just enough money to survive in my little shack on the desert.

Truthfully, I am tired of fighting. I want what I want. Which I will probably never have.

Even though I have entered a new phase, I would prefer to settle into something simple, something that fits comfortably.

Do not get me wrong. I am happy with the new job. Very happy with it. Even though I was tortured last night for two solid hours.

Tickets for the new season went on sale to the public for the first time. The Capitol Center does it right - they have a barbecue that is open to the public, beer and wine for sale, and people can order tickets for the shows they want to attend.

There are typically three of us in the box office. Last night there were four more people set up in the lobby to sell tickets also. That's how crazy busy it was.

I got there at 4:30. People were already milling about the lobby even though the sale didn't start until 6:00.

It was Day Five for me on the job and there were a lot of customer questions I just could not answer. Each time I had to flag down the boss man - "LORNE!!!!!!!!!!" - who was running around like a maniac trying to stay on top of things.

I hate being in that position - it's like a little kid crying for mommy. But there was no way around it.

It was a rough night but I survived it. Not rough like working in a warehouse or being a roofer, those are real jobs, but still...rough. And I still like the job. Got an internal vibe that this is going to work out beautifully.

My point is that everybody has a desert print in their life. Something or somewhere that, if they could make it part of their life, would bring them peace.

Or maybe we are all just dreamers. Always believing that a change to something or somewhere would make our lives perfect.

I have noticed that sometimes I look at the picture and it brings me peace. Sometimes I look at it and it makes me long for that broken down bar.

You gotta fight to survive. That is the reality for most of us. And we all will be fighting right up until the very end.

But if a little dreaming brings you momentary peace, even if it is tinged with longing or regret - what is the harm in that?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Peak Behind The Curtain

Let's discuss.

A woman I worked with at the thrift shop - a volunteer - wrote this in the good luck card that she gave me: "You have changed the pulse of this place. Your incredible humor, sensitivity, and brilliant sense of human awareness have contributed to a wonderful working environment. Kudos to you; the Capitol Center will love you also."

I worked with her one day a week.

What could these words possibly mean? Could there be a kernel of truth in them? Or was she sucking up - attempting to gain access to the vast fortune Carol and I have amassed over the years?

Because we gotta be rich, right? Me and Carol? Carol has been working for 46 years. I include the years she spent at home with our sons because, as beautiful a thing as that was, it was also a lot of work and an enormous responsibility.

I have been working for 40 years. I got a five year reprieve when I went to college and spent my time wisely, drinking excessively and playing pinball.

Truth be told we ain't got nuthin', so if my co-worker is after the dough she will be frustrated.

She gave me a bottle of Crown Royal. This woman I worked with one day a week and is a volunteer, gave me whiskey. I thought that was extravagant.

Another volunteer - again, a woman I worked with one day a week, wrote me a nice card and gave me a $20 gift card to the liquor store. Again, something I felt was extravagant.

Here's my point. I have been getting positive comments from co-workers for a long time. I am not trying to sound like an egotistical bastard, I a merely examining a phenomenon.

The first time it happened I was floored. I was leaving The Mitre Corporation, it was 1983 and a bunch of us were heading out for dinner and drinks. One of the guys I worked with said to me something like "You don't see it, do you?" When I asked what the hell he was talking about he said something like "the reason there are so many people here is because people want to be around you. There is something about you that draws people to you."

I never felt that, never noticed it, so I was surprised at the comment.

The next occurrence that hit me was when I was leaving YPB Library Services in 2005. I started out in the warehouse there after the business Carol and I bought went down the tubes and our life was almost destroyed. Got to know the warehouse crew.

Through a weird fluke I ended up in the accounting office, dealing with the "professionals".

On my last day, a friend from the warehouse came up to my cubicle and said "I respect you a lot because you speak to the executives the same way you speak to us on the warehouse floor."

Personally, I consider that to be the highest compliment I ever got from a co-worker.

I left the liquor commission in 2016. My co-workers gave me a $300 bottle of scotch. Three hundred fucking dollars. They gave me an oversized card signed by them, by most of the liquor distributor reps and by a lot of customers.

I got home that day, and it was a beautiful June day, poured myself a helping of scotch and sat on the screened in porch to read the comments on the card. Some of which brought tears to my eyes.

Here's the heart of the matter. I never took too much of this stuff to heart. Never let it get in my head; at least I don't think so.

BECAUSE I never believed I was being honest about who I was. I put on so much of a show to survive, that I thought people were liking me for the wrong reasons.

This time around, at the thrift store, it feels different. I exposed a lot more of who I really am. Through some strange thought process in my head it seems easier to relax in these part time situations. Maybe because it doesn't feel like our very survival depends on the job. I can probably pick up part time work anytime I want to.

So I got to thinking that maybe there is something to what these people said to me. Maybe I have something in me that people like, that makes them feel good.

Maybe I am not the phony I always thought I was.

All I know is that I feel more confidant now than I ever have.

Starting to think it is OK to like myself.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lakota Had A Nightmare

Lakota was sleeping in my lap the other night. Sound asleep.

Suddenly she jerked her head up and hissed.

I was startled but obviously not as deeply as she was.

She kept her head up for a minute or so and then settled back down in my lap and back to sleep.

I felt bad for whatever was in her head; I felt good that she felt comforted in my lap.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Feelin' Groovy

Holy Christ my brain is silly putty.

Week 1 of the new job is under the belt. So bizarre how a new experience speeds up time. The week blew by even though my time under the gun seemed to take forever. You know how it is at a new job - your mind is reeling while your heart is feeling (love to rhyme).

A new job also makes you feel like it is the only thing going on in your life, like nothing else matters, like there is no routine.

I like to make a good first impression, so on my first day on the job I ripped a computer monitor off the wall.

It was fucking hilarious.

There are three of us ticket sales impresarios situated in front of three ticket windows. Each of us has a computer on the floor and a monitor mounted on the wall next to us. Half way through the day I tried to re-situate the monitor to be more comfortable to look at.

It is attached to an arm that is attached to the wall - the arm moves in and out and side to side but does not move up and down. I tried to move it down to align it with my tri-focal glasses adjusted eyesight - the monitor came right off the wall. The bolts ripped right out of the wall, leaving raw, gaping holes and I was left standing there with the monitor in my hands.

How bizarre, how bizarre.

That was Tuesday - I had Wednesday off; they had a staff meeting that day. I was told on Thursday they had nicknamed me "The Hulk" at the meeting.

Anyway, I survived three days of "training". I always hate the word training - makes me sound like a fucking pet. But training it was.

My brain, my brain - whoooeeee baby. Going from tending bar to the liquor store, and from the liquor store to the thrift shop, I was dealing with different systems but still, essentially, cash registers - different but the same.

This job requires me to learn an online ticketing system. Pretty complex stuff. You know how it goes. "OK - to process this transaction all you gotta do is this. Unless this happens - then you gotta do this. But if that happens, you gotta do this.  Or............you can actually access the information in this way and from this screen. And don't forget - if they are a member you gotta do this, if not, you gotta do that."

Still, on Day Two I was waiting on actual living human beings - not real smooth but not too bad.

On Day One they have a tradition in the office. After the boss bludgeons you with information for hours and after you spend some time watching your co-workers handle ticket orders, the boss man emails all the administrative people and invites them to come down and pretend they are customers so the new guy can get some practice in.

What they really do is torture you - they create the most bizarre situations, asks the most complicated questions, throw you the most challenging curves. It is actually kind of fun. And a good way to learn.

On Day Three I got to work a show. And.................on the day of a show there is a whole new set of rules and procedures.

It is pretty cool to experience "the feel" on the day of a show. Typically, the place is pretty quiet, pretty laid back. On show day, things start to heat up around three hours before the show begins. More activity, a little more intensity. Then two hours and one hour before the show - increasing activity, increasing intensity.

Suddenly people are filing in, picking up tickets, asking questions, shuckin' and jivin'. The box office has a "phone", more of a walkie talkie that picks up everything that is going on. You know, behind the scenes stuff, stuff the production crew is dealing with, stuff that maintenance is dealing with, stuff that ushers and house managers are dealing with.

You realize just what is involved in pulling off a show and the problems that pop up and have to be immediately dealt with.

And then...................the show starts. The box office stays open 30 minutes after the show starts so the music is pumping and shit be happening. Last night it was a Michael Jackson tribute performance so the place was really rockin'.

Pretty cool.

MAJOR PERK: I can attend any show I want to, FREE. As long as I am willing to stand up back (and sometimes get a seat if it is not filled after a while). AND I can bring Carol.

Pretty fucking cool.

Man, just walking up to the place is a blast. Walking under the marquee, looking up at it, thinking about all the very cool people I have seen here and all the very cool people I have yet to see here. Walking the walkway towards the lobby. Walking into the lobby. This ain't no corporate job, baby - no cold, impersonal corporate building. It has character. I am all about the vibe, baby and I ain't diggin' on no fucking phony, shallow vibe. I need the real deal.

The Capitol Center for the Arts is the real deal. Dripping with sincerity, history, and promise.

So I survived my first three days in show business, but I gotta tell you my brain was fried when I got home last night at 8:30. Leaking out of my ears. 24 hours this week of learning entirely new shit. Being put on the spot with real, live customers. Running reports, learning closing functions, getting to know the building and the people, soaking up the vibe and spreading some of my own around.

IMPRESSIONS: Gonna like this job. I already do. And the people seem to be very cool. Easy going. And the atmosphere is laid back and informal.

So there you have it. Another chapter in my life. Getting off the ground with a positive vibe.

I may figure out this life thing after all.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Act 369 (at least)

Jesus Christ, I lost a whole week? How the hell did that happen?

It was an eventful week - my last week at the thrift shop. I was breathing a major sigh of relief on the drive home Friday night. In fact I engineered my own private celebration for the famous final commute.

First of all it was a sunny, relatively warm night, which we have had precious few of in May. Delicious.

I brought along an Allman Brothers CD from the last concert they ever performed - October, 28, 2014 at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. Smokin' hot performance - the band understood the significance of the event and how very much it meant to their fans, and they were up to the task.

I still shake my head at parts of it in awe and disbelief.

I also brought along a nip of Crown Royal, which I snuck into the freezer at work so it would be properly chilled.

Before you start lecturing me about sippin' on a nip behind the wheel, save your breath. There have been times in my life (stupid, I admit) when I drove with a 750 ml bottle of Crown in my hand, merrily sipping it as I went. A nip ain't nothin', baby. If you get stopped you just chug it down, slide it into your pocket and say "Good evening, officer - how is your day going so far?"

Anyway, got the Brothers blasting, I'm leisurely sippin' away on fine whiskey, got the windows cracked a couple of inches, and I am feeling released, free as a bird, light as a fucking feather.

The thrift shop gig did not work out. It quickly became a burdensome weight, dragging me down into an ocean of despair, Mafia execution style, like a concrete block tied to my ankles.

(Editor's note: Wasn't quite that bad; I keep telling you I love words - just love to throw words together that sound good to me).

So here I go again. Starting tomorrow. Act 369. One more chance to reset my life.

Everything is apocalyptic to me. I don't see shades of grey, or stepping stones or neatly planned out life-moves.

I look at every move, every change, as this major fucking thing in my life. "Holy shit - I gotta make the most of this, gotta handle this right because if I don't I am positively screwed".

Truthfully, I have probably wasted chunks of my life with this kind of thinking.

Generally, life doesn't work that way - you bump along getting into this, trying that, little by little, no major nuclear explosions, and hopefully somewhere along the way you find this thing called happiness.

However, when you are suddenly sixty three years old, semi-retired, "shorter of breath and one day closer to death", to quote Pink Floyd - the challenge of getting it right does take on a little more weight.

I think I am making the right move with this job. The Capitol Center for the Performing Arts. I like the sound of that. I fucking love the sound of that.

I will try not to be apocalyptic about it. I just want to be happy there; I just want to be invested in and interested in and very good at this job.

I want to settle this work thing for a while so I can fiercely concentrate on making my soul happy, baby. Not hating my job will go a long way to opening up my diseased brain to possibilities.

Things I can do that emanate from my soul, my spirit, my essence, that will make me happy and bring a little more money in this house to make our lives easier and inspire hope of a dignified retirement.

Oh shit - did that sound apocalyptic?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lonely At The Top

Man, I recently discovered a country singer/songwriter named Jamey Johnson.

He's been around for about 12 years and I am just getting around to him. That's the way it works sometimes with me - especially with country singers.

Today's country singers suck, I mean they really suck - they suck big time. As long as they use the words pick up truck, beer, gun, girlfriend, and dog in their songs they think that makes them authentic country singers.

Bullfuckingshit.

You want to talk to me about country you talk to me about Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny - Merle Haggard, George Jones - Hank Williams. Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton.

You get the picture. These people lived their songs and it shows. That, my friends is authenticity.

They have depth. And they are oh so cool.

Anyway I don't pay attention to today's country singers so that's how I missed Jamey Johnson. But I am glad I found him.

Love this dude. Kind of reminds me of Waylon, kind of reminds me of George Jones.

Fucking delicious.

Got a song called "Lonely At The Top". He's sitting in a bar whining to the guy next to him about how lonely it is at the top. As he says, kind of bragging, kind of whining.

He asks the guy if he wants a drink and the guy says:

"Thanks, I'll have a double, I've worked up a powerful thirst just listening to all your troubles, and while he makes that drink I'll smoke one if you got 'em, it might be lonely at the top but its a bitch at the bottom".

I love this guy. Jesus Christ, man, when I find new music to dig, especially when I find a new (to me) singer/songwriter to dig, I get delirious.

Love this guy's music. Something new to keep me happy.

Music is everything, baby.

Hope Doubled Up

Nothing like the prospect of a new job to fire up the hope gene.

You try to make changes in your life - gonna lose weight, gonna choose happiness, gonna learn new stuff, gonna treat yourself better, gonna get positive.

You know how it goes. You enjoy a burst of change-ness and then slip back into the routine.

Same old life. Same old you.

Change is hard. Because we are all hard wired to be who we are, even if who we are isn't who we want to be. Which is truly ironic. And tragic.

But over a lifetime you develop survival mechanisms, ways of reacting, faces you put forth, and these things become who you are even if they are not who you are. They become so deeply ingrained that thinking is not required to pull off the act.

And therein lies the problem. It takes thinking to effect change.

Changing jobs jerks you out of complacency.

Next Tuesday I start at a new job. I will be doing something completely new with people who are new to me in an environment that is new to me.

That is fresh, that is precious - that is a catalyst for change. I refuse to take it for granted this time around.

I am hyper-aware of my existence now - more so than ever before. Aware that I am alive and am living something called a life. Aware that I have pretty much pissed it away up to this point.

Aware that last year, when I semi-retired, was diagnosed with cancer, and took on a part time job, did not work out the way I thought it would.

Apparently it is not enough to sit back and say "Hey, I am semi-retired now - my life is about to get better".

I am going to attack this new job with a smile. Gonna learn it, gonna own it, gonna take full advantage of working in a creative environment that will lay every type of entertainment under the sun at my feet.

I am all about resuscitating my soul and it begins now.

Since I gave my notice at the thrift shop I started playing my guitar again. My theory is that this is the perfect time to rewire my brain. While I am hopeful, while I am positive, while I am jazzed.

I will dive into other pursuits as well, pursuits I have started and failed at before, things I know will make me whole.

The point is that I am immersing myself in hope. I am seizing on this change in my life to spark other changes in my life. Things I can control, things I can make happen - things that will make me happy and proud of myself.

And it is the time of year that some people describe as spring. You walk out of the house and the buds on the trees are ripe and ready to burst. There is pregnant beauty all around you, right on the edge of exploding into pure delight. You walk out of the house and you smile.

In another week you will walk out of your house and laugh, stunned at the amazing way nature keeps being reborn. Forcing you to realize that you too can be resurrected, rescued from the prison you have made for yourself into a life that satisfies you. A life that you feed and that feeds you back.

Hope bubbling up from my soul, hope provided by the beauty of nature - man I am getting such a strong and positive vibe that I feel so alive. So fucking alive.

At some point in your life, no matter how late it gets, you gotta give it your best shot. Otherwise your life trickles away in a sad, meaningless, waste of existence, which is the most heinous crime any human can commit.

I am jazzed, baby. I like who I am right now - at this very moment in time.

Gonna try to etch that me into stone.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Sad Story Indeed

I decided I was going to bet on The Kentucky Derby yesterday.

Earlier this year I got to thinking about new things I could do that would be radically different than anything I have done before. I am looking to exponentially change my life and make it more interesting to me.

I thought about horse racing and looked into racetracks in NH in my naivete. Thought it would be cool to visit a track from time to time and lay down a gentleman's wager.

There are no fucking horse racing tracks in NH. You can go to places that televise races from around the country and bet on them there but that ain't the same, baby. I was looking to be the next Charles Bukowski; sitting in the stands in my thrift shop clothes, betting on the horses, spitting and cussing, drinking whiskey.

I got the whiskey part down. Turns out that is all I got.

So I am digging on the run up to the Derby yesterday, doing my homework because I dig the race and want to know what is going on.

First thing I notice is a horse named "Always Dreaming". Boom; that's my horse. I swear on a fucking stack of bibles I did not know how highly rated the horse was at the time. As I did the research I realized this horse was the favorite.

And my mind started churning. I decided I was going to bet on The Kentucky Derby. I have never done that before, have never even bet on a horse race before. Used to go to the dogs many years ago but that ain't the ponies, baby.

I was excited. Found a betting website associated with Churchill Downs, did some research, satisfied myself it was legit and went for it.

Tried to lay down a $20 bet on Always Dreaming - to win.

At first I tried it through Paypal. When I originally set up the Paypal account I set it to receive payments in anticipation of the millions of dollars that were to come my way rewarding my writing skills. So far I have received $9.41.

Apparently I did not set up the account to be able to receive money from my bank account, because I was not anticipating using Paypal to buy anything. Bottom line - I could not fund the bet through Paypal.

Fuck it - no big deal. I will use my debit card. Entered all the pertinent information and got rejected. Not because there is no money in the account - there is plenty of money in the account - come on, I am not a fucking lowlife.

The message said they could not accept that particular card. Even though the option was "Credit/debit card, Mastercard/Visa." My card is a Mastercard debit card.

Fuck it - no big deal. Everybody knows debit cards are the weak little sisters of credit cards anyway.

I go for my credit card - a straight up credit card. A Chase credit card with plenty of room on it.

Rejected. Fucking rejected. Same message - "we cannot accept this card".

WHAT? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

I read the fine print on the betting website to make sure there was no betting minimum. There is - $2.

Blood was running out of my eyeballs.

I never got the bet down.

Always Dreaming won the race.

I would have won $114.00. After deducting my $20 bet and the $5 processing fee, I would have walked away with $89.

In 2017 I am trying to look on the bright side. The bright side is I may have discovered a new diversion. Betting on the horses. Even if I can't be there I can still bet and gambling is exciting.

I will find out why my bet could not be processed, I will fix that and I will bet.

Definitely on The Belmont Stakes, definitely on The Preakness. Maybe on other races too.

Carol is very excited about this. Especially after I explained that this could be our new "retirement in comfort" strategy.

Everybody knows that betting on the ponies is a sound financial investment. AND, I would have won the first bet I ever made had I got it down.

So obviously I have a knack for it.

As The Pogues sang in "Fairytale of New York": "Got on a lucky one, came in at eighteen to one, I've got a feeling this year's for me and you...........................I love you baby, I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true."

2017, Carol. Our year.

With my solid accounting background and my innate knack for picking a winner, we are going to ride the ponies to freedom.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I AM Getting Older, You Know

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

Rumi

The Intangibles of Being Human

I am not a basketball fan and probably never will be until somebody explains to me what a foul is in the NBA.

Many times it looks to me like a defender touches a shooters arm after he takes a shot - how the hell is that a foul? Then you have the phantom fouls - the no touch fouls that get called anyway. And forget about traveling or palming the ball, I don't even want to talk about that.

The only fouls that should get called are the really violent ones, like when a defender takes a baseball bat to the shooters head - just to distract him.

I enjoy watching basketball, I really do. I enjoy sports in general. Hell, I love watching bull riding. Don't you?

It's just that basketball is the only one of the four major sports that I don't understand. This is proven to me every time my sons are at the house and we watch the C's. They notice things that I completely miss; they see "fouls" before they are even called; they understand and appreciate the subtleties of the game.

When they discuss the game in real time as we are watching I feel like I am listening to play by play in Lithuanian.

Carol has been a basketball fan all her life. Went to the C's games when you could afford it and when you could just decide to go on a whim. She gets it too. Compared to the rest of the family I am a neanderthal when it comes to basketball.

However I have developed great respect for Isaiah Thomas.

His 22 year old sister, Chyna, died on the day before the NBA playoffs began. The next night Isaiah played and scored 33 points. In that first series against the Bulls, he averaged 23 points per game. He led the C's to a first round victory. They are now playing the Washington Wizards.

In Game 2 against the Wizards, Isaiah scored a career high 53 points. Fifty three fucking points. On his sister's birthday - she would have been 23.

He is demonstrating to the world what determination is all about; what focus and and dealing with adversity are all about; what it means to be an adult - what it means to be human.

This in a sport that I believe showcases many frivolous humans; I think the NBA employs more superficial athletes than any other professional sport.

I watched my brother show the same strength in 2014. On December 17, 2014 my brother's only son Jonathan died from a heroin overdose. On December 25, 2014 my brother was at my house with my family for the Christmas holiday.

He called around 6 a.m. on December 17 to tell me about Jonathan's death. Even then, in the middle of enormous pain and loss, he apologized to me for having to call with the news because he knew we got a call the morning before telling us that my brother-in-law Sarge had died.

On the day my brother lost his only son he was thinking about me when he gave me the news.

I have never seen such strength in my life and am not sure I am man enough to be as strong. It is difficult for me to consider that because it forces me to think about something I do not ever want to have to think about.

I can only say that from the day Jonathan died until today, my brother Ed has showed nothing but strength and grace, and determination. Ultimately he has been rewarded by getting a great job and a solid future after losing practically everything battling his son's addiction, trying to protect and save him.

I don't know how people find the strength to do what they do. I don't know how Ed does it; I don't know how Isaiah is doing it. It is an intangible human trait.

It makes me want to have faith in the human race, against all odds.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

All For The Best

This past Sunday was not a typical Sunday for me.

Instead of laying around the floor, drinking whiskey and eating Hostess cupcakes ("I can actually hear you getting fatter"), I decided to attend a musical based on a novella written by Voltaire and set to music by Leonard Bernstein.

Just to set the record straight - Voltaire and Bernstein were not buddies, they did not hang together; Voltaire wrote Candide in 1759, Bernstein wrote the score between 1953 and 1956.

Sometimes it takes 197 years for creative ideas to come to full fruition. I have been writing a whole hell of a lot of stuff since I semi-retired. I figure if any of it gets published by 2214 I will really have accomplished something. Please donate any proceeds from the sale of my work to the Whiskey Lovers of America Foundation.

My knowledge is spotty in some areas. In fact there are a lot of areas where I have only a passing awareness of stuff. Before Sunday, if you asked me if I knew what Candide was I would have said "Yeah, it is a play or a musical or some sort of theatrical production." But I could not have explained the plot (I still can't and I just experienced the goddamn thing) or told you who wrote it.

If you asked me who Voltaire was I would have told you he was a French philosopher.

Other than that I knew nothing.

I decided to dig a little deeper. Voltaire is described as "philosopher, historian, writer". Jesus Christ, if you tried to describe me you would be hard pressed to come up with one word. Dreamer, maybe.

I have a friend, Rich Gulla, who, when he introduces me to people says "This is my friend, Joe - he is a writer".

I love him for that. I don't consider myself a writer because I have not accomplished anything with my words. And I know there are millions of people out there who can write but are working in warehouses and on pig farms. Are we all writers? Or are we all dreamers?

Voltaire was quite an accomplished dude. He was considered one of the leading writers of the Enlightenment. He was imprisoned twice and spent years living in exile because he had the balls to speak up against the political injustices of the time.

He wrote Candide as a way to ridicule the prevailing philosophy of the time espoused by the Optimists, which essentially said "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Apparently the tipping point for Voltaire came after two devastating earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people. Optimists comforted earthquake victims by saying the earthquakes had happened for "the best".

Voltaire's response: "The heirs of the dead would not come into their fortunes, masons would grow rich in rebuilding the city, beasts would grow fat on corpses buried in the ruins; such is the natural effect of natural causes. So don't worry about your own particular evil; you are contributing to the general good".

Does that not kick ass?

My initial intent was to compare Candide to the kind of stuff Monty Python did. The plot is absurd, intentionally so for reasons I don't have time to get into, but as I watched I thought about the Python boys.

Ultimately I couldn't do it; it is a bit of a stretch (although I still believe I could come up with something if I worked at it).

Anyway, the musical is fantastic. Absurd, entertaining, funny - it was different from any musical I have ever experienced. Which is good - I am always looking for different.

Voltaire was an impressive dude. Leonard Bernstein was an impressive dude; if you know the story of Candide, who the hell in his right mind would think he could set it to music?

Christ, man - you got people like this in the world, then you got me. My whole focus for the day is to write a little bit, exercise, eat some cereal, go to work, come home with a pizza, drink some beer, a little whiskey and find something offbeat to watch on TV.

Now that I think about it, maybe my words will not even be published in 2214.

But I suppose it's all for the best.

Friday, April 28, 2017

I Got The Gig, Man

Yeah, baby I got the gig. Me and the band are playing The Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, June 10 at 8:00 p.m. Buy your tickets now because they will sell out fast.

Wait a minute - that is not what I meant to say at all. I get so confused sometimes between my fantasy life and my "real" life. Actually I don't even know what my real life is. Is my real life the one I am living or the one I am not living but wish I was? Shit, kids it is getting deep in here.

In two weeks or shortly thereafter I will be a part time box office dude at the Capitol Center for The Performing Arts.

Sounds pretty cool, don't you think? Maybe not the box office part but at least the association with a giant creative force in the wintry state of New Hampshire.

So here I go again. Another change of direction in my life; another perspective, another opportunity.

This one feels different.

I grabbed the thrift store gig because it came along. Simple as that. As I might grab a $100 bill blowing past me on a summer breeze. It was just that reflexive.

I was riding the high of semi-retirement and feeling pretty positive. Didn't matter what the hell I did for employment.

Turned out to be a major disaster because it ended up being more of the same. One more fucking job I grew to hate. Reduced to being a retail whore once again subject to the whims of people who argue over a 50 cent difference in price on a fucking skirt. Humping large pieces of furniture into and out of the building like an underpaid mule.

I have been insane over the last couple of months because I was entirely burned out and feeling trapped. Ain't nobody hiring a 63 year old, tired, fat man. Why would they? Shit, I wouldn't - I would just shoot me and put me out of my misery if I applied for a job from me.

And now this. It feels different to me, and hopefully not just because I want it to feel different. As I have said before I do not trust myself in matters of employment. I have spent a lifetime lying to myself and everybody around me about the "wonderful" new opportunity I was about to enjoy. Lies that devolved into black and bitter hatred of the new opportunity.

And of course I am romanticizing this new job a bit. No apologies there - I am a romantic. I am a dreamer.

Pragmatically I realize the job is not glamorous. For all I know they are going to chain me to a chair in an airless, windowless room and force me to hand write concert tickets, beating me with guitar strings if my pace is slow.

I will still be dealing with the public and there will still be assholes. There are always assholes. Still, I see the job as different than a typical retail job. I am not stuffing things into bags, I am not standing at a cash register, and there will be other responsibilities besides ticket sales (hopefully not bathroom cleaning).

I have to believe the people I deal with for the most part will be enthusiastic and in good moods; after all they are going out to a show. I also believe that relative to shows that are in my wheelhouse I will be engaged in enjoyable and passionate conversations with the customers.

Christ, I hope I work the George Thorogood show.

And maybe, just maybe I will get to meet some of the performers. I am also assuming/hoping that my fellow employees are people who share enthusiasm for the performing arts. So conversation should be interesting.

And of course there is the exceptional benefit of being able to take in shows after the box office duties are met.

So here I go. Feels like another chance. I blew the whole retirement thing first time around. Did not accomplish much, if anything; ended up with yet another dead end job that strangled my soul right up to the brink of extinction.

The time of year is right. Hope and enthusiasm are high, the weather is getting warmer and I feel like I am coming into myself.

I feel good.

I have said things like this many times in my life; many, many times. And been proved wrong.

I need this one; I want this one.

My soul must be revived if I am ever to realize my own truth.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I Keep Coming Back 'Round To The Stones

Watched "Rolling Stones Havana Moon" last night.

Fucking blew me away. Man, I had the sound on the TV dialed up to epic levels as I surrendered myself to the majesty of the moment. The Stones in concert are an amazing thing to see; always have been, always will be.

On March 25, 2016 The Rolling Stones became the first rock band to play a massive free outdoor concert in Havana. Their music was banned in Cuba in years past; the people of Cuba have been historically denied access to music and art and all the things that make a life beautiful.

These people were going absolutely nuts. So many of them knew every word to every song. They were dancing and moving and shaking and smiling and laughing and shaking their heads in wonder.

Many that were interviewed said they never thought they would experience something like this, and you could just feel the sense of abandon and gratitude and joy.

I love the way The Stones respond to moments like this. There is joy in their eyes; they laugh and smile as they play, as they look around the audience; there is an intense focus to their performance because they take their music seriously.

There is a sense of awe there too; they understand what music means to people, especially in a setting like this.

I was a Beatles fan first and foremost. Loved The Stones, absolutely loved them but The Beatles were gods, descended from musical heaven to bring magic and wonder into my life.

Which they did.

Never saw them live, which is a heinous crime. I have seen The Stones twice; in 1989 on the" Steel Wheels" tour; in 1994 on the "Voodoo Lounge" tour. Both times in a massive football stadium where I was 40 miles away and had to watch them on the screen because they were only 2 inches tall on the stage.

And still, they were amazing experiences. Mind blowing.

I was overwhelmed last night because I have never seen such a perfect melding of band and audience before. They were truly one.

It is my humble belief that rock 'n roll and the blues are the two genres of music that cut right into your soul; they follow a direct path to your emotions and your essence because they are honest; they are raw, they are powerful in a deceivingly simple way.

This is what made this concert so special. The Cuban people got caught up in the music of The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones got caught up in the passion of the Cuban people, the barriers were down and the magic of being a human being, lost in a glorious moment away from worries and hardships, was on full display.

Many people had tears in their eyes. No doubt from the disbelief that the concert was even happening; no doubt from the sheer release of being allowed to feel; to be alive - unrestrained, expressing emotion in its purest form.

No doubt from their love of the music of The Rolling Stones.

I caught myself smiling over and over again and it occurred to me that I must have looked like a child watching a candle flicker for the first time.

But I kept smiling anyway. Couldn't help it.

There is an invisible thread there for me as well; the connection between The Stones and my youth.

Rock 'n roll was huge for me; music became a passion for me because of it. The connection is becoming more and more tenuous as many of the people who have inspired me over a lifetime are dying.

The break up of The Allman Brothers Band in 2014 and the suicide of Butch Trucks this year were crushing blows to me.

Keith Richards is 73, Mick Jagger is 73, Charlie Watts is 75, Ronnie Wood is 69. And they still bring it.

They are still out there rocking their asses off and doing it in style. I take comfort in knowing that Keith will know exactly when to call the whole thing off. He is the keeper of the flame; he demands the best from his band mates and he takes the responsibility seriously.

The Rolling Stones will never degenerate into a caricature of themselves. Keith will not allow that. And anybody who feels they don't rock like they used to can kiss my ass.

Great story: They were in concert somewhere and Ronnie drifted off and blew a solo or fucked up in some way because he was not all the way in. Keith walked across the stage and punched him in the face.

I don't consciously think about it when I watch and listen to them, but I am aware on an intuitive level that my soul exults in the fact that The Rolling Stones are keeping alive a precious link to my development as a human being.

Anyway, I got sidetracked as I often do when talking about music. Music is everything to me.

Check this concert out. This one is special. It captures the true spirit of musical connection. It lays bare the very reason human beings created and worship music.

It is a purely joyful moment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THE BIG INTERVIEW

Prostituted myself out again yesterday.

In a good way.

It went well.

Interviews typically are artificial scenarios that demean the job seeker. I have always despised interviews because they establish a pecking order where I am forced to grovel and prove myself to people who are in an artificially elevated position.

I have NEVER felt that anybody interviewing me was better or more important than me. I have NEVER felt that any boss I have had was truly my boss. So I always have an attitude about employment.

In addition, corporate interviews in large companies are the worst of the worst. Unbelievably pretentious. They really swing the superiority mallet freely, often forcing you to interview from your knees with your hands tied behind your back and the Sword of Damocles dangling over your head.

I have participated in many corporate interviews by virtue of the fact that I had no career plan, no identifiable path or commitment to guide my every move. So I bounced from job to job like a hobo hopping freight trains. Along the way I developed an insightful understanding of how the interview process works and it is indeed a joke.

I had so many interviews that I developed a fictional persona - "Interview Joe". I got really good at it. I knew exactly what to expect, I knew exactly how to perform.

Only one boss in my life called me out on it and it is a great story, one I have told in here many times and am about to repeat, so tough shit if you have heard it before.

I was never really an accountant, I only played one on TV. I sucked at it. Only went through the motions, never really contributed anything to the corporate environment. I don't even know how I survived twenty plus years of doing it (maybe it was the whiskey).

I even managed other people a couple of times as an accountant which is fucking hilarious. I had no business.

Anyway, I interviewed for a managerial position at Chubb Life in Concord, NH; talked to HR, the guy who would be my boss, talked to his boss. Bullshit all three of them and got the job.

Months into my tenure, in my boss's office one day when he was not happy with something I had done, he said "You know, you are a much better interviewer than you are an accountant".

That was the high point of my accounting career. I really admire the guy for having the balls to say that to my face. And he was dead on correct. It was hilarious.

Fast forward to old age, which is where I am now. I have interviewed twice since I semi-retired - once for the job I now hold and again yesterday.

Whole different ballgame. I don't break out "Interview Joe" anymore. I don't feel the need. As a result I am entirely myself in these interviews, which is an astonishing development.

Ironic thing is, when I filled out the app for the thrift store job while sitting in the thrift store, I knew it was the wrong thing to do. Got a negative vibe right off the bat. Negative vibe from the store, negative vibe from the woman I would eventually spend most of my time working with. But I felt I should grab the first thing that came along and here I am.

The last few months have been torture for me because I have come to despise the goddamn job. And I have been applying for other jobs - lots of them - with no results.

Yesterday was glorious. It was The Capitol Center for The Arts, baby - what could be wrong about that?

Immediate positive vibe. Fucking uplifting vibe, to be truthful.

I was awed to just be in the joint, taken upstairs to an unbelievably funky room where I was interviewed by the guy who would be my boss and a guy I presume to be his boss.

We sat around the table like three guys shooting the shit around the kitchen table. It was that comfortable.

Truthfully I have never had a more easy going interview in my life.

It felt right. Now I am waiting to hear.

Bonus fact: On nights when I would be working the box office, the box office closes 1/2 an hour after the show starts. At that point I would be free to wander into the theatre to enjoy the show.

Can you imagine the performances I would get to dig? Can you imagine my joy at being a part of that, to be so close to creativity in every imaginable form?

Jesus Christ, I might never go home.

Ironic connection: Chubb LIfe was a major contributor to the resurrection of the Capitol Theatre; the main performance room is named The Chubb Theatre.

This was meant to be, no?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Digging A Little Deeper

I mentioned that I have a job interview on Monday.

Just threw it out there, didn't get into any details.

I was coy. It was a tease. Why do I do that? I don't know.

Actually I was trying to make the contrast between feeling depressed and having hope. Or trying to figure out how I could be depressed when I should be buoyant with hope.

Here are the details. I am interviewing for a part time job as a box office dude at the Capitol Center. It pays a couple of bucks more an hour than I am making now. And I won't have to move any fucking furniture.

I can't believe how much furniture I have to move at the thrift shop. The store sells a lot of it. And 99% of the fucking time the customer shows up to pick up the furniture ALONE. No fucking help. No fucking friends. Often driving a fucking smart car that they expect to squeeze a full size dresser into.

And they ask in a whiny little voice "Can anybody help me?"

And 99% of the time I am the only man in the store. Sometimes the only human in the store.

Cannot tell you how many couches and dressers and tables I have stood up on a two wheeler and wrestled out of the store while the fucking customer stood by and watched.

I am too fucking old for that.

I am excited about the Capitol Center opportunity and I am not.

Excited because, although it is essentially still retail, I gotta believe selling tickets is a lot different than stuffing women's clothes into plastic bags. And then pulling them all out again to satisfy the customer that I only charged her $1 for that "cute little skirt".

Excited because I will be sitting down a lot. Being on my feet and carrying heavy things is killing me. Excited because selling tickets will occupy only part of my time. So I will be doing other things.

Excited because - and this is the kicker - I will be working in a creative environment. Surrounded by performers, artists, musicians. Hopefully getting a chance to meet them. This type of environment is perfectly in line with who I am; in sync with my soul.

My dream is that Buddy Guy will walk in before his performance and say "Hi, box office dude - can you sing?" After I prove it he says "Quit your job right now. You are going out on tour with me".

Not so excited because the job requires working on weekends, nights and holidays. This is a radical shift in thinking for me. My goal upon semi-retirement was to work no weekends, no nights, no holidays.

But what the fuck - is it not a good thing to shake things up? To make a radical change in thinking, in schedule, in routine?

I have no fucking clue. None.

My goal was also to work a nothing job. No responsibility. No pressure. No decision making.

That job does not exist. Although I am a low paid grunt at the thrift shop I essentially manage the store in the afternoon. And close. And prepare the bank deposit.

So I am telling myself that working in a creative environment will make up for the weekends, holidays and nights.

However, I told myself that working for a charitable organization like FIT would make up for the fact that I am still a retail whore.

It did not. I hate the fucking job.

And therein lies the dilemma. I have no track record of making good decisions when it comes to employment. So I don't trust myself.

The only job I could ever have that I know would make me happy would be earning a living as a full time writer.

Since I now give myself a 1 millionth of a per cent chance of ever earning decent money with the written word, I have to settle for taking chances.

Hence, box office dude at the Capitol Center.

I'll see how it goes. If I get the job, I pray that working in that very cool place in that very cool environment will make up for any sacrifices I have to make.

If not, my next job opportunity dream is digging graves.

I get along well with the dead.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Is Life

Wow man, you never know where the inspiration is going to come from.

It blind sides you and that is what makes it beautiful.

I wanted to write this morning. It is a dark, dreary, rainy day. I am not going to exercise. Because I just don't fucking feel like putting in the effort.

I prefer not to waste these opportunities - if I don't exercise then I have loads of time available before I go to work. I do not want to sit here and piss it all away with despondency.

I do feel a little down. Which is strange. But I guess I am just a human being.

It's strange because I have a job opportunity. Interview on Monday. A little more cash, but more importantly the job would catapult me into an entirely different world, one I believe I could love.

Only problem is I always doubt myself, more so as I get older. My track record for making job related decisions is abysmal. I can't seem to find the right situation.

Then again, does anybody?

I needed to write today but did not know what I was going to write about.

Then I went to Joe Cicirelli's blog. salmagundi-joe.blogspot.com.

Joe is a friend of mine. Friend is a nebulous word, ill defined and even less understood. I have only known Joe for a few years.

I carry around with me a strong memory of support from Joe. My brother-in-law Sarge died on December 16, 2014 from lung cancer. He was fifty nine years old. My nephew Jonathan died on December 17, 2014 from a heroin overdose. He was twenty seven years old.

Those two events exploded Carol and I into a five day marathon of wakes and funerals ranging from Massachusetts to Maine, from which we arrived home after it all exhausted, emotionally destroyed and bitterly confused.

On my first day back to work, feeling shattered and shaky, Joe and my friend Rich Gulla showed up at the liquor store where I worked. We stepped aside to talk. It was difficult for me. The tears flowed.

Both of my friends were there for me, I could feel their empathy. Joe's son was and still is struggling with heroin addiction. There was a deep connection between the two of us.

The thread was there but we didn't push hard enough, we didn't "hang around" together.

We got together for lunch two days ago. Talked a lot. Effortlessly, comfortably. Joe told me about his blog, which he has been writing longer than I have mine.

Checked it out this morning. It is beautiful. Intelligent, well written, insightful, unpredictable.

I read through post after post and just shook my head with respect - this is a side of Joe I was not familiar with.

Then I got to the Warren Haynes video. Warren performing "Soulshine" in front of a large outdoor audience accompanied by his acoustic guitar and a harmonica.

"Soulshine" is an Allman Brothers song, one of my favorites. Don't ever ask me which Allman Brothers song is THE favorite - I could not make that choice. That would be like asking me what is more important to me - my heart, my mind or my soul.

I sat there this morning, listening to Warren sing, with tears running down my cheeks.

Crying because I love The Allman Brothers Band so much, crying because the song is so beautiful and meaningful to me. How cool that this moment came about through my friendship with Joe.

This friendship thing man, it can lie dormant. It comes at you from unexpected angles sometimes.

But it is truly a gift. Another human being who is not related to you, who has no obligation to love or respect you, but with whom you connect anyway.

This is life, baby - this is real life.

By the way I researched salmagundi. It is a salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast and dressed with a salad dressing.

It also means a heterogeneous mixture.

I believe the second definition is what Joe is getting at but I do not presume to know.

If he confesses I'll pass it on.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thinking About Thinking

I am thinking about thinking.

Thinking is not something I do a lot of. I am an emotional guy; emotions come at me in waves all the time. Doesn't matter if it is giddy happiness or dark depression and everything in between - emotions play a large part in who I am.

Emotions are anathema to thinking. You cannot think straight when you are feeling deeply.

Another roadblock to thinking for me is that deep down I believe life is a cruel joke. If you are not doing exactly what you were born to do, than your life is a joke. You bounce around like a beach ball in a strong wind, trying this, taking a shot at that, but there is no conviction because your soul gently whispers in your ear "What the fuck are you doing? This is not who you are".

My life is ironic to me because the way I live it is in total contrast to who I am and what I believe. So I watch it from the outside like a disinterested observer with a wry smile on my face.

The problem is that life just keeps coming at you. You have to work, gotta have money, gotta play the game to work and get money and it is all so relentless.

So a wry smile does not get you through.

Anyway..............the reason I am thinking about thinking is because of my cat Maka. Maka lives to be on our screened in porch, much like Carol and myself. She hungers for it. Every morning at some point she wanders over to the French doors, sits down and looks back over her shoulder at me.

Impossible to ignore.

Problem is, at this time of year the temperature can be 78 degrees on Monday and 41 degrees on Tuesday. And she is not going out on the porch when it is 41 degrees. She is not stupid.

Even though I am pretty sure I know on which days she will decide to go out and which she will decide to stay in, I still open the door for her. This is because I don't want her to think I am the mean old son of a bitch who refuses to let her out. This way, if she decides to stay in, it is her decision. Not mine.

On those days when it is too cold, when I open the door, she will sit down inside and have a look around. Sniffing, looking, feeling.

It fascinates me. Because she is thinking. Do I want to go out or do I want to crawl back in to the unbelievably warm and cushy bed that Carol and Joe so generously provide for me. She is taking in facts, weighing alternatives and arriving at a decision.

All through a purity of thought a human being could never achieve.

When I do manage to think, my thoughts are polluted with fear or self doubt, or sidetracked by other issues, or are unrealistic because of a powerful wave of uncharacteristic self confidence and belief in a wonderful future.

Maka does not deal with any of this. She is not thinking "Joe is such a fucking asshole". She is not thinking "I wonder what time Joe will get home tonight and what kind of mood he will be in". She is not thinking "I wish I had more money and people respected me more".

She is just thinking. Figuring out what she wants, how she feels, what the screened in porch has to offer her today, and then making a decision.

A great deal of time, money and effort is expended on studying the human brain. Trying to figure out what makes us tick. What a colossal waste.

Humans are fucked up. It is as simple as that.

If science wants to understand the true beauty of a brain it should focus on how an animal thinks. Because animal brains function independently from petty bullshit. Animals are instinctual and they do not watch reality TV.

I am trying to learn from both of my cats. Maka, who is somewhere around 11 or 12 years old, because I like the way her mind works. Lakota, who is 17 years old, because I like the way she handles aging.

But learning involves thinking. And thinking is challenging for me.

Maybe I should crawl around on all fours to get a different perspective. Radically shaking up my daily existence might blow holes through the fog in my mind. (Reminds me of when Jack Nicholson went through a nudist phase. He did it just to get a different perspective; a different feel. He refused to put clothes on in his own home no matter who showed up. Even his kids. Frightening image there.)

Instead of thinking about thinking, maybe I should just think.

Might give it a try.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Oh, Yeah - You Better Look Out

This time of year is good for one thing - contrast.

Extremes. That's two things.

Everybody in the know, knows there are only two seasons in New England. Winter and summer.

Summer begins on July 1 and ends on August 31. Winter begins on September 1 and ends on June 30.

So it is still winter.

BUT, when you get a 70 degree day in early April, man that is exquisite. You come alive, your heart jumps for joy, you run around in circles repeating "I'm happy to be alive, I'm happy to be alive!." You dive out of second story windows and tuck and roll across your lawn (unless it is still covered with snow), you pour yourself a stiff shot of something expensive and delicious and toast to warmth and freedom.

Yeah, the weather jumps right back to cold again but that is the fun of it. You have had a taste and you know there will be more. More random days when the weather will reward you in a way you deserve. So until then you put your head down, again, button up and say "Fuck this" until, suddenly, it is 70 degrees again.

In the middle of winter. It's a gas, man.

Yeah, man I am softening up - I like this time of year. Not enough consistent warmth but there is hope - there is a taste and there are smiles. Jesus Christ that first warm day, that first warm burst brings about resurrection. Suddenly you realize that your life is about to change - you will be able to dress lighter, no fucking snow shovel, you can live on your screened-in porch or in the sun (if you are bold).

You feel lighter. Dark and cold are bad things. Sun and warmth are life.

You feel the excitement of possibility. Right? Maybe you can lose some weight, maybe you will find a better paying job, maybe your ship will come in.

Maybe you will find a way to tip the scale of your life more towards fun and less towards drudgery.

Wouldn't that be a fucking blast?

It's coming. It is coming, baby.

Got the French doors open right now. Sitting here in a t-shirt. What could be bad about that on April 15, 2017?

That's all. I am feeling exuberant. And this is the 3rd day this month I have felt that way.

That is a pretty good start, baby.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tears Tell A Story

Are tears more meaningful when they drip from the eyes of the supremely accomplished?

Watched a lot of The Masters. More so than ever before in my life. And dug it.

Watching golf brings me peace. The beauty of the surroundings, the birds chirping happily because they have free seats, the sun, the warmth, the summer clothes - it soothes me.

Watched a whole hell of a lot of the NCAA Tournament as well, which signaled another change in me.

Everything is symbolic with me, and somehow, putting in the effort to enjoy these two events feels like positivity to me. Feels like change. And I ache for change in 2017, more so than ever before. Between cancer and a disappointing run at retirement, 2016 felt like failure to me when it should have been a year of supremacy.

Doing different things, and doing things differently are the key to smashing stasis and allowing me to fly like the majestic eagle that I am.

Christ, I love words.

One thing I keep falling down on is The Bruins. Every year I tell Keith "Gonna watch a whole shitload of Bruins this year." Every year I don't.

And Keith says "Jesus Christ, Dad, you are such a wimp, such a loser. Don't you ever get tired of getting distracted by shiny objects?"

I love hockey. Fucking love it. It shares so many characteristics with football that it is a natural for me. But for some reason I cannot develop a Bruins routine. However, they are in the playoffs - I will watch them religiously.

I can hear Keith laughing in the background.

But I digress.

The Masters opened with a tribute to Arnold Palmer. They brought out his Masters jacket and draped it over a chair. Some golf administrator said some words and then - Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player stepped up to each hit symbolic T-shots. They hugged each other; both had tears in their eyes - they were visibly shaken and deeply emotional.

It really got to me.

Is death even more meaningful when you have had a hugely successful life?

Those three guys are giants in their sport. They have lived lives to be proud of; defined by success and achievement. Lives most of us can only dream of.

They are members of an exclusive club. Not just in the golf world, but in life in general: People who made the most of their time here on earth.

Us wee folk waddle through life with our heads down, mostly surviving it (up to a point) rather than enjoying it. Not enough money, not enough fun, not enough freedom, not enough dignity.

We don't think about death a lot and suddenly there it is - bam, you are gone.

And still, the ones left behind grieve - they feel pain, fear and confusion.

I don't know if the tears of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player got to me (and it really got to me) because of who they are. I don't know if their grief hit me harder because of what they have achieved, what they have done with their lives, and what Arnold Palmer accomplished in his lifetime.

Maybe their tears got to me because it made them human. Death as the ultimate equalizer.

I don't have an answer for this.

I do know that the tribute to Arnold Palmer got to me more than it should have- I am not a lifelong follower of golf.

Death as equalizer; death as the ultimate irony of a life well lived.

Too deep for me, baby.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I Am Not Done With You Yet

Hello.

Been away for a week. Thought I'd check in to let you know what is going through my head right now. I know you cannot live without me.

Fucking taxes have distracted me, although I found a cool online tax preparation service that is affordable and comprehensive. It walks you through the whole process by asking approximately 14, 369,999 questions.

A whole hell of a lot of questions. I have spent many hours this week walking through this shit but I learned a lot too. Almost done. Looks like we're finally going to get a refund. Because of retirement activity I had last year.

My friend Phil used to do our taxes and we always got refunds because he jury-rigged the returns in subtle ways, being the tax expert that he is. And he never charged us, being the deeply cool friend that he is.

He has moved away from that so I figured our taxes for 2013 and 2014  and we ended up owing money. Everyone questioned me, everyone called me a moron and condemned me to die. So last year I sent our taxes to Phil's son Matt who now runs the company - and we ended up owing money - and we ended up paying $200 for the privilege.

Moral of the story - never question me ever about anything I do. I am a fucking genius, a visionary and a life force to be reckoned with.      

Baseball Season: It is here. Opening day last Monday at Fenway - I had the day off, Carol came home early, I grilled some dogs, we dug the game.

I dig baseball. I do. Not in the same way as I dig football. When football season begins I start drooling like a rabid dog, screaming like a banshee and generally jumping up and down.

But football connects with winter, baseball connects with summer and therein lies the difference.

There is a sweet, peaceful feeling that the beginning of the baseball season ushers in. Thoughts of t-shirts and heat and ice cold beer on a lazy summer day; outdoor fun and easy flowing living.

No breaking your back shoveling fuck-snow, no driving off the goddamn road going to or coming from a job that compromises your dignity.

And the sport moves slowly. It is languid. Sitting in the stands under the hot sun or sitting at home in the recliner, you have time to just be - to socialize, to feel no pressure, to slip out from under what bothers you and celebrate laziness for the delicious religion that it is.

Fat Boy: I committed to health-focused insanity two weeks ago. Gotta lose the weight, I believe it is hurting me.

I am on my feet five hours a day; when I get home my right hip hurts A LOT, my right foot hurts, sometimes the back hurts. In fact as I drive home I often grimace as the pain assaults me in waves.

Weighed myself two weeks ago. Weighed in at a humiliating 189.6 pounds. Holy shit.

I started exercising like a fiend; pushing myself on the exercise bike, pushing myself with the phony baloney exercises I do to try to avoid flabby, saggy old man arms.

And I started eating cereal for lunch with lots of fruit. So the program is yogurt for breakfast, cereal for lunch, normal supper. And I was not overeating supper to make up for sacrifices earlier in the day.

I exercised 10 days out of fourteen - five days the first week, five days the second week. That is pretty damn good.

Weighed myself yesterday. My weight? 189.2. I lost 4 tenths of a pound. Not even half a pound. 4 tenths of a fucking pound.

You might think I would give up. I won't. I truly believe this extra 20 pounds is hurting me and I don't like feeling like FatBoy Malloy. Blubber belly. Whale boy.

Besides, and here comes the vanity - I have a wedding to attend in June, I have a high school reunion to attend in June (maybe). I do not want to waddle in like Jabba The Hut and have people pointing at me saying "Holy shit, here comes Joe Testa, what a fucking moose."

So I need to keep up the exercising and also tinker with what I eat at night. Jesus Christ, man - this is turning into a fucking major commitment.

What will I do if I actually get healthy?

Monday, April 3, 2017

That Whole Dad Thing, Again

Every once in a while I circle back around to that whole Dad thing again.

At least in here. In my head it is a permanent awareness.

Watching the Final Four on Saturday. A number of times the camera cut to Bonifacy Karnowski in the stands, father of Przemek Karnowski, who plays for Gonzaga.

Try spelling those names three times fast.

Anyway as a dad-comrade-in-arms I'm looking at this guy thinking what is going through his head in that moment? He traveled from Poland to watch his son play in the final four and, even better, move on to the finals.

The fucking finals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. It doesn't get much better than that.

Actually I was not wondering what was going through his head. I know what was going through his head. And heart. And soul.

Love. And pride.

If either or both of my sons made it to the Final Four I too would travel 6,000 miles to see them play. Christ, if I was dead I would resurrect myself from the grave, clean myself off as best I could and make it to the game.

But that is not the point. The point is I don't need to see Keith and Craig play in the NCAA tournament. I think about them constantly. I feel about them constantly.

I cannot tell you how often I stop and think about them. Most times I feel so proud and I smile out loud. Sometimes tears come to my eyes because I cannot believe these two men in my life are my sons.

I am so goddamn lucky.

The Dad thing is a weird one. Mom's are holy. They give birth. That makes them Numero Uno in the parental food chain. And rightfully so.

Mother's Day is treated like a religious holiday.

Fathers, on the other hand, are often depicted as goofy. Almost as an after thought. The perfect expression of that was made by Eddie Murphy decades ago and it always stuck in my mind. He talked about kids on fathers day giving dad a tie, and Brut...........................by Faberge. You gotta see it; it is hilarious.

I feel good about my Dadness. Christ knows I was not perfect at it. Then again I deserve a fucking award for pulling it off the way I did. I hated my life, I drank a whole hell of a lot, but Keith and Craig were always number one on my hit parade.

Always.

When I got home from work my world changed. I got to play with my sons. To talk with them. To laugh with them. To live with them.

It was spectacular.

Both my sons are doing better in their lives than I ever did. Financially, and I think emotionally as well. I think both of them are living the lives they want or very close to it.

I take a little credit for that but not much. I gave them all the love I could, but they did the hard work themselves when they moved out.

The Dad thing is mystical and magical, underestimated and not given enough weight, in my humble opinion.

For me it has always been and always will be a spiritual thing. Deeply felt, gratefully appreciated.

I am rooting for Gonzaga tonight. How can I not? First appearance in the NCAA Tournament finals. That is huge.

I am rooting for Bonifacy Karnowski and his son, Przemek. I want to see the look on Dad's face if his son's team wins.

And I will feel like we are kindred spirits experiencing inexpressible love and pride, because Keith and Craig are everything to me, and my feelings for them run no less deep.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

All I Can Do

Mad dogs are running about. Nipping at my heels. Tearing off small chunks of my flesh.

I am older now. Not quite as fast as in the past. More often than not, blood is shed.

But I keep moving.

Looking over my shoulder with less frequency now; I learned that what is behind me is meaningless.

All that matters is what is ahead - and there is not enough.

Heart pumping, lungs burning, dreams fading but still visible.

All I can do is try.


Monday, March 27, 2017

And Now...............

Now I am reading science fiction.

Science fucking fiction.

The last book I read was an espionage style book. "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn. I hadn't read espionage in 107 years. But I loved it. Already have two more Vince Flynn books in my possession.

I haven't read science fiction in 207 years. Used to read it a lot. Burned out on it.

Randomly came across this book called "Red Mars". The cover caught my attention because on it is high praise from Arthur C. Clarke.

You gotta have your references, baby - people whose opinion you trust. I read a lot, and because of that I can't always make the right decision about what to read. I am only human.

But I can't stand the feeling of wasting my time as I read. It happens rarely because I know what I like, I understand what I need. But every once in a while I find myself reading a book that sucks. When I get to the breaking point, I stop. But it drives me crazy. I can't stand not finishing a book. It seems amoral to me; unnatural.

But if it sucks, it sucks. And I don't have time to waste. There are 33,000 more books I need to read before I die.

Anyway, sci-fi with a glowing recommendation from Arthur C. Clarke? It don't get no better than that.

The first three words in his description are: "A staggering book". That's all I needed.

And I am digging it. AND there is a sequel, of course. Called "Green Mars". So I'm gonna have to read that too.

And so it goes. So it goes.

I thought about how much I enjoyed "Kill Shot" and how much I am enjoying "Red Mars" and realized it all comes down to intelligence. Why the hell am I reading espionage and science fiction after all these years?

Both books are intelligently written. They keep me interested and they challenge my atrophying brain a bit.

Allow me to illustrate. One of the old bags I work with decided she and I have the same exact taste in books. She figured this out because she talks a lot. In fact she never shuts the fuck up. So I yes her to death. And she thinks we are simpatico. She forced one of her books on me and I read it.

Goddamn thing sucked. It was about a French detective. It was juvenile. I forced myself to read it but it was painful. I figured I would have to talk to her about it so I might as well know what the hell it was about.

Then she gave me five or six more just like it plus some stupid fucking movie. I gotta learn to say no.

I will not read any of those books. I will not watch the movie. In fact I am considering burning them and giving her the ashes.

Anyway, if the books were intelligently written I would have enjoyed them and I could have thanked her.

Instead I have to kill her.

Anyway, I guess the lesson here is that I shouldn't shut down any specific genres. I am open to being entertained. As long as the writing is intelligent.

Good thing my mind is still elastic.

Made It Through DC and Chicago

Wrapped up Sonic Highways.

Sort of. This series had such an impact on me that I must find a way to keep it in my life. Cannot live without it.

Jesus Christ. Holy Shit.

I set it up to tape on HBO, but being a dinosaur, I am not sure that is possible. The directives were confusing; might be one of those things you cannot tape. I suspect that is the case. If it does not pop up under "Recorded" in a day or two, I just might have to grab me a DVD.

As I predicted, the DC episode surprised me with the depth of interest it inspired in me. I mean, DC? What the fuck of consequence could have possibly happened in DC?

Lots. Go Go for one. Ever hear about that genre of music? Me neither. And I ain't talking about go go dancers.

It is a genre of music that is heavy on percussion; specifically a syncopated beat. Impossible for me to describe it; just do the research and shake your ass. Because this stuff is danceable. I loved it immediately.

I wrote it down for future reference on the magic envelope.

I had a Henniker Family Dentistry envelope kicking around; as I watched each episode I wrote down the stuff that I decided I had to have in my life. On the envelope.

Kind of funny, kind of cool to look at. I am old school in that way - do not need a proper piece of paper to write down my stuff.

In the liquor store, when customers made special requests, I was famous for grabbing a brown quart size bag to write their info on. Even though there was paper handy.

Why? Because it just feels natural to me. It is the way I do things.

Anyway, I have this envelope right in front of me with the following notations: The Meters, Dr. John, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tony Joe White, Zac Brown, Tom Waits, Go Go, Steve Earle, 13th Floor Elevators.

I already got some Earle, got some Waits, so initially I am going to concentrate on the stuff I don't have. Gonna buy it through the Apple Store or on CD's or whatever avenue is available to me that is the cheapest.

Gonna load up my ipod machine and fucking satiate my musical soul.

Yeah, baby.

As I thought about the series I realized a lot of the appeal came from the unique personalities that make music meaningful. Musicians, producers, recording studio owners, record label owners. Every one of these people has a unique perspective and often one that "normal" people could never understand. Perspectives in most cases that fly in the face of conventional music industry norms.

They are creative people, surviving a brutal business and fiercely sticking to their guns; grafting their personality and point of view onto whatever musical style inspires them and creating something new in the process.

Often they were asked, "Why did you do this?" And the answer kept coming back "Because I had to. It is who I am. I had no choice." And they almost always said that if you are going to do something like this, you better be all in - there is no half way.

That really got to me. I write because I have to. If I couldn't write I would wither away.

But I don't often do it with conviction because I don't necessarily believe in myself. In the blog sometimes I wonder why I bother; it most likely will not get me anywhere. When I write to submit, I don't feel like I am accomplishing something.

I actually feel self-conscious doing it. Even though I know there is some talent there.

Not any more.

I have been evolving since I semi-retired. I created a comprehensive list, an approach, one summer morning last year, designed to be a blueprint for getting my life to where I want it to be.

I remember talking to my daughter-in-law Emily about it and she wisely commented that there is a big difference between creating a blueprint for change and actually achieving it.

I talked to my close friend Phil who was already semi-retired and he told me it took him a year to develop a routine that he could get comfortable with.

I thought that was excessive at the time but he was right. And so was Emily.

Here I sit, nine months after semi-retiring, still working on defining an approach to a new life.

But I am getting closer.

Sonic Highways gave me a big push in the right direction. Spending time with these enormously talented, respected, fiercely independent people, jazzed me up. I have been laying the groundwork for a while now. Writing a lot; submitting a lot.

But with the wrong attitude. Telling myself the odds of any of this leading anywhere are minimal.

So what? Fuck it. I am spending a lot of time doing what I love. Used to have a poster that said "Do what you love and the rest will follow".

That's where I am at. I am making sure from here on out that everything I write is done with conviction and the inspiration of my soul.

Dig it, baby.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I Have Rediscovered My Soul Again (and again and again and again.................)

Reliving Sonic Highways.

Actually I am not really reliving it because I never watched the whole thing first time around.

Sonic Highways is a musical experience put together by Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters in 2014. The band traveled to eight cities essential to the evolution of music in America. Primarily rock, blues, jazz and country. They dive into the musical and cultural history of the city, they interview musical icons as well as deeply influential people whose names you might not recognize (but I do, because music is my blood and that knowledge makes this series taste even better to me).

They get insights from all of these people, they develop a real feel for the city and its music, and then Grohl writes a song based on all these influences which the band performs at the end of every segment. Usually in an iconic hall or recording studio or some other really cool place.

This thing captured my attention in 2014, I started to watch the episodes but got away from it. This happens to me often. I am easily distracted by bright and shiny objects.

Recently rediscovered it and decided to immerse myself in all eight episodes; one every day before I take off for work.

This adds a little beef to my soul in an effort to help me survive one more fucking meaningless shift; one more waste of 5 hours of my  now exceptionally limited lifespan.

I am watching it in reverse sequence; I don't know why, it just seemed like the right thing to do. So far I have been to New York City, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Austin. Today I experience Nashville, then I'm off to Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Here's my point. This series is me and I am it. This is one of those moments where I am experiencing something that is perfectly in sync with my soul. There is no space between me and what Grohl is doing; I am captivated by each and every episode. When I watch these episodes every piece of bullshit is stripped from my life; every worry, all self doubt, every unhappiness, every failure.

I am reduced to my essence and it thrills me; it feels so good and so right.

(Editor's note: I NEED to find a way to get more of this into my life, to make this feeling something a little more expected, rather than have it be some epiphany type occurrence that, once over, makes my life seem even more dismal.)

Even cities that I thought would not resonate as much with me, like Los Angeles, have captivated my attention and stimulated my emotions. I do not know what the hell to expect from Washington D.C, but experience tells me that I will dig it.

The series adds depth and perspective to my knowledge. For instance, Willie Nelson thumbed his nose at Nashville early in his career, relocated to Austin, Texas and started his own music scene, bringing together hippies and cowboys in the process. I knew this, everybody knows this. But I just did not realize that Willie almost single handedly created the music scene in Austin. I did not realize just how big his shadow is.

I also did not realize that he almost single handedly made Austin City Limits what it is.

Those are just two examples of knowledge that is seeping into my diseased brain and struggling soul courtesy of this series.

And I love it. I love the way it feels.

I am enjoying interviews with and about so many icons of mine, digging on the musical history in each city, digging on all the unique personalities inevitable within the heart and soul of the music world.

This thing makes me feel alive. It brings me to the surface of me, so I can take a look at my true essence and once again evaluate if I like who I truly am.

I do.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Life In Its Extremes

Driving down to Massachusetts last Saturday to enjoy experiencing my brother perform with the magnificent symphony orchestra he is a part of.

Symphony Pro Musica, out of Hudson, MA, by the way.

Hour and a half drive, listening to the radio.

NPR.

Some live performance - Mountain Stage, I believe.

Guy is introducing the song he and his band is about to play. He explains that the first verse is about a janitor who sweeps the floors of the Sistine Chapel.

I was so struck by that image. A janitor doing a thankless job in a place of unimaginable beauty, poetry and history.

I pictured him leaning on his broom, tired and unfulfilled, looking up at the magnificent beauty created by Michelangelo.

Life in its extremes.


Words That Hit Home

Watching a kind of musical documentary thing yesterday.

A guy is talking about the first time he visited Los Angeles, where he eventually decided to live.

He had been raised in a cold weather climate.

He said as he first discovered LA, walking around and digging it, he thought to himself:

"How could my parents have gotten it so wrong?"

It is all about perspective and opportunities.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Jesus Christ I Am Fat


Weighed myself this morning. Came in at 189. Point 6. Fucking digital scale. 189.6

With a regular scale I could have interpreted my weight at 189. But at 189.6 I automatically have to round up to 190.

190 fucking pounds.

I am 5 feet 7 inches tall. Me weighing 190 pounds is like a newborn weighing 57 pounds.

Fucking ridiculous.

I have been here before. Twice. And lost the weight.

Epically, a couple of years ago I dropped from 190 to 169. Felt good about that but it took almost an entire year.

I no longer have that kind of patience. Or time.

Back story: I was sick as a dog for over a month. Got sick a few days before the Super Bowl, so around February 2nd or 3rd, and stayed sick through the first week of March. Epic fucking cold that filled my lungs up with crud and drained me of energy.

Prior to that I was on an exercise renaissance, man, I was kicking it hard. Devoted, regular, pushing myself. I decided that cancer might kill me but my heart would not.

Then, The Cold. I did not exercise for around five weeks. Couldn't do it. No energy, and the crud in my lungs had me coughing and choking like a rookie sucking on his first joint.

I gained weight. So there's a bit of excuse for my morbid obesity.

However, even if I assume I gained five pounds in February, that still means I weighed 185 pounds before that.

What a beast.

It hit me on Saturday night when Carol and I traveled down to see my brother play in the magnificent symphony orchestra he performs with. I felt like getting pretty, so I wore a nice pair of pants, black shirt with black and gold cuff links, a nice silk tie I recently bought, and a black vest.

I thought I was stylin', baby.

Hour and a half drive to get there, I am 63 years old, so naturally I had to visit the bathroom before the performance.

Approach the sink to wash my hands, take a peak in the mirror and was horrified.

Holy shit. The vest and the tucked in shirt (I usually wear my shirts untucked, for obvious reasons) made my belly look like a mound of jello. A huge fucking mound of jello.

I thought I looked pretty when I got dressed. In reality, I looked ridiculous. A caricature of my real self.

So here I go again.

I started exercising again last week just to fire a warning shot across my body, let it know what was coming. I eased into it.

Ramped it up today and gonna stay there. Also getting back to the cereal diet. Yogurt for breakfast, cereal for lunch.

This works for me.

But I am not waiting for December to go out and buy that thong.

I am going to lose as much weight as quickly as possible with ferocious determination and granite discipline.

And then I am moving to Hollywood.

I Am Not Worthy

When I experience pure love and trust from Maka and Lakota I sometimes feel unworthy.

The level of trust is so fiercely deep that it overwhelms. When Maka is sitting upright on the floor and I lean down to pat her little head, she closes her eyes and raises her head up to meet my hand.

That is a level of trust - and love - that carries a hell of a lot of weight, that has so much depth to it that it eclipses human emotions by light years.

Lakota and I head butt a lot. This is not quite as extraordinary because Lakota will butt her head into anybody to get attention. She is a love junkie, big time. However, I lean down and put my head next to hers, she literally head butts me and then I kiss the top of her head.

It is our thing.

When I say I feel unworthy it is not because I am a flaming asshole or a cruel and cold hearted son of a bitch. It is because I am a human.

I believe the spirit of an animal is more highly evolved than the human spirit.

I had to earn the trust of our cats. And I have done so swimmingly. I am intimately involved with our cats. I spend a lot of time with them and they get a lot of attention from me.

I talk to them constantly and I do it conversationally. I don't use stupid pet talk. Carol and I showed the same respect to our sons by never talking down to them, and they turned out all right. Except they moved out, which was pretty fucking ungrateful on their part.

I talk to the cats conversationally, I pet (or pat) them a lot; I kiss them on the head, a lot.

I am a loving and sensitive guy; I need a target for my love. Carol keeps a baseball bat next to her on the couch and wields it ferociously anytime I get near her. The cats are the beneficiaries of her cold hearted rebuffs.

I get a great deal of happiness from Maka and Lakota and I think I make them happy as well. I treasure our relationship; it feeds my heart and my soul.

Even though I have earned the love and trust of my cats, it still stops me short every time Maka closes her eyes and lifts up her head.

She thinks more highly of me than I do of myself.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Vince Flynn Is Dead

Started reading a book written by Vince Flynn titled "Kill Shot".

The joint I work for is picky about the stuff they put out to sell, which is a good thing. The store has a reputation for quality stuff at good prices.

The store receives a ton of donated books. If they are a bit raggedy they get dumped into the recycling pile.

First of all I have an intimate relation with the book section - paperbacks are $1, hardcover are $2. Even though I recently made the decision to do the kindle thing on my tablet for "throwaway" books, you know, books I would not be inspired to hold onto, I cannot stop myself from bringing book after book after book home from the store. The walls of the house are bursting with bookage; leaning out at precarious angles.

Only a matter of time before Carol and I are living outdoors.

In addition, I go through the recycled books pile. I get these for free, for Christ sake. I came across "Kill Shot", never read the guy before, so I thumbed through it, liked the feel, and took it home.

Flynn had a series of books he wrote about Mitch Rapp, a rogue CIA agent. Decades ago I read a ton of espionage novels. So much so that I burned out on them. I have stayed away from them ever since. But I liked the style of his writing, the feel of the book; the vibe was right and I am all about the vibe when I pick up a new book or new author.

I love the book. Fucking love it. Have been devouring it this week.

The book was published in 2012. Under acknowledgements in the front of the book, Flynn devoted a few pages to the fact that he had been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. He thanked a lot of people for their help and support along the way. Friends, his wife, people in the literary world, his doctors.

It was a positive thing. He thanked a friend who was told he was going to die from cancer 10 years prior and was, obviously, still alive. Flynn said: "Thank you for showing me what can happen when a stubborn Irishman refuses to quit".

I decided to check in and see how Vince Flynn was doing.

Vince Flynn died on June 19, 2013 from prostate cancer. He was 47 years old.

This really bummed me out. I mean fucking floored me. I had just discovered this guy's writing and decided that I love it; just discovered that he had written a whole series of these books in a genre I had ignored for decades but now had renewed interest in.

It is a weird thing and difficult to explain. I guess going from the excitement of discovering a new author, new to me, going from being allowed intimately into his life through the acknowledgments section, to finding out that he died - recently - from the disease that attacked him - I guess it knocked me off balance.

From one extreme to another, emotionally.

Of course, that nasty fucking cancer word has been introduced into my own life and it hangs over my head like the Sword of Damocles in the Three Stooges episode titled "Half-Wits Holiday".

I don't care what anybody says, I don't care how relatively minor the diagnosis was, I don't care how many people I know who have survived a loooooooong time with cancer - that word is permanently lodged in my mind. I come back to it a lot.

And wonder.....................

So there is that.

Anyway, I have been reading this book with a touch of somberness in my soul.

Glad I found you, Vince Flynn. You are making and will continue to make my life more endurable, and that is no small feat. Thank You.

I wish for your family's sake and for my own selfish sake that you were still around.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Food Shopping Sucks (Then Again It Doesn't)

I see food shopping as a socio-economic experience.

It definitely sucks - no one wants to go food shopping. Especially if you are on a budget. In my humble opinion, being forced to adhere to a budget when buying food is the ultimate in self degradation. The ultimate proof of failure to succeed in life.

Eating is one of the few pleasures you are allowed in life as a low wage earner. You can't afford to go out to eat, can't go to the movies, to the theater, to concerts; can't travel, can't buy nice clothes or Italian shoes. You got nothing - no release, no way to escape the truth that life has beaten you down and robbed you of all dignity (except for alcohol and drugs - thank fucking Christ for alcohol and drugs).

Your life sucks. It constricts you, it bores you. So you should eat whatever the fuck you want to. Whatever food makes you happy, whatever it is that creates satisfaction for you to chow as you destroy your brain watching mindless TV - you should be allowed to eat that.

Period. No budgets, no fucking coupons, no restrictions, no guilt.

Life doesn't work that way. We all have food budgets. We all eat shit instead of eating Porterhouse steaks.

But I digress.

So food shopping sucks. But it is also an interesting commentary on humanity and on marriage/relationships.

Carol and I shop every two or three weeks - we got it down to a fucking science. Load up a couple of carts, pile 'em high so we can avoid repeating the experience for as long as possible. I handle the mundane stuff that takes up room - water, kitty litter, cat snacks, toilet paper, kleenex, stuff for me - like beer, munchies and mini packages of Fig Newtons, baby - gotta have the Fig Newtons.

I breeze through the register, run all that shit out to the car and head back in to the store. I search the aisles for Carol; we complete our mission together.

Conversing, questioning each other, making decisions, discussing inventory.

I have noticed that everyone around us is having the same conversations. It fascinates me because I believe the human experience is a shared one, which is why I will never understand the maximum violence and deep seated hatred in the world.

Food shopping is one proof - a quite reliable and accurate one - that we are all the same.

I eaves drop. When I am around a couple having a shopping related conversation, I tune right in. Because they are having the same exact conversation Carol and I just had or will have at some point during the drill.

Wondering how much of this we have at home, how does the store brand price compare to the name brand price and what about quality, is it cheaper to buy two boxes of 20 trash bags each on sale than one box of 40 trash bags not on sale? What do you want for supper tonight? Do you want fruit? You never eat it anyway - it always goes bad. How many yogurts do you need to get through the next couple of weeks? You haven't been eating the string cheese regularly, maybe we should hold off on that this week. What kind of bread do you want? Do we need hot dog rolls? How many hot dogs are left in the freezer?

The discussions are the same, the thought processes are the same, the lives being lived are the same.

Mannerisms too. Men hang back more, or wander around checking stuff out; and they have less patience.
Definitely less patience.

Women are more pragmatic - digging right in and doing what needs to be done, crossing items off the list, eternally aware of the budget.

I am always amused when it comes to the purchase of toilet paper. You have two couples standing close by each other debating the merits. Do we want ultra strong or super soft? A six pack of mega rolls or 24 pack of regular rolls? Do the mega rolls fit on the toilet paper dispenser? Do we need any for the downstairs bathroom? How about no name - do you think that will be good enough?

It amuses me because this is a deeply personal area of our lives, one we do not make a big deal out of or generally discuss in public. Yet in a supermarket we engage in open debate about which toilet paper will best service our ass.

We are all equal in the supermarket. We are all equal in more ways than we will ever fucking admit.

Pay attention the next time you go food shopping. Maybe it will soften up your intolerance a bit.

If not, at least treat yourself to a fucking Porterhouse steak.