Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sometimes I Cry

Yes, sometimes the tears do flow, and I'm okay with that. In fact, I try to really let myself go and have a good cry, but it isn't always easy. When I first started taking anti-depressants, I found that I could not cry and that made me want to cry. The sadness was still there -- it's always there -- but there was no release through salty tears. Maybe I've grown more accustomed to the various chemicals being time-released in my brain, but these days I find it easier to get choked up and shed some tears.

Recently I had a good cry while sitting on the deck with the mist falling on my face. The trigger was seeing our cat Tommy downstairs. I was doing some pre-vacation laundry when I saw Tommy wobble over to the cat food dish. He's old and feeble and he can barely make it to the litter box, but he's hanging on.  The tears started to well up, so went out onto the deck and listened to the to the saddest song I know. [See video at bottom of post.]

I've always cried during movie tearjerkers, but I haven't often found the time to cry for my own sorrows.  Sorrows covering many years, starting with six months in an orphanage. Of course, I don't remember the first six months of my ever-changing life. I barely remember the first six years! I have a deep compassion for life, which enables me to carry more sorrow around than most people do. I avoid the bugs on the ground as I walk down the street. I talk to the crows that populate my neighborhood. I make friends with the spiders that live on our deck.

I cry for the babies washed up on shore, and the babies forgotten on our own streets. I cry for the downtrodden, who just want something respectable to do, so that they can crawl out of their ruts and stand tall again. I cry because there are some actions I cannot undo. Wrongs can be rewritten, but not corrected.

Hugs are hearty, wholesome and recommended by  9 out of 10 doctors. (That 10th doctor is a dick!) Love can never be overstated. It's a label for an emotion that is bigger than most of us can comprehend. Humans are inherently very judgmental and biased, so unconditional love does not come to us naturally. Some even struggle with parental love, which should be the easiest and most indestructible love in the world. It was okay to be absent thirty-nine days during my last year of high school -- I still graduated -- but I cannot afford to ever be absent from my son's life.

Our brief vacation is officially over, which means I'll be strolling to work in a little while. It was nice to be out on the Olympic Peninsula; the night sky filled with stars, and coyotes yipping. There was plenty of time to read, relax and reset, and sometimes I could actually forget that we were staying in tiny cottage situated on the front lawn of some well-off folks, living up the hill in their chalet. There was only one day when the owner played golf on the course abutting our cottage. Now I'm back in town and ready to kick some holiday retail ass!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chaos

Most of us are still trying to process what happened in Paris a few days ago. There was a concerted attack by a group of crazy well-funded terrorists (daesh), who purposely targeted an area known to be populated by a young and diverse crowd. Open-minded young people, out for an evening of fun, gunned down in a surrealistic bloodbath. The death toll stands at 129 with over three-hundred injured, nearly a hundred of those critically.

Moments after the attack in France, people were online, confirming that age-old adage: Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. These days we all have our own digital soap box, be it Facebook, or Instagram, or good old blogger.com. Some Facebook users have put a filter over their profile photos, shading it the colors of the French flag. Sending out thoughts and prayers is being "liked" quite a bit. Others are asking who to pray to: the god that caused the attack or the one that failed to prevent the carnage.

Even Georgia butterball Newt Gingrich tweeted shortly after the tragedy, "Imagine a theater with 10 or 15 citizens with concealed carry permits. We live in an age when evil men have to be killed by good people." Who knew that the twit could tweet, but his online utterance seems a bit simplistic to me, breaking the world down into good guys and bad guys. Actor and heartthrob Rob Lowe had to defend his tweet: "Oh, NOW France closes its borders. . ." when the French president closed the borders shortly after the attack. Angelina Jolie wants us also to remember and pray for the victims of the suicide bombings in Beirut last Thursday, when 43 were killed and 239 were left in injured and in critical condition. She wants us to know that she's praying for both countries. 

My first reaction to the attack was, "Well, people have been killing people for a long time." Humans have been taking the lives of their fellow humans since they first learned to smash rock against skull. The murder rate wasn't as high, but the global population was sparse at the time. Now we're crowding each other out, and we have weapons that can take out thousands with a single BOOM! We live in a country that has not collectively taken responsibility for dropping not one but two atomic bombs on Japan near the end of World War II. Our reaction is to any global violence is yet more global violence.

I joined the air force when I was young and naive. I worked in the nuclear missile field, and quickly learned about the earth obliterating power of our nuclear arsenal. I also learned about nifty things like nerve gas, and the fact that you could inhale an odorless, tasteless aerosol that would then cause you to bleed out of every orifice on your body.  I was in service during the Iranian Hostage Crisis and I remember someone had carved out of the snow, covering a length of chain link face: "NUKE EM TILL THEY GLOW." I was starting to grow some sort of consciousness and I thought that murderous phrase was no laughing matter. 

We seem determined to obliterate ourselves, maybe even drive our own species to extinction, leaving the damaged planet to the cockroaches and water bears. The late Rodney King implored after his beating by the good cops of L.A., "Can we all get along? can we get along?" Apparently not Rodney. Human beings are all too busy judging each other, and retaliating for perceived wrongs done against them. What's worse is that the human species is hella dangerous in large crowds. That whole mob mentality thing. Give them guns and ammunition and it's like we're skipping carelessly towards the apocalypse. Fiddling about while the world burns.

Now I veer away from the violent and steer towards vacation, or what passes for a vacation in my world. Thursday morning we will be heading out to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and staying in a [love] shack on the back forty of someone’s property. Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary, which is reason enough to slip away, but who needs reasons to take a respite from the madness.  There is a widescreen TV and access to Netflix. There is a futon, a single bed and bunk beds, so plenty of places to nap.  There is a wood stove, which always adds to the romantic atmosphere, and a view of the Olympic Mountains…when the sky is clear.

Four nights and five days to read and relax. Four nights and five days without work. Without intrusive phone calls. Without the traffic noise. No agenda. No internet access, so no checking social media to see whose asshole is spewing opinions again. Will it be Angelina pleading for the Syrian dolphins? Or Rob Lowe dissing the Special Olympics for clumsy competitions? Maybe Bruce Willis will help us feel safe, by offering to take on ISIS (daesh) for us!! Meanwhile, I'll be in the woods reconnecting with reality (aka meatspace.)

This is what retaliation looks like.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I've never thought of myself as technically minded, even though I learned electronics in the air force, and continued those studies after my discharge. I learned on the old Commodore 64, which was just a few steps up from the abacus. Even though my hands were attempting the electro-mechanical projects before me, my head was floating in the creative cloudscape above. I worked in the technical field for over a decade, before opting for a job doing custom picture framing, and then onto bookstore work, where I still am today.

I've been rambling about this earth for over fifty years now, and I've never felt comfortable in the society where I reside. Since my early days in high school, I've wanted to escape this social reality and make my way in the natural world; the last vestiges of wilderness. It seems though, that I have the type of personality that would rather squander its years in a sort of self-induced suffering.

Say what you will about "The Bridges of Madison County", but there was a line in the film script that still resonates with me. While reading their mother's journal, the children come upon the line:
". . . but as one gets older, one’s fears subside. What becomes more and more important is to be known -- known for all that you were during this brief stay."

As I've gotten older, I have become less fearful of being myself. I've accepted aspects of my personality that I always fought against in the past. I have acquiesced to the fact that I will always battle the dark nemesis known as depression. I do my best to avoid the ruts and ditches along this route, and even when I slip a little, I use mindfulness and yesca to stay calm. I don't pray. I don't hang out with Jack Daniels.

A few nights ago, I asked my wife how she was feeling about Us. She replied: "Well, there's a feeling of disconnect, but that's been there for a while." I have written in the past about my father commenting that he and I had "never clicked." I'm not in contact with my siblings, and I can count the number of trusted friends I have on one hand . . . a hand without fingers. I suppose that at some point I will probably have to take some responsibility for these distances between others and myself. I always point to a lack of understanding on their part; they just don't get me. But then I realize that I don't get me either!

I want to be known and accepted, but I still avoid myself when I see me coming around the corner. I step into a spare doorway, so that I don't have to confront myself and the more ugly aspects of my persona. I'd rather walk along, trying to console myself with the fact that it's all an illusion. The colors. The sounds. The sense of touch. All illusions created by our own brain, which is what forms our sense of self in the first place. We must be comfortable with our illusions, or life becomes a rocky ride.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cheer Up Charlie

Cheer up, Charlie
Give me a smile
What happened to the smile I used to know
Don't you know your grin has always
Been my sunshine;
Let that sunshine show..

Look up, Charlie
You'll see a star
Just follow it and keep your dreams in view
Pretty soon the sky is going to clear up
Cheer up Charlie, do
Cheer up Charlie
Just be glad you're you.


Ah, Charlie Bucket. What a miserable life you led, but you managed to win the golden ticket and the world opened up to you. You were given the chocolate factory and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, I have often sung the first few lines of "Cheer Up Charlie" to friends, who were feeling down, but I have yet to find a golden ticket. Just some old receipts and dog poop.

I don't believe that I have seasonal affective disorder; or rather I believe that we all have S.A.D. to a certain degree. Hell, the days are getting shorter and shorter, and most days are gray and overcast anyway. Lately the skies have been dumping rain on us, and the wind has been making a general nuisance of itself. Soon the citizens will turn into ravenous consumers, believing that buying is the reason for the season. Some folks believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, but I think it has more to do with the winter solstice, frigid temps and hunkering down until spring has sprung. 

I always thrive more when I'm outdoors and it really doesn't matter what the weather. When I stay inside too long, I start to feel claustrophobic, and my breathing becomes shallow. The cure is either go outside, or put a tinfoil hat on my head. I find living in the city suffocating enough, but now Seattle is going full speed ahead on these tall ugly apartment buildings. I'm not sure who is going to fill these apartments, but I guarantee that they will be looked upon as ugly tenements in a decade or so. It always happens.


I enter this coming season with a feeling of trepidation. In the past few years, I have felt down around the holidays. There are more than a few reasons for this. First up is the fact that I work in retail. Enough said on that one. Secondly, I share custody of my son, so that usually throws a wrench, or at least a few bolts into the seasonal mix. And then there's the fact that I married into a family that doesn't celebrate any holidays. Not even St Swithin's Day!

A lone celebrant is not really a celebrant at all. He's more a candidate for therapy, and a Christmas stocking filled with Xanax. I have a box of Christmas decorations that I have not removed from my closet in over four years. Will this be the year that I string colored lights in my office? Or maybe a wreath on the front door? It doesn't have to be a Christmas wreath. Just something to lift my spirits at the end of the day, after I've walked by all the homes warmed by a seasonal glow, with turkeys in the oven and relatives on the phone.

All of our lives we are in search for that perfect other, who is in sync with us. Someone who understands our ways, and byways. The reality is that at the end of the day we are alone with our thoughts. Thoughts that no one -- especially any deity -- is privy to. We can attempt to communicate our thoughts, as I do with this blog, but our language cannot contain the universe within. Maybe we wouldn't be as lonely if we could read each others' minds. Maybe we would start to recognize our common frailties and we wouldn't be as judgmental of others. (There was a sale on maybes lately, so I had to throw a few in this last paragraph.)

Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket. It was the first and only film that Ostrum made. He grew up to become a large animal veterinarian.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Land of the Lost

There was quite a stretch of time when I could not remember my dreams, but over the last few years that has changed. I have a  reoccurring dream a few times a week; sometimes more, sometimes less. In the dream I am lost, sometimes in a city, and at other times in a rural area. The locales are an amalgam of places from my past. In some episodes, it's the last day of my job and I'm wandering through the building, looking for an exit. Often I'm trying to avoid familiar faces: family and foe. The plot-lines are variations on a theme, but the common thread is a feeling of malaise and helplessness.

I don't believe that dreams have any hidden or obvious meaning, besides the fact that a stressful dream is symptomatic of not dealing with the stress that occurs in the waking life. I'd much rather fall into dreams filled with booty and bodacious tatas rather than nightmares populated with bad-asses and wrong turns. I wake from these dreams feeling ill at ease, pieces of the dream hanging on like spider webs in the wind and then I need to start the day and let that silken dream fall away.

There is probably a good reason that facing our fears and eradicating stress are not our national pastimes. Instead, our pastimes are all about avoidance and diversion. We can walk by the numerous homeless human beings on the way to the football game, where we'll drop about five-hundred bucks on mindless entertainment. The hillsides parallel to Interstate 5 are dotted with dome tents and tarps, where a multitude of homeless people are doing their best to survive in a cruel world, where help is only a hot-line, that puts you on endless hold.

When I was younger, I would purposely get lost in the miles of woods behind our home. Getting lost equaled an adventure. Now if someone gets lost, they'll eventually stumble into a Wal*Mart, or some other ugly American edifice. No sense of adventure there. As a youth, I dreamt of running away to Alaska, and homesteading. Escaping society by living in a remote cabin seemed the only sane thing to do. Now my knees ache in damp weather, and my days of chopping wood are over, as if they ever began.

Apparently I've been lost my entire life. I joined the air force on a whim at the naive age of seventeen. After my escape from the icy confines of Grand Forks air force base, I quickly met a needy young woman, who was looking to escape her alcoholic mother, and a father with wandering hands. Now it's late in the year 2015, and I am about to celebrate my fourth year of marriage to my third wife. I'm a little clueless as to how I got here. It wasn't like I thought ahead.

I suspect that there are some people, who map out their lives, sticking to their schematic and fulfilling all their goals; meeting or surpassing expectations. Meanwhile the majority of us are flying by the seat of our pants. We look back and think, if only I had done things differently...taken a different path, but we only have the path we're on. Sometimes on our journey, the sun is shining and it's a festive atmosphere. At other times we are alone in a dark wood, with strange creatures just beyond the treeline.

If only there was a AAA guide for the important journeys in life, pointing out obstructions and alternate routes. Instead, we are wandering about with a white cane and a trembling chihuahua as our guide dog. The good news is that I have been finding more reasons to pause and absorb the moment at hand. The moon, rising through the clouds. The smell of autumn in the air. Cuddling with a loved one on a cold winters' night. All worthy rest stops on the highway of life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Piano Lessons

Like a lot of kids from my generation, I took piano lessons while growing up. My mom was a big fan of Liberace, and since he was a popular pianist, she thought I would benefit from seeing his performance at the Warwick Musical Theatre, a theater in the round. We were in the balcony, but the stage revolved, and every one of Lee's outfits either sparkled, shined or lit up. My parents were lucky that I didn't turn gay due to my early exposure to Liberace, but -- as we all know -- being gay isn't a choice. Just like those who believe it is an option, have no choice but to believe the way the do.

As I have stated before, even though I grew up on a farm, I was not much of a farm boy. I didn't enjoy fishing or hunting. I preferred to fill sketchbooks and watch movies. I was inherently shy, and I didn't get my driver's license until I was twenty-one. That's four years as an airman in North Dakota without ever having to drive a maintenance truck in subzero weather. When I had first joined the air force, I had to be cleared for a top secret clearance. They really did send someone out to interview my neighbors and people that knew me. One of my dad's tenants told the investigator that she thought I was gay. I guess -- like Billy Bibbit -- I should have been out "bird-doggin' chicks and bangin' beaver!" Instead, I went steady with Rosie Palm and her five sisters until I was out of the service. 

I may not have been a farm boy, but I was and am a nature boy to my core. Most days growing up, I would spend at least two hours every day in the fields and woods behind our farm. I would enter the woods through the Great Cedar Swamp and purposely get lost, so I could have some adventure finding my way out again. Often times I was happy finding a stand of beech trees with their bark like young elephant skin, or a pine grove with it's cozy shaded interior. 

I was quiet, introspective and unable to find my way in this world more suited for the loud and the crass. I've always felt that there was less of that edgy atmosphere out here on the west coast, particularly up here in Cascadia. That laid-back outlook is changing here too. We're not immune to the increasing overall malaise and sense of aimlessness that is infecting the world at large. I feel for that young boy, wandering through the woods, trying to find some purpose to his existence. He's still trying to find purchase on these cliffs of insanity. 

Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit and Liberace as himself

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Billy Jack vs. The Wolf Man

I’ve always been a film buff, from a childhood fascination with horror movies to my teen years of seeing classics and foreign films at the Avon Theatre in Providence, RI. Even now, we have movie nights on Saturdays, and I watch something with my son Justin. I’ve shown him “The Champ” with Wallace Beery, and recently we watched “Westworld” together.

Maybe three or four years I showed my son “The Wolf Man,” starring Lon Chaney, Jr. Silly me, I figured that a black and white werewolf movie from 1941 wouldn’t have the power to scare him much. It was probably more effective than these current flashy movies, filled with digital effects. For a while, Justin said he wouldn’t forgive me for showing him “The Wolf Man.” He asked me if Lon Chaney was still alive. When I replied in the negative, he said, “I would punk him if he was still alive.”

My dad and I never connected over movies. He was too concerned with moral values and bad words. I remember way back when, he took my brother and me to see “Billy Jack” at a local theater. “Billy Jack” was one of those typical successful movies from the 1970’s, starring an anti-hero. Billy Jack, played by Tom Laughlin. Billy Jack was a pacifist who spread his beliefs through the repeated use of the roundhouse kick. I just loved that character.

After leaving the theater, we had the requisite conversation about the movie we just saw, I was stating how much I liked it, when my father started to criticize it due to the cursing. I replied, “That’s stupid.” He reached across and slapped me hard across the face. I still feel the sting over forty years later. I remember glancing back at my brother and seeing his look of shock. After that resounding slap my dad said, “Don’t you ever call me stupid again.”

Maybe I was wrong for calling his criticism stupid. I hadn’t meant that he was stupid, although at that moment, I realized that my father and I would always be worlds apart. From then on I usually asked my mom to accompany to a movie, because she was more open-minded compared to my dad. My parents certainly had a hang up with curse words. I remember showing them the entry in the dictionary for the word “fart,” and their response was, “I don’t care if it’s in the dictionary, we still don’t want you using it.” Instead, we were to use the term “breaking wind.”

My parents never said the word “damn.” It was “darn” or “Gosh darn it all.” Never crap. Even if my dad hit his thumb with the hammer, he would exclaim, “Son of a B!” I thought this odd that words carried so much (negative) power in my family. My son is well aware of curse words, including the “F” word. He’s smart enough to know that there are certain words that are not appropriate for children to use. If I happen to put on a song with cursing, Justin will say, “Daddy. You’ve got to take this off. There’s too much swearing.”

Showing my son The Wolf Man gave an opportunity to talk about death and fear. My son is very perceptive and he recognized that the Larry Talbot character was a good man, but afflicted with a disease which turned him into a vicious werewolf. He saw the character wrestle with the knowledge that he may actually be the murderous wolf man that everyone is hunting.

Back to Billy Jack. I should point out that my dad did not seem upset in the least that his young sons had just witnessed one of the characters being raped on screen, or the Billy Jack chose to solve all his problems using violence. It was the goddamn curse words that irked him. Why is that? Why do we live in a society that mindlessly condones entertainment violence (or violence as entertainment) and yet pulls the cord on offensive words and worse yet, lovemaking? 

We live in a world that also uses violence to solve problems. This society also seems to have a problem with certain words and is obviously hung up on sex when public breastfeeding is taboo, and some loving relationships are deemed sinful. ("Love the sinner, hate the sin.") We all project our pain onto others, and not having the roundhouse kick available to us, we wrestle with our conscience, like Larry Talbot, strapped to a chair, trying desperately to resist his primal urges.  We need to drop our weapons, and give ourselves a warm hug and then start passing that hug around the world.

Tom Laughin as Billy Jack
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot, aka The Wolf Man