Stained (For the girl sitting alone at lunch in the cafeteria)

All these words spilling out of me are like garbage strewn from a broken sack that’s being dragged off by a flea-bitten mongrel dog.  But if ya look closely, with pure intentions, if ya look beyond the buzzing flies, down deep amongst the brown banana peels, wadded up tissues, shattered egg shells, festering coffee grounds and all the other discarded pieces of things too gone and too used up to be granted a second chance—-there,—- right there you’ll find me.  Sometimes you have to look past all the foul trash to find something broken yet beautiful.  Ya-see, I’m messed up, mixed up, impractical, impulsive, easily misunderstood, secretly sensitive, insecure and lost—Yes, your noble hobo, holy bum and outcast valentine.  The kind of person, that a person like you understands and is mysteriously drawn to.

Thanks for seeing things others might miss.  But don’t get too close, cause I’ll leave stains all over you.


Election Day (Fact Checking, Truthiness, Super Pacs and the Freedom of B.S.

Election day in America, it’s not about the winners and losers, the “haves” and “have not’s”, it’s about who wields the power.  The real power is in numbers and knowledge—-nothing that money and truthiness can’t turn into divisiveness and misdirection. The 99%-er’s have the numbers (they are the majority) but lack the knowledge and organization to muster a revolution—-as of yet!  But wait until things get worse—and then we will see who has the constitution to stand up and demand their rights.

The United States is the most politically progressive country of all time and it is at a pivotal crossroads. Something has gone terribly wrong.  Main Street has beggars on every corner, gangs rule with impunity and the poor, old and sick die without medical care.  Our schools are underfunded and only the privileged can afford college while all the rest must compete for loans that mortgage their future.  Our leaders keep us constantly at war with hate-speak, fear and trumped up patriotism.  We are overtaxed, under represented and expected to sleepwalk into a barrage of cannon fodder for the capitalist, multi-nationalist and the greed mongers.  Who is going to stand up and demand a change to this mess—huh?— You?

There are only two things that make human beings change, one is spiritual intervention and the other is pain.  And if you haven’t had a burning bush speak to you lately, then you better get ready for some serious hurt.  Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

What I’m saying bro, is open your fuckin’ eyes.  The glaciers are melting away, the Colorado River is evaporating and the rainforest are being mowed down.   The oceans are over fished and polluted.  The Barrier Reef is becoming a watery desert.  Climate change is real; the earth is being compromised for short sighted profits.  Right now as you are reading these words, in some famished African village a child is agonizing as they starve to death,   And even more disturbing yet, it is preventable.  How can we be so cruel and indifferent?  We passively turn our backs and allow these things to happen because we remain physically and emotionally insulated from the pain.  Yes pain, that great motivator and equalizer.  But now the chicken is coming home to roost.

The bankers got all their money back; they got their share of the pie and yours too.  Wall Street ripped ya off—all the poor working stiffs just rolled over and let them loot their retirement funds.  The politicians and rich sons of bitches didn’t say shit, ‘cause they’re the fat cats who made off with your money.  There is no trickle-down theory; that trickling sound you hear is the rich pissing down your back.

The shrinking middle class is so easily led to the slaughter.  Give-em a six pack, a big-screen T.V., a diet of fast-food and a war that provides a common enemy and they are contented.  Wrap the American flag around a filling of fear and patriotic propaganda and you have a conservative’s burrito.  Even with the internet and all the facts at our finger tips, we go along shrug shouldered with all the rest of the sheep off to the slaughter house.  We blindly send our children off to die in a foreign country for something we don’t even truly practice here—”Democracy”.   Sometimes they call these “conflicts” (all euphemisms aside, “wars”) as a necessity in order to protect American interests.  I have no interests in these other countries; its multi-national cooperation’s who have investments to protect in these far off lands.  If you are willing to have your body parts blown off, or are willing to die in some foreign land, then you better have a very clear idea of why you are making such a sacrifice.  Take a walk around the Vietnam Memorial Wall and stare at all the names neatly carved into the black marble.  Then ask yourself, what the fuck was it all for?  Don’t allow a politician to tell you when your personal security is less important than national security.  Be a real hero and tell the politicians and their money-making war machine to go fight the wars themselves.

We drop “smart bombs” (oxymoron) in crowded cities where there are women and children.  If a few innocent civilians are killed in the process they are excused as “collateral damage”.   These victims of murder are someone’s mother, daughter, sister and brother.  How can we still be so Goddamn barbaric?

Everybody is so preoccupied struggling to get their sliver of that mythical American dream.  Everyone chasing after that bigger TV screen, larger house and newer car.   Consuming more and more shit to try to fill the holes in their Swiss cheesed soul.  Don’t be fucking stupid.  Ask the hard questions before you sign on the dotted line.  Don‘t make it easy for them.   Because they’re coming for ya.  They’re rubbing their greedy little hands together and offering ya a stack of credit cards with outrageous interest rates.  They’ll offer to leverage your mortgage with a second and a third loan until ya owe more than it will ever be worth.  You are working for the proverbial “company store”.  And they won’t be happy until (as the song says) “Ya owe your soul to the company store”.

The 40 hour a week hamster wheel keeps ya distracted and feeling strung tight as a violin string worrying about the car loan, the cost of gas, the cost of medical insurance and all the negative bullshit played out on the evening news.  The retirement age just keeps getting higher and higher.

All that money going to fight foreign wars over “American interests” should be used to build new schools, provide college education to those trying to get ahead and pay for medical services for all citizens.  The money exchangers don’t give a shit about you or me.  Jesus called them on their greed and look what they did to the son of God!  And they’re coming for you too.  They’ll foreclose on your house, repo your car and let you die a horrible death because you can’t afford their medical care.  If we don’t stand up and fight back, then Jesus died for nothing!  He had these assholes pegged two thousand years ago.

If you’re a “have not” then ya best wake up because no one is looking out for you now; ‘cause nobody cares—nobody!  Sure you’re consumed by all your bad breaks (self-induced or just bad luck), your shitty decisions and fool hearted schemes, but now you got only yourself to blame—-or yourself to save ya.  The programs and safety nets are a thing of the past.  Ya might as well get a shopping cart and a cardboard sign that cries out for pity.  And pity is a shrinking commodity in this sandpaper world—-and there are fewer people to care or have the ware-for-all to throw ya a quarter.

Shouldn’t we be more evolved by now, kinder, gentler.  Under all the political rhetoric, party agenda’s and talking points I hear nothing about world peace, helping the less fortunate or saving the planet for our children and grandchildren.  Oh yeah, those silly things are reserved for old hippies and shallow beauty pageant contestants.  My next vote goes to Ms. Universe.

But ya best be careful you greedy 1% bastards, the sleeping 99% are slowly waking up and filling the streets, your street, Wall Street.   Change will happen and heads will roll, ‘cause there is a supernatural justice that punishes the wicked and champions the righteous.  Tint your Mercedes windows, but we see you.  Bolt your mansion door but we will break them down.  Finance your narcissistic politicians and we will throw the bums out.  Mask your shameless indulgences with patriotism and religious double talk but we will see through your Machiavellian schemes.  Because the truth, is the truth, is the truth, is the truth!!!  And the truth is patient and unchanging.  When it comes forth, it will with a vengeance.

There has always been enough to go around, there’s enough clean water, food, land, medicine and shelter for us all.  The distribution of recourses and the wealth is what has been sliced up unfairly.  The 1% minority will do everything in their power to keep “us”—-the majority, from uniting and charging their castles.   The choreographed tools of fear and divisiveness are employed to keep us from coming together as one under a common good.  We have been fooled and baited.  There were the weapons of mass destruction, the Mexicans who are coming across the border to steal your job, the terrorists plotting to kill you, the Taliban, the Muslims, the Jews, the infidels, the Iraqis, the Afghans and the Pakistanis.  If we are to evolve and ultimately survive we must learn to love and trust one another and live fearless.  The things we fear in others is often the things we hide from within ourselves.   We are all more similar than different, we are all human and want and need the same things.  This universal realization of oneness, sameness is coming of age.

The only way back into the garden is through grace.  It’s always been this way.  This intricate life design pivots on our ability to make wise choices and in accepting the truth that our future depends on cooperation not competition.  Tyranny, selfishness, ruthlessness, classism, enslavement, cruelty, absolute power, bullying, brutality, repression, fascism, oppression, subjugation, autocracy, dictatorship, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, discrimination, racism, nationalism, patriotism, religious supremacy are but “make believe” theories and concepts designed to create walls between us.

Someone has always showed up at the right time and place to stare the perpetrators of evil square in the eye and force them to retreat.  We are once again at one of those critical times in history and it’s your turn to stand up and be brave.  Be aware, be awake, exercise your freewill—-make the right choices. There is an ultimate power in truth and grace.

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” –  Edmund Burke.

 After Thoughts

Darwinism, capitalism and competition is what got us down from the trees and gave us dominion over our world.  Spirituality, democracy and cooperation are what will be required to allow us to continue to survive and evolve.   Capitalism is an “I the person” proposition, vs. Democracy, which is a “We the People” proclamation.

After, After Thought

“We don’t get fooled again”

The Who

After, After, After Thought

Live Fearless

Life Between Two Shakes (and how we spend our days—)

They call it retirement, but the word sounds so—so—how should I put it—-um—ah—-old? The word retired carries with it a tone of being “tired” as in, re-“tired”. By definition the word seems to mean “tired and then tired again” (now that’s freaking tired). It conjures up visions of someone sitting alone on an old tattered Chesterfield with an afghan covering their varicose veined legs as they blankly stare at a rerun of Wheel of Fortune. An ageless Vanna White smiles out at the audience of drooling geezers as she flips over another vowel. The phrase at the bottom of the TV screen reads, “Frogs in biology 101?” The excited contestant hits his button and shouts out, “I’ll solve the puzzle! What is, stiff and waiting to croak.” Now that’s a tad bit harsh, but being new to this élite group known as retiree’s has taken some getting use to.

Recently at a dinner party a balding gentleman with a first trimester pot belly inquired, “So, what do you do?” Awkward silence. I grimace, lick my upper lip and then say it. “Oh, I’m retired”. More awkward silence. He smiles and then looks me up and down as if to see if I am missing any of my appendages. I can see the thoughts ticking away in his worker-bee mind, “This guy is either very lazy or very rich.” Then he try’s to feel me out with some of his own self disclosures. “Oh hell, I’d like to retire too, but I cant’ afford to pull the trigger yet.” This is a guy with a 2012 Navigator and 2011 BMW in his garage, lives in a 3,000 sq. ft. home with just him and his wife, has a pool, hot tub and belongs to the Racket Club. I smile, “I didn’t pull the trigger, I just decided to take the bullets out of the gun, in other words, I choose to down size a bit.” He stares at me with eyes of pity that’s usually reserved for panhandlers and bums. He gives me a fatherly pat on the shoulder and says, “Ah, you’ll be fine. I’ll buy ya a round of golf at the country club someday.” I give him the hang loose hand sign, “Yeah, how bout we play this Monday, there’s hardly any one on the course during the week and the green fee’s are half price.” He answers me without skipping a beat, “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. We’re in the middle of mid year projections and our new revenue production targets have been increased by 15 % for this fiscal year.”  The office-speak creates a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  “I’m putting in fifty, sixty hours a week right now to try to keep the workload manageable.” The lines on his forehead clench into a tight little fist. “Jesus, the road work on the inter-state has increased my commute to an hour and a half each way. Not to mention the price of gas.  Damn, that V8 of mine is guzzling down the gas like its water.” He nervously rattles the ice in his tumbler of Scotch and then throws it back in one quick gesture of defiance.

More awkward silence—-. I extend my hand to give him a parting farewell. We struggle for a second trying to figure out if we should give each other the “bro shake” or the formal “businessman grip”. We end up with a kind of uncomfortable middle of the road handshake that is indicative of our disjointed conversation. “Well, stop by the house and maybe we can take the kids for a hike or go to the beach or something.” He nods and gives me a noncommittal, “Yeah, sure, sounds good.” I give it one more try, “No I really mean it. We can get up at the crack of dawn and hike up Mt. Tallac.” He only provides me his partial attention as he hastily appeases the annoying ringtone from his iPhone. Ironically the little device is playing the song, “Help” by the Beatles.

As I turn to walk away he grabs me by the arm and motions for me to wait. He quickly taps out a text message and once again addresses me. “Maybe we can hike Mt. Tellac. I’ll email you and then put it on my outlook calendar and its a done deal. By the way, what is the elevation at the summit?”  It is my turn to look him up and down as I respond with a  bit of  trepidation in my voice, “It’s above 10,000 feet.” He sucks in his gut as he pulls up his Dockers, “We can do this bro!” I smile, “I think you’re right man. Sometimes ya got to get above all the crap to enjoy the view.”

As I drove home from the party in my 2002 Outback (4 cylinder), I am reminded of a quote by Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Disclaimer: This blog is by no means insinuating that working into ones golden years is a bad thing. In fact, many people love to continue working well into their later years, as their profession is their passion—and this is a beautiful thing. This piece is intended to examine how two individuals with different perspectives seek to find common ground and a mutual understanding of the other’s lifestyle. With that said, I accept the fact that subjective observations are biased, but that comes with the territory of being a writer.

What Happens in Joy–zee—Stays in Joy–zee

I’m west-coast.  I was born and bred  to perceive the world in a west-coast state of mind—sorry Billy Joel.   I’m a walking, talking stereotype of that laid back, have a nice day, flip-flop wearing, life is good —–West-coast kind-of-dude.  It’s how I roll man, so to speak.  I recently returned from a sojourn to the east coast to attend a wedding with the in-laws and I am once again reminded of the differences between the two longitudes.   Neither coast is better or worse, its like most things in life, its all about the environment you’ve been marinated in—-we are all alien when entering foreign territories.

My memories of the East are pretty much incidental and insignificant.  On our day trips throughout the north eastern states I was taken back by the beautiful green lush landscape.  It was pretty in a dreary, sweltering, damp sort of manner.  The humidity made the car seat sticky and the air was stale and muggy.  It seemed strange driving through the gray rainy streets of Jersey with the windshield wipers flapping while the AC blew cool air across the beads of sweat on my forehead.  This paradoxical weather was a new experience for me.  I guess what they say about the weather is true, “it’s not the temperature, it’s the humidity”.

The busy schedule of attending dinners and family functions left me anxious and unsettled. I’ve never been much for small talk or cursory discussions about the fickleness of the weather.  I like Mark Twains quote regarding the weather, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does nothing about it”——although many of us sure wish we could do something about it.

In my state of nervousness I either say to much and come off as loud and obnoxious or remain quiet and appear aloof and haughty.  Alcohol relaxed me but it can also relax me to the point of falling down, but that’s another story yet to disclose.

What Starbucks is to the West coast, Dunkin-Doughnuts is to the East coast.  The East has a prodigious showing of Dunkin-Doughnuts, all night Dinners and family Italian restaurants. The food is good out there, not all that vegetarian or vegan crap that is heralded out West as being the savior of modern civilization.   You can have your raw Sushi and bland tofu, I’ll take double helpings of the deep fried clam cakes with a side of cannoli.

One of the older Italian joints we ate at had a retro-sixties motif and was equipped with a waiter sporting a thick Jersey accent.   He introduced himself as Pauly.  Jersey is the only state I know where big burley guys add a “Y” to the end of their names just like little boys often do.  It is sort of endearing in a weird gangster kind of way.  From deep down in his throat he would roll his syllables into drawn out “ahh-s” and “Ohh’s”.  As traditional accordion music played in the background he addressed our table, asking if we wanted “wahh-ders‘ or “cahh-fee’s”.   He boldly gestured with his hands and smirked with a self-effacing nod of approval after explaining in detail each special on the menu.  His hoarse voice and sleepy Italian eyes portrayed a man who was passionate about his food.

The red sauce was almost a dark brown color with veal and large pieces of garlic providing a southern Italy flavor.  The bread had a thick crust on the outside, yet moist and soft on the inside.  The place and its food was old school—-I loved it.

I imagined that our waiter “Pwauhhl–eee” was most likely a respected, yet dangerous thug from neighborhood and undoubtedly a “made man”.  I made a mental note to tip him accordingly.  The restaurant must be a front for a numbers racket or an after hours speak easy.  Who’s to say what goes on in the basement in the wee hours of the night.  Like they say, what happens in Joy-zee stays in Joy-zee.

I fought off an irresistible urge to done a long black leather jacket, accessorize with gold jewelry, comb my hair back in a greasy pompadour and slap the locals on the back and comment loudly “fooh-get-abowt-it”.  That’s a bit of a stretch from the weak west-coast greeting of “Peace out brah”.

The wedding was a classy affair.  The bride was beautiful and the groom dashing.  The reception was complete with excellent food, music and dancing.  I luckily found a seat next to Ed the family patriarch who is 92 years old.   He is as sharp as a tac except for his loss of hearing.  We made a good pairing as he requires little conversation, he wouldn’t ask me to dance and he’s well connected.  In other words, he’d protect me from any cigar chomping, violin carrying, trench coat wearing uninvited guests.