Do you ever just get tired of yourself?I do.I wake up sometimes and really want to make some radical changes in my life.I want to be a better person. I want to start exercising, maybe even join a gym.I hate gyms though, everyone there looks so fit and healthy.When I exercise my hair looks like I just walked out of a tornado, the waistband on my sweatpants are all twisted and drooping revealing my boxer shorts.My shirt is drenched in patches of sweat and I smell like an old wet dog.The gym’s are narasitially plastered with wall to wall mirrors——Who’s that old guy stumbling about on the treadmill? Is that me? ——-Couldn’t be! ———Really? ———Pathetic!
And then I flirt with the idea of becoming a vegetarian.It’ll be better for my over all health and I’d be reducing my carbon footprint by not eating flatulent cows. There’s only one catch, I don’t care for most vegetables.Whoever came up with the names for vegetables doesn’t understand the value of good packaging and marketing.Who wants to eat something called a cumquat or a squash, or for that matter——-an eggplant? Eggplant is a misleading name, as there are no eggs to speak of in an eggplant.I won’t even go into the name “arugula”.It sounds like the name of a country in the middle east. At least put the product in a nice colorful box with a photo of the perfect veggie on the cover. Units that are not uniform in color, shape and size are to be summarily relegated to the dumpster. Stress the terms such as “natural”, “mother nature” and “pure”. Refrain from mentioning anything regarding pesticide residue, GMO’s, salmonella or chemicals used to create that shiny sheen on each unit.
Rebrand vegetables with new presentations and names.How about renaming the “crooked neck squash” as the “Careening Yellow Swan”.On the packaging include recipes such as “The Carmel Dipped Swan Of Paradise”.I’d eat something like that.But of course, I’d like to pair it witha glass of exotic red wine with a french name I can’t pronounce.
Maybe it’s the change of season that’s got me in a funk.The days are getting shorter and it’s rainy and gloomy out.I wish I had a holy book to turn to when I’m feeling lost and alone.Something like the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon or even the goofy Scientology book.None of them have brought me any solace or provided meaning to my life.I’ve yet to find anowners manual or user’s guide to help me get my shit together.I’m as lost and confused as I was at sixteen. At least then I had more time to figure things out. I still have no idea “What’s it all about?”.I’ve pretty much given up on organized religion, political systems and the morning weatherman——-they’re all overrated propaganda.I guess I’ll just have to get use to accepting the absurdity of life, death and all the B.S. that comes in-between the two.
You probably have no idea what I’m ranting about, but that’s not your fault, I’m the confused crazed one.You’re my surrogate friend with whom I share my secret fears and dark dreams. Hopefully I haven’t scared you off too.Sometimes I feel like I’ve changed and grown a lot over the last fifty years, and then at other times I feel like I’m the same kid of sixteen waiting for my life to fall into place——it’s been a long wait and things tend to be spiraling towards entropy.I’m somewhere between middle age and old and decrepit. I’m not sure what to do with the time I have left.I do want to become a better person———compared to what or whom I’m not sure.I suppose it’s the little things that help us all become more evolved human beings. Things like kindness, compassion and the capacity to laugh at oneself. Humor is nutrition for the soul.
Here’s to carrots, treadmills and wall to wall mirrors.
“The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.” I could’ve sworn that I heard that wobbly melody playing in my head the other day. The original vagabond and singer of protest song is now the Noble Prize winner in literature. And it leaves me wondering, how much change has really taken place since 1962 when that song was first released. Even Dylan doesn’t sing protest songs any longer, instead he mumbles songs from the Great American Song Book. It was never his singing voice, guitar or harmonica playing that made him a legend; he once was angry and had something to say——-“Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
Where’s the rage and the contempt for the established authority? Where’s the cadre of enraged youth demanding that the old guard move aside so that they can fix the mess they’ve been left by their parents? There’s a pervasive complacency in the world today that frightens me. There’s nihilism where idealism once reinvented itself with each new generation. When did the power of music, investigative journalism and critical thinking fall out of vogue? When did taking to the streets in protest get replaced by insipid tweets, trendy FB posts, and lame blogs——-insert angry emoji here.
It’s not as if the world has evolved into a kinder and gentler place. To the contrary, if you take a good look around you’ll see that we’ve begun to de-evolve. We’ve elected a president who’s a racist, sexist and a xenophobe. For over a decade we’ve remained mired in wars in the middle east. A conflict that was initially predicated on a lie regarding WMD. We have the “one percenters” who’s resources and wealth continue to grow as the middle class evaporates. Earnings and benefits for workers continue to shrink as the rich blatantly pay no taxes. Mr Trump hasn’t paid federal income tax for twenty years. He proudly defended this conduct by stating “Because I’m smart. “Smart” should be replaced with “greedy”. Scientist warn that global warming is destroying our environment, while leaders of industry choose short term profit over the long term effects of climate change. We have a system of government that allows billionaires to buy the outcome of elections. We have a “democracy” where a candidate can be elected president even though the majority of voters voted for the challenger. There’s mass shootings occurring on a daily basis, yet NRA refuses to indorse a ban on AR-15 “assault-type weapon,” or support thorough background checks. Every day children unnecessarily die of starvation and preventable deseases. The cost of medical care and college education has spiraled out of control. Can someone please tell me where the answer is to these travesties. Oh yes, I forgot, “The answer is blowing in the wind”.
The twenty four hour, seven day a week news cycle has diminished our capacity to feel empathy or comprehend compassion. We’ve become passive observers watching the news as a form of entertainment. We’re a society of rubber necker’s gawking at the daily mayhem. It’s reminiscent of the spectacle of blood and guts that the masses once cheered for at the Roman Coliseum. We’ve become anesthetized, desensitized and numb to the suffering of others. As the masses are fed a daily diet of misery, they’ve become consumed by a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. We’ve become a “fuck it” society. It’s a culture that’s lost faith in the system, in democracy—–in integrity. The greatest threat to our freedom and liberty isn’t the power vested in the elite but rather in the apathy of the masses.
Imagine a mythical island that’s comprised of 100 acres of land. The island has only coconuts, bananas and goats as its form of currency. There are 100 inhabitants living on this island. An individual who calls himself the Lord Of The Land has ownership of 99 of those 100 acres of land. He also has ownership of 99% of the coconuts, bananas and goats. All the inhabitance of this island depend on this man to secure their housing and food. He picks a man to be a candidate for the position of Island chief. He gives this candidate 2 coconuts, 2 bananas and some goat cheese. This island is a “democracy” so in order for this man to become the chief he must have the majority of the 100 islanders vote for him in order to become the island chief. He divides the gifts given to him by Lord Of The Land into smaller pieces. He offers these small gifts to islanders to entice them to vote for him (trickle down economics). He promises the islanders that he will represent their rights and liberties. These promises are in conflict with the Lord Of The Lands goal to maintain ownership of 99% of the land and its resources. The new chief is indebted to the Lord Of The Land because he provided him with the coconuts, bananas and goat cheese. Once he’s elected chief he is obliged to repay the Lord Of The Land by creating laws that protect his dominion over the islands resources. Can you imagine a land such as this? Can you extrapolate how this metaphor relates to our system of governance?
The word revolution hasn’t been uttered since the writing of The Declaration of Independence or the call for equality and change echoed in the 1960’s. The only way we will be able to restore equality, fairness and justice is by organizing and utilizing our power of civil disobedience and non violent resistance. It’s always been the kings and queens, the land barons, captains of industry and the ultra rich who’ve suppressed, manipulated and taken advantage of the masses. From the beginning of time, the redistribution of wealth, resources and power is something that the majority has had to rip from the greedy hands of the powerful minority. It’s through the union of the majority (Unions) that we’ve been able to demand our fair share of the pie. Leaders that preach divisiveness are manipulating the majority into splinter groups to fight amongst themselves. It’s a diversionary tactic that’s used to keep the majority from unifying and challenging the elites control and hold on power.
Ironically it isn’t the youth of this nation that’s risen up and demanded freedom, liberty and justice for all. No, it’s a seventy five year old Jewish man who’s attempting to mobilize a revolution. His bold message is captured in the following quote “With your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.” ~ Sen. Bernie Sanders.
It will take a revolution to right this sinking ship. It will take people organizing and standing up for the rights of all citizens. We need a new Declaration of Independence. With that in mind I’ve drafted the following document. This is a working document open to input, additions and omissions. It’s an evolving document.
The goal of the following document isn’t to provide all of the answers to our political issues, but rather to start a dialogue that gets people to utilize their critical thinking skills rather than irrational emotional responses to issues. It’s a document that requires input and inclusion from all its citizens. Please feel free to provide input and insights into the following document.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness——-regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, age, heritage, disability or any other individual differences.
Taxes shall be levied fairly and equitably. This entails implementing a flat tax that offers no deductions or write offs for individuals, cooperations or organizations. Those individuals possessing resources and earnings in the top one percent will be taxed at a flat rate of fifty percent of their earnings and resources. Those that are reaping excessive rewards must be held accountable for paying their fair share towards the good of the community.
A living wage will be paid to individuals. Any person working full time shall be able to afford their living expenses. This will negate the need to provide food stamps to individuals working for companies that do not adequately compensate their employee’s. This is a subsidy that tax payers are currently paying to support such profit rich companies as Walmart.
Each citizen of the United States of America will be limited to one vote. Each citizen of the United States of America will be limited to no more than a $100.00 contribution per candidate. Companies, organizations, lobbyist and special interest groups are not allowed to contribute to a candidates election. This is to prevent undue influence of such entities over politicians with whom they have financially supported.
Gerrymandering will not be manipulated to provide a political party advantage over other such parties. The process is to support a system that determines a winner of political office by a majority vote, not by biased voting jurisdictions. The Electoral College is to be abolished.
As a citizen of the United States of America each tax paying citizen is entitled free access to medical care. Tax revenues are to be prioritize for this purpose. Health Care is not a commodity that only the rich can afford and access.
As a citizen of the United States of America each tax paying citizen is entitled free access to college or technological school. Tax revenues are to be prioritized for this purpose. Education is not a commodity that only the rich can afford and access. Motivated students should not be saddled with huge college debt upon their graduation.
Social Security and Medi Care are guaranteed to all tax paying citizens. These programs shall reflect the cost of living and not be privatized. Taxes are to be prioritized for this purpose. A nation is judged by how it respects and treats it most vulnerable individuals; the young, the old and those populations and individuals who possess limited resources and power.
Politicians will be limited to a maximum of two terms. This is to prevent politicians from using their power to stay in office rather than serve those who voted them into office.
Just like a vehicle, all guns must be registered and licensed. Automatic weapons are outlawed, thorough background checks are mandatory.
All vehicles, factories and related industries must meet strict environmental standards to counter the affects of global warming and pollution. Failure to comply will result in stiff penalties.
All candidates running for public office must disclose their tax returns. This is to prevent conflict of interests.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is protected and guaranteed.
Individuals or business that hire undocumented immigrants will suffer a stiff fine. The fine will progressively increase by the number of illegal employee’s and the frequency of infractions. The number of work visas will be increased in accordance with need and demand by employers. These employees will be compensated at an equitable rate.
Soundtrack “A Light On A Hill” by Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s.
Photo by Victor Uriz
The drone of the air conditioning system is what keeps me in a state of blah. The drivel coming from the facilitators voice would anger me if I let his words through and into my psyche. Occasionally, his cliche’s would seep in causing me to cringe. “When do you really start living? Yes, when we confront death.” The air conditioning thermostat had clicked off leaving an empty space for his words to slip into my stupefied ears. “Life; you have to want it, more than you fear it.” His voice had the melodic vibe of a preacher with the pensive drawl of a professor. The participants sat stoic as he gestured with his hands and paced back and forth.
The class is an odd mixture of middle aged folks and weathered senior citizens. A third of the individuals are hooked up to oxygen tanks with hoses plugged into their nostrils. There’s the incessant sound of wheezing, hacking and whistling bronchial sighs. The grim reaper is peering through the window blinds. This is the eight week class for those suffering from emphysema, COPD and respiratory related diseases. The topics to be covered included everything from smoking cessation to what the brochure defined as “wellness”. I suppose we are all somewhere on that bell shaped curve between sick and well. This class was skewed to the right side of that curve, we all knew it, and it bonded us. We all knew the score, we had our backs against the wall——mortality is the great equalizer——-living gasp to gasp…….
The class is taught in the basement of the old county hospital. The place reeks of Pinesole, cafeteria food and musty mold. The linage of life traverses within these walls, from pediatrics to geriatric’s, from mothers pushing life out, to the assisted living ward where others were being pulled out. There is a quiet seriousness that permeates the halls, examining rooms and the patients semi-private quarters. Visitors walk softly, talk in hushed voices and all emotion is stifled. I hated the place, as well as my instructor and my fellow classmates. I showed up every Tuesday and Thursday because the program is mandated by my insurance carrier. Without insurance coverage, my inhaler would be three-hundred dollars a month, now that’s enough to take my breath away.
They say that the first thing you forget about someone after they’ve passed away is the sound of their voice. But for me, it’s the life in their eyes. Age, illness and death carry pieces of us away, but the memory of the life in someones eyes is the first thing to flicker and then forever be extinguished. It can’t be captured in a photograph, or seen once the soul has vacated, perhaps this is why morticians close the eyes of those who have departed.
“Inhale slowly as you count to three, and then slowly exhale as you count to three.” There’s the sound of air being forced through a narrowed space, followed by a chorus of wet hacks. “Great job. Please do your reading and vision exercises before our next class. If you are feeling weak or a need to smoke, please call our 24 hour crisis line at “no smoke” 667-6653.”
I knew that the line to scale the staircase out of the basement would be slow, so I hustled to get to the stairs before the O2 tankers or the gaspers attempted their Everest push to the top. The August heat is stifling as I make my way to my car. As I open the car door the stale odor of tobacco fills my nose. The ashtray overflows with old butts, I inhale a deep breath of the hot air with its dank taste of ancient nicotine. I pick up an old butt and suck on the yellowed filter. Everywhere I go I seem to be drawn to old cigarette butts snubbed out on the ground, or stray singles in my junk drawer or in the pockets of my cowboy shirts. At night in my dreams, I smoke.
Buried in our basement we begin to resurrect our stories. Our tales like shadow puppets, a strange amalgamation of surreal dreams and vague snapshots shrouded by time. Confessions can be cathartic, but I trust few with my secrets—-I trust few with anything of mine. Our instructor repeatedly tells us that our blindspots are what keep us from evolving or——-transforming. For me, there is no making peace with myself, self loathing is my only friend.
The chairs are arranged in a circle with the facilitator sitting cross legged, legal pad and pen in his lap. I’ve attended a myriad of support groups, NA, AA, GA, anger management, bipolar, religious groups, pow wow’s, wounded child and such. God, were a sad, shameless bunch of unraveling fucked up losers. We cling to our prescriptions, lucky charms and technological gizmos, but we’re still unsatisfied, unfulfilled, lifeless, loveless, tripping over our own egos; frozen between a fight or flight response to our fears.
“The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.” I wonder if William Blake was an addict. Poe was, and his words ring true in my mind, “I become insane with long intervals of horrible sanity”. All of this thinking is making me crazy. I catch a glimpse of my troubled eyes in my rearview mirror. I drive in a daze, the city is a blur, I’m outside myself. It’s 9:00 am and the day is already to long.
Is this what it feels like to not be alive? Something is missing or broken. But what? I don’t know, but something isn’t right. I spend to much time outside myself, to much time with small talking strangers. I’ve been wasting my days chasing my cravings. I’ve allowed the small things to eluded me. I go to bed wondering about this——and that—- and everything at once.
Life—-It fills me, I fill it, it leaves me, then I’m emptied, in a flash everything connects……What a strange feeling——
Fresh bedsheets, laying next to someone in the stillness of a dark night, cool air being drawn into my lungs, breezes from an open window, scent of pines, hoot owls calling, moon shadows on the wall———-letting everything go——no longer outside myself, no seeking, no finding……..just being, being alive, on this first day of September. I feel summer losing it’s warm grip. Life is suddenly easier in the small things. And it doesn’t even matter if the sun packs up and leaves in search of a better sky.