Monday, January 13, 2014

As Close to a Rant As I Have Ever Posted And Hopefully Ever Will

I generally maintain my blog on an "up" note, because that's also how I choose to approach my life. But, that being said, there are certain types of people that really crawl under my skin a little bit....not much, but enough that I would remark on it....and that is people who feel that they are in a position to pass judgements on other people. 

I see it all the time, and maybe more lately than ever. But to illustrate what I'm talking about on....neutral ground, I'll refer back to a column in the New York Post back when Heath Ledger died, written by some so-called journalist (whom I won't bother naming) who clearly has no moral high ground, nor any insightful knowledge into the guy's life, to judge or even comment on it. What happened to Ledger & the aftermath aren't even any of her damn business....although keeping New Yorkers, etc, buying, reading, and seeing ads in this toilet-paper tabloid IS her business. And ultimately, that's what's going on here.

The poor guy was DEAD, and his body wasn't even COLD yet, and she's sitting in judgement of him, like she does to so many people every day. I remember reading that, and thinking that this sort of "death by misadventure" could have happened to people I've known and loved....and if she would have written a column about any of them, I would have HIT the fucking ROOF! I bet this columnist probably doesn't have any friends at all, much less friends who might have been in a position like that. So much for empathy. However, deep down inside, this person must feel that she's far beneath this talented actor who fell victim to a substance addiction, and likely, depression...and perhaps has her own skeletons in the closet that nobody would even venture to care about....so maybe it makes sense.

And speaking of friends....I've never met any of the ones she refers to, but...I suspect that they were probably devastated at what happened to him. Do they need this thrown in their face, especially so soon after the fatal incident? How about his wife and child, whom she so classily refers to in her column as well? Do THEY need to see this crap? I don't think so. The sort if feigned outrage is so transparent, isn't it? It simply doesn't add up.

I'm bringing this up to illustrate a point. With Social Media seemingly being a permanent fixture of many of our lives, some people just needs to hear a piece of gossip, make a judgement on it, and then broadcast it as fact (and maybe even tweak it...just a little - they have to get their own editorial in there, you know) to whomever will listen, so to speak. And there's always an agenda to it, just as there is with the aforementioned tabloid trash-peddlers as well as religious crank-jobs. And oftentimes, TOO often, people will believe anything they read. It's laughable, more often than not, and usually reflects badly on whomever is perpetuating it, but....that doesn't make it any more pleasant, does it? In fact, it's pathetic and fucking embarrassing to even know about.

I personally choose not to pay much attention to it.  Most of the shit-talkers and gossip-mongers that hang out in the rural outSKIRTS (no pun intended) of my (usually-solid) circles are filtered out of my feeds, so....I can just choose to avoid that noise, more often than not. I do hear about it from other people, but....I don't usually let it get to me. I mean....who the hell cares?!

But it does beg the question...why the relentless insistence on constant negativity?  Is it jealousy? Envy? Bitterness? Stupidity? Lack of talent? Lack of direction? Lack of focus? Lack of progress? Mommy/Daddy issues? Feelings of inadequacy, perhaps? All of the above? I don't know, because....well, I am not that way, so...I cannot relate.

Maybe it's because I was so relentlessly bullied at school when I was growing up, by a lot of hypocritical people who came from families with "good, Christian" values. You see a lot of that from religious extremists of every denomination, and they often sound like the columnist I referred to above, after a fashion. As Neil Young once sang, "Don't forget what your good book said." And, within the context of what I'm talking about here, the good book said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  I remember that from Catholic school, and I'm not even religious!

Sure, I'm no saint, and I'm no prince (and I'm certainly no PRINCE!) but....I do try to improve myself. And, more often than not, I err on the side of dwelling on & accentuating the positive, if I can help it. Sure, I've made lots of mistakes, many of which aren't worthy of repeating, but....I'll say this: those of us with the most checkered pasts often make the best friends and confidantes....because the most self-aware and intelligent of us know that WE DON'T HAVE ANY RIGHT TO JUDGE. And that fact, coupled with the fact that those of us in that position have often "been there", will often inspire trust and confidence from our friends. Anyone who's watched Sex & the City might understand the concept. (Yes...I like that show & always did! Judge away!) And if there's anything I've ever wanted to be for my friends, it's been to be one of their best. I am many things, and many of them may leave something to be desired, but jaded and judgmental, I am not, and refuse to be.

I learned a long time ago that being bitter or indignant towards the successes and fortunate events of other people only winds up hurting yourself. And, the same goes for wishing for or gaining satisfaction from the missteps or unfortunate events of others. And, to that point, dwelling on the weaknesses or shortcomings that you perceive (whether reasonably & accurately or not) in others, rather than in yourself, really isn't fair...even to one's self....because we all have our own problems. And, to me, these are merely very convenient ways of blaming everyone but one's self for one's own troubles. 

Does that mean that we have to LIKE EVERYONE?! NO!!! But we also don't have to constantly talk shit on them either.  And if I've lost a close friend or two in the past few years, you can bet your sweet ass that this sort of thing had a LOT to do with it, at least from my end of the spectrum...and a colorful one it is! 

There just comes a time when there's no getting through to some people, but I guess that's a blessing in disguise. Being free of dealing with the burden of trying to be around someone like that is like the weight of the planet Saturn off your shoulders....as well as the fucking rings! And it also frees up your time to hang out with other people who can take life more in stride....which can be very enlightening and inspiring, indeed. There's always a light if you look for it, but you often have to be in the darkness to see it, I guess.

That's about all I have to say about it. I'm now going to go back to my regularly scheduled transformation of chicken shit into chicken salad!!!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

....and to think that they had to cut down trees to make the toilet paper that we threw up into the trees.....

This one takes us WAY back....

I was NOT the popular kid back in high school. I got a multitude of shit for being different, and it was mostly unpleasant to say the least....but in retrospect, it almost makes me feel honored at this point....but that's another story.

There were a LOT of trees in my family's front and back yards....and for some reason, during my sophomore year, it seemed like a weekend wouldn't go by without some jerkoffs toilet-papering the trees. After this happened a few times, I grew tired of it....and it just so happened that I heard through the grapevine who was behind these toilet papering shenanigans. I aimed to retaliate!

So...I got a couple of my friends together, and we went to the grocery store and bought....well, a SHITLOAD of toilet paper. The funniest part was, when we went to pay for it, my friend Dan said to the lady behind the cash register, "Um.....yeah.....we all REALLY have to GO!" Ahahahahahaha!!!!!!

This douchelord who was the target of my wrath lived on the outskirts of town, in a fairly heavily-wooded area. PERFECT! And nobody was home. EVEN BETTER!!!  

We papered the entire area around this crankjob's house with meticulous artistry!!!! And none of us could hold back our laughs as we did so. It was fucking hilarious!!! I can see, now, why those shaft sanders had so much fun in MY yard! HAhahahaha.

The best part, though, was running back to my friend's car, and driving by, to examine our handiwork. It was gorgeous! All of that toilet paper, waving in the trees like ghosts in the breeze! It still warms my heart to think about it!

Anyway....please don't squeeze the Charmin!




Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Winter's Tale or Just Another Metaphor For Life

This one goes back a little bit....

....to right after I graduated from college, and moved to smack-dab in the middle of an Arctic Tundra known as Minneapolis, MN....right on I-94, equidistant from Uptown and Downtown, if you're familiar with the area. I had a view of the modest skyline of Downtown, and found the sound of the traffic from the highway to be comforting for some reason.

I digress.....

I was looking for what the Replacements would call, a "Goddamn Job", when I came across an ad stating that a local dinner theatre company was looking for musicians for a Patsy Cline revue....I think it was called Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. They wanted a drummer who could also sing vocal harmony parts. "What the hell", I thought, "I could do THAT....and, I might LEARN something....and....who's going to have a COOLER first post-college job than THAT?! NO fucker, THAT's who!!!" I called the number in the ad immediately, talked myself up a bit (no shit), and set up the audition for that Saturday.

I remember it being colder than witch's lingerie closet that day. No matter, I got in the pick-up truck & drove to the suburbs for my audition. This would be a good time to mention that I was a TOTAL CHEAPSKATE when it came to keeping the tank filled with gas....so much so that I found myself tempting fate very often (much like our good friend Kramer). Well, this was NOT a good day to do that, as I admitted to myself when, right on the goddamn highway, with the gas gauge on "E" (usually my favorite letter, but perhaps not in this case), the engine just....petered out. I got out of the truck and tried a little trick that I used to use when this would happen, which was to take the gas cap off & keep it open. For some reason, this would often allow me to start the damn truck up again, and coast to the nearest gas station. Yeah....it didn't work this time, and I was getting late for my audition.

I grabbed the gas can (which, now that I think about it, I should have kept FILLED) from underneath the topper, and flagged down someone who was nice enough to drive me to a gas station (which was less than a mile away, of course) to get some gas. When I got back, I poured the gas into the tank, and then I reached for my keys......which....weren't.....there.

Yup, there they were....in the ignition, where I left them. And of COURSE I locked the goddamn door...and the other one. FUCK!!! WHAT the HELL was I going to do?! I was now more than fashionably late for my audition, and I didn't have any time for this crap! 

So....I did what any other enterprising, red-blooded, young American Rock n' Roller would have done. I crawled underneath the topper.....got on my side....brought my leg back with an angle so my boot heel was aimed just so.....and, with all of my might, I KICKED IN the middle panel of the back window!!!  Then I reached in, grabbed my drum sticks, and with them, flipped the lever on the side of the door and unlocked it. Then I grabbed the blanket that I had back there, and covered the seat with it (as there was no sense in getting cut by broken glass).

I finally pulled into the theatre company's offices, apologized profusely for being (at least) a half hour late, and explained how much of a DUMBASS I was!! Thankfully, they were totally cool about it. 

I did my drumming/percussion audition, my singing audition, and my doing-both-at-the-same-time audition (despite being as winded as Holy Hell).....

And.....to make a long story not QUITE as long......

....I GOT THE GIG!!!!!  BOOM!!!!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Are you happy, now?!!! How about....now?!!! Or.....NOW?!!!! or Some Fast Food For Thought

"Every time I think of happy I think of h-a-p-p-y. It's a funny word. I think of slaphappy. What's happy? There are feelings of well-being and comfort and peace, love, of feeling assured. I guess I was happy the day I got my Tome Mix cowboy spurs when I was six years old -- but on that same day my great-grandmother died, so..." - Al Pacino, Playboy Interview, December, 1996

I remember reading this when I was working at the Greyhound Bus Station, back in WisCONsin, a few years before I split to New York City. It really opened my eyes up, because I could relate to what he said 100%!

I remember being at my dad's funeral when I was 7-years-old, right? It just so happened that my new best friend was having his birthday party on the same day. After the service at the church, everyone gathered for refreshments or whatever in the church basement. And my Mom asked my sister-in-law if she would drive me to the birthday party. Her line of thinking was, "The funeral is over-with, so why does he have to hang around? He might as well go and have some fun with his new friends...." So, of course, I went to the party in my little suit & tie, and ate cake & ice cream, and I think I even talked about my dad a little bit with my friend's mom. You, know, it was alright. I think that, in hindsight, it was extremely cool of my Mom to have me go to that party.

Was I happy?  Probably not, but...I  probably laughed a lot. And....THERE's the rub!

But, essentially, what Pacino is saying, and I'm sort-of echoing, is that....for many of us, happiness seems to happen according to whatever the last thing is that happened.  I stubbed my toe....so I'm pissed....but, then a friend said something hilarious....so now, I'm happy! That's usually how every day goes for me. I have some wild mood swings every now and then, but I've never really found any sort of sustainable happiness, I don't think. But, with that said, I've found EVEN LESS sustainable UNhappiness. And I think that's probably the whole point, at the end of the day. If you find yourself feeling more good than bad, when it all boils down, you're probably coming out ahead.  I guess, it's all relative and subjective...and up to each of us as individuals, according our own experiences in life and our consequential perspectives, to suss out the difference.

It's funny, though. I know rich people who are miserable, and poor people who seem happy, and vice versa. I know married people who are happy, and some definitely not so much, and ditto for single people. I know happy drunks, and I know sober people who make me want to jump off a bridge. I know successful people who are thrilled as all HELL with their accomplishments, and those who don't appreciate anything...even themselves and their own hard work. I know people who have had some awful, traumatic shit happen in their past, who seem to have gained some kind of peace with it, and people who at least claim to have had smooth-sailing all the way who are totally lost. I've certainly seen content people who have struggled all their lives and and I've seen people with diamond-encrusted golden spoons for miles who are incorrigible at best. So, in summation, there's absolutely no blueprint!

(Now, granted, nobody REALLY knows what has happened in someone's past, no matter WHO they are or WHERE they came from...not to mention that nobody has a right to judge). 

So, money doesn't buy happiness (but I'll take it). Marriage & relationships certainly don't, necessarily (but the right ones will certainly help, if you can find them). So what is it? Drugs and alcohol? Nope. Big parties, every night? Hell no. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with any of those things, either). 

Is it about having great people close to you? Now we might be onto something with that, for sure, at least in my case. No matter how many friends you have, what really matters is that the people close to you are real, and there for the right reasons...and for you be the same way to them. I've been extremely lucky in that regard, and hope my friends feel that they have been with me. Not everyone might agree that having people close to them contributes to their happiness, but...I just can't relate to that, and I'm someone who needs my alone time as much as the next guy. Love and understanding rank highly with me.

I also think that it's just as important to feel inspired, engaged, and moving forward with your hopes, dreams and aspirations, and to feel like you have some kind of place carved out in the world, and that you are moving forward....or at least that's important to me, for sure!  And these things can evolve and change over time. Hell, part of growing is about finding new interests, new ambitions, and new talents....and new ways to apply your knowledge and experiences that you rack up all the time. I don't know if it's this way for everyone, but, again...for me, it's unquestionable.

When you sift through all of the bullshit, I think it's about self-awareness and how that coincides with the reality of this fucked-up world around us. And I think that the more time goes on, and the more rapidly the world changes, the more often it is demanded of us to adapt....and sometimes, that's a large pain in the ass. But, what are the options? Few, at best?

There's another conundrum that occurred to me the other day. I hope that we aren't faced with just two choices; to either wind up being jaded, cold, and callous.....or in a perpetual state of arrested adolescence?!  Shit, if given that choice, clearly, I'd choose the latter, but I hope that perhaps we can come up with something better than that!

I don't have any answers.....just more and more questions. If anything, I'm just thinking aloud, trying to make sense of everything that brought me to where I'm sitting right this very moment. 

But....you know, it's not bad....not bad at all.

Bundle up, everyone.....