Shelter

 

“Where Focus Goes – Energy Flows” – Lisa McCormick  

She was born

blessed

with a world-class

Olympic-size smile

a magic thing

that reached down

into a man

with a light

that soothed the savage beast

and quelled the demon

in his soul

and in an instant

lit his darkest day.

 

A smile that

King Arthur’s medieval Knights

Galahad and Lancelot

held

in their hearts

as they ventured out

alone

in the dark

to quest

for dragons to slay

in the hope

they would wake

the morrow

victorious

in the warmth

of that smile

horizontal next to them.

 

A wordless smile

that nonetheless spoke

the four words

every man

must hear

from his woman

if he is to truly love her.

“I believe in you”. 

Approval

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me” – Tommy – The Who

An old friend posted a review for my books and reading it made me want to put my feet up, stick a ten-dollar cigar in my face and sip an expensive whiskey. I experienced the Pavlova effect; like an appreciated puppy I had to have a piss.

From that first paper we handed in to a teacher four times our size hoping for approval, we got tricked into believing we needed approval and we carry that stigma into adulthood. Wanting to fit in has destroyed untold numbers of artists in the crib. The man who needs approval the least is King.

We all want approval of some sort or another and that separates the normal from the serial killers and psychopaths and organizes what we call society. It’s OK to want approval; the trick is not to need it; which is cancer, the path to the dark side. Need for approval comes from a deeply rooted belief of not being worthy. Star gazers and interpreters tell me that Leo people, one in every twelve people including me, need for approval can become too important and morph into a potential weakness. That tidbit of knowledge reinforced my bent toward not giving a flying fuck what anybody thinks; at least that what I tell myself.

The self-aware person is in touch with their weakness. I hate, I’m using the word hate here, anything that makes me feel weak. For reasons unknown to me I seek approval and when denied it I kill off the thing or person who just a minute earlier I was seeking approval from. I know, twisted but there it is. The conundrum occurs when I care too much about the thing or person that’s denied me approval to kill them off. Maybe my original answer was correct; just be careless and care less. Hell if I know.

Abraham Mazlow; founder of humanistic and motivational psychology put self-actualization; realizing personal potential and self-fulfillment; seeking personal growth and peak experiences at the top of our hierarchy of needs. Sigmund Freud; father of psychoanalysis said it is hardwired from our crotch to our brain. Emmanuel Kant takes us on a sidetrack; higher to be sure but in a different direction saying it’s not enough to do the right thing you have to do right for the right reasons.

We can get dizzy navigating this maze of why we seek approval. We could be here all night just trying to know why and by then I’ve forgotten to just feel good which in the end is good enough. I tend toward siding with the existentialists; Sartre and Dostoyevsky. I do or don’t do a thing simply because I exist. The meaning of life may well be just asking the question; what is the meaning of life. Again, hell if I know.

I’m often told I have a big ego; either by those who share that trait with me or more usually by those who seem to lack one or are convinced its evil and spend their time suffocating it in its sleep. Ego; the self-aware aspect of the psyche is essential. Without a healthy ego we destroy self-awareness; ergo no self-motivation and no self actualization; the needs Mazlow has ensconced at the top of his Pyramid.

If you have an answer the suggestion box is wide open. Meanwhile, I’ll casually revert to my default position and just enjoy the moment. Anybody got a match?

Escape

“If America’s for the winners; what’s for the losers”?  Sam Peckinpah

Well, those boys just couldn’t keep still. It was only Thursday night and the late spring sun was still dancing vapor trails over the golden gate on San Francisco Bay and there they were, once again, hanging with the Bowery boys. It was a real tough crowd this time of day; hard drinkers with sullen shadows; longshoremen with grizzled hands and hobos rolling in off the gutter with a fresh fiver from the blood bank. Pete and Roy were as fidgety as trapped animals and they would not be tamed. They knew this was not going to end well so they took their pleasures as they could and to them living any other way was a waste of life.

Pete tucked a C-note under his empty shot glass and winked a goodbye in the direction of the bartender then threw his arm around Roy’s slim shoulder and guided him toward the door. “You should watch your dollars Pete” Roy said. “Relax, Roy Boy, cash don’t have handles on it. Its only dirty paper anyhow, we’ll just make some more. Besides; you know crime don’t pay” Pete said. .

Waves from their chuckles fell in the stank dead air and bounced like a knife off the pavement outside the Pair-O-Dice Lounge in the Bowery section south of Canal when Cool Breeze and his new girl turned the corner. “What it is gents” said Cool Breeze. “Who you got there” asked Roy. “Meet my new woman fellas” said Cool Breeze. What’s your name sweetheart, asked Pete. “Lotta Goo” she answered. 

“Cool give you that name” asked Roy. “I named her after a donut I was eating when I met her in New Orléans last week” chimed Cool in his best sing-song fashion. “You all take care out here; full moon yonder and the demon is in these street tonight” Pete said with an earnest concern. “Heard, got the word; hell I smelled that beast myself. But hey man, you all know I’m too sweet to eat” sang Cool. “Catch you later Cool; night to you angel” said Roy. “No you won’t” yelled Cool as he sauntered down the street with his meal ticket in tow. “Why not”, Pete shot back. And with his best pimp smile, the one he practiced for hours in the mirror, Cool proclaimed; “cause’ I’m a sly fly”.     

Roy and Pete strode down Market Street with a here today gone tomorrow swagger but the pressure built-in them and rose like the steam from the manhole covers and the loneliness that lay between them could not be denied. Neither had kept a full-time night woman. They were too selfish for that; both of them relationship serial killers; having dead-ed in shambles three each with some pretty decent women who had a penchant for bad boys with style and charm.  

Pete thought about Sweet Mary and how she loved him; how a woman like that mellowed a man out; helped him keep the devil down in the hole. How he could always make her laugh and how it pieced his heart like a needle shot straight out of a mirror when she did and how she slowed him down enough to now and then cook a meal or two.

He could feel her in his arms wrapped around him like silver foil making love as if in zero gravity while angels flew above their cathedral bed in a scene so passionate Jesus himself wept. And he thought to himself, secreted from his compatriot, how each time, when it was over, he melted into her and slept the sleep of an honest man.

Reaction

“We all want something beautiful. Man, I wish I was beautiful” – Mr. JonesCounting Crows

So what’s the worst possible thing that could happen? I’m not talking death or taxes or earthquakes or cancer; not talking about things over which we have no control. I’m talking existentially. And conversely what’s the best possible thing that could happen? Could they be one in the same? Could they be true both on the micro personal level and the macro level; true for everyone’s life? And finally could this one thing be true for all of us from the stink of the diaper to the stench of the shroud?

Maybe it’s the full moon in Scorpio that brings me to this or maybe it’s that Scorpio girl. They say reincarnation is rooted in the idea that we keep coming back until we get it right. It was something I knew that was just right there like getting a pain in my eye each time I took a sip from my teacup and finally discovering I only had to remove the spoon to be free of the pain but I just kept missing it.

Like reincarnation I kept coming back too until finally I got it right. Like a teeter-totter I went; up I love you and down I hate you. She would cut me and I would bleed and after a while I would cut her back and every time I did I felt small. So I would return to my default position of love and the cycle would repeat.

It wasn’t the cutting that hurt; that part didn’t matter. It’s what happened after that that mattered; the feeling small part. But I just couldn’t get it. I kept thinking it was her until I got tired of the drama and decided to figure it out. She didn’t have the horses to make me feel small, to make me feel that weak “lose of armor” tingling in my balls. Only I could do that to me.  

I was reacting as we all quite normally do; someone hits us low and our first reaction is to give back the blow often even harder. It’s sort of what’s wrong with the world, yes? It was even harder for me to get conscious on this item since vengeance and revenge were my birthright; a coin of the realm where I came from. Besides I’m a lion and can swat most anyone down with one blow; two at a time if you like. Pick em’. 

I always thought Jean Paul Sartre famous quote “hell is other people” meant what scholars said it meant; Plays were written about this slice of philosophy, Hell I even wrote a piece on it. The idea commonly accepted is this: other people pick up signals of our aura and adopt and idea of whom we are and project that image back to us. Then we pick up the signals of how they see us and begin to act in the way that they see us and thus become; not ourselves. Ergo; hell is other people because they make us behave other than we are.

But now I think he meant different. I think he tapped into that age-old mystic, religious, philosophical truth. It’s what Christ said; “turn the other cheek” and what Gandhi said; “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” and what Martin said. I forget the quote but essential it was to the effect of “when they hit us on the head long enough and see enough of our blood eventually it will make them sick and they will discover their humanity”.

They were not saying be a saint or godly or a martyr. They were not saying don’t fight back. They were all a Spartacus. What they were saying, what Sartre was saying, was “save yourself; do not become the things that you hate”. Hit back to be sure but when struck with a low blow, a thing you hate, not the person doing it but the thing itself, do not respond in kind with a similar low blow and thus become that very thing you hate.

The actions of your adversary have left them without their humanity, lost. Do not follow suit and lose yours as well. Rise above; grows wings if you have to because here everything that matters is at stake. Every time she cut me low and I cut her back low I felt small because I had at that moment become the thing I hated the most.

So, the epiphany; the worst thing that can possibly happen to us is becoming the thing we hate. And the best thing that could happen to us is we do not become the thing we hate. It is true in the positive and the negative; true for us on the micro individually level and on the macro level collectively, true from the cradle to the grave.

Aristotle said “there is only what we do”. True that. I image how great these men and women are who can do this thing, not for anyone other than themselves to be certain, but in the doing make the world a better place. How beautiful they were and are who can find the courage, the strength, the honor and personal dignity to do this thing; and don’t we all want something beautiful. Man, I wish I was beautiful. When Puffy Combs met up with Biggie Smalls, Puffy said “Big, we’re gonna change the world”. Biggie retorted. “Puff, if were gonna change the world; first we gotta change ourselves”.

There’s a related item that correlates and I’ll share it. All the names of the men I admired shown above died, were assassinated, for the same reason; they were unpredictable. Their enemies could not predict how they would react and thus could not control them and in the big power game of life those they can’t control they kill.

Allowing others to make you act in the way they predict can also be fatal. It goes both ways. It’s a subtlety that must be mastered if you want to piss in the tall weeds with the big dogs. Those that know won’t say; those that say don’t know. Allow me.

Remember Sonny Corleone and how his enemies shot him on the Causeway? They planted a mole inside his family, his brother-in-law Carlo. Then knowing how Sonny would react; the puppet masters had Carlo beat on Sonny’s sister and sure enough she called Sonny and as predicted he went off half cocked to clobber the guy. His enemies only had to wait for him. Bullets didn’t kill Sonny. He killed himself by being predictable.

My best friend tells me I’m unpredictable. True that. Many times I have protected myself in this way. Those smart and hard enough to come won’t; once they think it through and decide you’re too unpredictable to tackle. Those too dumb to know will easily be vanquished. I’m pretty sure that coda is somewhere in Sun Su’s The Art of War.

Man Down

“The circus is falling down on its knees. The big-top is crumbling down. There are things I remember and things I forget. I miss you. I guess that I should. Three thousand five hundred miles away; what would I change if I could? – Raining in Baltimore – Counting Crows

Click on the red X to view Charles and the Flying Whale

108 billion people give or take, have lived on earth since Adam & Eve. There are seven billion here now. Every year 54 million die. Charles “Chaz” Hubbard left us yesterday. It occurs to me just how few people outside our blood relatives we ever become close to in this life, spiritually close, bonded to. It’s a short but distinguished list and except for those precious few; after family, everyone else is just strangers.

Back in 1978 when I first arrived I hung out in North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf where I met a disabled veteran street peddler who operated an artistic coin cutting business out of a WWII MASH unit. He directed me to Sausalito and that’s where I met Chaz. Chaz was a one-eyed wonder, a merry prankster of the environmental set for a while and a celebrated Hugh Hefner for a lot longer, living on an exotic opulent houseboat on Sausalito Bay throwing a permanent party. He built bridges and flew whales (dirigibles shaped like a whale) for Greenpeace. Chaz was one of a cast of exceptional characters I met in northern California in the Bermuda triangle of tolerance, diversity and hope; Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.

Many bridges were built and the whale flew over the Ginza in Japan for Greenpeace to protest the harvesting of this magnificent species and captured the attention of the world press. He had a business card that said “Anything Inc.” and he meant it. The bi-line was: “anything is possible, but not all things are acceptable”. Once, in a week’s time, he designed an inner-city recycling center for me for the City of Oakland complete with wind turbines that provided the energy that powered a Rube Goldberg machine that turned scrap paper into ethanol. When the city said we had to produce an environmental impact report, neither of us knowing what that was, he simply said; “show me one”.

He was a man’s man and for good measure, a ladies man. And he was beautiful. He could drink you under the table and he was always upright, had an infectious smile, a Pied Piper personality and an optimist’s faith in the distance. He had charm and charisma and he was an original in a town known the world over for its eccentrics that funneled into its utopia by the thousands like a bath tub drain.

Many nights we polished off several garlic/garlic pizzas, which he loved, washed down with a gallon jug of Dago Red wine. Afterwards he’d climb the roof of his apartment just to see the famous San Francisco fog roll in over the golden gate bridge. He was famous in his own time. I never met anyone remotely like him and I fear we shall not see his equal again.