Ship of Fools

 “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. Albert Einstein

While Chris Christy, New Jersey Governor and human hot air balloon spewed a jingoistic and xenophobic rant laden with patriotic platitudes in Tampa tonight at the Republican Convention in his speech nominating Willard Romney; no-nothing Tea Party acolytes screamed glassy-eyed reverence while sporting tri-cornered hats adored with the American seal, emblazoned with the official symbol of American, the bald eagle.

It’s an iron-clad lock to wager that not one of them know it was the EPA that was responsible for Americas’ bird not becoming extinct; down from 450 pair and endangered in the 1960’s to 4,500 pair in 2007. Ask anyone of them and they’ll disgorge an harangue decrying the immediate abolition of the EPA, along with environmentalists and scientists as well, all in the service of unfettered capitalism, with a particular hatred for and an idiot’s rejection of science.

In 1962 marine biologist Rachael Carson, catalyst for the modern environmental movement, published the classic work “Silent Spring”. The book, which gave birth to the EPA and its banning of DDT in 1972, focused on DDT’s alarming effects on wildlife and it’s longevity in the food chain. Scientists, the scourge of flag waving Christian fundamentalists, blamed the dramatic decline of bald eagles on their consumption of DDT laden pesticides, resulting in production of ultra fragile eggs.

It would fall on deaf ears to tell the pompous and scornful Sarah Palin enamored pasty white party members; those with an IQ of twenty-five and under a mental age of three, of anything as supercilious as facts. To spout reason and empirical knowledge to this crew would be met with a show of their guns and a remedial schooling of the Founders and the virtues of freedom.

Darwin’s study of evolution confirmed we evolved from apes and that we are in fact apes; but for comparing the philosophy being put forward tonight in Tampa, by the masses of intellectually functionally illiterate meat sacks populating that stagnant backwater to that of apes, he would feel compelled to apologize for his insult to the apes. If he could hear the nonsense being broadcast nationwide by this circle of circus clowns; he’d never stop throwing up.

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Fear

“Everyone has fear. It’s how we handle fear that separates the hero from the coward” – Constantine” Cus” D’Amato

Tonight I shared good cheer with the five best people I know. My core inner circle of humanist warrior fellow travelers all arrived resplendent in their translucent armor, those loved and trusted from decades of earned respect, each one a splendid example of the best America has to offer, lands end searchers peering in the distance for a safe and true path to a better tomorrow; had come to celebrate my bon voyage Kerouac inspired one-way road trip across much of the Great Plains. I’m leaving paradise after thirty-four years, arguably the best place in the world to be, for the only other place that could be better; Home.

The spirits and nourishment flowed while the conversation acquired a tone that can only emanate from kindred souls. I usually find the eclectic divergence of the friends I amass rarely mesh but this evening was surprising different, due in large measure to Lisa, my Muse and beloved friend. While her hearts a’ thumping beauty stimulated us old men in the way young women do, it was  exceeded by her youthful purity and innocence that laid a blanket of ease over the occasion. The others, the dreamer, the realist, the artist and the entrepreneur all reveled in her presence. When one who hadn’t been around for a while asked if she were my girlfriend, I replied that she was much more than that and if she were did he think I’d be leaving?

As the evening ebbed we formed a perfect circle and talked about fear and how to overcome it; how the recent epic film The Hunger Games posited the notion that hope was the only virtue strong enough to eviscerate fear. Personally I’m not big on hope. I prefer reason. Once fear is analyzed we discover that there’s no situation that can be made better by entertaining fear. This is not to say fearlessness and courage are omniscient; walking up to pet a lion or a bear in the wild or testing the strength of a hurricane is not courageous; it’s foolish.

While it’s unwise in the extreme to harbor fear in any situation it is right and correct to show respect for the power of a being higher up the food chain or an act of god with the ability to injure or destroy us. Respect for anything causes us to reason, while fear freezes us in place, and while triggering that flight or fight reflex we all share, renders us useless and turns our magnificent brains, capable of reasoning fear, into a brick.

I love exploring these existential questions and it took this group of scholars to cause me to ponder and ask myself if there was anything left that I was truly fearful of. The answer that came back was the only thing I fear is fear. This revelation reminded me it was Winston Churchill, while rallying his nation in its darkest hour, who can be credited with the most eloquent, simple and preeminent logic on the question. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.   

Four More Years

The coming choice for President won’t be close. Despite the assertions of the talking heads America isn’t about to throw Barack Obama over for an obscenely wealthy haircut who walks funny and a beefed up polo shirt with a weirder yet haircut that wants to end, as in genocidal, the poor; both spawn of the same ideology that gave an acolyte license to marry the words legitimate and rape together in the same sentence.

Even as the GOP Taliban party leaders attempted to lock the crazy uncle in the attic in Missouri, they’re doing their own crazy thing down in Tampa, Fla., reiterating language in their platform calling for a no-exceptions constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.

How could any self-respecting woman vote for these deniers of science and evolution that drool at the prospect of reaching into their wombs? If these same men could get pregnant contraceptives would be the number one additive in beer.

What person who paid their forced premiums for decades and are now dependent on Social Security or Medicare, deceptively labeled entitlements, cast their vote for the enemy of their very lives? What Hispanic or Gay or Black person will pull a lever for these gas-bag Ken Doll Twins?

What part of the population that lost 40% of their wealth, their homes, their jobs and their health care under the stewardship of republicans while allowing the Wall Street criminals who should be suffocating on water boards at Guantanamo Bay go unpunished and keep their ill-gotten gains vote for yet another ass raping that enriches the 1% even more?

What patriot who cares for the environment will be willing to hand over the reigns of power to a pair of earth eviscerating money whores; extreme fringe right-wing nut jobs who’d cut down the last redwood tree into custom designer toothpicks for a two olive martini and a Rolex while those of us without panic rooms wear gas masks just to take out the recycling?

If every citizen eligible to vote did; the Republican Party would soon be as extinct as the Whigs. Bush was a dolt but likable in scary clown sort of ways but not this crew. They are unable to hide their contempt for anyone with less than eight figures of wealth; true believers, razors, fanatics; delusional masters of the universe detached by privilege from the reality of poverty and despair just there below the clouds of their private jets.

This election won’t be close. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But if I’m wrong again as I was with the war games crazy Bush dynasty; if money buys this election and power falls once again into the hands of the all-powerful, it will be because those who have nothing left but the vote didn’t vote. Then they and we are just as apathetic as they are counting on us to be and we won’t and don’t matter. If that happens then we’ll get just about what we deserve.  

First Love

 For Melanie:

“The only kind of love is stone blind love” – Tom Waits

When first our hearts met in her father’s basement I was a runaway; scared, hiding, seeking refuge, and in an instant her beauty struck me dumb and I couldn’t breathe. No one ever treated me with more kindness than she did that night; a magic moment that remains imprinted and seared in my memory, as vivid an image tonight as ever.

In our first wild months together I came to learn an even more stunning revelation; her beauty as a human being; that heavenly love light she shined out into the world and onto everyone who came into her sphere, the radiance of her angelic smile that sprung from a pure heart made, not just me, but everyone she touched and everyone who touched her, love her.

All the boys wanted her and she could have had anyone of them for a mate. Everyone, including me, knew she could have done better and I felt blessed when she chose me and we became each others mutual first love. If she could love me I thought; I must be a truly good man. She loved me like a fountain, changed my life forever, gave me everything and took from me nothing.

It was forty-four years ago that she first mattered to me; first made a difference in my life, taking my hand in hers and guiding me away from the path I was on; finally big enough to hit back at a world that came at me like a balled up fist I was set to burn down everything I saw. And then she was there, calming me down. Without her touching me with her goodness my life would not have mattered

Her life matters for all the many lives she’s touched with love and warmth and beauty; none more than mine. She matters in all those lives and most importantly in the life of our son who through her example has always made me proud. 

If it weren’t for her I’d be sharing space, graveyard dead, with my two brothers from another mother Jimmy and Gino, or worse; I’d be found today behind those jail house bars she pulled me out from behind countless times, rescuing me and saving my life. It’s a debt I owe her that I can never possibly repay.

There is a piece of her behind every word I write; behind the courage I find each day. It seems unfair and cheap and self-serving to me to go to her now in her last hours, since I never deserved one as good as her. Yet I am, as I have always been, with her, where she is now, where she will be tomorrow; wherever she goes. Our hearts became one that first night, a time that seems to me only minutes ago; and they still beat as one.   

Gratitude; love always.

Rainbows

 “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four” – The Beatles

The phenomenon that has more people born in August than any other month, while more die in January, interests me for the common fact that I was an August baby. The former factoid owes its existence to the proud results of a joyous Christmas season, while the later has more to do with the deadly flu season. Applying a result for it and a finer point to it; today is my birthday.  

As another happy birthday grin greets my morning mirror I pause to ponder the realization that this blessed event seems to circle round more quickly with each increasingly shorter year. I generally spend weeks celebrating this touchstone since it’s just short of miraculous for a whole host of reasons. Far from doing differently this year I am adding to the festivities surrounding this concurrent with another constant, occurring simultaneously, a perennial vagabond surrender to the magnetic pull of the road rolling out and back in again like an ocean wave caressing the beach of my life. I’m pulling up stakes in my beloved California and heading home to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin to be a Packer cheese-head fan and, grandiose and ambitious as it sounds; a country gentleman.

These dual events give rise to obligatory ceremonies of bon voyage; both to the reminisced chronology of the many victories, defeats and glories of these past years and the soul connections of old friends left and to the hello’s of new imagined vistas with ancient undertow. I’ve logged five celebrations thus far, each with a single special person, each pouring more alcohol through me than I usually down in a year. Since these Salons have me awakening woozy at the crack of noon, I’m waiting until I get past them before planning the check list that accompanies relocating, mundane tasks that escort leaving a routine worn deep these thirty-four years. 

Once we get past 20,000 days alive we’re bound to be polled on our acquired sage wisdom; posited in questions mostly having to do with what has been learned; variations of the same query: What’s the one nugget of knowledge I have stored in the vault I’m willing to impart? What mantra can the petitioner add to their daily meditation?  It’s hard to resist that fifteen seconds of fame when all lean in to gauge your response to this question and since I’m known for engaging in a juicy pontificating, even when not asked, I’ll have at it.

What I’ve learned, which isn’t far off from what I always wanted and mostly got, is knowing that the best revenge is to be happy and have fun. Since this punch line often lands with a thud I’ll reach for something more profound and add a warning that may please no one. Despite what religion, politics, consumerism and what we felt when first meeting that last great love would have us believe and strive for; there is no perfect happiness. As Charlie Ponzo, my great friend and barber for twenty years till’ I decided to go full Monty and shave it all off, rapped about our past, present and future for the better part of two and a half hours, the notion emerged; perfect happiness is just a place we visit.

By pure luck and marrying wisely he’d just returned from a vacation at the Ritz Carleton in Paris, widely considered the finest hotel in the world. It wasn’t the $300.00 bottle of champagne that greeted him and his wife in their ninth floor suite (the tenth floor is reserved for royalty and celebrities) or the view of the Eiffel Tower out his balcony perch, or the orgasmic dining or the topless nubile nymphs on the beach overshadowed by hundred million dollar yachts that dotted the harbor at St. Tropez that made the trip and the story special. It was that a kid from the projects had landed in that place after having come from just plain Oakland.

Even when we experience what appears bad or evil or wrong; things like poverty and ignorance and violence, we know without them we wouldn’t have a steerage mechanism to good and loving and right. It’s not perfection, which we can experience in moments, but the balance of knowing, based on opposite experiences, just how grand a thing can be, while those born into the luxury Charlie was passing through will never get as high; since for them it just another day in paradise.

There is no perfect happiness, no pot of gold at the end of some imagined ultimate rainbow. We can only get as high as we’ve been low. In this somewhat crazy round about alternative universe it’s the good times that make us happy and the bad times that show us just how happy we can be.