Hope

“I have become Shiva; destroyer of worlds”J. Robert Oppenheimer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMbATaj7Il8Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

According to my new best friend who chats me up at the gym between grunts squatting enormous weights; the only places folks socialize here are at churches and bars and since I frequent neither, except the latter if they sport pocket pool facilities, I’ve considered getting a gig to dilute the isolation. My buddy told me most of his life story in quick time this afternoon, as is their wont here; (30 years in Hawaii working for the airlines he says). The best part was he lives in a place even more remote than me and has in the past 30 years had the hair rising experiences of encountering three separate incidents with mountain lions.

I’m intrigued but not anxious to meet anything higher up on the food chain than me. I could carry a gun when venturing into the woods but I haven’t shot another sentient being, so far anyway, and I’m not about to start now. It’s not that I don’t possess the killer gene. I did hurt someone’s feelings once in a debate, but I sorely doubt any meat-eater on four legs with razor-sharp teeth will be intimidated by my razor-sharp repartee. I like the guy since he trades in self-deprecating humor. Like his response to a friend who said “well then, you live where people have long hair and no teeth”; to which he relied, “yea, that’s me”.

There exists a factory, which judging from the number of cars in its parking lot has around 100 employees, which lay not a city block from my bunk. This is definitely ironic to say the least since I’m situated five miles outside a two-mule town so rural that it boasts the distinction of having the only two traffic lights in the entire county; an area of 853 square miles (of which 810 square miles is land and 43 square miles is water).

It’s a death plant; manufacturing ordinance, munitions, gentle euphemisms for bullets and bombs of one kind or another; the sorts of heinous shit that’s designed to kill and maim and some would argue protect. Thus its positioning in proximity to nowhere makes sense since if it blows I’m probably one of the few human beings, along with the employees, that’ll have my space instantly morphed into a crematorium, transforming me and them into a gas and as dead as fried chicken.

So despite the boredom I’m laboring under and the fact that they are hiring and they sell to the U.S. Military and other friendly governments like Israel and the fact that bidding and administering government contracts is right in my wheelhouse, so far anyway, I’ve been unable to pull the trigger (pun intended) and apply for a position. Being instrumental in contributing to the creation and distribution of these obscene kill toys, regardless of the fact that if I don’t someone else will, is I surmise, just too much bad karma for me to overcome; that’s unless god is a compassionate woman and turns out to have one hell of a sense of humor.

I resist the inclination as well since I’m a proud member of what was supposed to be the known as the greatest generation, a title usurped by our fathers, and we were groomed to be such. They would have let us have it all, do anything we wanted, if, and we didn’t know it then, we would only ignore the war thing. But we were modern-day Siddhartha’s and once those castle gates swung open and we saw the conditions of those a world away catching hell, primarily in Viet Nam, forged from a history now embedded in our DNA from our nostalgic American Indian genocide slaughter fetish in the name of manifest destiny, our consciousness and conscience could not swallow the turd. So once the fat cats decided the peace craze would not blow over and unchecked we would eventually win, which we did temporarily, my generation was assassinated; murdered in its sleep.

What was lost on us at the time and what we learned from the genocidal blood-letting that left JFK and Bobby and Martin and Malcolm and Medgar and the Panthers and all the rest with their blood on the sidewalks beneath them in graveyard streets America and their brains on their shoes and our psyches mangled beyond repair, and what’s not lost on our prescient chocolate Jesus, is you can bend the curve of history towards justice in any area you wish; most leading to an improvement of the environment and equal rights and dignity for all men, but give them their damn war cause’ that’s where the real money is. More than anything else, in spite of the smokescreen news coverage would have us believe; this, for them and us, is what this election is about. If Romney prevails; Iran is toast.

The billionaire Republican backers, these men in the shadows who can tell us who our enemies are but are never the ones to fight and to die, those greedy and vicious wealth obsessed masters of the universe, know the most profitable entitlement of government lay in its war powers, the authority to organize and bring the nation to war, and they are chomping at the bit; fueled daily by the incessant, antagonistic and jingoistic rants of William Kristo and Charles Krauthammer, the most virulent hacks in the service of our war vice and The Weekly Standard’s top shitheads, can best be described by reaching back to use an old Sicilian saying. “These (war profiteers) would rather eat their children than part with money; and they are very fond of their children”.

We’ve seen this movie before and it summarizes why I cringe at the reverence of, and reject the oft rendered worship my brethren have for, the concept of hope. Despite the fact that I had a son born in 1968, a hopeful event that thanks to LBJ kept me from fleeing to Canada in lieu of being shanghaied to Asia to join the kill crazy circus, I had all my hope vaporized back then in 68’; now some fifty years ago. As a result, in my view, once you’re down to hope things are damn near hopeless anyway. Hope alone is toothless. The Marines have a saying for those that say they wish for something; wish being the soul-brother of hope. “Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first”.

It was a bitter pill to swallow and a hard lesson to learn; but I’d seen enough violence, not only in the streets of Chicago growing up, but on nightly 6 o’clock news reports direct from the battle fields of south-east Asia, to last me a lifetime and I have a visceral hatred for it. What’s kept me alive more times than I can count is the realization that you can’t win them all and sometimes you just have to declare victory and depart the field. The whole world of peace-loving people OM style chanting the word hope will never stop a bullet; just ask John Lennon.

When I hit a new town or city I seek out the highest point available to get a glimpse of the vista and hopefully the curvature of the earth; a quiet place where I can get a sense of the aura of the place. In Oakland shortly after arriving I hiked (on acid) to Inspiration Point way above Memorial Stadium where the Cal Bears play and only then while viewing all three iconic bridges and the magnificent panorama could I get the pulse of the Bay Area; since down low where all the people are generating mania, their energies drown out natures natural rhythms and the true vibe of the place is dissipated.

There are no high points here on the Great Plains but there is a full moon tonight and it’s as good as I’ll get for a pseudo warm blanket of contemplation on the great question we all ask ourselves most days no matter what place we find ourselves deployed; the answer being described as the definition of genius; and as I search for it tonight it rings in my ears; “what should I do next”? It’s late and I am weary; so I’ll just climb into my custom mattress-ed, flannel sheeted, down blanketed cocoon; and dream on it.

 

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Desire

“I’m sitting down by the highway; down by this highway town. Everybody’s going somewhere; riding just as fast as they can ride. I guess they’ve got a lot to do; before they can rest assured their lives are justified. Pray to God for me babe; he can let me slide”Jackson Browne – Bright Baby Blues

I think it was that cheery cherub Buddha who said that wanting was the source of all pain, and while I consider that gem true, it’s not to say we shouldn’t want things. On a dissimilar axiom, for me anyway, and I’m as competitive a person as you’re likely to find within those activities I am naturally gifted at, leaving the others alone, I’ve always felt that seeming to want anything to much was just bad form, since, again for me, I can’t be cool and needy at the same time.

It is in our youth that we strive to accomplish and here I’m speaking of the male ego, an attribute I’m often derisively chided about, but when raised to the very highest level,  I believe without which, we wouldn’t have civilization.

Once we wake to discover we’ve become adept at a young age our life is irrevocably changed from just someone to a serious artist of life. There is a spiritual component to serious art but there is also a warrior ethic; the notion of going places where we are not welcome. This does not have to mean world-wide acclaim; only greatness within the arena we find ourselves deployed.

When in the mix I’ve often felt like a punch-drunk boxer who’s been hit by his opponent and knocked down and gets up and gets hit again and falls down and gets up and knocked down again and finally the bell rings to find me exhilarated and giddy because, though I had been humbled, I got through the fight. Something shifted inside me from that first time and I felt that from there on I would be an outlaw. Those who’ve experienced this phenomenon know of what I speak.

I knew from then on I wouldn’t try to please any audience, critics, or reviewers, I would fight the battles in the rings I felt competitive in and write the books I wanted to write for writing is a rebellious act and artists are rebels. There is something transgressive about being a serious writer. To have it said that no one has done this before, or they haven’t done it quite the way you’re doing it and therefore it has to be wrong; makes it for certain you’re on the right path.

So a writer must have certain resilience and that’s where enormous ego comes into play and is very valuable. At the same time one must possess ardor and passion, a spiritual, one might say a visionary, commitment to the work. I feel that in my writing I am trying to bear witness for people who can’t speak for themselves, for one or another reason they don’t possess the literary language or are disenfranchised socially or politically or may not even be alive or more times than not they’ve had experiences that have rendered them mute.

It’s up to the writer and the artist to give voice to these people. There are two impulses in art: one is rebellious and transgressive; you explore regions where you are not wanted, and you will be punished for that. But the other is a way of sympathy; evoking empathy for people who may be different from us whom we don’t know. Art is a way of breaking down the barriers between people and these two seemingly antithetical impulses toward rebellion and toward sympathy come together in art.

If I never eat in another great restaurant or bed another magnificent woman or taste the best of things this life has to offer I’m sure I’ll be fine with it since I feel like all those hedonistic experiences have been satiated and assuaged and I haven’t missed one pleasure or wasted a minute. But I’m not talking about possessions; things we can buy; but experiences; those things that can’t be bought; the things that don’t end up owning us but the things we own that make us who we are.

They say in astrology that after our first Saturn Transit (cycling every 29 years) we will go on to do something we touched in those first 29 years and that seems about right to me. Once everything has been had all that’s left is to revisit to one degree or another one or some of those things. But after a lifetime of purely hedonistic pursuits I find the practice wanting. This is not to say I don’t enjoy a cashmere top coat or a fine glass of whisky or a captivating woman or any of the other myriad of  self-indulgent gratifications; I do, but the desire to achieve those pleasures has faded to insignificance and I tend to view them as what they are; a joyful indulgence.

I regard extravagant delights as amusements and recreation; like a good dose of codeine and a Camel straight; since I like my poisons pure. But the desire for outward enchantments have given way to what’s best described as the greater good.

Nobel’s and Pulitzer s are not awarded to the richest but to those who gave the most to the rest of us. Each of us has a special gift, something we are naturally good or great at and some can take the 10,000 hours of doing it that Malcolm Gladwell posited was required to get good at anything before they get there. But success is like life; not a destination but a journey. To achieve success at anything we only need to take the first step to realize it. The minute we start on the journey we are a success.

The question that equally fascinates and perplexes me tonight is this: If want no longer holds sway and hiking towards what I consider the greater good to be is, and I have bridged the chrysalis and crossed the Rubicon and am truly on the Appian Way; what great visions will appear on the path to Rome. You could say I wish to know but it’s less than want; I’m just curious; and that, tonight anyway, feels just about good enough.

Cognoscenti

“Feed Your Head”White RabbitJefferson Airplane

Another Christmas in Pleasantville; this makes three. Winking goodnight to a good day I caress my beloved typer this evening feeling no pain and high as a monkey from the contents of an industrial size bottle of codeine laid on me via the local Nazi pharmacist; compliments of my enlightened doctor. Despite the knowledge that this was Howard Hughes’s drug of choice, and look how that turned out, my body, vibrating pleasure from another two-hour workout, (one pound under the super middle weight limit and reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Adonis), I’m feeling good and feeling good is good enough.

My Uncle Sam made good as well today; sending my guaranteed payment for decades of white-collar proletarian contribution direct to my vault at Wells Fargo with a dependability I have come to admire. These events have rendered both my essence and my psyche serene; and though impending doom surrounds an imminent visit from my mirror/shadow (son) and the fear this will result in my own looming Damocles sword, Jim Croce “cats the cradle” moment; I expect and accept the yin-yang balancing yoga.

Of somewhat less concern but annoying as a toothache comes the fear my intellect is turning to mush from neglect caused by a lack of stimulating conversation; an absence of dreamscape narrative shared with mates and like-minded seekers. I’m used to the interplay of happily cluttered minds that populate the Bermuda Triangle of diversity, acceptance and tolerance; Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco; where cerebral glitterati misfits from around the globe filter in and congregate like gold nuggets rushing to swirl and collect like water in a bathtub drain.

I left half a dozen magicians behind in that utopia when I split; seekers all, with minds embedded in a dance of colliding ideas; sage who ask the question despite knowing the answer; who speak in double helix of metaphors and allusions; taking a straight question about how ya’ doin’ and answering with the uniqueness of a Grateful Dead space jam drum solo and the surreal small print detail of a rental car agreement.

Here the conversation is parochial and pedestrian. The carpenter came a knocking yesterday to show me his hat; apparently he had noticed I have a penchant for hats, better to cover my shaved pate and keep warm. It was a beauty and he sure was proud of that hat; a Stetson of cowboy shape, the kind you could drop a brick on and not leave a dent, the variety that takes a couple of years of daily wearing to break in and, if once contoured to the owners head were to find itself taken, would result in a duel.

I feigned interest since I didn’t want to be cruel or rude; he was standing in my living room after all, so I went along. But there’s a half-life of about four minutes of available details to discuss surrounding one’s head cover. I’m not an elitist. My dad was simple folk; had that common man touch and I inherited it; finding more comfort and enjoyment with that ilk than those who went to Goddard.

Yet I’m missing the eclectic mix of eccentric minds that made my west coast family unique, exciting and fascinating. Big Pauli; artist, brainiac hustler, ladies man and fun factory, who can be found in his self-made maze heroically punching his way out of a paper bag each day, advised me to seek out the local writer’s community for comradeship and common ground. But I find too much of the Silvia Plath syndrome in those bent in that direction. Besides I ascribe to the Groucho Marks dictum of group connections, who when invited to join the Friars club, sent a telegram stating: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”.

I miss the pulsing energy of that quixotic tribe of misfits going 200 miles an hour with their hair on fire; burning naked on the razors edge of possibility who could rescue me from myself; lifting and transporting me by sharing the joy and angst of the worlds of wonders they have swimming around in their minds.

Peter the Great; blood brother and clan titan Prometheus of alternative living solutions and Lancelot to my Galahad. Lisa, my Muse, all heart and soul living and loving on that angelic Treasure Island; an aptly named home for the treasure that is her, a bursting supernova of pure light energy sharing her vivid and honest experiences, making me wish I were as great as she sees me; sharing with me her communiqué’s of experiments in life, love and psycho–pharmacology.

Roy Bones; Consigliere’ and mystery vagabond wanderer, above it all, walking between the rain drops, back from the abyss, stalking, waiting, searching and wondering. I’m missing also Portia; my opposite, kryptonite and pseudo-sibling life loving companion; Liz Taylor to my Richard Burton, sharing our stage and acting out our Shakespearean dramas from Camelot to The Grapes of Wrath.

From that alternative family house, now sold, I traveled a long way looking for my roots, for something concrete in this life, tired of roaming around aimlessly, the distance done, the possibilities too many, to find something firm to build the future upon, another spot with warmth and love and togetherness. I leave high and hopeful, outside that warm familial environment to this one, yet again immediately confronted with the need to be free and the need for something bigger, more meaningful.

The search for a home becomes a deeper search, for truth and meaning in existence, the same thing millions search for. But it is impossible to be certain of it, so it’s always an illusion to some degree. Through the distance we hold hope in finding universal truths which even a prophet couldn’t give us, as it is our task to search for our own truth.

Perhaps Lisa’s advice is prescient. We find our truth in the beauty of each others souls, looking into and not at each other and we come to a point where the only thing that’s certain is love and that seems to give us enough meaning in life. We don’t need to have anything more concrete or any absolute philosophy or religion. Love in its simplicity is better and greater than anything.

Pace

“Time waits for no man” – Unknown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxpcZrQQM-4  – Time – The Chambers Brothers

Colloquialisms and mannerisms common to locations tell you a lot about a place. In South Africa the British I met there never pulled out a smoke without offering one to everyone in the group; a polite custom perfectly matching the environs. They would say “TA” for thank you, hello and goodbye. When you’d ask someone when you should expect to meet them somewhere they’d say “just now”. After a few occasions cooling my heels, I discovered this expression, when translated, meant anything but.

In Oakland when I did a construction deal it was accompanied by signed legal documents, specifications, blueprints, schematics, renderings and a verbal description in three-part harmony. Here in laid way, way, way-Back-Ville, when I asked the carpenter installing the windows on the back porch for an estimate to finish off the room, he calmly said $8,000.00 without even providing a pencil workup on the back of a napkin or telling me what it included.

In the city a nail banger can skip from job to job ripping off his customers and never run out of rubes, since an unlimited supply exists. But here if one customer gets any less than they bargained for; word spreads with the speed of a late night B.A.R.T. train. Here they say what they’ll do and do what they say. To ask for an assurance is considered bad form and will mark the inquirer as untrustworthy as what he supposed the object he was aiming at might be.

This has its advantages. When I left my new swimming trucks on the bench in front of my locker at U.C. Berkeley for 10 minutes to take a shower I found them missing when I returned. I left my gear in the shower at the gym here for two days and when I cam back it was all right where I’d left it; undisturbed and fully intact.

Deals in the city start at a certain time and are meant to end as such. Miss a deadline and damages are assigned. Here a timeline for most anything is nonexistent. “I’ll be there when I’m done here” after a while “and “not to long” are common refrains when asking for a schedule and are considered as correct a measurement as a train schedule.

Here in Whiskey (Las Vegas gambler slang for Wisconsin) trying to dial in the precise rhythms of this place would be maddening; since so far I haven’t been able to detect a pulse never mind a cadence. We’re slow but steady here, accurate and certain to be sure, but “slow down son; you ain’t in the city no more” seems to be the common, unspoken but definite refrain.

I took my chariot in for an oil change yesterday, and based upon advice from the Dealer before I left civilization, a needed cooling system flush. When I went back to retrieve my goods, Gomer Pile’s twin brother informed me no flush was needed (saving me hundreds) and that “she’s good for 40 below” and “If it gets any colder he said; let her freeze”.

Yu’all come back now; hear?

Location

“The other night I had a dream. It was not the first. I dreamed of an alternate universe”. – The Pencilnecks

Driving to town this morning there appeared, standing on the shoulder of my road, not 10-0 feet from me, the very symbol of America, a mature snow-white headed Bald Eagle, He or she was my church this Sunday morning; standing proud and royal, noble and majestic, and unconcerned; not even twitching as my behemoth ride road by. It made my day.

The gym is tiny and not the football sized palace at U.C Berkeley I’m used to. It is sprinkled with autographed photos of champion body builders and some populate the space which has one room for we normal folk and one for the hard guys who pound punching bags of all sizes and lift gargantuan sums; pituitary cases that turn sideways to get through the regulation doorways.

They are, as all athletes I’ve known, especially the contact variety, mean as hell looking until you say hello and then envelope you in their charm. Competitors who have had all the aggression beat or worked out of them are left with a very soft melt in your mouth center.

Motorcycles are big here and these ramblers present an even meaner demeanor; Hells Angels acolytes that all resemble a young Sonny Barger. Most accessorize their choppers with Biker Mama’s who wrap around them like aluminum foil as they tear across the landscape. They’re as central casting rough and road worn as their beau tweekers and wear expressionless faces. I leave them be.

There is an authentic wildness to this place, exemplified not only by my regal eagle or the rugged pumpers or the rogue bikers, but also by the native salt of the earth farmers and dairy men; ancestors, relatives of pioneers that came and saw and settled; staked a claim and never left. They are bedrock; oozing Marlboro Man quintessential Americana; the brink and mortar foundations of our nation.

Despite the proliferation of groups in the cities from Agoraphobics Anonymous to Fans of Zeppelin there remains palpable loneliness, a disconnection, even within close personal networks, a feeling of being company; a guest. Small towns contain an inclusive nature, a similarity, not of purpose but of fate. We interact differently in the city, stressing our independence; here it’s interdependence. There is no diversity here, everyone looks pretty much the same and no climate zones either; you’re weather is my weather. We are one tribe.

We’re connected here by necessity and commonality of lifestyle. In Oakland there’s a dozen or more of everything. Here, if I say I’m going to the grocery or the bakery or the hardware store you don’t have to ask which one because there only is one. In the cities high density residential neighborhoods I’ve lived, sometimes for decades, I didn’t know 1% of my neighbors. In the country where you have to get in your car to find any living souls; we all know each other. If you haven’t been seen for a while, someone, especially if there’s been any kind of hell or high water, will come looking for you.

I’ve heard from some that they would find this phenomenon disconcerting and cause them more than a bit of paranoia. I find it quaint and oddly reassuring since in the city all manner of humanity found prostrate on our sidewalks under our very feet are stepped over everyday. If we stop for a second to offer half our sandwich we feel we’ve actually done some good. So, is this better?

I’m not making a qualitative judgment of locations; one place is as good as any or another. I’m saying we evolve, act and react as humans specific to our site. I’m making a distinction with a difference like when asked if I rather have a $100.00 hooker and a $1,000.00 hotel suite for the night or visa versa; I opt for the cheap whore and the expensive room and not the cheap room and the expensive joy ride. I just recon my date is gonna look a lot better in that room; environment is everything.