31 May 2014

I Could Use an Epiphany -- These Are the Collection of Paragraphs That I Have Recently Written

Marilyn Monroe reading Leaves of Grass.



Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
But losers, cheaters
Six-time users
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters.
- From Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan


This is the subway I'm riding and I'm in it. Dig it. This is the trolley I'm riding and I'm in it. Dig it. This is the school where I'm teaching. Dig it. These are the words that I'm writing. Dig it. This is the break that I'm taking. Dig it....

I've been me for such a long time now. I'm actually starting to get used to myself. Me and I get along just fine these days. We have a kind of an understanding. I do what I tell me to do but in return I never ask too much of myself. A man's got to know his limitations and push his expectations. A woman too. Don't be blue....

When I get restless I have trouble writing. That's where meditation can help. Squares you rounds you goddamned pounds you....

Thoughts and prayers. Imagine all the people who have the families of victims in their thoughts and prayers. Its become the big cliche after a tragedy. I should amend that to "senseless" tragedy. That's the other cliche. I don't know of any sensible tragedies. No one ever says: "that horrific slaugher mades sense." But of course any effort to keep insanse people from carrying bazookas is tantamount to ripping the constitution to shreds and creating a totalitarian state. For that matter providing affordable health care to everyone leads a nation down the road to fascism. The US is saddled with an overpopulation of village idiots who are egged on by TV radio and internet talking heads whose heads are empty of intelligence or conscience. Witness the classifying of global warming as a myth and evolution as a theory. Madness....

Monroe reading Ulysses.
But we can perhaps find comfort and solace in Dr. King's words “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We could use a little bending towards such hare brained notions as education knowledge and fact. Well one can dream anyway....

Comfort can also be found in the arts sometimes from sports and most importantly family and friends.
And be the happiness that you feel. I have a tendency to question happiness when it envelops me when I'd be wiser to simply accept as a gift from the universe even if it be temporal....

Smoking cigarettes must be the ultimate act of self loathing especially in these times. I'm often stunned at how many people still smoke. Yes I smoked. For about 12 years. At least when I smoked it was socially acceptable enough to be done in offices theater lobbies and sections of restaurants. Now you can't even smoke in bars. If you can't even puff away in a bar that strikes me as being a pretty strong hint. And the cost. My god I noticed the other day that its several dollars a pack. How can anyone even afford it anymore? I work with several people who smoke. They also cough a lot and often reek of tobacco. Stupid....

I could use an epiphany. Where can I find one? Is there something I need do to be struck by one? Must I wait around? I'm unable to employ drugs or alcohol to stimulate one if that's what's required. Is there something I should? A conversation I could have? Thoughts I should wrestle with? Maybe I should read some poetry, but whose? Maybe I should listen to some music, but whose? Maybe a novel I should read, again whose? A film I should watch perhaps, but which? Should I struggle or relax? And what if I finally have an epiphany but don't like it? Can I send it back? So damn many questions and no epiphany....

I like to run and I do it for fun. I like to sweat you bet. I like to dance and take a chance. And eat a burrito that's really neato. I like to rhyme and do it all the time. I like to write it relieves the internal fight. I like to be me knowing you and being us even if we fuss. I like to be alive and brudder that ain't no jive....

I've been teaching one thing or another at one place or another for pretty near 30 years. Wow. What's really informed my teaching has been coaching. I believe youth coaching is all about being positive and encouraging and building a sense of team and the self esteem of the individual. It's creating a family. I do the same sort of thing in my classrooms. Even students I don't like (and these individuals are few and far between) are part of the family and I'm very protective of them. I really care about my students and want them to enjoy their time with me not be bored and of course learn as much as possible. To that end I try to build interesting lessons that revolve around students' talking a lot more than I do. I also try to include a lot of variety in my lessons and never do anything for too long. I believe my students appreciate this. I've been particularly effective since moving out of teaching young teens in public school and working with young adults in ESL. Its so much easier to not have to deal with discipline (other than the occasional cell phone or students speaking their native tongue in class). I have polite and appreciative students. Some of my colleagues don't like or at least complain regularly about students from particular countries. Not me. I try to judge countries and races and ethnicities on their best representatives and to consider their worst to be outliers. You name a country and I like its people -- if not its government. Hell I even like Americans....

As for the two Marilyn Monroe pics it's her birthday tomorrow and she really was an avid reader. Don't know if she read any Kerouac but I do know I'm about to. It's how I roll.






29 May 2014

I Am With You and I Like Dashes -- An Open Letter to the Late Jack Kerouac

Dear Jack, How ya doin' man? I really need to talk. I've got a case of the blues and it would be really nice if we could have one of those long rambling shambling conversations like you had with people like Snyder (Raphy) and Ginsberg (Carlo) and Carr Claude) and Corso (Rafael) and others. I know you don't know me so well but I'm sure we could chat all night. Right? I'm reading your letters now along with Desolation Angels for the second time. I've read your journals all your novels most of your poetry and a lot of things you didn't write but are written about you. Blue. Spontaneous prose heaven knows we could discuss with no mess or fuss the art of writing or even fighting or football or baseball or not being tall. We could lie about women we never met and about glory on the field we wouldn't yield. I'd ask you questions aplenty about people places and things. Bings and pings and everyone sings and here we are not very far.

Come on Jack. Come on man. Pay me a visit. I know at the most you'd come as a ghost but that'd be cool. I'm no fool. Just a guy trying to write and be outta sight. Beat. Yeah I feel it. The Dharma man completely there. You're putting words together like you did and re-creating places and times and conversations and rhymes. The dialogue so real descriptions we feel. And Neal! Cassady what a trip the guy had a grip. Except when he didn't but hey he was real and original and cool and different. Like wow that's what we dig is the people who never say a common thing like how was your weekend and have a good day and hey hey hey. We are different from the rest but the kicker is we're really the same and we know both these things and how they live together in our minds and its no contradiction. It is us.

But the drink man. We'd talk about that. So much you did. Too much you did. Killed you it did. And you knew it was coming. The death from the liquor. Always quicker. Why man why? There were other ways having a healthier life with much less strife. You aged so fast by being constantly gassed. I was going that way myself but got out and have been clean for decades. Its the way to go. Writing is better when you're not wetter. I could help you with that and you could help me with my tapping out of words.......

I like to use the ellipses. I like the dots...man. I am with you on the comma. No like. I am with you on the dashes. Like. I am with you on spontaneity. Much like. I am with you in Berkeley. I am with you in Lowell. I am with you in New York. I am with you in San Francisco. I am with you in Mexico City. I am with you in Paris. I am with you.

There are times when I feel we've already met and talked. That we've hung out in a Berkeley bungalow with Ginsberg and Snyder and Neal -- always Neal. That you have accepted me and listened and shared. My veins course with the words we've never spoken and with the ones that you've written and the ones that I've read and all the images you have created. The true life world of Desolation Peak. The reality of Ozone Park. The honesty of Lowell ball fields. The answers of the American roads. The winsome weirdness of Columbia University where you were at the same time as my mom. Know her? And of course the beautiful boastful brash Berkeley where I write these words. I was a toddler when you lived here. Ever see mom pushing me in my stroller. Ever think -- hey that little tyke seems all right like he can grow up to do some cool stuff -- truth -- I didn't and I did. I do and I don't. I will and I won't. That's what I wrote.

I'm typing the letters of wonder on my laptop of desire. I am reaching out across the years to a long dead writer and wishing he were here. Come on Jack. I'll buy you a coffee. 

27 May 2014

Jack Ginsberg Returns and I Watch Tess and Don't Look Back and Mister Roberts and Breaking the Waves

"I only know one thing: everybody in the world is an angel, Charlie Chaplin and I have seen their wings...." - From Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac.

I had to bring Jack Ginsberg (my MacBook Pro) in for repairs. He spent the night in the Apple Store hospital. I'm happy to report that Jack Ginsberg is fully recovered and in fine health now. (Jack Ginsberg is a combination of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg -- but you knew that).

Everything on my computer is fine except I lost a lot of bookmarks. Ninety per cent of those are ones I never used or would never use so the loss there was minimal. My Proust-like collection of writing is all fine. Those still unpublished novels remain in tact and ready for publication. If you happen to work for a major publishing company -- or for that matter a very tiny one -- then please drop me a line as I would like to start collecting royalties soonest. Thanking you in advance.

It was Memorial Day weekend. Last year at this time the missus and I were in Italy and ignoring the holiday all together as were on our holiday. This year will not include a trip to the European Continent unless those aforementioned royalties start pouring in. But next year is another matter. Actually all other years are different matters than the ones that precede or follow.

So like I was saying Memorial Day weekend. The kick off for Summer and barbecues and fat guys walking around in shorts sandals and long tee shirts. When I taught in the public schools this was a most joyful time as the school year was within weeks of mercifully ending and allowing us teachers a couple of months of unbridled joy. Now its quite the opposite for me as the busy time of year starts and lasts right up until public schools open up for business again. The major difference is that now I adore my job and while I look forward to weekend holidays and vacations I do not require them in order to keep my sanity. Not that I have a very firm grip on it in any case.

So you were asking me about movies and what I've watched this weekend. Or was that a hallucination or a dream or a vision or a fantasy or is this just a silly set up?

Saturday night I watched Roman Polanski's Tess (1979) for the first time since its initial theatrical release. That's 35 years if you're keeping score at home (why wouldn't you be?). I didn't remember a damn thing about so my previous viewing experience was irrelevant. Just a bit of trivia actually.

Absolutely gorgeous.

Yes the star Miss Natasha Kinski was stunning but I refer to the look of the film. It was an amazing achievement in cinematography that calls to mind Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) made four years prior. It is full of bucolic countrysides on bright sunny days and on cloudy wet ones. Tess is a young woman who is tossed around by fate and capricious men of means. Throughout history -- and likely before -- men have jacked women around. Sure its better today but only just. Some parts of the world still engage in such practices as genital mutilation for example. Poor lovely Tess. We seem to forever be seeing her walking purposefully down the countryside of late 19th century England (though the movie was filmed in France) unless she is riding in a buggy or in one instance hopping a train. She is forever on the move determined to find....What? It's hard to say. Is it true love she wants? Is it a family and security? Is it to do the right thing at whatever cost? Tess is a principled woman to be sure but exactly what those principles are and what motivates her isn't always easy to say. There is much to wonder about and much to talk about with Tess. And meanwhile its beautiful to look at.

Don't Look Back (1967) is the D.A. Pennebaker documentary about Bob Dylan's tour of the UK two years before. I have come back around to Dylan after many decades of ignoring him inspired in large part by the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). Pennebaker has created several wonderful documentaries my favorite of which is Monterey Pop (1968) about the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.  The man knows how to film a concert. DLB made me further appreciate Dylan the musician although for Dylan the person I have considerably more mixed feelings. I am however unambiguous in my appreciation for this film. We follow Dylan from the airport to hotels to parties to backstage to on stage to limo rides and walking down the street. It's a fascinating look at an amazing time in culture both musical and otherwise. We also meet Donovan Joan Baez Alan Price and Dylan's famous manager Albert Grossman.

Mister Roberts (1955) provides -- if nothing else -- a master class in acting. Henry Fonda James Cagney and most especially in my mind Jack Lemmon give the type of performances that epitomize their brilliant careers. The cherry on top is William Powell (in his final film role) and Ward Bond (in this millionth film role of a gazillion). The movie as a whole is fantastically okay the story line straining credulity in the fashion of that era's comedies. But its a joy to watch the cast. I should qualify that by saying the lead actors. The supporting cast reminds one of what you'd see in a bad high school play. Particularly Martin Milner who was a staple on '60s TV. His performance as a shore patrol officer from Alabama makes one wonder how he ever got another part. There are stories aplenty about the making of the film what with it having had three directors starting with John Ford and Ford supposedly having sucker punched Fonda but whatever went on behind the scenes Mister Roberts is a delight on it.

Breaking the Waves (1996) is for me one of three great -- and I do mean great -- films from director Lars von Trier. (The others being Europa (1991) and Melancholia (2011).)  BTW can be seen in many different ways which in itself is an endorsement. Movies that illicit no argument or wonder or debate are too plentiful these days. Here is a film that demands of its viewers an interpretation of their own making. It is set in a very small Scottish seaside town dominated by a Calvinist church -- no bells total obedience to the bible/church/minister/elders. Anyone buried not of the faith is condemned to hell I would think that if you're stuck in a Calvinist church you know what hell is. One of the faithful is poor simple minded Bess who marries "an outsider" Jan. He works on a nearby oil rig and thus is gone for weeks at a time. She clings desperately to him. Then he is an accident is paralyzed and naturally asks her to have sex with other men and tell her all about it. This will not go well as Tess' mental state was already fragile. It is a fascinating film with a surrealistic ending. Wonderfully shot with a wonderful soundtrack. And the performances of the leads -- Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard -- are of course wonderful.

23 May 2014

I'm No Kerouac But I've Been on the Road too Once Meeting a Famous Writer -- Or So I Claim



Becky, Ed and I were hitchhiking from Orange County to San Francisco. It was crazy that there were three of us together trying to hitch rides but that’s the way it was. Ed and I had hitched down from Chico for a wedding and at the reception I met Becky and it was an at first sight type of deal and after two days together we determined that she’d move in with me in Chico. This was the Summer of 1975. I was 21 and I think she was 19 maybe 18. We were young and stupid but clicked physically. Ed was one of my great friends of all time. He was a Spanish speaking ex marine hippie cowboy soccer goalie who loved country music soul music poetry sports and beer. He had one testicle which is one less than most of us carry on with but enough to do what a man wants and needs to.

I don't remember our first ride but our second ride was from a memorably nondescript guy. Is it weird to say that he was very or extremely nondescript? Because he was. One of those guys who just blends in wherever he goes and who you forget the second he’s out of sight. It takes forever to remember the names of these kind of guys partly because they’re always a Steve or a Ken or a Bob. Anyway he had to stop at some guy’s apartment for some nondescript reason. He invited us to come along because the other guy the one in the apartment always had beer and we figured why not.

So we go up to this apartment  -- its like nine o’clock or so at night -- it’s actually a pretty nice place and this rather impressive looking guy answers. He’s fairly tall bald and pushing 40 -- that’s my impression anyway, I’ve always been way off at guessing people’s ages never more so than when I was in my early twenties like I was then.

We got the beers as predicted and sat listening to Mr. Nondescript talk to baldy. At one point Mr. ND starts complaining about some people who are “hassling” him.” Baldy asks: “well who are these guys? Are they niggers or spics or faggots or what?” I kind of got the feeling at the time that he was running through these insults as way to draw attention to himself and that maybe he wasn’t really a racist or homophobe. He wanted a rise out of us which was fine. But what were gonna do anyway? Complain about how he spoke in his own place when we’d never been introduced and might have been half his age?

Baldy then pulled out a briefcase and preceded to very carefully open it. Given how meticulous he was being and the strange aura he put off I was very curious about the contents of this briefcase. I was a bit disappointed but considerably surprised nonetheless at what I saw. Row upon row of neatly stacked cigarette packs. I have no idea how many packs but there were a lot and it was one strange sight.

We were only there a few minutes longer before we split and were back on the road. Sometime later I saw a picture of a journalist who I swear is one and the same as baldy. Hunter S. Thompson. I don’t think a sole has every believed me when I’ve recounted this except for people who’ve never heard of Thompson. I understand why people doubt me but the hell with it...I know what -- that is who -- I saw.

After that we were back on the road with Mr. Nondescript. The good news was that he was gonna take us all the way to SF as his plans had changed. This was especially welcome because before he was originally only taking us about half way and we'd have been stuck hitching in the middle of the night. As it was we were on our way. Ed was in the front seat with Mr. ND trying to talk to the guy with little luck because the guy was the quiet type which is in keeping with his being -- as I said -- nondescript. So after awhile Ed mostly looked back and talked to Becky and I. In contrast to the guy he was sitting next to Ed was the least nondescript person I’ve ever known and loved to gab but unlike most talkative people was quite interesting. So the ride wasn’t bad plus Becky and I had only recently met and fallen head over heels so we were on cloud nine.

We’d gotten a late start owing largely to the stop at Baldy’s apartment (who I say was H.S. Thompson). Our driver wouldn’t let anyone else behind the wheel so it was natural that he got quite tired meaning it wasn’t safe for him to drive all night. Finally we stopped somewhere I don’t know exactly where -- but we've turned off the highway into a wooded area -- to sleep for a few hours. Not Becky not Ed nor I object to this plan so grateful are we at not having to hitch anymore. But here’s the hoot: Mr. Nondescript -- who’d barely said anything all night -- announced he was going to take his sleeping and sleep among the trees and asks Becky if she’d like to join him. Really. I mean it was actually quite pathetic. Becky politely declined and that was that. He meekly went on his way to snooze. The guy was a caution I tell ya.

After a few hours of sleep -- Ed in the front seat Becky and I snuggling in the back and Mr. ND off in the woods somewhere -- we were back on the road and greeted the dawn in San Francisco.

Ed had business in other parts of the Bay Area so we parted company and Becky and I headed for the Greyhound Station to bus it the rest of the way to Chico. We stayed together for about nine months before she tired of me and took up with some other guy just as quickly as she’d taken up with me. I spent a few weeks feeling sorry for myself then moved on.

20 May 2014

Three Short Stories By Yours Truly




AN OLD FRIEND SORELY MISSED

I’m remembering a great friend of mine from my youth named Inka Dinka Jones. Seriously, his last name was really Jones. Okay I’m being kind of cute here obviously its Inka Dinka you’re curious about but that was not a nickname. His parents named him Inka Dinka on account of their having been in show business. Beyond that I don’t know no details. Whenever Inka Dinka told the story he breezed through it real fast with this weird maybe French-like accent and we couldn’t be sure what he was sayin’. But suffice to say it was his real name. Conroy even asked Inka Dinka’s folks once when he was over to the house for a sleepover and they confirmed it.

You’d a thought with a moniker like Inka Dinka a nickname would be superfluous but you know kids. Some called him Inky for short. I can see it actually cause Inka and Dinka are two words. I hadda friend named John Henry and everyone just called him Johnny. But this is about Inka Dinka the person and not his name. Its just that you can hardly talk about a fella called Inka Dinka without talking about his name a little.

So I guess I was Inka Dinka’s best friend even though Conroy -- like I mentioned -- had a sleepover at his house. I didn’t cause we had a big place so it made more sense for Inka Dinka to sleep over at our joint. Maybe someone would say they were a better friend to Inka Dinka and maybe they’re right but I knew him better than anyone cause we had some really long talks like at sleepovers and walking through the woods and fishing when we would just chew the rag all day long. He even told me he never talked so much about hisself to anyone but me. So there’s that.

Ole Inka Dinka would talk a mile a minute or what they used to call a blue streak but it was mostly in slang and vernacular and with put on accents and about silly stuff. He would lotsa times talk like a sideshow barker or radio disk jockey. People useta just bust a gut listenin’ to Inka Dinka. Even times when they couldn’t make out what he was sayin.’ It was the way he said things that would get ya every time. Like I said his family had been in show biz and I’m guessing maybe vaudeville though I’m not sure cause like I said when Inka Dinka talked about such things it was hard as hell to make him out. So I guess the acting was in his blood. Actually he was a good athlete and maybe coulda been an acrobat. He wasn’t tough enough to excel in playing ball like I was. I lettered three sports in high school not that this is about me I’m just sayin.’ Inka Dinka always told me he had big plans for his life but never said exactly what. I know he wanted to go to college and study and I know he liked to entertain so who knows. Coulda been anything.

Inka Dinka was pretty good in school which you wouldn’t think given what a clown he could be but credit where its due he knew to buckle down and do homework and study for tests and I guess was just naturally intelligent. The teachers always liked him but were annoyed by him at the same time. ‘Specially Ole Miss Watkins the spinster 5th grade teacher who would pucker like she just bit into a grapefruit every time Inka Dinka would clown in class. She’d bang that old ruler on her big wooden desk and say: “Mr. Jones stop this instant.” It was kinda funny she called him Mr. Jones cause I just don’t think she was comfortable calling a pupil Inka Dinka. Same with Hortense McGillicuddy who she just called Ms. McGillicuddy though if you ask me that sounds sillier than Hortense.

Well there was a group of us who were all pals and Inka Dinka was one of the group and usually the center of attention. He clearly liked his part because he was always smiling specially when we were talkin’ about him or to him while he was right there. It always made everyone feel good to see him and it was never as much fun the -- gang bein’ together, I mean -- if Inka Dinka was home sick or outta town or if he was really knucklin’ down with the books so to get a good grade on somethin.’

You can imagine than what a huge blow it was Inka Dinka announced that his family was moving away. Right around the 9th grade this was. Conroy made a remark about how at least the main competition for getting girls was gone cause Inka Dinka had no trouble with the ladies at a time we were all trying to get over being so shy and awkward. That was true what Conroy said but it didn’t make it no easier. Inka Dinka told us all to buck up that we’d be fine without him and lives were changing all the time anyhow so get used to it. But that was easy for him to say he was the one doin’ the leaving. We were stuck there without him.

It was rough the first few days after Inka Dinka and his family moved but we were young and had other things going on. Like me with sports and girls and well sports and girls. Inka Dinka had promised to write but never did. We had no address for him and he’d moved outta state too far away to try and find him. We never really forgot him but what could you do? Then the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor in our senior year and pretty soon we’d all enlisted in the service me in the Air Force. I saw plenty of action dropping bombs on the Nazis.

When I got back from the war a few months after VE Day Conroy told me that he heard Inka Dinka had been killed at Anzio Beach in Italy. He said how he heard but I was too shocked and all to pay attention let alone remember what he said other than the part about Inka Dinka being dead. Whenever we talked about Inka Dinka it was about how he was gonna be a radio star or in movies or a big important scholar or something. It just didn’t seem right that Inka Dinka would die in the war. Guys like Inka Dinka were supposed to live long happy lives making other people happy. But he was dead in the war. Just didn’t seem right. Ya know what I mean?


REMEMBRANCES OF CLUB DAYS PAST

Wherein Eddie Vermont late of Poughkeepsie New York now of Schenectady reminisces about his days working at a popular New York night club in the 1970s.

I'll never forget this one regular who had a bad limp. Rumor was he had a club foot and I can believe it. His name was Louie. I remember that cause sometimes people would start singing "Louie, Louie" to him. He'd always smile. In fact he was always always grinning and people liked him for that and for the fact that he went ahead and tried to dance despite his limp. He was of course a terrible dancer but who gives a shit? He wore this kind of scruffy tan corduroy jacket but always had on a nice dress shirt clean slacks and a tie. Ordered Tom Collins one after the other but I never saw him drunk. Not once. Finally he stopped showing up and no one knew why for the longest time. Turned out the poor guy got cancer and less than a year after they found it he was dead. I’m sorry I missed his funeral. Can’t remember why I didn’t make it.

Remember Daniel? He was a cool guy with long dark wavy hair who wrote for some magazine. Had a slick line with the ladies but could never get it up in bed. Frustrated the hell out of him not to mention the chicks he coaxed into the sack. No use being a ladies man if you can’t finish the deal. Know what I mean? Poor guy. He got really drunk one night at the club and told all about. Sad. But then he moved to the Coast and other than an occasional byline no one ever heard from him again. I’d a maybe shot myself.

There was this other guy Sal who had the same sort of problem but he turned out to be gay and finally gave up and started sleeping with dudes. Better than nothin’ I say that and live and let live. Man those dudes what a thing to go through in bed with some hot babe and you’re soft where and when it counts. There’s worse things like havin’ it shot off in the war or by some jealous husband. I heard of that happening to some guy from a fella that used to hang out at the club but I dunno. Suppose it happens. Lotta bad shit happens to people like that deal with Markie. Remember that? Accident paralyzed him. And he was a dancer. That’d make a dude suicidal. Don’t know if he could get it up after that. Man that would be the worst. Shoot me.

Some really weird dudes came by the club those days. Some really cool ones too. Then again most people who came were pretty normal and anonymous and forgettable. That happens. Then again you can be anonymous one place and like truly respected and revered in another. Like that one guy used to hang out forget his name but it began with an N something like Norman, Nigel, no Niles that was it! Didn’t think much of the cat. Used to just sit at the bar and drink maybe occasionally chat up some broad. Turned out he was an actor on Broadway or some such shit. People found out he was like a big time guy and then everyone wanted to talk to him so he split and found another place to be nobody.

That’s what a lot of people want. To just be another spoke in the wheel. Especially if you’re really high profile in your work. It can be nice to blend in. Then again so many of the people who hung out at the club really really wanted to be somebody or thought of as somebody. They used to puff up whatever the hell they did or had done to make themselves into something special. Doesn’t work in the long run I say. People figure you out soon enough. Lot of the regulars were really good at seeing through bullshit stories like that one guy John or some other really plain name who had everyone believing he’d been a big football star at Montana University or some place like that and he had a shot at the pros but blew out his knee. He got a lot of interest from some of those gullible chicks. But then someone came along who’d known him and said he’d been like third string and that the closest he ever got to a pro football game was once when he bought a ticket to a game and sat in the stands.

But there were a certain kind of chick who fell for all kinds of lines. Anyone who’d been in a play was about to get a movie contract and anyone who’d sang in church was going to get a record contract soon. All those guys who’d done something or were going to do something those were the ones who were the grand bullshitters. I felt sorry for some of the saps. And sorrier still for the people who believed them. But what the hell its a free country you can do and say what you want and if people believe you that’s there tough luck.

I kinda miss those days though. I really do.


THE TIME I GOT PUNCHED

This is about the time Mikey Polanski socked me in the jaw after a soccer match in 1987. Man that was weird. Mikey and I were playing for the Plainsfield Rovers a team for 16 year olds and under. We were both 16 so it was our last of three years with the Rovers before we moved up with the really big guys. But we were both ready and were clearly two of best players on the team. I was a central defender. Tall and mean and dependable, really good at heading balls and making clean tackles in the penalty area without giving up free kicks. Mikey was the scrappy little winger who was fast as hell and dribbled with the ball like it was tied to his feet. He wasn’t much of a shooter but boy could he set up other guys and cash in on garbage goal opportunities.

We heard that most opposing teams hated us two the most because of our respective skills different as they were but really annoying to other teams. We also had a really good striker Ronnie Thompson who scored most of our goals and an excellent midfielder general in Salvador Gonzales. But there was something about Mikey and me (I’m Len Purcell) that drove other teams up the wall.

Anyway this one particular day our team -- again that’s the Rovers -- was playing Creektown Crusaders which was kind of a joke because they could barely field a team being from such a small town and the few players they did have weren’t so hot. We were title contenders -- again and Creektown was near if not at the bottom of the league. Either they were or Green Valley was can’t remember which. Plus the game was on our field where we never lost not even against our fellow contenders. Everyone kind of figured this would be a cake walk even Coach O’Malley who suggested to the second stringers that they’d probably get in almost a full half of play if not more. So it’s no surprise we went into the match over confident as hell.

When we scored first like about three minutes into the match it sure seemed over already and we barely even celebrated the goal. I remember wishing we were playing a better team so it would be a challenge this was gonna be too easy and no fun. Not surprisingly the whole team was acting like the game was all but over and we would probably score a dozen goals and maybe get a shutout to boot. Wouldn’t ya know it the second of all those supposed goals didn’t come right away. We spent most of the first half missing easy goal chances or coughing up the ball. Finally just before halftime yours truly scored on a header off a corner kick. It was disappointing to go into half time only 2-0 up but what the hell we were sure to pile it on in the second half.

Somebody forgot to tell Creektown. I don’t know what the hell their coach said to them at halftime but they came on in the second half like a team possessed. Okay so they were playing harder they still couldn’t match our skill level so it wan’t like anyone was worried. Then they scored a goal. This kid took a shot from way out that deflected off Evan Liddle into our goal. A real fluke. This kinda got us going and we started pressing to get that goal back and then some. Problem was we stopped playing our game it had all become about scoring and not passing and moving like we usually did. We lost our  focus. So it shouldn’t have been a total shock when they scored on a counter attack. Caught us with our pants down so to speak. And it was a really pretty goal to be honest, not that that made any difference to me at the time.

So the scored was tied. Against Creektown. In the second half. On our field. Unbelievable. So much for our reserves getting a lot of playing time. We were in a battle and knew it. I think we settled down at the point and took the match seriously. The problem was that they had belief. You could tell they actually thought they could win.

I guess from a neutral’s point of view the rest of the game was pretty damn good. Both teams giving a 100% and each looking likely to score. The game went back and forth. I started worrying about a tie which would have felt just as bad as loss at home to Creektown. Finally about two minutes before the final whistle Mikey dribbled through what seemed like half their team. I think they kept expecting him to pass it and he just kept going towards goal. Finally it was just him and the keeper and he juked the guy and pushed the ball into the empty net. We went nuts. Who’d have thought that a late goal against Creektown would send us into such joy? But there it was. More than that there was this huge sense of relief that the worst had been averted. Or so it seemed.

Not 90 seconds later with the final whistle about to blow one of their guys sent a wild cross into our goal area. I trapped it as easy as you please but their center forward came charging at me like wild bull. Not wanting to risk him getting a foot on my clearance I passed it back to our goalie Remy Melard. Only two things: one Remy wasn’t expecting the ball and two I kicked that sucker way too hard. It went right bast Remy for an own goal and a 3-3 tie. We barely had time to kick off before the final whistle blew.

I felt like shit. First of all there was the matter of the tie and then there was my error that gave them their last goal so close to the end. A lot of players and Coach O’Malley came up to me right after the “good game” hand slapping with Creektown. They said not to worry about it or patted me on the back. I still felt like shit but not as bad as I had minutes before. I’d already played enough to know not to dwell on losses especially when there was another match coming up. Hell it wasn’t the end of the world. We still could win the title.

But as I walked off the field I noticed Mikey off by himself standing with his head down looking like he was about to cry. Mikey and I had been pretty good friends in grade school and although we weren’t close buddies anymore we got along just fine and had mad respect for each other. Pretty much everyone liked Mikey. He was a sweet kid but he could take things too hard like this match we’d just had. I went over to try to make him feel better. Forget about it, Mikey, I said while squeezing his shoulder. That’s when he just up and punched me right in the jaw. Sure it hurt like hell but the worst part was what an awful surprise it was. I stood there stunned practically ready to cry and he just sneered and cussed at me. Coach O’Malley and some of the parents -- mine and Mikey’s weren’t there -- ran over and checked on me and started giving Mikey hell.

I said it was okay and Mikey screamed, I mean really screamed, that it wasn’t okay and I blew it. It was after his saying that and as Coach O’Malley was pulling him away from me that he burst out crying like a baby. It was weird. I’d never seen Mikey cry before not even when we were little kids. I remember him falling of the Jungle Jim when he was about seven and landing real hard and he didn’t shed so much as a tear. So this was totally bizarre.

That was just the first sign we saw of some problems Mikey was having. Turned out that his parents were fighting all the time and his mom had started drinking and his dad had started hitting him and life at home was just hell. Course we didn’t find this out until much later. Poor Mikey had a lot of outbursts after that though none where he slugged anyone, let alone a teammate.

Finally his parents divorced and he stayed with his mom who got into AA and things got a lot better for Mikey. I heard he saw a psychiatrist and he started doing yoga and when he went off to college where everything was pretty good for him. He ended up getting an MBA and working in New York making a shitload of money.

But me, I was never the same after Mikey punched me. I lost interest in sports I didn’t trust people and I was afraid of getting physically close to people. I even stopped dating for awhile -- something I’d just started doing. I  became withdrawn and kind of nervous. Now maybe this all would have happened eventually for one reason or another anyway maybe Mikey hitting me just kind of got it going. Or maybe not. Maybe it was a traumatic experience and it derailed me all on its own. I made it through high school well enough but once I discovered getting high I dropped out of college in my sophomore year. I messed with drugs -- which were the only thing that could make me sociable and happy -- for years and drifted from one job to the next and from one town to the next.

After getting arrested for dealing (the charges were dropped on a technicality) I finally got into rehab. My life turned around and now I work counseling addicts. I love what I do because I know it's important. I feel good about it and the money is enough and best of all I have a terrific wife and a child and lead a normal life. In fact my life is better than normal. It’s really great. I know its weird but I trace what my life is today to the day Mikey Polanski slugged me in the jaw. Life is funny.

17 May 2014

The Legend the Vanity the Reality That's the Story of That's the Glory of My Dharma



“To worry and harry and fret at silly parties, to deal in the interchange of vague hysteria, to wonder and not admit anything, not even admitting one’s silliness essential, to mope and accuse, and swoon because of it all (like drunks), this is being on the outer peripheries of life’s swirl.” - Jack Kerouac from his journals.

I was born in blood.

As are we all. Parents met in New York fell in love fast married quick moved to Berkeley a carpenter and a housewife set to leave a legacy of a loving family with two sons house property money in the bank. A good wholesome childhood for their boys with a tincture of their Finnishness. They were astride the whole wide world a handsome couple bound by their love and with kin all about and extended kin and friends aplenty and picnics and barbecues and cozy Thanksgiving and bombastic Christmas and ski trips and involvement in community and appreciation for the wonders and hard work and determination and two children they loved and were proud of and had fun fun fun with. Was all going according to plan the best laid kinds and then....

And then. The lunacy came. There was the legacy momma left me. Her wild sprawling arguments with people absent and I the bystander to her madness. The chosen one. Chosen to absorb the harsh screeching real life obvious ugly gruesome fact that the world was slanted crooked and not all that it was cracked up to be cause Mom was cracked up see. Angry paranoid just plain weirdanoid. But we all pretended that everything was fine perhaps in the hope that maybe it would be or already was for surely she'd snap out of it. Right? Wouldn’t she? All a bad dream? Nope sorry not the way it works. There was a heaping helping of reality at an early age. Too damn much matter of fact.

No tears. Here was something that was and dad was protecting me the best he could -- bless him -- but he didn't know what to do. Even as Mom spent away thousands and again thousands of our dollars. And even as she mixed alcohol to the max. So. So. So now there was slurred angry drunkenness to top it all off. Crazy weird now accompanied by intoxication. Yikes. Getting wor wor worse. But I was too young happy healthy to mope - too much.

Happy giddy days of ball playing till dark and for even a few delicious minutes after. That white ball arcing in the sky falling into my glove or that burnt orange ball arcing in the sky falling through the hoop or that white and black ball arcing in the sky falling to my feet to be kicked again or that oval shaped ball arcing through the falling into my arms as I ran fall speed to imaginary goal lines for imaginary touchdowns on real days of soft breezes and scattered puffy clouds. Always pants with grass stains and holes and scrapes on knees and purplish black bruises on legs and a grimace or a smile or an ooof! And on bikes cycling everywhere and nowhere down hills free and alive with the wind in my hair then at last home to The Beatles and their beat and the the meanings of their words and the thumping and the exhilaration. Finally the blasted TV and its infernal noise but at least it was a distraction and allowed me more escape from the huge elephant in the room. God is love I heard but I knew god only as some character in the stories told in Sunday school which were really just that. Stories. Where was this god fella in my life? Was it he who turned loose this maternal insanity in my life? Why test a kid like this? Cruel and unusual. I carried on still but no god for me.

And the rope swing over the water then the release and the immersion in the cool river -- body free and sensating with delightful prickles of happy liquid joy and spring up out of the water for the deep breath of gorgeous air and the exhilaration continued with another dive deep into the water before swimming to shore to repeat the ecstatic process. Streams of joy. There were joyful moments and ice cream and gifts and ball games so many ball games and track meets and ice hockey and boxes watching great athletes doing their thing. Inspiring exciting and more ways for the imagination to play. Making up games and competitions and seasons of play in my head. Sometimes I was the star sometimes it was made up names sometimes it was my favorite real athletes exceeding all expectation. Always a dramatic victory against all odds winner.

And next to dad in the car the most secure spot in the ever lovin' world knowing I was safe and going somewhere anywhere with my true protector and bestest ever friend and provider and mentor. Watching the scenery lush green or asphalt ugly or peopled or sparse or hills of cragginess or fields of growth and sometimes talking and listening to this sage who'd traveled the seas while a world war raged and he'd seen action and it had seen him and he had stories that invited even more play with my imagination. Zowie! Jumping out of car I galloped wherever we were going or stuck to dad's side proud to be his boy as he was proud I was youngest son and the world couldn't be all bad no matter.

But at home there was mom and her mania. Yeah.

I escaped deep into fantasy weaving happy worlds out of my fervent imagination. Then in adolescence I discovered chemicals that produced mad escapes from reality into wild worlds that could fascinate and terrorize and provide insight into the world I was trying to make sense of. I was terribly insecure and shy and yet a braggart self possessed with piss and vinegar and the belief that I was better and worse than anyone and I could and would do anything or nothing but no matter what never be mediocre because  -- and here's the most important point -- I was so special. Me. Me me me me me me. How I loved myself except for those seconds when self loathing won out and god was I awful then but mostly no I was the be all and end all. I charged forward into life with reckless abandon. No fear of death. No fear of living. But a fear of life. Somehow I survived myself. Miracles.

12 May 2014

From the Outer Peripheries of Life’s Swirl


"Stand man, don’t wilt in these hobo enervating rose bushes.” Lucien Carr as quoted by Jack Kerouac in his journals.

Written yesterday on iPhone

Sitting in the hardware store. The missus and I picked out a fan and then she went looking for a thingamajig. That was about five maybe six eons ago. I am slowly dying if starvation thirst and boredom. Hardware stores are not my thing.

I've caught up with Words With Friends. The game is a godsend for times like this or waiting for the trolley or when you're too crammed onto a subway train that is too crowded to read your book let alone get it out of the backpack.

I'm sitting near the checkout counters. There are millions of tons of candies chips and sodas positioned near the counters for sweet toothed impulse buyers. (It's a chain hardware store.) Rather cynical I think but then so is the whole snack food and junk food industry. They know good and well they're selling sweetened garbage and making mighty contributions to the nations obesity and diabetes problems. But hey no one is forcing the poor saps to buy it. So they make huge profits. There are a lot of businesses making obscene profits and driving hundreds of smaller business out. Unfettered capitalism has created an oligarchy in this country. Huge profits for a few and below subsistence wages for workers. Bah!

Written tonight

I once saw a man emerge from a burning building on fire from head to toe. Human torch is I believe how it could best be described. Turned out the fire was a work of arson and the man on fire was the arsonist. He subsequently died in the hospital by pulling out all the tubes that were keeping him alive. Seemed a logical choice given the severity of the burns all over his body and the certainty of horrific pain to come and disfigurement and skin grafts. I recall some people at the time opining that his fate was poetic justice. Maybe. People weren't terribly sad about the whole thing. Why should they be? Life goes on and how do you find the time to waste pity on some poor schmoe who brought about his own death in the act of committing a crime. I didn't say much about it. I had seen him ablaze an its a permanent memory. I stood there for awhile more and watched the firefighters battle the inferno. It's what one does. I continued on my way down the street and noted the arsonist on a stretcher about to be lifted into the back of an ambulance. There was a sheet covering him but not all the way down to his feet. I saw that some of his toes had burned off and his feet looked like charcoal. I've never been in a war zone and that was enough to convince me that I hadn't missed much.

I had nasty unpleasant commutes coming and going today. It's no way to bookend a perfectly satisfactory work day. Delays are generally compounded by over crowding. So you wait longer and then more people are added and the eventual trip is slower. The subway train was so crowded that not only couldn’t I get my book out of my backpack and not only would I have had little room to hold the book and turn pages but I also had difficulty playing Words With Friends on ye old iPhone. Plus some dinglebutt was giving me the once over with his backpack. I had to satisfy myself by listening to Crosby, Still, Nash & Young. One tries to make do.

I keep getting emails from people who want me to review their books for Amazon. This is because I USED TO write reviews on Amazon. This used to ended seven years ago but I still get emails. Sometimes I write back and say sorry not my thing but lotsa luck. Other times I ignore them. Depends on my mood. The other day I received such an email that began thusly: "Hi Jon...." I responded as follows: “My name isn’t Jon.” He wrote back to say he was sorry and that he “must have made a mistake somewhere along the way.” Oh it was a mistake. And here I thought he had intentionally written to a stranger named Richard and called him Jon. But no, it was a mistake. How bout that?

Now if you’ll excuse I am going to redirect my attention to the television screen and the Giants game.

10 May 2014

Writings From the Void Including Musings and References to Two Classic Films

He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy; But he who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity's sun rise. - William Blake

I have a basic mistrust of happiness. Contentment is fine. Enjoying your life as a whole is good. Satisfaction is nice but striding around being happy is just plain weird. To me. Obviously. It can't but end soon enough anyway so there's no point in expecting otherwise. You might as well face the fact that today's high is tomorrow's abject misery. I don't doubt that some people are regularly quite happy. But you know I've come to realize that a lot of my fellow travelers on this planet are frickin' idiots. You ever see what people eat and drink? And smoke? And the opinions they espouse? You want insight into the human mind check out the comments section of various websites. It'll depress the hell out of you.

Hey ya want real depression about people? Check out these numbers: 
According to a new poll, 
Fifty-one percent of Americans do not believe in the Big Bang. 
Forty-two percent of Americans are not falling for this "evolution" mumbo jumbo. 
Thirty-seven percent of Americans are not convinced that humans are causing global warming. 
Thirty-six percent of Americans are not buying this whole "the Earth is 4.5 billion years old" thing. 
Fifteen percent of Americans are unsure that vaccinations are safe and effective. 

"Now, those who know me only in gaunt thoughtful manhood, think me a stranger from the void." - From the Journals of Jack Kerouac.

But here I am and it's Saturday. I get to read write relax and later meet a friend for coffee and a long chat. Then home with wife and dinner and film and sleep and my but weekends are short.

Last night I watched The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) which is one of those movies that flirts with perfection.

 -- "This much madness is too much sorrow. It's impossible to make it today." - From Down by the River by Neil Young. -- 

Just as a character study of Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) it excels. To watch greed and paranoia destroy a man is compelling viewing and it proves Bogie the star existed in large part because Bogie the actor was so bloody good. Walter Huston richly deserved his Oscar for Sierra Madre with an iconic performance as the old prospector. Also Bruce Bennett played one of the most annoying characters ever in a film. What an utter pain in the nether regions.

Sometimes we feel adrift in the world and other times firmly rooted in a time space and place. I suppose its best to have both experiences. I felt both today.

We find everywhere the pusillanimous. Those weak-kneed individuals who cower before great thoughts and ideas and the revelations of science. They comprise the republican party.

It's the story of a couple in their late 20s out on a date being sad together. They find a kind of happiness in the sharing their sorrow. Maybe I'll write it someday.

Walked by disparate desperate dispirited people in downtown Berkeley today. So much angst and anger and sadness and madness. Young and old alike begging for spare change. Just a quarter anything to help. One has a cat on a leash. Some have signs and sit passively. Others roam up and down the street. It would be heart breaking if there weren't so many. The hopelessness of it all just leads to feelings of the impossibility of it all. One is sad. Two is tragic. Three is annoying. Four or more is reality. It sucks. But politicians merely speak of the middle class. The poor and hungry are abstractions to those who never see them. Continuing towards campus there are armies of young people aged 18-25 loud proud and obvious and oblivious. They are students at the University of California. They swing their backpacks in queues on buses and in coffee houses. They great each other nosily crashing through the calm. Then they hunker down somewhere and study intently and quietly and desperately. Devouring as much knowledge as they need in order to pass a test or complete a paper. Some are beautiful or handsome some dress smartly others sexily and others sloppily. They are our future lawyers accountants engineers optometrists and business leaders. They are our present pains the ass.

Met Kevin and we yakked about this and about that then about the other. It was comfortable interesting and entertaining because we give each other space to talk and we actually listen. Friends are good things to have.

The missus and I went out to dinner. Chinese food. Yummy. We talked too but see each other often enough that its not uncomfortable to just be together. Came home watched The Lady Eve (1941) and fell in love again with Barbara Stanwyck whose birthday (July 16) is the same as my other great love -- the aforementioned wife. How about that. I love The Lady Eve. Preston Sturges wrote and directed and it was during that brief but magnificent period when he was churning out great films. Henry Fonda is good too as the scion of the Pike Brewing company that makes "the ale that won for Yale." Bula bula.

Somehow I'm tempted to go on about how they don't make films like Sierra Madre and Lady Eve anymore (they don't). But I don't want to come off as more of a curmudgeon then I already do. Good films are in fact still made but they are few and far between. Too often they are tailored to make money and not tell a story. At his peak Sturges was a master storyteller who could induce laughter without pandering to the lowest common denominator. Suffice to say that I've enjoyed my last two nights of classic movie viewing.

Now I'm finishing this and soon my head will hit the pillow and I will dream....




07 May 2014

A Pelican Perhaps?



“It is not humiliating to be unhappy. Physical suffering is sometimes humiliating, but the suffering of being cannot be, it is life. … What you must do now is nothing more than live like everybody else. You deserve, by what you are, a happiness, a fullness that few people know. Yet today this fullness is not dead, it is a part of life and, to its credit, it reigns over you whether you want it to or not.” - Albert Camus.


There was an Asian woman on the BART train this morning twirling her rosary beads and praying out loud. What you see everyday in urban areas is something you don't see everyday. This was an example.  I couldn't hear her because I had my iPod on so that I could drown out the same big feel sitting near me who was snoring g same as yesterday. Also on the same car was the older gentleman I referenced in a previous posts who sits in the same spot reading the bible with his lips moving the whole time. He gets off a stop before me. Always wears sandals. I've never owned a pair of sandals in my life. Not my thing. Don't need to show people so much of my socks or bare feet plus I'd just feel like an idiot wearing them. Not that I think you or anyone else looks like an idiot with sandals on. Although I will say that one of the things I dislike about warmer weather is the sight of old guys wearing sandals. Seriously we don't need to see your bunions. Cover them puppies up.

I have always been prone to dark moods but especially lately and I'm okay with that. Okay so there’s the depression the deep sighs the sense of doom and sorrow and eternal pain and loss and creeping crawling horror but its a sure sign I’m alive. Sometimes after a panic attack when I used to have real doozies I’d feel oddly comforted because I’d been offered the surety that I was a living breathing human being participating in this mad whirl. It’s the opposite of how I’ve felt at times after staring for too long at the TV or even the computer. There are medications I’ve taken that do that too. They strip away what causes the panic but take too much of the natural flowing juices that make up our humanity. There is an intellectual numbness to it. To live like -- that heavily medicated -- is not living at all. Well its being alive but only just. The whole point of this exercise is to feel to be present. Sleep is a good and necessary escape that allows batteries to recharge but a walking sleep like many people live in is limbo. Empty. Dead inside with a pulse.

So the miseries have the benefit of affirming that life is present and also helps make that the good times all the better. I spend the vast majority of my waking hours being very happy. I am especially grateful for this because I know intimately what its like to be miserable. Panicked or hungover or grasping for reality or frightened or lonely. I was frequently frightened of my mother and her insanity and sometimes frightened of myself. You really want to try to go through life feeling good about mother and about your own self. Trust me.

My workday went about as expected which is to say fulfilling and enjoyable. It included such mundane tasks as photocopying and filling out a form or two but it also featured me instructing in the English language and providing chuckles and insights along the way. I’m a terribly shy person away from work but on the job I’m a whirling dervish of one liners wisecracks tall tales and erudite instruction. I’m an entertainer and educator mash up. An edutainer if you will. (You will, won’t you?)

I’m at home again awake and present for a few hours for whatever comes along then to sleep then back at it and goodness knows what or who I’ll see on BART tomorrow.  A pelican perhaps?

06 May 2014

It Turns Out My Mental Illness Was All in My Head


Thank you kindly for thinking of me
If I'm not smiling, I'm just thinking

Glad and sorry, happy or sad
When all is done and spoken
You're up or I'm down

Can you show me a dream
Can you show me one that's better than mine
Can you stand it in the cold light of day, neither can I

 - From Glad And Sorry by Faces.

Don't we all create a public persona for ourselves? The us we show to other people. Free of doubt firm in our beliefs striding comfortably through life never shitting or spitting. Our pasts were glorious and interesting our lovers gorgeous our accomplishments Olympian. Our defeats manifestations of bad luck or the result of evil machinations. We are pure of heart and our versions of events have the ring of truth and why shouldn't they. They are -- after all -- our versions and we have earned your confidence because you know us. He'll you may even repeat our stories: "Thompson at work said that he once....."
Horseshit.

So I went to the doctor this morning and it turns out I'm something or the other and don't have some such but I need such and so. It was all good in other words. Then since my next class wasn't till mid afternoon I made a quick trip to the gym. I'd tweaked a hamstring so stayed off the treadmill and did 30 minutes on the cross ramp next to some guy half my age who was plodding along watching Family Guy and chomping on gum. He hadn't manufactured a bead of sweat by the time I finished and he'd started before me. Go figure some people.

After home for a smoothie and putting on my fancy duds I was back downtown and to the BART station. There was a young woman walking in circles which I felt like I didn't need to see so I moved on down the platform. Got on the train and there were three people who put purses or backpacks on seats next to them presumably because they paid two fares although it could be because they reckon themselves too good to have another human being in such close proximity. Go figure some people.

I'm a fancier of foggy drizzly rainy or overcast days but I must admit to enjoying what awaited in San Francisco. Clear especially blue skies but with a light cool breeze. Makes one want to walk along the bay and not go into a building and teach but I love my job and there you are.

At school/work. I taught a class. I rose above mere competency and flirted with brilliance. It's what I do.

In the teacher's room a fellow teacher made the shocking claim that she suspected some of her Saudi students are anti-Israel and perhaps anti-Jew. I keeled over in shock. Go figure some people.

I came home pretty much the same way I came to work only in reverse. There were a lot more people around me as it was during the commute hour. Other people can be a royal pain in the ass. I mean of course in large numbers congregating in one area. Somehow I don't mind them so much at a sporting event where it is advantageous to have the masses to heighten the excitement but when you're trying to get yourself home you don't want a lot of people cheek to jowl. But there they are so you deal.

Shortly after the missus got home we went to the grocery store for purposes of purchasing groceries. This task was completed without injury or incident. On the way home I begged the wife to drive by 1624 Milvia Street here in Berkeley the location of a cottage occupied by the great Allen Ginsberg at the time he first read Howl. Both Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder visited the abode so this is a place where giants once walked. Darling wife obliged and I said my customary "holy holy holy."

Now I'm home again with last night's Letterman on the high def boob tube. And I'm writing this. See?

05 May 2014

Soulwork



“Such things are for idiots, hypocrites and mad charlatans of the soul.” -  From the Journals of Jack Kerouac. 

I swear to you that I walked to the BART station this morning but I’ll be damned if I remember it. Did drop a Netflix DVD in the mailbox and remember that. Remember a blonde woman who walked by me at the station while I waited for the train because she was pretty and not one of the usuals that I see. I remember the guy whose lips moves while he reads the bible was in his usual spot on the train but just sitting and not reading. Did he forget his bible? The train was a little more crowded than usual and a big fella near me was snoring and some guy sat next to me.

I had a pleasantly short wait for the trolley and a non eventful ride which allowed me to read without undue disturbance. Popped into the Walgreens by the stop and got some yogurts for the week because the missus hadn't picked any up during her weekend shopping. Oh well.

After settling in at work I went to Starbucks for a coffee. On the way back I held the door of the school open for a co-worker and she didn’t so much as look at me let alone say thank you. Next time I’ll slam the door in her ungrateful mug.

It was the start of another new term -- they only last five or six weeks -- so I had new sets of students. I like meeting new students and introducing myself and telling them how I like to run a class and showing them how cool and fun I am. I love seeing the recognition in their eyes that I know what I’m doing and won’t let them get bored and I have a sense of humor.

I don’t have an inflated sense of myself but I also don’t bother with self deprecation or false modesty. In their own ways they are worse sins of pride than merely acknowledging the truth about yourself even if it is positive. I’ve fucked up enough in my life and recognized said errors enough that I’m entitled to pat myself on the back just so long as I don’t over do it. That’s a tough trick. I spent the first two thirds of my life taking victory laps for any half accomplishment I managed.

Monday will prove to be my busiest day of the week this term which suits me fine as it means I get it out of the way first thing. Today was particularly hectic (I paused after typing the word “hectic” because its a term my late brother used a lot and so too does at least one of his children so I was reminded of him and how I miss him) because it was the first day of the term and because I had to get things ready for a teacher who’s subbing for my morning class tomorrow because I’ve got a doctor’s appointment because I need to see the doctor to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. That’s actually a question people have been asking pretty much since I was born, hey.

Today is oldest daughter’s birthday which means it’s the wife and my 26th anniversary of being parents. But do we receive gifts or cards? Course not. They all go to my kid. She’s a wonderful person and the fact that I had anything to do with this human being turning out so well proves that I’ve done okay in this life. She’s got a younger sister who provides still more evidence that I’ve not been a total loss. So yeah I can teach a little bit and I can parent a bit and if you’re reading this maybe you don’t think I’m the worst writer to ever string words together.

I notice I do better when I keep myself busy even when the being busy is something like meditating or watching The Simpsons. It’s not a problem to keep the old noodle occupied what with so much to write and read and see and running to do and what not. Love that what not. But I’m getting close to rambling which I don’t want to write anymore than you want to read. But I’ll add a plug for a film I saw last Saturday. I started to write about yesterday and here’s as far as I got:

A man driving for two hours makes and receives a series of phone calls. That’s it That’s your movie. There are no crimes no crashes no supernatural no nudity or sex. Aside from voices we really only see the driver. The film is called Locke and it was directed by and stars Tom Hardy as the the title character Ivan Locke and it is utterly compelling.

Locke is a married man with two boys but eight months ago he fathered a child out of wedlock. It was a one night stand the only such occurrence in his married life. He is driving to be with the woman as she gives birth as she has no one else and he feels responsible. He will do the right thing even at the possible cost of his job marriage and home. He’s embarked on this journey on one of the biggest days of his professional life to the utter astonishment of his boss.

I had no idea what the film was about and I might have hesitated about going if I had known. I would have missed a gem. It is remarkable how well we get to know Ivan Locke. He is a successful professional...

So I stopped there for one reason or another and never got back to it and its unlikely that I ever will but suffice to say I liked it and so did a co-worker who also saw it last Saturday. Not the co-worker who I held the door open for who didn't say thanks or anything. She can go stuff it.


02 May 2014

San Francisco Was Cool Today....Thoughts I'm Having (This is in the Present Perfect Although I Am Not Feeling At All Perfect)



“I can't deceive myself that out of the bare stark realization that no matter how enthusiastic you are, no matter how sure that character is fate, nothing is real, past or future, when you are alone in your room with the clock ticking loudly into the false cheerful brilliance of the electric light." - Sylvia Plath.

San Francisco was cool today. After an uncomfortable mini heat wave traces of fog crept over the Golden Gate carried by a soft breeze. The trolley was barely half full adding to the comfort. No jostling or bumping no loud cell phone conversations no one’s music creeping out of the air buds of their iPod. Just me and Jack Kerouac’s journals.

Some days are comfortable and easy and don’t jack you around. Others test the limits of human endurance. Few are perfect but then so too are there few that offer great pain. Even in the midst of depression one can find moments of contentment.

Moments.

Depression. Feeling trapped. Life has placed two thick walls on either side of you and a low ceiling above. That slow desperate sigh like an exhalation of pain. But each breath draws in more. The body feels weighed down by an oppressive cloud of gloom encircling the head. Sitting down is too easy. Getting up thus difficult. Sleep is desired but wakefulness persists. Being awake to slowed down reality and pain. Sorrow gnaws at the brain. Consuming nothing but torturing everything.

Distractions from the pain abound but never last providing momentary respites at best. Plans goals dreams hopes all feel hollow and unrewarding. Death feels inevitable and close. Not that it will occur soon just that it lingers nearby a constant reminder of its inevitably.

Today's work day started later and ended earlier. Home to see daughters the younger of whom visits for the weekend from college. Then to watch Fargo courtesy of the DVR. The masterful new television series loosely based on the Coen Brothers film of the same name.. With Breaking Bad and True Detective it offers a third excellent small screen discovery in the past year for me. So much to be happy about. For. In Among and with.

Later the DVR offers Letterman the Daily Show Colbert Report and Bill Maher’s Real Time which I only watch the beginning and end of this night. So much TV but needed when in the throes of emotional ennui. It would be hard to do much else. And has been. Until now. When I write.

Write.

Here again is an enjoyable activity a nourishing one when the hurt is so strong. The wife sleeps now -- a deserved rest for a woman whose burdens include having yours truly as a spouse. I can hear her. She’s not snoring just exhaling comfortably. I’ll try to join her later. Try. Sleep may come and it may last but likely as not will consist of the proverbial tosses and turns. Back. Side. Stomach. Repeat. Two pillows under head. Then just one then one clutched in arms then none. Eyelids heavy just thinking of it. Eyelids heavy anyway.

Was at the ballpark Wednesday night. Giants won in a game that required a mere two hours and fifteen minutes. If all games were this short or even shorter I might be more inclined to go with greater frequency. Also if tickets were cheaper and fewer fans were drunken louts and the journey home on public transport were more accommodating. I do love a good game though. Sat with a former workmate and we chatted away happily. Baseball allows that. Invites it.

I ran a combined 83 miles in April. My physical self is quite healthy. I do not feel anywhere near whatever age I am (I heard 60). I don’t think I look it either. But I also don’t have the boyish good looks highlighted my features well past 40. How is that I have been on this planet so long? Shouldn’t I be wise? Am I? Is this that I feel a response to the joyous celebration of self congratulation I had as approached and conquered the three score mark? My its easy to create questions and so much more difficult to try to answer them. Least of all with any success.

For some of us happiness comes and goes. I had one long stretch of feeling fantastic. Where did that go? Couldn’t I have kept it? Why do I feel so put upon by life? Why can’t I appreciate all the gifts life has bestowed upon me? Wife. Daughters. Friends. Job I love. Health. Sobriety. This computer. An appreciation for the arts. Should be more than enough.

Yes but I do. I do appreciate all that I have. I am grateful. I do feel lucky and privileged and blessed. But I also feel as though I’m staring into an inky void with tunnel vision. Desperately tired and despairing and resigned. This is what happens. I am finishing this sentence here. And this paragraph here.

And this blog post here.