Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Last Champion

When I was about twelve years old my father took my family out to the desert to spend two weeks at Cisco Andrade’s training camp. It was a boxing camp, and Davey Moore was the premier boxer in training there at the time. He was the Featherweight Champion of the World, and was preparing to defend his title one last time before retiring. There would be no more fights after this one. He felt he had finally saved enough money to provide for his wife and children. Jerry Pina and Frankie Hernandez were in camp as well. The camp was normally restricted to boxers, their trainers, managers, sparring partners and families, but my father knew somebody so we were invited to stay in a cabin on the grounds, to spend some time with the fighters, and watch them train.

Having been raised in white suburbia, Davey Moore was the first black man I had ever really gotten to know beyond a superficial level. He took an interest in my family and me. In those two weeks we spent quite a bit of time together, shared some meals and a lot of laughs. He took us target shooting with 22’s out in the surrounding desert when he was not doing his road or ring work. He was a very kind, good natured and loving man. Took me under his wing. Gave me some boxing lessons, worked with me on the speed bag and suggested one day I might even whoop his ass. Yeah right.
Even in that brief time I grew to love and admire Davey. He was the kind of man I wanted to be. I began to consider him a big brother, a mentor, a friend. But, as I’ve learned so well, good things can come to an end. He broke camp, and we said our goodbyes on a Friday afternoon. He was to fight the next night at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. He headed off to LA, and we headed back home.

My family and I gathered around the radio the next night to listen to the fight. Davey took a beating from a young Cuban boxer. Lost the fight. Lost his crown. I was devastated. Not because he lost, but because he was hurt.

A few minutes later Davey died in his dressing room. I could not process it. It was beyond my ability to comprehend. Things like that just shouldn’t happen. It was my first experience with the death of someone I had known and was growing to love.
But it would not be my last.

Bob Dylan later wrote a song about Davey Moore, part of which reads:

“Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?”
”Not us” says the angry crowd
whose screams filled the arena loud.
”It’s too bad he died that night
but we just like to see a fight.
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death,
we just meant to see some sweat.
There ain’t nothing wrong in that.
it wasn’t us that made him fall.
No, you can’t blame us at all.”

Being twelve, I did blame myself. I reasoned “if Davey hadn’t spent so much time with me at camp he might have been better prepared for the fight. He might even have won.”
The newspaper asked us to write a story about Davey Moore and the time we got to spend with him before the fight. They put our picture in the paper with his. Writing helped to express my grief. But only just a little.
Only just a little.

And it couldn't bring him back.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Heroes Are Hard To Come By

Yes they are. Didn’t used to be that way. We were allowed to have heroes, icons, mentors. People we looked up to. We knew they were not perfect, but we were allowed to respect them. We’re not allowed that today. If we find someone to look up to, eventually someone will tear them down.

People of questionable character are given a free ride to be who they are. It’s become fashionable to be objectionable. They’re considered to be honest because they live out their flaws and failures publicly. They flaunt them, and it makes them even more popular. Not so with a man (or woman) of good character. If they trip and stumble, if they make a mistake, act on a bad decision, or just screw up on occasion they are attacked and branded as hypocrites. No credit is given for their effort to live honestly, forthrightly and with dignity. No room is allowed them for their own imperfection. They are scrutinized under a powerful microscope by those who would hope to be able to declare them to be compromised. A convenient way to feel better about ones own misgivings and indiscretions. It is always those seeking to take the high road that are accused of judging others, almost as if those taking the low road need to feel judged in order to have someone to feel superior to.

Personally, I would rather set my standards high and fail to reach them than to set them low and live down to them. If one does not stand for something, one stands for nothing.

It would be easy to think that these observations apply only to public people, but public scrutiny is only the visible end of things. What we don’t see is how the same scrutiny filters down to, and through, all areas of relationships with people in general, families even. Children have always wanted to view their parents as heroes. But by the time they become teenagers they have observed the imperfections in their parents. Teenagers have always needed to view their parents as hypocrites. It is what justifies them being able to engage in experimental behaviors. They are quick to measure and compare the behaviors of parents against what those same parents have advised against, or forbidden, for the children. As if children and parents should have the same standards of behavior. They should in some respects, but not in all. Well, the scrutiny is to be expected from teenagers. It’s in their genes. But in today’s world, with that same scrutiny being lived out through a relentless media, in effect we are perpetuating the behavior of teens. We look for the good people to screw up, and then we shout “aha, gotcha, what a hypocrite.” Makes us feel better.

We continue to applaud the questionable actions of some, while at the same time asking “how did everything get turned so upside down?”

Yeah, heroes are hard to come by now.
So try to live your life in a way that will make you a hero to somebody.

Thursday, May 17, 2007



Socialism vs. Capitalism. The age old debate. Create a form of fiscal and social equality, but restrict the individuals right to prosper; or support the freedom to prosper while creating a social and economic divide? As we know, in the U.S. about 20% of the people control about 80% of the wealth, and 80% of the people control only 20% of the wealth. The disparity between rich and poor in the U.S. is alarming, with fortunes continuing to be made on the backs of the working poor. Modern day land barons, and plantation owners continue to line their pockets with gold while the poor and working class struggle to survive. Our political leaders and corporate executives are millionaires many times over. These are the people dictating, influencing and controlling our lives. Sure, we elect the politicians, but they’re just lapdogs who do the bidding of the corporate conglomerates. Not to mention the international cartel of billionaires who actually run things from the shadows.

I’m a believer in capitalism. It is what enables someone with a good idea, or someone with talent and ambition to achieve his/her dreams. And I don’t believe it should be required that the fruit of ones honest labor be shared equally with those who never had a hand in earning it. But when ambition breeds greed beyond measure it affects all of us disproportionately. When the wealthy prop up the wealthy to become even more wealthy, driving up the cost of goods and services, the fiscal lower and middle classes are forced to work even harder to keep themselves afloat. Insurmountable debt and eventual homelessness are the predictable consequences of such unmitigated greed.

The following plan is based on my belief that in today’s world freedom with limitations is inherently better for society than freedom run amok. I am not a sociologist; business man, educator or economist, but I have devised this plan as a means to restructure the socio-economic makeup of America. I call the concept “Sociatalism” (Pronounced like society). It looks like this.

* No individual in the U.S. may, as an employee or business owner, earn more than one million dollars annual salary. But a business owner may increase his/her income with company profits.

* No company may keep as profit more than the total sum of the wages it pays out to its employees. An individual running a company alone, such as an online business out of the home, will be considered to be an employee and a company, with a one million dollar salary limit.

* Up to an equal amount may be invested back into the business annually towards the growth of the company. This would encourage the growth of business, but restrict the growth of greed. As wages rise, the profit would be allowed to increase. Example: If a company has 20 employees earning an annual salary of 2.5 million dollars collectively, the ‘Keepable Annual Company Profit’ (KACP) would be 2.5 million dollars annually.
This would be income above and beyond the salary of the business owner. An additional 2.5 million dollars may be invested back into the business.

* The business owner(s) could keep this profit, or divide it accordingly among stock holders. This would not be considered salary. The KACP would never exceed the sum total of the companies collective annual salary. If a business owner wishes for a greater KACP he must increase the collective annual employee salary accordingly.

* Any additional profits will go into a National Fund to be divided equally, ½ for Health Care, and ½ for Business and Educational opportunities. The Health Care portion of the fund will be used to provide free health care for any U.S Citizen. The Business and Educational portion of the fund will be used to provide a 4-year education for any Citizen wishing to get a college degree. Those not wishing to avail themselves of the educational opportunity will be given the option of starting a small business, with the funds provided equaling up to the average value of a 4 year college education. This provision would be for anyone wishing to invest in themselves, including artists, farmers etc. Every Citizen will be given this option. Legal immigrants waiting for citizenship would not be excluded.

* No individual would be provided both an education and seed money for a start up business, although an individual granted ‘Business Startup Money’ (BSN) could still pay for his own education, and an individual paying for his own education could still be eligible for ‘business startup money’.

* Companies who earn enough profit to contribute to the National Fund will not be taxed on the portion of their earnings that equals the amount provided to that fund. If the amount provided is less than the annual profit, the remaining portion of the profit will be taxed. If the amount is equal to, or greater than, the annual profit they will not be taxed at all.

Profit Sharing:

In the Capitalist system of Profit Sharing, if the company does well, the employees share in the profits. In the Sociatalism system, if the company is doing well and the business owner wants to take a greater profit, he/she must increase the workers collective annual salary in order to realize increased personal revenue. Profit sharing is inherent in the salary and profit structure. The workers automatically share in the increasing income of the owner. As previously stated, every worker would have the right to earn up to One Million dollars in annual salary.

Sociological Impact of Sociatalism:

- Greater economic equality.

- The proliferation of small businesses to stimulate the economy.

- More motivated and contented workers resulting in increased productivity.

- An educated nation without equal anywhere in the world. Existing tax revenue would be more readily available to schools for the primary and intermediate grades to ensure that anyone hoping to go to college would have the educational skills necessary to achieve that goal.

- Equal access to health care for all Americans.

- Health care, Higher Education and new Business paid for by the people for the people, resulting in a truly ‘citizen controlled democracy’.

- Increased esteem as a Nation of Individuals serving a collective purpose.

- Fewer citizens on welfare and other government programs.

- Taxes could be reduced, and since the governments primary purpose is the protection of it’s citizens, greater tax revenue could be designated for the security of the nation. We could equip and maintain an unprecedented Department of Defense.

- Greater tax revenue would be available for the building and maintenance of a first rate infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams etc.).

- Greater tax revenue would be available for research and generation of new forms of energy and transportation.

- Greater tax revenue would be available for comprehensive and effective Social Service Programs for the disabled and the displaced.

It’s time to change the system. There are smarter, more competent, and more connected individuals than myself who could help instigate change. Maybe not according to this particular plan, but some plan that would allow for socio-economic justice. I submit this one. But it will take some dynamic leadership, and a revolution of the people to initiate it. Not a violent revolution, but an economic one. A boycott of corporate goods and services.
And a political revolution that would give the status quo their walking papers.

It’s a big order, but we all know SOMETHING’S got to be done.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Seemingly Random Associations

Every morning I would see a woman on the side of the road waiting for a bus. I’d just drive by, she’d be there, and I’d keep on driving. It was always the same. I had no interaction with her or connection to her. She was just a woman on the side of the road waiting for a bus. She appeared to be comfortable. By that I mean she seemed by all visible criteria (clothes, skin, hair, posture, body language etc.) to be OK with herself, and with life. As if life had been pretty good to her. Just an observation, but nevertheless it is the impression I’ve had of her. The only thing that has seemed a little odd is that she was waiting for a bus. Seemed like I should have been seeing her every morning behind the wheel of a new Lexus, a Volvo or a BMW. I entertained the idea that she could be, but was doing her part for energy conservation and the environment. What do I know?

The woman had a relaxed air about her that indicated she might be enjoying this alone time. Just a little time by herself. No demands on her, or expectations of her. Just waiting for a bus.

One day, after a few months, I noticed another woman in the same place waiting for the same bus. Now there were two of them. They stood apart. This new arrival left an entirely different impression with me. She seemed like someone you would expect to see waiting on the side of the road for a bus. She seemed to be a bit beaten down by life, as if life had had its way with her. She had a saggy posture, kind of unkempt hair and clothes, weathered skin, and bags under her eyes that made it appear as if a lot of sleep had eluded her over the years. It did not seem like her and life were very compatible partners.

One woman was black. The other was white. Which was which is really of no significance here, only that one was black and the other was white. They were both about the same age. For the next several weeks I noticed they continued to stand apart. I never saw them acknowledge one another. I can’t say they didn’t, I just never witnessed it. And their body posture was quite guarded, protective, anxious.

But I eventually began to notice a softening in that posture, a lessening of the distance between them and an occasional glance, an acknowledgement of one another. It made me smile. How could it not? As the weeks moved on I watched a relationship develop. I could only watch it briefly in my moments driving by, but it was like a flower blooming in the desert. In time they were laughing, touching each other as part of their mutual expression, standing shoulder to shoulder or face to face. The woman with the saggy posture was standing taller now, and looking younger. The woman who had initially appeared to be comfortable, then guarded, was now comfortable again, but even more so. There was now an element of happiness to her comfort. This had been an amazing transformation for me to see. And it’s something I think about quite often. I think of it in terms of other seemingly random encounters, how they come about, and what we do with them. What I do with them. It leaves me wondering if there really is any such thing as a random encounter. In the isolated context of these two women it does not seem like it was random at all, but rather a deliberate linking of two individuals to see what each of them would do with the other.

Our lives are filled with these associations, at work, at play, and in the marketplace. We choose daily what to do with them. And what we will allow them to become.

When I drove by this morning the women were gone. I’m thinking they began to drive together. Together. Not collectively alone.
I like the thought of that.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

No Tax On Families Of The Fallen

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the sacrifice so many military families have been making because of the war in Iraq. Hard not to think about it, really. It is a condition that one must either acknowledge or ignore. To ignore it is to live in a bubble of sorts, and to acknowledge it is to bring a sense of helplessness, and even an element of pain, upon ones self. Neither option is particularly satisfying. But this could be any war, and at any time in our history. The sacrifice is the same. Whether I, or anyone else, agree with this particular war or not, the devastation to military families is profound. It is heart wrenching, and it is numbing. Parents are losing children. Children are losing parents. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, losing loved ones. These family members are irreplaceable. They are gone forever. There are many more left disabled, scarred and traumatized by both the violence visited upon them, and by violence they were commissioned to visit upon others.

I know that there are many casualties of war, many enemy, and many innocent as well as our own. It is the nature of war. And it is beyond regrettable. But it is how it is. I can no longer afford to feel the pain of every anonymous person affected by war. I used to feel all of it, and it left me, at times, compromised in my capacity to function. I need to function. We all do. I rest now in knowing that the anonymous casualties are not really anonymous. They are known, and loved, by someone also. They are only anonymous to me.

But my concern here, now, is for the American casualties and their families. I can afford to feel for them. They are close by. It has occurred to me that I, and many of us, have never sacrificed anything for the privilege of living in this country, a country we so easily take for granted, a country for which so many from around the world would risk their lives to call home. In a heartbeat. Well, those in the U.S military do risk, and even lay down, their lives so that we can call America home.

I am bothered by the idea that families who have lost loved ones in the military, in the service of their country, are still required to pay for the privilege of living in this country. It seems to me that they have already paid the definitive price, made the ultimate sacrifice, far beyond anything you or I could begin to know. I believe their sacrifice is beyond measure, and that we should honor it. In that light, I propose that they should no longer be required to pay for the privilege of living here. How forthright, and how simple, would it be for our country to no longer require the families of fallen service men and women to have to pay taxes. We, as individuals, are taxed as a means of supporting the infrastructure of this nation, the educational system, the penal system, our emergency services, military and government. It’s what we pay to enjoy this democracy (republic really), and to enable it to work on our behalf. In a sense, it is how we take care of ourselves. But it’s a relatively small price for us to pay compared to those who pay their own way, and ours, with the life of a loved one.

In today’s electronic world it would be easy to introduce a system of tax elimination for those deemed appropriate. A code could be embedded into credit and debit cards that would automatically exclude sales tax from purchases. One could carry and use an identity card when paying for an item in cash. A code could also be connected to ones earnings that would automatically exempt an individual from having to pay income tax on the earnings. Every husband or wife who has lost a spouse in the military, every parent who has lost a child, every child who has lost a parent, and every sibling who has lost a brother or sister would be exempt from sales and income tax for life. The immediate family. This is what I propose. It is one way we can begin to pay these families back. Ironically, it is these very people who would be the last to require such an accommodation.

At first consideration it seems like this would be an inordinate loss of revenue for the cities, counties, state and nation, but in the truer picture the affected military families are actually a very small percentage of the overall population. It is a classic example of the few sacrificing for the many. The least we could do is cover them the rest of the way.

If you find yourself in agreement with this proposal, please pass it on to friends, family, governors, senators, congressmen, or whoever you feel might be able to advance the concern.

Where Were The Kids?

I watched the Golden State Warriors on television last night. It was game 6 of the Warriors/Dallas Mavericks NBA playoff series. It was a ‘best of seven’ series, and the Warriors were up 3 games to 2. A win last night would propel them into the next round of the playoffs. The Mavericks were the unquestioned best team in the NBA. They had the best overall record, as well as having had a 17 game win streak during the season. Having the best record gave them the #1 seed. The Warriors, having had the worst record of all the teams in the Western division to make the playoffs, were the #8 seed. First round, the best plays the worst. And here they were, the worst about to eliminate the best. A true David and Goliah story. And yeah, the Warriors won to advance to the next round. Referring to the series, many expert commentators are calling it the greatest upset in basketball history. I watched 4 of the 6 games, and it was more fun, and more satisfying than any sports event I have ever witnessed. Especially last nights game. The crowd at Oracle Arena in Oakland was going absolutely wild for the entire game, beside themselves with joy and delirium. Besides the amazing basketball, it was part of what made the whole experience so much fun.

But I continue to come back to something that was missing in all of the excitement and celebration. The cameras were panning the crowd continually throughout the game to give the TV viewer a sense of the thrill of being there. I made note early on that I wasn’t seeing any kids in the crowd. I found it kind of disconcerting, and wondering what was up with that, as the game progressed, and with every camera shot of the people in the arena, I made it a point to look for kids in the crowd. I saw a total of three. Damn! I saw lots of celebrities, and thousands of adults between the ages of 25 and 50, but where were the kids? Of the three I did see, one was in the arms of Chris Mullin, the Executive Vice President of Operations for the Warriors. It was nice to see that the man who engineered this team, and who had so much riding on its failure or success, was being a father to his child at such a critical moment in his career. The other two kids were in the first row, courtside, seated (ironically) beside Snoop Dog and his inch thick gold braid necklace. Both these kids were lily white, so I can presume they were not his. Besides, the camera showed no interaction between him and the kids. I know Snoop has children, but where were they? Why were they not enjoying the game with dad? Not meaning to single out Snoop, where were the other kids? This was such an incredibly inspirational story it gave even me, an old weathered dog, such a tremendous sense of ‘anything being possible with heart and hard work’. But where were the kids?

I know, there were probably other kids in the arena. Just because I didn’t see them doesn’t mean they weren’t there. But impressions are important. And my impression was of an adult experience. I scanned all the photos in the two newspapers I read today. Not a child in any of them. Only adults. Adults whooping and hollering. Adults trying to touch the players during the celebration following the final buzzer. Adults giving each other ‘high fives’. Adults jumping up and down, hugging one another, laughing, and acting like . . . . . . . . . . . . . well, acting like . . . . . . . . . . KIDS.

But where were the kids?

Where were the fathers and sons? The fathers and daughters? The mothers and daughters? The mothers and sons? Where were the families?
Sure, the seats were expensive. But everything’s relative. If one can afford a seat for himself and his buddy, one can afford a seat for himself and his son. If one has season tickets, a block of two, three or four, why does he bring his business associates or drinking buddies instead of his kids? Sure, maybe the families were up in the nosebleed seats, beyond camera range, but I doubt it. I think it was adults up there too.

Parents used to bring their children to these games.
Parents used to bring their kids.

Joshua Tree

Back in the 60’s, beginning when I was about 17, I lived with a bunch of my friends in a big green house in Southern California. We always loved the outdoors and took advantage of any opportunity to immerse ourselves in it. Every few weeks we’d close up the house and all pile into cars for a ride out to the desert, Joshua Tree National Monument, where we’d spend a week camping and living out our fantasies. I had an old Rambler at the time with a drive-in movie speaker hooked up to the radio and hanging down in the middle of the rear window. The cops were always pulling me over, ostensibly because of my obstructed view, but really just so they could search us for drugs. We were young long hairs, and in those days that was reason enough to incur a search. Any place. Any time.

Joshua Tree was our playground, our paradise, our connection to the sublime. It was where we could let our hair down, shed our clothes, and raise our voices full to the sky. It was where we felt most at home. Most free, most unencumbered, most alive. We gave each other Indian names. Names that reflected our character, personality, ambition, body, mind or soul. All of the above even. But the names had to be given to one other. They could not be taken for ones self. That made them even more significant. I don’t remember the names now. I wish I did. It was an incredibly affirming ritual for each of us. At the time we believed it to be a spiritual thing. Now I can see it was actually just a bunch of lost kids wishing things could be different. I don’t know, maybe that made it spiritual in, and of, itself.

The Vietnam war was looming. Obviously we wished everything could be different. We were wanting a less complicated life, a more meaningful existence, and if we had to pretend to have it in order to have it, well, that was quite alright at the time. Better than any of the shallow alternatives society had been presenting us with for so many years.

Arriving in the desert, we’d transform ourselves into a bunch of naked, native, misfit teenage warriors. But peaceful warriors. Comical really, but it was something we loved. I find myself wondering today how many people actually indulge themselves so fully in something they really love. We collected cactus flowers and other kinds of vegetation to mix with earth and water to make paint. We painted each others bodies and faces to reflect the way we felt. We made bows and arrows. We made, and set, noose traps for rabbit, and box traps for mice in the dry river bed. We were marginally successful at trapping. We skinned the mice, and a rabbit or two, cooked the rabbit, and hung the mouse skins from our bows. We hunted with the bow and arrow, but with very little success. It was fun though, and it gave us a feeling of authenticity and self sufficiency.

My friend Jon had been catching and training hawks, and falcons (even though it was illegal) since early in his teenage years. He was very good at it. He used some of the live mice we trapped as bait under the stick and box trap. Would tie one by a foot to a stake. He caught a couple of different hawks on our forays in the desert. It was a thrilling experience. Beyond description. Jon loved those birds, was very good with them, and had dreams of becoming some sort of Naturalist. Had he lived he would have been a good one.

We’d make camp nestled in the huge rocks just above the river bed. We took the old adage to heart. . . . . . Indians build small fires and huddle close for warmth. Cowboys build big fires and gather wood all night. We’d spend the early evening playing guitars and singing songs, then as it got colder, we’d huddle close, watch the stars, have profound philosophical discussions, before eventually drifting peacefully off to sleep. Sometimes we’d sit up all night. Once in awhile we’d climb up to the top of the rock mountain before dawn to welcome the sun, our way lighted by the brilliant night sky. We’d wait. Up there. Out there. In the aloneness. In the quiet. In space. Like no other place on earth.

My friend Jim was a film buff. Had a movie camera. Filmed everything we did. Jim died when he was about 18 years old, within a few months of our friend Jon’s death. I’d give a year of my life to have those old movies.

I’d give 10 years of my life to have my friends back.

Thinking For Ourselves

From the moment we arrived on this planet we began (reluctantly) the process of being pushed around and pulled through the wash, built up, torn down, re-built, directed, abandoned and redirected until we are often left without the inclination or motivation to even determine our own destiny, to create our own reality. We have fallen in line, waited in line and been left in line while the keepers of the gate have gone to lunch to chat about their precious investments, or raising the price of admission to the dance.

We have enabled and allowed the guys with all the keys to keep us from our rightful place in life, a place where we belong. A place we can envision and even aspire to. We have found our different ways to cope with the subjugation of an impersonal world. A world we have tolerated for too long. Some of us have indulged ourselves to excess with drugs or alcohol, some of us have withdrawn to lives of sadness, solitude and quiet desperation. Some of us have raged against the machine, and some of us have even joined it. The human spirit always struggles against psychic bondage. The human spirit, but not necessarily the human will.

Sadly, our struggle has often turned inward, taking the form of self-immolation, rather than remaining directed outward towards the source of our repression. If you think about it, the act of getting in line is even in itself an act of rebellion as one determines that co-operation with the status quo ultimately buys more favorable benefits, fewer inconveniences and significantly less hassle along the way. Rebellion against rebellion, is in fact, still rebellion. But it is sad that so many of us have chosen that avenue as a means to disinherit the otherwise endless struggle. It is however, understandable, and is more often than not an unconscious act. But as the Boomtown Rats have so eloquently said, “the only act of revolution left in this collective world is thinking for yourself.” Yet, the very source of original thought is often clouded by callousness, collected from far too many years of having had our wings clipped, having had our burgeoning spirits beaten down like an abused child. And yes, even by having been immersed in a culture of consumption, a way of life that has become Americas opiate of the people. Let each of us begin a personal revolution in our own private lives.

I am by no means comparing the struggle for personal liberty and independent thought to the real life struggles that the physically and socially repressed people of the world contend with on a daily basis. I am, however, suggesting that psychic and intellectual repression is the spiritual equivalent of that, and is also the door through which true subjugation ultimately gains entry. We must be vigilant in determining to what degree we will allow ourselves to be influenced or controlled. We must be resourceful in creating ways to gain and maintain control of our own lives. We must not permit the government, big business, a political party, an educational system, a religion, our peer group or anyone else the position of determining for us our destiny, our preferences, our style, our ethical and moral code of behavior or our rights. That determination must be preserved for the individual to make, but in order for choices to even be available to us we must be conscious of who and what has influenced and governed us up until now.

We MUST be conscious. At the same time we must keep foremost in our mind the obligation we have to one another as fellow travelers through time and circumstance. We must have self respect in order to be respectful of those around us, and in order to be respected by them. We must count others to be equally important as ourselves, otherwise we are no different than those who choose to dominate us. We must consider the good of the whole, the well being of family at large, and the influence we have on those around us. We cannot choose to reject the conditioning of society and then turn around and hope to condition others to our own particular bias.

We must encourage the liberation of the human spirit, but not insist on it. Some people are simply more comfortable following someone else’s lead. We must, however, encourage and support spiritual/psychic health in one another in order to be able to live together as we’re passing through this often very remarkable life.

This Idea Of 'Being Spiritual'

I can’t believe how many people ask me “Are you spiritual?” I’m thinking that when someone asks me that, what they’re really asking is “Are you a good person, an enlightened person, like I am?” And I often hear people reply, when asked if they’re religious, “no, I consider myself to be spiritual, but not religious”. The implication being the same. “I’m not a follower, I’m enlightened.” This is not really a new phenomena, but people have become more vocal about it, identifying as ‘spiritual’, wanting to think of themselves as special, rather than just as sheep in some religious flock.

And who can blame them? People have always wanted to regard themselves as ‘spiritual’, rather than ‘religious’, to set themselves apart, to identify themselves as free and independent souls. Nothing the matter with that. It’s human nature. But so is our nature to herd, which is what (in identifying as spiritual) we are actually doing. We are just identifying with a different flock, one without written doctrine, dogma, custom, accountability or externally imposed constraint.

But apart from that, is there really any difference? Yes, I think so, if you take into account that the spiritual herd tends to wander in and out of different belief systems, trying on different philosophies and theologies like old clothes in a thrift store. What might feel new, different and independent has actually been tried on, worn, washed and discarded by many who came before us. Then we come along and pick it up at the spiritual second hand store. We give it a new language, a different terminology, but it’s really just the same old clothes . There is nothing new under the sun. Many regard the ‘spiritual’ people as lost souls of sorts. And others think of them as saints in the making. Who knows which, or if either, is even close to being true. I guess that is a determination each individual has to make for, and about, themselves.

My one question is, “In defining oneself as spiritual, isn’t one contradicting the very nature of what spirituality actually is?” Many great theologians and philosophers would describe such a pronouncement as prideful, as having an inflated or exaggerated opinion of ones self. Self-aggrandizement at it’s finest. The antithesis of spiritual, I would think.
I’m just asking.

‘Religious’ is defined (by one dictionary) as “believing in, and showing devotion or reverence for, a deity or deities.” And “very thorough or conscientious.”
But while the word ‘spiritual’ is regarded as higher consciousness, the term ‘religious’ has been given, and taken on, an incredibly negative connotation. Even religious people have discarded the label in favor of the more ‘enlightened’ spiritual description. But I believe it to be a disservice to even their own intent. Religion implies a practice, a discipline, a way of living. A commitment to something, to someone. And that is a concept becoming increasingly rare in our lives and culture today. In every aspect of our lives and culture. I believe that reality is reflected in peoples need to be regarded as spiritual.

So then what does ‘spiritual’ really mean?

To me it means HOW we are, not WHAT we are. How we are in our relationship with God, with our parents, our children, our spouses, friends, casual acquaintances, and even strangers. It is how we are on our jobs, and in our personal lives when nobody’s looking. It is how we are in strength of commitment, in depth of character, and in a willingness to accept differences. It is how we are in our intent to love, not necessarily in our ability, but in our intent. It is in our compassion, in our service, and sometimes even in our righteous anger and indignation.

Being spiritual is how we are in our relationship with ourselves, and to the world around us. But is not a mantle one is able to bestow upon ones self.

Spirtual Travel

I’ve been amused by the ever increasing number of people signing up for trips to the so-called Spiritual travel destinations. An entire industry has emerged to accommodate these tourists. And it’s no cottage industry, but a multi-million dollar enterprise. Many times over. Oh, I know it sounds disrespectful to refer to them as tourists, after all, it is a pilgrimage of sorts. But hey, a tourist is a tourist. Right? Nothing wrong with that. We’re all only visiting this planet.

But c’mon, I’ve never seen so many people follow so many other people to so many shrines in my life. You’ve got the favorite Catholic destinations like the Vatican, Fatima, Lourdes, Chimayo N.M., or anywhere else the Virgin Mary might be appearing on a tortilla, or the blood of Jesus dripping from the hands of some plaster statue. There are the Catholic/Protestant destinations like Jerusalem and Majagori. The Protestant itinerary includes Bible Land, the Crystal Cathedral and Calvary Chapel. The Spiritual Salad people make their $250 per night reservations at Sedona, then on to Machu Picchu. Hard core New Age Consciousness jockeys are off to Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The Eastern philosophy seekers are trekking off to India, the Ganges, Tibet and the Himalayas. Other low budget pilgrims to Ashram overnighters wherever they can find them. And the Muslims end up in Mecca.

Damn, how do these people ever find any peace?

Didn’t someone once say to some people who were looking for their savior “He is risen. He is not here.” ?

You have Religious Tours, Spiritual Wellness Tours, Consciousness Tours and Yoga Retreats at the finest resorts on the worlds best beaches for the spiritual elite, or those willing to fork over the major portion of their life savings for the privilege of buying some kind of self-agrandizing enlightenment from a certified self-centered practitioner who is quick to hock an array of books, CD’s, and DVD’s to an instantly intimate and enraptured ‘community' of followers.

Oh, I hope I haven’t offended anyone!

In days-gone-by the idea of a spiritual journey actually meant something. It was a spiritual JOURNEY. Not a spiritual DESTINATION. It was actual travel between one place and another. Not a plane reservation with a Jacuzzi waiting to greet you when you get there. It was with oneself, within oneself, and in spite of oneself. The spiritual discovery was in the journey. It was internal. It was communion with the divine. And it was external as well, often accompanied by aloneness, hardship, abstinence, hunger, even thirst. And it was the kind of journey one can still take today, if one desires, in the quiet of ones own heart, and without ever leaving home.

Without Slippers

The shattered glass of promise will arrange itself periodically at our vulnerable feet. In our own kitchens. Sometimes while we’re sleeping. Without a formal announcement. Without shoes, or even slippers, We’ll be pulled across the cold, hard, tile floor by forces greater than ourselves. Mirrored razor shards seek our flesh, attack our every step, like ravenous jackals seek a fresh meal. Our blood becomes a well of fire. 
Or a slice of life for foreign dignitaries, and the insane.

There is no warning, ever. There are only people yelling, and folks with perfect teeth reading us the news. There are perfect smiles, and perfect personalities, calmly, smugly, designating us for the back of the bus, for the end of the lunch line, for the last ones to be picked when choosing up sides. There is a rampant lack of true contrition. There are delusions of grandeur, illusions and hallucinations dancing in our heads, and in the beds of our own children. There is collusion between the have’s and the have more’s, the sinners and the cheaters, the corporations and the whores, the liars and the fabricators, the winners and the leaders, the handsome and the arrogant, the proud and the profane. There is intrusion by the heartless, the ruthless, the cruel and unkind. There is deception, and unmitigated greed.

There are false prophets and broken churches trying to entice us with their creed, with their gods, and with their declarations of a permanent place to live, a place that promises to be not quite as miserable as the alternative was reported to have been. Not quite so dark, and not so alarming. Not so ugly, and not so grim. There are trips of all kinds laid before our feet, before our need, to appeal to our sense of the absurd. There are spiritual trips, ritual trips, retreat trips, festival trips, prayer trips, guilt trips, ego trips, and the occasional trip to the bathroom when we need to throw up. There are women behaving like men, and men acting like women, while children huddle in corners, in the dark, wishing to be loved, hoping to be noticed. The dogs will come around and lick their faces, look into their eyes, and let them know they’ll be here for them, to stand watch until their self indulgent parents come to grips with the here and now. Or at least until they come to some semblance of their senses. 

But there is no one who can really see them coming. No one to illuminate their path. There is just the light in the hallway for that. There is no one out there to run interference, or to even impersonate a friend. Only those who come with hands outstretched to cloud their heads, and offer up their own regret.
Oh yes, and rancid batter from the bottom shelf of that rusted out refrigerator in the basement.
Once again we find ourselves on the inside looking out. And we don’t like it. It’s a horrible place to be. 

Lacking in oxygen.

A godless landscape.

Sorry About Your Board

1965. I was sixteen, and out surfing early one morning in San Clemente with friends. There were a couple of guys out in the water acting like they owned the place. Hogging waves, cussing us out, cutting us off on our own waves. Stuff like that. They were older than we were, by three or four years. Real bad attitudes, the kind that make the whole experience unpleasant for everybody. The beach was deserted except for them and us. Eventually they took off to get some coffee or something. Left their surfboards, towels and everything right there on the beach while they were gone. You didn’t have to worry about your stuff back then. They should have. Of the two guys, one was a particular jerk. I took the opportunity of their absence to paddle into shore and bury his board in the sand, deep, right there where it lay next to the other one. Then paddled back out to continue surfing. When they returned, they freaked out at the board being gone. Started yelling out into the water, asking if we’d seen anybody on the beach etc. Did we see somebody take the surfboard. Didn’t see a thing, I said. Sorry about your board.

I took particular pleasure in the fact that he was standing on top of it at the time.
They ran around frantic for awhile, not knowing what to do, then dejectedly picked up the
remaining surfboard, along with their other gear, and left.

On the greater stage of my life it was a relatively minor incident. But I do regret it. Not that
it was such a lousy thing to do, but that it was a lousy thing to do that felt so good.

And I'd probably do the same damn thing today.

Fear Of Life

I watched a movie about some high school kids planning a group suicide. It was a pretty stunning film in that it seemed so ordinary. There were many remarkable moments as the script allowed the viewer to get to know each of the characters individually. Their personalities, their fears, what made them tick etc.
But a comment (philosophy) that remains with me from the film had to do with the aspect of the kids facing their greatest fear, and that in facing it they became liberated to live the remainder of that final day without concern for any repercussions for their actions. They were able to live outside of boundry and self-restraint (with devastating consequences, I might add).
It was one of the girls who said “The fear of death is the greatest fear that people face.” And it was her belief that conquering that fear held the promise of personal redemption.

But I disagree. Death is easy.
It is the fear of living that is the greatest fear that people face. The fear of ones own pain. The fear of emptiness, of loneliness, of futility, of being without love.
The fear of keeping up, of measuring up, of being unsuccessful, of being alive and facing the unknown. It is what paralyzes people. It is what drives people to self-indulgent and self-destructive behavior. It is what keeps people from ascension to greater places within themselves. It is what keeps people from success, personal and professional.

The fear of living is what prevents people from facing their own mortality without fear.
The fear of death is really nothing more than the fear of a continuing life.


Something’s missing. Missing from conversation, missing from social interaction, missing from people, television, music, missing from the work place. I’ve been noticing it more profoundly the past few years. Where is the dignity? When did ‘unrestrained’ become a position of pride, a level to ascend to? When did it begin to replace dignity and modesty as a position of relevance? What has caused the shift? What is the dynamic in our culture that has come to allow our personal inclinations to supercede the rights of others? How is it that the individual has become more important than the collective whole? What has been ripped from our souls to leave us so bereft of dignity, so detached from any sense of personal pride? Why has it become OK to bring shame on our families by playing out our personal lives in public places like MySpace and YouTube? The stoned, drunk and sexualized behaviors of an ever increasing population of perpetually adolescent adults in search of another party. Not to even mention the kids. Where is the personal shame? Such anger and self-loathing. Such inherent loneliness. Such an unwillingness to engage in honest self examination.

What have become of standards and reasonable expectations in our lives? What has happened to personal and public condemnation of intolerable behavior? How did bad behavior become more tolerable even than the disapproval of it? How did wrong become so relative? Why do we shrink from making such determinations? From taking a position? Have we become cultural cowards, so afraid of ‘judging’ others that we have lost the inclination to even judge behavior? Our own or others? Are we so afraid of having expectations, or of setting standards, that we no longer even set them for ourselves? I hope not.

Where is the Dignity?
I can only ask the question.

Everybody Was Alone

I remember (as a young man) staying at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in midtown Manhattan, New York. I was there for a few days to attend a business conference for the company I worked for in California. Anyway, my room was not yet ready when I arrived. I was told it would be an hour before I could check in, so I made myself comfortable in the grand, spacious, and lushly appointed lobby. There was a kind of hushed reverence observed by all who entered, and by those who remained as well. Like a church.

I watched the people come and go, everyone projecting a sense of importance, an image of sophistication. I noticed there were others sitting around, looking at their watches, presumably expecting to meet someone, or like me, just waiting for their room. I observed a couple of high class hookers briefly greeting business men, hopeing for a deal; and some street walkers being turned away at the door. I made a mental note of the double standard. I watched somebody watching me like he wasn't really watching me. I watched him the same way. I noticed an attractive businesswoman sending subtle little signals to indicate she was open to making my aquaintence. I noticed the concierge keeping a close eye on me, presumably because I was dressed pretty casual for the setting, unlike the other patrons. The desk clerks dealt with whatever came their way, deflecting what they could, absorbing what they couldn't. I noticed the baggage handlers, servers, and maintenance staff checking out the women. Always careful to not be seen leering, to appear professional, even though they were obviously preoccupied and distracted. It was an interesting dance. And it was playing out on an interesting stage.

If not for the cost of the accommodations, and the particular clientele that could afford them, it could have been the lobby of a Public Health Clinic. Or a bus depot. Or a City park.

It was a place I'd never been before. But I'd been to places like it. It had a very familiar feel. It was the arena of life. That did not go unnoticed. Or unacknowledged.

Even though we were in such close proximity to one another, everybody in the lobby was alone.
Very much alone.
That's what I remember most.

Life is where they
keep you
while they're making up
your room.

Voice To The Sky

I'm usually awake early. Almost always. Waiting for the sunrise, waiting to breathe in the morning, the newness of it all, the beginning of life. In these early hours I am often filled with an odd sense of contentment, with a subtle joy, and with a desire to reach into the soul of my surroundings. It is during these times that I am at my best. It's when I develope my life. It's where vision meets hope. It's where I am born. It is how I sustain myself.

The quiet of the dawn speaks clearly to me. It brings imagination, and it will not allow conflicting emotion to wage war for my attention. I find focus and invention. It is this foray into silence that enables me to live, to be a vibrant part of a beating heart much larger than my own. To be immersed in this flow of energy and vitality becomes, for me, the essence of consciousness. The birth of creation, the death of confusion. It becomes my friend. It is who I am.

Like lightening through a rod, I am empowered. Like a naked body on a beach soaking up the sun, enlivened and enlightened. I am relaxed. I am at peace from deep within myself, reaching forth to confront the walls surrounding me, to dissolve them at my touch. I can succeed in every moment. I can breathe in every obscure possibility. And exhale every doubt.

Morning always comes. At least it has so far. And it arrives without warning, in spite of its own inevitability. bringing with it a new freedom, if just for this one day. An ability to extend myself beyond myself, a freedom of expression. It is where life meets my expectation. It is where I fill my lungs and raise my voice to the sky. If it is possible, it is probable. If it is momentarily beyond my grasp my arms will grow to reach it.


It is my continueing observation that we live in a culture of relativity, with no enduring moral, ethical or spiritual absolutes. Everything is in motion, in constant change, and interpreted through a prism of gray. If I want to do it, it’s OK. I have a right. If you want to do it it’s even more OK because that makes it all the more acceptable for me to do it when I want to. Few people are willing to draw lines anymore, or come to solid conclusions about behavior. It’s the world we live in. Seldom does one stand up for the principle of what’s best for the whole, for the bigger picture. Only for self. My generation set up this dynamic (beginning in the 60’s) so that none of us would need to feel accountable to anyone for our own actions. I was a part of it. We were angry at our parents for being hypocrites. And we became even more hypocritical. We overlook and excuse even the most reprehensible actions by others as a means of granting absolution to ourselves for our own misgivings and ugliness. It is the primary reason I separated myself from the social politics and practices of my generation.

Ultimately, as individuals we have to find our own course, set our own standards. We are in a perpetual process of doing that. We take all that we read, all that we see, hear and experience into consideration in so doing, but we have little support for elevating above the cultural norm. And the cultural norm is not very pretty. There are those in our lives, whether they be family, friends or acquaintances who will not risk being honest about some things for fear of alienation or dismissal. It is the case with everyone. We protect the status quo as if it were gold. The status quo, however, is not gold. It is just comfortable. I strive to be honest. It is never easy, but it is necessary. It is one of the most important things I can do. I try not to live in denial, even if it's painful. People will always see some things differently. That's the nature of being an individual. But there is a difference between denial and seeing things differently. It is up to each of us to determine which is which. If it is denial, then once one sees truth, one is responsible to oneself for it. If it is seeing things differently, one will live with that until ones vision changes.

We should not marginalize ourselves, or jeopardize our ability to be full, complete, healthy and successful people. In our inner conscience we know what it takes to be that. We must listen to that voice, and have the courage of our convictions. Many have convictions, but few have courage.

Courage takes many forms, and it is a constant challenge. We are faced daily with situations that require courage. We do the right thing because it is the right thing. Or we do the wrong thing because it's more comfortable. The older we become the more clearly we realize that there really is very little in life that does not require a choice. The most healthy people are those who have most often made the right choices. Who have most often exercised courage over comfort. I too, seek to be more courageous. It is a continuously developing trait, and one to which I will always aspire.

My Brother Mike

Living in the country has enabled me to participate first hand in the daily birth, life, death and rebirth of the natural world. It is something I am ever conscious of. It is something I am separate from but fully absorbed in as well. It is in me and about me. It is with me and without me. It is me. It is each of us.

As is my brother.
We are each other.

Life is given for reasons known and unknown. And taken in like manner. Life is lived in ways and places sometimes beyond our control, beyond even our understanding. Lives developed by circumstance, choice and experience. Lives developed in faith, by faith, and even in spite of faith. Lives planted on the earth with roots which reach deep to absorb its strength, but with a hand stretched expectantly towards the sun, towards the light. For warmth, for meaning, for union with the divine. Reaching within for the same. Every person given their moment, given their time and their place. But everyone connected. Every thing connected. Even when it doesn’t feel that way.

I was born connected to my brother, and remain so. Connection to him was not made. It just was. And then it was defined, by time and interaction, by thoughts, intentions, prayer. . . . . . . . . . and even by absence. Brain cancer has not been my brothers friend. But it has been his companion.

Growing up together, knowing my brother intimately for the first 18 years of his life enabled me to continue to know him across time and distance. We shared a room until he left to find his own family. A wife, two sons and a daughter. I knew the original Mike, the child, the developing brother, the adolescent, the young man. I did not have the pleasure of his company much after those years (as I would have liked) but I did maintain a strong sense of who he is. Before the full development of his faith, before his family, before his ministry. Everyone who knew him met him in a different time of his life, and grew to know him differently. I am heartened to understand that (even though life has shaped, defined and refined him) he remains (still) the person I knew in the very beginning. He always will be. I take that with me into my future.

Everyone will take how they knew him with them into theirs.
We have all been blessed.

Let Them Eat Ivy

“I read the news today, oh boy”, as was once stated so eloquently in song by someone more renowned (but not necessarily more profound, I’d like to think) than myself. Not a good news day. Never (lately) a good news day. No matter which side of an issue one happens to be on, the government lackeys (our chosen representatives) continue to be an embarrassment to the folks for whom they work. That would be us! But we’d be fired if we did our jobs the way they do theirs. Bickering, blathering, bloviating, lathering up their constituents and jockeying for position like frat boys waiting for a lap dance. Someone once said, “If the people fear the government they’re living under tyranny. But if the government fears the people the people live in freedom.” I don’t know who said that. Maybe it was me. But I wish I did if I didn’t.

The problem today is that the government does not fear the people. They don’t work for us like they’re supposed to. We work for them. And they work for themselves. We all know that. I’m talking about all parties of government. They do, however, pander to us. They placate us and they screw us over, like laying new blacktop over a perfectly good road. They take our taxes and play poker with the boys. They pad their futures with promises to improve ours. You never hear a politician encourage people to think for themselves, or to improve their own lives. That would breed Independence. That’s a frightening word for politicians. They know elections are nothing more than popularity contests. They’ve been winning them, and learning how to manipulate voters, since the Junior High School class presidential campaign. . . . . . . . or the High School Homecoming King thing. I saw a contestant on a game show recently that didn’t know where Canada is. And I assume she votes! That’s scary. Don’t you think the politicians love that kind of ignorance? That kind of dependence. Feeds right into their ambition.

And now in the Halls of Power we’ve got angry women who could never get elected Homecoming Queen wanting to get
payback for being passed over way back then. They were ugly then (on the inside). They’re even more ugly now (on the inside and the out), talking out of both sides of their mouths, with stretched necks and faces, stretched truth, upturned noses, botox treatments, colligen lips, lypo-suctioned hips, 20 year younger makeovers, with weenie-eating wardrobe consultants, makeup artists, poll takers, and social psychologists writing speeches for them to make them appear confident and self assured. Oh yeah, and lawyers checking every word, of course. What a joke. For most of my life I've supported women in their struggle for equal rights, and for their right to be considered for their intellect, competence and contribution, rather than for their appearance. But it seems, for some, when it gets right down to it, it's the appearance that holds precedence over everything else. And these leaders consider themselves to be examples for young women. At least that's what they claim. I’m embarrassed. And they ought to be, but lack a couple of basic genes for that. The Dignity gene and the Integrity gene. Oh those!

Now don't get upset with me if you've had some face work, or some such thing. I'm talking about our leaders. I'm talking about image. I'm talking about deception. I'm talking about people who will do anything to get elected. Their faces are a reflection of their priorities. I don't care what you do with your own face, body or image. That's your business. You don't pretend to represent me.

Oh yeah, and the men are no better than the women. They just use a better shade of lipstick.

The political mantra? You know it. It goes something like this. “I’m a public servant. I want to work for the repressed, the dispossessed, the rest of those who never had the opportunities I’ve had. I want to give you a better life, with a better tomorrow. And a bigger car. I understand your pain. I know your hopes and dreams. I can bring them to fruition.” Translation: “I want to be famous. I want to have power. And I don’t want to have to get a job. I want to fly on private jets and have it as good as it gets. I want to be on television, be asked for my opinion, given privilege I don’t deserve, money I haven’t earned, and I want to get women I couldn’t attract with a puppy if I wasn’t elected to this elevated position of well known public servant.”
Oh, I’m sorry, did a little cynicism creep in there like a rat into the Capital?
How could that happen?

Ever get the feeling it’s not about us at all? Just about re-election? Ever get that feeling again? And again? And again? Suggestion: If they’ve served more than one term vote them out. If they’ve never had a real job (lawyer is not a real job, but they’re all lawyers) vote them out. Vote for teachers (not professors), vote for laborers, house keepers, soldiers, EMT’s, fire fighters, cowboys and farmers. Send these political scam artists, these social engineers, these white collar parasites, back to finishing school where they belong. Back to the hallowed halls of their own privilege.

Ever look up the definition of politician? I have.
Politician: 1) Somebody who is actively or professionally engaged in politics. 2) A member of a branch of government. 3) Somebody whose main political motive is self-advancement. 4) Somebody who deviously manipulates interrelationships, especially in a workplace.

I’m not making this up.
Let them eat ivy.

The Bully

When I was in the 7th grade I had a classmate named Brian.
Brian commanded everyones attention whenever he was around.
He made sure he was the center of everything. He always had something to say,
like he was some kind of expert on anything and everything.
He would constantly brag about himself, exaggerating his accomplishments,
exalting himself in front of the other kids, bullying them with his point of view,
causing them to acquiesce by the sheer force of his personality.
He thought he was the toughest, the smartest, the most well informed.
He constantly reminded everyone of that.

His own point of view was really the only one that mattered because he, after all, was always right.

He knew everything. He'd done everything. He knew everyone. He knew the best way to do anything.
His stuff was the best. His way was the best. His plan was the best. He was never wrong.
If something went wrong, or if he made a mistake, he blamed one of the other kids.
He was loud, and obnoxious, and required constant attention.
He needed to dominate people, whether in a group, or one on one.
Occasionally he would pretend to listen to someone else, but he never really listened.
He just waited to talk. His own perspective was all that was important to him.
He loved the sound of his own voice. He demanded respect. And he had a temper.

Brian was not very happy. If fact he was pretty miserable. And lonely.
Everyone around him pretended to like him, but always talked about what a jerk he was.
And, living the charade, Brian pretended to like himself.

In the middle of the year a new girl was admitted to my class. Her name was Carol.
She'd come from another school and didn't know anybody at my school.
She kind of kept to herself and observed everyone.
After about two weeks she walked up to me and a group of my friends while we were hanging around
at lunch time.

She said to us "Don't any of you care about Brian?" We were all kind of stunned at the bluntness of her question.
One of my friends said "No not really, none of us like him. But he thinks we do.
He thinks we have the same opinion of him that he has about himself."
Then Carol said "I didn't ask you if you 'liked' him. I asked you if you 'cared' about him.
Everyone looked a little bewildered and confused. "Why do you ask?" my friend said.
Carol said "because it seems like no one here really does care about Brian.
If you did, someone would have the courage to tell him that he doesn't need to act like that.
That he doesn't need to act like a big shot to mask his inadequacy (not her word),
and that he doesn't need the incessant bragging to make himself look good.
Someone who cared about him would tell him these things.
And that the way for him to look good is to be good, to be honest, to be quiet, to be dignified,
to be humble, to not think of himself more highly than another.
Someone would tell him that respect is earned, not commanded.
And someone would tell him that he would be liked, and maybe even loved,
if he were to take these things to heart, just shut up, and accept that he's really just like everybody else."

Then Carol asked "Do any of you care enough about Brian to tell him the truth?
If not, I guess I'll have to tell him myself."

Throwing Rocks Was Easy

I watched some kids kill a chipmunk
in the campground this morning
just for fun.
They didn’t have a gun
like the kids on the street.
They didn’t need to kill that little thing.

Throwing rocks was easy.
It made them happy to watch that creature
And it gave them power.
Being mean was second nature.
They wore it well,
like a badge.

And these were privileged kids.

Where did we go so wrong?
What have our sons become?
Have they buried their conscience,
their compassion, like bones?

Along side the sins of their parents?

Some Good Ones

Wrote another song last night. A wedding song for my son Dylan
and his fiance', Amy. I always feel good when I get a song out.
Like giving birth.
Makes me think about how many songs have been left
Songs I've aborted, or ignored.
Then forgotten.

Could have been some good ones.


Did some channel surfing last night on the TV.
Lots of talent competition shows to choose from.
Rock Star Supernova/America's Got Talent/
So You Think You Can Dance/America's Top Model.
Jeez, does everything have to be a competition
these days? Does anybody sing a song anymore
cause they like to, or because they enjoy being in a band?
Or just to make someone feel better. What happened to the
pleasure of the art. The satisfaction of the craft. The hope
of being able to make a living doing what you love
without the compulsion to be famous overnight?
Doesn't seem to be a lot of love these days. Just managers
and agents, and dollar signs in the eyes of some
who will sell their own birthright for a buck, and
for the chance to be recognized by all the little girls
at the mall.

They played those Ford commercials the guy who won the
American Idol competition made. They played them
every 5 minutes. They were slammed in my face like wind
from a much expected, but unwelcome hurricane.
The guy hasn't even been an 'Idol' for as long as it takes
to change the channel and he's already busting down my door
trying to sell me something he doesn't even drive. Big surprise!
Do you remember when rock stars held out from selling out
for as long as they could. They eventually would,
but now they sell out even before they break out.
They sign their name on the dotted line
and give away their dignity before they even understand
the concept.

I guess these talent whores and competition junkies just need better idols
for themselves.