Monday, November 9, 2015

No Longer Alone

I spent the evening in San Francisco the other day at my son’s concert.  Hadn’t been back there in awhile.  I’ve been living in the mountains for about the past six years.  I do come down out of the mountains fairly regularly, so it’s not as if I’m completely out of touch with the greater culture going on in our world.  I also do read, listen to the radio, and watch television.  And If I were to guess, I’d probably say I’m at least as conscious of our world as the next guy, and probably more so than most.  Being retired, I have time on my hands to stay in touch.  That’s one of the beauties of my circumstances. 

Now, I’m not retired in the purest sense of the word.  I spend a great deal of time writing books, music, and recording albums of my original songs.  But I am retired from the daily hustle-bustle of the work-a-day world.  And I like that part of retirement.  I have lots of time on my hands to choose what I want to do on a particular day, in a particular week or month, etc.  I am also alone quite often.  It is not something I ever dread, but quite the contrary, it is something that I relish.  I have time away from distraction, from noise and visual clutter, and from people.  It is valuable time. 
I never had to learn to be alone.  I have always coveted alone time.  It is something that is important to me; to every human being actually, whether they realize it or not.  Aloneness allows the opportunity for self-reflection.  It allows time for understanding and adjustment of who I am; my outlook, my behavior, my sense of my own equilibrium, my degree of self-acceptance or dissatisfaction.  It allows time to listen to, and to actually hear, my own conscience, the still small voice within me; the one voice that is critical for every human being to hear.  Some would say the voice of God.  I would not trade my alone time for all the wealth in the world.  It is the one thing that will give birth to the only kind of wealth that really matters.

I have a cell phone like almost everybody else these days.  I make calls, text, check email, send photos etc.  But when I’m out in the world I observe, and participate in, that world to one degree or another.  Where I am not (when I’m out in that world) is on my phone.  As necessary, yes, but not because of my own anxiety, for my own entertainment, or for a pervasive need just to not be alone.  Invariably, the more connected I would become, the more of myself I would lose.
What I have been observing most everywhere (and particularly the other night in San Francisco because it was so much more exaggerated than in many other places) is the dearth of alone time that people have these days.  Not by a deluge of inadvertent circumstances, but by choice.  Yes, by choice.  And I am sad about it.  Very sad.  I noticed people alone, and in groups, being connected to others outside of their own immediate circumstances.  Everybody was on their phones, talking, texting, checking emails, taking pictures of their surroundings, sending pictures of their surroundings, taking selfies, playing games; taking themselves out of their own present to be somewhere else, to be in another reality.  What they were not doing is . . . . . observing their own surroundings, observing others, talking to other people, even their own friends.  I saw groups of five or six people congregated on the sidewalk in a little circle, but nobody was talking to each other.  Everyone was on the phone.  I saw people waiting in line to get into a club.  They were on the phone.  I saw people in the windows of restaurants and café’s.  They were on the phone.  I saw loners waiting for a cab, or a bus.  They were on their phones.  I saw people on their phones while crossing busy streets, never even looking where they were going, or checking to see if a car was coming.  I even saw a father pushing an infant in a very small wobbly stroller through an intersection with cars coming from three different directions; a very large and dangerous intersection, even for somebody paying attention.  I watched the man very closely.  He never once, not once, looked up from texting on his phone.  I wanted to snatch the baby up and give him to someone more conscious of the child’s wellbeing.  More conscious period.  Obviously I couldn’t.  

We’re no longer alone. 

Yes, nobody has to be alone anymore.  And very few will choose to be.  They choose to always be connected.  I pity them.   They will never know the beauty of being alone.  They will never know themselves; truly know themselves.  They will never know self-reflection, as would be necessary for the art and practice of pragmatic or objective thinking.  At least not like would be possible otherwise.  It’s a shame that the future world will be ruled by the judgment and guidance of people who are stunted, only partially developed, as deep as a puddle rather than a well.

For this I grieve.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Cosmic Cafe

Placerville’s got talent.  Yes, that’s a fact. 
You may not know where Placerville is, but I live near the town.  It’s a smallish community in central California about 45 minutes east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains; kind of a gateway to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. 
You might hear it described by some people as a hick town, a redneck town, a backwater town, or a right wing bastion of conservatism.  And if you visited you might even describe it as such.  And you may not.  But I’m here to tell you that it may be some of that, but Placerville is much more than that as well . . . .  . . . . . . . much, much more.  There are communities within the community, made up predominately of very interesting young people, and the Cosmic Café attracts these different groups like a flower attracts a bee.  

The café is located on Main Street in downtown Placerville.  Sometimes when I feel a change of scenery would do me good I’ll go over to the Cosmic Café to write.  I’ll usually go in mid-morning after the bagel and coffee breakfast crowd has gone, and before the lunch crowd arrives.  I’ll set myself up on the second floor where it’s quiet, and where I can concentrate on what I’m writing, rather than being distracted observing the going’s on, as I might be doing downstairs where most of the people tend to linger.

Yesterday evening I went over to the Cosmic for an open-mic music casserole that they hold every Thursday night.  Just a low-key night out for us, and an opportunity to hear an array of different singers and musicians.  I’ve always enjoyed the open-mic format anyway.  It’s a chance to be entertained, but also an opportunity to encourage young artists in their struggle against their own nerves; another small step for each of them in expressing themselves, and in moving just a little bit further forward in pursuit of excellence and recognition.

Last night the bad performances were good.  The good performances were really good, and the really good performances were great.  There was a mish-mash of young people there, and, in fact, it reminded me of Greenwich Village, or the Haight-Ashbury in the sixties and early seventies.  Different though.  Different in that there seemed to be a broader variety of social subgroups represented.  I remember thinking how glad I was that these young people had a place such as the Cosmic Café to hang out, to express themselves, and to connect with others.  It did seem like many of them might be the outcasts from their schools, and perhaps even from their own families.  It seemed as if they might very well be wandering aimlessly if not for the focus they had with their music, and the embrace they’d found amongst one another at the café.  There was a real sense of acceptance, of family even.  It was quite evident that they enjoyed one another, encouraged one another, and by all appearances seemed to even love one another.

My friends and I never had a place like the Mystic to go to when we were growing up.  So many of them had talent such as I witnessed last night, but nowhere to express it, no place to channel their creative energy and find the acceptance and encouragement of others. They’d been the outcasts from their schools, and some of them even from their own families.  Not only were we not encouraged in our artistic inclinations and endeavors, we were discouraged from pursuing anything even closely related to creative expression. 

Too many of my friends died before reaching adulthood.  Perhaps a Cosmic Café might have given some of them the acknowledgment and support they needed to keep them from wandering aimlessly.      

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tears of Gratitude

   I stood on top of a mountain this morning and surveyed the granite lake below.  A wind was blowing constant across the water raising waves no higher than a foot or so, but aligned with one another in perfect duplication as if an artist filled a canvas with the same stroke of a brush a hundred thousand times until he ran out of space to paint.  I saw evidence of the wind moving across the lake but could not see the wind itself, only the hint of its existence.  

I moved my eyes towards a peak to the east that rose another thousand feet above the one upon which I was standing.  I scanned the granite mountainside while drinking in the splendor of its uncommon strength and beauty.  I took humble notice of the sea of boulders scattered, seemingly, so indiscriminately across the slope as if they’d fallen willy-nilly from the heavens, taking root, as it were, in the granite earth. Wind-worn and time-tested pine trees bent their ageing knees in homage to the sky, reaching rugged branches towards the sun, growing astoundingly from out of the ancient rock as if to prove that their survival was just a matter of will.  And perhaps it was.  Perhaps it was.

My dog, Chica, breathed deep to fill her lungs with the high mountain air, as if inhaling helium from a living balloon, as if collecting the best of her surroundings to take home as a remembrance of this very sacred place.  My dogs together paused in wonder, temporarily foregoing their roles as guides and protectors to acknowledge and appreciate the moment, to be mystified and amazed by the grandeur of their surroundings.  I stood in awe of the majesty of God, in gratitude for my life, for the wonderful creatures that are my dogs, and for the remarkable place that I’d been given to partake of.  I allowed, for the first time in a long time, tears of gratitude to leak from my tired eyes, to roll down my weathered cheeks as if it were the first time I had ever encountered such amazing grace.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Blogger Etiquette

--> 1. No profanity.
2. No racist or homophobic slurs.
3. No personal attacks on the author or other users.
4. No impersonating real-life public figures, alive or dead.
5. You’re perfectly welcome to be negative or critical while expressing your point of view.  
 But be respectful.

The above rules were presented on a SF Giants baseball blog to ensure proper etiquette/decorum for readers responding to the writers posting.
Inspired by them, here are my rules for ‘Coyote Tracks’.

  1. No insanity.  If you’re insane go follow somebody on Twitter.
  2. No baseless or xenophobic slurs.  If you’re going to slur foreigners first walk a few miles across the Sonoran desert in their shoes.  
  3. No impersonal attacks.  If you’re going to attack me, at least make it personal.  No other kind of attack will have the same impact.
  4. No impersonating fictitious figures.  If you’re going to impersonate a fictitious character, impersonate a politician.  Most of them have begun believing their own fiction.  And everybody else believes they actually used to exist.
  5. You’re perfectly welcome to be positive and non-critical while expressing your point of view.  But disrespect will get you noticed much quicker. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Third Eye Blind

There’s a band called Third Eye Blind, but this is not about them. 
This is about us. 
We supposedly have what many religious traditions call a Third Eye. We can’t see it, but we’re supposed to be able to see with it.  I say we supposedly have a third eye because with many of us you’d never know it, you’d never even get a clue that it exists.
In the Hindu culture it is often depicted by women with a red jewel placed on the forehead between the eyes.

The Third Eye belief system is found in Hinduism, Taoism, Western Wisdom Teachings (Rossicrucian), fringe Christian teachings, Gnostic, (Kundalini/Chakras), Buddhism/Shiva, Kabbalah, in meditation schools such as Yoga, Gigong, Zen, and many Martial Arts.  All of these religions, or practices, incorporate the idea of a third eye.
Some even believe it is the partially dormant pineal gland, which resides between the two hemispheres of the brain.

But, unfortunately most of us only see life with two eyes.  Figuratively one eye sees in black, and the other sees in white.  Look with both eyes together and we see gray.  What’s missing is the consciousness of dimension with which we were born to see life.  What’s missing is the color, depth, imagination and stimulation with which we were intended to live and experience life.

For many of us that third eye truly is blind.
Somehow, we’ve got to find a way to fix that.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Missing Joe and Janis

I miss Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin.
That’s right.  Both of them.
Equally powerful, equally mesmerizing, each in their own inimitable and wonderful way.

If you’ve never seen or heard either of them, you may not know it, but you miss them too.  And if you have experienced them you know you miss them.  More so than I can even express. 

I don’t need to be reminded about the void left in my once well-satiated soul.  My psyche is just a little out of sync since they’ve been gone.  My equilibrium is just a little bit off-kilter.  The pop-star-strippers the star-makers keep running out in front of us are mere wannabe’s, pickpockets, and imposters compared to the likes of Joe and Janis.  These pretenders are not here to enhance our lives with their pop drivel.  They never have been.  They’re here to enhance themselves.  And they’re here to allow us the privilege of purchasing four hundred dollar tickets to their shows so they can maintain their mansions, their private yachts and jets, while collecting costly wardrobes to impress their equally narcissistic friends, even though their designer garments are dripping with the sweat of our own brows. 

But Joe and Janis . . . . . passionate, authentic, captivating, fascinating; each in their own peculiar way.  Each one as unique as the other.  Each with a voice the size of their desire, and a heart the size of their fiery voice.
Janis was the tortured soul-searing singer who could bring you to your knees in a passionate plea for mercy.  She could give you gifts you never knew existed.  Take it.  Take another little piece of my heart now baby.  You know you’ve got it, child, if it makes you feel good’. 
And Joe, the trembling vocal jester with convulsive soulful gestures resembling both the agony and the ecstasy simultaneously in song.  ‘You are so beautiful to me.  You’re everything I’ve hoped for,
e v e r y t h i n g   I    n e e d.  You are so beautiful to me’.

Joe and Janis.  Gone too soon.
Gone but not forgotten.
Never have been. 
Never will be.

Not in my house.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

All Roads Lead Home if You're Lucky

I did some traveling through Europe for awhile back in the day, but also settled down periodically to live briefly in various places around the continent.  Just remembering some that still have pretty vivid, and lasting, imagery for me.  Today I can see that, although I was out there exploring the world, I was actually looking for the one road home.  They say that home is where the heart is, and that’s where I really always wanted to be.  Sometimes you have to leave home to find it.

Pack on my back, guitar slung over my shoulder, and on a mission to find the right direction in my life.  Any direction is not necessarily the right direction, but it is a different direction than the one I was pointed in at the time, and sometimes a different direction is the only one left to choose from.  That’s kind of how I began my months away. 

I stayed for a couple of nights with people I met in Paris.  They organized a ‘Welcome to the City of Lights’ party for me.  It stretched out over a couple of days.  Invited all their friends over.  We drank wine and ate well, then spent the afternoons in the sidewalk café’s.  No one I ever knew back home had ever organized a party like that for me.

I stayed in a little medieval stone village for a couple of weeks, tucked away in the mountains in the south of France.  The only way in or out was by a long hike through the woods.  No roads.  No gas or electricity.  No running water, just a gravity shower that was heated by fire.  I gathered firewood every day in the forest, and water from the stream.  Huddled close to an open hearth in a small stone cottage at night.  It was wonderful, and it was peaceful, but I felt so desperately alone.

I stayed for a couple of weeks in a little pension just off the Puerto de Sol in downtown Madrid, Spain where the girls on the street smiled at every passing, and the boys smiled even bigger.  Smiles painted across the faces of the girls like children on Christmas morning.  Although I was able to at the time, it was hard to resist the company of such uncannily bright and inviting propositions.  Siestas in the afternoon, evenings in the square, and late-night dinners in lively restaurants with strangers who called me friend.

I stayed with a family for a bit in Taormina, Sicily, in a house about a thousand feet above the sea where I gave guitar lessons to a 12 year-old boy and sang my songs in a local restaurant.
The family and I watched the Godfather together on their little black and white TV.  Talk about a Twilight Zone experience.  Unequaled by any I’ve ever had. 

I stayed for a while on a roof in Athens, Greece. A naked woman lived in a little caretaker shack on the roof as well, like in some kind of dream sequence from a Louis Malle film.  When I say naked, I mean she was always naked.  It didn’t bother me a bit.  We had coffee together in the mornings, and wine in the evenings.  Business as usual for both of us, as if she weren’t naked at all.   

I stayed in a centuries old hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey with bugs I’d never seen before.  Didn’t even know such bugs existed.  Big ones, like reptiles, and a floor soaked inches deep with water every time it rained.  I attached tarps above my bed to divert the water that was pouring down on me from the ceiling.  It was just above the Pudding Shop, a meeting place for vagabonds from around the world.  And the pudding was to die for.

I slept in a park in Lausanne, Switzerland at minus10 degrees.  My sleeping bag froze to the ground, and my body froze in the bag. 

I slept in the courtyard of an abandoned castle in Austria.  Met a beautiful woman there.  She wandered in to the castle just to kill a little time.  She was a teacher from a nearby school who invited me to come and speak and sing my songs to the student body at a hastily organized assembly.  Invited me to stay with her for a few days.  I availed myself of her generosity and we found that we could trust each other with our honesty.  It became the force behind our platonic, but liberating, relationship.

I stayed in a remote hostel in the Swiss Alps across from The Eiger peaks, where, through binoculars, one could see the skeletal remains of climbers who perished there attempting to scale the mountain.  Cow bells echoed throughout the valley as cows meandered around the mountainside grazing on the good green grass.
It was on one of these peaks that I wrote, what I believe to be, one of my best songs.  Atheist’s Dilemma.

I stayed in a myriad of places in Europe, Asia and North Africa, but really always wanted to be home.  No matter where I was it wasn’t home.  The irony is that when I was home I often felt homeless, and when away from home I always wanted to be back there once again.  The world is a big place.  In the greater scheme of things I was but a grain of sand in the desert.

I remember thinking, All roads lead home if you’re lucky.
And they have.
And I am.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rabbit in the Willows

Nothing of much importance to say today.
But I had a dream last night that someone was coming to get me; that he was looking for my house, and that he was more than single-minded about finding where I lived.  In fact, he was dogged in his determination.  He was a faceless, nameless stranger wearing a baseball cap with the shadow of its bill falling just over his eyes.  I was not afraid at first, but became increasingly concerned because of the vagueness of his appearance.  He had a smile that betrayed, what I now believed to be, his sinister intentions.  His face changed between that somewhat innocuous smile and the common cliché of a wicked grin.  It moved back and forth like someone talking out of both sides of his mouth.  It was rather disconcerting that I could not get a solid fix on his appearance, or, consequently, on who he happened to be, particularly since I remember some suit and tie business guy proclaiming that appearance is everything.

A cold nervousness took root in my stomach, then rose up from within me as I thought about this man, his probable mission, and the expected consequences for me if he, in fact, did find my house.  I pictured the 22-caliber handgun with silencer that he would use, the one that assassins typically utilize to dispatch their intended victims.  I pictured him knocking on my door as if he were from the gas and electric company on some routine inquiry.  I pictured myself opening the door, and the man raising that cold black pistol from his waistband and coolly putting one live round in the middle of my furrowed brow as calmly as if he’d just shot me in the head with a rubber band like kids do.  I fell beneath my own lifeless self.  He stepped over my crumpled body on his way to the kitchen to get a drink of water from the faucet.  I saw him stepping over me again to exit back through the door, careful to pull it shut on his way out.  He glided down the front porch steps, down the long walkway to the curb, and slid rather gracefully behind the wheel of a car as vague in my mind as the man’s own face had been in my doorway.

What I had pictured had not yet actually happened in my dream.  It was just my instinctual summation of what was about to happen.  As the dream continued I found myself at the kitchen table ruminating over a cup of old reheated coffee, mouth parched and dry at the thought of being found by this man.

And then, as I lifted the cup to my mouth for that first sip of nerve- calming relief, and the hope of drinking in even a small measure of courage, I heard a faint, but distinct knock on the door.  I was trembling like a rabbit cornered by a fox in the willows when a voice in some kind of eastern European accent calmly, but with very deliberate clarity, called to me through the door, “Mr. McIntosh, I’m here.” 
I began shaking even more vigorously, like the proverbial wet dog, and thought frantically about where I could hide.  But I held my breath, frozen to my chair, scared to even set my cup of coffee back down on the table for fear of being heard, when a second knock came louder, even more pronounced than the first.  “Mr. McIntosh, are you in there?  Mr. McIntosh, your taxi is here.  I’m sorry for being late, but I had a hard time finding your house.  I’ll be waiting for you in the car, out front by the curb.”

In my dream I allowed myself to finally exhale, like a pent-up hurricane breaking free of its inhibitions.

Like a big welcome sigh of relief.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Insane Speech Police

It has recently come to my attention that some directives have been issued from the desk of Janet Napolitano (the president of the University of California system) to the faculty and administration of all the schools in the state.  Ms. Napolitano leads the university system comprised of 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program. The UC system has more than 234,000 students and about 208,000 faculty and staff.

Her directive consists of the following (what she calls) potentially offensive, racist or sexist statements that should be banned from use by anyone within the system.

* America is a land of opportunity.
* America is a melting pot.
* There is only one race, the human race.
* I believe the most qualified person should get the job.
* Why are you so quiet?

Statements that we’ve all heard, that many of us have used, and that, for all intents and purposes, are not meant in an offensive, racist, or sexist context.  And yet, Ms. Napolitano has proposed banning the use of all of the statements in order not to offend, or hurt the feelings of, well, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  anybody.
I’m not making this up.  This is the mentality she not only holds, and is promoting, but insisting on as well for those who work in the UC system, and for all those attending the schools. 

Now let’s look at these phrases:

America is a land of opportunity. 
Well, to say such a thing is to imply that Lebanon, or Afghanistan, or Cuba, or wherever, are not lands of opportunity.  And we wouldn’t want to hurt their feelings now, would we? 
Nor would we want to think so positively about our country.  It might reinforce our own bias towards the U.S.
Better ban these words. 

America is a melting pot. 
This statement would imply that we take in immigrants from all around the world; every ethnicity, from every culture, political persuasion, religious belief and ideology; and that these diverse people find common ground here in America.  What a concept.  We better not express such a grandiose perspective about our own country.  It could cause some hurt feeling in Saudi Arabia. 
Ban these words.    

There is only one race, the human race.
Now this would imply that we are all created equal; that we ought to recognize our similarities, our common origin, and our inalienable rights as humans.  But wait, that would tend to unite us rather than dividing and sub-dividing us into social, ethnic, political, economic, religious, and sexual/gender groups.  Can’t let that happen.  Smaller groups are easier to control than a people united would be. 
Better ban these words. 
I believe the most qualified person should get the job.
Now this is just an outrageous and egregious statement all together, and it most definitely should never be spoken out loud.  After all, if I were an employer I would much prefer hiring the most unqualified, the most unprepared, the most ill-equipped, the most immature, the most unkempt, and the most contentious applicant possible.  Wouldn’t you?
That being the case, we better ban these words.

Why are you so quiet?
Never ask this question to any living person.  It could be overheard by an Asian bystander who would experience it as a deeply offensive and racist question.  We must protect all people at all times from being hurt by our words, even if those same words are being misinterpreted. 
Yes, we better ban these words.

In fact, let’s ban even the discussion of banning these words,
or even thinking them.
You never know who might be listening.
And who might be offended.

Thank God for Ms. Napolitano.
Without her we just wouldn’t know what to do.


Thursday, June 11, 2015


I remember when I used to take pictures of other people.  What a novel occurrence that has become.  In today’s world I just take photos of myself.  Sometimes there are other things in the photos with me, and sometimes there are other people, but it’s usually just me.  Yes, I like the world to be all about me.

Here’s me in the line for the outhouse at Bonnaroo.  Here’s me in front of the bar in El Sobrante.  Here’s me in the mirror taking a picture of myself in the mirror.  How do I look?  Here’s me checking my Facebook.  Here’s me eating a carrot in the car.  Here’s my feet walking down the street.

What has become of me?
One of these days I’m gonna just get over myself.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bruce Jender

You’ll have to excuse the pun, the misspelling of Bruce Jenner’s name.  It was not designed to diminish or ridicule him, only to get your attention.  And now that I have your attention, let me say that it looks like the known world is weighing in on him transitioning from a man to a woman; and the war of social-politics connected to it is fully engaged as well, like dogs and cats locked together in a cage.  Everyone is taking up sides.  One side applauds him, promotes him endlessly, calls him brave, and elevates him to hero status.  And the other side says that what he’s doing with his gender transition is disgraceful.  They say it’s perverted, they say it’s morally reprehensible, and appalling beyond words. 

Mr. Jenner is not without fault himself.  The Bruce / Caitlyn Jenner publicity campaign has been skillfully mapped out, and is in full swing.  There is money to be made here, and you can bet he’s going to profit from it.  He says he wants to help other transsexuals to feel good about themselves, and to be able to live comfortably in society, and in their own skin.  A noble concern on his part.  And I have no doubt that his intentions in that regard are good, even beyond the financial incentive. 

Now, I don’t have a problem with Bruce Jenner.  In fact, from what I know of him, I kind of like him.  I empathize with him for the pain and confusion he has evidently endured through his life, and I sympathize with his personal struggle.  I’ve had struggles of my own.  Not his particular kind, but struggles, nevertheless.  No one knows another persons pain without having walked in their shoes.  However, a person willing to understand that pain should also be willing to hope that Bruce would be able to find solutions for his dysmorphic disorder that does not involve surgically and chemically carving himself into a woman.  It is a psychological/emotional issue that was born within him, and it is fixable. 

The truth is, Bruce will never be a woman, and I think the people who are supporting him in that direction should be ashamed of themselves.  The struggle is between Bruce and his thinking, and not between Bruce and his body.  I understand that it is easier to support someone in what they want to do than to actually tell them the truth.  And it is the coward’s way of supporting those they care about.  They know it deep inside, and so does the object of their support . . . . . . . in this case, Mr. Jenner.

I recognize quite acutely that the truth is not a popular notion in today’s world.  We prefer to create different definitions of healthy than to define a particular condition as unhealthy.  And just as Bruce must come to grips with his own demons, society will have to come to a different standard of honesty and integrity in order to actually solve some of the problems we are, in fact, creating for, and among, ourselves. 
Although I believe that Bruce is too far down the road, too strongly committed to turn back, I do wish the very best for him.  I am not a hero worshipper, or a condemnation screamer, but I do fear what is statistically, and experientially born out; that he is in for a very unsatisfying and painful future, even in spite of his money and notoriety. 

God bless you Bruce. 
I hope you find your way.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's Wrong With This Picture

What’s wrong with this picture?
Well, I guess that all depends on how you look at it.
If you look at the world from a negative perspective maybe you’re going to think that everything is wrong with it.  But if you look at it from a position of happiness maybe you’re going to think that there’s really nothing wrong with the world at all.  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that life is either beyond repair or beyond reproach, it just means that these kinds of observations and judgments are pretty much subject to one’s internal influences.  As much as we might like to think of ourselves as impartial, or at least capable of impartiality, we, in fact, are not.  We are always at the mercy of our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual state of being.

If I have a headache, maybe the world looks a little bleaker than if my head didn’t hurt like hell.  If I’ve been intellectually lazy of late, maybe the world looks too complicated to even give it much thought.  If I’m sad, or forlorn, or feeling rejected by someone that matters to me, maybe the world feels very unwelcoming, or too uncaring.  If I’m feeling spiritually disjointed, confused, or lacking in faith, maybe I just don’t care about the world at all. 
And, on the other hand, if I feel great physically, the future may look bright.  If I’m been exercising my mind, maybe I understand the world just a little better than had I been indolent.  If I’m happy, maybe I experience the world with its arms wide open to me.  And if my faith is strong, maybe I see the majesty of God in the world around me.   

We don’t like to think that we look at things in black and white, but in fact, black and white thinking asserts itself independent of our own intentions.  We credit ourselves as liberal assessors of any given situation, as conscious evaluators, as contemplative thinkers, as sensitive appraisers of the world around us, but in any plausible judgment of life in and around us we fail in our thinking to compensate for the influences that affect those same judgments. 

The only way I know to remain positive about the world around me, however, is to put myself, and keep myself, in the best physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual condition that I’m capable of.  It, in and of itself, tends to produce an attitude of gratitude that enables a positive connection to life and living.  If I’m going to err in black and white thinking, at least I know I’ll be erring on the constructive side of things, and that always seems to do better by me than the alternative.   

Only then can I be confident that I see things as alive and regenerative.  Only then can I truly count on understanding what’s wrong with this picture.

And what is right with it as well.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Broader Education

Way back in Catholic grammar school I began, what was for me, my broader education by watching the complex dynamics of teacher/student relationships.  My teachers were nuns, stiff disciplinarians, and generally unhappy and uptight individuals.  They were supposed to be a reflection of God, but there was really nothing about them that inspired me to want to be like, or even closer to, God.  In fact, some of them were downright mean.  There were a couple of different nuns whom I considered kind and loving, but for the most part they were pretty intolerant and scary.  They were the ultimate authority figures.  They had the uniforms, habits, and the stiff and unyielding posture.  Seemed like they never relaxed, and almost never smiled.  There was a general and pervasive fear of displeasing them.  Anyway, I took it all in.  I observed which student behaviors earned the praise and accolades from the nuns.  And I took notes.  Unfortunately it was the phony, kiss-ass gestures that garnered the most affection.  It was the do anything to please personalities that came out on top of the proverbial pile.  It was not in my make-up.  And it was certainly not in my nature.  I was angry at them for the way they wielded their authority.  And I was intent on not joining the status quo.
At the time my educational experience was actually still ahead of me, and was really quite beyond what was to be learned from the nuns, from the books, or from the system. 

As has been the case for most of my life, I have tuned in to the less obvious, finding the obvious to be, well, obvious.  It has been the underlying dynamics of relationship, the psychology of behavior, the quiet innuendoes, the barely visible manipulations, the system of punishment and reward, the need meeting, the mating dance, the body language, the games, the who behind the mask, the flattery clubs and the social climbing that have fascinated me the most.  It is what has held my interest.  It is a glimpse into privacy, an understanding of camouflage.  It is what makes sense of the world for me. 
The rest is just veneer.

I have never earned a degree, and it has never bothered me.
I probably never will, unless by accident.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Hope, and My Desire

 I surfed the California beaches for many years, both as a teenager, and later in my adult life.  I've found few experiences to rival those early morning plunges into the cold Pacific Ocean.  Feeling naked, sensing every pore in my body suddenly explode, the frigid water and brisk dawn air conspiring to awaken my soul.  The expectation of the adventure, paddling out through the waves as they crashed over me in a vain attempt to hinder my progress, to turn me back, to deprive me of the pleasure of that first ride.  Challenges (obstacles) barely noticed for the focus of the reward.  Meeting the challenge becoming even it's own reward.  There are no words to describe the ride.  The more I could abandon myself to the rhythm of the wave, it's subtle changes in personality, it's requirement for immediate response, the deeper I became immersed in it's primitive, but natural intent.  The more integrated I would become with the water, the clearer would become my understanding of it’s inherent freedom.  Over time I learned to heed the casual beckoning of the waves in their attempt to guide me gracefully, and safely, through the ride.  Sometimes the wave would hurt me.  But more often than not we'd end up shaking hands.
            The optimistic energy in my life has been this same experience.  The cold air, and water, being the awakening from dormancy; the paddling out being the process of getting my consciousness, and will, directed through the obstacles, taking up the challenge; the ride being the freedom, and joy, inherent in the extraordinary expression of it's boundlessness.  The simple act of abandoning myself to the mystery of the unknown, the unforeseen, stripping naked before myself, and for myself, jumping gracefully from the bridge of possibility. 
To live in this place, to truly live in this place,
is my hope,

and my desire.

Absent the Approval of a Father

In my personal life, in my social experience, and in my work, I became, through the years, increasingly aware of the void left by the absence of a father’s approval.  Yes, my father loved me.  Yes, he cared about me.  Yes, he was alive, and just a phone call away.  But I never felt connected to him.  I never felt secure in our relationship.  I never felt like I could talk to him.  I could never feel his support, or his love. 

In working for so many years with young people as a Youth Center Director, a High School Counselor, a Mental Health Counselor, and a Minister, I found in so many of them the same void, the same need for acceptance, for love and approval that I’d lived with for most of my life.  These were kids at risk.  I worked with many adults as well.  And they were adults at risk.  They were really just the kids at risk, but years later.  I too grew from a teenager at risk, to a young man at risk, to an adult at risk, and finally out of the, ‘at risk’ part altogether.  Well, I didn’t exactly grow out of it.  I worked my way out of it.  I worked very hard, and for very many years.  But the common thread with most all of these troubled souls was the disconnection from their father.  Whether they were male or female, it was the disconnection from their father and the inability to feel his approval that most often created the alienation and vulnerability in their lives.  The ‘at risk’  part played itself out in the same way with most, if not all, of them.  There was the involvement in drugs and alcohol.  There was dangerous and impulsive behavior.  There was flirtation with death.  There was the seeking of love wherever it, or an imitation of it, could be found. 

In different periods of my teenage and adult life I personally lived near the same edge, closer to it at times than at others, but near the edge nevertheless.  Unlike so many young people who would eventually become subject to its intoxication, I was able to recognize my vulnerability, my own overwhelming need for my father, and not settle for the readily available, but inadequate fix of cheap love, cheap booze, or cheap drugs.  It would have been easy to lose myself in its grip.  I had been years craving the love of my father.  There had always been other men more than willing to offer themselves to me in various unfavorable circumstances, and there have been just as many years of my understanding that it was an imitation love they were offering, and that it would never fill the void I carried within me.  Too many at risk people have been unable to internalize that understanding for themselves.  I have seen so many become first immersed, and then lost, in homosexuality, in sexual addiction of various kinds, in grief, despair, and self loathing.  I have yet to know anyone who wound up truly happy, truly fulfilled as a result of such personal compromise.  I have always felt very deeply for those in such need.  And I still do to this day.  That will probably never change.   

Some have had a similar relationship with their fathers that I had with mine.  Some have had fathers who were brutal, sadistic, cruel, and even criminal, making mine look like a puppy dog, albeit a pit bull rather than a big cuddly.  But some have never known their fathers.  Some fathers were absent in body, some absent in mind, or spirit.  Some absent since birth, even.  Some fathers were separated from their children by divorce.  Some left, disappeared, or died later on in life before they and their child ever connected in a deep and meaningful way.  But all of those whom I’ve known to have lived apart from such connection, acceptance, and approval suffered many of the same symptoms that I lived with for so many years. . . . . . . . . sadness, loneliness, hopelessness and alienation. 
It’s what drives the teenage suicide rate.  It drives much of the gay and lesbian life.  It drives a great deal of the drug and liquor industries.  It drives the psychiatric client lists.  It drives the new age spiritual movements.  It drives spiritual feminism.  It even causes people to be driven down a compulsive road to success, ever needing to prove their worthiness in order to gain the approval of their fathers. 

It also drives the search for meaning in ones life. 
And it has always driven me to write. 
The fact that early on I was able to find a means of circumventing many of the destructive ramifications of such a void does not diminish in any way the powerful impact, the pain, and the regret that the absence of a meaningful father/son relationship has visited upon me over the years.

I am not unique in that respect.  Not by any means.  In fact, I would consider myself to be the norm in such a common dynamic, rather than the exception.

If you’re a father please find a way to connect with your son or daughter,
no matter what their age.
Or yours.

It is never too late for such a redemptive union.
It could be life changing for the both of you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Your Own North Star

           There is an element of life that, for me, requires awareness, a soberness, if you will, that would enable me to be in a kind of continuing self-analysis.  Not for the purpose of measuring myself against another, but to be able to take accurate inventory concerning my progress in life and my development as a person.  It is important to know where I’m at in my journey.  I believe it is for all of us.
            My own standards are much higher than any that might be imposed upon me by the world at large.  If I set them according to what I feel to be my potential and beyond then I need not give concern to someone else's expectation of me.  It has been a process of adjustment and readjustment throughout my life.  It has become, however, a familiar and relatively comfortable position to take with myself.
            Life does assert it's unequal and prodigious power over me.  Sometimes more profoundly than I even care to admit.  But I am harder on myself than anyone else ever could be.  I also appreciate, more than anyone, the numerous minefields I find myself walking through while at the same time seeking to keep my balance, and my direction.  I do not subscribe to, or waste my energy with, pop psychology or new age soul candy as a solution for anything.  In my view, there can be no greater detriment to genuine spiritual consciousness, self-discovery, or one’s personal equilibrium.  There is, it seems, a new ideology, and a new spirituality coming around every corner of every neighborhood we walk through in life.  There are distractions for each of us, and there are paths for us to be led down that lead only around in circles.   
It is important to not get lost in the maze of your own condition.  It is important to know where you are, to remember who you are, and to know where you stand with yourself.  If your psychic compass cracks there is the North star.  It is the brightest star in the Little Dipper formation, located very near the celestial North Pole.  It is always where it’s supposed to be.  Know where it is.  Do not be lost within yourself, floundering in the dark like a raft on a midnight ocean.  It is perhaps this spiritual disorientation - more than any other in life - that extracts the most costly toll on our psyches, our stability, and our balance.  It cuts to the very core of who, and what, we are.  It causes us to search for ourselves while in a condition of compromised filters and clouded perception.  It leads us through alleyways, and doorways, into which we otherwise might not walk. 
Having accurate bearings is paramount in life.  If you find yourself lost in the dark out on that vast ocean learn to find the North star, your own North star, something about yourself that will always be as it has always been.  
Something solid, something trustworthy, 
something deep within yourself.

A Disconcerting Dream

I can’t remember it all clearly, but I was being beaten by a man much bigger than me.  Whipped.  Cleanly.  Deliberately.  Very surgically.  Not with passion, but with great skill.  Not with a belt, but with a switch from a tree.  A willow tree I think.  It made cuts like a knife across my skin.  My skin was soft and lily-white like a young girl’s.  Like a freshly fluffed pillow.   
I did not cry, and I did not scream.  I was in terrible pain, but I was not upset, as if I were used to it.  I was conscious of the violence of the moment.  I was conscious of the trauma, but not affected by it at the time, except to say that I was sad.  And I was lonely inside. 

Like an orphan,

in an empty room.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Message From Within

Hear my voice in your solitude, and in your pain.   
I will be with you in your grief and in your joy.   
I will stand beside you in your faith.  
I will embrace you in your unbelief.   
I am He who has always been, 
and who will be with you till the very end.

Until the sands of time have passed. 
And even longer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It Keeps My Head From Exploding

Every so often I need to write just because my head is so full of thoughts that I need to expel them or take the risk of going nuts.  My brain begins to twitch, and my fingers begin to stretch looking for a keyboard to express myself on.  I often don’t understand what it is I have to say until it’s been said.  Then I can look at it and relate it to something that has either been bothering or inspiring me.  But sometimes it is neither.  Sometimes it’s just to satisfy my need to not be tormented.  Kind of like why an addict needs a fix.  It is also a means of circumventing complacency.  For me, writing can often be comparable to stretching my body before a hike so that I don’t pull a hamstring.  I suppose the expression of my thoughts is the mental equivalent of that body stretch. 
Keeps my head from exploding.

When I know that I do have something specific to say I’ll say it the best I can, but it seems my fingers are never really able to keep up with my thoughts.  I’m always a few sentences behind what I’m thinking as I’m racing on the keyboard to not let my thoughts get too far out ahead of my fingers.  When they do I begin to not make any sense.  But many of you already think that of anything I might have to say anyway, so no real worries there. 

I’ll just continue to plow the fallow ground in my head, and you can continue to feel like it doesn’t make any sense. 
Works for all of us,
Don’t ya think?