Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Morning Music Video

Daryl Hall & John Oates - Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Variable (Man)

I am The Variable Man
A variable is a quantity that may change within the context of a problem. Mathematically, the variable is often represented by an X and in this case X is me. I am the variable and that can be looked at in two ways. First: It’s a positive aspect, meaning that I’m capable of change and adaptation. Or Second: It could mean that I’m the type of person, who has a tendency to change horses in midstream, but if that horse has been rode hard, and put up wet, maybe it’s time for a change.

As I mentioned in my last post, the house we have been renting for the last six years is going to be sold. Naturally, there is a lot of stress and frustration swirling around this impending move. My wife told me recently that I was the only variable in this decision making process. Like Goldberg, there must be at least 30 variations, including commuting, employment changes, and timing. Life is my aria and I contain multitudes. I’m full of contradictions and always looking for alternate routes. The Goldberg Variations put Glenn Gould on the musical map. My variations have put me in debt and on high blood pressure medication. Fifty-five and wondering why I’m still crazy after all these years.

They say that variety is the spice of life, so is it just one spice, or is it a mix like Mrs. Dash or Johnny’s Seasoning Salt? Variety television shows were popular when I was younger. The idea was a comedy sketch, followed by a ballad, followed by another sketch, followed by a dance number…well, you get the idea. A variety of entertainment was contained within the same show. Kind of like life itself. It’s a variety of entertainment in one lifetime that’s over too quickly and has too many commercials. There is no variety in reality shows, which do not resemble life at all.

My career path has not been a straight trajectory. I’ve been a technician, a picture-framer and a bookseller. I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I can’t fit all of that work history on my résumé! Just the pirate stuff alone would take pages, maps, and an inventory of booty. I don’t see any new employment positions on the horizon, but who knows? Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but he can learn variations on the tricks he already knows. Even old pirates can still be crafty.

Variety is touted as a wonderful thing, but change can resemble dark clouds on the horizon. You wouldn’t say, “Hey, just for variety’s sake, let’s move all of our possessions from this location to another location across town.” As for being the Variable (Man) in the equation, I’m going with answer number one, that I’m capable of change and adaptation – Even though I still sometimes change horses in midstream and get on a blind donkey headed to nowhere.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
              --  Walt Whitman

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What We Talk About When We Talk About Moving

Moving. We’ve all done it, at least once; the first time being when we were moved from that nice warm womb into that harshly lit hospital room. I’ve moved across the country four times. Last week, we were informed by our landlord that she has decided to sell the house, where we have lived for the last six years. This house has served us well. It’s conveniently close to the bookstore, where I am employed; it’s big enough for the four of us, and it’s fairly inexpensive for the area – about a thousand dollars less than comparable houses. I don’t think we’ll be moving on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky. We’re hoping for a house with a yard, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Something affordable and within a twenty minute drive of our work, and my son’s school. Ah, hope…

Our current residence is not without its downsides. It’s located on the very busy 15th ave NE, across the street from the bus stop; emergency sirens are a nightly occurrence; and the house itself needs quite a bit of work. The convenience and price outweighed those minor negatives though. Now comes the difficult, but not impossible task of finding something similar in the area. They say it’s a seller’s market right now, and those who suffer, are the ones that were already hanging on by their fingernails, the cliff crumbling away beneath them. I know at least a half dozen people, who are in or soon to be in the same situation we are. We need the jobs here in the city, but we can no longer afford to live, where we are employed. Thanks Amazon!

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was writing about life’s little lemons, and having to move is certainly a big fat festering lemon. I need to try and see it through my son’s eyes. He’s excited about the unknown possibilities and the known possibility of having a basketball hoop at the new place. I’ve been yearning for a canine companion, so maybe this move will provide the space. It would be nice not to be so close to our neighbors that we can reach from our deck and hand them a bowl of sugar. I can hear the the toilet lid hit the porcelain tank when they raise it! That's too close!

Every transition is a source of stress, even happy events, such as weddings. Moving from one place of residence to another is a major source of stress, but according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, changing residence is not even in the top ten. Marriage is number seven. The scale is skewed towards the wealthy -- as most media is -- because under other items causing stress is selling one’s house. So, apparently the landlord will be experiencing quite a bit of stress, but the tenants will continue to roll along carefree. Survey says! You don’t count.

The sun is shining with indifference, as always. It's time to put my shoes on and walk to work.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One Angry Man

I’m not 12 angry men, deciding on the life of a young boy. I’m one angry man, deciding on the fate of my own life; making decisions that sometimes take me off the highway and send me down the garden path. It’s easy to get angry about all the injustices across the globe and down the street. These days activism is just a click away, but that is a useless anger, like a candle that doesn’t illuminate. Anger at something for which someone has no control is useless, and a waste of precious human energy.

So far, I haven’t learned to temper my anger, turning swords into plowshares, as they say. Will it really matter to anyone except me if I try to explain my anger? Anger burns energy. (“Anger is an energy” – John Lydon.) If it’s not helpful in anyway, then it’s a waste of energy and resources. Energy that could be better spent loving others, and oneself. Nothing wrong with a little self-love. In fact, self-love is vital and necessary.

Anger seems to be a particularly masculine trait, like male pattern baldness. Let’s face it, it’s always been the men, who have raped and pillaged throughout history. Men are the warmongers and the wife beaters. They are the “rageaholics,” who must undergo anger management classes, which infers that you’re going to get angry, but you just need to learn to manage it -- cage the lion, so to speak.

More than 30,000 heart attacks each year are triggered by momentary anger, according to a 2004 Harvard study. Similar studies have shown that angry men are three times more likely to develop premature cardiovascular disease, six times more likely to have an early heart attack, and three times more likely to have a stroke. Not to mention ulcers, headaches, and other stress related maladies.

I never have to hear the words “Don’t forget your angry eyes” from my wife, as I leave for work. Of course, at work I wear my customer service face, and my angry eyes don’t really go well with that look. Nobody likes a cranky camper. The happy camper doesn’t let his fire get out of control. Fanning the flames of anger can burn bridges, families and friends. Anger is a downright incendiary emotion, harking back to early and primitive fight or flight predicaments.

I’ve always been one of those people, who keep my feelings inside, so it’s not too surprising that I spontaneously combust on occasion. I’ve worked hard during my life, and I’ve made choices that seemed sensible at the moment. As Needlenose Ned says on the topic of life, it's all one big crapshoot anyhoo. The dice just haven’t rolled in my favor. All I can do is work on improving my odds and turn my anger into art.

"Anger is an Energy!"

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bonus Video

I have about three blog posts in the works, and today I think I finally found the right voice for one of them. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm doing some "house cleaning," as we like to say in the business, and listening to Jay Farrar, formerly of Uncle Tupelo, formerly of Son Volt, but always with Jay Farrar.
Back to scrubbing pots and pans.
Jay Farrar - "Vitamins"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Get Used to Disappointment

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
and the sanity to know that you don’t exist;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know that it’s a just a roll of the dice. 

Get used to disappointment is just a pirate's way of saying practice acceptance. This is a Zen pirate. He sails the seven seas, resisting his craving for gold, seeking instead to calm the raging seas inside himself. Of course, he never resists the opportunity to grab some booty. He’s not crazy. Just calm.

Disappointment is directly tied to hope. Remember when mom used to say, “Don’t get your hopes up.” She knew that Disappointment Eve was just around the corner, and she hadn’t yet hung the stockings by the chimney with care.

Emily Dickinson famously wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul -- and sings the tunes without the words -- and never stops at all.” Of course, Emily was a shut-in, who most likely knew a thing or two about disappointment.

Red in The Shawshank Redemption says “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” One my favorite philosophers, Mad Max, says “…hope is a mistake.” It pays off in disappointment dividends. Hope is a losing investment, but we just can’t help ourselves. To hope is human, and to disappoint is divine.

I have a habit of disappointing myself and those closest to me on a regular basis. One might think that my middle initial stood for Disappointment rather than Douglas. I’ve always been my own harshest critic, but I also let myself skate free when I should shackle myself to the grindstone of life, until I get it right. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it breeds consistency. I seem to be carrying my disappointment around like Pigpen and this cloud of disappointment is following me about, like it’s about to rain shame and judgment upon me.

I’m married to my third wife, so I obviously disappointed the first two. I never want to disappointment my son, but I’m human and I leave a trail of mistakes behind as I journey through life. My shining star is always my son, and his amazing ability to love unconditionally and forgive without condition. I wish I could delete the many disappointments that I have introduced into my family’s life, and fill those moments with cherry pie and cute woodland creatures, but my time machine is sitting in the backyard with engine problems and mold, growing on the interior. I don’t think it would get me back to yesterday at this point.

I am a disappointment artist. I am the Duke of Disappointment. The downbeat devil himself. I admit that freely, but not without some shame. What is the opposite of disappointment? Satisfaction, but it’s never guaranteed. I don’t live to disappointment others. It’s unfortunate that those closest to me are unlucky enough to see me at my worst. My worst is worse than liverwurst, but today is another opportunity to do right, and leave disappointment in the dust. I just need to take a right turn at the bottom of the hill, and never look back.