Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hot Chip - Huarache Lights

I'm working on a new blog post, really I am, but until then here is a music video by a band I've really been enjoying lately: Hot Chip.

So I can see
I got something here
That you don't ever want to turn down
I got something for your mind
Your body, and your soul
Every day of my life
Every day of my life

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Grass is Always Greener

They say that the grass is always greener in the next universe. The groove is always funkier. The water is sweeter and the sun is warmer. The tears are not as salty and don’t fall as swiftly. Maybe the multiverse theory is just a way for cosmic theorists to mathematically validate their fantasies. In the past we had Walter Mitty, the Land of Oz and other fantastical escapes. Now we have actual numerical theories which posit the possibility of an infinite number of universes, where every possibility is a reality.

Religious believers employ this “grass is always greener” concept when they put all their hopes in the idea of a heaven, whether that heaven is lined with gold streets and dead relatives or has ninety-nine virgins waiting for the next crazy suicide bomber. You don’t need to be a member of a church to feel spiritual and you don’t need to be a monk to find enlightenment. False hopes lead to dead ends and a lifeless existence. Stop and look around you. The beauty of life is astounding, from the colors and scents of flowers to the bird songs of robins, chickadees and the common flicker. Breathe it all in and savor the universe we find ourselves in.

Robert Fulghum, author of that classic book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" put it this way: "The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are."

If the theoretical physicists are correct then there very well may be another universe, where I am rich and famous, but not nearly as good looking as I am here and now. If we all hunker down here in this world, obeying archaic patriarchal laws, we’ll die old and unfilled. Sometimes reality feels like a foot on our face, not allowing us to get on with our deepest desires. This is my path and those Marks in the multiple universes, like bubbles in soapy water, have their own paths with their own ups and downs.

We all have a bit of Walter Mitty in us, imagining ourselves in some bigger and shinier reality. Here I barely have time to write trivial blog posts, never mind fantasize about what other Marks are doing in the multiverse. Those Marks need to take of their own problems, cash their own checks and marry or divorce as they see fit. I can only attempt to control my own destiny and that’s a futile task. Control is out of my hands. The sooner I realize that the better off I’ll be.

Mindfulness is all the rage these days and it teaches that there is only this moment. We might as well all agree that there is also only this universe. All other universes are theoretical at this point and even if there were evidence for their existence, we have no way to take a vacation in a parallel universe. We have this moment in this space in time, and we all have to make the best of it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Book Reviews

We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown UniverseWe Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not a physicist or a mathematician, but I've always been drawn to the Big Questions. This book is just filled with Big Questions and lots of humor. Whiteson and Cham explain in layman's terms and with cute comics, the five percent about the universe that we do know, while opening up the readers' minds to the 95 percent of the universe that we are still stumped by. They explain how we might tackle these still unanswered questions and give us hope with the fact that we have managed to learn so much about our universe in just the last few hundred years. I admit that I read a few chapters more than once in attempt to absorb the heavy stuff, but that's because I really want to learn. Some of this stuff is downright mind boggling! and who could have guessed that footnotes could be so funny?

* * * *

Goodbye, VitaminGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Ruth is visiting her parents for Christmas, her mother asks her to stay for a year to help care for her father, who is starting to suffer the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, Ruth is trying to find her own footing, after her fiancée left her for another woman. "Goodbye, Vitamin" is narrated by Ruth in short diary-like entries that are often very funny, but by the end of the book these vignettes add up to a moving chronicle of familial love, as Ruth finds meaning and connection in some unexpected places. "Goodbye, Vitamin" sneaks up on you and may have you laughing out loud and then bring you to tears on the same page!

Rachel Khong was the managing editor then executive editor of Lucky Peach magazine from 2011 to 2016. "Goodbye, Vitamin" is her first novel.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rival Sons- Good Things (Live at the Compound)

Damn! I love this band. 
"Enjoy it right now
Because you never know
When it's gonna end"

Rival Sons - "Good Things"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Old Man Walking

Man Walking
by Paul Gavarni
I have always loved walking. Some people call it hiking. I guess it depends on the location, whether you call it a hike or a walk in the park. I grew up in the country – two barns, ponies, dogs, etc. – and there was rarely a day after school when I didn’t take a walk in the woods. On the map the area is called the Great Cedar Swamp and was once part of the great Wampanoag Nation. I walked with the ghosts of Indians, the original people, who walked those same paths. I never felt lonely in the woods. I felt part of the spirit that moves in all things. I do not feel that same connection when I walk among the tall concrete and glass buildings in the city.

I have lived in Seattle for over twenty years and it has always felt like a nice compromise. It’s a city with quaint neighborhoods, tree-lined streets and the occasional bald eagle soaring overhead, but the face of the city is changing. Every so often I see a tree in the neighborhood marked for destruction. They post a notice, so those opposed to the removal of the tree can fight city hall if they so desire, but they will be laughed right out of court. Damn tree huggers! The powers-that-be have no qualms removing a tree that has graced the neighborhood for a few hundred years, providing housing for a variety of creatures, from lowly insects to majestic eagles. They remove them because they are buckling the sidewalk, or blocking some homeowner’s view. I guess only the Lorax speaks for the trees.

Lately my walks have been filled with the colors of spring, as a variety of flowers are now in bloom. I remind myself that colors are electromagnetic waves of various lengths, entering my eyes and being interpreted by my old man brain as glorious signs of spring. Spring, when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love and an old man’s thoughts turn to his past. I am only old in comparison to those younger than myself and in another week I’ll add another digit to my age, making me fifty-six. There are days when I feel like I’m twenty-six and then there are days when I feel the weight of that first handful of dirt tossed upon my casket. I must count the dark days among the sunny ones to make a whole life.

I was at work last week, when a customer asked me about my weight loss. “How did you do it? Was it intentional?” My ex-wife asked me recently if she needed to worry about my health due to my weight loss. My weight loss was not intentional, but my walking always is. I used to disdain umbrellas like most true Seattleites, but in order to walk every day, sometimes I need take cover under a University Village complementary umbrella. It’s big, it’s yellow and it keeps me dry, so that I can be of service to the bookstore customers without raining on their parade. Nobody likes a wet bookseller or a wet book cellar.

Walking is my way of progressing down my path. I can feel the sun warm my face when I’m outside. I can feel the breeze as the weather turns, and the rains move in. I walk through the aisles of the bookstore, where I work, shelving books and helping the odd customer along the way. There’s always that one odd customer. My legs move me through the world and give me a more realistic view of my surroundings. Sometimes I stumble, but I pick myself back up, dust myself off and amble on down the road, towards the next adventure. Will I choose the path less traveled or will I take the path of least resistance?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Singularity

"The Bothersome Man"
I am unique. I have all the requisite body parts like other mammals, but my thoughts are uniquely my own. The experiences that shaped me were processed by my particular biochemical makeup and no other. I was six months old when I was adopted by a young couple from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. They gave up their horses in order to start a family. They adopted four children: boy – girl – boy – girl. I am the oldest and the rest are all a year or two apart. We were a rambunctious brood and probably more problems than their farm animals had been. They did not come from privilege. Not by any means. They worked hard just to see the world strip it all away.

Alone in the world, at home in the wilderness. I was not sports inclined, nor a book worm, preferring instead to spend time in the woods behind our house. It was my refuge. When at home, I would fill sketchbooks with imaginary characters, giving them names and back stories. I took piano lessons from the church organist and performed in recitals, sometimes playing duets with my sister. I took trumpet lessons for a short time, when they offered them through the elementary school. I no longer play a musical instrument, but music is still an integral part of my being. It soothes the savage breast and makes me feel pretty good, too.

When I was six-years-old, my chores included feeding my father’s hunting beagles. One overcast evening, I went upstairs in the barn to my dad’s workshop to feed a beagle that had been separated from the others, because she was “in heat.” The dusty shop was very quiet and I saw the rope, which had been tied to the dog’s collar, leading out the hayloft door. The weight of the dead beagle was very heavy to my young hands. I left her at the end of the taut rope and went to the house to tell my parents, stopping to pick up my father’s pen, which I found on the dusty workshop floor. I found it quite difficult to put into words that the beagle was now hanging from a rope at the back of the barn, its claws flecked with the red paint, as it scratched in panic during those last moments of life.

In July of 1973, our family piled into our Dodge van and took I-95 south to Washington, D.C. for a vacation. One evening, arriving too late to visit the wax museum, we found a nearby pizzeria. I had been riveted by the Watergate hearings on television, so it wasn’t too surprising when I glanced over and recognized Fred Thompson, then serving as minority counsel to the Republican senators. My parents encouraged me to go over and introduce myself and the next thing you know, Fred Thompson was putting my family on his guest list to attend the hearings the next day. My siblings slept through it, but I was too excited. They were questioning Attorney General John Mitchell that morning. I also spotted Daniel Schorr and the courtroom sketch artist.

I did not enjoy high school, so instead of dropping out, I earned enough credits to graduate in three years. I then found myself with nowhere to go and nothing to do, making me the ideal candidate for military recruitment. I met with the local Air Force recruiter in Taunton and – with my parents written permission – I agreed to serve four years. I was the only seventeen-year-old from Rehoboth, Massachusetts on that Eastern Airlines flight from Boston to San Antonio in December of 1978. After training, I spent my remaining years in North Dakota, working on the Minuteman III missile systems, getting drunk on Southern Comfort and cursing the prairie winters.

I was the only Mark in that adoption agency office in Alpharetta, Georgia, on that February morning in 2006, holding my son Justin for the first time. I may have made some mistakes in my day, but becoming Justin's father is not one of them. Justin is compassionate and kind. He’s funny and gregarious. He will also challenge anyone to a game of PIG on the basketball court. Anyone. He was once my little Buddha baby, but very soon he will be taller than me. Being a parent is not easy. I have a hard enough trying to guide myself through this treacherous world, never mind trying to light the way for others. But if I can lead by example than that’s a start.

I have been married three times and that is certainly not a singular achievement. More like three strikes and you’re out. Time to sit on the bench for a couple of games and observe from the sidelines. Get back to the basics. I do hope for the sake of all atheists that I was the only one to marry a Jehovah's Witness. I wasn't thinking critically, I can assure you of that. For someone, who claims to enjoy solitude, I never took much of a breather in between relationships. I was letting fear control my heart rather than being open to bigger possibilities. It’s that whole fear of abandonment shit.

It’s time to strip away all unnecessary distractions and attachments. The news, my to-read list, the queue at the library, the remnants of a failed marriage. When I let the daily strife drop away, I can feel the sun on my face and the earth beneath my feet. When I let go of my anger and resentment, I can walk taller and a smile forms on my original face without any effort. I am happy to be alive and breathing in the air that is allotted me in this lifetime. There is tragedy enough to go around, but love seems to be lacking lately. I’ve got some extra, so I’ll send it out into the world today. Postage paid.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

You're All Winners!

I am nearly done with my latest blog post, which is titled "The Singularity." Until then, let's funk it up with Hot Chocolate and their hit, "Every 1's a Winner" from way back in 1978. I was seventeen in 1978 and a fresh air force recruit. What were you doing in 1978?