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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bonus Video

The Police - Reggatta De Blanc (Old Grey Whistle Test '79)
I am trying to assemble some sort of blog post, but my brain feels like mush and I want to lie down for a rest. Sticking to this writing regimen is good for me, but life gets in the way sometimes.

Speaking of essays, I always did well with the essay questions on tests. It never seemed to be a problem to stretch a few facts out to a three or four paragraphs.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Brother, Can You Spare the Time?

My brother is on the left, looking towards the future.
My brother and I were both adopted. We are not blood brothers. We’re not part of a brotherhood or fraternity, but we are both sons of Norman and Ruth. We never threw the baseball back and forth, or went camping together. I was the bullying older brother, calling my brother Lippy Hollow-Head, and drawing caricatures of him in my sketchbooks; putting Hersey's syrup in his underwear, and leaving it outside on his window, only to be found that spring by my parents when they were doing yard work. "Brian must have been embarrassed and threw them out the window,” said my mom upon the discovery.

Brian was the oldest at the time of his adoption. The rest of us were babies. He was starting to walk and talk, and grow a personality. He hated to have his picture taken and would start to ball whenever the camera came out. We shared a bedroom when he was a toddler. Late one night, I was awoken by his labored breathing. I woke my parents up and they brought Brian out to the kitchen and filled the room with steam that smelled like camphor. I returned to bed with the impression that I had saved his life.

When we were children, Brian had two epileptic seizures. I witnessed both of them. It was frightening, especially when the nurse, who lived upstairs, used a kitchen knife in his mouth, to keep him from biting his tongue. (A kitchen knife?!) His second seizure occurred on a chilly fall day, when my father was doing yard work. Brian was sitting on some concrete steps and my dad told him to put a jacket on. Brian was non-responsive and seemed almost catatonic. My dad picked him up and ran into the house with him. Brian vomited on himself, so my dad changed his clothes before running him to the hospital. He never had another seizure that I know of; just the two.

He has never married, although he’s had girlfriends on and off. He was a regular on the Karaoke circuit for a while, but as his drink started to take its toll, he was less able to maintain a relationship with anyone except the bottle. He’s been arrested multiple times for drunk driving, once getting off by using the Binaca Blast defense. He no longer has a driver’s license in Massachusetts. He once lit his kitchen on fire, while living in a dilapidated trailer by a lake. He has called me many times over the last few years, always drunk and usually incomprehensible. One night he fell asleep while on the phone with me. I found out the next day that he passed out against the radiator in his house. He was so inebriated that the pain from the heater never woke him up and he now has burn scars on that side of his face.

I was visiting the east coast while he was in the midst of a prison sentence. He spent nearly a year and a half in jail on a charge filed by an ex-girlfriend. I went with my mother, who was using her walker with the tennis balls on the bottom. After an unexplained delay, Brian arrived at the visiting booth. I could barely see his face through the scratched layers of security glass. There was only one phone, so I talked to him and then passed the phone to my mom. He went through some hard times, being in jail with some genuinely dangerous criminals. Brain was just a drunk with a really bad choice in friends. Friends don’t come back to your parents’ house after the party and rob the place.

This is not a memorial. My brother is still alive, but not well. I cannot imagine the emotional pain he must feel inside to want to commit slow suicide by drinking. He has admitted his death wish to me. It breaks my heart, but I cannot talk to him when he is drunk, never mind that I can barely understand him. We are three-thousand miles apart. I am four years older than my brother, but we have both gotten older on opposite coasts. When his liver gives out, and his other organs start to break down, there will be no family nearby to hold his quaking hand. No family to reassure him that our love for him has never lessened, even though he has felt abandoned and hopeless. The only hope left is to start again tomorrow.

I love you, Brian.