Sunday, August 21, 2016

System Failure

Maybe I should see an exorcist.

I finally got my computer back, but I paid a heavy price in the form of time, money and what’s left of my sanity.

On Friday morning I want to the repair place on Seventh Street expecting to pick up my machine two weeks after it croaked on me, and then zip on back home to write, blog, screw around on YouTube, and look for work.

Well, that all went merrily straight to Hell in a hatbox as I had to wait nearly an hour before I got the goddamn thing, only to bring it home—via car service—to find that there was some kind of glitch with the email.

So I called the repair place. Their solution? Bring the computer back to downtown Brooklyn—via car service again.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I finally had the machine back home and now I had to do an about-face?

So back downtown I go, and the techies fiddled with it while I burned for a total of five minutes before clearing up the problem—which they somehow couldn’t do over the phone.

And then I had to call car service yet again and lug the computer home--again.

But just as I was struggling up the steps with the computer, a terrible sick feeling washed over me--and a quick search of the computer box confirmed my fears.

The techie had removed the power cord from the computer but neglected to put it back. So I had a computer but no way to switch on the son-of-a-bitch.

“Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do…”

The repair store agreed to deliver the cord to my house and once it arrived I figured my troubles were over.

Oh, hell no. I tried to use Microsoft Word, but it seems I needed some kind of number to reactivate the software and, of course, I had no such number.

Okay, this is where when I went berserk.

There’s no other way to say this. I cursed, I fumed, and I must have terrified the neighbors and probably the commuters on the Staten Island ferry.

What stopped anyone in the immediate vicinity from calling the police or Animal Control, I don’t know. But I’m truly ashamed of myself and I’m wondering if I should work nights so I won’t have to show my face to anyone.

Maybe I could drive for a car service.

Part of the problem is that I am so incredibly clueless about computers that I feel totally stranded when they go kaput. If I had a little more knowledge—and if I kept better records—I’d be a lot happier.

But, of course, I pretty much guarantee these temper tantrums are going to happen because I don’t take the time to learn about these devices that control so much of our lives.

Right now I’m like a caveman with stereo. I like the pretty music but if the sound dies I start banging my chest and swinging my club.

I had to call Microsoft twice before I could finally get the number and get back on line.

Now all I need is a job.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bear Market

I'll keep this short and sour.

My computer is still on the fritz and I'm hunting and pecking this post on my I-phone.
But wait there's more.

I am also out of work, unemployed, and about to back on the dole. The job I accepted just four short months ago has gone belly-up. It seems the publication I hired on to had been losing money for a while and could not be salvaged.

I learned this appalling news on Tuesday during a conference call from the Chicago office. I actually thought it was a joke and I was ready to say "knock it off; it ain't funny."

Only it was no joke. And it still ain't funny.

I have to be honest: the shock has not worn off yet.

So now it's back to searching the want ads, applying for openings, going out on interviews and hoping from hell to breakfast that I find something pretty damn quick.

I go back to my dad's motto: scared money never won. I know he was right but it's hard not be scared at a time like this. But that will only make things worse.

Last night I went down to Pier 1 to see the New York Classical Theater's production of "A Winter's Tale." The location is beautiful, the actors were fabulous--especially that poor bastard who had to wear a bear suit in this hideously hot weather--and it was free, which is very important right now.

After the show I walked down to the river and looked out at Manhattan's beautiful lights. This city can make you feel like a mite and a monarch simultaneously. I felt insignificant with one breath and invincible in the next.

Now I'm being chased by the bear. I can let him devour me or I can skin the son-of-a-bitch and have him for supper.

Does anyone know any recipes for bear stew?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Summer Clearance

Well, at least I cleaned out the closet.

That’s about the only good thing I can say about Friday, a two-ton, four-alarm fiasco of a day--except of course, for the fact that I got through it alive and managed to stay out of the loony bin.

Yes, it really was that bad.

It started early in the morning when my faithful Apple computer up and croaked on me after years of dedicated service. I pressed the On button, heard the familiar baritone beat, and looked at a shockingly blank screen.

I hit a few buttons, did the on and off routine, and nothing happened.

I felt panic surging through me, but I tried my best to keep my nutsy behavior in check. Check it tonight after work, I told myself, and if it’s still on the fritz bring it to the repair shop. And then I asked, please God, let this be the worst thing to happen me today.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Absolutely everything I put my hand to promptly went belly-up. I was making stupid mistakes at work. I just could not get a single thing to go right for me.

In The Bag

Naturally my nasty little mind tied all these events into one grand conspiracy, so when that ambulance that pulled alongside of me on Fifth Avenue while I was talking to my auntie on the phone, naturally it was blaring it sirens just to harass me—as opposed to getting some poor sick person to the hospital as quickly as possible.

When the day finally ended I hightailed it home to see if my computer had miraculously come to life, but it was still in a coma. And that’s when I decided to clean out my closet…sort of.

I needed to get the box the computer came in so I could get the serial number and give it to the tech support person at Apple. But there was so much crap in my closet I wasn’t even sure if the box was still there.

That tiny little space was bursting with plastic shopping bags that I keep for garbage and other uses.

For years I just tossed them into the closet without looking. Well, on Friday night I finally looked and was horrified to hell and back. How in God’s holy name did this happen?

It happens when you don’t pay attention, when you let stuff pile up and pretend everything’s okay, when it really isn’t. It was time for a change. I filled two big trash bags with those little plastic buggers and I’m throwing the hell out of my house and my life. And I found my computer box.

Apple couldn’t help me, even though they forced me to listen to 20 minutes of seriously atrocious music. My sister very kindly gave me a lift to the local repair place on Saturday and I’m hoping for some good news from the technician while I write this post on a borrowed laptop.

I think of the junk I keep piled up in my head, all the worries, fears, resentments and other toxic material. It’s time for another cleanup.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunset Ridge

I traveled more than 2,000 miles this week and yet I’m still sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn.

I discovered the beauty and tranquility of a sunset recently and now I’m wondering what the hell took me so long.

It was a Saturday night, I hadn’t made any plans, and I was feeling crabby, hemmed in by the desire to just chill at mi casa and the pressure to do something, anything to make the weekend more exciting.

I’m trying to get out of the house more, especially now that it’s warm out.

There will be plenty of reasons to stay the hell home when the temperature starts to drop, but right now I want to get away from the TV and enjoy life.

I live right near the Narrows and after dinner I made an impromptu decision to go to the nearby 69th Street pier and take in the sunset.

I can’t remember the last time I did this—if I've ever done it at all.

I have a vague memory of watching the sun go down during a visit to the Grand Canyon nearly 18 years ago, but clearly it didn’t make much of an impression. (Though the canyon sure as hell did.)

I’m usually too busy thinking 20 different thoughts at once and I end up completely ignoring this spectacular nightly miracle.

So on this night I stood at the end of the pier absorbing the rays of the summer sun. Then I walked up to nearby Bliss Park, sat down on a park bench overlooking the Narrows and let the sunset pass right through me.

Palm City

Bliss Park really lived up to its name.

It may sound weird and new age-ish, but I forgot all my problems, dropped the chronic need to be somewhere else, and just enjoyed the damn moment.

The day was coming to an end in my neck of the woods, but it was rising in somebody else’s part of the world and I felt like we were connected.

The moment was so special that I actually said the Our Father and a couple of Hail Marys. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
I went back home feeling like I had accomplished something and took it easy for the rest of the night.

On Tuesday I flew down to Naples, Fla. to attend a conference for work.

I met some great people and stayed at a fabulous hotel, but I was only there until Thursday and now the whole experience that I had worried about for weeks feels like a dream.

Still it was nice to get out of town and see someplace new.

And I got a chance to look out my hotel window and see the sun go down in the Gulf of Mexico. It was beautiful, of course, but it didn’t match the feeling I got sitting on that bench in Bay Ridge.

Summer is flying by and already I can see the days growing shorter. Pretty soon the sun will start going down in the afternoon and it’ll be dark before I even leave my office.

And that’s all the more reason to enjoy the sunset while I can.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Double Time

A dear friend came back to see me the other night and he brought along a twin brother I didn’t know he had.

I had this dream about Ben, my former next-door neighbor’s darling little boy, who could make me the happiest man alive just by smiling.

Ben was four years old when I left Senator Street in 2011 and I still miss him. He was such a sweet little kid, always curious and always so open and friendly.

He’d see me walking down the block after work and he’d come charging toward me, shouting “Wo-burrt!

It broke my heart when I moved to Shore Road, but we'd sold our family’s house and it was high time that I moved the hell on.

I saw Ben once a short time later while walking down Fifth Avenue, and then he and his family moved away from the block and I don’t know where he is now.

But that didn’t stop him—or my memory of him—from visiting my subconscious late one night last week. However, in an apparent case of double your pleasure, there were two of them this time.

Yes, there were two Bens sitting next to me at a table in some crowded cafeteria. I have no idea where this was or what we were all doing there, and I didn’t care because I was just so happy to see my little guy(s).

He—or they—had a birthday coming up and I told the first Ben that I was going to get him a present. Then I reached behind him, rubbed Ben II on the head and said, “I’m getting you a present, too, buddy.”

Inwardly, though, I began to panic because I’d forgotten to get them gifts and I had no idea what to buy or where to buy them. I woke up a few minutes later and I confess I was rather sad to see that Ben really wasn’t with me.

Two For One

Why did I dream about Ben after all this time? Like any good detective, I reviewed my thoughts in the days preceding this dream in search of clues.

I recalled that just prior to seeing Ben I had gone through one of my self-inflicted funks about not having children.

It’s a familiar theme in my mind and I tend to play it like an old record. There are times when I really long to hold a child in my arms, watch him or her grow into an adult, and see this person develop before my eyes.

And then reality sets it as I recall the struggles I had with my physical and emotional health back in my child-producing years, and the difficulties I had finding my place in this world that still haven't quite gone away.

I always tell myself that it was probably better that I didn’t have kids, but clearly there’s a part of me that just flat out doesn’t believe that.

So why were there two Bens? I suspect they represented my schizoid views on having a kid—the joy on one side and the fear and anxiety on the other.

Fred the Shrink noted that I was also Ben, as we play all the parts in our dreams, and that I was looking for some fatherly affection. That certainly makes sense.

I can only imagine how Ben has changed in the last five years, how big he’s gotten and what he’s up to. I’m sure I’ve faded from his memory and, as painful as that is to admit, I also believe that it’s for the best.

As my sister-in-law pointed out to me when I first moved off the block, Ben already has a family that loves him. It’s my task to find someone who isn’t being love, she said, and open my heart to him or her.

It was great “seeing” the Ben twins the other night. God bless, thank you for making my world so much better, and please do take care. Grow up happy and successful.

And, as for the new object of my affection wherever they may be, please hold on. I’m moving as fast as I can.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Between Rounds

I sat in my writing teacher’s living room on Wednesday night and waited for my turn to read.

I usually don’t like to go out on Wednesdays as I have to get up ridiculously early the following morning to attend my beloved boxing class at New York City Sports Club’s City Hall facility.

The toughest part of the class is the one-on-one mitt session with the instructor, Abby, who cheerfully bashes me up one side of Broadway and down the other.

I love every minute of it, of course, so it’s really important to get a good night’s sleep.

But this was a very special occasion.

The evening was the culmination of the latest session of Five for Five, a fantastic series of writing classes that I’ve been taking since the fall.

As the name implies, the class consists of five people who meet for five weeks at the home of our instructor, Rosemary Moore, in Park Slope.

I’ve taken some excellent writing classes in my time and I’ve worked with some fine instructors. But what makes this class standout is the raw craziness of Rosemary’s approach.

Instead of bringing in writing samples and reading them to the other members, Rosemary has us write in real time during the class.

She reminds us at the beginning of every session that her home is a safe place; there is no fear, no wrong choices and absolutely anything freaking goes.

And then we write our asses off.

It’s amazing how many wacky things I’ve come up with working with Rosemary and my beautiful classmates—the kindest, most supportive, most talented people you’ll ever meet.

Float Like A Butterfly

I’ve discovered ideas for short stories and a novel lurking in the backwoods of my mind, but more importantly I’ve learned how to just let go and let nature take over. It is such a liberating experience.

I’ve taken four sessions with this group and on Wednesday we invited friends and family for a reading of our works in progress.

I was getting so nervous waiting for my time to read. My sister had very kindly agreed to attend the reading and I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of her, my classmates or their guests.

I had done a few practice readings at home during the week and they were all terrible. I stumbled over words and phrases like a foreign exchange student reading English for the first time.

And then I recognized this tension I was feeling. It was exactly the way I feel when I’m just about to work out with Abby. I worried about messing up, looking stupid, and making a total fool of myself.

Now it was my turn to read.

I took a seat and started reading a sample I plan on developing into a novel and the words came out of me effortlessly.

There was that sense of being in the moment, of doing everything right, just like when I have a good round with Abby. Only I wasn’t getting smacked in the head.

I usually hate boxing analogies, but in this case it’s legit because writing and boxing both go much better when you don’t think.

Then it was over. The reading that had me worried all day was done and a short time later we were all drinking wine, eating snacks and having a great time.

The next morning I woke up rested and ready so I went to Abby’s class and got another joyful shellacking.

Rosemary is planning another session in the fall and God willing, I’ll be signing up for that one, too. The bell may have rung for this latest round, but I’ve just begun to write.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Radio Free Slaughter

Maybe I shouldn’t listen to the BBC anymore.

I start most days by switching on National Public Radio and tuning into the early morning BBC programs.

I enjoy hearing the news from another country and getting a different perspective on current events.

However, lately the BBC has become the bearer of some very bad news indeed as I first learned of the mass shootings in Orlando and now Dallas from British reporters.

On both occasions I was half-awake and hoping I was dreaming only to find that the horrific events were all too real.

So we have yet another mass shooting in America and it’s particularly upsetting to hear foreign journalists report on the blood-soaked insanity that’s destroying my country.

I have British friends and I have absolutely no idea what to say when they ask me what the hell is going on here because I don’t fucking know.

It’s seems so pointless to even mention this latest atrocity, and I know I’ve said this so many times before, but I can’t ignore what’s going on around me.

I can’t pretend everything’s okay while the bullet-riddled bodies keep piling up.

In case you were wondering, a "public mass shooting" is defined as one in which four or more people selected indiscriminately, not including the perpetrator, are killed.

I know these definitions are necessary but I find it rather disturbing that we are establishing parameters for this sort of mayhem.

However, when you look at the unstoppable spate of shootings, I suppose you have to set up some kind of guidelines so people don’t get confused.

This time five Dallas police officers were killed by a sniper bent on murdering white cops and he did it just blocks away from Dealey Plaza, where John F. Kennedy was assassinated 53 years ago.

Open Carry, Open Season

The killer, an African-American war veteran, said he was angry about recent police shootings of black men.

After refusing to surrender, the murderer was killed by something called a “bomb-delivering robot.”

Please understand that I have absolutely no sympathy for this psychopath and I didn’t want other officers to be killed or wounded by this bastard, but I’m not comfortable with cops wiping people out with bombs.

Yes, if this guy had killed one of my friends or family members I’d want him dead by any means available. And I’m very glad that he is dead.
But I’m concerned about crossing the line from law enforcement to vigilantism, from enforcing to the law to waging war. What’s next—drone strikes in our cities?

And now we have all the talk about healing and coming together, which we get after every mass shooting. But it’s impossible for us to heal when we keep on ripping off the bandages.

The gun-loving crowd is blaming President Obama—big fucking surprise--because he dared to express concern about police shootings of African-Americans.

I don’t recall Mr. Obama specifically telling people to go out and murder police officers—at least the BBC didn’t report it--but logic doesn’t matter to people who believe guns are the answers to all our problems.

I thought perhaps the fact that the victims were white cops might sway some of these firearms fanatics to reconsider their extreme positions and give serious thought to toughening the gun laws to keep some of the lunatics out there from getting their hands on these horrible weapons.

And then reality set in and I thought about all the other mass shootings in America in recent years—or at least the ones I can remember—and how nothing had changed.

I can’t blame the BBC for all this bloodshed. I’m a journalist and I know that they’re just reporting the news.

I’ll keep listening, but I’ll say a prayer before I switch on the radio and brace myself for news of the next nightmare that’s sure to come.