Sunday, January 27, 2013

Running of the Bull

My brother worked as a bartender many years ago and he and his co-workers had a subtle way of handling indecisive customers.

“Hey,” they’d ask, “are you buying or crying?”

Not terribly polite, I suppose, but this was Brooklyn, after all, and there’s nothing like a direct line of inquiry to clear up any confusion.

I should probably ask myself that question more often so I can make choices and take action, instead of fretting about what my next move and doing nothing at all.

On Friday night I stopped by a local antique furniture store I’ve frequented several times to see if I could find an old school desk.

I do most of my writing on the computer, but I’d like to do my revisions on a nice, solid desk--as opposed to the kitchen table.

The owners showed me a charmingly battered teacher’s desk that was selling fairly cheaply; I told them I’d think it over.

Then I walked to the back of the store to take a look at a magnificent bullfighting poster that I’ve fantasized about buying for the last year.

I love vintage posters and I say must this one’s a beauty. It advertises an event in Madrid in 1964 and depicts a bull charging straight at a matador, who stands with his cape raised high in one hand, while concealing a saber behind his back with the other.

The poster is so lifelike you can almost hear the crowd roaring olé!

But I’ve always hesitated to buy it, even though I knew the poster would look great hanging in living room. Save your money, I told myself. You don’t need this damn thing.

What's the Matador?

Let me say right here and now that I abhor bullfighting. It is barbaric, cruel, and inhumane.

There’s an unforgettable scene in Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, where the alien overlords witness a bullfight and use their advanced technology to make everyone in the stadium feel the bull’s pain as the picador’s lance pierces the animal’s flesh.

That image has stayed with me for years.

However, I enjoy this poster as a piece of art and as a slice of history, and I don’t think appreciating the craftsmanship of the illustration is an endorsement of a hideous “sport.”

But the issue is academic anyway because when I walked to the back of the store, I saw that the poster was gone.

¡Ay, caramba!

“You sold the matador,” I said in disbelief.

Well, aren’t we the Duke of Duh? Of course they sold the goddamn poster, Mr. Hawking. It was for sale and this is a store, not a museum.

The owners can’t pass up a chance to make money just because you won’t make a commitment.

This was hardly a major incident in my life, but it got me thinking about how I handle other decisions, where I let things happen rather then stepping up and making them happen.

I thought of all the events that sold out before I made up my mind about whether I wanted to go to them or not. Or the women I debated about calling until they decided to go out with someone else.

I’m not going to buy that teacher’s desk. It’s a nice piece of work at a good price, but I’ve decided—yes, I actually decided—that I don’t have room for it in my apartment. And I will live with that decision.

But the message is clear. He who hesitates is lost. If you’re slow, you blow.

And if you’re not buying, you’ll definitely be crying.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Burden of Hate

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that he had decided to stick with love because “hate is too great a burden to bear.”

King was murdered by someone for whom hatred was no burden, and on this day, when we honor King’s memory and celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American president, I am sorry to say that hate is a growth industry in America.

It’s been over a month since the Sandy Hook Massacre and nothing has been done about the flood of guns in this country.

Yes, President Obama’s team came up with some noble ideas and he’s using his office to take some important steps, but the Republicans in Congress will never give an inch on any of the major concepts as they disgustingly cling to their bogus “Second Amendment rights” argument.

On Saturday a 15-year-old boy in New Mexico allegedly murdered his parents and three of his siblings using “multiple weapons, including a military-type assault rifle.”

After slaughtering his family, police say the boy loaded up a van with weapons and planned to drive to a nearby Walmart, shoot as many people as possible and then kill himself.

This latest atrocity happened on “Gun Appreciation Day”—honestly, that’s what the freaks called it—where gun lovers got together to celebrate how the endless supply of firearms somehow makes us safer.

Five people were accidentally shot at various gun shows that day.

The terrorists at the NRA called for armed guards in schools, a sickening image on its own, but these pigs sank even lower into their own filth when they used President Obama’s daughters in one of their insane advertisements.

Christ Almighty, even the Mafia doesn't go after children.

Oh, and by the way, a newly hired security officer at a charter school in Michigan left his unloaded gun in a school restroom “for a few moments.” So much for the "good guys with guns" theory.

There are people in this country who truly believe that Sandy Hook was staged, that no children were gunned down, and that the whole horrific incident was a fabrication created solely for the purpose of “taking our guns.”

These psychotics are so deranged they actually harassed a Newton, CT resident who had taken in four terrified children after they fled the bloodbath at their school.

They accused him of being an actor, posted his personal information online and tormented him via email and telephone. Stephen King couldn’t come up with a scenario like that.

Hatred isn’t a burden for these animals. It is mother’s milk, their lifeblood. And they couldn’t exist without it.

“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle,” President Obama said today, “or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

I agree with every word, but we must remember that President Obama has been the target of such vitriol that there are people who continue to question his citizenship and his religion.

Nothing will change. Hating is what we do best in America and while I know I should be reflecting upon the words of Dr. King today, all I can think about is when will the next massacre happen and how many people will die.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

‘Grunts With Effort’

My old Italian grandmother hated loud noises.

Whenever she thought the TV was too loud she’d mutter “shut up” when she walked by, as if this machine, this lifeless pile of tubes and wires, would fall silent at her command.

I remember she once told the ice cream man to quit ringing the bell on his truck. I was terrified because as a kid I couldn’t bear the thought of being in trouble with the Freezer Fresh guy.

I could only imagine what grandma would think of today’s non-stop attack on the eardrums, ranging from car stereos and revving engines, to really stupid people who talk too loudly on their goddamn cellphones.

In many ways, I feel like I’m taking grandma’s place in the quixotic crusade for quiet because I, too, have grown to hate loud noises.

There’s only thing where grandma and I differ—the television.

I don’t know if it’s due to my aging eardrums or my TV’s sound system, but I’m having trouble hearing the dialog in many of the DVDs that I watch.

“Speak up!” I shout at my TV to no avail.

I first noticed this problem while watching British movies, but the contagion has spread across the pond and now I don’t know what the hell anyone is saying on either side of the Atlantic. It’s the TV of Babel.

I’ve tried pumping up the volume, but then it gets too loud and I wind up getting knocked off of my couch whenever there’s an explosion, a car crash, or an extremely energetic love scene.

So lately I’ve been hitting the subtitles button on my DVD player so I can at least read what the actors are saying.

God, I feel like such a geezer. All I need is a shawl and a cup of cocoa and I’ll be ready for the rest home.

I’ve been reading subtitles for foreign movies ever since high school and I'm very comfortable with it.

I want to hear the actors’ voices even I can’t understand what they’re saying. The subtitles may not tell us the whole story, of course, but it certainly beats dubbing, which is only suitable for spaghetti westerns and kung fu movies.

But it feels weird reading titles for an English language film.

The subtitles are intended for hearing impaired people, so not only do they relay the dialog, they also describe the sounds in a particular scene, like “bird chirping” or “violin playing.”

Bite This

A few weeks ago it was my distinct displeasure to sit down and watch a movie called “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a modern twist on the beloved classic. And it was pretty twisted all right.

In this movie (I refuse to provide a link), Snow White has been reengineered into some kind of medieval drag queen Rambo who kicks ass happily ever after. Marone! What would grandma say?

I don’t know why I bothered switching on the subtitles for this flatulent fairy tale since the dialog was painfully faux-classical. I would’ve been better off not hearing any of that tripe.

Come to think of it, I would’ve been better off throwing the DVD out the window and reading the phone book.

Late in the picture, a character smashes through a door and the subtitle dutifully provides the description “grunts with effort.”

Jesus, I grunted, the whole movie is grunting with effort—an effort to remain logical and entertaining.

And all those grunts went for naught. It was so bad I could almost hear violins playing as birds chirped themselves to death.

The only reason I bit into this poisoned apple of a movie was because I had read with eye-bulging envy about the screenwriter who pocketed $3 million for writing the screenplay and I thought I might learn something about the movie business.

And I did learn something. I learned that I don’t want to write a piece of crap like this. And if this is what producers want, then maybe Hollywood isn’t for me.

It looks like the grunts will be coming even faster now. There’s an action version of “Hansel and Gretel” coming out this week, which, I swear, features the grown-up siblings as a pair of witch-kicking bounty hunters.

Even Gretel says in the trailer “you’ve gotta be kidding me.” Oh, if only…

There’s also a sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman” grunting its way through production right now. You were right, grandma, the only possible response to this dreck is “shut up!”

Now where did I leave that phone book…?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Still Doing It

On January 17, 1950, 11 men stole more than $2 million from the Brinks Armored Car Depot in Boston.

Twenty-seven years later, on January 17, 1977, convicted murderer Gary Gilmore stood before a firing squad in Draper, Utah and uttered his very last words: “Let’s do it.”

And 28 years after that, on January 17, 2005, I wrote my first post for the Luna Park Gazette.

All right, let's get this show on the road,” I wrote, back when I had brilliantly called the thing “Rob’s Blog.”

This is my first post on my first blog. I am 47, marooned in Brooklyn without a job, wife or children. Most of my big dreams have crashed and burned like the Hindenburg, but that hasn't stopped me from climbing on the next bag of hot air and heading back into the sky.”

Cheery little bugger, wasn’t I? A bit little wordier than Gary Gilmore, too, but then I didn’t have a firing squad taking aim at me.

Eight years have gone by since that first post. I’ve reached out for many bags of hot air, and I’m still here on earth. And that’s not so bad.

Back then I wouldn’t have seen daylight if you had shoved me into a rocket and fired me straight into the sun. I had no hope, no joy, and no plan—except, apparently, to be as miserable as possible.

I was a middle-aged man living in my parents’ house with my elderly father who had been recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

George Bush, whom history will judge as the worst president in U.S. history, was occupying the White House at the time and gleefully destroying this country’s economy, credibility, and spirit.

American lives were being shredded in Iraq just so war profiteers could line their pockets and anyone who objected to this blatant abuse of power was immediately branded a traitor—not to our faces, of course. Those flag-waving hemorrhoids never had the guts for that kind of confrontation.

I'm Down Here!

I never thought anyone would read my posts, but gradually I started getting comments and making contacts. I got together with a bunch of Brooklyn bloggers for a series of great events.

“When I first started blogging,” I once told a roomful of like-minded individuals, “I felt like a man lost in the jungle who fires a flare gun into the sky in hopes of being rescued.”

And rescued I was.

I’ve racked up 545 posts over the years and I’ve made contact with people from all over the world: Israel, England, Dubai, and Canada.

I’ve met some great people, both online and in the flesh, who listened to my problems and offered me comfort and advice.

I eventually found a job—a couple of them, actually. My father died in 2007, we sold the house, and I’ve got a very nice apartment a short distance away.

No wife or children, but I do have two beautiful nieces whom I dearly love.

I still haven’t reached a lot of my goals, to be honest, but I’m in a better frame of mind now than I was back in ’05. At least I sure as hell hope so.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be blogging. I’ve got fiction to work on and it seems that blogs are being crowded out of the online picture by the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Why bother trying to write something when you can tell the world about the most routine moments of your life in 144 characters?

But I’m going to stick with blogging until something better—and more lucrative--comes along.

I’ve still got more stories to tell, more ideas I want to share. There are people I want to stay in touch with and more people I want to meet. I've still plenty of flares that I'm just dying to light up.

And, look, there’s another bag of hot air up in the sky and its heading this way.

Come on. Let’s do it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Best of Luck

I tried not to get excited. I really did.

When a small publishing house in Brooklyn asked to see the first 40 pages of my novel, I immediately told myself, “take it easy. They just want a peek. You’re a long way from the New York Times bestseller list.”

But it was something.

It was some kind of positive energy after all the rejections, all the form letters that apologized for being form letters while telling me to take a hike, all the “it’s not quite what we’re looking for” e-mails that had me screaming up to the rafters “what in the holy transmogrified hell are you looking for?”

This email was actually written by humans. And they were interested.

I don’t care how calm and relaxed you think you are, when a publisher asks to see your manuscript, you’re going to be thrilled.

Your mind will blast into the future perfect tense and you’re going to see your book in print, picture yourself giving readings and autographing copies of your masterpiece. You’re going to imagine being interviewed on NPR, recognized in the supermarket, and jetting out to LA to meet with movie producers.

For days after receiving that request, I did everything I possibly could to push those foolish fantasies out of my head.

No, I said, you’re not there yet. They must ask writers for samples all the time. How many of them actually get published?

But it’s impossible to shift my imagination into neutral, despite my desire to be more mindful and to stay in the real world.

I still saw myself holding a hardcover book with my name on the front and a picture of my beautiful mug on the back.

And on Tuesday I got a response.

Now before I go any further, I must tell you that Tuesday was also—and most importantly—the birthday of my beautiful niece Kristin. I made sure to post a message on her Facebook page as soon as I got up that morning and then I called to wish her a happy.

We spoke later that day and I still marveled at how quickly the time has gone by and how my niece went from being a little baby in my arms to a lovely young woman taking on the world.

I was feeling pretty good after that, so I decided to check my email. And that's when I saw a response for the small publishing house in Brooklyn.

I paused, prayed, and then clicked the thing open.

Use Your Mentality...

Thanks so much for the prompt reply!” the email began. “We greatly enjoyed reading the first forty pages of your novel. The writing was sharp and filled with intriguing questions and motifs.

Yes, exactly--sharp and filled with intriguing questions and motifs. These people love me! Where do I sign?

We especially found the disjointed narrative interesting, and it created a very unique piece,” the email continued.

Not just unique, but very unique--couldn’t have said it better myself. Do you think we can get Scorsese to direct the movie? DeNiro could play the heavy and for the lead, I’m thinking we should get--

Unfortunately, this is not quite the genre we are looking to publish right now. Be sure to keep us in mind for your future projects! Best of luck.

I stared at my computer for what felt like several hours. Best of luck?

You mean you don’t want to publish my book? I’m not going to be a famous author? I won’t be doing the talk show circuit, partying with movie producers or summering in the Hamptons? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

I know those people said a lot of very nice things about my work, but there’s a part of me that almost wishes I had gotten the mass market kiss-off or maybe even a screaming “your writing sucks monkey balls!” response.

To get this close and strike out, to get such high praise and still walk away empty-handed, to see what I thought was the end of the struggle and then realize that I still have miles to go before I sleep, oh, mama, that’s just tearing me to pieces.

Now there is certainly enough good news in that email to keep me going a little while longer.

It’s really very encouraging and I know that all I have to do is find that one publisher or agent who feels the way these people do and are willing to take that next crucial step.

But I’m also very disappointed and angry with myself for getting so worked up over what turned out to be yet another dead end. How could I have allowed myself to get so twisted like that?

And then I started thinking about Kristin again.

I remembered that day a quarter of a century ago when my mother called me at the weekly newspaper where I was working and breathlessly said “Robert, you’re an uncle!”

I remembered how I pounded on my desk, punched the air, and ran out the door to get a present for this newest member of our family. I was the happiest man on earth that day and that hasn’t changed one bit.

Yes, that writing dream is still eluding me and I know there’s a good chance that it will never be anything more than a dream.

But this is the day that Kristin came into our lives and both she and my other niece, Victoria, prove that I already have the best luck in the world.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Just in Time

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Today is my niece’s 18th birthday, but I received a fabulous gift myself when I called her this afternoon.

Victoria, one of my two beautiful nieces, has been a character ever since she was born and things have only gotten wilder as she’s grown.

This beautiful young woman—I still can’t believe those words—had me roaring with laughter when I called her today, something I never would’ve thought possible given the current state of my mind and body.

In addition to the Saga of My Aching Back (SMAB), I’ve had some kind of sinus infection for the last 10 days that keeps threatening to go away before coming back to hit me twice as hard.

Things really hit bottom early Tuesday when I went through a dark and stormy night of my own making.

I was coughing, choking, and cursing the fates, the course of my life, and my traitorous immune system. I felt like a two-legged lab rat waiting for his next toxic injection.

It could’ve been another episode of Rage, Regret, and Repeat, but this night was particularly bad. My mind got so messed up I actually scared myself with my twisted thoughts.

I kept thinking about all the days I’d been sick since first contracting mononucleosis back in the Eighties—it would probably add up to years by now. After factoring in all the good times and great opportunities I had missed, I was really wondering what was the sense of being alive.

I haven’t reached the point where I can live with this condition, where I can accept myself whether I am healthy or not. Anger makes the situation worse and the fact that I can’t remember this when it counts only adds to my frustration.

I was feeling pretty miserable when I got up this morning after another night of coughing and wondered just how much 2013 was going to suck.

And then I called Victoria.

Step On It

My niece and I tend to talk for a while and our conversations resemble a drive on an endless country road. We have no idea where we’re going, but we do enjoy the ride.

Victoria started talking about annoying drunken young women at clubs and dances and I felt compelled to tell her about my alcoholic misadventures at the company’s holiday party.

This information had Victoria howling as she demanded to see video evidence of my spectacular crash and dance. To the best of my knowledge no such recording exists, praise the Lord, and I explained to Victoria that I only shake my booty when I’m properly plastered.

She promptly challenged to me to a dance off and I warned her that I knew a lot of old time moves. Then she cranked up the tempo.

“If I get married,” Victoria declared, “you have to dance at my wedding reception!”

“Are you going to get married just to see your drunken uncle dance?” I asked.

“It’ll be worth it.”

And then we started laughing like loons, each one trying to out-crazy the other. It was definitely a “you-had-to-be-there” moment and I’m so glad I was there.

“What are you going to do?” I asked between yuks. “Go to a shelter and pick out some homeless guy just so you can have a wedding?”

I didn’t recognize the happy idiot I had become. Was this the same guy who just a few days ago had wondered if life was worth living?

I don’t know if laughter really is the best medicine, but it sure worked a hell of a lot better than that vile-tasting cough syrup I’ve been guzzling.

Victoria and I logged in a few more miles on the wedding routine before our moveable funny farm went off in another direction and we wrapped things up a short time later.

But before we rang off, my niece, who is now old enough to vote, reminded me about her dance-off challenge.

“It’s on!” she said.

Oh, yes, it sure is. And I want to be around to enjoy every minute of it.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Real Me

The first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John are in the form of a question.

He’s walking through Jerusalem when John the Baptist sees Him and declares, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Two disciples begin following Jesus, whereupon He turns around to ask them “What are you looking for?”

Rev. Mark read this gospel at Trinity Church on Friday and he expanded upon this most basic question during his sermon.

“If that isn’t the question for this year,” he told us, “then I don’t know what is. In 2013, what if we allowed this question to echo through our hearts and our lives for this year? What are you looking for? What do you want in life?”

The obvious responses include health, happiness, companionship, and success. I’m looking to free myself from the chains of rage and despair that I’ve used to entangle myself so I can become the person I really want to be.

I’m looking for love, starting with myself, because I have to say that sometimes when I look in the mirror I’m not very fond of the guy looking back at me.

I want to live in the present moment because I know that anger and self-loathing can’t exist in the now. These toxic emotions need the treachery of memory and the fear of the future to keep their harsh fires burning.

This is, without a doubt, the most difficult task I’ve ever undertaken and that’s why I’m not nailing it down to any foolish New Year’s resolution that will almost certainly end in failure.

I may have a bad back, but my mind is as wild and skittish as a colt and it’s ready to leap over the fence at the slightest noise and take off for the horizon. Reigning in this wild horse is a hell of a lot harder than dropping a few pounds or cutting out the sweets.

I’m trying to rewire my brain, so I will take this will be one day—one minute—at a time.

I’m looking for results, not excuses. Bob Beamon didn’t fantasize about winning a gold medal in the Olympics. He went out and did it.

Whenever You're Near

I’ve been assembling something of a mental health playlist and one song that comes to mind is “The Real Me” by The Who.

Roger Daltrey repeatedly asks the most important people in his life--doctor, mother, preacher--“can you see the real me?”

He never gets an answer and I’m having trouble with that question myself. I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to be someone I’m not, to play a character rather than build a life. And I’m tired of it.

I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days—I suspect that some of the rich foods I’ve been eating during the holidays activated my chronic fatigue issues. I’m feeling better now, but on Friday evening I was furious about being sick yet again.

And when I’m angry I slip into the ugly past, resurrect every bad incident I can think of, and then go into a tailspin of guilt when I realize how ungrateful I am. I know I’m repeating myself here, both in life and on this blog, and that makes this behavior all the more frustrating.

I’ve fused my self-worth to the quality of my health and, given the difficulties I’ve had with my immune system over the years, I’m pretty much guaranteeing that I’ll go berserk with debilitating regularity.

So I must learn to love myself both in sickness and in health.

In my first post of 2013 I quoted Rumi’s line about “that place where everything is music” and that got me thinking about another song for my Mind-Pod called “I Can Hear Music.”

I’m most familiar with the Beach Boys’ rendition where Carl Wilson tells his love that he can hear music, sweet music, whenever she’s near.

I’m going to stretch things here a little bit to include self-love, so that I can hear music whenever I treat myself with kindness instead of suffering through the malicious feedback of scorn.

“It is my prayer for this year,” Rev. Mark said at the close of his sermon, “that we’ll all have the courage to answer that question because that’s a very tough question. What are you looking for?”

Amen, my brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Danger Zone

What gets into people?

I know it’s a clichĂ©, but sometimes I am so stunned by the behavior of some of my fellow human beings that I seriously have to wonder if they are human beings at all or ingeniously disguised aliens who aren't quite sure how things work around here.

I found myself asking this question yet again recently while I was on my way to work. Now for you out-of-towners out there, the area around Ground Zero is essentially one big construction area, so it tends to get noisy.

Drills, jackhammers, trucks rolling in all directions--it can be tough on the nerves and the eardrums. However, the big noise on John Street this particular morning was man—and woman—made.

I was walking down the street, half-asleep, wondering why the hell I wasn’t on a beach in Hawaii instead of freezing my kazoo off in New York, when I heard people shouting.

The yelling was so loud I could hear it over the regular racket that goes on in this neighborhood.

I looked across the street to a work site and I saw a big construction worker—there aren’t many small ones, I suppose--hollering at this petite woman.

I am a master at feigned indifference, so I continued my walk as if I weren’t the least bit interested in these two whilst expertly spying on the escalating confrontation. (I haven’t said “whilst” in a while.)

Initially I wondered why this thoughtless poltroon was shouting at this small, defenseless lady. What could possibly justify this outrageous behavior? What a bully, what a coward.

Then I started listening to what he was saying and when I realized what was going on, I looked at that woman and thought,"what an idiot!"

It turned out this lady was completely in the wrong. Not only had she ignored a sign telling people to cross the street because of the danger, she had also pulled back a metal bar blocking the sidewalk and was trying to walk right through the construction zone where men were most definitely at work.

“You have to go around!” the construction worker shouted. “You can’t walk here!”

The fact that she had to be told to stop was bad enough. But this asinine behavior was compounded by her pig-headed refusal to back down. Like Ratso Rizzo pounding on the hood of a taxi, she actually believed that she was the aggrieved party.

“You have to go around!” the construction worker shouted again.

'I'm Walkin' Here!'

There could be no doubt about what was going on. The noise was deafening, even by New York standards--clanging, crashing, drilling—the kind of location I like to avoid even without being told, seeing as how being crushed by a steel girder can really ruin your day.

But this woman was not about to cross the street with the riffraff, no sir. She was too goddamn important to change her course merely because some common laborers happened to be building a hotel in her path. The nerve of these guys!

I couldn’t hear what the woman was saying in response because she did not possess the hardhat’s lung capacity, which I suppose he developed from years of working on construction sites.

Finally, the woman decided to give it up and walk around the site like the rest of us lowlifes. However, she apparently tossed some insult over her shoulder as she was leaving because the hardhat had a hard response.

“So are you!” he shouted.

Okay, so I have to ask: what was this woman’s problem? What was the mindset here? And what did she say to that construction worker?

This woman was well-dressed and did not appear to be deranged or high.

I saw two cops detaining a homeless woman on Fulton Street a few months ago and it was immediately and painfully obvious why they were putting the cuffs on her. But this woman at the work site had no such excuse. She was allegedly normal.

One of my coworkers said there are some people who just believe that everything---and—everyone--else is in the way and must be shoved aside. I see a lot of that in New York and I don’t like it.

I wonder where this woman works, what she does for a living. Does she act this way with her friends or colleagues? If so, I feel very sorry for them.

Maybe she was going through some grief of her own, something so frustrating that the only way she could release her anger was to engage in a pointless argument with a total stranger. Rage comes in many disguises and shows up at the strangest times.

The woman went her way, I went mine, and the work continued. I don’t know where that lady is now, but if she hasn't gone back to her home planet, my advice to her is to keep looking up.

You never know when something might fall from the sky.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Where Everything is Music

It is now 2013 and time for me to launch my ascent.

I subscribe to Rob Brezny’s weekly astrology newsletter and he expects me to surpass my own peak levels of accomplishment in the New Year.

To make his point, he cited the story of Bob Beamon, the track and field athlete, who, during the 1968 Olympics, broke the world long jump record so decisively that the optical device designed to calculate his leap didn’t work. Thank goodness for the old school tape measurer.

The word “Beamonesque” began cropping up in conversation, Brezny said, signifying a feat that vastly outstrips all previous efforts.

I like the sound of that.

I’ve decided to make one--and only one-- resolution this year, as opposed to the usual yearly to-do list that goes on for several pages and never quite gets done.

And I actually got started a few days ago because I didn’t want to give in to the silly midnight ritual.

In this coming year, I will be more mindful.

That’s it. No sweeping declarations, no roaring promises to the heavens, no oaths stating that from this day forward I will or will not do whatever the hell I was or wasn’t doing before.

I’ll have none of that nonsense because these melodramatic vows have a tendency to sputter out two weeks after I make them.

No, all I want to do in this new year is remain in the present moment.

If you think that’s easy, God bless you, because for me it’s going to require an Olympian effort.

I am constantly regretting and rewiring the past or worrying about and constructing the future. And when I’m not doing either one of those I’m conjuring up some alternate reality of things I’d like to see happen.

Just Breathe

Every now and then I’ll poke my nose out into the real world to see if we haven’t started World War III yet and then—whoosh!—it’s back into fantasy land.

Enough already. I want to stay in the present, even though I don’t like being this age or this far away from my personal and professional goals. The only way to fix my life is to stick around in reality and start hammering away.

Daydreaming is just running away without the mileage.

It’ll be difficult, seeing as how my mental habits have slipped over the years, but so worthwhile. When you’re mindful, you don’t get angry about what happened before because you know it can’t be changed.

And you don’t get twisted over the what’s going to happen next because you know there’s nothing you can do about that either.

I already know I have to write more, sleep more, socialize more, and improve my diet, but all those healthy habits require an active, engaged mind. Not a rubber ball ricocheting from one hallucination to the next.

Yes, I’ve made this resolution before, only to stumble back into my old habits.

This time, though, I’m going to be easier on myself. When my mind starts to slide from the present, as I know it will, I’ll gently guide it back to reality.

I won’t crucify myself for every single misstep.

I read a quote by the poet and mystic Rumi that touched me so deeply I printed it out on a sheet of paper and taped it to the wall over my computer.

When I am silent,” Rumi said, “I fall into that place where everything is music.

These words sound as if they had been written for me. They say it’s time to free myself of all these delusions, shut down the mental fireworks display that I’ve been enduring for so long, and enjoy the stillness.

If I can reach this state, if I can find that beautiful place where everything is music, I know I’ll be Beamon with joy.

Happy New Year!