Sunday, December 27, 2015

Act of Contrition

I called my auntie back in New York just before dawn as I walked down Kalakaua Avenue one morning last week to tell her the news.

“Marie,” I said to her phone, “I just went to confession for the first time in more than 40 years. And…”

I paused for a second, searching for the right words.

“Well, let’s put it this way,” I continued. “It was a good idea.”

I still can’t believe I went to back into the confessional during my trip to Honolulu after a decades-long defection from this sacrament.

Most people go to confession after vacation to atone for the sins they racked up while they were on the road. But I was doing all sorts of different things on this outing and it felt like the right time for a spiritual cleansing.

I had attended mass at St. Augustine-by-the-sea after meeting and eating with the wonderful members of the Tongan choirg and I thought that going to confession would be the next logical step.

This was not an easy decision, as confession was one of the scarier aspects of my Catholic school experience.

I have this dreadful memory of kneeling in a pitch black booth and flubbing the Act of Contrition, which is kind of like a singer forgetting the words to the National Anthem at the World Series…only much, much worse.

“How often do you say it?” the peeved priest asked me from his side of the screen.

“Not very often,” I squeaked.

Now I could almost swear that this was Bishop Boardman, the big muckety-muck of our parish at the time, but was it possible that the headman would be hearing confessions? It’s been so long that I’m not sure anymore.

But whoever this guy was, he made me recite the prayer word for word before giving me penance and allowing me to escape with my life. After I graduated from the eighth grade, I don’t think I ever went to confession again.

Things are different now. I’m an adult, more or less, and I really wanted to do this. Confession is the sacrament of reconciliation, not condemnation, and I was in dire need of the former.

I got up early one morning a few hours before I was scheduled to go for a hike and bike tour and crossed the street to St. Augustine’s.

I was so nervous I almost turned away from the front door. How could I possibly to recount all the sins I had committed since the Nixon Administration? I only had 11 days in Hawaii.

Thy Will Be Done

But I waited in a pew until it was my turn, walked into the booth and got down on my knees. The confessional at St. Augustine’s is well lit, with a proper door, instead of those heavy curtains that I had to wrestle with in the third grade. And I began.

“Bless me father for I have sinned…”

I decided at that moment to keep the list down to one solitary sin: anger. That’s the source of most of my trouble, so why not give it the spotlight?

I told the priest I had so much hostility and rage in my heart and that I wanted to change.

It was strange hearing the priest’s voice coming at me. But what had made me so nervous in grammar school worked so well for me now. I felt more comfortable not having to look someone in the eye. It was liberating.

As the priest spoke, I leaned in so I could hear him better and then I put my hand over the metal screen so I could actually feel his words vibrating up my arm.

“It’s a good sign that you’ve come here,” he told me. “Don’t be discouraged if the change doesn’t happened quickly.”

The priest asked me to say the Act of Contrition and I froze. It was like going back in time to the day I choked in front of the pastor.

“I don’t know it,” I stammered.

“Just ask for forgiveness,” he told me.

And I did, striking my breast repeatedly. The priest absolved me of my sins and as penance gave me just a single Our Father to recite.

That was a shock. I would’ve thought I’d have to hack off one of my limbs to get back in good with the church.

But I see now that there was a method to the priest’s merciful madness because the Our Father, as brief as it is, contains one of the toughest commands in all Christendom.

…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Yep. I have to forgive all the boneheads, mutts, losers, and dirtbags who have annoyed the living shit out of me for all these years. Well played, padre.

Returning from vacation was a tough adjustment and I have recited the Our Father many times since my plane touched down at JFK.

But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’d like to go to confession a little more frequently than I have been doing.

I think that would be a good idea.

Friday, December 25, 2015

O Holy Night

My Christmas miracle came a little early this year and it happened a long way from home.

I experienced the magic of the season last week while wandering around Waikiki on the second night of my Hawaiian vacation.

As I was walking down a street near my hotel, I could hear people singing and, since there are a lot of bars in the area, I incorrectly assumed that it was a bunch of drunks trying to show the world how much fun they were having.

But I quickly determined that these singers were very talented. I listened closer and I recognized the melody of the song they were performing, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics.

I was tempted to keep walking and just forget about it, something I do far too often.

But I wanted to know who these people were and what they were singing.

And since I was on vacation, I wanted to step out of myself a little bit and do something different.

I followed the voices to the backyard of a small housing complex and stood in an alleyway listening until I realized that these people were singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in what I assumed was the Hawaiian language.

It turned out that this was the Tongan Choir from nearby St. Augustine-by-the-sea.

I stood in that alley just listening until a young man saw me and invited me to go inside the courtyard.

Once inside another man offered me a chair so I could sit and listen to these beautiful voices perform a classic in a way that was entirely new to me.

The Weary World Rejoices

And even though I was alone and nearly 5,000 miles from home, I felt so peaceful and welcome in this strange location. It was almost as if these people were expecting me.

At the end of the rehearsal the singers all prayed in Hawaiian and I joined in at the end when they blessed themselves.

Then the singers began handing out box chicken dinners and insisted that I eat with them. By this time I was pretty much in shock at what was going on.

I'm sure a good number of these people work for the tourist industry in some capacity, as maids, perhaps, or as security guards, which means they make a lot less money than I do. But they still wanted to share their food with me.

I have no idea why these lovely, talented people were being so kind to me, a total stranger, but it's something I’ll never forget.

And it’s hard not to think about a certain couple that had no place to go when they arrived in Bethlehem one holy night so many years ago.

I attended Sunday mass twice at St. Augustine’s during my vacation and I had the pleasure of listening to the choir perform during the services. And I made sure to buy a copy of their CD before I left Hawaii.

I have since returned to Brooklyn to enjoy Christmas with my dear auntie and sister. It feels wonderful to be home, but I will always be grateful to the singers of St. Augustine-by-the-sea.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Shaka to the System

I’ve gone nearly 24 hours without giving anyone the shaka, the Hawaiian hand signal that means everything from “hang loose” to “have a nice day.”

This is probably for the best, since a gesture that involves wagging the extended thumb and pinky would probably be considered an insult in Brooklyn and result in yours truly being pummeled into a coma.

No matter. I had an absolutely fantastic time in Honolulu and I am thoroughly bummed that my 11-day trip has come to an end.

This vacation was a great idea and I can’t believe how I hemmed and hawed before I finally decided to go.

I saw such beautiful scenery, like the Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park and other films were shot. I had breakfast on the beach, watched the Honolulu Marathon, and did a wild downhill bike ride.

I went to Pearl Harbor and boarded the USS Missouri, where Japan surrendered in 1945.

I huffed and puffed up to Diamond Head, where I enjoyed the fantastic view while trying to restart my heart.
I also met so many wonderful people during this vacation.

Traveling solo can be a bit depressing at times, but it seems like I was running into such nice folks every time I turned a corner.

There were the lovely people at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Church, located right next door to my hotel in Waikiki. One member of the congregation was a woman from Sunset Park in Brooklyn who had moved to Hawaii three years ago.

“I wanted to get away from the drama,” she told me. “Now I have new drama, but that’s okay.”

There’s no escape from drama, of course, but I admired this woman for having the courage to pick up and move to the other side of the world.

I met a wonderful Australian family who took me on a killer bike ride down the North Shore, where we battle repeated tropical rainstorms while I struggled to keep up with them.

There was this very kind Malaysian couple I met at the Polynesian Cultural Institute who hung around with me for the entire day.
And even today at the Honolulu Airport, I met a mother and son who were flying back to LA after a week in Hawaii.

She came from Sheepshead Bay but stayed in California after graduating from college several years ago. We just had a brief conversation, but it helped make the awful trip just a little less tedious.

One day last week I took a walk around Kualoa Regional Park and I was amazed at how steadily the wind kept blowing.

It was warm though, unlike the bone-chillers back east, and it had almost a curative effect as I allowed the strong breeze to blow away my worries and fears. It was a very peaceful moment.

On the way out to the airport I saw an honest-to-God rainbow forming over Honolulu. I pointed it out to the other passengers in the van, but they were all too busy looking at their smart phones. Okay, so I guess it’s my own private rainbow.

So now I'm back here in the Northeast, where the rain is cold and the wind is even colder. It's a bit depressing naturally, but I can’t wait to see my beautiful family on Christmas Day.

Whatever comes after that, well, we’ll just have to see which way the wind blows. And as long as I can still find the rainbows, I’ll be just fine.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Honolulu Baby

The future is a dark cloud, Christmas is kicking down the front door, and I’ve got a million things to do around the house.

So naturally I’m taking off for Honolulu this morning.

Yes, I decided that I needed a little more adventure in my life so I booked this trip a few months ago.

Now that the day has finally arrived all I can do is think of my dear mother’s words whenever I did something totally ridiculous.

“Oh, Robert,” she’d say. “Whatever possessed you!”

Indeed. What the hell did possess me? I don’t know, but whatever the crazy spirit was it seems to have hit the road and left me here with a chorus of jangled nerves.

I always freak before taking long trips. It’s kind of my thing. And I’ve made the Hawaii trip before, traveling to the Big Island with my family to celebrate Christmas several years ago.

But now I’m on my own and juggling so many worries I could land a gig on the Ed Sullivan Show.

No matter. I’m on my way and I know my mother would’ve been very proud to see me overcome my fear and travel to some place new. Maybe her spirit has possessed me.

I’ll be hard to reach for a while, so everybody behave, eat your vegetables and let’s see if we can regroup before the year runs out.

Aloha…

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Shelter in Place

One minute they were alive, and the next minute they were all dead.

Yes, we had still another mass shooting in America.

For some stupid reason I thought we might have gotten a break after the Paris slaughter, but it seems like the madness is escalating, gathering momentum like a boulder tumbling down a mountain.

So now we have even more names to add to the list of victims--husbands, wives, sons, and daughters--who were taken away far too soon. We have more smiling photos of people of all races and creeds who have been savagely gunned down.

I want to know all their stories, I want to reach out to all their families and feel what they’re going through, but there have been so many victims my mind is ready to explode.

I scroll through the photos and my heart breaks again and again.

Terms like “soft target,” “active shooter” and “shelter in place” have worked their way into our language and no one seems to have a problem with that.

Various news programs and police departments around the country have created videos detailing what to do if you’re caught in a mass shooting. It’s like a fire drill or the old atomic bomb attack scenarios from the Cold War. And I watch them because I’m afraid not to.

The killers this time were a husband-and-wife terrorist team who murdered 14 of the husband’s coworkers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif.

Bang, Bang, Shoot, Shoot

News reports say the husband became “radicalized” by his wife, as if he caught the jihad bug like it was a case of the measles. I have trouble accepting this idea that you can be hypnotized into committing mass murder.

We’re exposed to all kinds of toxic beliefs every day of the week; if you choose to act upon on them, well, that’s your choice, isn’t it? And I wonder why the husband couldn’t “de-radicalize” his wife—convince her that shooting innocent people to death isn’t a nice thing to do.

I’m trying not to go on another useless rant about gun violence in America, but it’s hard to keep your temper when you see just how easily—and legally—these two psychopaths obtained their brutal weapons.

Incredibly—and I do mean incredibly-- Senate Republicans, including four of the assholes running for president, actually voted against barring suspected terrorists, felons and the mentally ill from getting guns.

Radical Islamic leaders have been urging American sympathizers for years to exploit the nation’s lax gun laws for domestic terror attacks. Looks like the homegrown jihadists have finally clued in.

And, insanely, all of the GOP candidates are ramping up the tough guy talk, demanding war, while studiously ignoring the need for gun control in this country.

Where the hell do we invade? The husband in the California shooting was from Illinois. Are we going to bunker buster the Midwest? No, this is just stupid talk for a woefully ignorant population.

I worry about going out to the movies, parades or any other event where there will be large crowds of people. When will my number come up, when will the next jihadist or gun-toting loner burst into the restaurant, theater or office and start shooting?

So is this really the new normal? Will we before forever caught between extremists and the hack political whores who keep arming them?

I’m so sick and tired of looking at all those dead people.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Light in the Tunnel

My sister and I were leaving the Fairway in Red Hook with our Thanksgiving turkey Wednesday night when we overhead one of the employees explaining the facts of life to a co-worker.

“Everybody’s got problems, baby girl,” she declared.

I was barely listening as I had all sorts of holiday-related worries preying on my mind.

But those words are coming back to me now that the long weekend is almost over, the turkey carcass has been reduced to bare bones, and my stomach is relentlessly pushing against my belt.

This is a time of the year when we’re supposed to be grateful for all we have, and I really am so thankful for all the great people in my life.

And yet I’m thinking of this slip-up I experienced just a few days before Thanksgiving.

I was riding the subway and reading a book to pass the time while the R train crawled its way through the rush hour congestion. Or at least I was trying to read, but the lights kept switching off every time I focused on the page.

I looked down the length of the car and saw that all the other lights were working perfectly. The only defective lights were the ones over my head.

I started getting annoyed; my dark self complaining, yeah, of course, the lights would go out on my part of the train. I had half-convinced myself that the fates were deliberately futzing around with the lights just to disrupt my reading.

Insane, of course, but that’s what happens when fatigue sets in and I let my mind off the leash.

It’s All Gravy

The man directly across me wasn’t complaining about the lights. He was sitting on the train with no shoes—completely barefoot—with the temperature falling, winter just around the corner, and the holiday season underway.

He clutched a heavy walking stick and wore a set of headphones, though I didn’t see any I-Pod on his hip to provide the music. Maybe the tunes were playing in his head.

Periodically he’d pound his walking stick on the floor and glare at the other passengers as if he were about to make some great pronouncement. But he never said a word.

So here was a man with no shoes on his feet, and God only knows if he had a place to live, or anyone to share Thanksgiving with—just a few feet away from me, but I chose to feel sorry for myself and get all twisted about some blinking lights.

It’s the subway, for God’s sake, it’s a minor miracle the lights work at all.

Such a strange holiday, where we’re supposed to give thanks for all we have by eating ourselves into a stupor.

If we really wanted to show our gratitude, perhaps we should go hungry for a day, get together with our loved ones and skip the huge meal in honor of those who have no food, no homes and no shoes to wear in the winter.

Your gratitude for things increases dramatically when they're taken away from you—even for a little while.

Yes, baby girl, everybody’s got problems. But for many of us our biggest problem is choosing to stay in the dark, refusing to see how lucky we are and why we should give thanks every single day of the year.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tarzan of the Narrows

I stood at the bus stop on Shore Road one dark night last week with a fistful of lottery tickets and my eyes peeled for the X27.

I wouldn’t have much time to do this. When the express bus pulled in I had just a few seconds to hop on board, meet up with Mary Ellen, this wonderful lady who had called me earlier in the day, and make a most important exchange.

I was psyched, a little nervous, and quite grateful that this business was hopefully going to be settled in a few minutes.

It all started in the afternoon when I received a voice mail from a number I didn’t recognize.

“Hello, my name is Mary Ellen and I have your company ID card,” the message began. “It was wedged between the cushions of a seat on the X27.”

I was stunned. I hadn’t even noticed that my ID card was missing. I always keep it securely clipped to my belt; there’s no way it could fall off.

When I come home every night I put my phone, wallet, house keys and ID card all on in one place on the kitchen table so I can make a quick departure from my house the following morning. Clearly something had gone wrong the previous night.

I quickly called Mary back and she told me that she had tracked me down on Facebook. It was a nice bit of detective work in addition to being an act of supreme kindness.

“I didn’t want to turn it over to the bus company,” she said, “because you’d never see it again.”

Now that’s the truth with a vengeance. With all the stuff that gets hauled into the lost and found in one day, I doubt if a plastic card with my kisser on it would attract much notice.

Hey, You Never Know

I’m still amazed at Mary’s courtesy, persistence and kindness. She could’ve easily ignored my ID card or tossed it over her shoulder. Instead she made this extra effort to help out a stranger.

There really are good people in the world. It’s just that all too often their good deeds are overshadowed by the losers, the schmucks, and the hatemongers.

My horoscope had me prepared for good things. Rob Brezsny, the genius behind Free Will Astrology, said my role models in the coming weeks should be Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, and, appropriately enough, Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimming champion who went on to play Tarzan in several movies.

Brezsny explained that Burroughs had failed in his attempt as a pencil sharpener salesman and took up novel writing as a way to pay the bills. Weissmuller suffered from polio as a child and rebuilt his strength by swimming.

“It's a favorable time for you to turn defeat into victory,” Brezsny wrote.

Okay then, so here’s my chance.

Mary Ellen, who works in midtown, texted me when her bus was coming up Bay Ridge Avenue and I ran out to 72nd Street to meet her. A friend had suggested that I give her lottery tickets as a small token of my appreciation and I think that was a brilliant idea.

The bus slowed down, the doors opened up, and after one passenger got off, I climbed aboard, asked the driver to wait a second, and made the exchange with Mary Ellen.

I was back out on the street seconds later, my ID card safely in my hand. I felt really cool, like I had just gotten away with something vaguely illegal. Mary Ellen had the lottery tickets, but I was the big winner here, thanks to her.

I walked quickly back to my apartment, barely able to fight the urge to swing from the trees and howl up to the sky.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

City of Dark

Last year I was speaking with my aunt about some horrific terrorist attack, and how it had sparked a nearly equally insane demand for revenge.

“Somewhere the Devil is smiling,” she said.

Oh, he sure was. And if Satan was smiling then he was must be laughing his horned head off right now at the slaughter in Paris and the wave of bloodthirsty ignorance that has followed in its wake.

The right wing propaganda machine didn’t even wait for the bodies in Paris to get cold before launching attacks on President Obama, fuming about gun rights, and repeating their cries for war, war, and more war.

Now as an eyewitness to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, I know full well the terror of radical Muslim fundamentalism.

I didn’t watch the carnage on Fox “News”, I didn’t need Rush Limbaugh to explain the situation to me, I was there, so I don’t want any flag-waving fuckhead telling me how things are supposed to work.

I hate those terrorist mother fuckers with a passion that could fuel a Saturn Five rocket. If I could destroy them all with a wave of my hand they’d be one big pile of dust. They live to kill and, believe me, I’m all in favor of their immediate and instant eradication.

However, I also know the destructive power of misguided and deceptive retaliation.

I remember how a certain Texas asshole exploited the September 11 massacre into an excuse for that disastrous war in Iraq, a quagmire that killed or maimed thousands of American soldiers, slaughtered God knows how many more innocent Iraqis, and eventually spawned ISIS, who ripped the heart out of Paris on Friday night.

Nothing happens in a vacuum and when you resort to drastic actions, you’d better be prepared for a drastic response.

Say Cheese

Do you remember that jackass Bush prancing around an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and the stupid “Mission Accomplished” banner flapping behind him? Do you remember the insurgency killing our soldiers every day of the goddamn week?

The mission wasn’t accomplished, and that’s because the mission was a stupid, ill-conceived blundering misstep into one of those most volatile locations on earth that only help to further destabilize the region.

So I get a little uneasy and rather pissed off when I hear these imbeciles demanding that we start dropping bombs and putting boots on the ground. We tried that bullshit before and it didn’t work.

The only way I’d sign off on any military action would be if we draft all the loud mouths who supported the war in Iraq, give them guns, and ship them off to the latest hotspot.

You’re so hot for war, dipshit, you can give it a try.

I don’t know what the answer is; I don’t know what we should do about these psychotic fucks who mercilessly gun down and blow up innocent people.

But I do know that starting unwinnable wars that make defense contractors rich and give cowards an excuse to pretend they’re tough guys from the safety of their homes and radio studios is exactly what we should not being doing.

The people who are pulling these attacks aren’t afraid of death. They’re suicide attackers, for fuck’s sake, so the threats and John Wayne macho man posturing don’t mean a goddamn thing to them.

That’s what makes combatting them so difficult: they’re looking forward to death, not running away from it.

The attacks will continue and we’ll probably continue dropping bombs and sending drones that will kill innocent civilians, thus helping to create even more terrorists.

And the whole time the Devil will be grinning from ear to ear.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Rap On, Brother

It was no time to talk about politics.

I get up hideously early two days a week to lift weights and lurch my way through a 7AM boxing class at the New York Sports Club’s City Hall gym and the greeting from the young lady behind the desk--we’ll call her Kathy—is one of the few bright spots of my pre-dawn morning.

She’s quite pretty, with dyed blond hair, belly button ring, and cool little glasses that makes her look both nerdy and sexy at same time—just the right ingredients to make a geezer like yours truly get all hot and bothered.

I like to kid around with her when I sign in, and though she’s always polite, I’m getting a vibe that says something along the lines of here’s your towel, gramps, now go punch yourself in the head and have a nice day. But I might be wrong.

On Tuesday Kathy caught me off guard by diverting from the usual pleasantries.

“It’s election day,” she said.

“Oh, that’s right,” I replied, having completely forgotten. “Vote for me and I’ll set you free!”

Kathy burst out laughing upon hearing this and I could tell by the volume and enthusiasm of her reaction that she thought I had come up with this line on the spot, which I definitely had not.

I hesitated for just a half-second, savoring her joyful admiration, before confessing the truth like a good like Catholic neurotic.

“That’s not mine,” I blabbed. “That’s a line from an old song by the Temptations called ‘Ball of Confusion.’ Check YouTube.”

Kathy gave some kind of vague response and I highly doubt that she’ll research this Motown hit, but the song started playing in my head and it kept going all day long.

Written in 1970, “Ball of Confusion” was a musical commentary of the world at the time, railing about segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, and obligation to our nation.

The Temptations warned us that we could run, run, but we sure couldn’t hide, and how right they were.

And the Band Played On…

I don’t think it’s one of their best songs, but at the time it came out I thought it painted a depressingly accurate description of this poor planet’s condition.

Little did I know that someday I would like back fondly on the Seventies and consider that period an age of enlightened thinking in comparison with the modern medieval morass we are currently suffering through.

Fanatics didn’t crash jetliners into buildings back then. You could still count the number of mass shootings in America on one hand, the polar bears didn’t have to worry about drowning in the Artic, and people weren’t getting killed trying to take selfies.

We didn’t even have selfies back then…or cell phones…or the Internet. There was no Twitter, no Instagram or Facebook, and no blogging, so people like me had to keep journals or inflict our views upon the world one victim at a time.
Back in those days millionaires bought politicians; they didn’t become politicians. And we didn’t give tax cuts to the rich or roll back regulations for Wall Street robber barons, or at least not as much as today.

People didn’t fabricate stories about the pyramids being storage containers for grain, those who didn’t believe in evolution were rightfully regulated to the sidelines, and elected "leaders" at least tried to work together.

Upon reflection, the Seventies look pretty tame—if you just overlook Vietnam, Kent State, Richard Nixon and all that graffiti on the subways.

Old timers like to blather on about the good old days, but what bothers me is that I thought we had reached rock bottom back then, only to see now that we still had a long way to drop. I don’t want to think about what’s coming next.

I’m glad I didn’t take credit for the Temptations’ work. It was nice giving Kathy a laugh without adding plagiarism to my list of offenses.

And it so was good of her to remind me about my civic duty, because Election Day is one of the few opportunities we get to try and bring some order to this ball of confusion.

But it’s just occurred to me that I forgot to vote on Tuesday.

Great Googamooga…

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Not Responding

One of the worst things about a temper tantrum is that it feels so good when you’re middle of it.

Logic and good sense bounce off your brain like bullets hitting Superman’s chest, as you wrap yourself up in a cloak of self-righteous anger.

You are the injured party here, damn it, and you're entitled to shout, curse, and pound the desk with your shoe like Nikita Khrushchev at the UN.

It’s only when the anger wears off, when the Incredible Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner, that you realize you look rather stupid.

I had this point driven painfully home to me at work when I had a 20-megaton conniption fit over my abominably sluggish computer.

I wasn’t feeling particularly well that day, either physically or emotionally. And to be perfectly honest, my work computer is old and in chronic need of an overhaul.

It seems that no matter what command you give the damn thing, it’s first reply is to light up the message “Not Responding” at the top of screen. Eventually it’ll do what you ask, but first it has to go through its little surrender monkey dance.

Most days I can put up with this grief, but on this day I believe I was actually searching for a reason to be angry. And I found it.

It started when I tried to open up Outlook to check my morning emails and got the old “Not Responding” routine. I foolishly kept clicking on the icon, which only helped to slow things down even more.

I started cursing, under my breath at first, but then louder as the wait went on.

“This is the 21-Fucking-Century,” I grumbled, “and I still can’t get my goddamn email.”

Instead of counting to ten, going for a walk, or looking at the newspaper, I angrily attempted to launch Google Chrome and got another “Not Responding” for my trouble.

The Psycho Next Door

I fumed and swore until smoke came out of my ears. In some small distant part of my mind I could hear a voice telling me to tone it down, there are people around who can hear you. But my brain was not responding.

Good, I angrily declared, I don’t feel well, I hate this computer and anyone who doesn’t like it can drop dead.

Eventually the computer calmed down and so did I. Yes, it’s an old machine, but strangely enough freaking out didn’t make it work any better.

I was all set to put the ugly incident behind me and get on with my day when I heard two women on the other side of my cubicle having a conversation.

I could hear every word they said, which meant that they must’ve heard every foul thing I had been saying for the last five minutes.

I kept telling myself to let it go and pretend that nothing had happened. But I couldn’t. I knew something had happened—and I had been the cause of it.

I knew what I had to do, but it took me a while for me to admit it to myself. Finally, after nearly an hour, I got up, walked around to the other side of the cubicle and faced my two coworkers.

“I’m very sorry about all the noise and foul language,” I told them, feeling like a first class loser.
One of the women laughed and waved her hand.

“You sound just like my husband when he has trouble with our computer,” she said.

Oh, really, I thought, so you’re married to a lunatic like me? Poor lady…

I realized that I had never formally introduced myself to these women so if nothing else, my asinine actions had actually expanded my world a little bit and now I greet these ladies every time I see them in the office.

And it felt good to apologize, to acknowledge mistake and at least try to make amends.

I keep telling myself that I lost my temper because I wasn’t feeling well, but that’s just an excuse that will likely leave me in a rut.

I want to use my energy to change, not waste it on looking for reasons to be the same old loon.

This is the 21st-Fucking-Century, it’s high time I upgraded my mental software so that the next time I reach out to coworkers I’ll be doing it to make new friends and not to atone for my sins.

I know I’m making progress. It’s just that every now and then I’ve got this urge to pound my shoe on the desk.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Just A Kind Word

In the 1987 gangster epic, The Untouchables, the infamous bootlegger Al Capone, brilliantly portrayed by Robert De Niro, tries to downplay his well-deserved reputation for violence.

“I grew up in a tough neighborhood,” Capone tells a group of reporters. “And we used to say ‘you can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.’”

We already know the on-going horror show that guns have inflicted upon this country, but lately I’ve been amazed at the healing power of a just a kind word.

I was in the PATH station in Hoboken one recent morning adding money to my Metrocard when one of the station employees, this very pleasant African-American lady, approached me to see if I needed any help with the machine.

“No, thanks,” I said, appreciating her concern. “I’ve got this.”

She walked away while I slipped my card into the appropriate slot and waited. And waited. And waited. The Metrocard machine made all kinds of clicks and squeaks but refused to return my card. Oy…

I looked around for the station agent and waved to her.

“It turns out I really do need your help,” I said, rather lamely.

She headed in my direction and as soon as she arrived, my card popped out of the slot.

“You bring me luck!” I said

I hadn’t given any thought to these words; I just kind of said them. But this lady made a very pronounced sigh as if she were deeply touched.

I don’t envy her having to work in that train station and, knowing New York-area commuters the way I do, I seriously doubt she hears many kind words in the course of a day. So if felt really good to cheer her up even for a brief moment.

Hell, I thought, that was pretty easy.

In fact, it’s so easy that I’ve decided to look for every opportunity to say something nice to people.

And then a few weeks ago I was on the receiving end of a much-needed kind word.

I was stumbling onto the X-27 bus with a laptop on my shoulder, a knapsack on my hip and the New York Times falling through my hands.

Aisle Be There

I was tired, worried about my job, and pretty much fed up with life in general.

As I walked down the aisle in search of a seat, what seem like several tons on advertising flyers slipped out of the paper and littered the floor.

Great. Now I’ve got to try and pick that crap up while holding onto to all the other junk I’m carrying.

“I’ll get it,” said this middle-aged man in a nearby seat.

“It’s okay,” I said, gathering up the debris in my arms like I was carrying an infant. “I’ve got it.”

“Hang in there, buddy,” my fellow passenger said with refreshing sincerity.

That was it. That was the sum total of our interaction. But something about it really touched me.

No one else on that bus offered to help me; no one even acknowledged my presence, opting instead for the Big City Stare, where you steadfastly refuse to look at any unpleasant occurrence even if it’s happening right on top of you.

I’ve resorted to this urban blindness myself on many occasions, so I am certainly not passing judgment.

I’m just so grateful to that man who chose to actually see me and offered to help.

I looked for the man when I pulled into my stop so I could wish him a good day, but he had already gotten off.

But I’ve been replaying his line in my head whenever I feel pressured and it’s been quite effective in helping me calm down.

Hang in there, buddy.

I’ve looked at kind words from both sides now and I must say there’s nothing like giving or receiving a verbal thumbs-up.

It's nice to think that these two incidents are related, that what goes around really does come around, and I was being rewarded for my minor act of kindness. But you shouldn't expect a reward for being nice to people.

To paraphrase another gangster flick, The Godfather, I would advice people to leave the gun and take the kind words. You’ll be surprised how far you get.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Eyes Have It

It took much longer than it should have, but I finally broke down and ordered my first pair of reading glasses yesterday.

I have been putting this off for years, as I fought a losing battle with small print by squinting, using a magnifying glass, or just flat out giving up and hoping to hell I hadn’t missed anything important.

I actually “lost” the prescription and had to request a duplicate from my doctor before finally parking my keister in front of the computer and making it happen.

It wasn’t easy. I’ve always had good vision, bonehead typos notwithstanding, and I was so proud of how I had staved off failing eyesight for so long.

But even I have to admit that things were getting bad. I’m holding newspapers up to my honker and cranking up the zoom on my computer until it looks like skywriting.

My eye doctor put it simply.

“You’re 58!” he declared, a little too loudly for my taste.

That said it all. Stop lying to yourself, cut the crap and get the goddamn specs. You’re old, grandpa, you’re old.

I probably wouldn’t have gone to the doctor had it not been for an annoying eye infection that wouldn’t go away and, naturally he checked out the state of my peepers and found them to be lacking.

My eye guy recently relocated to a building on Third Avenue that was once the home of a weekly newspaper where I had worked for two…hmm, what’s the word? Oh, yeah…miserable years nearly 30 decades ago.

It wasn’t a happy time for me and, of course I did my best to make it worse, bouncing from despair to resentment and anger to near self-destruction.

Vision Quest

But I had been struggling for a direction and I found something close to it when I started working at this place. And I got to do some fun stories, like riding around with cops in Sunset Park and meeting some nice people, so it wasn’t a complete nightmare.

When I reached my doctor’s office I did a double take at the street sign. I saw that the block had been named in honor of the paper’s late publisher and my aging eyes nearly popped out of my head. They named a street after that guy? I fumed. What the hell did he ever do?

I knew I had vision problems but was I suffering from hallucinations, too? I suppose I could’ve raged on for the rest of the morning, but I did have a doctor’s appointment.

The place looked completely different on the inside, of course, seeing as it was now a doctor’s office. There was no trace of the crumbling dump where I literally punched a clock every day.

“This place was a mess when we got here,” the nurse told me. “We had to clean it all out.”

I’m not surprised. The Army Corps of Engineers would’ve probably needed a month to get through that hovel.

My doctor gave me a prescription for antibiotics to get rid of the eye infection and wrote up an order for reading glasses.

I felt relieved by the time I left. I was getting treatment for the infection and, more importantly, I had finally stopped lying to myself and admitted I needed glasses.

And I was feeling more charitable toward my past. If they wanted to name the street after my old publisher, so what? An additional sign on the lamppost wasn’t going to hurt anyone.

The old job is behind me; the place literally didn’t exist anymore, at least not at this location. It was time to do some cleaning of my own, flush out all that old grief and look forward.

I haven't gotten my glasses yet, but I think my vision is getting better already.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tango Solo

Well, what do you know? It really does take two to tango.

This rather obvious lesson was driven home to me in yet another one of my carnival side show dreams that, as usual, had me rolling out bed with a hearty cry of “what the hell?” before I was able to unravel its twisted message.

I should stress that this really wasn’t a nightmare, certainly not in comparison with some of the head-banging shock rides that I’ve suffered through over the years. This was more awkward than awful and it was also instructive.

In the dream I had volunteered to put on a tango demonstration for my coworkers at some kind of company function.

We already know it’s a dream because it has the words “volunteer” and “tango” attached to my name, which could never happen in the real world.

Obviously the tango is a partner dance, a beautiful, sensual experience that cannot possibly be performed by one person, especially if that person is me.

Tango advocates suggest that the dance “makes people feel more relaxed, sexier, and less depressed, and increases testosterone levels,” which sounds like something I should investigate.

There was a story about a French ambassador to Argentina who, when asked his opinion of the tango, said “we do the same thing in France, only lying down.”

Nevertheless, the emcee of this strange little affair called my name and as I walked up to the front of this darkened ballroom I wondered, how the hell did I get myself into this fiasco?

You’re On!

The host handed me a flashlight—don’t ask me why—and stepped back to let me strut my stuff.

But when I clicked the switch, nothing happened, and I stood there in the dark unable to do my act—whatever the hell it was.

I felt relieved not being able to dance and I apologized to my coworkers.

“But you can dance!” a fellow at a nearby table said encouragingly.

Things get hazy after that and I woke up a short time later, quite dazed and extremely confused.

However, I’m starting to decode the images in this odd vision and the results are quite telling.

The most obvious emotion here--and I almost missed it--is the longing for companionship. "Dancing With Myself" may have been a hit for Billy Idol, but it leaves a lot to be desired in real life.

I have also been in work situations where I was extremely unsure of myself, worried that I didn’t know how to do a particular job and frustrated that I was failing to fulfill my life’s purpose.

But I was so desperate to have a steady paycheck that I said “yes” to whatever was on the table.

That supportive voice in the dark? I think that person was a stand-in for some more assured part of myself or for family members who were trying to build my confidence.

When I was struggling with my math classes in high school, my dear mother would always encourage me by saying “you’re a smart boy!” That may be true but I can sure get myself into some pretty stupid circumstances.

I must confess that the image of a dysfunctional cylindrical object has phallic connotations that I’d rather not think about, so let us slide off in another direction.

I’m still stressed about some major issues in my life and I want to find something that truly suits my talents.

So there are some important lessons in this little delusion. Never lie about your skills, don’t get stuck in bad situations, and if someone asks you if you know how to do a one-man tango, for God’s sake keep your mouth shut.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Blood and Ashes

What else can be said at this point?

There was yet another mass shooting in America on Thursday.

Another isolated loner psychotic with access to all sorts of horrific weapons walked into a college in Oregon and shot nine people to death before killing himself.

As usual this massacre was followed by calls for gun control on one side and hysterical shrieking about Second Amendment rights, and the Founding Fathers and all the other happy horseshit the gun crowd drags out whenever bullet-riddled bodies start hitting the deck.

Churches, schools, theaters—places of worship, knowledge and entertainment--have all become potential slaughterhouses.

And what will happen? Not a fucking thing. If Sandy Hook couldn’t change anything in this sick, morally bankrupt and spiritually comatose country, nothing, absolutely nothing will.

We’ll go through the tired ritual with the goddamn candlelight vigils, we’ll see all the photos of the victims, hear from their heartbroken friends and family members, and that’s where it will end.

I don’t even know why I bother writing about it.

The gun lobby has bought up all the whoring politicians and those clowns aren’t about to give up all that cash, even if we had a mass-shooting every day of the week and two on Sunday.

If it ain’t your loved ones taking the lead, it’s all good.

This has been a particularly horrendous week for my country.

In addition to the Oregon massacre, the no-good lowlife Republican scumbags in Congress allowed the Zadroga Act, which provided medical monitoring and treatment to 9/11 responders, to expire.

I have a question: Are you fucking kidding me?

The terrible event that we would never forget, that George Bush used to push his bullshit war in Iraq, the one that St. Rudy has adopted as his personal property—you’re telling me that the people who actually risked their lives at Ground Zero and who are now suffering because of it, you’re leaving these people to die?

You lowlife motherless shitheels jump through hoops to give tax cuts to billionaires and corporations, but you can’t lift a finger for people who have actually done something for this country.

Distress Signal

I have another question: How do you fucking sleep at night?

The other day I said on my Facebook page that I hoped the kids and grandkids of all those GOPricks responsible for this atrocity come down with the same diseases that are afflicting the first responders.

Now that’s pretty harsh. I’ve had a few days to think it over and you know what? I still feel that way.
"I'm almost ashamed to be an American today," deputy FDNY chief Richard Alleys was quoted as saying after this disgraceful lack of action.

Almost? Not me, brother. I am thoroughly ashamed to be an American. This is not my country anymore.

I honestly don’t why my father and so many others fought for this nation if we're going to treat our people so abysmally just because they don’t have enough money to buy a political prostitute.

There is an all-out war on reality being waged in this country. People don’t like certain facts that shake up their worldview, so they’ll just dismiss them while waving the flag and thumping the bible.

A few examples: Trickle down economics. “Truther” conspiracy theories invented to claim mass shootings are faked. Bogus videos used to defund Planned Parenthood. Global warming deniers, Obama birthers and “death panels” supposedly brought on by the Affordable Care Act.

People who hold these beliefs aren’t conservative; they’re crazy.

Lunatics who at one time would be relegated to raving in public parks to a handful of amused onlookers are now being elected to national office.

Ridiculous accusations that wouldn’t have made it beyond a public lavatory wall a few years ago are now given serious consideration in some bizarre attempt at “balance.”

Balance is the one thing that’s missing from America as we become more polarized, more entranced with our crackpot theories.

See you at the next massacre…if we’re still alive.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Caine and Unable

I’m turning into Captain Queeg.

I have yet to see The Caine Mutiny in its entirety but I’ll never forget the scene in the 1954 film where Humphrey Bogart’s crazed captain went bananas over some missing strawberries.

I came down with a wicked cold and I’ve been absolutely miserable, handling things in my usual way, by freaking out at everything and letting my inner Queeg chart a corrosive course through the Sea of Insanity.

It started on Wednesday, the first day of autumn, when I thought I was having trouble with allergies.

However things got worse and by the time Friday rolled around I was coughing, sneezing and wishing I could crawl under a rock for the next six months.

I took a day off from work and canceled my weekend plans, which was really annoying since I don’t socialize enough to begin with. I then sank into a ruinous routine of bad television, lousy food, and rotten thoughts.

By Saturday I was feeling marginally better, but I was out of food, so I staggered up to the local Key Food where I discovered that blueberries, a key ingredient of my breakfast oatmeal, had suddenly become ridiculously expensive. Yet another reason to hate the change of seasons.

The strawberries were a little cheaper so I got them instead. They tend to go bad quickly, but I wasn’t paying four bucks for a tiny plastic tub of blueberries.

Food shopping blows under the best conditions and it sucks even harder when you’re sick. I hauled myself up and down the aisles like a reanimated corpse and just grabbed stuff that looked vaguely edible.

A Freudian Delight

I did learn that I wasn’t the only one suffering as I overheard a woman hacking and blabbing into her cellphone about how sick she was. Actually, it was impossible not to overhear her, given the volume at which she spoke. Who says misery loves company?

And wouldn’t you know it, I had the displeasure of standing in front of this woman on the checkout line as she continued coughing into her phone.

“I take care everybody except myself,” she bellyached to some poor soul who surely deserves a medal for patience.

I got the hell out there, limped up three flights of stairs to my apartment and, I as unpacked my goods, I saw something was missing.
Of course it was the strawberries. I knew I had bought them, but no amount of geometric logic could explain where they were.

I searched through the empty bags, looked on the landing of my apartment, the whole time dreading the inevitable march back to the supermarket.

I’m sick, I whined, I don’t want to do this. I just want to go back to bed.

I started wondering if one of my neighborhoods had somehow snuck into my house and swiped the strawberries while I was putting away my shopping cart. Yes, Captain Queeg was cracking under the strain.

I finally gave in, dragged myself back to the supermarket and talked to the cashier. It seems I had left the strawberries off the conveyor belt, so I didn’t actually buy them.

Okay, so now I’ve got my damn strawberries. And it occurs to me that The Caine Mutiny is about a ship commander who is relieved of duty after freaking out during a violent storm.

It’s time to send Captain Queeg belowdecks, take the helm and get through this typhoon.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Nod Father

It seems like one minute I was happily surfing the Internet and the next minute I was on the floor.

I fell asleep in front of my computer a few weeks back, and with nothing to block my fall, my body did the whole Isaac Newton thing and hit the deck like a sack of wet laundry.

I woke up with my computer looming over me and the carpet under my nose. It was bizarre and a bit scary to just slide off my chair like that. This has never happened to me before and I’m grateful that I didn’t get hurt.

I didn’t think I was particularly tired, even though it was late, but then clearly I called that one wrong.

I’ve been nodding off a lot more lately. I don’t know if it’s age or the difficulties I’ve had sleeping at night, but whatever the problem is it seems to be getting worse.

I’ve actually conked out momentarily at the office, which can be awkward since I sit in a low-walled cubicle and anyone walking by can see me—top brass included. Luckily I have yet to tumble out of my chair.

It’s really upsetting when I fall asleep in the theater. I love going to plays and I think it would be really nice if I could stay awake until the final curtain.

If you fall asleep while watching a DVD you can always rewind, but I don’t think you can shout out to the cast of a Broadway show, “hey, could you do that last scene one more time?”

Send Me A Dream

I was at the theater with my sister and auntie recently when things started to go blurry. I dimly heard my sister whisper “nudge him!”—or at least I think heard her—and then my auntie was poking me.

“Next time I’ll sit next to you,” my sister said, after the lights came on.

We usually go to Saturday matinees, which is one of my gym days and I’m wondering if the workouts are a part of the problem. The last time we all went to the theater my auntie reminded me not to overdue it.

“Don’t get too sleepy or dopey,” she said.

“You just named two of the seven dwarfs,” I replied.

So what do I do about this--guzzle gallons of Diet Coke? Strap a joy buzzer to my butt?

Now it is true that two days a week I get up ridiculously early to attend a 7AM gym class. But I thought I’d be okay by the time the weekend rolls around.

I know that I worry a lot and that disrupts my sleep so I’m waking up periodically during the night.

And I stay up late on weekends watching junk on TV or screwing around with YouTube just because I can.

This morning I caught the last bit of some TV preacher’s sermon about insomnia. The minister told his listeners “you can sleep because God will be awake all night.” He might be on to something.

Perhaps I can reschedule my gym class whenever we go to matinees. And I’ll make a sincere effort to get more sleep at night.

And if I do any late-night net-surfing I’ll be sure to wear a crash helmet.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Up the Auntie

To give value to others, you have to begin by valuing yourself.” ― Tim Fargo

My Aunt Marie has a singular way of expressing herself.

I’ve been keeping a list of some of my mom’s sister’s best lines and I’ve found her observations to be both funny and insightful.

For example, a few years back, my auntie, sister and I were going to a St. Patrick’s Day concert at a church in Bay Ridge and my aunt had brought along some health food bars for us to snack on.

Being a hyper hypochondriac and demented fitness fanatic, I immediately asked if the ingredients were in fact good for me.

“No nothing bad!” my auntie breathlessly declared.

“Wow,” I snarked, “they’re really good for you!”

I was teasing her about the momentary language lapse, but the more I thought about the phrase “no nothing bad” the more I liked it. It’s a good way to look at life.

I am notoriously negative so the idea of pushing the positive beyond the grievous grasp of grammar appeals to me no end. What do I want in my life, my heart, and my mind? No nothing bad!

Last year the three of us went to Cold Spring to enjoy the fall foliage and my auntie caught sight of a young lady who had rather optimistically squeezed herself into a tight pair of slacks.

“She’s got too much ass for those pants,” my aunt said—out of earshot, of course.

Rock on With Your Bad Self

We got such a kick out of her words that we toyed around with a song inspired by that phrase.

But my favorite line from my auntie came at the end of one of her classic rants about the ills of modern society. I honestly forget what particular issue had set her off, but Marie was going long on this one.

“People today have no sense of self,” she thundered. “They have selfies, but no sense of self!”

This line was so powerful, I posted it on Facebook and it got a record number of likes.

“Oh, she’s very wise!” one of my friends exclaimed.

Yes, she certainly is. But like all good lines it also got me thinking more about my own sense of self. I started do some research and I came across some intriguing ideas.

Mental health experts recommend that in order to develop a sense of self you take several steps that include believing in yourself, keeping promises to yourself, setting boundaries, and being kind to yourself.

In other words, a whole bunch of things that I don’t normally do or that I don’t do often enough.

I’ve had trouble making decisions and I find that far too often I’m burdening friends and family with their thoughts on what I should do.

Of course it’s important to consult with people you trust and respect before making a major move in your life, but I feel that I’m abdicating my responsibility to make a decision and essentially asking people to tell me what I should do.

It’s unhealthy for me and unfair to those around me.

I’m a crossroads in my life now and so this is a good time to create that sense of self, to discover who I really am and, go forward showing kindness to myself and to others.

It’s all about building on the good stuff and coming away with no nothing bad.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Narrow Bridge

I wanted to stand across the street from the Freedom Tower at 8:46 this morning, but I didn’t make it.

I was stuck in traffic on the BQE somewhere near 26th Street when I looked at my phone and saw that it was the same time when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center 14 years ago.

My plan was to start praying the Rosary at that time and place in memory of all the people we lost in the 9/11 attacks.

But traffic was abysmal, which is not surprising given all the activity in lower Manhattan, and I should’ve used my head and taken the damn train instead of the express bus.

And then in an attempt to console myself, I decided I would take my place on Cortland Street next year.

Next year? If there is any lesson to be learned from the waking nightmare of 9/11 it’s that nothing is guaranteed, not next year, not even the next minute. All those people who were killed on that day in 2001 had plans for the future, too.

I did my praying on the bus and in some ways I think it was good to be isolated under the sullen gray sky.

When I finally got to Manhattan I made my way to Liberty Plaza and stood at the spot where I saw the second plane hit the South Tower.

I thought of how we all ran when the flames shot out across the street, how people screamed and called out to Jesus.

I thought about the towers coming down, the vile dust filling the air, the terrifying walk over the Manhattan Bridge with fighter planes flying over our heads.

New Morning

I remembered this Japanese man whom I had helped that day. He wasn’t physically injured, but he was in shock and I had to lead him around by the arm like a child.

He could barely speak English, but eventually we got to a large apartment building and the staff let us use their phone. I wonder whatever became of him.

And I thought of my father who turned 80 years old on that day and who’s been gone now for eight years. It had all seemed so distant when I got up this morning, but now the memories were coming back as I stood on that familiar spot.

After work this evening I stumbled upon a memorial ceremony that the City of Hoboken was conducting at Pier A Park. By that time the sun had come out and the weather was almost as beautiful as it had been on 9/11.

Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of The United Synagogue of Hoboken, gave a particularly moving speech where he quoted Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

“The whole world is a very narrow bridge,” he said. “The important thing is not to be afraid.”

Rabbi Scheinberg acknowledged the two seemingly opposing concepts here, where the first line describes a very scary place, but then the second line says don’t give in to the fear.

I’ve been walking on a pretty now bridge lately and I’m feeling quite fearful about the future.

But I reminded myself that no matter had bad things may get, it’ll be nothing compared with the pain and suffering that the 9/11 victims’ families endure every single day.

Rabbi Scheinberg ended his address by quoting Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Let us be thankful and be sure to rejoice every morning.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Don’t Look Back

Oh, summer, how can you do this to me?

It’s suddenly Labor Day Weekend and the bright, seemingly endless supply of beautiful summer days have dwindled down to a precious few.

I must confess this has been a great summer, with a lovely vacation in California and nice nostalgia ride to Coney Island.

But as usual I’m shocked at summer’s swift departure and I now dread the coming cold weather.

And, as usual, I’m making my annual threat to pull up stakes and finally move the hell out to L.A., something I do with the same dependability as geese flying south for the winter. Except the geese actually leave—as opposed to yours truly.

My late mother and I shared a strong aversion to the end of summer. When we vacationed at my aunt’s house in the Berkshires, where the fall starts even earlier, I remember my mother shaking her hand at the rapidly changing leaves.

I went to the Chase branch on Fifth Avenue yesterday, where my mother worked for so many years back when it was the Lincoln Savings Bank.

I made sure to stop at the spot where her desk used to be to say a prayer and recall the good times. The bank was nearly empty due to the holiday, so I really took my time, just standing there and remembering her.

I feel like there are some major changes and some severe disruptions heading my way, and while they may do me a world of good in the long run, they could suck beyond belief in the short term.

Sometimes a fabulous gift can come to you disguised as swift kick in the cojones.

We Gotta Make it Last…

And while I was standing there in the bank, thinking about my mother and worrying about my future, a line from the Eighties song “If You Leave” by OMD popped into my head.

I need you now, like I needed you then…”

At first I couldn’t understand why this song and that particular lyric was playing through my mind at this time and place. But I realize my subconscious was reaching out to my mother, asking for her guidance and support.

I really do need her now like I have so many times in the past.

I have been talking and talking and talking about California pretty much since I entered into this life. I used to talk to my mother about it and she told me I should go if that’s what I really wanted.

“But I shall miss you,” she would always add with a touching note of sadness.

I have to yet to make the cross-country move and it turned out that my mother left us first and we miss her every day of our lives.

I can already feel autumn in the air. The leaves are starting to fall, the days are growing shorter, and the wind is getting cooler.
I don’t want to wear jackets or gloves or scarfs or any of that other crap that weighs me down.

I don’t want to see my breath every time I open my mouth and I don’t want to guzzle chicken soup, hot chocolate, or herbal tea to stay warm. I want the weather to be warm without any assistance for me.

I’m trying to remain sane about the change, telling myself that it’s inevitable, that it’s the way nature works, and that if it really bothers me so goddamn much, then I should make like a goose and honk on out of town.

We don’t have time on our side and I’m going to have to make some hard decisions soon—or have them made for me.

The first thing I’ll do is quit talking about California. I move, I don’t move, whatever happens, I’m going to stop flapping my gums, make an honest-to-God decision and live with it.

If I leave I won’t cry, I won’t waste one single day. I’ll hold onto the memories of my mother and I won’t let go at any price.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Attila the Doctor

All right, ladies, let’s give it a rest, okay?

I just got done ranting about a pile of cyber-dreck by Sherry Francis and the incredible Dr. Orissa, who helped Sherry get back her wandering husband, and now “Julia Andrea from USA” clogs up my comment section with the story of her husband coming back to the fold.

As my mother used to say when one of us spoke out of turn, “who stepped on your button?”

Oh, and Julia? It’s the USA.

I’m sure you already knew that being such a good American and all, but I thought I’d point that out to you in case you go crashing somebody else’s blog.

I never believed that i could finally get back the happiness and the love that was gone after my husband left me totally,” Julia tells me in a totally unsolicited spiel. “I couldn't just believe that spells and magic could turn my thoughts and my dreams into reality in getting back with my husband after he served me with divorce papers…My ex husband after the divorce never showed up to me and the kids anymore, he finally made up his mind on me and said it was over. 2 years after our divorce.”

He finally made up his mind that it was over two years after the divorce? The divorce sounds pretty final to me.

I was still out trying to get him back and i did all that i knew best could make him happy,” Julia continues “and my mum and everybody around just advised i should forget about him and move on with my life, because they felt he was gone forever and was never gonna return.

Back For More

Sounds like your mum and everybody around you are pretty sharp, especially those doctors with the Prozac. Maybe you should listen to them. Or is there something more that you’re gonna tell us?

But i never gave up on trying to get him back,” Julia proudly declares, “because i so much loved him beyond what anybody could ever imagine. I met a spell caster, and what drew my attention most was the fact that this spell caster was from Africa when i contacted Dr ATILA.

Why did the fact that the guy was from Africa draw your attention? I’m sure we’ve got plenty of great spell casters right here in USA…I mean the USA. And do you really want to do business with a guy named Atlia? Sounds like things could go real bad real fast if you didn’t pay your bill on. Wasn’t Dr. Orissa available?

And that so much gave me the assurance because i have heard much more on how he has helped alot of people,” Julia gushes, just bursting at the seams, “and with the help that Dr ATILA rendered to me, he saved my marriage and reunited me and my ex husband back together again with his powerful spells. Thank you so much Dr ATILA for your help in reuniting me and my husband again, if not for you, my life would have permanently turned out to b a mess.”

Julia’s message ends with an email address, which I’m not including as I don’t want to give Dr. Atila any free advertising and have my blog permanently turned out to b a mess.

I’d like to get a spell caster to stop receiving these moronic missives. But then maybe by complaining about Sherry and Julia Andrea, I opened some kind of Pandora’s box and now all manner of lovesick losers will regale me with their spam stories.

Julia and Sherry? Please don’t take this wrong way, but I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if you and your goddamn husbands all got hit by a runaway garbage truck.

Get off my lawn, go play where you live, put an egg in your shoe and beat it. And ask your husbands how they were able to disappear so effectively. And then get lost.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sherry Baby

Sherry Francis got her husband back and she wants the whole world to know it.

In fact she was so overjoyed that last week she left a comment on a blog post I did way back on January 1, 2007.

Say what you want about Sherry, she’s not one to rush into things.

This particular posts rambles a bit, but it has absolutely nothing to do with retrieving lost spouses.

But I guess Sherry was so excited having her man back in her arms again that she didn’t actually bother to read anything I wrote.

I promise to share this testimony all over the world once my husband return back to me,” Sherry writes, “and today with all due respect i want to thank Dr Orissa for bringing joy and happiness to my life.”

Dr. Orissa sounds like my kind of guy…or gal. But pray, Sherry, do tell us more.

I never believed in any of these things until i loosed my husband,” Sherry explains. “I required help until i found a grate spell caster, And he cast a love spell for me, and he assured me that I will get my husband back in 24 hours after the spell has been cas, my phone rang, and so shockingly, it was my husband who has not called me for past five years now, he made an apology for the heartbreak he have cause me, and told me that he is very sorry for all the wrongs he have done to me and is ready to come back and spend the rest of his life with me.”

So your husband was gone for five years, this Orissa guy (or gal) “cas” a spell and the loser suddenly decides to call you? And shockingly you took the call? Well, that’s just grate.

But with all due respect I can’t help but wonder where the hell your husband was all this time. Was he working on a chain gang in Alabama? And I have to say that you should make an apology for the heartbreak your atrocious spelling and bad grammar is causing me. I almost loosed my mind.

Maybe Dr. Orissa could cas a spell that would teach your proper English. That would bring joy and happiness into my life, toots.

So Satisfied

I clicked on to Sherry’s name and wound up on a Google+ page that revealed Ms. Francis’ Internet activity.

It appears that Sherry has been very busy indeed, sharing this story, or some version of it, with a slew of blog and YouTube posts.

The subject matter didn’t seem to matter to Sherry, no, she was determined to share her testimony all over the world and it looks like she’s made a great—I mean “grate”--start.

I thought it was particularly interesting that she left this spiel about recovering her husband on a YouTube video entitled “Crazy Woman…Wife beats husband mercilessly.” I think the title is self-explanatory.

Maybe Sherry should’ve taken her better half out to the woodshed, beat him mercilessly with a club, and put him in a body cas.

But then there are several posts and videos about reeling in wandering husbands, so her aim isn’t completely whack.

Now I’m getting this sneaking suspicion that maybe Sherry isn’t a real person. Shocking, no? But if she is, she must have a chronic case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’m used to getting bizarre emails all the time, but it’s been a while since I’ve gotten any such chazzerai posted on my blog.

The last one was three years ago and that was such a hoary hunk of hooey that I still get the shakes whenever I think about it. At least Sherry had some good news to share.

I googled Dr. Orissa, but all I could find was a state in India by that name. Shucks, I was hoping he could cas a grate spell and keep these losers away from me.

As I`m writing this testimony right now I`m the most happiest woman on earth,” Sherry continues, “and me and my husband is living a happy life and our love is now stronger than how it were before our break up. So that`s why I promised to share my testimony all over the universe.

And the universe is better place because of it, Sherry. Now you and your husband can get the hell off my blog.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Life in the Big City

I came into Manhattan one Friday morning praying for an easy day.

Now to be honest, I pray for an easy day every single morning of my life, but I was feeling especially miserable on this day and all I wanted to do was refill my Metrocard, get to work, and live to see the weekend.

Was that so much to ask? Funny you should ask...

I bounced off my bus and hopped down the stairs of the Courtland Street R station to beef up my Metrocard.

It’s quite simple, really. Just slip your card into one of the vending machines, tap out the desired amount, and then pay for it.

The first two steps went fine, but when I attempted to dip my credit card into the pay slot I found that the pathway was obstructed and I rang up a No Sale.

No problem, I thought as I cancelled the transaction. I’ll just use the other machine they’ve got here and then head for the office. It was a can of corn, as my father would’ve said.

But the first machine’s affliction was apparently contagious and my credit card wouldn’t work on the second one either.

And then I got a little upset.

“This city sucks!” I screeched to the heavens. “This city fucking sucks!

Okay, perhaps I could’ve handled that a little better.

Condemning an entire municipality and all of its inhabitants over some defective devices does seem like a bit of an overreaction. But my nerves were awfully twisted that morning.

When I finally put my head back on my shoulders, I walked to the end of the station, filled up my card at a different machine and made it to work on time without cursing at any other inanimate objects.

The day went by, the wretched memory faded, and I made plans to attend a free concert at the World Financial Center after work.

Showtime

Now for some reason the concert didn’t come off. I saw the artist talking with some stagehands but there was a serious lack of music and I couldn’t get a straight answer out of the one twit whom I had approached.

But, unlike the subway station debacle, I didn’t lose my crackers this time. I just was feeling too damn good. It was Friday, a beautiful summer night, and I was right by the water in the greatest city in the world.

I was already in the middle of an open-air concert.

The World Financial Center is a beautiful facility, filled with all kinds of stores and shops and it was crammed people from all over the planet walking, talking and enjoying life.

I strolled through the food court as if it belonged to me, smiling and taking in all that crazy energy.

“Ah, New York City,” I said. “There’s no other place like it in the world.”

And then I recalled the bug-eyed lunatic howling in the train station just a few hours earlier, the one that looked an awful lot like me. What had happened to that guy?

There’s no excuse for my behavior that morning, twisted nerves notwithstanding. New York can make you crazy—if you let it. It’s crowded, noisy, and people aren’t always showing the love like they should, myself included.

But, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, if you don’t like what’s going on in New York, wait a minute. Something funky is bound to happen.

And now that summer is drawing to a close and I’m already dreading the coming cold weather, I deeply appreciate how special that night was, even though nothing really special happened.

New York has so much to offer and it’s all out there waiting to be experienced.

Just make sure you fill up your Metrocard.