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First finger, third fret.
A year ago Zachary, back when I still called him Zachy (parenting faux pas) and I took guitar together.   He'd wanted to learn, and told me he wanted a (not very) expensive electric guitar.  The cherry red number at toys R us, right next to the electronic drum set.   I told him if he took lessons (with me) and waited 4 months without buying any other toys I would deliver his guitar.   Okay, it wasn't a huge learning curve, but he did resist temptation for four months and at the end of that time he still wanted to do it.
     Part of my daily routine in this pocket of time was working out daily at the North Hollywood YMCA. They sign "ask us about our guitar lessons" lead to a discovery that at the YMCA guitar lessons are 5 dollars a class.
    I signed us both up.

    Sometimes it pays to not read the fine print.   The classes are 12 and up and my youngest son was seven at the time.   The beautiful thing about this is that I viewed Zach prior to this class as having behavior "issues", not being able to control himself.   When we both learned that he was five years too young for the class but attendance was so low Giovani, the teacher, made an exception and for the most part Zachary's behavior was exemplary.

Though it was up to me, a non musician to translate when Giovanni was going faster than a second grade level which was most of the time.

So I would break things down to their simplest components.  To play the A chord for example, I learned started by determining which is the index finger, then next by placing that finger on the third string.   These are the first two moves of creating the chord, and working this way, moment by moment, Zachary eventually learned to play a song.

He didn't stick with it, unfortunately, as many of us non-musicians remember playing an instrument is a lot of work and gets old after a while.   I'm not sure what it is that keeps a kid coming back but I do know that at least two of my musician friends only had a handful of lessons and taught themselves the rest.   I do, of course, know those who went down the disciplined trek as children but i suspect those that went down that road had some very good teachers.

Anyway, when I first had the we-piphany of how to learn to play a chord, the first steps of playing guitar, I was impressed and enthused that anything, the most complex activity, begins with the simplest steps.   Mathematics, brain surgery, classical guitar. All of it.

Though in hind sight like most duh-piphany's this is something everyone probably knows.   I think I knew it to, but I learned it again sharing it with my son, and it gave me faith that we could learn anything we wanted if we just start from the simplest components and build one finger at a time.

(no subject)
    Nothing exists outside your mind, free from the filter of perception.   The words that I write are no longer my words.  They are in your head, and if you know me and you assign to them a voice, it's not even my voice that you dress them with.  It's your voice, disguised as me.   It's all you, every inch of it, from the Afganistan POW's to Hillary Clinton.   You have taken the world, you have made it your bitch.   You didn't even try.  That's how powerful you are.
   And then you meet Joe.   Joe does the same thing you do, creates a model of the real world in his head, like a toothpick kingdom.   You discuss things, you agree on some, on others you don't.   Joe didn't vote for Obama, or he did and you didn't.    You're offended Joe doesn't like drones or thinks the trillion dollar coin was a stupid way to stay off the treasury's radar, and I say this, by the way as a staunch Obama supporter. I voted for him twice, I would vote for him a third time, maybe because he's novel, or because he's got a really interesting voice, mostly I vote for him because I firmly believe his hearts in the right place even if he _did_ agree we could kill people on our own soil.   He's not going to kill _you_ after all.   He won't.   The next president?  Maybe, but come on, that's at least three years in the future, who has to worry about that.
     All of our decisions are made like this.   Not just with the government, but personally.   What choices am I going to make?  How does it suit me.   There has always been a smart ass teacher who said "what if everyone did that?"  "What if everyone stuck their chewing gum on the bottom of the desk, Blake?"  (I _never_ did that, though I did pee on a school wall once, on a dare... but I was just a kid, okay twelve, but that's still young, right?  right??)  Anyway the argument goes:  "What if everyone...) and who among us wouldn't think "Well, that's just stupid Mr. Jones.... not even everyone is chewing gum!
   And so it goes with our government policies.   "Not every government even _has_ a drone.   And we're not condoning Palestinians kill people they don't like on their soil... we're just saying _we_ can do it, and no unenlightened government should try this at home.   Leave it to the professionals.
    Thank god everyone views Americans as morally superior.
     But I digress I didn't mean to write about politics here.   I was writing about perception.  How much of what you see is more you than your world and I suspect, the older we get the more of our own filter we take with us which is why so many innovations are made by the young.
   Maybe by the time we die there really is nothing else of the world but our own projection and that's why we wink out.
      And if the tone here spun things negatively, well, that's not my filter.  : )

Circular insanity
 Sometimes experiences pull at me.   A moment, a knowledge, a friend, a situation opens itself up, becomes part of my life.   Is on what Bonita (first girlfriend)  and Mary Rocamora (pseudo-awesome guru) would independently call “The Grid”.   The grid is the inverse of “the matrix”.   If the Matrix was a construct designed to deceive man, the grid is the closest thing to the string that the Moirae would spin, measure and cut: fate; things that occur at certain junctures in life. 

    This notion is not unlike the design of a role playing game.   (the old fashioned kind, not the computer generated though I suppose there is a metaphor for each).  That some experiences were inevitable or from my chronosophy have happened.  (Time being only so linear except from our own burrowing perspective)

    That outside of time, some events or encounters simply are.   And we walk into them.   The idea is lunatic.   There is no logical reason to believe this nor is there any sort of proof beyond empirical but non-repeatable observation.

   Here, I fall back on what I’ll call “Jung’s gap” or his (unprovable) assertion that just because a phenomenon is unrepeatable doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  This does sort of shoot a big whole through the bullseye that is the scientific method and puts a certain mysticism back into the life of the intellectual with, what in my opinion, is a perfectly sound observation.

   Put another way, maybe some things do happen for a reason.  Some people, perhaps truly do come into our lives by something other than chance.  I’ve certainly been blessed with connections this tectonic.  Not so chance encounters, that turned my life upside down (or perhaps righted as I was upside down to begin with).  Which brings me to an idea.  Maybe instead of guardian angels we all serve to be this for each other, from time to time, by accidental design.   Pointing each other back into a better direction. 

    Yeah.  Speculation but maybe one worth entertaining.  What’s the harm in believing that you're everyone else’s guardian angel but also have a plethora of your own.  Funny how this all points back to synchronicity.

(no subject)

A lot of brilliant people battled depression.  Dorothy Parker (who coined the phrase “what the hell”) attempted suicide twice.  Several of the brilliant and particularly the funny have left us, and of course there are those unlike David Foster Wallace or John Kennedy Toole who killed themselves by attempting to mask their sorrows in drugs and alcohol (which is a lot like saying Cars and Sedans) but the question that comes to my mind, is did they just forget?

When Virginia Woolfe wrote The Waves and put together such beautiful sentences in such a musical style, when Parker quipped and quipped again and sang her song with such vibrance and grace that some of her phrases make me stop and catch my breath at the wonder of my existence.  Did they not appreciate their own (divinity misses the boat, particularly for my agnostic or atheist friends) perfection though… for certainly in moments she, Poe, Thompson, Hemmingway, Belushi, so many others were so very wonderful in who they were.  I have compassion for them that they could so beautifully express themselves such that they enriched our lives and yet not rejoice in at least their own splendor if not ours.  Though I have to open my heart to their decision not to.  Some perhaps, chemically inclined toward destruction, others just eaten up by their own stories, cannibalizing their own soul.

Jim Croce on the other hand died because of a pecan tree.  His pilot didn’t see it because there was fog.    You don’t tug on superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind… and you don’t take off with a pilot who can’t see what’s in front of him.  Why oh why wasn’t that on the list?

Anyway I guess my point is, as it ever is, savor it all, drink it in, celebrate it, every minute.  It’s none of it really tragic.  It’s all of it really worth it.  Don’t take my word for it.   Get real still.   Go into the silence.   What do you think?

Place holder

I haven't until this moment enjoyed much of where I live.

The place isn’t mine and it carries little of what I value in it’s contents.

Even my own room consists of several pieces of furniture I picked because of their near utility instead of for any aesthetic value.

Part of this is because my surroundings have always been a kind of placeholder.   I never expected to live anywhere forever.   This apartment, in particular was a temporary solution though I promised when I moved in it wouldn’t be for just six months.  I've now lived here over a year and I can't stay because it's convenient to do so.

My life, and my boys' childhoods mean more to me than that.

Though:  Living with such little overhead has had it’s advantages.   Some of those advantages are now gone because I’ve taken the kind of job that requires at least a reasonable amount of commitment to maintain, the exact level of commitment I would need to put into a job to afford a nicer place.

So this is one of those differences that make no difference.  I might not have the overhead to need to make money but staying at my job requires me to make money anyway.

Yes, I could change jobs tomorrow, or more things in the world can change and I’d be forced to.  

However all of that becomes moot in the face of:  I’d rather be somewhere else.

Though not just anywhere else.   Not just another random place with more random furniture.  I’ve done that too often and it sends the wrong message, not to others but to myself.

I’m not going to just jump ship.   I’m going to look, I’m going to prepare and the next place I move into is going to be someplace I want to live.

I don’t have to move next month or the month after.  Hell, the longer I stay the better position I can be in to move.  I have many an I to dot and t to cross before I leave.

So I ‘m going to get to it, for once with an eye to the future and for now, welcome myself into the present.  Savor what's here.  I am after all, in theory at least, living with one of my best friends.

Perfect Gift

Going to pick up my son, Zachary I was just a few minutes early.

My youngest is a bit of a wiggle worm.   He’s on track to be my height (6’7”) but unlike his brother he’s under weight for his age, which is not to say he isn’t healthy, he’s just slender.

Watching him Play handball by himself, brought back memories.  I wasn’t particularly popular in school, particularly elementary school and spent many a day entertaining myself cause I just didn’t have anyone to play with.

While my son seemed perfectly content he was the only child playing by himself.

So my intention was to give him a hug.

About ten minutes prior to this I pose a question to one of my best friends in an email about something I won’t disclose here.   It’s not something I need an answer on and my intention is to just ask and forget about it.  Let them answer in their own time.   :P   I put the email out of my head as I’ve got my boys with me.

When I went to pick up my son, my balloon idea of being huggy dad were shot down with a piercing shriek.   “I want chocolate.”  He cried.

I was stunned.   This was something new, didn’t make sense.   I hadn’t even said hello yet and already I’m being hit with a tantrum.  

During this time I’m getting emails from Lea Anne about the project due.  Homework.  She’s concerned about the writing I’d done for my oldest.

So as I discourage Zachy from chocolate he instantly starts a new mantra.   From my perspective I see a giant close up of my son’s screaming mouth…  “I want a BEACH BALL!”

The look of disconnection and terror on my face must be satisfying and he presses his advantage.

“We have to get a BEACH BALL daddy!  We have to we have to we have to!”

I tell him we are most certainly not going to get a beach ball if that’s how he’s going to ask which creates more wailing.

Now:  He knows he’s not going to get what he wants this way.  He also knows that if he approached me differently I’m not the strictest parent in the world.  A ten dollar toy is not something I’m likely to refuse especially if we strike some sort of bargain for it.   He does an extra couple of pages of reading or the like…

But this isn’t occurring to him, or perhaps it is and this is an easy way to commandeer the evening.  Whatever his unconscious motives however he is in genuine pain.  Crying tears of frustration at not being understood and not getting his way.  “I want a beach ball.” 

“Let’s not talk any more about this beach ball.”

“But why can’t I have one!”

“Because of the way you’re acting!”

“But that’s not fair!”

Text from their mother:  “Don’t forget to write eight sentences.”

And Cyrus “Daddy, Can we go to Jamba Juice?”


“But we never get to go to Jamba Juice.”

“That’s because he’s the worst Daddy ever. That’s why I can’t have a BEACH BALL!  Can I at least have a cookie?”

What the stench?  No, he can’t have a cookie before dinner.

I take a breath… unaware that I reached a boiling point after a difficult ‘day at the office.”

I now find myself in an unrelated email argument.  One of the worst I’ve had with this very close friend.

The email argument escalates so Zachy seems to settle down.  He notices my anger and attention have somehow been redirected.

Indeed they have.    I’m screwing up a friendship that I’ve had for years over something intensely miniscule because I don’t know to keep things about what they are about.

I come home drop the boys off.  “Uncle Robb” is home.   I go back to my car and return to find uncle Robb has taken upon himself to give Zachy a cookie.

I think Robb was surprised at the cool reception I gave this weird act of twisted parenting.  I was only gone five minutes.  You gave my son a cookie?  You don’t think maybe I want a say in this?

But I let it go.  I work on my sons project.   The email argument hits an apex.  He tells me what essentially what I can do with my project.  

And so I’m now still simmering.  

Finally it’s bed time and I go to tuck the boys in.   The alarm clock is unplugged.   I storm into Robb’s room and blast.  “You unplugged my kids clock again?’  He looks at me.  “I told you not to unplug that clock.  All you have to do if it goes off when I’m not here, is turn the volume down.”

He’s about to say something.

“Don’t you say a word.  Not a fucking word.  I’m going to reset my boys’ clock.”

He shuts his mouth.

I reset the clock.  Put the boys to bed.  

Ten minutes later Robb comes out of his room.  “Is it okay to tell you that I didn’t touch the alarm clock now?”

Everything clicks into place.   I wasn’t mad at Robb.   I sure wasn’t mad at my friend who lives out of state.

I had been lashing out at someone for something they didn’t do.

I’d done this before.   I’d likely done this my whole life.

Two days later at the premier of the Horror of Barnes Folly I am presented with a gift to give my character the childhood he never had.    A big red beach ball; A permanent reminder to keep things about what they are about.    An angry red planet made for a big child.

This gift also reminds me, because it’s associated with The Horror of Barnes Folly of one of my favorite life experiences, so I can’t look at that ball and feel bad about myself, but it is a constant reminder to keep vigil on where my emotions are coming from.


They are about to shuffle me out of here so my typing must be fleet.   I haven’t decided what to write, so I’ll write what I see. 

Two men with wool worker caps and plaid shirts cause each other to roll their eyes, snicker and periodically throw their heads back in laughter.   They look like they just got back from central casting for 1940’s cub reporter.  They are enjoying each other’s synergy in a decidedly platonic way, each reluctant to recognize just how scrumptious they find their connection.

Behind them converses a serious group of four people.  A guy dressed like a cat burglar complete with knit cap and black leather gloves holding court as the other three contemplate him as if Ghandi was his unenlightened disciple.

To my right, under the copper foyer a boy-man attempts to impress his date with  too much of himself and won’t understand why she moves on in a few weeks. 

Then there’s the trio who keep talking about the industry and not a one of them has stopped smiling my entire time.

Lastly there’s the fellow (in nearly every Los Angeles coffee house) with the macbook writing on Finaldraft what is obviously the Great American Screenplay. Laughing at his own jokes  and occasionally clapping his hands as if to show that what Shakespeare lacked was enthusiasm.  This guy is writing on Sunday night because tomorrow he gets up early for what is probably a sales meeting.   Oh wait.  That last guy is me.

I guess I fit right in.

Horseshoes, hand gernades and...

It started interestingly enough.   I decided to go to an opera.  I decided to take an opera singer.  I sort of charged in, swept her off her feet and practically started a relationship without her.  I knew I could, I saw what she wanted.  I also knew I wasn’t really that but I was lonely so kept that piece of information close to the vest.

The weird thing is, is that I’m on my way to becoming something akin to that but still not quite what she’s looking for.

A short story I wrote when I was twenty or so began: There are two kinds of people with whom you fall in love, those that meet your ideal and those that complement you, when you meet someone in the second category, you know it.

Turns out we were neither category for each other.  What we had was great big gobs of commonality; Oodles of it.  She was beautiful, I was seductive.   I decided to play the role because she was lovely and she decided to let me because she was a romantic. 

Neither of us ever got to unkind.  Neither of us ever quite got to bliss, either.  It was way beyond mediocre but far short of Nirvana.

It was, in short, good.  

And isn’t it lovely that that’s not enough for either of us?

So our first date was decent seats at an opera followed by steaks at Mortons on me and our last date was Circue Du Solei, amazing seats on her.   And once the dust settles I know we’ll be wonderfully supportive for one another and to anyone out there who is curious, she’s one of the most considerate, loving, thoughtful and gracious people I could ever hope to know.

And I want her to know, I’m ready for her to move on, with a loving heart, and a public declaration of undying friendship.

Early epiphany

When I was nine I saw an episode of Bewitched.   Elizabeth Montgomery was playing her own evil cousin, Sabrina.   She was wearing a curly black wig and a short psychedelic skirt.  She did a little dance, her hips moved.

My body thought the dance was only for me.  My response was significant, even at nine.   In that moment I understood.

“Oh no!”  I said.  “This is going to ruin… EVERYTHING!”

I had plans, you see, plans that didn’t involve a seismic response to every attractive girl in a skimpy outfit. 

Now that I’m in my forties my criteria is different.  I’m interested in women who are interested in me, have intelligence, talent and can sharpen my brain when we converse, AND look hot in a miniskirt.  Never-the-less, I’m just now beginning to wonder (after two kids and a whole lot of mileage) was I right?  Of course it hasn't ruined everything, but maybe it's time to focus a little harder on my goals.  (so to speak).

In other words I'm considering giving up dating for Lent.  Pacino was right... first you get the money, then you get the power... _THEN_ you get the women (woman).  So, maybe I'll just take a break from dating and see how it goes.

Of course the last time I said that I met my next (last) girlfriend the next day.

Beginnings, middles and endings.

The last few weeks have been a tsunami of activity and have left me bereft and beached on a deserted island without a coconut tree.

For this reason I’ve decided to stop and regroup and look at what is going on.

I’ve made three decisions. 

The first involves how I sometimes begin things.   I’m ten minutes late, so I grab what I think I might need and rush out the door.  My mind is a blur, there is no checklist and I really hope I didn’t forget my keys on the table because if I’ve locked myself out of my apartment I’m screwed.

I’m smart (or so I believe) so I can make it up as I go, right?  I have for years. 

In short:  Nuh uh to all of the above.

This aint my first rodeo so at the young young age of 46 I determine now and forever that not taking the time to plan is like not taking the time to train for a boxing match.   I’m going to get my arse handed to me if I don’t do something different.

So the first, oh so insightful insight is:  plan. Plan like I’ve never planned before, except with more experience than that.  Become known as the plan man.   There are worse things.

That’s what I have to say about beginnings.   Choose them, don’t let them choose you.

My next piece of self and god help me advice is this…

My mind can travel.  I can find myself coming to in the middle of my day (regardless of what I suppose.  And I have no recollection of where I’ve been.  It’s like I awoke from a dream. 

So yes.  The power of now.  Today is a gift.  Etcetera, etcetera etcetera.

Cliff notes:  The middle = being present.

And lastly…  end of day, or activity.  Leave everything where it is, take off.  I’m busy.   In a hurry, (ten minutes late, remember?)  Where the hell did I put my keys, I’ll do it later.  Notes in the computer?  Forget it, I’ll do it later.  I’ll do it all later.

The future me is way more organized than the (not) present me.  The (not) present me has shit to do and is still doing damage control for the last thing I didn’t plan, wasn’t paying attention to and didn’t finish correctly.

So the end, in short is to take a moment.  Tuck in.  Everything has a house.

And if I can write a journal entry a day, and give up bread (sugar, rice and potatoes) then I can do this.

Course the former involved my midlife crisis.  Maybe I can convince myself this does to somehow.  Maybe it does.

I know this, as a side note and I’m writing this down for anyone who may have had similar circumstances in their upbringing.    Love my mom, but she did sometimes have to leave for months at a time leaving me to fend for myself ‘cause I was such ‘good’ kid.  My dad was out of the house when I was six and my brother just a year after that, so as role models go I was pretty much on my own.

And my mom, (and she’s wonderful in many ways) isn’t one for routine or patterns, and that includes teaching me how to set up for my day or any of that noise.

So I usually don’t tuck under.

But I will now.

And be present.

And plan.

That’s all I got for now.