“Have you ever seen an animal shrug?”

-Tom Wolfe

So perhaps I’ve been on a bit of a psychedelic kick lately, and what better author to regale myself with than the iconic Tom Wolfe. Here’s a little interesting factoid about the little blonde girl – my dad recommended me to read the book Electric Kool-Aid Acid test. Not ever really thinking of my dad as a “reading” sort of guy, I knew there had to be something special about this book. Of course, my dad was always my hero, reading or not, so when I read the book  it was more than just a friendly suggestion, I knew there was something that I needed to extricate from this book that would help me as an adult.

I read that book twice, a little baffled at the concept of a bunch of crazy moon bats living out of a bus. There were several entertaining anecdotes, there were several parts that I just skipped over, but I at least gave it the time of day. My dad asked me how I liked the book, and at the time I just sort of said “Eh, it was weird”. I was still trying to understand why the hell this book was suggested, of all the classics out there, to read as an impressionable teenager. The ripe age of fourteen and the book you’re recommended to read is about drug addled hippies living the free love lifestyle and becoming transcendental to the outside world.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I got up the courage to ask my dad why the heck, from all the books in the world, did he think that was the one I needed at that time of my life. The awkward, evolving teenage years with raging teenage hormones of dealing with being an overweight, not very attractive, parents recently divorced girl growing up in Wisconsin. The response I got wasn’t exactly as straight and direct as I thought it was going to be.

“What is the book about?”

My response “a bunch of weirdos”

“Yeah, but what made them weird?”

My response “They acted weird.”

“No, they acted different. The only reason they seemed weird is because they weren’t acting “normal”. You’re not normal.”

…I thought about it a minute…he was right…

“If you really read that book and looked passed the drugs and free love, you’d realize that those people decided to do their own thing. You have to do your own thing otherwise you’ll never be happy.”

It was a blow to the gut, but it was true.

I’ve had a habit of every single time I read a book, or hell, even an article, I’ll jot notes in a book (I’m up to two now) of pertinent things that I think will help me on my way – the first time I read that book, one of the very first quotes that I had written in my little book was:

“I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph”

(from the Kool-Aid Test)

It taught me a lot about who I wanted to be when I grew up (keep in mind this was about 17 years ago). I knew that I wasn’t going to be happy with the superficial life. The external happiness that so many people strive for doesn’t exactly do it for me. The concept of a big house, fancy car, and a dog that doesn’t suit me right now. Hell, I’m happy getting breakfast most mornings…but actually, that’s how I’ve been my entire life – grateful. In the great scheme of things,  I don’t think lightning rods really care that they get struck by lightning, it’s their damn job. Get it over with, a seismograph, however, has to forgo a bunch of damn shaking and instability, which I’m not cool with. The same thing was depicted in the book – odd equals unhappy.

Back to the book, back to how it could possibly make you a happier person, back to the words of wisdom that my dad was trying to purvey through an obscure book – be your own damn person. There is a world of people out there who are destined to tell you that you’re doing everything wrong, but why? Simply put, in the arena of psychology ,philosophy, an d pancakes you realize that there isn’t a single other person in the world that will see things through your eyes.

You might convince them to see it your way, but at the same time, the labor that it took to make them come around wasn’t really necessary. Why do we need to feel like we’re “someone” or “part of something” or hell, a pretty picture on the damn internet. The more I thought about it, the more I started turning the finger around and pointing at my own damn self. Who was I really trying to be, and why couldn’t I be it in the first place?

“It’s the toe, kick, pain, mentality. Kick something, hurt your toe, then blame the thing you kicked.”

-me, about three years ago

Also…I asked my dad “are you a Rolling Stones or Beatles sort of guy”…the response was “well, whatever the hell I want to listen to. I’m not made of a jello mold. They both suck if you’re not in the mood”.

Thus, this song kills me….

“No direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”

-oddly enough, the only version of this song I like is the Hendrix version – but you’d have to be a nerd to know the difference…which I’ll go into some other day – – –

You can’t be a jello mold of life, and honestly, looking over my last stint as an adult, I never really got it. I’m responsible, I brush my teeth and hair, I upkeep a household, I keep a job which I love, but at the same time, I’m still a damn rolling stone, which brings me back to the book, The Kool Aid Book, and my worldly beginnings as an adult. I thought life was going to be about paying bills, changing diapers and taxes – but what that book taught me, and what my dad was trying to instill in me is that life is what you make it.

“I wish that I knew what I knew now, when I was younger”

-it’

People Care…Give Them A Chance

If you didn’t care what happened to me,
And I didn’t care for you
We would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing.
Pink Floyd from the Album Animals
Drive down the road on any given day and take notice to what’s going on around you. For me I drive through some of the less savory places of the world, not typically on purpose, but out of curiosity. Driving the same damn road the same damn day to go to the same job can get ridiculously mundane, until you look around you. These people you see driving around you are all fighting their own battles. Every single person on the road has SOMETHING to worry about, be it getting into a wreck with an uninsured motorist or what the next song to come on the radio would be.
Some people, for certain, have a little bit more to worry about, care, or love. Almost every single day, I’ll go down a road I’ve never seen before, not actually physically, but mentally. It’s hard to look at the same thing every day and have the same emotion towards it, and I think that’s why I dig on driving aimlessly around so much. Glancing not through the rain, like the Floyd song (which on a side note, that wasn’t my favorite album, it was a bit political, but I’ve still heard it about a million times…okay, hundreds), but glancing through the traffic wondering what the heck is going on. You can do it anywhere, the post office, the gas station. All joking aside, anyplace where people are going or doing real life things entertains me so much more than any sitcom or drama you can put in front of my face. Life is so much more rich if you actually take the time to care about others.
This past week hasn’t been my best, and although most of my struggles are internal, it’s almost impossible to hide them from the outside world, especially to people that have a decent bone in their body and actually care. I think some of it comes with my need to hide what’s really going on with me, some if it comes with the fact that I think nobody cares. Just like they care enough not to plow into you in traffic, they probably care about who you are as a person. I know that it’s hard to see the good in everybody, it’s there, I’ve seen it, it has really changed the way I interact. I don’t see everybody as just another person taking up the roadway obstructing my travels or the person in line in front of me at the grocery store needing a price check on a damn peach. They’re people too.
We’re all rolling along at our own pace, and it reminds me of one of those groovy tunes that I’m pretty sure most people would roll their eyes at. Cause you know, I’m into groovy tunes….
“I can feel the hand of a stranger
And it tightening around my throat
Heaven help me, heaven help me
Take this stranger, from my boat”
Grand Funk Railroad
(yeah, I went there…)
Walking through life with a preconceived notion that I’m not as good as everybody else has really abated, and I believe that there are many other people that walk around feeling some other “way” about themselves, whether they want to or not. Be it to skinny, fat, dumb, poor, arrogant, unpopular, it’s all the same, we all bottle that up inside and neglect to realize that there are people out there that can change the way you think about life in general. It doesn’t have to be a therapist, it could be as easy as chatting with that same cashier at the grocery store and finding that they’re just as stressed about those mislabeled peaches as the customer before you was.
That stranger around your neck is you, especially with those that suffer from panic, anxiety, social awkwardness, and well, like me, eating disorders. I’ve always kept some of that hand around the throat off with driving and tunes, mostly at the same time. It conjures up some odd feelings at time, seeing as how most of those tunes are almost twice as old as me and that there are very few people that can chat about it, but that makes it even better. I’d even consider it a hobby, and thankfully gas is cheap and music is practically free.
Currently jamming on The Yardbirds…from 1963…smiling, knowing that there are people out there that care, even if I haven’t met them yet.
oneday

Who are you?

Life gets interesting when you least expect it. Perhaps you encounter someone that has had a bad day at the grocery store and the slightest comment will make the biggest impact. Perhaps you’ll be at work and someone will call on you to answer a weird question and although its a bizzarre one, you answer it anyways to appease the person. Or hell…it could be as simple as taking your garbage out.

Lucky enough for me, I’ve experienced all of these in the past week. The phone call was a bit boring, although, asking for something that’s actually illegal was amusing, I felt I did her a favor in her that she couldn’t find it at Lowe’s. As a matter of fact, there have been a few phone calls that warrant another “post”, but I’ll save those for another day. I want to focus on taking the garbage out.

Put yourself in my shoes, you’re taking out the garbage, you have a sack full of stinky shit that needs to be gone, and of course, it’s about 99 degrees out, so it makes it even more stinky than is necessary. Me, being the sort of person I am, I threw the bag in the floorboard of my faithful, trusty Honda, and drove the whole 50 feet up to where the dumpster is. I could have walked it up, I could have spared the gas, but at the same time it was about that time of the day that the sun was sinking low on the horizon and cruising was at the apex of the day.

The sky was dotted with pink and grey, it was a bit odd, but at the same time, I was more focused on throwing away garbage, not noticing that there was a congregation of people around the dumpster (which, well, you never really expect).

Pulling up to the dumpster, I had windows down and the tunes pumped, oddly, the song “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum was playing. If you’re unaware of the song, that’s pretty acceptable, honestly, if you DO know it, you’re probably either over 60 years old OR a nerd like me. It was important to me though, that song, that damn tune, that jam, it resonates everything that I hold dear.

To make a long story short, I’ve been very close to people who have lost people very close to them. Although I  never felt that closeness, I have felt the pain. I’ve only lost one person that really made an impact on me, and through the last year, seeing my loved ones losing people really made me sit back and reflect on what life is all about. The song “Spirit in the Sky”…(as corny as it is), gives almost a fist pump to the sky to those that bow out gracefully. That damn song was playing as I was dumping garbage…it seemed almost unholy, until it was noticed.

“Hey, what is that that’s playing on your radio.”

An akward question as you’re throwing stuff in the dumpster.

“Norman….” and the conversation continued, until it was determined that I know more about the rock and roll stars from the early sixties than the people that actually lived through that. Explaining Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and the complexity of Cream and Blind Faith found me scratching my head. Why the hell did I know this stuff? Why didn’t these gentlemen that acutally lived through that time span know anything of it?

That groovy version of “wooden ships”, and the infectious version of “Helpless”….the parallels, I’m stuck in some sort of hippy music scene and other people my age have been absorbed in stuff like the Spice Girls….Dead to me, I dive back in to my tunes.

Why, I ask, does music make such an impact on a person. As much as I’ve studied how the brain works and what makes people tick, I can’t for the life of me understand why my music has been stuck in the late sixties? Is the groove that much better, does it have more meaning? Stories through songs, like the Neil Young song Helpless….Sometimes there isn’t a was to tell people you’re pain except through a cryptic song. (please note, I write no songs, I have no cryptic message)

“And in my mind, I still need a place to go
All my changes were there”

Neil Young

What are you waiting for? Make the change..or at least plan to make a change. Make a plan, work the plan. We aren’t helpless. As haunting and catchy as that song is, none of us are helpless.

We have to help ourselves before we help others.

“every night I have the strangest dream
Imprisoned by the way it couldn’t be
Left here on my own or so it seems
I’ve got to leave before I start to scream
But someone’s locked the door and took the key”

Feeling Alright 

Dave Mason (from the absolutely groovy band called Traffic)

I can sit here and listen to the thunder crashing around the neighborhood, I can see the lightning, I can actually feel the rain on my face if I go outside and subject myself to the sensation. There is an incredible feeling of being able to stay in place and observe all of those things from the safety of my couch. I have the option of becoming a slave to the weather, or I can decide to stay in and ignore the chaos that is the weather outside. The rain falls, the thunder crashes, and I stay here, indoors, observing. Every drop that falls, every lightning bolt that strikes, every rumble of thunder that erupts doesn’t effect me. It might as well be on television. It’s not real, I decide it’s not going to bother me.

There are some things, however, that aren’t as ambivalent as the weather. Things that absolutely strike me to the soul. Things that I can’t really explain, just a gut reaction to external stimuli. I can chose to stay inside, outside of the inclement weather, but at the same time, there are things that aren’t as easy to escape as the weather is. At this very moment I see my car getting absolutely pummeled by rain and lightning striking in the field near him, but I can’t do a damn thing about it….the weather that is….it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the car.

Back up a moment, a year ago I was cruising in my 128i, my absolute dream car, without a care in the world, happy as a damn clam, not understanding what I was about to lose (this is where you cue the song Loving Cup by the Stone), I was a damn sap. I had my love (my car) I had ambitions (my new love), and I had inspiration (a new job opportunity). The problem was, I never once took a look at what was going on around me. I was so focused on what “could” happen I never once thought about what was going to happen.

I crashed that car.

I quit that job.

I understood what life was about…..

For the longest time I thought that life was going to be solved by having a faster, prettier car, that I would be a faster, prettier female, and that my career was going to put me on some sort of fast track to be a faster, prettier person. False. The answer was internally. There were a few things that I could fake, that wasn’t one of them. What?! A false personality? A different persona?

Yes, my dear, I was someone else. Living in shoes that were too big for me, and until you understand exactly the feeling, you have no idea what it’s like to be someone that’s not you. I loved the 128i, it was a BMW, something that my parents would probably never have as I grew up. I had a boyfriend that was in the medical profession, which was something that was new to me. Hell, I had a house on a lake with a couple of cats.. .  . .

At the same time, life wasn’t complete. I quit that job for a reason, I quit that relationship for a reason, and hell, that job was awful. I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t know exactly where the light was coming from, but it was there.

“It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg”

Thomas Jefferson

I can sit here and listen to a groovy tune..

“Wot’s….the deal”

Pink Floyd

Here’s the thing…this is the real Pink Floyd….this is what it’s supposed to be. there are many people that understand Pink Floyd as being a pop type band from “The Wall”, but no…..there are people that only know Pink Floyd as  poppy shit band.

Do you know Syd Barret?

Do you know he was the founder of Pink Floyd?

Of course not. Just like you, life isn’t clear.

Do you know what happened to Syd Barret?

Its a damn cluster, honestly, he went nuts, or so they say.

And Trying to find a damn YouTube video of it is ridiculous…..

As a good friend once said

“Chin up, chest out, buck up, fuck up.”

A tribute to those that care.

“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”
― Honoré de Balzac

Are you really alone, I wonder as I glance around the room. There are no other living creatures here with me. No dog to beg attention, no spouse, no screaming children, no living organisms (besides perhaps what’s growing in the refrigerator). I’ve got groovy tunes playing, I’ve got the fans blowing fresh air in my face, and in all honesty I feel like crap. I’m okay with that, and I’m taken back to my more literary days and a quote from perhaps Shakespeare “let me pine away in my own anguish.”

Being sick in the past, I thrived on having people dote over me. As a kid my mom would nurture me with all the things she thought would feel better – I tried some of those things, they didn’t quite work, they just made me miss my mom. Laying in bed the other day, sick as a dog, I realized I was alone, but only on a cellular sense, and in more ways I have more company being completely alone than I ever did in my adult life with people actually “being there”. Sure it would have been nice to have soup delivered to my bedside (which can turn into a messy event – not that it happened – but I can put two and two together).

The act of someone actually being in “solitude” in these modern days is almost unheard of. With so much technology swarming throughout, it takes two swipes and you can have almost anything that you want through your smart handheld device. Grab your phone, open your last couple of windows, all of that denotes non-solitude. Be it social media, text message, phone calls, hell, even checking your bank account conjures up some sort of non solitude. In a social media experiment I grabbed my phone from my pale face sick state and posted on Facebook, not trying to be a narcissist, but to see what happened, about my state of being.

It wasn’t because I was looking for sympathy, as much as it might seem that way. I just wanted to see who actually pays attention and to see how long it takes a person to read their news feed and to respond. I was honestly expecting at least an hour before any sort of reaction, knowing there are a few people, whom I love dearly, like just about anything I put out there. It was incredible in less than a minute I had this vibrating smart phone next to me in bed alerting me that I wasn’t alone. From that second my phone kept buzzing – people giving loving advice, people I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade, people that work with me, the entire gamut.

Beyond that, as superficial as social media can be at times, I was also getting messages from my dear several states away on an hourly level making sure that everything was going okay. Between the phone calls and messages, it was almost like he was right here with me. The technology bridged the gap of distance and made solitude something that seemed like it couldn’t exist. Although he wasn’t physically there, neither were any of the social media people, but I sincerely felt that they had their thoughts, prayers, and love right there with me. Instead of being in bed sick, feeling alone, I felt like there were so many cyber people (not total strangers in a chat room sense) right there with me.

It helped me in so many ways, but there was an entire other aspect the the solitude spectrum that never came into play until I got sick. Perhaps it was the fever sweats, puking, and loss of oxygen to my brain because of that that made me finally realize that solitude and loneliness are two totally different things.

“To everybody I replied, “Go away, you’re making me nervous.”

-Jack London from John Barleycorn

For years I tried to surround myself with cellular beings, not knowing that you alone can be your own best friend, and only after being sick and thinking back to the book John Barleycorn did things start clicking. Looking back at the text (Kindle is amazing, you can highlight passages and stuff) I made notes on so many things that I wanted for myself but wasn’t able to provide. Sure, the book is about overcoming alcoholism, but it’s also more about becoming more empowered. You can take care of yourself, you shouldn’t have to rely on something else to do it for you, in the book it was his pension for drinking, for me it was needing someone around me all the time.

I want people around me, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time solitude has been a peaceful event for me. I can ignore the outside world and get lost in my thoughts, enjoy myself and surrounding, even watch the dumbest tv shows in the world without worrying about judgement or fear. Most of the time I get lost into my old psychedelic rock and hippy jams and draw parallels between the tunes of yester-decade and today. It’s one of those things that I can typically only do in solitude, nobody else would understand.

Like…the version of “Feelin’ Alright” by Traffic – fronted by Dave Mason is a less superior version than the version of Joe Cocker BUT I like Traffic better

jbmd

Perplexed…The album “John Barleycorn Must Die” and the fact that the book John Barleycorn are two of my favorite pieces of work by – um – writers of some sort, but ironically they both carry very different messages.

Or…Neil Young performing “Helpless” on the last waltz might be my favorite tune to cry to, but I hate the Band, but I’ll watch the video anyways.

And…why exactly do I hate The Band, what did they do to me anyways”

Or…Lou Reed was an amazing talent, why was he tossed around as much as Eric Clapton, was he sort of a legend in his own mind too?

(total tangent)

Moral of the story, loneliness is your decision. If you feel you’re alone, you’re not really, not by a long shot. You might be experiencing solitude, which in and of itself is a peaceful, loving embrace that you should make the most of…unless you’re in solitary confinement….but if you were, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this anyways. Besides, you’re not really alone, there are always”But the  the guards.

“But the real and lasting victories are those of peace and not war”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The High Water Mark

“What can I know? What ought I to do? What can I hope?”

Immanuel Kant

We all have moments that seem like we’re grasping for a rope that dangles right above our heads. Those moments that feel like the boat that you’re rowing is succumbing to the current that is pulling in the opposite direction. The gut feeling that even though you know what you’re supposed to be doing, what you know is right, and what you want to happen, isn’t actually going to happen. It’s a feeling like a sucker punch in the stomach and a left jab to the chin.

The only thing that you can grasp onto, even when things are getting a bit dark, deep, and heavy is the notion that you know what you’re supposed to do. You know what the outcome that you need is withing your grasp….all it takes is for you to make the proper decision, to make the right movements, and to not only “hope”, but plan on success.

I’ll be the first one to say that I’ve sat there and made poor decisions and had “hope” for the best. I’ve lost lots of things that I loved because I made really bad decisions and “hoped” that things were going to turn out okay. End of story, they didn’t turn out “okay” and I ended up losing lots of things that were important to me. I threw it away on a whim, I guess it was more of an ignorance as to what I should have been doing. I always wondered why I could be lead askew so much, but it beamed me on the head like a cabinet that you weren’t expecting while perking up to answer a telephone call.

“Polish Holiday”

That’s what my parents called it when I was a kid and I just flat out didn’t want to go to school. I would gripe, moan and groan and instead of telling me “no, you have to go to school” most of the time I’d get  “polish holiday”, in which I would get called in as being under the weather. This habit has followed me into adult hood, and although I know better….it’s also what I know. I ought to be out of, well, whatever obligation I have. I used to also hope that everything would work out.

“The notion that A in the past caused B in the present, which will cause C in the future, when actually A, B, and C are all part of a pattern that can be truly understood only by opening the doors of perception and experiencing it.”

-Tom Wolfe
Things didn’t work out, they were all a mess, and it was a matter of me not understanding the fact that A+B=C. For the number of times that I had read the book by Tom Wolfe (the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), I always respected the fact that they were of an enlightened matter. They really “dug” what was going on, and well, I only wished that I knew what was “going on”. I reflected on preliminary Psychology courses that I had taken and about the imagery of sticking your hand in a fire and learning that it hurt, and the mental progression that occurs because of it. It wasn’t clicking, for some reason, it was like an empty sewing machine bobbin, trying to click along, but being empty at the same time.

“There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It’s a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.”
Hunter S. Thompson

I realized that I was living on he coattails of the rest of the world, trying to be what I thought the world wanted me to be, and in the end it was an equation of A+B=Not me. Trying to live a life that wasn’t really “me” caused my equation to be all off. I was doing things that I didn’t fully understand, and at the same time, worrying about puddle of black that didn’t exist and a fatal rain storm. I call it an eating disorder.

I think there might be a lot of us that have our equations a little off, perhaps our A plus B is equating to a poison rain, but in all actuality it’s more of a dance in the rain. Our A plus B is more of dip in a cool pool as opposed to a black poison. Certain times in our lives the mental poison that soaks in isn’t easy to overcome.

Maybe, just maybe, you don’t get it, perhaps your A+B always adds up, but for some it doesn’t. Sometimes the sum doesn’t add up quite right and we suffer in silence, unsure how to elaborate. I had an experience today that reminds me that life is fragile, and sometimes A+B doesn’t equal anything, it just adds up to giving up. Life is hard, without help, and without support, anyone, even those that seem strong and powerful could still need a boost up.

“with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
Hunter S Thompson

We’ve all had our wave broke, but there are many that aren’t able to struggle above the wave and keep our heads above water. When the wave rolls back, where will you be?

I take a bow, and say goodnight

I totally stole those lyrics from a Violent Femmes song, I’ll admit, but hey, they’re catchy right? Lately, probably catchier than anything that I could pull out of my bag of magical words. Writers block is a total female dog (for those of you not savvy on the technicalities of what male and female animals are called, female canines are called bitches.) I honestly can’t remember the last time I was able to sit at this machine and actually put something in paragraph form that actually meant anything to me, or would be of any interest of anyone else, until about a half an hour ago.

Gasp, inspiration just strikes? Yes. Yes it does. As you might know I “used” to be a writer, I “used” to be a pharmacy technician, I used to be a lot of things, but the one thing that I’m not is a quitter, so I kept my chin up and knew that there would be a day that words would come out of my fingers again. Daily, I would look down at my hands and see more holes from plants and weird stuff I have to handle at work than I would tools to write with. I got into the car today and looked at my hands as they rested on my steering wheel and I actually started humming the song “Pancho and Lefty”. Appropriate, seeing as how they are hands, and there is a left and a….well, I guess I’ll call the other one Pancho from now on.

The lyrics, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are about two haggard dudes, named Pancho and Lefty (big surprise) and their rough lives. I looked down at my hands, not only saw the scars of life, but also the ability to evolve into better things. The first lines describe a set of hands about as tough as a womans skin that has laid in a tanning bed three times a day for about seventy years. Pancho chased Lefty in the song, or if you want to think of it, Lefty chased Pancho. Typical good guy bad guy story. The left always wanted to keep up with what the right (or Pancho) was doing, and in the end it was like a wild goose chase.

Pancho dies in the song, Lefty (the “good guy”) sort of lost meaning in life. His purpose was trying to get Pancho, which never indeed happened, which sort of resonated with real life. Aren’t we always trying to keep up with something, even if it’s our mind that creates the vicious circle. Are we not always chasing a dream, looking for something, striving for something, but sometimes, it seems, we can sabotage ourselves. You’ve heard of one had washing the other, well, as I looked at my hands today on the steering wheel, I was Pancho and Lefty, one hand slapping the other.

Some would call it clapping, but that’s not the point. The song was haunting me, and I had to hear it, and the only version of it I knew of was the Townes Van Zandt version (which is perhaps the most haunting, amazing, and gut wrenching song I know of). I grabbed my phone to appease my need to hear it, googled the song title, and one of the first things that came up was Merle Haggard – – and his passing. I knew he did a version of it, and I had heard it, but I wasn’t exactly a fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Merle, but his version was a bit to “poppy” for me. I listened to it anyways, knowing that he had passed and that he had the guts to try to cover this challenging song was something for me to think about.

Polar opposites, just like Pancho and Lefty. Townes made the song so depressing, it was the perfect song for those days that you want to just curl up in a ball and wonder what direction you’re going in your life, sort of like a Pancho. Pancho was on the run, his only future was being chased, that was life, but that was the life he chose. Townes version of it made it seem like life was doom and gloom, life is all about he decisions that you make. Townes wrote the damn song, and he decided that it was a sad song. Of course it had dying, cheap hotels, and federales, how could you make a pop song of that. I honestly think if Townes was still around he would turn in his grave at the remake of his song that Merle did.

BUT….

After listening to the Merle version, then the Townes version again, I realized that life is just a dichotomous key. The upbeat demeanor of the song made it seem like, well, everything was going to me okay. Merle belted out the part of Pancho falling, Cleveland being cold, and the begging of prayers, and it was almost a encouragement to pump your fist in the air and say “I’m a freaking Lefty”. Merle made it seem glamorous to be either party involved. After looking down at my hands after hearing that version of the song, I realized these hands don’t have to be the Townes version of Pancho and Lefty, they could be the Merle version.

Of course, I go on musical tangents and kept ping ponging back and forth from Merle and Townes, and there were so many parallels, I had to remind myself of who I was listening to. “Dead Flowers”, one of my absolute favorite songs (although it’s about drugs), was an echo to the song “A Place to Fall Apart”. The song “Cocaine Blues” with Townes was a weird parallel to “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”. The apex to this musical memory match was “Waiting Around To Die” and “Mama Tried”.

If you’re not a music snob like me, this might be in over your head, but really, every single one of these songs are ones to really look into. Every song reminds you that there really is a Pancho and Lefty. The songs have very similar subjects, but one encourages hope, the other promotes giving up on life. However, one thing that Townes had over Merle was “White Freightliner Blues”, a ballad of keeping on keeping on (think Mr. Natural here). With the lyrics of “bad news from Houston, half my friends are dying”, the next verse didn’t mention going to join them, it proclaimed, in so many words at least, that he was going to keep on. He wasn’t going to quit, he was gonna keep rambling.

I mourn the passing of Merle, and for me to try to compare him to perhaps one of the best (albeit whiny at times) songwriters of all time, is wrong. Merle was a spectacular talent, and I really have a vision of them jammin’ in the big truck stop in the sky. What I did get, was a sense of optimism. I can be a Pancho (of the Townes sort) or a Lefty (of the Merle sort).

Life is in my power, I can sing a sad tune, or I can throw a catchy beat in the background and keep my chin up. Until I take a bow, and say goodnight, like these two remarkable talents.

The point fingers in the air and do a little dance version:

 

The place hand on your chin in a cupping manner and wonder what life is all about version:

To Live Is To Dig Holes

“Where you’ve been is good and gone
All you keep’s the getting there”

Townes Van Zandt To Live Is To Fly

There are many of times that I sit there and wonder, how many places have I actually been? I mean, it’s not such a destination, it’s not a coordinate on a map, it’s a state of mind, it’s a place in your heart, its a location. You can read maps all day long, you can be navigated by complicated devices that tell you where you’re supposed to be, but it never really promises that’s where you belong.

I spend an awful lot of time listening to this particular Townes van Zandt song after my life sort of took a crap about a year and a half ago. I would sit there and spin that record and listen to the lyrics, and certain things started clicking. The first thing was that my sound system was sort of shit and wasn’t giving my man Townes any credit, and two, he was talking about my sort of thing….holes….

“We all got holes to fill
And them holes are all that’s real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own”

(a little later in the tune)

I would sit there and listen to this song, and thing about every single freaking hole I dug. All the clay I busted through, all the gravel that I had to maddock up, and more importantly, all the plants that I put in the ground, that I loved, that I had to walk away from. Sure, to most people they’re just plants, they’re shrubs, flowers, trees, whatever, but to me it’s sort of an extension of myself. For many of those holes I got blistered, I got bloodied parts, I sweated, I worked to keep it alive. Most people are only accustomed to digging holes for burying dead things, for me, it’s more about creating life, creating vibrancy, creating hope.

For every hole I dug with my own two arms and hands, I knew that that hole had to be filled with something, sometimes I would dig a hole in the wrong place and have to fill it back in with nothing but soil, but sometimes I would dig a hole and plant something beautiful. There were two magnificent Nutalli Oaks that I planted in my home a few years ago, there was almost an acre and a half of botanical wonderland that I dug holes to create, hell, I even dug a hole to plant a tiny little tomato in my last domicile. The whole thing is every single hole I dug, I planned for, I knew the size to expect, the amount of back fill to add, and what was going into the hole.

“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

And just like those holes that I’ve dug, I’ve watched them wilt and die, but not a single one of them do I regret digging. Every time I would dig a hole, I would expect to nurture that hole for a very long time. I had a wild imagination that there was nothing but the present, that little plant was going to be with me forever. For all the plants that died, for all the plants that got ripped up because they were out of place, for all the plants that were planted too close to others, it was nobodys fault but mine, and I took full responsibility for those holes. Every single time I knew I was trying to force something that wasn’t going to work. Those tropical plants that I was certain I could nurse through a bad winter, those plants that I planted on top of each other thinking they’d be happier, hell, even the concept of growing pumpkins in the shade, I knew they were all failing situations, but I dug those holes anyway.

The fact of the matter was, I dug those holes because I never lost hope. In the face of failure, even when I knew it wasn’t going to work, I did it anyways.

I had ambition, I had hope, I had energy that propelled me to try to make things better, to create, to instill something in the earth that wasn’t there before. Perhaps some people feel the same way when they have birth, perhaps there are some people that feel the same way when they are elected to politics, for me, every time I planted something I felt like I was changing the world. I can cruise by the places that I’ve planted stuff now and see the neglected plants reaching out for help from various yards, and it hurts. It hurts bad.

“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
-T.S. Elliot
And that’s what I was happening, all the holes I had dug were whimpering.
They’re still whimpering, but it’s not my problem anymore. The more I thought I about every single hole I dug, it helped me to realize that every shovel swing liberated me more from the polluted mindset I had been in. Every funky mood I’d experience was alleviated by a shovel, every sadness was cured by half dead flowers found at a discount retailer. It was the challenge of survival that I thrived on, much like I feel about my life right now. The struggle is real, and to an extent I believe we all have an extent of one.
There will always be my favorite quotes…whom I forget who ever said it, but it was good enough to write down at one time….
“However, pick your battles, bro.”
I’m not going to battle with holes anymore, I’m not going to impregnate the soil with a hope and a promise for the future, I’m going to work on making the future happen. Holes can stay vacant for all I care.
Lastly, from Mr. Van Zandt:
The choice is yours to make
And time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone”
mddock

 

The Philosophy of Zips – Book In The Works

“I agree that man is pre-eminently a creative animal, predestined to strive consciously for an object to engage in engineering – – that is, incessantly and eternally to make to roads, no matter where they lead.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes From the Underground

It’s no secret, I get lost in some deep thought sometimes. Some have said my brain is too big for my skull, and some say that my skull is too small for my neck, and some have said that my butt is too big for my hips, and that my…well, you get the point. I’ve never been “normal” in a conventional sense of the word. As a matter of damn fact (it’s a new term, get to love it), I’ve been reading up on old russian novels and listening to whatever Pandora includes on my Wax Tailor station. It has turned my mind into a sort of rotting cull heap, and I’m okay with that.

I also got asked, very recently actually, “What’s this Zips character all about?” I gasped, certainly I assumed that If you know me, you know Zips. I never actually took time to think about Zips. In my deep thoughts, contemplation, adventures, and sometimes absolute wasting time driving around, Zips is always there. He’s my side kick, he’s my alter ego, he’s everything I wish I was but am not brave enough to be.

He’s a fucking stuffed bumble bee – and what made that particular russian quote stick out to me, and what reminded me of Zips was the fact that someone, somewhere, probably got paid a ridiculously large amount of money to design an innocent looking bumble bee with a rotund tummy, a big ole smile and a soft red nose. I can promise you, with all of the “engineering” that went into creating a Zips, with all of the time that went into constructing him (although I’m sure his raw material cost was about two cents), somebody thought to make him. Beyond that, somebody thought to buy him, and well, my possession of him has taken me down roads that typically don’t lead anywhere.

Here’s a quick rundown of the history of Zips and some philosophy to go with it

  • he was purchased from a CVS in Anderson in 2012 as a gift for me because I was having the worst day ever.  “There may be anti-wrinkle cream, but anti fat bastard cream there is none” -The Full Monty. The worst day I was having, well, it was directly connected with the fact that I was in a full blown relapse into my Eating disorder and wasn’t doing particularly well. I was a mess, I wanted to jump in front of a bus, and there wasn’t a single person that I could talk to that seemed to understand me, I wanted a magic wand to take the “fat” talk away, but well, that didn’t exist. Certainly no anti fat bastard cream, and certainly no magical pill that would take my disordered thinking away. When I got home, there was this ridiculous looking bee looking at me, I cried. I actually cried.
  • Zips hung around the house, he didn’t really start his adventures until a bit later, when I ended up going on a bit of an adventure north and needed company for the ride. “All these I’m sorrys and I miss yous are useless, I fucked this one up long ago.” Alkaline Trio Fuck you Aurora. I had the urge to get out of town, and I did, I went a visiting, and Zips came along for the ride. Not only did we get into many shenanigans in spring/summer of 2013, we bonded in a road trip sort of way. Going awesome places (that we probably didn’t belong) like Fuzzy Zoellers Covered Bridge Golf Course, Lambeau Field, and an entire Island that we just about got kicked off of, we were unstoppable. I also learned, the hard way, that if you run hard enough for long enough you’re bound to crash. Somewhere in the middle of Tennessee I got confused, a complete and total sugar crash, and didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, somehow Zips in all of his cuteness and power and I ended up going on an adventure to a “package store” and an abandonded fireworks stand. We figured it out and got on our way. That’s when I knew Zips was more than just a stuffed be
  • Our adventures continued throughout the rest of 2013, going to the beach, doing the sea mountain highway, hosting Thanksgiving, and my personal favorite, Zips got a girlfriend – a stuffed lady bug that was shaped identically to him, her name was Dots. “No, no, no, it ain’t me babe, it ain’t me you’re looking for”. Johnny Cash. Throughout the end of 2013 we spent an incredible amount of time planning our next big adventure, but we also, ahem, became insomniacs. There’s an old saying out there that goes something along the lines of “nothing holy happens between the hours of 3 and 5 am”, and those were our prime hours. I was cranking away planning the trip to California and Zips drank…or maybe it was me…either way, we kept each other company. We started becomes a bit withdrawn and life was, well, hectic. Zips went to school with me and actually became famous with the other Pharmacy Tech people. Even on the roughest nights I could look down and see his damn face peering up at me from my bag.
  • Oh yeah, we did a huge tour of Europe, it was huge, we saw lots of stuff, he was my rock for most of it. He tucked away in my motorcycle jacket when we were away from the bike and he hid in the tank compartment when we were riding. “Fucking Seabiscuit” Johnny Kessler (in drunken stumbling through the tree yard). Zips gained a fan club there too, all the people on the motorcycle tour knew Zips, asked about Zips and hell, he had his picture taken more than I did. If anything I was jealous of the little jerk a few times, but hey, that’s the risk you run when you’re hanging with an adorable stuffed bee.
  • We went to California and drove a 30 year old BMW cross country in a three week long party with fellow BMW owners, and Zips became famous with across the country. “I can only assume that it is not me, but my presence, that you love – and since I hope to have some dimension above the physical, it saddens me to see you flounder the instant my body was out of reach” Hunter S Thompson The Proud Highway. I assumed there would be panic attacks on this adventure, but for some reason having Zips shotgun made everything okey dokey. We say deserts, ice storms, car shows, car dealerships, two oceans, two mountain ranges, you name it, we saw it. The coolest thing about the whole bit was that Zips was there. I mean, for an inanimate object, he sure gets a lot of attention.
  • After that it gets cloudy, Zips and I had a rough patch – which well, we stuck together, but it wasn’t easy. There were a few times that Zips was soaked with tears, there were times that we slept in the car together, but he was always there. “With ten miles behind you and 10,000 more to go” James Taylor. Everything got thrown in the air, we had no idea where we were going, but we were trying to get there in a hurry. There was even a time that I got physically aggressive with someone three times my size trying to protect Zips from getting fed to a dog. That’s when I knew that Zips was something that wasn’t just an item, it was a part of me.

Fast forward, 10,000 miles farther down the road, I’m happy, and I sincerely thank Zips for some of that. In times that you feel like the world is going to self destruct and the grapes of wrath have made you wicked wine and you drink it without worrying about the consequences, I had Zips. It’s dumb, but it’s true. I don’t typically open up to people about “feelings” and all that touchy nonsense, I don’t need someone elses opinion on what to do with my life, which makes it hard to get over things. I turn to music, I turn to philosophy, but typically I turn to Zips, he’s everything I want to be, a chubby bee that always has a smile, that likes a dirty joke now and then, and dances like his pants are on fire.

Progressing into our “new” life, a life of more stability, I’ll still turn to Zips. I mean hell, we’ve been to 12 different countries together, been to countless states and back and forth across the country countless times too. I honestly feel like I’d be lonely without Zips, and well, if you don’t have a Zips in your life, maybe you need one. It doesn’t have to be a bee, it could be anything. What I have learned on this life long adventure with Zips is that sometimes people come and go, friends, co workers, family, they can let you down and hurt you once in a while, but a stuffed bee, he’ll never let you down (unless you lose him, which has happened a few times).

So, find yourself a Zips and start having more adventures, start caring less about what other people think and what’s best for you, and eat more tater tots (wait, that’s just for me). Keep moving, it’s the only way to stay young.

“Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed”

Genesis 19:17

zips

Zips in my absolute favorite place that I’ve ever seen in the world – Pildammsparken in Malmo, Sweden

 

Celery Sticks – I Hate Them

“Solitude, that dread goddess encircles and besets him, ever more threatening, more violent, more heartbreaking – but who today knows what solitude is?”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Human, All Too Human A Book for Free Spirits

I can sit alone in my car and pretend I’m on my own personal island. Nobody around, nobody to talk to, just the car and I in a semi abandoned parking lot in South Carolina somewhere. I look in my rearview mirror and see nobody in the back seat, I see nothing outside of my car that seems to warrant my attention. I’m alone, I’m at peace, in my own little Japanese built cocoon that encompasses me with a sense of serenity, alone, peace.

Then a car goes by, a garbage truck whirs in behind me and starts scooping up the large metal object that I hadn’t noticed in the seconds before. There is a faint sound of an emergency ambulance (probably toting some one somewhere for something). It was inevitable, not alone, never alone, always around somebody, something, it’s gotten to the point you can’t even be alone with yourself anymore. With constant pressures of modern day life, you can’t help (unless you’re a total dillrod) to not care and worry about those around you that you love. It’s impossible to be alone with that in your mind.

What my buddy, the omnipotent “overman” himself Nietzsche was trying to get across in the book Human, All too Human A book for free spirits was that although we’ve got this passion inside of us for companionship, for love, we also have an innate need to have our own personal adventures – and sometimes – I can promise you from personal experience – they don’t always melt into what other people see as pertinent in life. I can sit happily in my car listening to some groovy tunes, safely in a parking lot somewhere, and flail my arms about in a crazy passionate dance of getting into the music. I become involved, it consumes me to the bone, and sometime (though my ears probably hate me for it) turn up the tunes until I cannot hear anything else going on around me. In circumstances it could be an obscure old song by a band hardly anyone has ever heard of.

Or, recently, while away from my car I decided to wrap myself in my favorite blanky, in my favorite room, with a new book, and shove these hard plastic headphones into my ears and block out the world. I didn’t feel a need to block out the world, I just wanted to be in my own world for a while. Peacefully I kicked back and started picking up on a familiar jam, an old Dead tune. Before I knew it I was on my own island, tapping my toes, ignoring the book and the world at hand. The thoughts in my mind of being too fat, too poor, too ugly, too uneducated, too under-accomplished, all of those things were gone, it was just me, digging on this awesome groovy tune.

“Won’t you try just a little bit harder
Couldn’t you try just a little bit more”

The Wheel (As was being performed by Fare Thee Well)

After the jam was over, there was a fantastic transition in to another jam, from a different song. Although I knew the song, I wasn’t digging on it, I was stuck on the haunting lyrics of the previous song. Have I been trying hard enough, or do I escape to my eternal solitude to avoid actually putting forth the effort? Suddenly the past year flashed before my eyes, people, places, things, all the mistakes I had made, the people I had pissed off, the people I had made cry. All of these things brought bubbling up by a damn song. I could have tried a bit harder to make the pharmacy business work for me. Maybe I should have tried harder NOT to crash my cars, perhaps I should have eaten less pizza and focused on more celery sticks.

The emotions flowed right along with the guitar licks. I was alone again, I was in my cocoon, a mental cocoon evaluating everything, sinking ever so much deeper into my sadness, the black abyss that encompasses me time and time again. For those who don’t experience this sort of emotion from time to time, I’ll describe it as this. Imagine you’re driving through fog, and at first it seems like it’s going to break up and you’ll be ready to get on with your travel without having to think so much about what you’re doing, but then the fog increases, the temperature drops and all of a sudden you’re going down a curvy road on ice, in the fog, without decent headlights. Oh, and there are random wild animals that come out and jump in front of your car, and there is a screaming baby in the back seat, and the car isn’t working right. What seems to just be a little bit of fog suddenly ends up a total cluster fuck of awful. I was just a little bit of fog, just like at first it was just a little bad though, now you’re wondering what the hell you did to end up like this.

Luckily enough for me the foggy periods went from being about two months long, to being able to transfer my energy in the amount of time it takes for the jam of this particular song to transfer into the lyrics of the song “Crazy Fingers.” There was something different though, I listened to this voice singing the lyrics…

“Recall the days that still are to come some sing blue.
Hang your heart on laughing willow stray
Down to the water, deep sea of love
Beneath the sweet calm face of the sea swift undertow.”

His voice, it wasn’t the one I was used to singing me this song, it was Trey from the band Phish. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but at that exact moment a few things became clear to me. Things can still be the “same” but can mean different things. For some reason this song kind of bored me prior to hearing it sung by Trey, and now all of a sudden it’s one of the most soulful melodies that I have heard in a long time. Perhaps it was just because I was feeling emotional at the time, but also, if I put the world into a larger perspective, isn’t that what life is all about – a whole lot of the “same” just performed in a different manner, with different people, and a different place?

Take for instance, me quitting my job to because it made me so unhappy and miserable, I went into panic attacks. It’s the “same” it’s a job, just like the ones that I had had before, but it was different, it wasn’t me. I had disregarded myself and who I really am as a person to try to be something that I can’t be. I’m the “same”, that that doesn’t fit into the Pharmacy world. Now, bounding ambitiously into my new job, doing nursery work again, it’s the “same”, I’ll be working with plants, people, and outdoors, however, the different part is instead of working for a company with about 8 employees I’ll be working with over 80. Same = different.

Which as I groove onto more tunes, I start looking at different parallels in life that can very simply be explained – to a free spirit at least – as the same old different. The same old concept of being in the gym, but a different mental outlook as to why you’re in the gym in the first place. The same old concept of eating healthier, but the different reason for doing is. The same quest for knowledge, but instead of trying to turn a profit on it, doing so just to become a more well rounded individual. The concept of being in a relationship, but instead of failing, putting more effort love and attention into it than you ever have before. The things that really matter to you in life might be important, but it’s incredibly important to understand WHY they are important to you. Are they the same things that would worry you if you were sitting by yourself jamming on some groovy tunes with your headphones on or is it a feeling that you only get when put in front of a set of objectifying eyes?

And with that, I’ll jam on, look longingly out at my red cocoon, and improve, incrementally. Until I have more answers, I’ll leave you with a few nuggets of wisdom from my man the Neitz:

“As a matter of fact the free spirit is bothered with mere things—and how many things—which no longer concern him.”
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm Human, All Too Human A Book for Free Spirits
grass