Friday, October 31, 2008

Day three hundred and four ... Trick or ...

So, there's been a change of plans.

I was going to have the follow up on my silly analogous stump speeches.

Until I turned to my left and remembered this was hanging on my bookcase:






























I simply could not ignore the importance of this photo in relation to the day which today is.

The year is probably 1975. I'm look like I'm four going on five, which is a phrase I used a lot, albeit with different numbers, until I got to about ten, then I was just whatever age I was. The wonderful lady with the big smile is my mother, and the dog's name is Bonnie.

We had Bonnie for as long as I can remember up until the mid 1980's. Bonnie accompanied my mother, nine months pregnant with yours truly, on her solo cross country drive to my Aunt Lynda's place in California in 1970. But that's a story for another day.

This picture represents a lot to me.

It is important in that I can see  how happy we both were, a fact which was true for most of our time together. 

I can see my baby teeth, which I can place a dollar value on, literally. One silver dollar a piece, payable to me, under my pillow, at the end of a long battle with each stubborn but profitable tooth that began with a wobble, evolved into an obsession, and ended with a triumphant yank, followed by a short cry, followed by immediate sanitation of both tooth and former residence, then the ensuing proper placement of said potential revenue, the completion of maturity period, and finally concluding in a restless sleep attempting to not startle the Tooth Fairy (what did she get out of the deal), and ultimately becoming exchanged for a toy or a book that I would most likely find at one of the many church bazaars I would attend as a young boy with my family.  

In the background, on the table, is a ceramic baseball and mitt that my grandfather, no doubt, bought for me. I liked baseball more than most sports and he certainly encouraged my interest in it. That knick knack is around the house here somewhere and I'll be excited when it finally surfaces.

And there's my kick-ass skeleton costume.

The costume is important in that it has nothing at all to do with Star Wars. Because as strange as it is to imagine, this photo was taken in a time before the Greatest Movie Ever Made came out. After that, it was nothing but Darth Vader or Chewbacca or Boba Fett or something else related to it that I and countless other children around the world aspired to not only resemble, but somehow transform themselves into, because ... well, I don't really know why ... we just did. We were kids.

There's my mom's cool fuschia top with the big collar and her dangle earrings that she loved. She was hip, yes she was.

There's the pumpkin which we, no doubt, carved together, saving the seeds on a paper to dry out and eventually roast in the oven. Pumpkin innards were, and are, a very strange substance. They go well with the holiday as they seem to be yucky and somewhat of a consistency whic I used to think monsters were filled with. But they also have a pulpy texture that tell me that it is definitely edible, regardless of if there is a monster aftertaste.

All of these things I love about this picture, as it depicts the pure joy and innocence that occurs, not only in conjunction with the age I am at--before public schools got a hold of me--but also the period in time--the height of the Seventies--before parents feared the possibility that the treats were sabotaged by evil, demented savages. A time when parents would let their children traipse through the neighborhood unsupervised and free. It was also special in that Halloween is the last holiday before the weather turns lamentably frigid, and trips to relatives who you may or may not particularly like figures into the mix. It's all about you, your bitchin' costume, a bag, a smile, a pitch, a promenade, and a whole boatload of candy to devour.

This was Halloween in 1975.

Parts of it, I'm sure, still hold true today, but I seem to recall things got a bit out of hand as I got older.

I do, however, remember some of the costumes which I adored not only making, but competing in. 

I made a robot costume out of boxes covered in tin foil (classic). I believe it was that costume that won me a cash prize at an out of town costume contest. My mother brought me, and I remember winning $25. That was huge. That was unprecedented. That was almost a whole mouth full of baby teeth.

Halloween eventually became the night my family feared vandalism. We would sit out on our porch and watch for would-be hooligans who were hell bent on destroying the young pine tree we planted outside out yard after my grandmother died; it was the only tree on Bedford St. We had to put emergency patches on it year after year after the bastards from the projects took their knives to its bark. 

It's long gone now. The people who bought 1073 Bedford St. thought it was more important to cut down the tree, pave over the yard, and have some prestigious off street parking. Priorities don't always come first.

In the years that followed I remember enjoying the annual event of going to see the Phantom of the Opera in Providence with my aunt. We'd get dressed up and take the ride together, show off our bad selves, watch the movie (the famous, silent, version, complete with organ accompaniment), and then go out for Chinese food. It was awesome, but I grew out of that as I grew into a young man who was too cool to be hanging out with his family on Halloween. 


I never did anything too outrageous like the punks on my street. That said, I did throw my share of eggs with my friends from High School. I remember filling my pockets with jumbo whites and crouching down before lobbing a quick volley at god knows who's house. As they splattered and the lights went on I remember getting up and running for my life. Then I remember hearing the unmistakable sound jumbo white eggs, one by one, cracking in my pockets, concluding with the inexplicable reaction of thrusting my hands inside said pockets which exited seconds later, covered and dripping with albumen.

Those crazy kids.



This Halloween is a significant one for me. One of the last interactions I had with my aunt before she died was her giving me my Halloween costume for this year. She said she had been saving it all year for me (the "post season" discount tag providing proof). She was supremely excited that she remembered to give it to me before I went to D.C. with the Young at Heart Chorus in September. She told me, that day, to go into the end room and, without peeking, bring what was hung up on a hanger. She had me close my eyes, and with her voice crackling with high-pitched excitement she said, "Okay, Alex. You can look, now."

And there it was ...






















My knave costume.
I couldn't really tell then, and I still can't really tell why she thought it fit me so perfectly. But I'm not asking too many questions.

A knave, in the dictionary, is described as "an unscrupulous, or crafty person."

I suppose I can, and have, fit either one of those descriptions.

If you look further into the meaning of the word you will see knave defined as a journeyman. And if you look up the meaning of that, you will see it described as "a trader or crafter who has completed his apprenticeship."

Was she trying to tell me something?

I mean, she was always trying to tell me something. But ... you know what I mean.

Knave is also the name of a British adult magazine, but I don't think that has anything to do with it.

But I'm going to go out tonight, and I'm going to wear this somewhat baffling costume. It will be a tribute to my aunt who loved the idea of dressing up, almost as much as staying home in her pajamas. 

But she was full of contrasts like that.

She was vehemently indifferent to children, but she loved me like no other.

She valued chocolate over any other form of sustenance, but she always watched her weight.

And she never gave up on me, regardless of if it seemed like she had had enough. 

And as I've mentioned before how I see and feel spirits all around me, watching and hoping, I would say tonight is the night that they can come out and blend in with the scenery. But probably they'll just stay where it's comfortable and keep an eye on the proverbial pine tree. 

That is to say, they'll be close behind, every step of the way.

 

Happy Halloween everyone.







Be safe and thanks for reading.

F.A.J. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day three hundred and three ... A convincing argument Pt. 1.

This should be fun.

In the spirit of the historic election we are currently ensconced in, I have decided to try an experiment.

I realized today that the two parties who are currently battling to win the seat of the president of the United States of America, is a classic example of the villain and the savior, and consequently I can draw a parallel to my life (classic megalomania).

You can guess who is who, I'm not going too get to deep into my own political ideology here. 

This is about fictional reality, not politics.

In saying that, I would like to take the opportunity afforded me by having this free, unedited (some would say savagely unedited) unbiased, and completely independent forum to make two arguments.

The first argument--today's--would be for what we would call, the tried and true (albeit unpopular) candidate: debauchery. I say unpopular in relation to the way my life has been led over the last ten months. It is a subject I am quite versed in and a party that I once had strong ties to. 

Tomorrow's post will be for our knight in shining armor: sobriety, a candidate which shows much promise and hope for the future, regardless of its modicum of experience. It is apparently what the world--my world--has been looking for for years. It offers a beneficent and egalitarian vision for the country amidst a past full of gluttony, greed, egotism, and denial that is all too fresh in our minds. 

And it will be fresher still after the following plea for your support.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, Candidate number one, John DeBauchery.

(Cheers. Boos. Cheers)

(entering, arms raised to mid-chest, pointing, smiling).

Thank you ... thank you friends. 

It's great to be here. I'd like to thank F. Alex Johnson College for sponsoring this event ... and Jack Daniels for helping me give this speech (laughs).

I stand before you today, my friends, with one goal in mind: to convince you that I am the answer.

Now, you've, no doubt, heard me much maligned by my opponent in recent months. You've heard how I've been called responsible for everything from the bad economy, to a surplus of resentment, headaches, dry mouth, nausea, paranoia and thoughts of ending it all. Well, my friends, I'm here today to tell you that I am responsible.

(gasps)

That's right friends. All of those unfortunate symptoms I had a major hand in creating. All of these things were a direct result from the policies I offered and passed. But you know what? In times like these we must give a little bit of ourselves up in order to reap the benefits of an exciting, and fulfilling life. In times like these you have to endure some pain and suffering to feel freedom ... and I would hazard to guess that a lot of social advancements wouldn't have been brought about had it not been for my guidance and unflagging encouragement. 

Policies which came from my desk enabled you to go out and talk freely to people who would otherwise have remained strangers. On nights that you felt uncomfortable in social situations, was it not I who calmed your fears and allowed you to feel at ease? (cheers, agreement). You've told me yourself that I facilitated more than a few romances for you which--regardless of their outcome--brought new understanding and adventure to your life. Beer goggles may obscure your vision and judgement in the short term, but they more than make up for all of that in sheer fearlessness and daring in past-tense story form. I should know ... I'm drunk right now. (cheers).

How else do you think I could get up here and talk in front of this many of you assholes (laughs, eventual boos).

But seriously, friends, I offer you something that my opponent simply cannot: I offer you the feeling of completion.

When you were out at the game, was it not I who made you feel like you were getting the most out of your night? I think the phrase, "Ah ... now this is livin'" comes to mind. And was I not the one who guided your hand as you made the decision to upgrade your seats when you knew full well you didn't belong anywhere near a field box? You know deep inside you that there are numerous situations that you would have never found yourself in had it not been for the powerful consequences from the laws my administration enacted. I complete not only many of the events of your daily lives by validating your sense of entitlement, but I also provide a reason for being--sometimes literally--anywhere.

Wouldn't you rather be out and about, mind-numbingly drunk than sleeping, boringly somewhere sober? (cheers)

Now I know you're going to be hearing a lot about how Mr. Sobriety can promise you a change of outlook and a new determination to succeed without all of my help. He's going to try to convince you that all of the good I've brought about is nothing in comparison to the negative effects of my rule--health risks, job losses, blah, blah, blah. But I want you to take a good, long look at yourself and tell me if you are ready to put your trust in the unfamiliar (boos). Can you put your faith in somebody who has never been tested in the long run? Are you going to just up and denounce the feeling of security I can provide because I may require a bit more money to make my system work? (shouts of "No!"). Progress is expensive, my friends, and the result from the research and development to keep my party's impressive influence on the world's stage safe and sound is worth more than you could ever save even if you tried. That's a guarantee you can risk trusting in.

(confused cheers)

I know you because I am one of you. All you need to do is take one look at me through the years to understand how familiar I have become.

Are you going to turn your backs on somebody who has been there since almost before you can remember? (shouts of "No!"). Somebody who has grown up with you and been a role model for you for not just this generation, but every single generation that has come before it and beyond. Look at my credentials, my friends, and I think you will be pleased to note that it is only starting in the latter half of the last century that anyone had anything bad to say about what my party does, and has done, for America and its citizens. 

We were once a sign of maturity--a classy, sublime, cornerstone of civilized society, commingling with the gray matter of some of the finest thinkers the world has ever produced. Are you ready to let some newfangled do-gooder tell you history should be ashamed of itself.

(boos)


And that's exactly what my opponent is trying to tell you if you listen to him. 

But what he doesn't know is ... what he doesn't know is a lot of things.

He doesn't know what it feels like to wake up at 7:30 in the morning, pour yourself a tall vodka on the rocks, and watch Good Morning America while you call in sick to work (cheers). He doesn't know how it feels to come home from a long hard day at work and polish off a six-pack before dinner (cheers) ... a dinner you earned the right to eat with your hands (cheers, thrown food). And he doesn't know the feeling of bringing a carload full of empties back to the store, lining up case after case after case of empty bottles, and bringing the money you rightly earned from paying a silver nickel on each bottle more than you should have to begin with, and buying a much smaller amount of booze with it ... which is your right as Americans! (cheers). He doesn't know that because he's too good for that (boos). That's Italicright, my friends, my opponent wants you to believe he has a better way and that if you don't do what he does, then you're missing out on life (boos). He wants you to give up the right to pass out on the neighbors lawn on a Sunday afternoon ... he wants you to forgo ten cent wings with each pitcher down at Harry's, Monday thru Friday, five to seven (boos). And he wants to keep you scared for your lives that my way is going to lead to ruin, even as he sits there, smug and overconfident, with a club soda in one hand and his pointy finger pointed straight at you in his other hand.

(boos, confused looks)

The question I have for you, friends, is a simple one.

Are you better off now than you were four beers ago?

(shouts of "No!").

Of course you are.Italic

(cheers)

In closing, I just would like to say that I know how you feel, America. I know how you wake up each day with a hangover and a nagging feeling in your head that you may have made a bad decision the night before (sounds of agreement). I know that feeling because I wake up each day just like you do. And I know that many of you may think--just like my opponent thinks--that maybe that's a very bad thing (boos). Well I want to tell you to forget about those bad feelings for now (cheers). Just push them right out of your mind ... just ... right out of your mind like you're pushing them off a steep, steep, mountain that you just triumphantly climbed all by yourself with the help of all your friends just like you (cheers). Because I want you to know, America, that I applaud your resilience. I admire your tenacity to forge on and continue drinking in excess despite all signs pointing to complete disaster (cheers, bottles smashing). I want you to know that it is only with destruction that we can rebuild (cheers). It's only with regret that we can look ahead (cheers). And it's only with many decisions ... that we can make the right decision. 

I hope on Tuesday, my friends, that you make a decision, and I hope that decision will be made for me.

Thank you America, and may God bless us all.

(cheers)










I'm F. Alex Johnson and I approve this message ... until tomorrow.


Thanks for reading.

F.A.J.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day two hundred and ninety nine ... The asterisk.

10/27/08

Dear readers,

In the spirit of full disclosure (which I have tried to infuse in each entry) I must add that as I approach "Day three hundred and sixty five," a few notes should be made.

1. This blog was not started on the first day of my abstinence from drugs and alcohol (12/27/07). It was started on the first day of 2008, and will continue forward in daily increments until I have exhausted my gray matter (or gone completely crazy--whichever comes first).

2. For one week, from Sep. 9th until Sep. 16th of this year, I fell into a routine of taking pills which were not prescribed to me. I did not drink, nor did I ingest any of the other myriad substances I have had problems with. I stopped on my own accord and I have not picked up since. This was made very public in a number of my posts from that period in my blog. I hide nothing, and in doing so I move on with a clean conscience and the proclivity to grow and evolve in ways I could never have previously imagined.

In saying that, when Sep. 16, 2009 rolls around I will hopefully be able to claim 100% sobriety from any and all substances. Until then I can only regret the lapse.

3. In the spirit of simplicity I will refer to the time I have spent dissecting and inspecting the reasons why I do what I do, and have done what I have done, as my period of sobriety (insert boos here).

Here is why:

Not everyone becomes involved in drugs and alcohol for the same reasons. Some do it due to a genetic predisposition. Some do it to distract from even larger problems. Some do it because they fear they won't like what lies inside of themselves behind the opaque mask of addiction. Some do it because, from the first time they twirled around in a circle, felt dizzy and light in their stomach, and fell down on the grass in a laughing fit, they fell in love with a physical condition and have been searching for the ability to add that feeling of bliss and euphoria to their everyday existence.

I do it for all of the above.

Correction: I did it for all of the above.

I have learned quite a lot about myself in the last ten months. I have discovered why I have felt like self destruction was tantamount to enlightenment and why that is, in essence, lunacy. I have learned that life is an enjoyable process without any added ingredients; its complex makeup of growth, love, compassion, confusion, understanding, jealousy, perseverance, malaise, passion, frustration, contentment, and the seemingly endless bombardment of new and unexpected discoveries is enough to keep me sated.

And I have learned that part of the reason that I fell on my face during that week was the curiosity to revisit the experience of temporary escape I had been denying myself for eight months. I couldn't just rely on my own admission of depravity and self-loathing as being residuals as well as catalysts for its existence. I couldn't just trust that the reasons I didn't do what I thought I could never stop doing superseded the need to imbibe in the forbidden.

And as soon as I realized that I had hopped the fence into the yard full of snarling dogs, broken glass, and razor wire, I clawed and climbed back over to the other side. I landed safely on my knees in the soft grass--hands bloody and clothes ripped--with a gash in my pride that, without as much perspective as I had gained in the previous months, might have led me right back over with every intent to never return.

But that's not what happened.

And sobriety, to me, is all about doing the right thing, and not giving in to the never ending urges to fail. 

Put it this way. You can lock yourself away for ten months and keep yourself occupied with innocuous and unfulfilling behavior, ignoring and running away from the things that hurt you. And you can count each day on the wall of your cave and finally come out and say to the world "I've been completely sober for ten months ... isn't that great?" when you really haven't learned a damn thing about why you are sober; you just are.

Or you can grow and develop and change your motivation, building a support network and cultivating new skills which help foster strength and power to tackle all the problems which will inadvertently arise during however many more revolutions of the earth you will be part of, albeit a bit banged up from an extraneous mishap.

I could tell you which one I think is better in the long run, but I probably don't have to.

You can call it what you want. You can stop reading and call me a fool if you like. Or you can give me the benefit of the doubt.

I'm going to keep doing what I do like I always have, regardless. And I would encourage all of you to do the same.

But like I have said, every day is a test. And each day will be averaged in with the next for a final score. And each day that goes by that I stay sober my composite score improves. Will I end up with a 4.0? Only time will tell. But as I live and breathe the air around me, and the spirit of my mother and aunt continue to guide me through this amazingly horrific and beautiful condition called living, I will be continually tested. The pencil will never run out of lead--not for lack of sharpening--and the bell in the hallway will remain silent, holding only the potential for alarm.

That is, until I leave this world.

On that day I will hear the sharp midrange machine gun volley of hammer against steel and I'll know it's time to go. I'll hear the sound of chairs squeaking against the linoleum floors, and the shuffle of feet in the hallway, the turn of the combination locks, and the sounds of the doors of an infinite number of lockers swinging open for a moment ...

And then they'll slam shut.

And I'll move on to my next class.

Until then, I'll keep on with my test.

I think this one's gonna end up on the fridge.








4. Thanks for reading.


F.A.J.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day two hundred and ninety seven ... Are we music?

Are we music?

This may, on the surface, seem like a nonsensical and improper sentence. Implausible, you might say. But I think too much, and this is what happens. If I don't let it out it will find a way to escape from my mouth via my brain anyway, probably in poor form, and without as much panache as I would prefer.

Here's what I'm asking.

There have been billions upon billions of people born, raised, and passed on since the beginning of man's existence on earth.

For every so many people born, is there a melody to correspond?

The history of known music can only go back so far. We have recordings from as far back as the late 1800's. We have sheet music from a few hundred years before that. Asia and Africa and the Middle East have musical traditions which go further that we can even imagine. 

As Westerners, we can plot out a pretty distinct history which goes back to the settling of America, but the Native Americans have songs which go back to a time before any of us Euro-trash (sorry) came on the scene. And when we arrived we brought our music. We came with harpsichords and violins, trumpets and tubas, drums and piccolos, and we laid down our proverbial boom-box on the ground in front of the tribe elders and said, "Check this, old man. This shit is dope!" ... for lack of a better phrase.

Now, I'm of course, not suggesting that there is a song for every person ever conceived. Rather, the propagation of music and the proliferation of genres I can see reflecting the many varied types of races, ethnicities, and personality types that have existed and continue to thrive and evolve as we do.

There are the Italians with Opera (amorous and wild); the Poles with the Polka (celebratory and determined); The Portuguese with Fado (sly and contemplative); the Mexicans with Mariachi (festive and alive); the Africans with what started as folk songs and transitioned into slave songs (rhythmically defensive  and strong willed); and the list goes on and on and on, almost limitlessly. And it stands to reason that each culture has millions, if not billions of songs which have been imagined, created and performed for at the very least the composer themselves, and at the very most vast legions of countrymen singing battle songs en route to a siege; a ballpark full of fans singing a national anthem; or even a nation hearing taps together, over the airwaves, and following along with the melody in their heads.

It just boggles my mind how much music has probably been imagined, performed, and heard.

For every culture there is a catalogue of music that can be singled out either with a CD or a record or a reel-to-reel or even a wax cylinder. And then you go back further and you have to rely on families passing popular songs on to their children and their children passing that on, and so on. 

And then there is a wealth of music that was made and not preserved for future generations. Maybe it was improvisational. Maybe it was a ballad written for an unrequited love and played only once and then mentally shredded. Maybe it was a madman who whistled a tune in an institution to the windowless walls around him. Maybe it was a symphony scored by one of the Masters and discarded in a fit, never to be performed or re-written.

I feel it is similar with our human presence in this world. We have only so many written records of families dating back to only as far back as when records were kept. How many lives were lived and forgotten? How many families, who once gathered on the porch or in the parlor to sing songs that they either were taught or had written, are no more? 

Certainly in the world of rock and roll there are hundreds of thousands of songs, and that's one genre of many.

There are cultures which modern man has yet to even acknowledge living in remote parts of the world. I can guarantee you they have a back catalogue of as much music as you can imagine and I'm talking about people who documenting capabilities as rudimentary as early man. 

Do you see where I'm getting at here?

From the first mellifluous cry a baby makes, to the first time a birthday song is acknowledged, to the first lullaby, and on to nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, movie and television themes, pop songs, rock songs, wedding themes, and funeral dirges, the music we hear and live, I feel, mirrors the people who we meet--even for a second in passing on a subway car.

And just as we as humans continue to procreate, age, and die, so does our music. While a song doesn't truly die until the last recording has been destroyed and the last brain which holds its melody ceases to pass electricity, the popularity of a melody can turn cold and lifeless and perhaps fade into obscurity. I suppose that music needs new space to live and flourish just like we do. And for each song which becomes passe there is someone writing the next big thing in their living room or recording studio. They are procreating in their minds to fill the world with a melody that can make us feel something, even if that something is imperceptible.

I feel part of this process with all my heart and soul. I have written a paltry amount of music compared to most, but each song is special. Some I like better than others, some I can't stand, some I don't even remember because I relegated them to the mental trash can years ago--an excommunication if you will.

But, in saying that, we are all part of the living, breathing, expanding, all-encompassing world of music. We are all as responsible as the next person to keep the traditions alive and to add to its colorful catalogue. We hum a song we just heard on the radio while we wait in line to pay for a tub of yogurt in the same way we remember the person who we met in the library who helped us find a book. We see their face again in a removed situation and recognize it like we hear a melody that once floated into our ears through the radio, and we remember how we liked it so. 

And sometimes I wonder if the world I see on the news is really as bad as they say it is. I think about how some people can commit horrendous crimes or be so callous as to let negligence cause human catastrophe. And when I do, I have to remember that as much focus as you can put one situation under there is a limitless supply of happenings all around you, in the past, present, and future, and each one carries the opportunity to become part of a melody. 

And I know that these situations too shall pass, like they always do. The song will end, and the needle will bat back and forth in the banded groove until we pick it up, return it to safety, and turn the machine off.  

We can only feel the melody move us when it's in the air outside of our eardrums ... and then it stops ... and we have to remember ... because it is just vibrations, just like we all are.

Are we music?

I tend to think yes.


Thanks for reading,

F.A.J.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day two hundred and ninety five ... The balance of value.

It's a wonder we haven't all gone completely insane.

Then again, perhaps I'm being presumptive.

The tenuous, shredded wheat cracker of a universe I inhabit can be so overwhelming at times that I forget what peace feels like. Sometimes I wonder if I have ever felt it at all. I know, however, that I have, more often than not, and I know I will be able to enjoy it in spurts hopefully for the rest of my life, whatever length that may be.

There is a process:

The solace gets broken.

The plans come undone.

The damage is assessed.

The compassion is absorbed.

The energy fills our souls.

The rebuilding begins.

The solace again returns.

The eyes compress, the mouth widens and tightens, the teeth feel pressure from the inside of the lips, and the smile reappears.

This is how life goes, for me anyway.

I try to always be aware that the moments of enjoyment, as well as unpleasantness, are real, because there is no place one can go where a mental or physical state will stand still. It may remain static for a length of time but this will eventually be broken; it will change. And it may either fall apart from neglect or abuse, or it will be rebuilt and renovated from attention. Sometimes we have a say in the matter; sometimes the strings are pulled from above, below, or on either side of us and we have no control at all.

All we can do is observe and learn.

And this is how I constantly amass a fortune of instruments.

I'm not talking about guitars or drums or keyboards ... I'm talking about tools to build my world with.

I never take anything at face value anymore. Because when we agree that this is the way something is--be it the price of real estate or a state of depression--then we forfeit the possibility of negotiation.

I just bought a house.

Yes, it's true. I just bought a beautiful house in the village of Florence in the town of Northampton. I move in in about a month. I bought it because right before my aunt died she and I had been discussing the pros and cons of home ownership. I had told her that I didn't think I wasn't ready to take that big of a leap. I liked that wasn't expected to shovel the snow or fix the pluming; I had given up the idea that I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of owning a home.

And then she told me she could help "make things happen" for me. Because if I was going to buy a house, this is the time to do it. Because in five years or so there will be a lot of people who have acquired things at a reasonable price that will be damn glad they did so because the economy will be (hopefully) much stronger and the balance of value will have returned.

And then she got sick, and in four months, almost to the day, she passed into the next world--twenty years or so before she would have preferred.

And since she told me that she believed I was ready to enter the next phase in my life--the responsible and productive adult--along with myself gaining the confidence that I will, indeed, make it through to a point of calm and peace, I started to look around for a nice place to call my own.

And I found one.

And not only did I find one, but I almost initially bought the wrong one. I almost put down the money on one that was way too expensive, renovated by somebody who was just doing it to sell it. The seller had added up her receipts and put a price tag on the place. It had not been done with love and care, it was simply made to sell.

She didn't meet my initial offer and so I said no thank you and moved on. And the acceptance that by saying "no thank you" did not mean I couldn't have what I wanted, but rather that I hadn't found what was right, made finding the home I shall soon live in all the more special and proper.

The balance of value was uneven. I took my weights off my end and put them in my pocket. I held onto them until I felt that they would contribute the right amount to bring the counterweight to a level field. Not once did I feel like they didn't contain enough mass or value; I just knew that I hadn't found the proper scenario in which to judge the ratio.

And this is how I try to live my life.

If I have something bad happen--an argument with a friend or the loss of a tangible item--I have to calmly and intently slow down and assess the situation. This not only helps ensure my finding a better solution than just swatting aimlessly in the air, but it provides protection from future problems. Because smacking the bumble bee away from me is just going to make it mad. If I move with the bee and back away slowly, I will call less attention to myself and be able to work with my situation and not against it.

Where am I going with this, you might ask? Well, I don't know--happens all the time. But there are a lot of events ocurring in my world right now, both good, bad, and quite unfortunate. I've been involved in all of these conditions (as we all have, if we are human) and I've managed to sneak back through the rough spots and end up where it's safe; this is how I do it. I sometimes need to remind myself how I have managed to stay sober for close to a year. I sometimes need to slap myself on the cheeks and forehead to ensure that I stay awake and stay aware of my situation.

Because we all have a set of weights in our pockets. If we progress as life encourages us to then we will accrue more and varied pieces of value. We can either let these slow us down and distract us from our journey, or we can complain that we do not have as many as we would like and let our jealousy turn us bitter and black. 

Or we can take note, as we fish through our pockets, of each piece we have earned or been given. We can remember each one by the pains we took to acquire them, or the feeling of fulfillment that crept upon us as we made a new discovery, thus adding to our cache. We can wait patiently until we have found the right goal to strive towards, and then pull out what we think will bring our scale to a point of balance.

Or we can confuse the weights in our pockets with the burden on our backs and let progress slow us down.

There is a process:

The solace gets broken.

The plans come undone.

The damage is assessed.

The compassion is absorbed.

The energy fills our souls.

The rebuilding begins.

The solace again returns.

The eyes compress, the mouth widens and tightens, the teeth feel pressure from the inside of the lips, and the smile reappears.

This is how life goes, for me anyway.




I just had to get that out.

Thanks for bearing with me.



F.A.J.



PS: I'll share more on my home soon. It's going to be a special holiday season ... yes siree.








Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day two hundred and ninety four ... Big in Japan.

Check this out.
When I was a kid I used to collect these Japanese versions of Peanuts books. It appears that now they are collectable. Someday, when I get to the part of the stuff in my folks' place where they are stored, I'll make a mint on ebay. 

I kind of always liked the strange but symbiotic merging of such purely American characters as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy, with centuries-old, Japanese language characters in the bubbles above their heads. It made me wonder what they thought of it all, and if it had any relation to the way I understood them.
























And now, I wonder the same thoughts, but with a bit more of myself invested in the equation.

Yes, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese became engrossed with our heros, The Young @ Heart Chorus.

The movie, which has been out in the U.S. since April (buy it on DVD today), is just hitting Europe and Asia in November, and the word on the street is that it is highly anticipated and expected to do quite well.

And so, for the last few weeks I've been prepared to do a mock-gig at the Florence Community Center where we rehearse (and where much of the film was shot) for a contingent of Japanese media people. This past Sunday was the day.

I was guaranteed a generous fee, as well as a sandwich buffet.

I was not disappointed.




Note: Stan in the orange, wearing his trademarked cane-scarf. Genius.

After the sandwich buffet, I wandered over to a table which had a few press related materials on it.


This all seems so strange to me, but in a different way than it usually is. It has a bit more of a alien-world tinge to it. Maybe it's all the Godzilla films I watched as a child on Channel 56. Maybe it's the anime, which I don't understand, but am taken by regardless. Either way, I love how some things just don't translate from English to Japanese, like the "@" symbol. 

In the background of the poster, above, is a shot from the interior of the Academy of Music, which is right here in Northampton. I understand why there is Japanese script running down the center of it, but it still confuses my mind's eye.




Take a look at this inset from said poster.

Get it? It's the Rolling Stones tongue logo, but made in the form of a pair of dentures. Hmm ...

This would never get the go-ahead by any American marketing company, but in Japan it's hilarious.

Hi-larious.

We got little pins made in the same logo.

I likes my swag.

There were Japanese paper-fans, postcards, and little snacks for the taking as well. The snacks were the of the puffed rice variety found in some Japanese restaurants. They had a strong shrimp flavoring ... 




























... and then they just give it to you straight-up.

Prawn tails on rice cracker. 

It's a delicacy I'm told.

Yum!?






We did a few tunes to warm up before they filmed. Then we did them for real. They included: Queen's "Bicycle Race"; Bowie's "Golden Years"; Talking Heads' "Heaven"; and a couple more I'm forgetting.

After that the band was sort of off the hook for an hour while they did some promos.




There is, apparently, a big show over there called King's Brunch, that's kind of like our version of Good Morning America. 

Umm ... sure. Whatever you guys say ... I believe you ... really. King's Brunch ... makes sense to me.


As you can see, they were coached on this line.

They not only said it, they sang it. Classic.




Kato and Terry (on the sign above) are the hosts of King's Brunch (I think).

This was all as entertaining as you could expect. There was this guy with the cue-cards who didn't speak any English. He is, I'm told, a pretty high ranking media person. He was with a Japanese woman who did speak English; she was also a higher-up. And then there was a caucasian guy named Steve who translated and coached the 30-odd members of the chorus to say short phrases in Japanese. 









And now we come to the video portion of my post. This is, I think, a pretty funny and concise minute and a half outlining the vibe of the day and how these guys, unbeknownst to them, ended up learning a few words that, in all of their eighty-odd years, they probably never thought they would learn ... and I never thought I would witness.


video












And so, the day came to an end. Our visitors packed up their belongings and headed back halfway around the world with what should be some pretty cool footage. They were much nicer and easier to work with than some of the European media-jerks we've encountered; they showed us respect and we gave it back in return.

And when I got home and took a look inside my Young @ Heart media booklet (which was all in Japanese except for the "@" sign), I saw something that I thought was immensely cool. It seems that thirty or so years after I was taken by the Peanuts cartoons--what with how strange it all seemed to have such obviously American characters in amongst those cool Japanese symbols--I noticed that, after all this time, I finally had become part of it all ...








































... in more ways than one.

Yes, that's me in the middle. And I have no freaking idea what the hell it says. But in my mind I am the happy-reigning-supreme-success-making-guitar-monster-that-conquered-the-world.


And maybe it just says "Coming to a theater near you."

I'll have to ask someone to translate it for me when we go over there on tour.






Thanks for reading.

F.A.J. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day two hundred and ninety two ... Vice in reverse.

I'm getting really good at not indulging in my vices.

In a little over a week I'll have ten months under my belt (which by the way is getting looser and looser as I am still dropping the pounds).

And, as all things in this world go, the more you do something the better you get at it.

So because I am so frequently surrounded by my desirables, it is subsequently getting easier and easier to not care.

I guess it's kind of like breaking up with someone who you thought you'd eventually marry--someone who is continually going to be traveling in the same circles that you are; someone you loved and someone your friends loved as well, they just always said you were a terrible couple.

But you break up and the first few times you see her from afar--alone--you just for a second forget that you're not with her anymore. You have to stop yourself from calling out her name. She'd respond of course. She didn't get a restraining order on you or anything. You just both decided after the last big blowout that it wasn't worth it anymore and you would only be dragging each other down into a deep, dark, pit of turmoil, despair, selfishness, paranoia, and the eventual untimely unravelling of an otherwise promising life for each other.


In a perfect breakup you'd give back the clothes, books, and records you each individually owned before you met. Then it's time to deal with the unattractive task of deciding who gets what from the things you bought together.

I got the house, the car, the TV and the Star Wars memorabilia, and she took the intangibles: much of my memory, and a portion of my dignity. She also took some of the glue that held many of my simple acquaintances with people in the bar crowd as well as a few people close to me.

I have since regained much of what I lost in the split, I'm happy to say, but I don't have it all back. Some of the memories I'll never see again. Some I'll fabricate like I used to, but it will be because I can and desire to, and not because I have to and have no choice.

But as I said, I see her everywhere. She's practically following me but I know she isn't. I could make it so I didn't have to see her at all by painstakingly arranging my life so as not to put myself at risk of seeing her. Some of my friends are like that. But that's just too much work for a lazy guy like me. I like my freedom. I like to run out the door and not worry if I'm going to run into her at the restaurant or at the club or at a mutual friend's wedding. 

I like to feel that I can control myself despite the fact that I don't have much experience.

But like I said, I've been getting really good at not indulging in my vices.

Last night we played a birthday party for a woman named Amy Johnquest. She's an artist extraordinaire who lovingly painted my band's most recent album cover (Drunk Stuntmen's, State Fair).
I got to the vacant shoe store where it was held early to set up. I noticed that there was a table with a few bottles of wine, a few bottles of San Pellegrino (classy), and a gallon jug of water. 

As the evening progressed a few dozen partygoers arrived each bringing a sampling of food and drink.

By the end of the first set there was three long tables full of food ... and the table that had started with the wine and water had become overflowing with beer, more wine, and liquor.

But the one jug of water remained alone. It sat there, occasionally being taxed by me and a couple other people. But nobody brings water to a party. That's just something you don't think to grab while you're picking out a nice tall bottle of Gordon's Gin.

And so, the water ran out.

And as I poured the last of the jug into my cup I started to have strange survivalist feelings.

I felt like I used to feel at any given party when I knew I had the last of the Jack Daniel's in my hands. But unlike then, I didn't leave a mercy shot of it at the bottom for the poor soul who should try to quench his thirst after me--I just poured it all in my cup (the water, that is).

A little later I spotted from the corner of my eye, an open gallon of water deep under a table of food behind a couple boxes of wine.

I looked around, grabbed the bottle, poured a cup full, and stashed it back under the table--a little more camouflaged this time.

When we finished our last set I went looking for my hidden bounty.

It was gone.

And I felt that sinking feeling I used to feel when the beer I had stashed behind a gallon of milk in a party house had been found.

And I did last night what I used to do at the party house: I went on a re-con mission.

I checked every bottle of San Pellegrino, I shook every empty gallon jug of Poland Spring, I looked under the table, on the floor, and in the corners of the room.

And I was shit-out-of-luck as they say.

Amy saw me looking around and asked what I needed.

I told her and she winked and said she had a secret stash set aside because she knew this would happen. She knelt down and rooted around under the table and produced a unopened bottle of water. It was like gold. I couldn't believe my eyes. I opened it with much verve and poured each of us a tall glass of it. We toasted and drank--eyes closed--and let out a big "Ahhhhh."

It was good.

And I stood there, looking at all the other bottles--either full or half full--of wine and liquor and beer and I felt not a tinge of longing for their company. They were everywhere and the were inviting me to come along and join them. But I don't really want to associate with them any more than I have to. And that's not to say I'll avoid them ... I just won't call them up to come over and hang out.

Because we ended badly and almost everyone who knows me knows that.

Sometimes people who you barely know really do know what's best for you.

And sometimes even when you know what's best for you and you've accepted your limitations you can't find it in amongst the fray.

But you keep looking.

That is the goal in oh so many ways.


Thanks for reading.

F.A.J.


 Stuntman Steve, F.A.J. and Soft Rock Scott. (Amy's artwork is visible in background).

The hostess with the twinkies, Amy Johnquest (right), Soft Rock Scott, and yours truly.




Biker Chuck, takin' you to school. Background Ms. Donna and more of Amy's art.


Pictures by Jeffery Byrnes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day two hundred and eighty nine ... Ghost in the machine.

This would never happen in real life.

Another day comes and progresses as it is expected to the best of our ability.

The usual time for the mail arrives, and we hear and see the iconic white truck scurry away down the street. Its work--bringing joy, angst, tears, confusion, and sometimes enthusiastic complacency--is done for the day.

Said mail is taken out of its respective receptacle, squeezed between thumb and outstretched fingers, and triaged. It is assessed in seconds that some articles are of the junk variety, others are mere menus for restaurants, some are valiant attempts at local car dealerships to curry your business for an oil change, offering "free 24 point inspection" to tell you what else needs doing that you didn't plan on, and some is actual correspondence.

And then, one white envelope makes you drop the rest on the floor, petrified, as you hold it in both hands, shaking like a leaf, staring at the handwriting--your name first, then the return address--checking the post office mark for the date, and then, finally, for a hand-pressed stamp somewhere--anywhere--that says this letter should have been delivered a long time ago ...

... because the person who its from doesn't walk through this world anymore.

And you carefully open it, making sure to not inadvertently rip the enclosed paper.

You slide it out, giving a cursory look around as if to spot a malevolent practical joker, only to find out that it's a letter you have already received weeks ago.

It's a letter you responded to.

It shouldn't be back in your mailbox ... but it is.



And as your limbs start to loosen, and the blood drains from your head like water squeezed from a shower sponge, you can't believe that you feel as fragile and crushed as you did on the first week that they weren't around on the other end of the telephone. You forget how that sensation felt because you were so busy doing things to help forget it happened ... and it had worked ... until now.

And you tell yourself there is a reasonable explantation for why you are holding a duplicate of a piece of correspondence that you already received from a person who can't be reached by traditional means. You carefully put it down on the table and intently and mechanically begin the process of paying a bill or two, as the transfer of money--whether to or away from you--is more likely than not to disturb the heartiest trance.


But, as I said ... this would never happen in real life.


It did, however, happen to me via my computer the other day.

It was an email, in my inbox, in bold print, at the top of the pile, with my aunt's email address as the sender, and it wasn't spam.

It should have ended up in the "old mail" box that I have full of many short to medium length online conversations I have had with her over the last few years.

But it didn't.

It came in as "new."

And it scared the shit out of me.

The date was from over the summer.

The topic was regarding one of my blog posts (she had been a consummate editor, and I dearly miss her linguistic scalpel).

And, regardless of the fact that I could vaguely remember what the email said, I opened it anyway.

I had to.

I had to send it back in the "old mail" box.

And as I waited the two seconds it takes for any given email to load in my box I felt a shiver of energy course through my whole body from head to toe.

Because my aunt stopped sending me emails sometime in the middle of August. She never liked using her computer in the first place (she called it her black devil) and by then she had become too sick to sit up for too long, so it just sat there, and the tower became a pedestal for the cats.

The editing notes stopped coming in.

The silly forwards she would pass along to me, usually conjuring up a groan or shake of the head, stopped coming in.

And she became unable to read my entries.

So I read them to her.

Some of the memories I will always cherish are those of sitting across from her while she laid on the couch, eyes closed, smiling, as I excitedly and dramatically read my latest post. As I would come to a close and say the words "Thanks for reading" aloud I would slowly raise my eyes to focus on her face. It always read like a book: sometimes with a tear-stained cheek, sometimes with a simple smile, sometimes with a confused and perplexed grimace (particularly at some of my anthropomorphizing of common animals or household objects), but always with enthusiasm that I was continuing my exploration of the world inside my head, as well as the one in front of my eyes, via my brain, heart, hands, and computer.

For the longest time I had no idea she was keeping a very tangible record of my work.

There are presently four massive binders in Mattapoisett filled with the first seven months of my posts. This is a photo of one of them.
Turns out, after each of my posts had passed inspection, and the appropriate editing accomplished, she would print each one out and insert the pages into plastic sleeves, then into the appropriate binder, and finally that binder would get put back with the others and wait for my next batch of letters and words to be assembled and published. I was shocked when I first saw them, and told her how I didn't know my words meant so much to her. She smiled and told me that she was from a different time in history when words were put to paper and not just on an LCD screen for a temporary piece of time. She wanted to be sure that if the whole of the internet infrastructure were to crumble and fall, and we were left with nothing but what we can make with our hands and what we can read from the ink that is printed on a page, that she would have a record of my accomplishments, both in the actions they describe and by the language I used to convey them with.

Ink on paper.

A permanent record of thoughts in a very temporary existence.

This is the picture she chose for the cover of the collection. Each one bears the same photo. It is of my mother and me in 2000, directly following a performance by my band, Drunk Stuntmen, of a silent film score which we wrote and performed to accompany the 1924 silent film version of Peter Pan. 

It shows her love, her admiration, and her joy for her boy.


My mother was unable, of course, to read my writing and to know firsthand of my recent successes in my struggle with my many demons, but my aunt felt that this is how she would react if she could.

And I would have to agree.





And so, when this intangible and unpredictable piece of communication popped into my mailbox on my computer screen I knew it had to have been a mistake. 

But just like the other day when my Aunt Norma (who knows me by my childhood nickname, "Beaner") received an email from "Alex Johnson" (which is the name of my late uncle, and her husband) last week, and told me what a start it gave her to see his name on an email in her inbox, it made me think of this.

She knew it wasn't him.

There was no way that could have been possible.

It only took a few seconds and one click of the mouse to discover that it was, in fact, me emailing her, and everything made sense again.

I had written her about my Aunt Lynda and how I'm dealing with the loss and how I am finding strength in some of the strangest places.



I'm sure she would have enjoyed this post, and a few others she never got to see while she walked this earth.

So I'm going to print it out and put it with the rest of them like she liked to do ... just in case.

Who knows where it will all end up.

Best not to worry too much, there's so much left to do.

And on we go.







Thanks for reading,


F.A.J.





 






Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day two hundred and eighty seven ... My morning sweetheart.

I don't have a girlfriend.

That said, the morning is my muse.

I set my alarm sometimes so she doesn't have to.

When I get up ten seconds before it goes off--so she can sleep late if she wants--she has always beaten me to it.

She has her own job to go to at noontime, and it takes her out of town for most of the day and night.

It seems like easy work, but I'd get tired of no days off if it were me.

But every morning she's there. Every morning, when I rub my weary eyes and stretch my back (which I fear may never be fully right again), she's right there to remind me that you can rely on some things, regardless of how random and unfair the world we live in may seem at times.


I never used to like girls like her. No, I always preferred the dark and dangerous creatures of the nighttime. It seemed so much more exciting and raw. The darkness covered up so much of my identity, from my bloodshot eyes that thrived in the shadows, to the state of mind I induced to talk in earnest. 

The mornings always scared me, because they saw me as I truly was--or at least as I was without my accouterments, and that was close enough. 

I used to treat the morning like dirt, often engaging in behavior that some reserve for after-hours activity. When I wasn't doing that I would totally ignore her, sleeping untill noontime or later, and dreading her return.

I'd see her in passing and wonder what some people find attractive about a girl like that--so demanding and stark--and as I asked the question, I knew that I stood a chance to someday find out ... it was just a matter of time.

I now understand that I used to ignore what I was inherently drawn to because it gave me some room to grow and test the waters. It bought me some time before I said yes because it was right, rather than because it appeared right from my own misconstrued set of criteria. It allowed me to screw around and get hurt and keep banging my fist against the door in the alley because I wanted to be part of that club. I wanted to be accepted and embraced because I saw it all around me and it looked like so much more fun that I could have possibly imagined.

And then I wondered what took me so long, and I meant it.



But me and my morning, we get a lot done together, especially on the weekends.

Sometimes, during the week, she tells me I neglect her; I ignore her.

I tell her that we have so much time together most days, but when I have to work, I really have to work and it's just a bit of give and take. Sometimes she leaves for work in a huff and I think she's done with me for good.

And I make it through the afternoon and the evening and somehow fall asleep--tense, and afraid that I just lost the best thing I ever had.

And every morning I feel her rub my forehead gently with the palm of her hand as she slides in beside me carefully, slowly, but without hesitation. Often I turn away, pulling the covers with me until I come out of my dream-state--in which she plays a commanding role--and then, smiling, I pry my eyes open, raise my right arm and drape it around her, pulling her close, confident and aware that she came back for me. 

It's enough to make me cry most days.

But we all cry for the ones we love. Sometimes when they leave us; sometimes when they return.

And we spend the few precious hours together like we always do, with a strong cup of coffee and some cereal and fruit and we plan out our day. Sometimes we make some important phone calls, sometimes we pay our bills, sometimes we read, curled up on the couch--her with her existentialist Masters, and me with my music magazines.

Sometimes she just sits there while I play guitar and sing, gently, so as to not wake the neighbors.

And she wonders why I keep checking the clock.

She asks if I have better things to be doing.

And she knows the answer before she asks it--because I don't.

I just wish there were more numbers on the clock, more rotations of the earth, more phases of the moon, more months in the year, and more hours in the day.

Because I love her so.

And she, me.

And all the petty arguments and assumptions and suspicions one can stumble upon or concoct will not break our bond. They only strengthen our resolve and tighten the strings of confidence that wrap our tender emotions in a bundle.

People ask me if I'm seeing someone on a regular basis.

I always tell them it's complicated.

And they know better not to dig further.

Meanwhile, I just smile and look at my watch.

She'll be here soon.

That, I can be sure of.





Thanks for reading.

F.A.J.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day two hundred and eighty five ... On the verge of a new week.

There is nothing like a Sunday.

Here, in New England, you can come close on a weekday, but it has to be in the dead of winter, with sixteen inches of snow, a wind chill advisory, and a few words from the governor about how dangerous it is out there.

But in October, any given Sunday is about as good as it gets.

I live on a dead end street, but even at that it's quieter than normal.

The peaks and valleys of the houses which barricade me from the busy street a quarter mile away somehow transmit the sounds of the cars going by. It's not annoying. In fact it keeps me from becoming a paranoid wreck.

I like to hear life.

But a Sunday is like a negative of the rest of the days of the week.

The pleasantly constant whirr, interspersed by stillness, is reversed.

My neighbors, instead of leaving in the morning for work and coming home at four or five, oftentimes don't leave the house until the evening.


Yes, I have the windows open today; it's that nice. Hopefully, me writing this will remind me to shut them before nightfall.


After I post this, I'm going to go do a bit of house painting.

It's not my forte, but the whole band is doing it for our friend, confidante, and unflagging supporter, Chuck, who has let us rehearse in his doublewide trailer for the last three years.

Chuck is one of the good people; he gives me hope here amongst monsters.

But his house ... we're painting it white.

The leaves, I'm sure, will be nonplussed.

Either that, or they will be grateful that it's not going to be maroon, or brown, or yellow, or any other color that might cover up their autumnal majesty.

Man, I sure give a lot of my own internal mental characteristics to the products of nature who cannot willingly defend themselves and say ... "That guy's crazy ... we're not anything like that."

But they can't, and so I do.

Either way, shortly, I'm going to get in my car and drive down my street and over to Florence where he lives.

The people in my neighborhood that I will pass will no doubt be out raking leaves or chopping wood. Some will have their children with them; they won't have to be at school. They won't be learning from a book covered in protective brown paper, emblazoned with a president's face on it in cheap red ink on one side, and the pledge of allegiance on the other like I remember from my days of public school books. They won't be trying to fit the cursive letter "Q" in between two solid lines, and on top of one dotted line, on an off-green sheet of paper like I remember (oh, how I hated Q ... it's one of the main reasons I, to this day, only write in cursive when I sign my name). They won't be eating lunch from a bag or defending their parent's honor from one of the many malcontents which are an unfortunate eventuality in our world, both in school and in the real world.

Because it is Sunday.

And I will drive slower than normal because the kids may be playing close to the street.

The cars will be fewer as I approach the busy thoroughfare.

It will seem like three in the morning ... only in the middle of the day.

There will be plenty of parking downtown.

Not only that, but it will be free.

I'll get to do that thing that I do that I love so much when I see a person from out of town staring at the meter machine trying to figure out if they have to pay for parking (they don't make it clear so you'll just pump it full of quarters anyway) and I'll get to tell them, confidently, "You don't have to pay to park today."

Because it's Sunday.

The banks can't stress you out.

The post office can't politely, efficiently, and officially contain you, with your potential communication in hand, patiently waiting in line both because you were raised right, and because of that thing you heard about postal workers.  

And everyone just seems a bit more relaxed.

Maybe they just came from church.

Maybe they just came from a meeting.

Maybe they just kissed a newfound lover goodbye after spending a few precious hours or days together, and are now heading out, regrettably but contentedly alone, to try to find the increasingly familiar signs which point to the interstate, realizing at that moment, how many times they have done this in the past, and wondering how many more are to come.

Maybe they have finally come to the realization that they have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. 

Maybe.

But one cannot deny, from either a glance at the calendar, the hurried and choppy sounds of a football announcer from a passing car radio, the parking spaces, blackened storefronts, or unhurried stroll of a population on the verge of a new week ...

... it's Sunday.

Don't let it get away, but when in does, know that it will be back soon.

It has no choice.

It has no equal regardless of the fact that it is as long as the six days that come before it.

It just seems easier to hang onto.

And that makes me happy.




There is nothing like a Sunday.



 






Thanks for reading.

F.A.J.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Day two hundred and eighty three ... Down to my last out.

They're at it again.

The spirits are knocking things around in my world like a dinghy on violent waters.

I'm at The House again.

I have some new guests.

Ants.

Yes. It isn't bad enough that now I make coffee for myself in both of my houses (I haven't told you about the Cusinart in NoHo yet ... it's to-die) but making coffee entails having sugar at the ready. I found a nice little sugar bowl with a lid (ceramic, but a lid nonetheless) and I have it out on the kitchen counter. 

The kitchen counter is white.

Sugar is white.

And while I can't see the sugar I must spill after each cup of coffee I prepare, I have some pesky little bastards who must have heard the dinner bell clanging away from behind the baseboards.

And the spiders which I let enjoy a San Francisco Zoo-like existence are of no help.

I love spiders, I think I've mentioned that before.

But spiders are like nature's clean cops (and by clean I mean a bunch of things) and while they are usually pretty good about snagging mosquitoes and gnats and flies and such ... they have a tough time with ants.

It must be the way cops have dirt on so many criminals, but they can't haul them in because there's not enough evidence to make anything stick and so it would just be a lot of paperwork.

So they just have to sit there and watch.

Needless to say I've been killing the little bastards like crazy.

I knew this coffee thing would lead to disaster.



And the thing I've been worrying about happening has finally happened.

I was in a hurry and didn't have time to brush my teeth.

But I didn't want to run the risk of offending the first person I ran into with my coffee breath so I grabbed the mouthwash from the bathroom sink ... the stuff my mom used to use ... the stuff that has been sitting in there for a couple of years or so ... and I took a big swig and swished it around like I always do.

And then I ran to my car.

I put the key in.

I waited for my ignition interlock device, to tell me to breathe into it so it can check for trace amounts of alcohol on my breath.

It said "Blow" like it always does.

I blew into it for the required amount of time like I always do.

And I watched it take longer than normal while I smelled the breath I just blew in the air around me ... the breath that smelled like Scope ... not the alcohol-free stuff ... regular Scope ... and I knew I was screwed.

"V I O L"

That's what it says when you fuck up.

It stands for violation.

And then it recharges and you have to wait a few minutes while it gears up and thank christ I had a bottle of water so I could guzzle most of it and then gargle with the rest of it and wait for it to say "Blow" again.

And I did.

And I was worried.

Because you only get one chance a month. If you get a second violation your car goes into "lockout" and you have to have your car towed to the nearest participating auto mechanic and then you pay $50 bucks and risk having to go to court where they could take your license away for ten years.

Ten years!

Needless to say it was with much trepidation that I blew for the second time and waited while it dissected my breath.

"Pass."

Thank goodness.

And I took off to the store and bought myself, among other things, a big bottle of alcohol-free Scope.


And now I'm here at The House with my unwanted visitors and my one violation against me and a million thoughts racing through my head while I type and get ready to watch the first game of the ALCS with the mighty Red Sox facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Crazy shit is going on.

I can feel it in every thread of my body, in every glimmer of my own reflection I see across the room and think it's an intruder, in every lock of hair that falls in my face, giving the illusion that someone just walked by in the other room, in every car that I can hear driving two streets over.

I can feel it.

Can you?






Thanks for reading.