Sock #2 of #65

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Well, here we are the 2nd day of 65 days of  new socks. (See previous blog.) I am in a better mood and feel no need for vulgarity to express myself today. I am so much wiser now that I am fully 65 years old.

Today is election day in the United States. For over 43 years, I was a registered Republican who increasingly felt out of place in that party. I believed in fiscal responsibility, but could care less who you wanted to have intercourse with…or as I recently found out, who you wanted to jazz with. (Before jazz meant a form of music, it referred to having sex.) I find it fascinating how words keep evolving or changing in terms of their popular meaning and appropriateness.

I know of a very successful American western author who used to write, “Mister, put that rifle down…now,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown. I am fairly certain that if in the writing of this blog post I decided to ejaculate within a sentence, well, who knows maybe my readership might increase – but it might get really weird.  Gawd help ya now if you use the word “queer” for strange or odd. “Mister, I think that was just a queer thing to do,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown.  (Speaking of queer, I just saw that new Queen movie and loved it! Queen’s music was just so good.)  The same holds true for the word gay.  “Mister, being around you makes me so gay,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown.

Here in the United States, especially in education, it is no longer acceptable to use the H word…Hispanic. Now it is Latinx. This started from the historical and cultural use of the word latino when referring to males or groups of males and females. Someone decided this shit ain’t happening no mo. If you really want to score extra points say Latinx with an accent.  “Mister, although I find it queer, I really love Latinx music. It makes me feel so gay, ” ejaculated Sherrif Brown.

I have to admit that I have a queer disorder about accents – I pick them up very quickly. My family used to laugh their asses off because within a few minutes, when I was around someone with a different accent other than my sloppy Northern California one, I soon would start talking with the other person’s accent. Is this a known communication disorder? I think it started with my childhood impersonations of Louis Armstrong….”Oh, Dolly!”

Truth be told, (now there is an out of date saying), it ain’t easy talkin’ anymore, with any accent. I once made the eternal damnation kind of mistake of referring to a mixed gender group of people with the phrase, “Hey guys.” Oh..Shit..On…Me. Did one of those guys get upset. I get it. I also get that one particular person was trying to exert herself and gain more influence with the group, by demonstrating what an insensitive male piece of crap I was. I might have told her to “fuck off” with my eyes. No, I did tell her to fuck off with my eyes.  (Dang it, sorry. about the vulgarity) It was just a common phrase I grew up with and those are hard habits to break, but I understand the point and I have only done it a couple of times since. You see, I have heard groups of women say, “Hey guys let’s go..” and nobody freaked  out on them and said, “I don’t have a penis asshole.”

Same goes with the word gang. In the old days the word gang didn’t refer to anything more than just your group of close friends. Not now, uh-uh. “Mister, this queer gang you hang out with sure makes me feel gay especially when I am listening to latinx music, ” ejaculated Sheriff Brown. Oh and God help ya, if you don’t have time to meet with someone at the moment but suggest you can hookup with them later. Apparently that means you’re about to get some jazz.

Yeah, it ain’t easy being surrounded by the the word cops, but I got an idea. The next time I am in a meeting, and I might have to manipulate the conversation to make this happen, and someone says, “There is  a grandfather clause in the new rule. We will be grandfathered in”…well I am gonna jump their shit and say, “I have 7 grandchildren you bastard. What are you saying? How insensitive of you. Why not say grandmother clause? This is ageism, sexism, and, and, and … creepism and I ain’t gonna take it. What’s wrong with you guys???…..whoops,” ejaculated Gary.

 

 

 

65 Socks and a Grumpy Old Man

I turn 65 years old today. That seems like an enormous number to me. I don’t handle these types of milestones very well. I remember when I turned 30, I got drunk off my ass, “30 years old, what the hell is happening to my life? What have I accomplished?”

Well, fortunately, I don’t drink alcohol much any longer. I still will have an occasional drink, but after dealing with severe depression for a long time, I recognized alcohol was not my friend…but I do like tequilla, a lot.

Reaching 65 is weird. In the U.S., it is the age that you qualify for Medicare. (Since it is my birthday, I am going to give me the gift of using the F word  in this posting, please cover up your ears.) Medicare is the government provided health insurance program. Question: In this country that spends billions on building bombs, why can’t everyone have Medicare regardless of age? What the fuck is up with that? We can afford it.

Also, when you reach 65, and you’re still  employed, you realize how much the world has changed, especially due to technology. What the fuck is up with social media? So many people seem to be branding themselves, representing themselves like they are a fucking laundry soap or cereal. (By the way, I just ate a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I usually drive through Jack-in-the Box and get a breakfast sandwich on my way to work. I love them damn things. My goal – always have to have a goal- is to see how many days I can go without stopping at a fast food place. I am at 10 hours and 2 minutes so far, piece of cake. Speaking of cake, had some wonderful strawberry cake and ice cream this weekend  with my family to celebrate 65.) Here’s the deal, most of us, nearly all of us, are just trying to keep our craziness under control. We need one another, as much as we get sick of one another. The best moments in life is when you see the love someone has for you reflected in their eyes. Technology, computers, video games, social media, cable television, cell phones, all the rest of that shit is just interfering with those moments. You know what many, many, many young males – from 8 years old to 30 years old and beyond say is their life goal? It is to create their own video gaming channel on YouTube and get paid a “million dollars a year.” No shit. This technology is eating our fucking brains out. It also allows us to hide behind it, especially when in the midst strangers.

So you can see from this rambling that I indeed don’t handle these birthday milestones very well and my wife knew that would be the case. So for my birthday, among other things, she decided to make something I have said since she’s known me… a reality.

I said once, and many times since, that if I was fabulously wealthy, I would put on a new pair of socks every morning of my life. I LOVE the feeling of new socks when they go on my feet. I know, I know, it would not take an enormous leap of imagination to see some sexual Freudian thing going on here. I give you that, but honestly, it feels so good to put on new socks. So at my family birthday party this weekend my wife handed me a box and inside that box were 65 pairs of new socks and they were all in different colors and patterns. I usually wear just thick, solid colors, but she knows that besides turning 65 years old, I also hate the short days of winter. Yeah, it kind of depresses me. She said that I should put on a new pair socks for the next 65 days and I will get through the winter blahs. I have to admit, she got me. I am usually the crazy one in our relationship, but damn girl, (sounds like lyrics from a boy band) you did it, and you did it good. You got me. I was dumbfounded. I did ask, “I hope you got all of these at a steep discount.”

So I present to you my first pair of Happy Socks on this the first day of the rest of my life., as they say.  I hope you  are also surrounded by Crazy Love and you don’t have to be anything else but yourself, even on your grumpy days!  God Bless Ya! Thank you God for my life and all the wonderful blessings that are part of it. I am sorry I keep using the F word.

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Home

I have tried to write this particular blog post several times, but always quit after just a few keystrokes.

My father passed away, after a long and good life, a year ago last week. It rattled me. I have spent the past year dedicating some time to really thinking about what my religious beliefs are, even if I really had any. How could I respect science and logic, but yet acknowledge a deep sense of mystery with more than a few personal encounters with the unexplainable?

I have read many books this past year. I have read books on history, art, biographies, astrophysics,  meditation, human evolution, leadership, philosophy, saints and sinners. I have read biblical passages, sacred texts, and poetry. I even joined an online course made up of people of all faiths and no faith. I have stared quietly at mountains, oceans, rivers and streams. I have looked at stars and contemplated the desert. I have sat in solitude on the monastery  grounds of Cistercian monks. I have inhaled my breath slowly for 4 counts and exhaled for 4 counts. No shit, I have really done all of this.

From all this, I have developed a different perspective about God and yet it is a work in progress. However, I realize now that for most of my life I was taught ,and though even rebelliously, I eventually adopted the idea of a very small form of God. I saw God as a Being, when in fact I now believe that God is Being. God as Being is everywhere.

I started noticing this over the past year, wondering why nature often had this awe-inspiringly affect on me. Why did the color of flowers often stop me in my tracks? A few months ago, in an academic setting, I took a group of young adults to a spring at the base of a mountain. The spring grows quickly to a stream and eventually a major river. They all became very quiet and just stared at the water coming out of the mountain. They told me they felt something and with no prodding from me. I wondered why? What did they feel? I felt something too.

This week I got together with two of my oldest friends; we probably met when we were around five years old. We sat next to a large rock, under a tree, and talked, and laughed, and remembered, and quietly thought our thoughts. I felt God there, in those relationships, those precious relationships. So I felt God at the spring and I felt God among old friends.

I have felt Being when I enter Yosemite Valley, or look up at Mount Shasta, or climb along the rocks of Sedona. I now feel Being when the breeze blows across my face or the clouds change shapes. I feel Being when I look into my dogs eyes. I sense Being when I sit under a big oak tree.  When I hear family, friends, laugh … and cry, I feel Being. When a friend sings a song, like Amazing Grace or On My Side of the World, or My Revival, I feel Being.

I feel Being now when I read books about the Big Bang Theory, human evolution, and enlightenment, even in those intellectual endeavors. I feel Being when I have nothing but questions. I have learned you can have faith and questions at the same time. I think Buddhist call it the Beginner’s Mind. I now believe that we were created in the image and very likeness of God, which means God is  both within and without, up and down, here and there and yep, everywhere. I believe life is a gift and death is just invisible life. I believe God loves us. God understands our suffering because God has experienced suffering too. Even when we try to kill God, God says “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

In the end, it all means for me…be gentle with yourself and with others which just means be forgiving. Love yourself, for you are part of Being and love others for they are part of Being. We are sons and daughters of God, like Jesus said. Everyone, regardless of faith or no faith or “other” faith have a plate at God’s table, and there is absolutely nothing one can do to earn that place, just recognize and accept it. I think many understand this One Great Truth at the moment of their death which is why our last look is often so peaceful.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point. Christianity has both hindered my journey and helped it, but mostly hindered it to the point of severe depression. But other religions hinder and help and depress too in their own ways. And  religion-less hinders and helps and depress us too. Being is far, far bigger than any one set of rules and rituals.  Although Christianity is founded upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think Jesus had any goals of creating a new religion.

This blog has really kind of documented my journey over the past couple of years. When I started it, I had no idea I someday would be writing something like this. Yet, it feels like I am home with all of it. It feels more comfortable, like it has always been there. I am sure I’ll soon be dropping some more F bombs and being cynical and a bit mean again in the near future, but I have learned that I am not perfect and that is o.k. too.You can be yourself when home.

 

Tupperware Treachery

I had a hankering for banana pudding with Vanilla Wafers in it. It is one of favorite desserts, but I only eat it about once a year.

My daughter was coming up tonight to celebrate her birthday, so I thought maybe I would fancy it up some and add fresh strawberries to it. When I went to get a bowl to put it all together, my assistant chef suggested I use a Tupperware container so that I could put a lid on it. At first I thought that would look kind of tacky, but I saw the logic in it.

After dinner, we gathered around the table, sang Happy Birthday to my daughter, and my assistant chef brought out my Tupperware pudding and then next to it, she sat a little something she had planned for dessert…lesson learned. No more, “Let’s put it in Tupperware.”

Popeye

Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Looney Tunes, and all the cartoons associated with Rocky and Bulwinkle were my favorite shows as a young child. Eventually, I grew to appreciate any Hanna-Barbera cartoon, with a deep appreciation for the humor of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo along with the lessons of Fred Flinstone. Truth be known, I thought Barney’s wife, Mrs. Rubble was kind of hot. But, I share too much now.

Perhaps, Popeye was my very first hero. I couldn’t understand how Olive Oyl would keep falling for Bluto time and again.  I believed, I mean I really believed, in the supernatural restorative power of a can of spinach. One day, I finally convinced my grandfather to let me eat my own can of spinach. I was probably about three years old. He said that I wouldn’t like it. He proved to be a wise man. I took the can, and tried to throw the spinach back in my throat, the same way Popeye did when he got tired of getting his ass kicked by Bluto. I spit it all back out quicker than I threw it down the hatch. Outside of that puff of cigarette I tried when no one was looking, it was the worse thing I had ever tasted. I swore off canned spinach, and tobacco, for life. I was very disappointed in Popeye’s taste buds. I did, however, develop a fondness for Whimpy’s favorite food choice…the hamburger he would “Gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

There was one phrase Popeye would use consistently at the end of an episode, “I y’am what I y’am.” Like the taste of canned spinach, it has stayed with me. I wish I had understood its true meaning sooner because it’s as  powerful as his can of spinach. If I were to create my own church, it would be called The Church of the I Y’am What I Y’am.  You can spend so much of your life running away from your natural state, who you really are, in an attempt at impressing others or in an attempt to improve your self-esteem – impressing yourself.

I have spent the last couple of years thinking a lot about religion, God, spirituality,  and authenticity. I read many books by believers and non-believers.  I explored a lot of intellectual threads.  My grand conclusuion is that God, whatever name or title you want to use for the Great Mystery,… loves me. There is nothing I can do to earn that love. It is just there and I can recognize it now or at the moment of my death, but I will finally recognize it. And, perhaps more importantly, everyone around me is loved too. So, so simple and yet it has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand it. Why? Well, my traditional religious upbringing did not make it easy to believe in such a simple idea. That is not the only reason though. I think I spent too much time defending an ego. Important and as necessary as that might be at times, too much of a defensive nature can hide your true nature.

So Mr. Popeye, I salute you, sir. Not only are you a great father for swee’ pea, or the boy-kid as you  call him, but you gifted me with words of wisdom which I first heard, probably from my crib, “I y’am what I y’am” and “You are what You are” and that is simple and good, natural and mystical, sacred and holy.

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A good friend, who is not religious at all, felt an urge to record a cover of the old song. For me he captures much of what I just shared, in this blog, with the honesty of his vocals. He is not trying to be anything close to religious, pious, just sharing an idea, the wonderful possibilty of.. an Amazing Grace.

Quiet

When I was a little boy, one of my most comforting, secure moments in my life was when I was told it was time for bed AND then my parents and grandparents would sit around the kitchen table and play cards, usually pinochle.  I would lie in bed (it is lie not lay, right?) and listen to the most important adults in my life as they talked, laughed, and occassionally explained their unsuccessful card strategy to their partners.  There is something wonderful about resting knowing that people wiser, stronger were in charge of the night now. I could just close my eyes and listen and gently fall in sleep. I would surrender to the day’s anxieties and problems.

I am enrolled in a little online course through the Center for Action and Contemplation with what is really like a large book club and the book we are reading is The Immortal Diamond.  This is a nice fit as I continue to try to meditate for a few minutes everyday. Also, although based on the work of a Catholic priest, the book’s concepts are accessible to many faiths and at times for those without any religious belief.

With my meditation, of course, I can’t keep the squirrel quiet in my brain for very long, but I am learning to be more gentle with myself. (I have a theory that if I continue doing that… I will eventually end up being more gentle to those around me and I am certain they will declare, “Hallelujah” to the heavens for that!)

I do seem to have two minds, one which I call the squirrel (for now) and one that I am not totally familiar with but I experience it briefly, usually in a nature setting, and it is accompanied with a sense of awe. Beginning with meditation, and then slowing, quietly, simply, adding a reverent contemplation, I am hoping to add that sense of awe in other settings besides the Great Outdoors. Perhaps, there is also a Great Indoors?

During my brief mediation today, I tried to softy, gently, and lovingly tuck the “little boy” to sleep and let the wiser, deeper spirit have its time. But, as one of my favorite poets once wrote I have “miles to go before I sleep.” 

It Took Some Time

It has taken over 3 years of constant internal battles of self-judgement, but I might have finally found a peace about writing songs, singing, and recording them. My dragon was fierce and his fire has not been extinguished entirely, but I don’t need to have my sword drawn constantly right now.  The biggest reasons for my growth in this area has been the constant support of a very small group of friends on Soundcloud and my family’s willingness to allow me to take on a different role, singer-songwriter.  You know, it can be kind of embarrassing when our dearest ones try on radically different artistic clothing.  Thank you all very much.

I have written close to 50 songs, put 30 of them on two different cd’s, “Another Picture on the Wall” and “Songs from the Shed” and I am kicking around the idea of a 3rd cd, in which case I have recorded 4 songs already and it has the working title of “Squirrel Creek Road.”

This is the latest song that I’ve written and recorded with the help of some really good musicians from Chico, California, Nashville, and Brazil. It just amazes me how I can now work with people from all over this great big wonderful world.

This one is just me being a silly old romantic.

This one is based upon my father’s childhood as he was born at the start of the Great Depression. The family left Iowa in search of a better life in California. It was a struggle for many years. Poverty can leave scars.

Sometimes I like to write songs through other people’s eyes, even if I have to make those people up.

 

Meditating with the Squirrel

I have been trying, always trying, to improve my well-being, especially my health. Being overweight  doesn’t seem to bother my self esteem much anymore, but it does bother me in regards to nearly everything else. I kept most of the weight off that I lost in 2017, but didn’t lose anymore in 2018 … so far. As my physician told me once, “You aren’t going to win the swimming suit contest.”

I have been reading a book (always reading three books at a time) titled “The Healing Self” and just finished another book on meditation, “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book” and I thought maybe I would give the practice of meditation a go as part of a holistic approach to my eating-ism.

I have enjoyed the practice so far, first using guided meditations concentrating on the breath and now considering the possibility of adding a contemplative prayer to it as I also continue to seek a genuine faith.  At work (I work at a university), I try to take a break and sit by a little creek that runs through our campus. The trees and other vegatation provides semi-secluded areas to sit. I have worked on this campus for quite awhile now, so a lot of people know me, or of me, and I feel a little self conscious sometimes just closing my eyes while sitting by the creek.

Today, I decided to keep my eyes softly focused upon the running water as it ran over and by the rocks in the middle of the stream. It was really easy to just focus on the water as it passed by, a constant flow, and I found it to be  a good example of just letting the thoughts drift by without attaching anything to them and then returning to the quiet, calmer places in the stream. It was nice…and then I saw a squirel on the opposing bank.

The squirrel was doing what squirrels do. It was gathering, scurrying, darting, climbing, digging. I thought, “Wow, look at the other me.” My thoughts always in motion – ideas, fears, plans. Usually I would be a little negative on myself when I see such a gap in where I am and where I want to be, but not this time. The squirrel was actually fun to watch and I admired its dedication in preparing for a long winter.

Just then a bluejay flew by and landed in a bush close to me. It had an acorn in its beak and looked to be hiding it in the bush, kind of an acorn bank I guess. It kind of reinforced the actions of the squirrel. It is ok to be a squirrel, it is ok to act like a bluejay, just don’t forget about the lessons of the creek either.

With that I went ahead and closed my eyes and spent a few more minutes by the creek, not caring if anyone saw me or not… and I just breathed. When I opened my eyes, the squirrel was gone, the bird was gone, and the tightness in my shoulders was gone too.

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