This and That

Appearance… I have noticed that I am starting to resemble the artwork in museums…

Milestones…. As you get older you have certain things that happen which are sure indicators that you are moving into a new phase of your life. For example, in my late forties, early fifties, my children all got together and gave me a gift on Father’s Day.  It was a tree. When you receive a tree as a gift, you know people are thinking about how nice it will be to have something still growing once you’re gone…a legacy of your existence. When I got it, I thought, “Ah, shit, I’m going to  die someday.”

Another milestone is your first colonoscopy.  I don’t even want to talk about that day except to say that they didn’t give me enough “stuff” to really knock me out and I could fill some discomfort as they tried to get the scope to  go around a difficult bend in my ole racetrack.

And, today, I  experienced a new milestone in my life. I was sitting in my office, door open, and reached over to get my cellphone as it  was charging against the wall.  It was quite a stretch and my office chair tipped completely over…and I fell to the floor. Students and office mates came running in to “very gently” help me off the floor with deep compassion and pity in their eyes – for the old man on the floor. They looked like they were  going to call 911, or perhaps, even arrange for hospice care. Yep, a new milestone in my life.

Landscaping Update…a very shaky video that updates our progress with our landscaping project:


And So I Grew a Beard

When my father passed away , I was lost. I was lost in the way that a familiar star was no longer in my nightly sky. I expressed some emotion, but not nearly as much as I was feeling nor as often.

So what should one do with that pent up emotion? I decided, without a great amount of analysis, that I would just let my beard grow.  For how long? I don’t know, probably not for a real long time – certainly not until Christmas because with a white beard and a protruding belly, well you know what I am getting at. Nobody wants to be sitting down at the shopping mall and have some young child run up to you and say, ” Mommy, Mommy, it’s Santa Claus.”

I have to admit though, the beard is emotionally working for me. I often find myself tugging on it and immediately begin thinking about my father. And, it is wonderful to stroke it while pondering decisions at work. It is a wisdom beard.

I am getting a lot of comments about it from people I work around. They try to be nice, but I can read between the lines. “Oh…oh…I see you’ve let your beard grow out….I…I…like…it.” That is not their true feelings. Maybe they should grow a beard too to get in touch with their true feelings. Just an idea.

Anyway, yes I look 110 years old now and sometimes that is what I feel emotionally, so that is o.k.. Plus, I know that when I do shave it off, people will say, “Hey you look great.” I will be able to say, “I feel great.”


That was great lunch we had Dad. We parked along an old and little used road in the Sierra Nevada mountains, looked down on Donner Lake and ate what you kept saying was “a great hamburger.” I miss you. We miss you.


Tears in my Beard


A New Project

That time of the year…for dreaming about spring. We’ve decided our deck needs some help after 20 years or so. We are going replace it with a patio that will be ground level. I’ll post some videos along the way. (Probably should have hired people who are younger and stronger and more flexible-but that would make me smart.)


(David, thanks for telling me about the wrong youtube address. I corrected it!)


The Doubter’s Journey

I am a doubter, unfortunately, of just about everything. This creates problems and a boatload of inconsistencies in my life.

For example, I have always admired, from a good arm’s length away, those individuals who are extremely confident in their religious beliefs. I think to myself (Who else could I think to? If I think to you, I deeply apologize.) it must be nice to have such certainty in your life, to be so assured of the un-seeable, the untouchable, the unknowable, the un-smellable. Let’s just call it the UN. They don’t have to spend all the time that I do with doubts.

Then I come across others who seem so super smart, big brains, for sure, who have come to opposite conclusions about life. They are mesmerizing with their scientific and logical conclusions regarding things such as the development of human sapiens. I read with amazement when they describe how chimpanzees and human sapiens shared the same grandmother… millions of years ago. These experts don’t deal in the UN, only the Non UN. I admire them too.

However, both of these kind of super confident people make me feel sad and empty. The logic of the super confident religious individual often makes me shake my head and say, “Oh come on now. That’s crazy thinking.” UN can’t be like that.  And besides, I need more love in my life than that particular ology or ism seems to have available for me.”

Yet, after spending a few hours with the Non UN ones, I begin feeling hopeless. I need meaning in my life. The Non UN ones take that out of my life. If Monkey Grandmother is really climbing about my family tree, do I even have a spirit? Dear UN, I must have a spirit. I am an empty vessel without it. Take me to the zoo, lock me up and let my cousins the orangutans have their way with me. They are better animals than I am.

I have to have meaning in my life. I can’t live without it. That sense of meaning must be bigger, much bigger, than me. I must have hope. Which means I must have faith. Which means I am leaning toward the UN, but feel compelled to keep listening to the Non UN ones too. (I actually like them more, to be honest about it.)

Dear Un,

I don’t understand anything about the great Mystery of UN except it seems to silently call me. I can hear it, faintly at times, but it always stays UN to me. I think I saw it in a baby’s eyes once, but who knows? I thought I felt it under a waterfall once, but who knows? I never feel it anymore in religion. In science, I feel only loneliness. In dark stillness, I sit and wonder about UN…and then I get sleepy.

But, I need meaning for my life. I simply can’t believe I live and then I die. If this is so, bad form I say. Way too much sadness in that scenario. I must believe, in some way, some how, I am connected to UN…my life depends on it.


The Doubter



Licks and Riffs

Lately I have been listening to music and reading books…a lot. The early darkness of winter combined with an avoidance of American television news programs, my main viewing habit, requires that I alter my activities a bit.  Also, I have been reading a lot more because Stephen King wrote, in his book I just read – “On Writing” – that writers should always read. Now, I don’t know if I am a writer or not. The process of writing is painful to me, but I  am trying to find out as I consider the next phase of my life…assuming it has some length to it.

In all of this listening and reading, I have noticed some commonality. In particular, the relationship between professionalship and the final work. In music, I noticed that often the musicianship of the artist overwhelms the message of the artist. Superb guitar players seem to risk demonstrating their skill set, their “licks,” at the expense of the listener’s experience. I think that might be part of the genius of the Rolling Stones, their riffs complemented their songs. Musically, the Stones’ riffs are not extremely complicated, but are so memorable.  They can even uniquely identify a particular time or era in your life when you first heard their riffs. The Stones remind us that just because you can play it doesn’t mean you should play it.

Vocal harmonies also can be too complicated, even if musically correct. It can begin sounding like noise, drowning out the melody.  The best examples of harmonies that enhance songs come from the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkle, and the Beach Boys. With the Beach Boys, I think The Sloop of John B. and Good Vibrations are the best examples of harmonies that are, like Goldilocks said, “Just right.”

Novelists also let their abilities overtake the story. Some are so gifted with language skills that their riffs get in the way of the story. Elmore Leonard, the author of “Get Shorty” among so many other great mystery and western novels, wrote directly into the action of the story, not a word wasted. In doing so, his stories are fast paced and so is the reading of them. They are highly entertaining. Stephen King stories, although not stripped down like Elmore’s are, also avoids unnecessary complicated grammatical licks. I think Charles Dickens, particular for his era, focused on the story too… and they live on.

Another art form that wouldn’t often come to mind in this discussion is photography. Some photographers seem to have the eye to capture the essence of and all  the potential of the subject. There are licks and riffs within the captured image, but only as they support the subject matter. I don’t know how they do this, but Suzy Haywood is one of those that does know how.

In American politics, and one reason I had to cut back on watching the so-called news, is that the entire message is nothing but licks and riffs. There is no melody. The melody is where one compromises, choosing one note over the other, in an effort to create a listenable, and perhaps enjoyable, melody. American politics seems to have no room for compromise and in that void, we can’t create a national melody.

If I ever do decide to write the great American novel, I think it would serve me well to keep these lessons in mind. It is the melody that touches the heart. The licks and riffs should only support the melody.

I, Therefore, Resolve…

First day of 2018 means two things to me: clean out some corners and consider becoming a more successful human.  We’ll start with the corners first.

Since all our children moved out years ago, we have a couple of extra rooms. One room actually has two names, for some time now it has been called the “beach room” because it was once decorated in a manner that reminded some of a beach hut, a light, airy and sunny room.

“Where are the scissors?” “They’re in the beach room.”

However, before that title, it was and still sometimes referred to as, the “warm room.” We live in an old house with an oddly engineered heating system. During the winter, the living room, dining room, kitchen and back bedroom gets cold and the central heating system just doesn’t do a very good job of evenly dispersing the heat. But, in the “warm room” you could walk around naked in the coldest day of winter and still be warm. However, step out into the hallway and you might instantly get icicles on your private parts.

The other extra room is my pay the bills and make music room and toss anything that doesn’t have its own place into it room, usually called, “Gary’s room.” Books, guitars including a 6 string, 12 string, electric, and bass, soap making supplies, photo albums, golf stuff, hats, coats, drums, cds, vinyl albums, maps, ironing board, two keyboards, 6 harmonicas, 2 drums, old family dishes, summer clothes, winter clothes, shoes, sandals, slippers, boots, photo albums, medical testing equipment, mandolin, drawing instruments, sunglasses, hats of all sorts, belts and about 50 other items all reside in “Gary’s room.” Obviously when guests are over, we try to keep that room closed – which is not easy because the door nob decided that 64 years is long enough to work properly.  Every two weeks I do a superficial cleanup, which means I move shit from one place in the room to another place in the room.  Today, however, it was different though. I initiated a complete relocation project.

Downstairs we have a basement room with no formal ceiling, so we call it the “cabin.” Occasionally friends come over and we play poker in the cabin. Lately we’ve been going to junk stores and finding tables, writing desks, and other used stuff for the cabin. The “cabin” also has a little wood stove in it. There is some exercise equipment in the cabin too that for some reason looks brand new from lack of use. But, like I said it is the first day of 2018 and time for those resolutions! The cabin is now the new location for much of the clutter from “Gary’s room” with the assistance of a bookcase I forgot we owned that was in the corner of a cluttered garage. (God, I am a pig.)

As I was de-cluttering “Gary’s room” to clutter the cabin, I started thinking what my resolutions might be when I ran across a little book I read some time ago, “Finite and Infinite Games” by James Carse. It was really quite an interesting book, but at the time I read it, I was conflicted with Carse’s message and my religious upbringing. Now Mr. Carse is a gazillion times smarter than I am and sometimes he lost me with his ideas, but in a nutshell he suggests that finite games, the ones that are over once a winner is declared are far less interesting than infinite games. Think office politics, or hell, any kind of politics. Infinite games are played for the sheer joy of it. There is no beginning and no end. Very few of us live with an infinite game mindset.

As I looked at that little book in my hand, I started wondering about my New Years’ Resolutions. They were going to be the following:

  1. Go fishing at least 20 times in 2018. (Which I guess is kind of a lousy goal if you happen to be a fish.)
  2. Read at least 20 books in 2018. I enjoy big historical biographies, so I might have to change it up some or I will only get 3 books read.
  3. Play 20 rounds of golf in 2018.
  4. Fuck the weight problem.

However, then I thought, “These are really finite goals. Who cares if I read 20 books, play golf 20 times, and go fishing  1.6666666667 times a month? Will I be happier? Will I be more successful? What am I really trying to do? Am I just just moving shit from one spot to another, but the room is still a mess in 48 hours?” (I know, I know, isn’t it strange how I tie such disparate ideas together such as a cluttered room and resolutions?)

You know I write songs, right? Maybe you don’t know that I earned a Master’s Degree in Accountancy a long time ago too. Kind of a weird combo. My brain loves numbers that provide a finite answer and in accounting that answer must be in balance… good old debits and credits. Perfect. However this obsession with numbers gets in the way with my music and yet pleases me so much too, like the “warm room” on the winter solstice.  Soundcloud, that platform I post my music on, is a great little accountant – it keeps track of lots of numbers regarding my songs…and it ruins them too. One day, nobody in the entire world, listened to a single song of mine and oddly, it felt really good. It felt liberating to just put your creative ideas out there and know that nobody had an opinion about them.  It felt infinite and that feeling came from a different place than the finite feeling I get with all the data collected regarding my music. It isn’t just music I have this finite problem with. If I plant tomatoes, I plant 60 plants. Why? I don’t know, 59 just didn’t feel right. I could go on and on with my issues with the finite. The other day I had two wrist watches on. Don’t even get me started about Fantasy Football, it is damn finite orgy.

So what should I do about those New Year’s resolutions? I think in 2018 I am just going to try to stop focusing so much on the attributes and the traits and the numbers and the finality of a “human being” and be more aware of the “being” part.  Yes, let’s go fishing, not as an accomplishment, but being part of the infinite. (I do catch and release. Well, I used to anyway. I didn’t go fishing once last year.) Let’s read, not to reach a finite number of books read, but for the infinite that is shared in biographies and amazing stories of imagination. (By the way, I am going to hold Goodreads partially responsible due to their annual reading goals.) Play golf, not to concentrate on the silly little series of numbers which usually add up to over a 100, but to be outdoors with gratitude.

Enough about me. May your 2018 be a year of infinite possibilities. I hope you have a joyful, loving, healthy year.