Random Friday Night Stuff

My goal was to read 20 books in 2018. They all burned up, but here is what I read (in reverse order):

  1. The Presence of God (Brother Lawrence)
  2. In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoirs by Paul Quentin
  3. Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us by Dan Lyons
  4. Living with the Monks: What Turning Off my Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude and Focus by Jesse Itzler
  5. Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr
  6. Eternal Diamond: The Search for our True Self by Richard Rohr
  7. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
  8. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
  9. Alou: My Baseball Journey by Peter Kerasotis
  10. The Healing Self: A Revolutionary Plan for Wholeness in Mind, Body, and Spirit by Deepak Chopra
  11. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
  12. Meditation for Figety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How To Book by Dan Harris
  13. The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry
  14. Hombre by Elmore Leonard
  15. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  16. 12 Rules for Life:An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
  17. All They Will Call You by Tim Hernandez
  18. Meditation is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why it is so Important by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  19. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcedence by Michael Pollan
  20. The Outsider by Stephen King
  21. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
  22. The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations by John McCain
  23. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams
  24. Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hilburn
  25. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  26. Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert Parker
  27. Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard
  28. The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald
  29. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  30. What Am I Living For: Lessons from the Life and Writings of Thomas Merton
  31. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  32. The Judas Goat by Robert Parker
  33. Pursuit: A Fox Walker Novel by Indy Quillen
  34. Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  35. Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard
  36. I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson
  37. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  38. The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

I also had a goal of playing golf 20 times and fishing 20 times. I read too many books; only fished 7 times and played golf 8 times.

Attended a wonderful concert by LeAnn Rimes this week. I splurged and got seats about 8 feet from her. It got weird though. I was tired after working all day, and still sleeping very poorly after the fire, and she was a bundle of energy, positivism and, wow, so much talent. Sitting that close, I was concerned that my tired body language might upset her rhythm, so I kept trying to smile whenever she’d looked my way. Now I am not a natural smiler, so I had this series, I am sure of, stupid looking and probably really creepy grins on my face for 2 hours. Lesson learned: Sit further back (and save some money.) But, I highly recommend seeing this incredible warm-hearted and supremely talented artist in person.  I would rate the show up there with the Three Dog Night concert we went to in 1973. I was tired that night too.

Conversation between two of my grandchildren this week:

Grandson (12 years old) To his 8 year old female cousin): “When I die, I want my ashes to be shot up into space!” (tenderly) “It will be a long time from now, but where would you like your ashes to be spread?”  (I know this is a really weird conversation for children to be having!)

Granddaughter ( 8 years old and rather spunky): ” Just throw them on somebody I don’t like.”


Small Spaces

First let me share just a few photos of our recent and first trip back to our home in Paradise, California. Driving through our town was beyond words. I told a friend that they should rename the town to Holy Shit because that is what I said a lot as we drove through the disaster on the way to our home.

Just for comparison, here are a few “before” photos.

The difference is heartbreaking, but….

… I continue to learn much from this experience.

As I write this I am sitting in this area in our travel trailer.

It is small and beautiful. Our soul supporting dog, Gracie is sleeping into a winter’s night.

And in the other corner is this little joy.

Christmas was a big thing in our old home. I would put up an elaborate Christmas town that I had collected through the years. The grandchildren would move the people throughout the town and their wonderful imagination would take over. We also often had more than one Christmas trees, sometimes three. The tree was decorated with ornaments that each told a story. Some were handmade by my children and grandmother. I miss that tradition. Still…

… my sister-in-law brought some Christmas ornaments to us this past weekend. A friend of hers had lost TWO houses in different California fires. She has a daughter with autism and her daughter makes ornaments. She gave my sister-in-law a bag of ornaments and said, “Take these to the people in Paradise.” They now hang on our small tree in our small space.

There is a small space within each of these ornaments. It finally dawned on me. I have been looking at big spaces for so long, I’ve forgotten the beauty of the small spaces in our lives. There are small spaces- mentally, physically, and spiritually spaces- available to me everyday. As I move forward, eventually to larger spaces, those lovely homemade ornaments will remind me every year to recognize the sacred of those small spaces.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, when I say Merry Christmas, I am just saying “Love to you and yours and wishes of peace and joy.” That sacred small space belongs to us all.

The Star

Last year four of us wrote an original Christmas song. I wanted to do something like that again this year, but the Paradise fire kind of made that very difficult. Still my dear Soundcloud friend, Chuck Aaron, took upon himself to keep the project moving forward. Chuck wrote the first verse and the chorus and I wrote the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th verses. Another dear friend, Lawrence Farr from Australia, sang the 3rd verse and Josh McAlexander sang the 2nd verse. Chuck is singing the 1st verse and I am singing the 4th verse. I was struck with how sad my voice sounded , but it is what it is, as they say around here…way too much, I should add. I am also adding last year’s collaboration effort with Mark Mayes from England singing/writing. Mark is such a supportive person. I enjoy his heart and humor very much. Finally, I am adding some Christmas songs I wrote and recorded. I hope you all are well.

With gratitude from Paradise, California.


Who Knows Why

Just before the Paradise fire burned up our house – (notice I didn’t say ‘home’ as I am learning a home comes from the spirits of those living in a house. If those spirits are alive, so is the home, regardless of location.)- I was reading an interesting book, written by Richard Rohr, a interesting person himself , about St. Francis of Assisi and his equally fascinating partner, St. Clare.

The author joked several times about looking beyond the birdbath when studying St. Francis. Personally I have always been attracted to concrete garden statues of St. Francis, even when I was a child and I had no knowledge of St. Francis. I loved his statues. Why? Who knows why.

So next to our driveway, we had a nice little flower garden with a waterfall we built from our own rock collecting. And, naturally we had a statue of St. Francis in the thick of it all. Take a look. If you can enlarge the picture, I think you will see St. Francis in the middle of it all.

We haven’t been allowed back into our town, but a military friend sent this picture below. The fence burned down and my now burned up work truck which was behind the fence, by the vanished chicken coop, is visible. If you can enlarge the photo, you’ll see that St. Francis still is watching over it all. Also, you’ll notice two cheap plastic chairs that broke and I was going to discard them. Yep, they survived just fine.

So here I was learning all about St. Francis and his likeness survived…along with kind of ugly plastic outdoor chairs.

Why? Who knows why.

Thank You

On occasion I will write and record some music. Sometimes I just record quickly on my cell phone, other times I will record multiple tracks on a computer. The songs range from spiritual to darn right near disgusting, but authentic for certain.

I find that when I feel inspired to blog, I usually don’t have much inspiration for writing music. During low-inspired music periods, I like to collaborate with others on Soundcloud.

At this moment, inspiration is low in both creative areas, so maybe I should join a gym and start working out again. (The ones in Paradise burned down.) Until then, here are a few songs and short explanations from the more than 40 songs I have on Soundcloud. (Sharing my songs and singing was another three year journey of getting over the fear of looking foolish.)

This one is about thanking all the people whose love is directly connected to action.

This one was written by 4 of us in different parts of the world.

This was written a few days before my father passed away. I miss him dearly. He was strong.

This one was inspired by the simple joy of hearing a child create his own music.

And, this one is from my 2nd cd, as I was trying to stretch my songwriting. Thank you all for such wonderful, kind, and wise words in your recent comments.


Sitting next to my daughter’s house in our new trailer, the one we just got after the fire, I read this wonderful blog. I shook my head in amazement and just smiled.  I think you too will enjoy reading it. I hope I posted this correctly. Not too familiar with the phone app and WordPress!   via Family

Sitting In An Empty Diner

Sleeping has become an issue of late. Dreams of constant deaths, usually murders including my own, are common now. I thought you weren’t supposed to die in your dreams?

As a result, I don’t look forward to evenings and very much look forward to mornings – which brings me to this empty diner so early in the morning. Just me and a waitress who is way too old to have to get up so early in the morning in hopes of receiving good tips in an empty diner. I feel sorry for her. I shall tip her well as I got a bargain on the senior special.

Detachment. It is something I have read much about, but really never understood until nearly every item I was attached to was burned up. I thought I understood, but now I know how little I really did. I have a dear friend who donated one of her kidneys this summer to a very ill friend. I think she understands detachment.

Here is one thing I have learned about detachment…photos and items that stir our memories about people and places and times – they sometimes interfere with us recognizing the true spirit of those people, places, and times. Lately, since losing all of that, I have experienced a much deeper sense of the spirit that lies beneath all the physicality those photos and items capture. I don’t think of my grandfather holding my baby daughter in that old lost photo in the same way … as a precious captured moment. I now recognize the immense connection of two souls, one getting ready to end their journey on this earth and the other one just beginning theirs. I never contemplated that until thinking back on that lost photograph.

This forced detachment is not easy and it is nothing I would wish upon anybody. It does however offer an opportunity to be more aware, more present. Yesterday as I was walking to get a cup of coffee, I saw three leaves fall from a tree. They fluttered, each taking their own path to their final destination – the earth, to be part of an never ending cycle of renewal – but they also danced with one another on the way down. I smiled. I am not a smile-er. Yet, I smiled at the utter joyful detachment of those leaves.

Well, I have eaten my scrambled eggs and one slice of French toast. Time to tip this vibrant, hardworking waitress and go out and see the sunrise.

God bless you.


Jumbled Thoughts

It has been two weeks and one day since the fire changed our lives. Thinking clearly has become, increasingly, a problem. So let me just write some jumbled thoughts and like a jigsaw puzzle, maybe you can put the puzzle together.

Speaking of jigsaw puzzles, every year on this day as far as I can remember I started a Christmas theme puzzle. Not this year. I can’t concentrate and the idea of dumping 1000 pieces on a table is too much for me.

Also, on this day as long as I can remember, we put up our Christmas tree. It usually involved a discussion regarding why the Christmas tree lights were just tossed back into the box creating the annual rat’s nest comments. Also, invariably, whatever side of the tree was most visible was not the fullest side and required debate and adjustments. Not this year.

I did run down to my favorite mandarin farm, or is it called a ranch, and purchased 50 lbs of satsuma mandarins today. Been doing that for 25 years.

We are purchasing a travel trailer. It is nice and big, still I almost threw up when I realized what our new home would be for quite awhile. Can you be grateful and pissed at the same time?

I lost hundreds of books. I read 36 books this year alone. I wasn’t going to purchase any new ones because of the lack of space, but I love books and I love all the things that they represent, both from the writer’s and readers’ perspectives. So, I bought my first book, it a monk’s memoir of 6 decades of cloistered living. He loves music, so do I. Today I have been listening to Shubert’s symphonies. Glorious.

What is the opposite of blessings? Whatever it is, it sure makes you appreciate all your blessings. Sometimes you just have to open your heart and love and forgive those who have hurt you the worse in life, even if they don’t ask or acknowledge their role. Of course for me, that grace is usually delayed some. My initial reaction is to tell them to “Fuck off ”

I sometimes wonder how many I have hurt without knowing the pain I have caused? This makes me feel very bad. I am so sorry. I can be such an idiot.

You know what really makes me feel sad…how religion has been dominated by egotistical powerbrokers who reject the role of science and alternative paths to the sacred. So many of my friends reject the possibility of their spiritual nature, they are through with the judgement and hypocrisy of formalized religion. I now consider myself a religion-less Christian, a term I read in one of Richard Rohr’s books, yeah it burned up too. I relate so well with my faith-less friends. I get it.

Lastly, I have to type this with a thumb on a cellphone. Combined with poor eyesight I must have many typos (thumbos) and other grammar violations, but that kind of fits the title.

Here is a great big hug. Pray for Paradise and beyond.

I Want My Way

I lived in a house, no let me start over. I lived in a home that echoed with 30 years worth of our laughter, sweat, anxiety, celebrations, arguments, prayers, tears, Easter egg hunts, middle of the night conversations, daughters’ boyfriends I did not approve of, memories initiated from old photos, music, and hundreds of birthday candles being blown out just after a personal wish that was never, ever shared but always well contemplated before being chosen.

A fire swept through that home 12 days ago and now those echoes have been turned to ashes and blown miles from Paradise California. Perhaps some will eventually mingle with the echoes of your life and loves.

I want to go home. I want all those things back. I want thousands of people’s sufferings to be reversed. I want to wake up from the nightmare. Just like that toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the isle in the store, I want my way.

In the early morning darkness of this hotel in Oregon, where we went to look for a tiny little home on wheels and I write this blog, a faint voice can be heard somewhere between my head and my heart, “This is your way, Gary. This is the unique path you must walk during this portion of your life on earth.”

I guess I got my way and I don’t get to see around the corner until I get there. I know that some time around Easter, the land that supported our home will begin gently allowing new life to sprout…daffodils, irises and tulips. The transformation through the resurrection, maybe that is the ultimate way for all of us. Of course, that would require a death of some type, a dark and cold winter, the loss of personal control, the loss of the little, toddler-like “my way” to be replaced with a deeper and much more important, transformed My Way.

Most of us want to run and vacation on some tropical paradise island during the cold winter months. Here in America, millions of “snow birds” we call them head for the deserts of Arizona and California during the winter. Some “flock” to Florida. However, when we face our emotional and spiritual winters, that is not usually an option. It is not part of the My Way. My Way requires facing the suffering while barely being able to hold onto a few threads of hope or faith. It is kind of mystical actually in that it is connected to a mystery. And, that is what the deeper, larger My Way is really all about…a pathway into the Mystery, I think.

Thank you Father, for all those wonderful echoes that now are the sign posts into the Mystery. This isn’t easy. I have tears in my eyes as I write this and those threads of faith are quite thin right now. Yet, past echoes and new echoes of love, like an eternal fog horn, seem to be saying, “Keep moving forward. You and yours are on My Way.”

We all have My Ways. I pray for you as you walk yours. We’ll get there, wherever there is.

Sock #2 of #65


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.