Friday, January 23, 2009

Reflections of Great Gigs, Volume I

It must have been 4 or 5 years ago at least.

I popped into 3G's in Worcester, slightly concerned that I had forgotten to wear a flak jacket that evening. The host of the show, Andy Paquette, was there along with someone or two I can't recall and Vince Golden.

If you don't know Vince, he started comedy years ago, opening for George Burns in the 1850s and later taking Charlie Chaplin under his wing, and is still around today. He is known for a bit where he hurls himself over a railing or some other object, flipping himself onto the floor.

The 3G's bar area was about 1/2 full, most of the patrons watching TV. The other side of the place had a small stage. Vince was on before me, and always sets an example, leaving it all out there, holding nothing back. This man gives the same gusto each performance, regardless of crowd size.

Four people were watching the show, which did not stop Vince from the full performance, hurling himself over a bar stool onto his back with his usual full vigor.

While waiting to do my set, the unfortunate need to take a dump struck. There was no stall for the toilet, and the door didn't quite shut all the way. (Andy informed today this is still the case.) I roamed a block or so down the street to Stoney's Pub and was able to use the facilities there.

Upon returning, I was up there riffing on the place, unsure whether I was bombing in front of 3 people, or 4. One of the patrons had passed. Since he was technically unconscious before I hit the stage, I wasn't sure whether or not he counted? After sharing that thought, I made an off the cuff comment about the vibrant fishing industry in Worcester keeping Gazo's bait shop afloat, the only business I recognized in the decimated city from when I was a youth.) I then asked if anyone knew exactly how many bodies were buried in the back of Gazo's, finally getting attention of the bar folks, who uttered a shocked, "oooooh", which I took as confirmation of the presence of the aforementioned bodies.

The only guy in the entire joint laughing was Andy, the host. he was losing it and really cracking up. I would have had more fun myself were I not concerned with being stabbed en route to my car after this set.

Were it not for places like this and guys like Andy who open rooms so new comics can get stage time, I never would have had the success I did manage to have. I don;t remember that many of the highlights... a few maybe, but shows like this always stick out in my mind.

There is some sort of open mic still running there, and I may drop in to remind myself why I love comedy, and why I hate comedy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Surreal Day

The inauguration was almost surreal. I wasn't sure it was really happening. I almost felt like i was in the Matrix, and was going to wake up to find none of it really happened. We didn't really have a black president. We hadn't really rejected the status quo and thrown our hats into the ring and taken a real chance.

All day long I heard on the radio how people thought the speech was okay, but not one of his better speeches.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

He said everything that needed to be said, and nothing that didn't. I listened in disbelief as one talk show host said there were no great one liners like JFK's now famous "Ask not what your country can do for you" quote.

That's what I liked best about the speech. It wasn't designed or written for sound bites, but for a message outlining the mission ahead of us. It wasn't in a tone of a self-congratulation, of mission accomplished or of arrival, but a call to muster stations.

And if you needed a soundbite, I am fond of the invitation to hostile/difficult nations, nations with perhaps despotic leadership that "we will extend a hand, if you unclench your fist."

Democrat or Republican, black, white or purple, married or single, we must get together or perish. That much seems pretty clear.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tool Academy

I got an email from my brother-in-law, whose first language is German, or perhaps it was my sister, I'm not really sure, asking me "Korte, what is a tool?"

A tool, basically, is a guy who is cool- in his own mind. The world can see that he is a self-absorbed clown with delusions of grandeur, but to him, the fantasy he has of himself is real. He likes to hear himself talk, generally about nothing, or if about something, with a cluelessness of the topic or of reality in general that boggles the mind.

"Tool" is also slang for a particular male body part, which is probably not a coincidence.

Take the new reality show "Tool Academy" as a frame of reference. There is an assemblage of various "kinds" of tools. Jason- the skinny tool. Tommy- the "slacker tool" lives with his girlfriend off her child welfare checks, There is "power tool" who is always showing off physical strength by whipping his girlfriend around in the air, the "loudmouth tool" and so on, Matsu-something-or-other who can't keep his clothes on, hence the "naked tool" moniker.

Generally, I loathe reality TV, and well, yeah, I kinda loathe Tool Academy. But after watching the first two episodes, I am reeled in like I'm witnessing a car crash from which I simply can not turn away.

After recommending the show to a female friend, I was informed that it was "too painful" for her to watch, as she sees so many hapless , clueless girls (like the women on the show) who continue to put themselves in league with imbeciles like the tools on the show.

She said to me, "it is kind of funny at first, until you want to jump through the screen and yell at the girls, "What are you DOING with this ASSHOLE? Start worrying about why you want to be with this loser, and stop putting all your energy into changing him."

I see her point, it is painful to watch unfold. While I agree wholeheartedly with her assessment of the situation, I doubt there's going to be any encouragement of introspection for the ladies. The total focus seems to be on the guys and what colossal idiots they are.

The premise is somewhat evil genius. Nine guys arrive via bus to this mansion where electronic signs abound, shining "MR AWESOME!" into the night. Yes, the guys think they are competing for the title of "Mr. Awesome", America's number one alpha male.

Perhaps the coup de gras of each episode is the end, when the "Tool Badges" are handed out. Of course, one of the tools is going to get a badge, and is instead going to be bounced from the show, not without ceremony. The girls will be focused on with closeups, as they hope against hope it isn't their tool who is given the gate, the slim hope for their flagging relationship is on the line here.

The real hidden gem here is that the host of the show is perhaps the biggest tool of all. He smugly condescends to these por shmucks throughout the show, and at the crescendo of each episode, declares the soon-to-be-exiting contestant to be "just a tool".

Of course, the host is the least repentant style of tool, the "I am better than you" type.

In episode one, the lads, (most of whom look like they spend a great deal of time staying in shape,) are led to a runway styled stage and dance down the runway to the cheers of screaming women. These clowns really ham it up, from obnoxious pelvic-thrust style dancing to talking smack into a microphone. My favorite moment is when "Tommy", the "slacker tool" comes out spinning a basketball on his finger and says, "I get it done ON the court, and OFF the court" then proceeds to take one dribble, which goes awry and biffs one of the cheering girls off the head.

I immediately thought, "now there's a tool for ya- he can spin a basketball, but he can't even dribble."

To put that in perspective, I played four or five hours of basketball most days of my life between the ages of 13 and 17, then played constantly for another 6 or 7 years, and I could never spin a basketball. It takes time, effort and skill to spin a basketball. Since there is no real practical use for it in the game of basketball, I never learned to do it. Dribbling, however, comes naturally. You learn it instinctively just by walking around with a ball, by playing.

This goofball had to have spent countless hours learning to spin a ball for show, but he can't dribble one dribble without beaning some unsuspecting bystander off the noggin? That's a tool for ya- all show, no game.

I got into a bit of trouble with Tina last night after sticking up for Sean. "I can't believe your sticking up for him," she said, retiring after 10 minutes of the show.

Sean has had two girlfriends for the last three years or so, which we just discovered (and they discovered) in last night's episode.

To me, this guy is a classic example of the difference between selfishness and evil. Some of the other guys strategically cheat on their partners. This guy is just so self-absorbed, and obsessed with the delusion that getting his way all the time and getting what he wants is the key to happiness. Last week, he matter-of-factly stated that he "seems to feel better when he has multiple girls" hanging around to date than just one.

He is oblivious to why that is, of course, assuming it is the natural order of things- more makes you feel better, right?

In our culture, it is almost impossible not to believe that. It is shoved down our throats every minute of every day. He has no clue as to why he feels this way, no idea what his gluttony is covering up.

What I like about this guy is that I think it is possible that he could see that he is missing the point entirely. When confronted with the two women, there was a moment of clarity, when he just threw in the towel and stopped lying. He bluntly stated how he got himself (and the women) into this situation and seemed to have a genuine moment of anguish and pain when he saw how much suffering he caused the girls. I thought he was having a fleeting moment of clarity, after which he bluntly stated with what seemed to me to be genuine regret, "I hope I don;t get kicked off the show. I need to stay here. I am obviously the biggest tool here."

Tina thought he was just feeling guilty, and maybe that's true. But I recalled a similar situation in my own, one which I consider a very powerful spiritual experience.

I was a few months sober, and writing some personal, "spiritual inventory" when I realized that women were nothing more to me than emotional, mental, and spiritual Tylenol.. pain killers for alcoholism and how I felt inside my heart and mind. Ego boosters and pain masks without which I may had skipped in front of a fast moving vehicle a thousand times over.

That moment triggered a shift in awareness and thinking for me. I would go forward from there and write a thorough inventory and discovered that I was as much of a tool as any of these goons on this show.

This morning I awoke and recalled a similar situation to the one that Sean experienced on the show, and it was horrific. At that point in time, all I was capable of was resenting one of the women for "making me look bad", but in reality, the entire thing was self-inflicted.


Today I set the coffee up for Tina before I go to bed so she can flick a switch at 5 am and get hot coffee.

Today I go shovel out her car at 4:30am so she doesn't have to.

Fifteen or twenty years ago I was terrified of being too good to a partner for fear she would feel too good about herself and figure out she was too good for me. (Of course, I was unaware of this.)

Today, I thank God for Tina, and I pray that God give me empathy, compassion, loyalty, appreciation, and show me the way to be the best man I can be. I need to pray daily for unselfishness, honesty. I thank God for the privilege, and ask to be a mirror for her, that God show her how wonderful, beautiful and special she is through me. I can somehow see how special she is, when she can't- that's a gift of the Spirit.

Ironically, when I align myself with spiritual principles, I don't have anything I need to medicate emotionally or mentally or spiritually.

As I sit here, I realize that "Tool Academy" isn't an opportunity for me to sit here and feel superior by observing degenerates ruining their lives, and the lives of the women around them, it is an opportunity for me see myself in these hapless men.

The difference between me and these guys isn't intellect or instinctual decency, or any sort of virtue. It is God.

Without a vital spiritual experience and awakening, I would be exactly where these guys are today. Sometimes I forget that, and maybe I even forgot until I started writing this blog. The only difference between the guy who makes the coffee, cleans off cars in the middle of the night and tries to be a mirror to a special lady each and every day, and the guy who possessed only the capacity to think of himself is God and spiritual principles.

I had intended this to be a funny blog, poking fun at these jerks and the women who hang on to the delusion that they can change them into someone else... but it turned out much differently, as it so often does when I open my heart an just start typing. The truth has a way of finding its way onto the page.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Visit with My Cousin

Well, we got back in one piece. The flight home was slightly adventurous, leaving late for some unknown reason, and hitting a little turbulence en route to Boston.

The cruise was good- very relaxing, especially for Tina, who stuck with her early-to-bed style and stayed up a bit late twice, but got plenty of extra rest. I read two books, and started two others. I polished off yet another Andrew Vachss "Burke" novel, "Down Here". I read my first John D McDonald book, The Lonely Silver Rain, which is one of a large series of books revolving around a sort of semi-retired investigator named Travis Magee. It was pretty good, for what it is.

We landed Friday, and didn't fly home until Saturday morning. I realized my cousin Bill had moved a few months back, and thought he might be on the close side to where we were, which was just outside of Miami. I called my sister, and she confirmed that Bill was, in fact, less than thirty miles away.

I rented a car, and Tina and I headed east to Dania Beach, and Bilmar Gardens, his current residence. It was a little complex of twelve apartments or so, not like the last place I visited him at, which was a huge complex with many residents. At first, I thought it might be an improvement. I fondly reflected when Bill lived at Manor House or Arlington House when it was owned by an old guy named Jack, and run by his daughters Penny and Barbara. They loved Bill to death, or really, to life. They gave Bill a chance to earn a few bucks and feel useful, helping some of the elderly men, shaving them, etc.

But mostly, they just loved Bill. When he moved to Michigan with his girlfriend, Bill had a good couple of years, but with mentally ill adults, twpo good years is like forty, it was a terrific success. Unfortunately, after helping each other stay well, one slipped a bit, got out of sorts, or maybe the meds stopped working for a while, and the wheels came off. I remember talking to Barbara, and how happy she was that Bill was coming back to Florida.

"Could he come back? Of course! Bill is always welcome here."

Unfortunately, when they retired, things changed drastically. The Manor and Arlington Houses, as well as other mentally ill or disabled adult facilities were purchased by a man named Andy. Since this happened, Bill just hasn't been the same. He has had a few good stretches, but mostly has been in and out of the hospital, and occasionally, incarcerated. The violence at these facilities seems to be constant, if not always severe. There also has developed a disturbing trend of Bill's meager monthly allowance being skimmed, or palmed altogether. (He has about $30 left from Social Security ater paying his monthly rent.)

Because of Bill's condition, it is hard to tell exactly what is real, and what's in his head, so I sometimes have to take some of his reports with a grain of salt, though often there is some validity to it.

Saturday, when we pulled in, Bill came running out, jumping up and down and high fiving me hard to break a wrist. I had never seen him so excited. It wasn't long after I saw him that I noticed he had been beaten up pretty badly. There was dried blood on the porch near the door to his room, his nose was still a little bloody, and his lip was still bleeding, though the incident happened that morning.

I could barely look at him.

I tried to play it cool and went into his bathroom where I began to sob immediately. I wondered what my mother would think, knowing her nephew lives like this, and I have gotten too comfortable to help him get out of there.

The bathroom was gross, the shower creepy, and he had no toilet paper. Bill claimed they wouldn't give him any, but that is another of those things... what is real, what is in his head. Is he afraid to ask, fearing they'll say no or yell at him, or is he imagining part of it? You never really know. I can tell one thing- Bill was lucid, he wasn't kilter, or not making sense. Apparently, he objected when he didn't get his money. He probably more than objected. The result was four or five staff and clients pummeling Bill. I'll spare the details, but they involve a metal chair, and it is disturbing to say the least.

I developed a stiff upper lip as quickly as possible, and pulled my sunglasses over my eyes, heading back out and acting as cheery as I could. I knew my job for that afternoon was to give Bill a good time, cheer him up, get him some basic things he needed and some decent food.

The thing that hurts the most is the firm belief that if the situations were reversed, I don't believe Bill would allow me to stay in a place like that. We are very much alike, Bill and I. Our mother were sisters who died a year apart at the age of fifty, from breast cancer. I was ten, Billy was fifteen.

The difference was that my father was a decent guy who took care of his family, and whole bunch of brothers and sisters who cared about me. My sister Debbie had always been like a secondmother to me, and my sister Barb stayed home and took care of the cooking and cleaning around the house after my mother died. There were always people who let me know I was important and would be taken care of. As terrified as I was, I had a pretty good set up, all things considered.

Bill's is a different story. His dad was a much older man when he was born who always kind of resented his existence. He was an alcoholic and extremely abusive, though to this day, Billy focuses on all the things his father did well, the times he took him fishing, taught him things, how interesting a life his father had lived as a young man, how he fought in World War II, how he was a fantastic chef, and amazing physical specimen as a young man.

He skims over the beatings, and how he was abandoned shortly after his mother died, sent to Boy's Town, or the streets of Miami to fend for himself before he turned sixteen years old. One day, when he was around seventeen, something inside him just snapped. He had a nervous breakdown/psychotic break which triggered paranoid schizophrenia, and he has never been the same since. When thinmgs are going well, when his medication is right, he is a wonderfully gentle, generous person. In spite of having very little, he is always trying to do something for someone else, praying for others, speaking well of others, trying to contribute any way he can.

I don't believe anyone really deserves to be victimized by unscrupulous scumbags, especially people who are mentally ill or handi-capped. I've got to believe there's more money in ripping off wealthy widows or land barons or something than robbing people who already live in poverty, but I guess any time there is an easy victim, a dirtbag will appear to scab whatever they can from whomever they can.

The first order of busniess was getting in touch with a place Bill stayed at a while back which was safe. It wasn't really the best fit for him, too many old people, and it was more of a rest home than anything else. Bill didn't like it, in spite of the caring staff, good food and clean conditions, because his freedom was somewhat limited. There were curfues and stuff, and he couldn;t just walk out and smoke a cigarete any time he wanted.

I called those folks, at least hoping to get him somewhere safe while I started doing my homework to get him into a better place. They will be in tomorrow, and I will call and see what we can do.

Selfishness is sneaky. I believe it is at the core of all evil, all character defects, all things that rot a person's character and, well, soul, if you will. It masquerades as harmless things, things that are perfectly acceptable, and before you know it, you;ve become someone you aren;t too crazy about. It can always be traced to selfishness.

Selfishness itself isn't evil, it's just selfish, about self, self-centered. It puts me at the center instead of God, or you, or someone else. It makes everything about me, about what I can get, instead of what I can contribute.

One of the subtly self-destructive things I do is isolate. I get lazy, I make my world smaller, and the first to go are the people who require effort on my part. Okay, not always. I am a good son, and generally, a pretty good friend. I am not a bad person, but I am, historically, lazy.

Bill is an easy person to slowly cut out. Oh, I always send him a few bucks, now and then, or try to call occasionally, but emotionally, he is not in my head or my heart much of the time. It is painful. His life is so difficult, mine so easy. It is easier to become busy with things that aren't really important, if not downright time-wasters by nature and design, than it is to become more involved in someone's life.

Especially when that life revolves around so much suffering.

Standing on a filthy floor, staring into Bill's dirty bathroom mirror, tears streaming down my face, I asked my mother and my aunt to forgive me for letting Bill live like this. I asked God to help me be family, to be his advocate.

My ego has a strategy for dealing with moments like this. It is called guilt, or shame, which is more severe. My mind gets me focused on feeling bad, blaming myself, blaming it all on myself, and so you see, selfishness has a new root, a new game. As long as I can dwell on me, my ego is happy, even if all the dwelling is of a negative variety. My ego mind wants me to focus on where I screwed up, wants me to feel bad as though the "feeling bad" part is the action. As long as I feel terrible, I don't have to take any actual action.

Realization that a good percentage of people who may stumble across this blog willhave little idea what the hell I am talking about, but this is really the natire of alcoholism, of what my "illness" is- selfishness of a zillion varieties, of a kajillion forms, and if I don;t stay on it, I get sick, in the head, in the heart, in the soul.

Awareness is my opportunity to change things. I don't feel bad about seeing Bill Saturday, about feeling like shit about it. Who would see someone in those straits and feel good about it? I do feel grateful that I am aware of what I've been doing...shutting myself off, coasting, cruising, sliding, and I am enthused that I made the effort to rent a car and drive to see my cousin. I am glad Tina and I spent the day cheering Bill up, making him feel loved, liked and cared about.

He was actually in good form, too.

The more I think about Bill, the more heroic he becomes to me, enduring, surviving, plugging onward. Always believing in the good in people in spite of what befalls him, always hoping for the best in spite of witnessing much of the worst.

If you are the praying type, pray for my cousin Bill tonight, and tomorrow and the next day, if you would be so kind.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Anchors Away

We leave tomorrow!

Woo Hoo!!!

Tina is very excited, as it is going to be her first cruise. I have been on several, but I am excited myself, and really looking forward to relaxing, reading and chilling out with my sweetie. We fly out early tomorrow afternoon, land in Miami. We'll be staying over night in Miami, and sailing Monday afternoon.

We thought it would be not only more relaxing to get there the day before so we wouldn't have to rush from the airport to the ship, but would be smart, given the potential for weather issues this time of year. It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day here tomorrow, but I am still glad we'll be getting down there early.

We will be hitting Key West and Cozumel along the way on our four night cruise. I am betting it will at a minimum be a tad warmer in the Caribbean than it will be in Worcester.

I've stocked up on books, and am now narrowing down the selections for the trip. I hardly read all year, then I binge-read on cruises.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm a Saint (witness provided)

I am leaving on a cruise with my sweetie Sunday- her first, so you'd think I'd blog about that, but I am not a get-excited-before-the-big-day kind of person. I usually don't get excited for a rock show until the day of the show when I am on the way there.

Maybe I am just tired, a bit slappy, but my thoughts are drifting to a night I spent hanging out with my charge Jack he of the autism, a couple of weeks ago.

It was one of those great nights, where I am felt a tinge of guilt that I get paid at all for such a great "job". Jack was awesome. He started out a little sluggish, not really responsive, a tad out of it. When he is like this, I usually stay closer to home and don;t do anything too dramatic, out of experience. But, one of my favorite bands was playing a rare local gig, so I said "to hell with it, I'll gamble." Jack likes the band, so I had hopes he would be into it, but you never know with this dude.

As we walked into the joint, Jack loosened up a bit. It was at a place in Natick called "The Chicken Bone". The admission is free, and they send a bucket around (I believe they called it the chicken bucket or something to that affect). The idea being, if youlike the band, you throw in some cash.

Pete, lead singer and guitarist of "The Peasants", started the show with a welcome to all and several thank yous, as well as "this is a Christmas song" before blasting right into it with "Frat Boy". Frat Boy is a riotous, angry, accusative finger, pointing at collegiate imbeciles and their behavior.

It has an infectious riff and great choruses, pauses, grunts and guitar licks... everything you'd want in a great rock 'n roll song. It didn't take Jack five seconds to get into it, and he "danced for the entire 90 minute set. When I got him home, his T-shirt was soaking through and so was the sweatshirt he wore over it. He loved every second of the show.

Jack has a sort of lurching, lunge, a violent back-and-forth juke that is all energy, and looks fun as hell. I keep waiting for Denise Austin or some other fitness guru to steal it and put it into a workout tape.

When Jack is like this, he is a pure delight. My job is super easy, and actually really fun. I love seeing him happy, and I am even more ecstatic about him behaving himself and not causing any nonsense. I simply tucked my forefinger loosely into his sweatshirt pouch so I could keep a bit of a line on him. It was very crowded, and he jerks back and forth so quickly that I was afraid he would knock a tray of drinks out of a waitress' hands.

Three quarters of the way through the show, this older lady, about three margaritas past making sense, says to me, "iire vfsah sfdh" amid a driving rock tune.

Naturally, I responded with, "what???"

"You're a SAINT," she croaked, giving me a slight buzz with her breath.

I shook my head and nodded a smile, turning back to the show. After the show, on our way out to the car, she added, "You're a SAINT, but you don't KNOW IT!"

I smiled and picked up the pace back to the Suburu, but in truth, it was what I always wanted- credit I don't deserve for something I haven't done... and for a while, I thought it had been to much to ask for.

Years ago, when I started with Jack, I probably wouldn't have admitted it, because it would have been news to me, but some part of me always thought young single women would see me taking care of Jack, and admire my patience, tolerance, and kindness toward a handicapped person.

In my head, they would say something like, "Oh look at how WONDERFUL he is with that disabled gentleman... I can only imagine how fantastic he'd be with our children! And golly, if he's that patient with this character, he must be unreal in bed!"

I'm not sure how I came to that connection in my thought process... I guess that was always an erroneous assumption I prayed women would make with regard some random, unrelated character issue. Something like this, "Oh good heavens, he can change a tire, bake brownies, tie a shoe (fill in the blank, really_______), I guess I should maul him immediately, that's a sure sign of good lovin'!"

In retrospect, I believe many women do have visions when they see you caring for a handicapped person, but instead of white picket fences, they envision a third floor walk up apartment, and the used Ford Escort they'll be using to get to the 2nd and 3rd jobs they'll have to take to make ends meet.

But my dreams came true that Thursday evening at The Chicken Bone when an intoxicated woman who could easily have given birth to me years ago, and bench-press me today gave me credit for being an angel. I knew it. That made the last seven and a half years totally worth it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year, folks.

After completing my 50,000 word goal in November, I have done exactly nil, zero, zilch. A couple of days ago, the same writing group member who suggested the Nanowrimo thing sent me this link.

The idea here is to set a word count goal for the year, and chip away at it.

I have just never been good at sitting myself down and working on anything without a deadline. Even as a kid in Jr. High School and earlier, I always waited until the night before something was due to get to work on it. That continued throughout high school, and college.

Since I got past the deadlines of November, I haven't done a thing. I signed up for this annual word count thing yesterday. I got the feeling that 90% of the participants are 22 or younger, so that will likely be no camaraderie, except that within my own little group, but still, I hope it helps me at least sit down more consistently and write.

When I finish this post, I think I will sit down and try to jot down a short story, just for the heck of it. I have no idea of what I will write, but it doesn't matter. Then there is the unfinished "Allergic to Life" which has been half in my head, and half on paper for almost 10 years. I am still not sure what that is, what form it should really take. I guess the scary thing is that if I sat down, it would be something, then I would have to judge it. There is a certain safety in never finishing anything. If it isn;t finished, it can;t have failed, it can't have come up short, or missed the mark.

Every time I watch one of my favorite shows or movies, I am grateful that its author followed through, took a risk, poured in the effort and dedication it took to get it written, produced, finished, and at the same time, I feel a slight pang of guilt at having given myself a pass so often and for so long.

It is a bizarre phenomenon, this combination of ego and fear, morphing into laziness and lack of inertia for fear of actually arriving at an unsatisfactory destination.

Who can forget; "Porky's", “The Last American Virgin”, "Sixteen Candles", “The Karate Kid”, "The Breakfast Club", “Back To The Future”, "Pretty In Pink", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Can't Buy Me Love" and “Say Anything”. Boy, do I miss those days.

For every "This is Spinal Tap", "Napolean Dynamite", "Mean Girls" or "Office Space", there are twenty like Babylon A.D. or the latest Mike Myers or Vince Vaughn vehicles. The most baffling thing is films wtih a good premise, like this year's "Four Christmases" wind up saddled with hackneyed jokes you've seen a hundred times before, or a script so inexplicably bad you leave the theater shaking your head, wondering why, in a town of literally thousands of screen writers, the travesty you've just witnessed was allowed to happen.

All I need to see of Jim Carrey's "new" flick, "The Yes Man" is the trailer to realize it is merely a reworking of "Liar, Liar". He even reproduces old stunts like the tape on his face, and various physical gags we've seen before.

When I see something like "The Big Lebowski" or lately, "The Wrestler", or when I see something that sucks, like most of the one-joke crap coming out of Hollywood (take "The Guru", for example.) I sense irritation, followed by a tinge of guilt, for not at least trying to do anything about it. Even when I listen to a great cd or see a kickass band live, for example, a rocker I have known for about a decade who fronts a band called "The Peasants", I sometimes feel lazy, like a non-producer.

The Peasants never made a million dollars. They never became famous and got plastered all over magazine covers and teen TV specials. All they've done for the last nearly twenty years is play kick ass music for the love of rock and roll. These guys are one of my 4 or 5 favorite bands of all time. Pete loves rock and roll, he respects it. He's mastered the craft, and that's all he ever really wanted to do. He still plays in bars and n Harvard Square because he loves it, and I am grateful that he does.

When I reap the benefit of someone's else's creative effort, I feel grateful, lucky even, and at the same time, I feel like a taker. I believe we all have innate, God-given talents, and it is a shame not to use them. Where we be if Tom Brady had given up asa skinny high school kid who had no college offers? What if Dustin Pedroia agreed with 99% of those who scouted him and rfegarded him as too small to play ball at a higher level. What kind of loss would it be if Barack said, "shit, I'm black, I'm never going to get elected" or if Bill Wilson (founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) said, "I'm better now, screw the next guy. I'm going on vacation."

This kind of thinking brings me to a point of self-centerednessand ego for which there is no good line of thought. All thoughts seemed to circle a drain of negativity, and wind up there somehow.

My head says something like, "Who do you think you are? Einstein? The chick who wrote "Slapshot"? (yes, a woman wrote that guy classic, based on her brother's experienced playing minor league hockey.) My ego, so afraid that whatever it is I perform, write or produce won't be good enough, tells me I am a tool for thinking I have some special talent with which to work.

On the other hand, believing one has no talent, is to make oneself special in another way.

I guess the key is the self-centeredness. as long as I let it call the shots and draw the attention, the results will always be the same, and contentment around this stuff will continue to elude me. As long as I think it is about me, I will likely fail to produce anything of which I can be proud.

Bill Wilson, Pete from the Peasants, Bogie, Jimi Hendrix, Harper Lee and the rest of those who have given so much to this world, they were all merely vehicles. They showed up and let the creative Power flow through them into the world. It came in the form of punk rock, movies and books. It came in the form of paintings, symphonies and humanitarian efforts, but the key was likely that people were doing what they loved, and through hard work, enthusiasm and..., well love, masterpieces were created.

I always think too much, and create a catch-22. Either my head says I am a slug for not using my own talents to create, or my head says I am an egomaniac for thinking I have any talent from which the world would benefit. As you can see, that is a dilemma, there is no good option there.

Perhaps the key is to stop listening to my head and take simple, constructive action. That formula worked pretty well for me once upon a time.

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