Heroes

We place our heroes on pedestals, athletes because they can catch or run or hit a ball better than anyone else, movie stars because they can deliver a line written by someone else better than anyone else, or in the case of some actors like an Eastwood or Stallone because they can grimace or groan better than anyone else. We place them all on high and kneel before a throne called the box office. We pay them ridiculous amounts of money and let them live fairy-tale lives, but god help them if they disappoint us by proving they are human, that they have feet of clay.

I am reminded of a scene from a good movie called My Favorite Year, released in 1982, starring a really good actor, Peter O’Toole. O’Toole plays an aging, swashbuckling actor named Allan Swann who, because he is also a raging drunk, is taken under the wing of a junior comedy writer named Benjy who has always looked up to the actor. When he learns that his hero has feet of clay, he starts to become disillusioned, and when Swann proclaims that he is not a hero, he is an actor, Benjy says he need heroes, needs them larger than life, needs to look up to them.

Benjy was right. We need real-life heroes. We all need someone to look up to, and we need heroes trying to save us, something we can believe in. When we find out they are not who we thought, that they have an Achilles heel, it totally disrupts our emotions, sending us head over heels into an “I can’t accept this” state of mind.

It may surprise many New Englanders, but there are people across America who have barely, if ever, heard of Aaron Hernandez. He was a hometown hero, and when he seemingly let us down, some turned on him with a vengeance. When news broke that he had apparently killed himself, many danced on his grave, forgetting that we were the ones who made him larger than life. It was our hard-earned dollars that gave him a $40 million a year contract, and it was our hero worship that made him infallible.

I think we do need larger-than-life heroes, but we are not going to find them on the silver screen, the baseball diamond, or the football gridiron, and we don’t need to pay them ridiculous amounts of money. The real heroes are fire fighters, police, teachers, and doctors, to name just a few, and how about the amputee who carried his guide across the finish line at the Boston Marathon? Now that’s my idea of a hero. But I will not forget he is also human, not a god.

You may be convinced that Aaron Hernandez did it, but I am not convinced. I am convinced that he was a person with a multitude of emotional and mental issues and a victim of a system that would have rather had him play football than help him with his problems, as we knelt before a throne called the box office.

Just Resting

 “Catch the Wind” is a song written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Donovan, released as a single in the United Kingdom on March 12, 1965, through Pye Records. It reached No. 4 in the United Kingdom singles chart and No. 23 on the United States Billboard Hot 100. In 1965 I was refusing to accept any role in the slaughter of Americans and Vietnamese people. It was a time of fear, friends, and music. There was a struggle for sanity that followed me throughout my life and on some level, continues today, and it has taken its toll.

Years later, circa 1973, I was sitting in a bus station in St Petersburg, Florida, waiting for a ride that would take me back to Washington, D.C. Bus stations are curious places full of curious people, and I have spent more than my fair share of time in them. I had a long wait for my ride home, and I sat there listening to the public-address system announce departures for places in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, and all points north, south, east, and west. I watched as people broke into a full gallop to get to one loading area or another, all desperately trying to outrun time in a great hurry to get to the next place in their future or to escape the place they had just been. I was also anxious to be getting on with the getting on of it when this old gentleman in old clothes with an old beard and tired eyes sat down on a bench not far from me. For a long time we both sat in silence and listened to the speakers calling out the departing and arriving of steel and flesh when he looked over at me and said with a bit of a sigh and some bewilderment at the scene unfolding before us, “I’m not going anywhere myself. I’m just resting.”

People tell me that I have an issue with being in the moment. I always seem to be trying to outguess the past or fool the future. It’s a little like New England weather: We are either waiting for it to get better or expecting it to get worse. I used to wish the days away when the cold gray sky and bitter winds brought only early sunsets. But when the trees begin to blossom and the creeks and rivers begin to run free and the maple syrup flows, there is no place else I want to be.

In the last two months, I have literally brought myself to a screeching halt (maybe I should say screeching and screaming). I don’t stop easily. Then I realized that as Donovan sang, I can’t catch the wind, and in so many ways, despite my running, I am still sitting in that St. Petersburg bus station, but now, suddenly, I’m the old man not going anywhere. I’m just resting.

 

Certain People

So many fronts on the battlegrounds of dumb and dumber, which one this hour,  as the carousel horses spin backward, and the orange-colored clown breaks every rule known to his government and everyone dangles on some uncertain trapeze suspended high above the Big Top, called DC. The clown is now the Ring Master. And without following protocol regarding acts of war, he spends millions of dollars to blow up an airfield that the next day is up and running again. And on many levels of disgust and anger at Syrian dictator Assad, we Americans shake our heads and say yes, good for you Mr. President. But there are reasons for the line of command before placing your country on the verge of a massive retaliation, however, remote that retaliation may be, there are still reasons, proven, rational reason for those rules. And part of it is to keep a president that thinks he’s Dirty Harry from making a Big Ass mistake with his Big gun. I live in a small town surrounded by water and even in weather emergencies when the mighty nor’easter blows, we are given ample time to leave if we choose to, but we know what’s coming and so we choose. And in acts that could put Americans in harm’s way certain agencies need to let certain people know so that certain people will be able to maybe reach safe places or kiss their ass’s goodbye whichever they choose and you and I are those certain people. And I am certain I would like to have a choice.

Thoughts

I’ve spent two months mostly alone, sometimes hovering between fight-and-flight and self-evaluation, and this blog will barely scrape the surface. I’m not sure where my blogs will go from here or if I will do them every week, but for starters, I want to thank everyone for the good wishes and help before my surgery and after and give special thanks to Bill and Michelle, Ellen and Sarah, and Kathy. You all know why.

I haven’t set key to screen since early February. It would sound so poetic to say quill to parchment, but alas, I live in the age of technology, of Internet correspondence and cyber snoopers, and in a time when I can be spied on through my television or listened to through my phone. The only safe place might be in the woods, talking to the trees, but do I need to be careful around that knothole and that raccoon wearing a mask? Obviously, I also live in a world where it’s possible to become paranoid. After all, who would want to surveil me, a small unheard of blogger, living somewhere on the east coast in a tiny place called Rambling Harbor?

Have you ever been surveilled or how about that riskiest of undertakings, solo-surveilled? Well, that’s what I’ve been up to, solo-surveilling, and it’s been a trip. Hell, the 1970s had Transcendental Meditation, why not solo-surveilling today? Of course, I’m assuming everyone is on to the word surveilled, which has been used ad nauseam lately.  The first known use of surveilled dates to 1884. There are multiple ways to surveil a person, depending on just how personal you intend to get with another human being without their knowledge. This has been going on for 133 years, but it was called what it Is, spying! I imagine spying died out with the quill and parchment, and I suppose it sounds much more polite to say we surveilled him rather than we spied on him.

While waiting for surgery for a new, improved part to be placed in my knee, I realized that this body, which has endured so much and has served me so well, is finally breaking down. They can replace a part here or there, but eventually they will run out of fixables, and I will follow the road that so many of my friends have passed down. I am a member of a vanishing breed, and we will be remembered. My cat Chloe is also growing old, and I watch as her leaps from floor to window ledge, which use to flow as smooth as the cheetah that in her heart she still is, now take a little more effort. Chloe is no longer a baby as she faces her 14th birthday come this September, and while she may not be a baby girl anymore, she is my little lady, and we are both at a time when we might expire before the expiration dates on our food containers.

While facing surgery, I learned something more about courage, not my own but my wife’s. I was afraid of this relatively minor operation, somewhat justified by the fact that my only other trip under the knife for a relatively minor surgery almost killed me: They sliced a major artery, and I almost didn’t make it off the operating table. At night alone with just my thoughts bouncing off the canyons inside my head, I thought about all the times that Jennifer had awaited chemotherapy, drugs that would destroy her body to hopefully save her life. There were no guarantees, and then another miracle, another 6 months, maybe?  I always knew how bravely she faced those trials and how there was always a smile and hope and love, but now I have come to know better what she meant when she said she was terrified.

Recovering, I watched the world go by as King Rump traded Meals on Wheels for meals with wings as he flew back and forth to Florida. I became angrier when he said that the National Endowment for the Arts was to be no more and many forms of our educational system were being dismantled and elderly people were in the crosshairs of many of his budget cuts. But the military budget would be the biggest ever. I guess if you’re going to march men and women off to die, why educate them or let them appreciate the arts? And there’s no need to take care of the elderly if you’re going to kill off the population before they grow old.

I had a dream the other day. This was one of those trance-like sessions where you are totally awake, maybe doing some odd job around the house. Suddenly you realize the truth of it all: the world did end, we are dead, and this is the evil place.  And yes, I just called King Rump the Prince of Hell!