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.

 

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!

All the News That Wasn’t

Breaking News: King Rump believes that terrorists have commandeered the carousel at the Coney Island amusement park and are making the ponies run in circles. Furthermore, he says a Giant Ape is assaulting his Rump in New York, the Towers, that is.  And in Sweden, Sweden of all places, Sweden!  people are so poor they must go to the beach without clothes. And right here at home, right in my own backyard of Rambling Harbor where marijuana has been legalized, King Rump is reporting that chickens are so stoned they no longer have any desire to cross the street.

And Now Some Truth: This blog will be published on Sunday, February 26, and the following Sunday I will be in the hospital recovering from partial knee replacement surgery scheduled to take place on Friday, March 3. I have just found out that the hospital where I will be offers free complimentary lap dancers, er, laptops. However, there is some rumor going about that his royal Rumpness has demanded that I not be allowed anywhere near a computer.

Many people know that I live alone except for my constant companion Chloe Cat. Chloe is a gentle soul, and if ever a human and an animal could be soulmates, it’s the two of us. She will be without me for an extended period for the first time in 6 years when I spent 11 days at hospice as my wife gained her wings to soar the skies and fins to sail the sea. Both my friend Sarah, who could charm the skin off a snake and frequently does, and my artist friend Michelle of Fresh Cut Glass (and by the way, if you’re looking for incredible stained glass, check her out, the website, that is, and Trump, keep your hands in your pockets) are dear friends of Chloe’s, and both will be stopping in to provide food and most of all love and companionship, and that means the world to me. Recently I have become aware that Chloe may be losing her hearing. She is completely white, and many white cats are born deaf. Chloe was older when adopted and her exact age is a mystery, but the vet thinks she is somewhere around 12 years old and her hearing has been as “a-cute” as she is. So, I can’t help but wonder if this deafness has been brought on by a desire to not hear the orange one’s annoying voice. I have asked her this question a few times over the past weeks, but she refuses to answer. She’s a cool cat and never says a purr-muring word.

On the podcasting front, that is on hold until after the surgery, but there are some ideas in the works. A great new friend from across the pond is in cahoots with me on this, but there are rumors that the round orange idiot clown, instead of draining the swamp, is trying to drain the pond. Oh, and have you heard about his Rumpness’s new idea about the wall: now he wants to build one between the U.S. and Canada as well as Mexico. I understand that Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau will help with that except for letting the chosen few through, so stay tuned.

 

Fire!

 

The president signed an order that says certain people will not be allowed in America. Those already in residence will be relocated to an area set aside for them, and if they resist they will be rounded up and either imprisoned or killed.

No, this is not 2017 and King Rump’s rampage. It was in 1830, and the president was Andrew Jackson. He signed the Indian Removal Act, giving the federal government the power to take native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi and give it to whites so they could make their fortunes by growing cotton. They wanted that land, and they would do almost anything to get it. They stole livestock, burned and looted houses and towns, and squatted on land that did not belong to them. The “Indians” were to be moved to the west, to the Indian colonization zone in what is now Oklahoma that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Part of the so-called goal was a civilization campaign to make Native Americans as much like white Americans as possible by encouraging them to convert to Christianity. I have always believed that my mother called herself Southern Baptist because someone told her she was. I just learned in the last few months that not just my mother was Cherokee but my father was at least 1/3 Cherokee, a fact he kept secret because of the work he did where it could be frowned on to be Native American. And like myself, he looked white enough to pass. A funny story about that comes from my brother. When one of his boys was young and in a bad mood, he said, “I’ve had it. I’m going to go join the skinheads, the white supremacists.” My brother said, “Well, you can’t really do that,” and his son replied, “Of course I can. I can do anything I want. Why can’t I do that?” And my brother replied, “Because, Son, you’re not really white.”

In 1830, the U.S. Supreme Court objected to the practices of Indian removal and said that native nations were sovereign nations. But Andrew Jackson had no intention of enforcing the rulings and left the decisions up to the Southern states to take ownership of Indian lands. The law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily, and peacefully. It did not permit the president or anyone else to force native nations into giving up their land. However, President Jackson and his government ignored the letter of the law and drove Native Americans from land they had lived on for generations. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from their land. They made the journey to “Indian territory” on foot, some bound in chains and marched double file, and without any food or supplies. Thousands of them died along the way. It was as one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, “a trail of tears and death.”

In 1838, only about 2,000 Cherokees had left their Georgia homeland for Indian territory. President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then they marched them more than 1,200 miles to “Indian territory.” Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera, and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokee died because of the journey. It was indeed a “Trail of Tears.”

At times I am criticized on social media for my rants against King Rump. I say forgive me, good friends, for breaking with the accepted order of things, for the intrusion of posting human concerns over that of entertainment and frivolity. It’s in my blood.

Forgive me if I find it impossible to ignore what the round orange idiot clown in Washington is doing with his immigration ban, among other insane ideas, for telling him he is only here as an interloping immigrant on blood-stained land. I will do all I can to stop him. I hope you will also forgive me if someday I see that your house is in flames, and I yell fire!

***There is still no podcast, but I am working on a few ideas to get it back on so stay tuned and read on.

 

Memories

I’ve had a theory for a long time that as years pass and we look back on our personal history and at the people and events that have come and gone in our lives, we develop something I call compressed remembrance. It’s a feeling that something that occurred many years before happened only yesterday. Time collapses and years become weeks, weeks become days, and days seem like only hours.

On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was in history class, and it seems surreal that I would have been in history class on a date that will be read about for hundreds of years. I have no idea what I was thinking about before the news was delivered to the classroom. I probably had my mind on the upcoming Thanksgiving football game and practice after class. I’m sure I was not listening to Mrs. Loffler drone on about the Magna Carta or the Louisiana Purchase. I don’t remember the names of most of my high school teachers and fewer names of my college professors, but I remember Mrs. Loffler because she was there that day. That was the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  I can still hear how her voice changed as she gave some brief explanation and told us that school would be ending early.  I remember feeling very detached from whatever new reality was taking place and annoyed that whatever this event was had suddenly disrupted my well-planned afternoon and weekend.

Quickly now it’s 21 years later, November 23, 1984. I’m no longer living on Staten Island, a naive teenager dreaming of gridiron glory. I’ve resisted a war, lived in the mountains of West Virginia, and been to prison. I’m back in radio and living in Boston. The Boston College Eagles are playing the University of Miami. There are 28 seconds left in the game, and Miami is leading 45 to 40 when some too-small-to-play quarterback guy named Doug Flutie dropped back and let what became known as the “Hail Mary” touchdown pass take flight. It traveled 48 yards, taking what seemed like forever to go that distance and reach its target, Gerard Phelan, and gave the football Eagles a 47-45 victory. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fast forward. It’s now 2017, and I am watching what will be remembered as the greatest Super Bowl ever played. My granddaughter is about to become the same age I was on November 22, 1962: Sixteen, a magical age full of hopes and dreams but also fear. She was born into a time when the world seems to teeter constantly on the brink of disaster. I’m watching a man named Tom Brady who is leading the New England Patriots to a mind-blowing come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons. No team in history has ever come from 21 points behind to win a Super Bowl, but in the last quarter New England tied the game and went on to win in the first Super Bowl overtime in history. I saw people laughing and cheering and watched, even if only for a twinkling, the cares and troubles of their everyday lives dissolve away. I was proud of my city of Boston as they danced in the streets, not one act of violence and no arrests. I have a few more years to keep that memory.

We live in a world where smiles and good times are difficult to come by, and we don’t have many years in a lifetime to make memories. I read somewhere that someday we will only be a memory to someone, and we should do our best to make sure it’s a good one. Trust me, I’m dancing as fast as I can.

 ** Postscript: The podcast is no more. It seems the web host wants money I don’t have. If you go to some of my older blogs and find that the podcast link tells you the page doesn’t exist, it’s because the host has deleted them. I just wanted you to know.

No Drinking and No Politics, Almost

A few years ago, I quit drinking on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, really, I did. Cinco de Mayo is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It has roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848 and the 1858–1861 Reform War. The Reform War was a civil war that pitted Liberals, who believed in separation of church and state and freedom of religion, against the Conservatives, who favored a tight bond between the Roman Catholic Church and the Mexican State.  I know you’re thinking some of this sounds like it’s happening in the world today.

These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years. In response, France, Britain, and Spain, not being benevolent sorts, sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests. The French outnumbered the Mexicans by over 4000 troops and were better armed, but the feisty Mexicans won the battle, and I would say that is a good reason for the Mexicans to celebrate. One suggestion I’d like to make here is that Mexico help King Rump build his damn wall to keep him and his manic minions out of their country.

In America, Cinco de Mayo is largely set aside as a day to drink heavily and in my case, remember a lot of W.C. Fields quotes that I can’t submit to paper here for fear of sending my editor to the nearest bar.

I did not stop drinking because I’m British or Spanish and not because I’m French and mourned our humiliating loss at the hands of a few ragtag Mexicans. I quit because I got tired of being Sicko de Mayo the next day. Now don’t get me wrong. I have not become a teetotaler and will on occasion have a glass of wine or Scotch to avoid the water (stop me before I slip into my best W.C. Fields voice).

There is a point and a deeper meaning to all this, and that is that I am now attempting to quit or at least control another bad habit that often leaves me waking up the next day feeling sick and/or wanting to drink heavily: writing constantly about politics, especially on Facebook. Just before I put this virtual pen to virtual paper, I read that King Rump signed an executive order to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Oil pipelines.

In his song, “Spanish Pipe Dream,” John Prine advises blowing up your TV, tearing your newspaper to shreds, and running away to a farm with a stripper. I didn’t blow up my TV, but I did turn it off, and I did tear up my newspaper. I’ll leave the last of Mr. Prine’s suggestions to your imagination.

Due to technical frustrations AKA problems there is no podcast for now.  But there may be later on in the week so please stay tuned.