Saturday, February 21, 2009

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 7

Yeah, that’s right. I’ve got more questions. So sue me. Just kidding. You wouldn’t really sue me would you? Would you? Where’s the ACLU when I need them?

1. I read once that the sign of the dollar was created by placing the ’U’ for United over the ’S’ for States. I can even remember when there were two vertical lines over the ’S’ instead of the single one so commonly found today. But my question is this: when did that symbol change from representing the esteem that the one who carried it had earned from those he traded fairly and well with, to representing the shameful way in which the one who carries it turns a profit? Maybe that’s why, unconsciously, we changed the ’U’ to a slash.

2. I saw an Ohio Lottery TV ad where a guy jumps through one of those holes you throw down like in the old cartoons. Am I the only one who sees the irony in the relationship between the fact that the hole was black and what typically happens to people who chase riches through gambling?

3. While channel surfing, I happened across Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Can someone please tell how someone can ask for help when the question involves the number of vowels in states whose names are displayed right in front of him?

4. Have you ever been so angry that you literally gave thanks that you were not in possession of ’the button’ that could destroy the world?

5. I have an idea for what could become a highly sought after ’gag’ gift for Nerds: men’s underwear with handles in the back! While I’m not sure if anyone would be crazy enough to wear them, the fact that being a Nerd has become so chic these days would give a product like this great value as a symbol of the ’torment’ Nerds have had to endure! Ah hah! Who’s crazy now? Oh shut up!

6. What do you think better reflects the true personality of Americans today, the face they present on shows like Maury and Jerry Springer, the face they present on all of those ’judge’ shows, or the face they show on all of those ’reality’ shows?

7. In the heat of summer, it’s not hard for me to accept the idea of global warming. In the cold of the winter I’m now struggling through, I can also accept the notion that humanity’s screw up is actually holding off the next Ice Age. But I wonder if the eggheads arguing on either side have considered the possibility that they’re all right? Could the fact that we’ve done such a great job - blindly as usual - staving off the coming ice through global warming - again quite blindly - that we’re actually bringing on an uncomfortable warm period followed by an Ice Age worse than what we were originally headed for? Perhaps we should not so easily dismiss the science behind the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Sadly however, history proves that while we can be very good at picking through the small stuff, we’re really bad when it comes to seeing the big picture.

8. Have you ever noticed how the products that claim to be more healthy are also more expensive? I guess this is just another example of how only the wealthy can afford good health care these days.

9. While watching tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes, a disturbing question occurred to me. One of the pieces was about the never ending fight between the peoples of the middle east over the Israeli / Palestinian lands. This reminded of children fighting over a toy and of the typical results of such disputes - destruction of the toy either by the kids or by an intervening parent. Considering the growing destructive power of the local players, and the enormous destructive capacities already in the hands of the powers seeking to settle the dispute, how long will it be before that area gets reduced to a gleaming radioactive wasteland that no one will live on for many, many years? Note that my reference to ’gleaming’ comes from my having heard that sand melted in a nuclear explosion would harden into green glass. Not that I’d advocate finding out in such a manner, but I would like to know if this is true.

10. Another piece from tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes was about the attempt by scientists to fight the effects of aging by producing pills made from a highly concentrated form of the chemical resperitol (?) found in red wine. They say that this chemical activates a gene in our bodies that cause it to go into a kind of ’survival’ mode, which increases the bodies ability to fight off the things that make aging so dangerous. As evidence, they showed the results from animal an microbial studies that seem to back up their claims. But 60 Minutes also presented people who claim that this same gene is activated through radical reductions in calorie intake. These people also had animal and human studies to back up their claim. They also claim that it is our high fat, high calorie diet that turn off the gene in the first place. So my question is this: Even if the new drug works as expected and is proven to be safe, doesn’t it simply represent another attempt by humans to escape the moral responsibility to take care of our bodies that freedom of lifestyle comes with?

I want ice water.

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 6

Again with the endless questions. Please note that this time there will be a test.

1. The ’progressive’ U.S. tax system requires the wealthy to pay more taxes than the poor. In fact, those at the top end of the income scale are sometimes expected to pay thousands of times more than those at the low end of the income scale. Why then, are people surprised that the principles separating freedom fighters from pirates have become corrupted?

2. How is it that American citizens can express more outrage at the treatment of people who openly desire the destruction of our country than they do at the treatment of Americans imprisoned simply because of how they chose to treat their own bodies? Or should the question be why are they surprised that those prisoners are being treated that way considering how we treat our own people? Please note that just as ’high minded’ butting in has inspired the terrorists, it has also inspired a flagrant disregard for the law by many of our own people.

3. The news is filled with talk about the racist history of the Washington, DC area. I suppose they think that shocking us with such ’terrible revelations’ will inspire us to watch their wall-to-wall coverage of the upcoming Obama inauguration. But considering that we know all to well that this country was built on the backs of slaves, just who is it that they think will be shocked? I just want all the hoopla to be over so the man can get on with the monstrous task ahead of him. What would shock me would be for all those talking heads to shut up for a change and let the poor guy do his job!

4. Being the eternal optimist who always looks for the silver lining, do you think that maybe my distant cousins will finally get Manhattan Island back after all is said and done? Okay, enough with the laughing about the ’eternal optimist’ bit!

5. Who in hell designed the standard keyboard layout? After all this time using it, I still hit Delete when I want End and write nad when I mean and. It’s not my fault I tell ya!

6. I don’t normally watch the show Ghost Whisperer because it’s so depressingly reminiscent of all that supernatural crap from my childhood. But the lack of cable has caused me to watch a lot of shows lately that I wouldn’t normally watch. Having it on my TV right now has inspired me to wonder about some of my own dead friends and family. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

a. Was my brother sad that he wouldn’t be able to spend the Easter of 1970 with me while he was dying from two gunshots to the chest? The police said that the shooter was my brother’s best friend, in a drug-induced craze, using my brother’s own gun. Others said that the police had framed my brother’s friend for a hit actually done by them to prevent my brother from testifying in a police-involved stolen property case.

b. What was it like for my father to die all alone in the V. A. hospital during that same year? I don’t know the actual date because I was considered ’too fragile’ to be told right away and I was to pissed to ask when I was.

c. Did the fact that our friendship ended, over a dispute about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, have anything to do with my former best friend’s suicide in 1980?

d. Was the son we lost ever conscious after labor had to be induced when my wife’s water broke too soon? I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t actually remember the date this happened, but I’ll bet that my ex-wife does.

e. I never said so before he died in 1995, but did my friend from work - the friend who taught me so much - ever know just how much I liked him? "You’ve got to be smarter than what you’re working with," is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.

f. What were my mother’s final thoughts while dying, unnoticed, on the floor of the L.A. rest home she had been left in by my niece, who apparently couldn’t be bothered with her any more? That was in 2004.

g. From tonight’s episode, how would I react to having someone tell me that the ’memories’ I seem to be having are actually true recollections from a previous life?

h. What was really going on when I was in that medically-induced coma, when I seemed to be flying over strange lands, out into space, and even into the future?

i. And does the fact that, in my dreams, I return over and over to people and places I have no conscious memory of mean that I actually exist in multiple worlds at the same time? While I find the possibility quite intriguing, the reality of it scares me half to death.

7. I read or heard somewhere that plants like wheat and rye are subject to disease that can cause people to become sick and/or delusional. I’ve even heard it said that, during the Salem witch trials, some testimony about things the accused had supposedly done where actually hallucinations caused by ingesting bread made from tainted grain. If this is true, then doesn’t it shine doubt on other visions of ’supernatural events’ referenced in our history books and religious tomes? Speaking as one who has had hallucinations from illness as well as from ’other’ causes, I know all too well just how real they can seem.

8. Regarding the last item, I suppose that there are those who now asking, "Is that why he’s so &#%@ed up?" The fact is that, however hallucinations are caused, the processes within the brain are the same. You should no more doubt my faculties than you would doubt the faculties of anyone who has previously had a high fever. While I may have shown poor judgement in the past, you should judge my current reasoning capacity by my current actions. And I submit that the contents of this Weblog stand as clear testimony that my rational faculties are in good working order. Bedeep, bedeep, that’s all folks!

9. I hear that Barak Obama is trying to quit smoking. Borrowing a bit from the movie Airplane! "Man did he pick a hard time to quit?"

10. Am I the only one who sees the ultimate irony in Visa calling their new credit card The Black Card?

Just kidding about the test. Did the thought of it make you thirsty?

I want ice water.

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 5

Here are even more of those endless questions. You should now be hearing the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. If not, try increasing the volume on your TV set.

1. Have you ever heard the song Shout by the group Tears For Fears? If you’ve ever wondered what this weblog is all about, you’ll find a large part of the answer there.

2. There once was a fictional story about The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Why does the real life story so often come down to the cute, the weak, and the petty? I feel a song coming on: "The unsung western hero. He killed an Indian or three. And he made his name in Hollywood. To set the White man free. Jesus save me." - Jethro Tull.

3. It’s been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Okay, we’re at the gates and they’re about to open. Who goes first? And yet another song: "Step right up. And don’t be shy. Because you will not believe your eyes." - The Tubes: She's A Beauty.

4. I’ve got to hand it to that Murphy guy. Not only did his laws provide all the warning we needed to avoid the monstrous pot hole we’ve all fallen into, but he’s completely unreachable by anyone wanting revenge for all the constant reminders. Isn’t that just too cool? The man sounds Noble Prize worthy to me.

5. As everyone rushes to jump on the bail-out bandwagon, I’m reminded of The Cars when they asked, "Who’s going to drive you home... tonight?"

6. As I write this, I am still without an Internet connection. I’m sure that there are many other people who’re in the same boat. So why does it appear that every business and TV station assumes we’re all connected? Perhaps they only care about those who are.

7. I don’t have a cable connection either, but I just love over-the-air commercial TV. Does anyone know how to enter deranged laughter into this thing?

8. I hate the fact that William Peterson is leaving CSI. But I felt the same way when Mandy Patempkin left Criminal Minds and that show is still going strong. So what the hell do I know? Maybe Lawrence Fishburne will make the show even better.

9. To quote the parrot from Aladdin: "Why am I not surprised" that the government’s forced conversion to DTV has turned out to be so badly managed?

10. Assuming the DTV conversion thing gets worked out, wouldn’t it be nice if it proves instrumental in breaking the high priced stranglehold the cable and satellite companies have on quality TV programming?

11. I saw a TV ad claiming that the makers of a child locator device trust only Duracell batteries in their product. I hate ads that try to use fear to sell products. In response, my twisted imagination spit out an alternate ending where the bad guy escapes in an electric car who’s makers also trust only Duracell batteries in their product. Am I sick or what?

12. Man I have got to get a life! I’m taking Styx’s Too Much Time On My Hands to unheard of new levels. Does anybody have one I can borrow?

13. Is any of this stuff funny? I’m too sober to tell. Maybe it’s all the caffeine, or the nicotine, or the lack of sleep...

14. PBS is advertising a new documentary about comedy. I know I haven’t seen the show yet, but could it possibly include anything more funny than Jim Lehrer trying to tell a joke?

15. Is it really fair to call a show Sex In The City when there’s no hard core action anywhere in it?

16. Does anyone really believe that the hot babes shown in those TV ads have nothing better to do than sit around chatting on the phone with a guy that can’t get a real date?

17. Is Judge Judy such a hard ass because she’s so old, the litigants are so stupid, or both? The latter would be my guess.

18. Where do I get a ticket to see Judge Judy do that bionic-superwoman-in-heels stunt live?

19. During his final press conference, President Bush said that another terrorist attack is still one of the greatest challenges to be faced by the incoming Obama administration. Do you think that the terrorists would be stupid enough to attack us now considering the likelihood that Obama’s popularity would cause the rest of the world to rise against them as never before? But then again, maybe the rest of the world is even more stupid than the terrorists.

20. Am I the only one who would have stood up and cheered if Bill Clinton had answered the attacks against him with, "Yeah, I had me some fun with that woman. Now I’ve got to answer to Hillary. Lord help me! So I will thank you to keep your damn noses out of our private lives, you ambulance chasing dogs!"

I want ice water.

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 4

Here are yet more of those endless questions.... Yadabing, yadaboom. You know how this goes.

1. Why do people insist that Robin Hood was a thief who robbed from the rich to give to the poor, when the story was actually about a man fighting to regain the riches stolen from him by the government? Equality by any means is Not the same as fighting for a just cause.

2. I heard that some ’great thinkers’ once debated the number of angels that could stand on the head of a pin. How did people stupid enough to waste their time like that ever learn to count in the first place?

3. People whine and complain about how they suffer from other people’s second-hand smoke. Who do I complain to about all the second-hand bull crap I have to put up with?

4. Why are Israelis and Palestinians killing each other over land that would be considered worthless by any other that mystical standards?

5. In the song The Last Resort, The Eagles said that when you "call some place paradise, you kiss it goodbye." History proves just how true this statement really is. But why?

6. Just because I live in Ohio, is it really fair that I’m limited to watching the Cincinnati Bungles and the Cleveland Clowns on Sunday? Maybe when I’m all growed up and rich and stuff, I’ll be able to get that NFL Sunday Ticket on Direct TV!

7. If we really want to get rid of racism, shouldn’t we just force everyone to make babies with someone of a different race? Nah! It wouldn’t work. We’d just replace racism with ’shadism.’

8. For those who want to guarantee the ’purity’ of their race, may I suggest in-breeding? Oh wait. That’s how you got to be that way to begin with. No, I’m not just being facetious. The races quite literally evolved over the millennia through isolated groups breeding only within their group.

9. Why are people just now realizing that they can save money by re-using their sandwich bags? While I don’t have much use for sandwich bags, I’ve been washing and re-using my resealable storage bags for years. Not only do I save money this way, but it’s ’eco-friendly’ to boot.

10. Why do people keep shooting each other? Haven’t they ever heard about lead poisoning? Okay, I know it’s a lame joke and also two questions, but I’m just a kid at heart. What do I know? "Oops I did it again..."

11. If, as Rush says in Entre Nous, "The spaces in between leave room for us to grow." Then why do we fill those spaces with barriers to prevent us from growing together?

12. If, as Pink Floyd says in Your Possible Pasts, "I was just a child then. Now I’m only a man." When do I get to be more?

13. I think it’s so unfair to burden our children with being ’the hope for our future.’ Wouldn’t it be better to inspire them by demonstrating that we are ’the hope for their present?’

14. We adults don’t like talking to our kids about a ’sensitive’ subjects like sex. And we damn well won’t allow other adults to talk to them about it either. But do we really think that our kids are better off learning about sex from other, equally ignorant, kids on the streets and playgrounds?

15. Why is it that, no matter how long I’ve waited for a bus, it always comes right after I light a cigarette?

16. Will someone please tell me just what kind of mighty morphin’ movie magic was used to transform our system of Justice Tempered By Mercy into the system of Mercy Tempered By Justice we have now?

17. If it’s true that sweet attracts more flies that sour, then why does a steaming pile of crap have them both beat hands down?

18. I may be an Unbeliever, but I absolutely support the right of a doctor or pharmacist to refuse to provide what they consider to be legal yet morally objectionable services, as long as they don’t act to prevent other doctors and pharmacists from doing so. My only question is: Why deny this freedom to other business owners regardless of their reasons? I don’t want to do business with someone who thinks I’m a piece of crap, and a truly free society will always have those who care more about my money and less about my politics.

19. With the ’bad economy’ causing so much downward pressure on both wages and prices, I wonder if we could’ve avoided some of this trouble by not being so greedy in the first place? If so, then perhaps there’s nothing ’wrong’ with our economy at all and this is all simply a ’market correction.’

20. The next four items can be categorized as "But why Daddy? Because I said so!" or "Do as I say, not as I do!"

a. Considering how we treat the rich as if they couldn’t possibly have earned their wealth, should we really be surprised when only those who’ll take it any way they can get it seek to be rich?

b. After spending so much effort denigrating the legal and political professions, why should anyone be surprised that the people willing to go into them are also the kind of people who can be tempted into corruption?

c. After spending so much time, effort, and money criminalizing the activities of millions of Americans, why should anyone be surprised that our society is now filled with outlaws?

d. After making it the sworn duty of our police to arrest people who have harmed no one other than themselves, why are we then surprised when the resulting conflict of interest leads to corruption and dereliction of duty?

The following should be read as if spoken by Walter Cronkite. ’And so it ends for now. Join us again next time for more questions from the ridiculous to the profound on...’

I want ice water.

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 3

Questions, questions everywhere, but I do wonder if anyone cares.

1. I loved reading Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem, as well as the beautiful tribute to it by Rush in 2112. In the book, however, society had devolved to the point where candles were amongst their greatest accomplishments. This was because they had rejected the philosophical basis on which a technological society must stand. In contrast, 2112 described a society dominated by a ruling class that used technology to enforce the same philosophical denials found in Anthem. This issue is important to me because I see signs of the same type of devolution happening in the real world, as evidenced by the dwindling numbers of young people taking up careers in the very disciplines used to build our modern world. Now, having an electronics background and a continuing interest in computers, I know that self-maintaining systems could one day become a reality. So my question is this: Could such a philosophically backwards society as that described in 2112 ever exist?

2. Ever since reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, I have been intrigued by the motor invented by the character John Galt, which ran on energy drawn directly from the Earth’s atmosphere. The few people I’ve discussed this with have all responded that such a device was impossible. But mankind has a long history of accomplishing things previously thought to be impossible. So I’m not so easily dissuaded. The way I see it, what we call ’weather’ is just nature’s rather chaotic way of seeking to balance the enormous energies produced by the even more enormous forces at work in, on, and around our planet. And if you’ve ever seen lightning you know that tapping into those energies is possible. The Earth does it thousands of times a day. Given that, wouldn’t you agree that it would be worthwhile to do some research into what could possibly be an unlimited source of energy and a way of taming the weather?

3. Now I believe that a person has an inviolate right to do anything with his money he wants, but I have been seeing almost the same ads asking for help for the starving kids of the world since I was a poor kid myself. Yet there seems to be more starving kids in the world than ever before. What’s up with that? I thought we’d figured out what causes kids.

4. This ’question’ is inspired by the TV show The Mentalist, which is on as I write. The way the main character, Jane(?), uses keen observation and deductive reasoning to solve mysteries puts him on par with Mr. Holmes himself. The particular thing that inspired me to rush to the keyboard was the response he gave when a cop mistakenly, and with typical disdain, referred to him as "that Psychic she’d heard about." I suppose the writers thought that the air of mysticism they cloak the guy in adds more appeal to the show, but having him answer, "There are no such things as Psychics." was just the perfect touch. Perfect because I feel like I’ve spent my entire life fighting to stay sane while drowning in a virtual sea of mysticism and superstition. Now with all this in mind, just how do you think that I have ’known,’ since I was a kid in the 70’s, that we were headed for both religion-inspired warfare and economic disaster? And trust me, we ain’t seen nothing yet. I really hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t been so far.

5. There was recent news that a Chinese company will soon market an electric car at roughly half the price of the much heralded Chevy Volt. The company’s automotive venture stems from it’s roots in the manufacture of, believe it or not, cell phone batteries! Could it be that we’d have been better off investing in Eveready rather than bailing out the auto industry? Maybe they could call their new car The Energizer Bunny! It keeps going and going...

6. On the subject of driving, wouldn’t a reckless driver be more accurately described as a ’wreckfull’ driver? Okay, my spell checker kind of spoiled this one a little. I actually thought the word was spelled ’wreckless.’ But damn it, the principle still matters!

7. On the subject of misused words, why do we call a someone who works hard to care for the things most important to him ’selfless’ and someone who apparently couldn’t care less ’selfish.’ Why if I didn’t know better... Hey wait. I don’t know better! Someone is trying to steal my self. Doe! That’s like the soul, right?

8. Regardless of how I may feel about the military or my experiences therein, it still pisses me of to hear people toss around words like ’service’ and ’sacrifice’ as if their experiences could in any way meet the definitions known all too well by those who have either survived, or have lost loved one to, real suffering. Just what do people think those words mean?

9. If a mother calls it a ’sacrifice’ to buy her kid new shoes for school instead of new kicks for herself to go clubbing, doesn’t that mean that she values her kicks more than she values her kid?

10. If harm to any part harms the whole, then why do we consider it a ’duty’ to give ’til it hurts?

I want ice water.

Me No Know KeyMoSobbi - Part 2

Here are some more of those endless questions that come gurgling out of the sea of confusion inside my head. As before, they’re presented randomly and cover pretty much anything that strikes my fancy.

1. I was a Weather Observer Technician in the Air Force. I learned a lot about the subject, but still have some questions:

a. Why does the Earth’s atmosphere rotate towards the east even faster than the Earth itself? Common sense would have the atmosphere moving because of friction with the rotating Earth, with the Earth ’pulling’ the atmosphere along. But the facts would seem to indicate the opposite.

b. The Coriolis effect is what causes weather systems to rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. I believe it causes the atmosphere to ’dip’ towards the equator. Again, however, common sense would have me expect that atmosphere moving faster than the Earth would rotate in directions opposite to what the facts show. Why is this?

c. I’m not sure about the southern hemisphere, but considering the two previous points, why do actual storms, including tornados, tend to move to the north and east in the northern hemisphere?

2. Why should ’the person who has everything’ even be on my Christmas list, let alone anywhere near the top?

3. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could read everyone else’s mind? No more lying and cheating. No reason to even believe that lying and cheating would gain you anything. No more overpopulation problems. Plenty of resources... for those who survive. Sounds great to me!

4. Warning: multi-part question! I have only the kernel of a theory that has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for years. I call it consensual reality. It’s so nebulous that I have a hard time even putting it into words. But it starts with a question like: When you and I see an object and we both say that the object is red, how do we know that we’re both actually seeing the same color? If we’re all taught to think ’red’ when we see a certain color, we will seem to be seeing the same color when we all agree that a thing is red. But are we? How do we know? Are there other aspects of reality that are affected by this? While color confusion seems to be inconsequential, could there be other, more profound, effects?

5. Let’s face it, humans are dominated by fear of the things we can’t explain or control. Historically, we’ve dealt with these things by ignoring them, by destroying them, or by fabricating comfortable scenarios that allow us to live with them while maintaining the belief in our indomitability. But what do we do when we encounter that which is so irrefutably alien and beyond our ability to destroy that we are forced to acknowledge our true place in the grand scheme of things?

6. Does the feeling that I walk around with a bright sign over my head derive from my belief that I’m a very poor liar?

7. You might have noticed that I tend to be a bit long-winded. Was the short-hand speech everyone else seems to have mastered taught during all that time I was cutting school in the library?

8. Why do people say it was a ’simple misunderstanding’ when it was actually more of a "failure to communicate?"

9. Why do we insist on trying to make sense out of nonsense?

10. If we have learned nothing else from all the ’scientific exploration’ we’ve done, it should be that we live in a very dangerous universe. Just ask the dinosaurs. Why is it then, that no one uses that argument when seeking to justify the space program?

Okay, my brain is cramping up again. But fear not - or should I say ’cheer’ not? - for I will strike again!

I want ice water.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Addiction and The True Calling

When I was in drug rehabilitation, the given definition of addiction was, "a relationship with a mood altering experience that has life damaging consequences." Note that this definition makes no mention of the actual thing to which the person is addicted. Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, work, or stamp collecting, it’s the consequence of the individual’s relationship with it that transforms that relationship into an addiction.

In short, an addict is a person who allows his pursuit of a thing to ruin the very life he seeks to enhance by pursuing it in the first place. Which brings me to point of this post: the addictive personality. This, I believe, is the true ’disease’ behind the symptom of addiction. You see, I have an addictive personality. When I find something that turns me on, whether it’s drugs, sex, work, computer programming, reading, listening to music, or writing, I fall head over heels into it at the cost of everything else.

It’s like The Neverending Story, where the kid falls into the book whenever he opens it. In fact, that’s the precise image I invoked to describe my addiction to reading. I would literally become so involved in whatever I was reading that I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t even go to work. I remember once, when I had finally got my hands on the last book in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, I used speed to allow me to stay awake while I read all six books in four days. Fortunately, if I can even use that word, I did this during an extended work break. But you can bet that my wife wasn’t too pleased.

Using another analogy, I refer you to the episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith played a guy who wished for nothing more than the unfettered freedom to pursue his love of reading. He was so happy when a great holocaust left him all alone to do just that - until he broke his glasses! As crazy as it sounds, that was both my dream and my nightmare during those times. I still get chills of anxiety when I think of it.

This particular addiction got so bad that my emotions began to run wild, eventually leading to the choked-down rage and impossible-to-hide crying episodes that have plagued me ever since. To this day, I get so emotional when I read a good book or listen to my favorite songs that it completely ruins the experience. If it weren’t for the anti-depressants I take, I couldn’t even muster the courage to try.

And it’s the same for all the other things that trigger my ’disease.’ In addition to space travel and super-heroes, I was absolutely obsessed with sex as a kid. On the job, I worked more overtime than anyone. When I learned to program, I thought of nothing else. When I could no longer work, I stayed home to binge on marijuana, programming, reading, music, pornography, writing (mostly porn), and all the crack cocaine I could get my hands on to ’help’ me do all those things non-stop. I can’t say why it’s important to me to point this out, but I simply wanted speed during this period and crack was what I was able to find.

Ironically, I was actually looking for a way to kill myself when I stumbled upon crack. And as sick as it might sound, it actually gave me something to live for, at least for a while, since it had a kind of Popeye’s Spinach effect on me. When I finally lost my family and my friends, I lapsed into a hermit-like state that I’m just now beginning to come out of. My misery was so complete at one point that I even tried drinking to numb my pain and shut down my head, and when that didn’t work I turned back to suicide. Fortunately both alcohol and ’downers’ make me puke, so I didn’t succeed at either. Trust me, I haven’t always thought that was such a fortunate thing.

Now as I’ve said before, in addition to being a source of pleasure for me, writing serves as a kind of therapy. But the pen, or rather the keyboard, can be a double-edged sword for me. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ll have noticed that I have written quite a lot. In fact, I’ve done little else since I started this blog in the middle of November ’08. Such is the dilemma that I now face. I love what I’m doing so much, and finally feel that I’m really serving a worthwhile cause, that I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve found my ’true calling.’ But my experience forces me to wonder if this is just another symptom of my ’disease.’

You know how it’s said that you can’t see the forest for the trees? It’s like that when I try to weigh the consequences of this continuous writing. I don’t work, other than my writing, and I have no particular place to be. When I do have an appointment, I keep it. I take my med’s and prepare all my own meals. And the lack of a social life is ’normal’ for me. So aside from missing a lot of sleep, drinking too much coffee, and smoking too many cigarettes, it’s hard to find a truly negative consequence. But if I were a ’normal’ person with a job and family to tend to, this behavior would be excessive to say the least.

So for once I am truly at a loss. It’s not like there’s anyone I trust to advise me in this area. The psychiatrists and psychologists can’t seem to see past my drug abuse, ignoring the fact that my ’disease’ predates my drug abuse by many years. And the rehab community can only suggest that I turn my will over to ’a higher power’ or to ’the group’ - neither of which are acceptable to me. So I guess that I’ll just have to keep on doing what feels right. And that is to "Keep On Truckin’."

I welcome your comments. But still, as always,

I want ice water.

Tolerance... Not! Racism

Because of the profound effect that this issue has had on me personally, deciding how to tackle the subject of racial intolerance has been a difficult task. Growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as the offspring of racially mixed parents has provided me with more than a little experience with racism. So much so that I hardly know where to begin. But I know that in order to give this issue a fair and rational review, I must be willing to set aside the emotions evoked by it. As one who suffers from depression, brought on in part by my experiences in this area, I hope that you can understand why this is difficult for me. I’m certainly no Mr. Spock, but I do know to use reason and logic to get at the root of a problem.

The first thing to be done is to untangle of all the imagery and confusion that any discussion of race is bound to provoke. Now everybody knows about America’s history involving the enslavement of Blacks. And while there is absolutely no way to excuse that, it is helpful to remember that Blacks represent just one case in a very long history of similar travesties committed by Man. In fact, I think you’d have a hard time finding any group that hasn’t been similarly mistreated at one time or another. Next we must realize that many acts considered to be racially motivated have actually been motivated by what is commonly called peer pressure. I call it collectivist politics.

Anyone who has spent much time with other people, and I’ve had just about enough, has to have noticed that a person’s behavior can be profoundly influenced by those around them. Only an idiot actually believes that a person deserves to be mistreated because of his skin color. But even an idiot knows he can be outcast if he doesn’t get with the program. This same logic applies whether the issue involves race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, or the side of the tracks one was born on. So you see the real issue is not racism at all. This is behavior motivated by collectivist politics - the evil acts of one group against another as justified by the mere fact that the first group is stronger and the other group is ’different.’

When I was a little kid in Charleston, West Virginia, the police would routinely conduct these brutal sweeps to clear the streets of my neighborhood. All of the cops were White. All of those arrested were Black. I’d like to believe that this was done to keep homeless drunks from causing trouble, but that could just be wishful thinking. During this same period I was often the butt of jokes about how I would eventually try to pass myself off as White. As you can probably imagine, discovering that people thought that way about me was not only confusing, but damn scary as well.

In 1965, during a car trip back from spending Christmas in Florida with my father, I got locked inside a White owned restaurant in Georgia. Being a naive little boy, I had run ahead to be the first one inside. I was so busy spinning on one of the bar stools that I didn’t even notice that the doors had been locked after I came in, to keep my dad and his girlfriend out. Because of my appearance, no one inside realized that I was with them until I ran to the door my dad was pounding on. I’m not sure if I was more afraid of being locked inside or of what my father would do if they didn’t open the door. Those poor fools had no idea of the kind of man there were keeping from his son. Fortunately, an apologetic waitress let me out and my dad’s girlfriend was able to talk my dad into just leaving.

In 1966 the country apparently went nuts from all the racial tension. Because I still had a small shred of innocence left in me, my first knowledge of this came when my Black friends decided that we should leave our elementary school in protest. Unfortunately, the only White friend I had at the time had been assigned, as playground monitor, to prevent kids from wandering off. Because I was so desperate to be considered genuinely Black for a change, I allowed myself to be pressured into being the one to remove ’the White obstruction to our freedom.’ He was just a good kid trying to do what he was assigned to do, so he refused. It was then, out of embarrassment and frustration, that I committed one of the most shameful acts of my life by punching him in the stomach. I was so disgusted with myself that I couldn’t even leave with the others. I’m not sure why he didn’t report me, but I lost a good friend forever.

In 1968, while living in Los Angeles, I was jumped by two Black kids because according to them, and unbeknownst to me, their classroom was at war with my classroom. That got me started on the path from being the sixth grade salutatorian to being one of the world’s worst truants. When Dr. King was murdered a few months later, I was terrified at the prospect of looking so White while living in an all Black community. This was because there were rumors about Black gangs venting their wrath on Whites.

In 1969, while I was riding a bicycle a few blocks from home, some Black people sent their dog after me. When they discovered that they actually knew me, after I had fallen and broken my arm, they said that they’d only done it because they thought I was White. After that I went almost nowhere, let alone to school. With truancy being a such big issue with the government, and with my attitude turning more negative by the day, I became more ’trouble’ than my Sister wanted to deal with. So she shipped me back to my Mom in Ohio.

All of these things can be attributed to racism, and it’s clear to me that the stupidity operates in all directions. However, they can also be attributed to collectivist thinking motivating a desire to impress one group at the expense of others. That was certainly the case when I punched my friend in the stomach.

If you’ve read my Opening Rant article, then you’re familiar with my belief that each of us thinks and acts according to the personal philosophy we have chosen to guide us - whether we’re conscious of that choice or not. And Collectivism is the most dangerous kind of philosophy precisely because it’s so nebulous and unspoken - exactly what appeals to the masses who can’t be bothered to look beyond the moment. Simply stated, Collectivism allows that anything is okay so long as it can be justified as ’necessary’ by those powerful enough to impose their will. While it has been used historically to dominate Autocracies and Theocracies, it’s most commonly found in the form it takes in today’s so-called Democracies.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that democratic rule can be the ideal form of government. But we’ll never achieve that ideal so long as the majority simply bow to collectivist politics because they’re too stupid or too afraid to object. Let’s take a look at where this type of thinking as gotten us so far, shall we.

Apparently, just about everyone said the Hebrews were inferior. Voila! Hebrews were persecuted for many, many years!

The Roman and the Jews said the Christians were dangerous. Voila! Christians were persecuted for many, many years!

The Christians said the Holy Land must be purged. Voila! We got Crusaders!

The Muslims said the Holy Land must be purged. Voila! We got Jihad!

The Whites proclaimed Manifest Destiny. Voila! Ethnic cleansing of Native Americans!

The Whites said that Blacks were inferior. Voila! 400 years of Black enslavement!

The Nazis said the Jews should be exterminated. Voila! Fire up the ovens!

During WWII, the majority said we just can’t trust them slant eyes. Voila! Americans in concentration camps!

After WWII, the majority said that the Jews deserve their promised land. Voila! Israelis in, Palestinians out!

Muslim extremists decided to attack The Great Satan. Voila! We got 9/11!

The U.S. retaliated for 9/11. Duh? We go to war in Iraq? Doe!

And let us not forget those ’special’ cases where those imposing their will didn’t seem so dangerous. Voila! We got Rioters, Bombers, Snipers, Terrorists, and School Massacres!

Just in case you thought there was none, let’s now take a look at how this kind of thinking affects the economy.

The majority said the wealthy should pay more taxes. Voila! We got a progressive tax scale!

The wealthy hired lawyers to fight against excessive taxes. Voila! We got tax sheltering and tax evasion!

The majority said the poor should pay less taxes. Voila! The primary users of government services pay almost nothing for them!

The majority said we shouldn’t use ’illegal’ drugs. Voila! We got ourselves a drug war on all fronts and a prison system bursting at the seams - very expensive!

The majority said we should unleash the power of Wall Street so everyone can pay less taxes. Voila! We got economic disaster!

The majority screamed, "DO SOMETHING." Voila! It’ll take generations to pay off all this debt!

If you were to ask anyone in the majority if they were wrong when these decisions were being made, the response would almost certainly be a resounding "Hell no! Just ask anybody!" Those who suffer from these ’high minded’ decisions would of course be dismissed as ignorant scum who’s opinions don’t count anyway. And most of them were usually too ignorant or too afraid to speak out anyway. Remember the little boy who dared to ask why the Emperor was naked? The sad fact is, if you searched through all of history, you’d have a hard time finding a single man-made disaster that didn’t have some sort of collectivist rationale behind it.

As far as the treatment of Blacks in America is concerned, our great leaders - the Black leadership as well as the federal government - have merely tried to replace one collectivist nightmare with another. It must be remembered that every one of the state and local governments that looked so bad during the civil rights movement were financed by public funds. But instead of passing - and enforcing - laws that would have made it impossible for them to use tax money for racially biased policies, our leaders - with complete approval from the majority - have simply instituted a racially based ’quota system’ in it’s place.

Again, it must be remembered that the majority of Whites were actually behind the civil rights movement, even if many were afraid to show it. Laws that would have taken away the power of local government to enforce the ’peer pressure’ of a powerful minority on them was all that they needed to speak out. But instead of actually leveling the playing field by guaranteeing the individual’s right to decide who deserves his or her support, the federal government has wasted many billions of dollars on a collectivist bureaucracy founded on institutionalized racism.

The bottom line is that what we call racism is only one of the countless faces of collectivist politics. And if we want to have better relations between any of the various groups on Earth, we’re going to have to rid ourselves of the profound stupidity that stands in the way: Collectivism. If President Obama is as smart as he seems, he’ll focus the spotlight on the real issues and not allow it to be pointed at something so trivial as the color of his skin.

After all, everyone will be nicely tanned in the future. Deal with it!

A good metaphor for how we've dealt racism in this country can be found in The Trees by the group Rush.

I want ice water.

Tolerance... Not! Religion

Right from the start, I must state that I have difficulty tolerating religion of any kind. While I’ve found the majority of the religious people I have known to be kind and decent in general, I doubt that I’ll ever really trust anyone who’s choices are guided by belief in the supernatural. This mistrust is a big part of the ’hate’ half of my relationship with my fellow man. The ’love’ half, on the other hand, derives from the potential for greatness that we all so clearly possess. It’s that potential that gives me hope for a better tomorrow and the faith that we can learn to deserve it.

To the point then. This article is intended to discuss religious intolerance. This is a peculiar issue indeed, as it seems to me that the only ones showing a lack of tolerance for religious belief are the religious people themselves. Only a rare few atheists even speak out against religion, let alone commit the kind of cruel and horrible acts associated with this issue. And yet, history shows that supernatural mythology - Mysticism - has been used to justify the most heinous atrocities ever committed by men.

Even when men like Stalin and Mao sought to eradicate religion’s influence in the horrible manner that they did, it was only because they wanted to replace that influence with one equally as irrational and dangerous: Statism. And while I don’t say that they’re actions were in any way defensible, what they did was entirely to be expected in the anything goes atmosphere created when we believe that our lives our best managed by ’other’ hands. I’ll talk more about the other ’isms’ in another article.

Now I’d like to be able to present all the pros and cons applicable to this discussion, so that I’ll not be thought of as ’heartless’ or ’unfeeling.’ But the ugly truth is that there are no ’pros’ to shine a favorable light on irrational thoughts and actions. And as much as I hate to be the one to burst the bubble of hope that some supernatural force will step in to save us in the eleventh hour, I must instead remind you that the hell we live in is of our own making and we are the only ’power’ available to chill things out.

At it’s base, all religions stand on the belief that Man will behave badly if left to his own devices. They were created as a means of regulating Mankind’s base nature in order to provide for a more civilized world. And Man’s history of behaving badly when he isn’t controlled seems to back that up. I’m sure that those who founded the religions of the world saw great merit in teaching that there was a power greater then Man that would impose justice on even the very powerful.

But manipulating the ignorant inevitably leads to great numbers of ignorant people who are vulnerable to manipulation, and there will always be those who would take advantage of that vulnerability to further their own less than enlightened ends. And that is precisely what has resulted from a history filled with attempts to control people by leveraging their superstitions against them. Despite some very good things that have been done in the name of God, the balance of history falls far more heavily on the side of tragedy.

Obviously, Mankind does need to know that there’s a price to be paid for behaving badly. But that knowledge cannot be gained by those who choose to be ignorant. That knowledge can only come through rigorous dedication to learning how the universe actually works, so that we can better foresee the results of our actions. Only by having the courage to seek out and live by the truth, can we ever hope to achieve a truly civilized world. Our influence on one another should be limited to leadership by example and genuinely constructive criticism.

Okay, today is Christmas, so I’ll try to show some charity. To lighten the mood a little, I offer this: I don’t recall if it was on The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, but thoughts of religion always remind of the episode where the helpful aliens arrived on Earth bearing a big book with the title To Serve Man. Call me a sentimental old fool, but I hope that the prayers of my religious friends aren’t dashed the way those poor Earthling’s were when they found out that To Serve Man was a cookbook! Well, maybe ’hope’ isn’t the exact word to describe my feelings.

Now I know that there will be those who say that the idea of aliens coming to Earth is just as irrational as the belief in God. Not true! Alien visitors would at least be actual physical beings that used technology derived from science to get here. God, on the other hand, is an all-knowing and all-powerful ’spirit’ who just happens to be so bored that he has nothing better to do than peek and poke into the ant farm he created just for us. Big difference! But maybe we’re both wrong. Maybe all those UFOs people report seeing are crammed full of God’s friends come to check out the nice zoo in the back yard of His crib.

If it’s any solace to my religious friends, I believe that however we came to exist, we’ve been ’given’ all that we need and then left alone and free to sort things out for ourselves. Of course, it doesn’t help that Christmas has become another justification for filling our kid’s heads with the belief that all their wishes can be granted by supernatural beings, not to mention the ’duty’ we feel to ’save’ our economy by spending our last dime on presents. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the current state of our economy, it’s that you can’t get something for nothing.

We must always count the costs of our aspirations, and have the guts to cut our losses when they’re not worth it. While it may be laudable to encourage feelings of love and giving, it’s downright inexcusable to deny credit to the very human beings doing all the giving. And ’humble’ is not the word I’d use to describe how, even when the huge bills arrive after this orgy of self-sacrifice and greed, people will still somehow consider it ’godly’ to have behaved in such a manner.

Please don’t misinterpret my statements to mean that I advocate denying anyone the right to be religious. What I’m trying to advocate is true freedom of thought and speech for everyone, and the evaluation of points of view based on the respect they earn through free and open-minded deliberation. Just as our children must grow beyond the myths we use to protect and inspire them during their early years, so Mankind must grow beyond the mythologies that, while helpful in more primitive times, now threaten not only our prosperity but our very survival as a species. We must grow up before we can rightfully call ourselves ’advanced’ beings.

I can’t resist a parting shot at the three religions I’m most familiar with. For the Christians, Jethro Tull said that "If Jesus saves, well he’d better save himself, from the gory glory seekers who use his name in death." For the Muslims, I can only misquote the monster from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein: "Islam-a-BAD!" And finally, do I really have to do any more than remind everyone that the Jews think that they are God’s ’chosen’ people?

To close, I’ll just include a bit more from that wise old minstrel Jethro Tull:

"How do you dare to tell me, that I’m my father’s son?

When that was just an accident of birth.

I’d rather look around me. Compose a better song.

’Cause that’s the honest measure of my worth.

In your pomp and all of your glory, you’re a poorer man than me.

As you lick the boot of death worn out of fear...

When I was young, and they packed me off to school.

And they taught me how not to play the game.

I didn’t mind if they groomed me for success

Or if they said that I was just a fool.

So to my old headmaster, and to anyone who cares,

Before I’m through I’d like to say my prayers.

Well you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school.

And have all the Bishops harmonize these lines:

I don’t believe you. You had the whole damned thing all wrong.

He’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday."

Sorry. The ’devil’ made me do it!

I want ice water.

Tolerance... Not! Prostitution

Prostitution. It’s not called "the world’s oldest profession" for nothing. I think it’s safe to say that as long as there have been people desiring sex without entanglements there have been prostitutes to meet the demand. And it’s no doubt equally safe to say that prostitutes have always been reviled by those who think that sex without entanglements is wrong. Few societies have seen fit to allow the free practice of prostitution, and yet I can think of no society in which it did not flourish in one form or another. In fact, while there will always those who condemn the prostitute, there are also those who think that society couldn’t function without them.

Prostitution thrives in many forms in America today, from the illegal street hustlers and high-end call girls (and boys), to the legalized form practiced in Nevada. Services are advertised in every form of media from the classifieds in your local paper to the Internet. Prostitutes work as independent contractors and as associates in varying sized organizations. Indeed, they come in all flavors and promise to fulfill any desire. So where is the harm? Why hasn’t this profession been given the respect that other professions get? Just what is the public outcry all about? Man! That’s a tall order. Where do I begin?

First there are the religious objections. Sex outside of marriage has always been wrong to those who practice the most popular religions. So sex-for-pay, to them, is an outright outrage! Next there are the criminal and public nuisance objections. Those who take this stand argue about the added crime that comes with the sex-for-pay trade, such as robbery, drug abuse, and abuse from pimps and johns. They also argue about the nuisance caused by prostitutes plying their trade in areas that should be kept clear for ’decent’ purposes. And then there are the public health concerns. Those who argue from this position point out how prostitution spreads sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are potentially fatal.

So in light of all this evidence against prostitution, and considering that none of it has helped to eradicate the practice, what would a more reasoned approach entail? Perhaps an attempt to untangle some of the imagery and confusion associated with the issue would be a good place to start. I’ll try to do so by listing a few facts.

1. Sex outside marriage is a fact of life. Deal with it.

2. We will never eliminate prostitution. Deal with it.

3. There are legal arrangements that work.

4. Expanded legalization can also work because:

a. Licensed professionals earn a decent wage and don’t need to commit robbery.

b. Licensed professionals don’t need a pimp’s protection because they have recourse to the law.

c. Licensed professionals don’t need to walk the streets because they can advertise their services and/or join organized businesses.

d. Licensed professionals can be routinely tested for sexually transmitted diseases and drugs.

I think this shows that finding a rational way of dealing with the ’problem’ of prostitution isn’t so complicated after all.

I have known quite a few prostitutes during my life. Both from my childhood when my father was a pimp with his own brothel, and from my adult experiences living in the underground ’drug’ culture. I don’t think that anyone, other than the prostitutes themselves, can truly understand why they choose to be prostitutes knowing the contempt and abuse that comes with that lifestyle. But it’s a fact that their profession is not alone in having to deal with such questions.

Because of my ’vast experience’ with prostitutes, I have never been comfortable using their services because I feared being seen as just another aggressive, and potentially abusive, man they’d have to deal with. And the fact that both sides of that equation has been forced on us by the arrogant and irrational manner in which society has dealt with the issue thus far only serves to enhance my discomfort.

I’m not saying that society will become ’Heaven on Earth’ if we choose another way of dealing with prostitution, or that it will ever become a comfortable topic to discuss at social gatherings. But it is clear that the approach we have taken has not led to our society being lifted to a higher moral plane. If anything, the inhumanity of the current approach has pushed us all in the other direction.

Perhaps, if we are sincere when we proclaim our intent to rise above the example of Mankind’s history, all we really need is the courage to get real and the compassion to care more about actual people than we do about being politically correct.

And don’t we have enough real criminals to deal with?

I want ice water.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's Time To Prove Ourselves Again

We’re now only months away from the forty year anniversary of Man’s greatest achievement: the landing of two men on the surface of the moon. Until that time, Mankind had spent almost it’s entire history suffering under the delusion of being the powerless ’pets’ of supernatural beings who seemed to have nothing better to do that to meddle in human affairs. Somehow, we seemed to live at the center of a universe that was at once terrifying and unknowable. Gradually, and with great resistance from the fearful masses, we came to the more realistic view of ourselves as insignificant beings living on an insignificant planet in a universe that was vast beyond our wildest imaginations. We also came to realize that we weren’t so powerless after all, and the ultimate proof of that was our landings on the moon.

Unfortunately, our great successes has lead us to make the arrogant assumption that we have nothing left to prove - that we now stand alone as the masters of our reality and divorced from any dependence upon it. How wrong that assumption has proven to be as clearly evidenced by the state of the environment that we, and every other form of life we know of, must live in. While it’s certainly true that we have made great scientific strides in areas like technology and medicine in the years since, the fact that we have done so in such an irresponsible manner have all but undone the surge in confidence the moon landings gave us. And the current economic crisis is threatening to become the grave marker for all our dreams.

Indeed, the problems we now face appear to be coming from too many directions to face head on and so many of them seem to have the potential to overwhelm us by themselves, that we ironically find ourselves once again feeling powerless amidst an unknowable universe. But the truth is that, just as in the past, we are not powerless. We are not helpless. We are simply unfocused. Maybe that’s what President Kennedy saw in the early sixties. Remember, those were hard and frightening times too. Maybe he knew that all we needed was a great challenge to overcome to restore our confidence and prove to ourselves that we can overcome great obstacles. And maybe, just maybe, that’s all we need today.

But what challenge could we undertake to get those creative juices flowing again? What obstacle can we conquer that is both realistically achievable and spiritually fulfilling enough to grab the hearts of Mankind? I believe that we can overcome all of our troubles if we have to time to do so, but there is one problem that, if not solved quickly enough, threatens to rob us of the time we need to solve any of the others. And that is the disaster we have made of our environment. Oh I know that this is such a huge an nebulous problem, and I’ve heard all the arguments that seem to be at odds with each other. But the fact is that our dependence on fossil fuels lies at the heart of just about every environmental issue, and that is absolutely something we can do something about.

I believe that President Obama should use the anniversary of Man’s landing on the moon to challenge this nation to become completely independent of fossil fuels by the end of the next decade. Sure, a lot of people will scream that he is crazy and that it can’t be done, but people said the same things when President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon. And let’s not forget all of the other great developments that came about as the result of achieving that impossible dream. The possibilities are endless from this one as well.

We are literally standing on the brink of the end of civilization as we know it. It’s up to us to decide what kind of future we want and what kind of future we deserve. It’s time to prove ourselves again.

I want ice water

Monday, February 16, 2009

My International Incident

This article is about an incident I was involved in during the winter of ’75 and ’76, while I was still in the Air Force and stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. I had arrived there during the most significant ’break’ in my marriage and had spent the time since that break, both before and after moving to Panama, smoking as much marijuana as I could tolerate. And considering that, in Panama at that time, the stuff cost only $10 an ounce and $90 a pound, spending as much of my time as I could get away with stoned out of my mind was pretty easy.

You must understand that I joined the Air Force and got married when I was only seventeen years old. So while I was excited to visit what to me seemed a far off and exotic land, I was still little more than a child who felt trapped and isolated thousands of miles from anything that felt like home. As a matter of fact I had already gotten myself into trouble, only months after my arrival, by being caught in possession of marijuana in my barracks room with a couple of boys my age. Because one of the boys was only seventeen and both were civilian dependents of senior Air Force personnel, I was lucky that I was only fined, given a six month suspension of promotion, and forced to attend drug rehab classes. But despite this very clear warning, I still allowed my desire for companionship and my drug induced blindness to lead me even further down the path towards disaster.

At that time Panama was a virtual police state, which was plainly evident by the many national guardsmen in full military uniform and assault weapons positioned throughout the areas I visited. The people there were so poor and the slums were so heart breaking that the sights rivaled almost any shown in those commercials asking for help for the poor starving children of the world. It seemed that what little economic activity there was was focused almost entirely on catering to the U. S. personnel stationed in the canal zone. And when you consider the stereotypical wants of military men, it’s not surprising that much of that activity was frowned upon.

In addition to the abundance of marijuana and other plant-based drugs, Panama had a burgeoning population of prostitutes. While prostitution was strictly forbidden for Panamanian women it was, oddly enough, openly allowed for the thousands of women from other countries who had come there specifically for that reason. Apparently, these other countries where in such bad economic shape that it had become customary for some of their women to spend time as prostitutes in Panama while sending money back to their families at home. Of course, with the local women having such a hard time, the laws against prostitution did little to deter them from joining in the game.

Now every incoming soldier was warned of the potential danger of being caught up in trouble that might land them in a local jail. Because of the political problems between the U. S. and the government of Panama, American military personnel had been known to disappear into local incarceration with no one bothering to inform anyone of their situation. So it’s should come as no surprise that, despite the flagrant violation of military rules, GI’s preferred to do their ’partying’ on base where they felt a little more safe to enjoy themselves. I know for a fact that, in my barracks at least, hardly a night went by that somebody didn’t have one or more prostitutes in their room.

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you’ve probably already guessed at the kind of nightmare I was walking right into. But there’s no way you would be able to guess at the actual enormity of that nightmare. It all started so innocently, you see. Because I found trips into Panama City to be such sad and nerve wracking events, it was only rarely that I allowed someone to talk me into going with them. And it was on one of these ’adventures’ that an associate of mine approached two girls about getting together at some point to party. Being the extremely shy person that I was, I was just glad when he had finished telling them how to find us on base and we could move on. And I had completely forgotten about it when they actually came looking for us a few nights later.

By the time that night rolled around I had a room to myself, which I made my very own by placing the mattresses for two beds together in a big square on the floor and decorating the walls in a checkerboard pattern of photos and articles from Playboy and Penthouse magazines. I have no idea how I was able to get away with having a room in a military barracks look that way, considering the frowns of disapproval I got whenever inspections came around. But nevertheless it made the perfect spot for my friends to want to party in, so that’s where the four of us spent the evening.

I must make it very clear that this party was not planned by me in any way. In fact, I made it clear at the start that it had to end rather early because I was due to work a midnight to 8 am shift. Also, there was no sexual activity whatsoever, not because I didn’t want to, but because one of the girls was feeling sick and the other was concerned about her friend. So we spent the time we had talking and listening to music. Unfortunately, as the time for me to go to work came closer, the one girl became more and more sick. So sick in fact that by the time I had to go to work I simply didn’t have the heart to send her on the long bus ride back to wherever she lived. As idiotic as it may seem now, I decided to let her stay in my room overnight while I went to work.

What a bad decision that turned out to be! Again, you must understand that I left her in my room because I was trying to do the right thing. But I also acknowledge that I was fully aware of the risk that I was taking by doing so. I even chose leaving her in the room alone instead of seeking medical help for her because I wanted to avoid the trouble I would undoubtedly get into for having her there in the first place. All this I acknowledge without hesitation. Nevertheless, I was still shocked when, five minutes before my shift ended, I was contacted by the base’s chief of security.

I tried to pretend that I didn’t know what he was talking about at first, but my denials simply flew out the window when he told me what the housekeeping staff had found when they came in my barracks. Like imagery form some TV crime scene, the chief described how they had found a trail of blood leading from a very large pool on my bed to another very large pool originating from the girl’s vagina while she lay half-dead on the bathroom floor. As you might expect, I was in big trouble and my protestations of innocence fell on somewhat deaf ears.

Quite rapidly, this turned into an extremely embarrassing international incident with Panamanian officials accusing me of attempted murder and with the U. S government wanting to simply throw me to the wolves to make it all go away. The commander of the base had quite predictably, considering my record, filed the necessary paperwork to push for immediate court-martial proceedings. It seemed that everyone had turned their backs on me, including my ’friend’ that had been at the party that night. As for the other guys I lived and worked with, all I got from them were sick jokes about how large my penis had to be to cause so much damage.

Fortunately, military law requires that even naive fools like me get legal representation when stuck in such situations. And even more fortunately, I had a very good military lawyer assigned to my case. But even with all the phone calls he made and all the letters he sent out on my behalf, Captain Hood had a very steep hill to climb in order to save my hide. It helped some that it had been a pet peeve of his that enlisted men had these restrictions on who they could have in their barracks while officers could have pretty much any visitors they wanted, but the fact that the girl was in no condition to help with the remainder of the charges still left me with my butt very exposed.

I was all but court-martialed and on my way to prison when one of those amazing ’hallelujah’ things happened to save my ass. The girl came out of her coma and was decent enough to tell what actually happened that night - and what led up to it. As it turned out, she had had one of those back-alley type abortions only hours before she and her friend had come out to the base. I’m pretty sure that the Panamanian government wasn’t pleased at being denied the opportunity to stick it to the Americans more than they already had, and I know for a fact that my commanders were still quite pissed at my having made them look so bad, but in the end they were left with only the charge of having unauthorized personnel in my barracks to hold against me. And the fact that Capt. Hood had been campaigning against that rule as being discriminatory left them in a bad position even when it came down to that.

So to everyone’s great relief, they offered, and I accepted, an honorable discharge a full year before I would have been otherwise eligible. Provided, of course, that I was on a flight back home within a week. Naturally I was happy at the prospect of getting off so easy. I was also looking forward to going home to attempt the reunification of my marriage. But I was not happy that my Air Force career was coming to such a bad ending. You see, despite all of the trouble and my disillusionment with the military, I still had those naive and idealistic hopes that my service would end up being something I could be proud of. I really was quite ashamed that things ended up the way they did.

Well, to wrap up this sad and sordid tale, I spent the next week packing and shipping my stuff home, while at the same time taking all five of the G.E.D. tests in just two sessions with almost no preparation whatsoever. Amazingly, after arriving home from the tropics in the dead of winter, I later received the results from those tests along with a letter from Captain Hood praising me for having gotten above average scores under such difficult circumstances. I was very happy with the results, and with the praise he though that I deserved, but both things were also painful reminders of how little I had done with the potential I had.

This sense of failure stayed with me through all of the years I spent struggling to get a degree while still getting stoned to alleviate some of the pain. It bothered me so much that as soon as I got my Associates Degree, I headed out to try and re-enlist. That’s when I discovered that the Air Force hadn’t let me off so easily after all. While it didn’t matter much in my civilian life according to the recruiter, a re-enlistment rating of 5 was the worst that it got for a anyone hoping to return to the military. According to him, this rating was so bad that he had thought it was reserved only for traitors and such. You know, the ’Benedict Arnold’ types.

After I explained to the recruiter what had happened in Panama, he agreed that a rating of 5 was a bit extreme. He even explained the process through which the rating could be appealed. But he made it clear that such an appeal was long, costly and rarely successful. In the end he advised that, considering that those records were off limits to civilian employers and were automatically erased after a few years anyway, I should just move on with my life away from the military.

So much for working for a happy ending by trying to make things right.

I want ice water.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Like an old vinyl record with a bad scratch, history seems to be repeating itself - yet again. I know that I will not be the first person to point this out, but there are features within the current loop that no one seems to have noticed. While the talking heads have covered, in exasperating detail, the dire state of the economy and the rampant business and political failures that have led to it, they seem to have overlooked some of the environmental similarities to depression era times.

Like before The Great Depression, everyone can see that we’ve been going through a long period of rapid growth fueled by incredible technological advances and over-optimistic expectations of what those advances meant for the future. But also like before The Great Depression, we’ve had decades of increasing distrust of government, of big business, and of people with wealth and power in general. And just like before The Great Depression, we have failed to recognize the ramifications of that distrust.

Like before The Great Depression, everyone can see that we’ve gone through years of moral crusading about lifestyle choices and substance abuse while preaching the advantages of self-government. But also like before The Great Depression we’ve been unable to see the hypocrisy that those opposing stances represent. And just like before The Great Depression, we have failed to recognize the ramifications of that hypocrisy.

Americans love to boast about the great ’moral’ heritage on which The United States was founded. And yet those same morals were used to justify horrors like native extermination, human enslavement, religious persecution, and denying rights to women who were just as white and religious as the men. What is there to be so proud of? While it’s true that the beliefs held by the founders lead them to create the U. S. Constitution, which lays a fairly good foundation for a life we can be proud of, the hypocrisy demonstrated by the lives they actually lived - and how we still live today - stands as clear evidence of the flaws inherent in those beliefs.

Money is arguably the greatest invention in human history. It was this invention, more than anything else, that made it possible for all people to deal with one another as equals. But we seem to have never quite grasped what money actually represents. We came close many years ago, when we declared that theft was a crime of very high significance. We come close today every time we toss around phrases like ’time is money.’ But we’ve never straight-out acknowledged the fundamental connection between time and money. Money represents the part of a man’s life, time which he’ll never get back, that he has spent earning that money. Money, and the property it buys, is all he has to show for that time. This undeniable truth speaks to us quite loudly through the sense of outrage we feel when someone is told ’at least you have your life’ right after being robbed.

Americans today are so confused when it comes to the issues of morality and money that the ’truth’ of statements like ’money is the root of all evil’ are now accepted without question. So blind is the acceptance of these so-called ’truths’ that no one seems to realize just what an indictment this represents against every person who has ever worked an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay. They’ve even gone so far in support of this lie that they’ve even twisted the story of Robin Hood, which was actually about a man fighting to regain the riches stolen from him by the government, into one where he robbed from the rich to give to the poor. This lie has been used to justify ’robbing Peter to pay Paul’ for a very long time.

I believe that a person has an inviolate right to do anything with his money he wants. I do not believe that the U. S. Constitution grants to government the right to do anything it wants with our money. The ’progressive’ U.S. tax system requires those at the top end of the income scale to sometimes pay thousands of times more than those at the low end of the income scale. Considering how we treat the wealthy as if they couldn’t possibly have earned their wealth, should we really be surprised when the wealthy take a ’by any means necessary’ approach to protecting what is theirs? Why are we so shocked that the principles separating freedom fighters from pirates have been so badly corrupted?

After the media and the people have spent so much effort denigrating the legal and political professions, why should anyone be surprised that these professions now tend to attract the kind of people who can be tempted into corruption? After spending so much time and money criminalizing the activities of millions of Americans, why are we now surprised to discover that our society is filled with outlaws? And after making it the sworn duty of our police to arrest people who have harmed no one other than themselves, why are we now so shocked when the resulting conflict of interest leads to dereliction of duty and corruption?

This society uses the cover of morality to justify denying the rights of anyone unlucky enough to fit within a group that can conveniently be used as cannon fodder in the war to avoid the awful truth it seeks to hide. To feed the needs of this beast we pretend is not there, we’ve been willing to deny the freedom and seize the wealth of anyone that can be painted with the brush of unpopularity. While we claim to have grown past the petty discriminations of the past, our society has seen far too many seek the comforts of other shores and our prisons are filled with far too many convicted of crimes that had no victims.

We even use the cover of morality to intrude into areas that should clearly be off limits. Areas where people should feel safe to sleep with whom they want and to resolve their relationship issues in private, away from unwanted intrusions by the media and the government. In fact, we were so busy meddling in Bill Clinton’s sex life in the late 90’s that we completely missed the rising threat from people who are even more extreme when it comes to using ’morality’ to justify their actions. And despite the obvious lesson to the contrary, we have chosen to be even more like our enemies than we were before.

Rather than recognizing that more freedom and not less is required to deal with our problems, we still resort to name calling and finger pointing to make sure that no one dares to speak out against the system as it stands today. All while still pretending to be the world’s greatest advocates of freedom. I have to wonder if I’m truly the only one who wishes that Bill Clinton had answered the attacks against him with, "Yeah, I had me some fun with that woman. Now, Lord help me, I’ve got to answer to Hillary. So I will thank you to keep your damn noses out of our private lives, you ambulance chasing dogs!" While this may not have altered the terrorist’s plans, it would have gone a long way towards drawing ’a line in the sand’ for freedom.

We spend so much energy advocating the ’free market’ and yet we consistently fail to recognize the free market at work. We think of the free market as a place that involves only the exchange of money and property, when it’s actually a market driven by the free exchange of ideas. We have allowed our confused understanding of morality and wealth to turn us into a people who are unable to recognize either. With everyone so focused on how the system is failing to meet their needs, no one seems to realise that our economic troubles could’ve been avoided if we hadn’t been so immoral and greedy in the first place.

I have spent my entire life living on the ’middle earth’ between ’a lawful existence’ and the freedom to live as I choose. Many others have lived in that reality as well. I have also spent my entire life struggling to stay sane while drowning in a virtual sea of mysticism and superstition. Again, I know that I have not struggled alone. But even as a disillusioned teenager, I was smart enough to see that we were headed for both economic disaster and religion-inspired warfare. How could any sane person expect a different result, considering how we can’t seem to resist betting our future on the belief that we are better than the choices we actually make?

The lesson that we should learn from all of this is that, regardless of how we ’feel’ about it, the marketplace of life is very real and has rules that absolutely must be obeyed. What we are now experiencing is a real ’market correction.’ And as everyone rushes to jump on the bail-out bandwagon, I’m reminded of The Cars when they asked, "Who’s going to drive you home... tonight?" I hope that, as the government stamps out more money to throw at the problem, we remember that all that paper must derive it’s actual value from the lives of the people who carry it, and from the lives of our descendents who will still be paying for it.

I believe that we have, in fact, come a long way towards the ideals that this country was founded on. People are now relatively free to live and work in ways and arenas that would never have been tolerated in the times before The Great Depression. I doubt that anyone during those times would have predicted that we would one day have a President of The United States of African-American descent. But a man is either free or he is not, and ’relative freedom’ is a price that a country claiming to be ’the leader of the free world’ cannot afford to pay.

I want ice water.

Love, Loss, Anger, and Faith

Now that My Terrible Ordeal is over, I can get on with trying to salvage the rest of my life. In addition to all of this writing, being sober and temporarily without the distractions of telephone, cable TV and Internet has allowed me to take a more clear headed look at my life up to now. These circumstances have also allowed me, with some difficulty, to resume my love of reading and listening to music. This is difficult because those things are clear evidence of the state of my psyche at the time I chose them. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with some of my history and of my tendency for idealistic thinking. Well all those books, records, and memories are painful reminders of the choices that tendency has led me to make. Choices like who and what I loved, what I did and did not give up to pursue those loves, and what I did in response to their loss.

I must say that my definition of what ’love’ is has evolved to be quite different from what other people say it is. I now believe that a person can truly love only the people and the things that represent that person’s ideals brought to life. Unfortunately, my definition was nowhere near complete enough to be a proper guide for some very critical choices I made in that area. So although my current beliefs did exist in infant form, they were of little help in preventing me from becoming locked into what later became very painful relationships with women and things. Of the two women important enough to write about, the first was my early childhood sweetheart and the other is the mother of my five children. The things are too numerous to mention other than to say that they were the typical kind that we waste so much time, energy, and money pursuing.

While I have little ambition for things these days, the women have been nowhere near as easy to dismiss. Regardless of how I feel about love and philosophy now, the feelings I have for these two women are still so strong that I literally get a psychic shock whenever either of them cross my mind. I try very hard to tell myself that my feelings aren’t rational because I shouldn’t feel this strongly for anyone not ’qualified’ for my love, but I might as well be spitting into a fan for all the good that does me. And there’s simply no possibility that I can prevent the thoughts altogether, especially when it comes to the mother of my children. So I guess that the only thing left to do is to face those memories and feelings head-on like all the head-shrinkers advise.

Before I can begin to describe either of those relationships, I must delve a little into the circumstances - and my thoughts about them - that surrounded them. I was born into a time of great turmoil and anticipation. If you know anything about the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, you’ll understand why this was so. And I’m not sure whether it was arrogance or naivete on my part, but somehow I came to believe that I had a special talent for judging right from wrong and for finding the good in anyone. My faith in my abilities gave me the confidence to take on many challenges that I might not otherwise have taken on.

But the belief that I was somehow ’special’ also left me feeling that I had a bit of an unfair advantage over other people. This feeling was reinforced by their apparent lack of faith in their own abilities and by the ’protected’ state I lived in due to having such a dangerous father. In turn, this led me to never want to appear ’superior’ to anyone and to never tell anyone of my fear for them should they be seen by my father as a threat. So I adopted the persona of a non-confrontational person who gave everyone the benefit of doubt, while I secretly strived to keep my true perceptions to myself.

But also behind the mask I wore raged the heart of a romantic idealist who believed himself capable of perceiving both the true pains of the world and the answers needed to alleviate that pain. Thus began the log lasting conflict between the person I let people see and the desire to be recognized as the ’answer’ I wanted to be. I became a person who denied the possibility of finding a ’perfect’ mate for himself while always campaigning to bring everyone to a state of ’perfection.’ As anyone in my family will eagerly tell you, that was not the way to begin a long and healthy life. But that’s how I ended up choosing women for mates not because of who they were but rather who I thought they could be. That’s not to say, despite the opinions of others, that just anyone would do.

My first ’love’ was a little girl that lived next door to me at the time of my earliest memories, when I still thought of myself as Bobby Hart. From then until I was ten years old, we spent practically all of our time together. She seemed so perfect to me. In fact, her family seemed more like my true family than the one I was born to. They even looked like me, which was kind of unusual in those days. My attachment to her was so strong that it inspired the first obsession I had with a song - The Monkees' I'm A Believer. But when I was ten we began to drift apart. I think this was mainly because she was a grade higher than I was in school, and had developed a circle of friends who couldn’t understand why she would spend so much time with a ’lesser’ being.

She had also developed an interest in other boys. The only fight I was ever in that I actually started, was with one of my perceived rivals. As I remember it, the fight pretty much ended in a draw. But I remember quite clearly how embarrassed I was at my behavior and the struggle I had to regain her respect. To me, those results felt like a terrible loss. I kept on trying to keep that relationship alive however, right up to my twelfth birthday when my mom shipped me off to live with my sister in L.A. I’ve seen her only twice since then.

The first time was after I was discharged from the Air Force over eight years later, during a drug-induced search for lost love after my wife revealed that she was pregnant by another man and had refused to resume our broken marriage. She was still just as beautiful as I remembered her, and still cared enough to welcome my visit in spite of the circumstances. But the fairy tale reunion came crashing down when should told me that she was in love with the guy I had started the fight with. The last time was during a road trip for my job. That’s when I found out that she had married that same guy and had a couple of pretty little girls by him. Since he really was a decent guy, and I was back with my wife at the time anyway, I did the best I could to hide my pain. Whether she bought my act or not is anyone’s guess.

I met my now ex-wife right after I moved to Ohio from L.A. in 1970, when I was fourteen and just getting used to being teased about that damned Janis Joplin song. She didn’t look like me the way my first ’love’ did, but I found her athletic grace and stature to be irresistible. Her family lived across the street in the housing project my sister lived in, and when I finally got up the nerve to talk to her, I found that she was a very bright fifteen year old who was very active in track and girl’s basketball. I myself have never been much into sports, but I had a pretty good hook shot and was fast enough to outrun her. And amazingly enough, she was a year ahead of me in school and was born in February - just like the first girl I fell in love with.

Over time I also discovered that, until I actually introduced myself, everyone she knew had wondered why ’a White kid like me’ was such a frequent visitor at my sister’s house. And even after I thought I had made it clear that my interest was in her, she and her sister still tried to fix me up with the White girl down the street. From the perspective of a horny teen-aged boy, it seemed to take forever to convince her that I was worth spending time with. Looking back on it now however, I have to wonder just how convinced she really was. You see, except for my intense attraction to her, we had almost nothing in common. All of our interests in music, in books, and in how we spent our time apart were completely different.

Although she was obviously just as bright as I was, the things she chose to focus her intelligence on made no sense to me whatsoever. I’m sure that she too wondered at the oddity of our relationship, because she introduced me one day to a potential suitor who just had to see it for himself. That really hurt. But I was relieved nonetheless when she chose me over him. And even after I joined the Air Force just to be financially ready to do so, I was still amazed when she agreed to marry me just three years after we met. If you consider the fact that we had to fake a pregnancy in front of a judge because I was only seventeen at the time, you can perhaps empathize a little with how I felt.

Have you ever heard the song I Hope You Dance by Leann Womack? It’s probably a fair bet that my ex-wife hasn’t, but if she had it could have given her some insights into the way I feel about my life today. You see when I was very young, I was so naive and uninhibited that I actually loved to dance all by myself in the bootleg joints frequented by my mother. As long as people kept giving me dimes to put in the jukebox, I danced like I was alone and happy on the moon. Unfortunately for our marriage, I had become increasingly extremely shy and introverted by the time we met. I had also discovered what actually motivated all those gyrations at the parties and nightclubs she wanted us to go to. So when I needed to the most, I just couldn’t bring myself to dance with her in public.

When you add to that the fact that my mental state also denied me the ambition needed to properly provide for our family, the fact that she remained married to me for almost thirty-three years is kind of hard to believe. And through all of those years, through all the highs of our reunions after the lows of our separations, through the successful births of our children and the frequent miscarriages, through all the stupid things I did that should have driven her away, she stuck with me. And the intensity of my feelings for her never diminished one little bit. Even after my spirit-liberating discovery of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, during the months of separation surrounding my military discharge, I was still unable to give her the life I wanted for us after we got back together - although for an entirely different reason at that point.

And for that same reason, the conflict between the person I showed to the world and the person I actually was became so great that it led to a psychotic breakdown. But she still kept me in her life, even through hospitalizations for mental health, drug abuse, and pancreatitis. However, I knew it was finally over when I awoke from a medically-induced coma, after an almost fatal resurgence of the pancreatitis, to see that she had brought her new man with her to visit me. Ironically, it was the guy she was with when I got out of the Air Force. You know, the guy she chose to be with instead of resuming our marriage. The one who actually fathered my first child - the son who still considers me to be his dad even though he knows otherwise.

But maybe the true irony lies in the fact that, in spite of all the drama, I still miss my ex-wife with an intensity I couldn’t begin to explain. Just hearing her voice on the phone can bring on one of those crying jags I struggle so hard to avoid. If there were no more evidence than that of just how badly twisted my mind has become, I think that should still be quite enough. But her new man is actually a very nice guy despite the animosity between him and our son. She certainly seems to be living a far more comfortable life than the one she had with me. And I truly don’t want to cause them any pain. So I try my best not to let my feelings show. But I’ve always been a very poor liar and I have my doubts about how successful my efforts have been.

Now that I’m nearing end of this article, an amazing thought has occurred to me. While watching the Presidential inauguration earlier, I was once again impressed by the imposing stature of Michelle Obama. If I had to guess, I would lean towards her being the physically stronger of the two. And that’s when it hit me. Do you recall my earlier statement that I believe you can truly love only that which represents your ideals brought to life? Well I realize now that the irresistible attraction I have always felt for my ex-wife derives it’s power from the strength that I first saw in her from across the street when we were kids. And it has been reinforced time and again by the courage and confidence she has demonstrated throughout the years.

Despite all my rationalizations to the contrary, telling myself that it didn’t make sense for me to love her because she didn’t look the way I wanted my woman to look and didn’t have the same goals that I did, I realize now that I did indeed love her. Not because she fit some magazine definition of beauty. Not because we wanted to do the same things and pursue the same goals. Not even because she truly was the best sexual partner I’ve ever had and of all the wonderful children that having sex with her produced. I loved her because she completed me by possessing the courage, confidence, and strength that I have always lacked and was willing to put up with me anyway. I’ve heard it said that, "There’s no fool like an old fool," While I don’t know if such an imbalanced love can ever actually work, knowing the true nature of my love for her might have helped.

To be clear, I have had other, shorter term, relationships with girls and women, all with equally disastrous results. I have not had even a one night stand since the end of my marriage in 2002. That is, other than those of the infrequent and always disappointing pay-to-play variety. The loneliness has gotten to be almost more than I can bear. But I’m so full of unresolved anger at myself and my circumstances that I simply haven’t had the confidence or the courage needed to approach a prospective mate while dragging such a mountain of pain and confusion behind me. Considering my history, I fear that starting a new relationship before dumping some of this baggage will only lead to more disaster.

My regular readers know how I like to include lyrics from my favorite songs in these articles. And when it comes to the subject of love, I’ve certainly had a wide array to choose from. I’ve looked into the soulful sounds of The Temptations, The Spinners, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Sly and the Family Stone, Lionel Richie, Hall and Oates, Grand Funk Railroad, Larry Graham, and Whitney Houston. I’ve surfed the melodic waves of The Beatles, The Carpenters, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, U2, Heart, and REO Speedwagon. I’ve even churned through the dark and angry waters of The Police, John Waite, Def Leppard, The Who, The Eurhythmics and Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut is an excellent reflection of my love life:

"Through the fish-eye lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely discern the shape of this moment in time.
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I’m spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide.

If you negotiate the minefields in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes.
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall.
Dial the combination. Open the priest hole.
And if I’m in I’ll tell you what’s behind the wall.

There’s a kid who had a big hallucination
Of making live to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you’re sleeping with your new found faith?
Could anybody love him? Or is it just a crazy dream?

And if I show you my dark side, will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you, show my weak side,
What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away and leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance as you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?

Thought I ought to bare my naked feelings.
Thought I ought to tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands, prepared to make it but
Just then the phone rang.
I never had the nerve to make the final cut."

The only significant difference between that story and my actual life is, ironically, the fact that the ringing I heard before attempting suicide was the call of crack cocaine.

Considering the state of my recent ’love’ life, maybe I’d be better off these days looking to groups like The Tube’s when they sang:

"You can step outside your little world.
You can talk to a pretty girl.
She’s everything you dream about...
But don’t fall in love!"

But for the future I’m still hoping for, perhaps the best advice came from the group Toto when they sang:

"Hold the line. Love isn’t always on time."

I have no idea if writing about these things will truly have the exorcising effect I hope for, but I do know that having copies of them outside of my head seems to somehow diminish the power of the ones still inside my head. I’m holding on very tightly to the hope that it’ll all work out in the end. I guess that would be the ’faith’ part of this whole thing. And in the real world, that may just be the best that I can hope for.

I want ice water.