Monday, July 18, 2016

The Consequence of Flatulence In Confined Spaces.




I was on a ride with my pal, Chick.  What kind of name is Chick for a guy, you ask?   Well, it's not.  We met on the beach.  I was collecting shells and he was lying there like a beached whale in the sand all tanned and bloated, no towel.  We struck up a conversation, introduced ourselves and when he got up he was covered head to toe in sand.  He looked like a piece of breaded chicken.  So I called him Chicken Cutlet, he called me Shell.  They stuck. 

So Chick and Shell, that's us, are driving down the highway on a mission to nowhere, maybe for coffee or something.  Chick is eating something as usual and I'm riding shotgun which makes me antsy because I love to drive.  He drives an ugly old '96 Buick that looks more like a suppository than an automobile.  It has a zillion miles on it, it makes a weird noise when you get it over sixty and the power windows don't work so its sealed up like a box.  A box that looks like a suppository.

The a/c is running tepid, the radio is playing that same Jimi Hendrix song, as if it was the only one he wrote and I'm itching to grab the wheel and stomp the gas pedal from the passenger side because I can't stand driving under the speed limit on a clear and open highway.  

Chick looks over at me and says, "I'm sorry." 

I'm confused.  "For what?" I ask, "Driving too slow or driving a car that looks like a laxative?"

"No, this..."

At that moment there came a sound that was like the apocalyptic ripping of the space time continuum.  It was as if the entire fabric of reality frayed and tore itself to pieces.  Chicken Cutlet emitted a blast of flatulence so powerful and loud that it felt like all four wheels came off the ground.  The windows fogged up and buckled from the change in pressure.  I thought about his diet and immediately tired to roll down the window.  No dice, no power.  I looked over at him with this sort of post-coital glow of satisfaction on his face while my eyes were wide with horror.  Holding my breath, I opened the glove box looking for something to break the window with.  I tried clawing at the top to pull it down.  I had to let my breath out...

...and that's when it hit me.  

If you've ever smelled burning rubber, methane and an electrical fire all at once you're still lucky because it was much worse than that.  The color and temperature of the air changed, the a/c gave out and Chick just sat there with a big smile on his face.  




Out of options, I opened the door on the highway.  He reached over and grabbed me thinking I was gonna jump.  The wind pushed against it, Chick pulled against me and I was losing consciousness. 

 I yelled, "That's it!  That's the last time I get in this heap with windows that don't roll down.  Why don't you fix that and what the hell do you even eat that makes a smell like that?"

"Oh," he said, "It's just a fuse and I don't know how to change those."
"Well I do!"  I gasped. 

"Huh, who knew?"  That was all he replied with.  Not, "Gee, I didn't mean to burn the lining of your lungs and make you never want to eat again".  

Thus our mission to nowhere turned into Mission To Autoparts Land where I gave Chick a lesson in simple fuse changes.  "Huh, who knew?" he said again. 
 
Back on the road in the flying laxative with the windows rolled down and that same Rolling Stones song playing 

Chick looks over at me and says, "I'm sorry."

"For what, nearly killing me over a .30 cent fuse?"
"No, this..."

The apocalyptic ripping of the space time continuum and the fabric of reality fraying was unleashed again but this time I rode down the highway with my head out the window like a happy puppy...

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Passionate Struggle For Love And Craft


Pollock cranking it out in his studio

From time to time I take a break from humor and five legged spiders to ponder on the creative process.  Being someone who creates art isn't as easy or as glamorous as it looks (though it is a lot of fun). 

I'd like to put forth the idea that art in any form is what makes life special.  If you'd care to disagree then think of life without music, books, movies, tv, photography, paintings, dance, theatre, etc.  Art gives the world character and beauty and substance. It is the respite sought by so many for more reasons than you can count. 

However, in this world the artist is not revered beyond celebrity. The process is not lauded nor is the artist beyond any glow we may see.  We are rarely given scholarships grants or venture capital to realize our dreams.  We must fight for them, often at the expense of ourselves. 

Creating is hard. Very hard. Succeeding is even harder.  This isn't an attention grab but artists do suffer in the process of creation.  We don't generate data on spreadsheets or clock in regular hours to complete a task set forth by someone else.  We pull things out of our hearts and put it in out there where people can experience it and be somehow touched by it.  For this effort most of us will go unrecognized and unrewarded.  We will be judged and even humiliated by those above or around us.  Sometimes it's painful.  Some of us will quit and join the regular grind because we're tired of hurting or starving for what we love. 

Quitting isn't the answer because we weren't handed this life nor was it forced upon us.  This was given to us at birth.  It's our gift to ourselves, to each other and to the world.  To us there is no choice.  This is what we were put here to do. It's our chance to make a difference.  We simply must create because anything else would mean the death of the soul. 

So what about those times where you're taxed to the edge of your sanity?  What do you do when you question your life, your project and your decisions?  What does it take to rise above those times you want to quit?  

It takes every ounce of strength and power you have.  It takes tenacity, discipline, focus, determination, repetition and a fierce belief that you can and will do whatever it takes to keep your passion.   It also helps, if you're sucking fumes to remember where you are now.  If you don't try with everything you have you will always be where you are now.  If you're nowhere, that's where you'll always be.  If you're almost there, you'll forever be looking up at the top rung wondering what would have happened if you stuck to it.  . 

When you get there, if you should "make it", never think you can rest easy because without the constant application of drive and passion you will end up back where you started and you will be unfulfilled and defeated.  That's not you.  Remember where you came from, remember the painful process of learning and perfecting your craft.  And remember, no matter what you create there's someone out there who loves what you do.   Let it light your way in dark times.  There will be people who give up on you, don't believe in you or treat your calling as a hobby.  Smile and thank them for the inspiration.  

The key to success is that there is no key. 

Just you and the work. 

If your creative output is the one thing you do that sets you apart and makes you the amazing bright light that you are, remember that no one else can do it the way you can.  It's all you ever were, all you'll ever be.  Fight for it even when you think you can't. 

If you don't, where would the world be without you?


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Moments of Divine Procrastination




Those of us who write or paint or sculpt or make music or weave baskets have that dreaded moment.  No, not the one where you've had that long-awaited breakthrough at the same time you're stuck in the bathroom.  I mean the one where the ideas stop flowing and you've suddenly dried up.  You may call it a block.  For me it's a giant steel reinforced concrete wall that surrounds me. 

Words are flowing, characters are telling me the story or in other circumstances the paint is painting itself,  the song is writing itself or the figure emerges from the stone and I feel like  I am merely the conduit plugged into the divine field of unearthly creativity.

Then it all goes away like someone on the other end hung up the phone.  This is when we panic because the whole project crumbles in the anxiety-ridden mental dust heap that plague the creative mind.  When it strikes you're tempted to believe you're the worthless being you've always said you are. I've learned though, from my own self study and the study of other creatives that there is only so much you can shove into the funnel at once and then a great mental burp happens. 

At that moment I rely on procrastination not as that dreaded foil of the undetermined but the forced break required to reset the circuits of my brain.  I know I've been thinking on one thing for too long.  I put it down and if the mood strikes I'll try one of my other never ending creative projects like the model airplane that needs another coat of paint or I'll plink around on the guitar or make a few doodles. 

But sometimes there's no room upstairs.  My solution is usually the beach.  I plotz myself on the sand and listen to the waves until I can find the rhythm.  For me, even a bad day at the beach is better than a good day almost anywhere else.  I try to simultaneously engage my senses and disengage from everything.  I sift sand through my fingers, collect shells for my shelves and fill my hat with water and pour it on my head while trying not to think of how many people around me just peed in the ocean.  I listen to the wind, much on a sammich and wait. Just wait.  Soon enough I feel the knot untie and words flow again.  Maybe you have a beach and maybe you don't so I'm interested in where your sanctum is. 

However...

There are times when I can't get to my sandy sanctum sanctorum.  I'm going to share something with you (and for you) that I don't tell just anyone.  When I know I need to shake up the connections I reach for the headphones.  There's a song in my life repertoire my mother gave me many years ago.  As usual, she didn't know she was giving me a gift, she was just playing an album she liked.  As a boy I internalized it's infectious groove. The album is Everybody Loves The Sunshine, a 1976 release from jazz vibraphone legend Roy Ayers and his band, Ubiquity.  The first song on the record is this fast paced jazz funk number called, Hey, Uh, What You Say Come On. 

It fades in as a simple question, "What you say, come on?" in a chorus of voices that repeats and  builds over three minutes and 46 seconds of foot stomping, booty shaking (yes, I just said that), bass thumping funk to a command that has you bopping all over the house singing, no demanding at the top of your lungs, WHAT YOU SAY, COME ON?!   Translated from ultra cool black 70s funk into modern nerdy white guy it's, "Hey you! Wake up, what better thing are you doing now? Nothing, so let's go!"   I my head I'm surrounded by the album cover version of Roy Ayers and all of Ubiquity in yellow t shirts tossing me lemons (see pic) and nudging me on whatever adventure awaits (usually with tacos and tequila, thus the lemons, naturally).

By the time the song is over, I'm sweating, my pressure is up, my body is sore, I'm half naked and I'm ready to go anywhere these guys want to take me.   Six or seven rounds of this and I've made my step goal, burned 7000 calories, sweated through my underwear and find my brain as open and receptive as its ever going to be. 

Some may call it procrastination.  I call it part of the  necessary Cranial Recalibration Assessment Programming that goes hand in hand with the honor of being given the vocation of Dream Chaser. 

Included below for your usage is the video/audio of one of my secret weapons.  Try it.  I dare you to.  If you don't find yourself happier, more lubricated and open then you simply don't have a soul.  And I know you do. 

What you say, come on?


Friday, July 1, 2016

Top Ten Reasons For A Summer Reading List




Happy July, Adventure Fans!

This the season for vacations, school breaks and the thrill of the grill.  It's also the time to catch up on summer reading with a ginormous summer reading list that covers everything from compelling thrillers to steamy love stories.  It's a perfect time to disappear into some other exciting world while your kids aren't screaming about how bored they are and you're silently praying for September to arrive.

As I sit on my perch in the sand I wondered why people make summer reading lists.  It's clearly a thing but why?  So here is my Top Ten List as to the importance of the Summer Reading List.

10. With the supposed advent of more free time you get to catch up on all the stories you wanted to read throughout the work year. 

9. It gives you a chance to maybe unplug from social media and tap into your own imagination.  You get to create entire worlds in your own mind, you own private movie, if you will.  That's an important de-stressing mental exercise in a world where individual creativity is often stifled.  

8.  People like lists. It makes us feel organized and in a chaotic life, that's something we don't really get enough of.  It gives us a sense of control.  

7.  It creates a goal we are actually happy to achieve.  Work and life goals are nice and all but they can be tedious and a grind.  Especially if we deviate from our list, wander, get lost or lose sight of the goal.  A reading list is easy; pick a  handful of books you want to read and tear into the pages while sipping your favorite libation by a pool or on the beach.

6. We get to spend time with ourselves. Life has us connected at all times to everyone and everything around us.  Social media makes us constantly aware of all the fabulous things our friends are doing
(without inviting us) that they may or may not actually be doing.  Work keeps us busy with projects and meetings.  Parenting eats up the rest of that time and attention.  There's little time for us to be, well, us.  A reading list, a series of books we've been dying to get to gives us the time to decompress and think about some fictional problems for awhile.    

5. We don't have to think about the important things in our lives that would otherwise collapse without our constant attention.  Even though a lot of us work for someone else, we are all really working for ourselves.  We work for our families, too.  Sometimes we want to disappear into a good book but we can't.  The advent of summer leisure time gives us those moments, in theory, to be alone in our heads.  

4. A summer reading list is great for ambitious book clubs.  It's a perfect time to catch up on the books that slipped by and gather with friends to pontificate on your theory of whodunnit of if the happy couple will stay together or if that charming cowboy vampire chef billionaire will break them up.  

3. No one reads anymore!  Congratulations, you're part of a special breed.  That makes you unique among your peers.  You actually took the time to read something longer and more engaging than a facebook post.  

2. In conjunction with the previous point, we all like to feel we are part of something important.  More important than say, people who know what marriage  a particular reality tv celebrity is on.  Being a reader sets us apart since most people don't do it and those who don't seem to look up to those who do as if they've discovered some exclusive magic talent.  

1. The number one reason reading lists are important; reading makes you a better person.  The more you do it, the more creative and imaginative you become.  I know I really don't have to say this  to avid readers but reading opens your mind to new ideas and situations.  It gives you a perspective outside your own little world.  It makes you a better thinker and a better dreamer.  This life can beat the dreams and creativity out of the best of us.  Investing the time and effort into a new story opens our creative channels, makes us think critically and independently and in this writer's opinion, there can never be enough of that. 

In the spirit of sharing, here's my list for this summer with story descriptions culled from the interwebs.  Being that I write and paint for most of my living, I don't have the time constraint of a 9 to 5 job but, as you know, there's something about setting at the shoreline listening to the crashing waves while delving into the pages to set your mind free... 

The Guns of Heaven by legendary New York reporter Pete Hamill.   On a visit to Northern Ireland, newspaper reporter Sam Briscoe meets with a mysterious IRA leader and agrees to deliver an envelope to his supporters in New York City. It’s a decision with grave consequences—not just for Briscoe, but for his 11-year-old daughter as well. Because the bloody Irish conflict is about to come to the streets of New York, and Briscoe is the only man standing in its way... 

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes - The unexpected arrival in England of a giant "metal man" of unknown origin who rains destruction on the countryside by attacking industrial farm equipment, before befriending a small boy and defending the world from a monster from outer space.

Big Sur by (Saint) Jack Kerouac - It recounts the events surrounding Kerouac's (here known by the name of his fictional alter-ego Jack Duluoz) three brief sojourns to a cabin in Bixby Canyon,Big Sur, owned by Kerouac's friend and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  The novel depicts Duluoz's mental and physical deterioration. Duluoz is unable to cope with a suddenly demanding public, and is battling advanced alcoholism.

For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - Ppublished in 1940. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As a dynamiter, he is assigned to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia.

The Lathe of Heaven - This is a 1971 science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. The plot revolves around a character whose dreams alter reality, including past events.
Ernest Hemingway On Writing edited by Larry W. Phillips - An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century.

So, beach adventure seeker, what's on your list?