Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are you having fun?

While searching (mentally) for an illustration to accompany this post, I eventually thought of using this figurine. Actually, there are two figurines here. The dog has been glued to the base as an addition alongside the boy. As you might guess, the figurine was not originally mine, but it does have symbolic and very personal meaning for me. We will not bother with that element right now. However, we will note the word "January" at the base of the figurine and the time on the clock as 11:00 p.m. A new year is approaching. This thought has been on my mind -- a new year, I mean, and what to do about it. It is only two months distant from us, you realize. One of my "favorite" films is "My Favorite Year," with Peter O'Toole. Other than the fact I think O'Toole is the greatest actor alive (still) today and in this role demonstrates a wonderful comedic talent, the title of the motion picture fascinates me: "My Favorite Year." I have had some good years and some bad years, but I am not sure I have a favorite year. I still am looking for one to designate with that distinction. Next year? 2014? I wonder ....

There is only tomorrow

I read somewhere once upon a time that at a certain point in the life of a man, he will realize that he has all that there is to have, that he is all that he will ever be, that there is no more to life than what is now. Some men accept those things as fact and live with them; other men get a divorce, buy a convertible and find a girlfriend twenty years younger than themselves in a futile gesture to restore their lost youth. This usually occurs somewhere between the ages of forty and fifty, and is the so-called "mid-life crisis."

I wrote somewhere once upon a time that I was divorced (for the first time) at age twenty-three, owned a convertible (for the first time) when I was age seventeen and had an eighteen-year-old girlfriend when I was age thirty-four. (Is a sixteen-year spread close enough to twenty years?) So, what is there to do when you apparently begin to have mid-life crises while you still are a teenager yourself and have done it all long before the age of forty -- some of it several times?

Never mind. I do not think there is an answer to that question.

Hmmmm .... just a thought.

I think I might have come up with a temporary solution to a crisis at any age: Four or five concerts in four or five countries over the course of a year. How about next year? In 2014? For me, it might be enough to make it "my favorite year."

How about Wacken? I am a quarter German by ancestry, so I can visit an ancestral land while I am dancing in the streets.

How about Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee? Some of you might have noted and recall that I have spent considerable time in and around Knoxville during one of those "once upon a time eras," and I love a southern accent.

How about someplace Alice Cooper is performing? I saw him in Detroit a while ago (a long while ago), so this time it would need to be out of the U.S. I am sort of hooked on his music right now. Not to mention (once again) the positively great guitars in his band, and his drummer, most probably, is the best performing on stage right now. Look at the second video here if you doubt me. He is a magician with drum sticks. I once was a drummer, and I cannot believe the skill with which he handles them.

There has to be at least one "classy" concert in this mix. How about Sarah Brightman? Actually, she will be performing sort of next door to me in Saint Paul in March and only a hop-skip-and-a-jump away in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, a few days later. Or, how about Andrea Bocelli? Maybe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Valentine's Day?

You know? I just thought of another idea. I am wondering about going back to work again. What an unexpected idea .... work .... well-l-l-l .... sorry .... there are moments when forget myself and act like a nostalgic fool .... but, a press pass has been known to accomplish wonders at concerts .... but-t-t-t .... no, no .... no.

Whether he meant it literally or not, Thomas Wolfe was right when he wrote the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again." Periodically, I have to prove that over and over and over again to myself. And, going home includes past work, past women, past incarnations. They might exist somewhere in time, but right now, for me, there is only tomorrow.

Well, a bit of music in the form of live concerts during the months ahead is just a thought. I am open to suggestions.
To quote Alice, "Are you having fun?"

Friday, October 18, 2013

The autumn moon travels tonight .... I do not

President Franklin Roosevelt often is cited as the author of the famous quote: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." Actually, he borrowed the words, or, at least, the concept/thought, from Sir Francis Bacon or, possibly, from Michel de Montaigne or, possibly, from some other figure who lived generations ago. (Hmmmm, yes .... the "Essays" of Montaigne. Some of them still lurk in the caverns of my memory from a college class in world literature.) Back on point: Roosevelt was speaking of the Great Depression and economic stability when he uttered those words, which might make sense. Other fears are more real and others still more vibrant and terrifying even if they are not part of an individual's reality. For instance, take the illustration here from the motion picture "Jaws." This image, this thought, this nightmare, set a new standard for conceptual fear when the film was released in 1975, a year after Peter Benchley's novel with the same title was published. Moving on to today's music, it is not connected to the post in any particular way I can see, which is unusual. I like strings attaching the illustrations, the words and the music within my posts. I suppose the song simply reflects the melancholy mood which frequently is part of me these days -- a mood which I somehow need to leave behind me.

Fear of no fear

A young lady once told me she is afraid to swim in deep water. Until that time, which actually was only a year or two ago, the thought had never occurred to me to be afraid while swimming in deep water.

I have swum both above and below the surface in water I knew to be about three hundred feet deep in the Pacific Ocean. I have swum both above and below the surface in the deepest water of Lake Superior. It is a bit more or less than thirteen hundred feet, depending upon whose measurement is believed. Three of us did it one sunny, summer afternoon just to be able to say we had done it. Although being in water nearly a half-mile deep stirs the senses, I never gave those swims a second thought while they were taking place, and the Pacific excursion included night swims as well as in the daylight.

What always has bothered me in this regard, though, has been swimming and diving in prairie lakes and rivers. It is not unusual to encounter water where visibility ranges from a murky foot or two to literally nothing. I mean, press your hand onto your face mask and you will see it; move your hand back an inch or two and it has disappeared from sight. Add to that swimming in water uncomfortably cold and in which you are passing through different temperature zones as you move from one depth to another. I would not say I am afraid to do this because I have done it countless times. But, I am always glad when I have reached the surface again.

So, where am I going with this?

The concept of fear has been on my mind. My own fear, I mean. What are most people afraid of .... what am I afraid of .... what are the psychological advantages and disadvantages of experiencing fear?

This, probably, is the circle my mind has been travelling in recent weeks when thinking and writing about suicide, fear of heights, fear of swimming in deep water, primeval fear of any manner. Then, too, from my perspective, there are both physical fear of actuality -- being afraid of heights, for instance, or the outcome of major surgery -- and psychological fear experienced only within the mind/imagination -- fear of the dark, is an example, or of existing for eternity in hell.

Put simply, I am trying to think of something to be afraid of -- something I still fear. And, I can think of nothing -- not even what might be just below the surface in deep, deep water.

This is not to say I cannot be startled at times, but I put that into a different category than fear. Being startled is a knee-jerk reaction to the unexpected; fear is like paranoia in a sense. It is a real and a constant ingredient in a person's psyche but, while strong in some, is virtually non-existent in others.

Do I fear the loss of fear? Would such loss pose a threat to my existence in the form of inability to sense actual danger, or would it be a positive trait?

I suppose it could go either way and, maybe, someday I will know.

Time provides the answers to most questions we ask of ourselves about ourselves when we cannot see beyond the present.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Those who gave, he who takes & a dream

I have been to the monuments dedicated to the unknown soldiers of only two nations: The United States and Poland. For a time while I was in the Marine Corps, I was stationed at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. While there, I spent a few weekends in Washington, D.C., and among the places I went were Arlington National Cemetery and to its Tomb of the Unknowns, as well as to the Marine Corps War Memorial just outside the cemetery. The photographs I took in these places were long ago and are long gone though time and divorce and travel and distance. Unlike those photographs, the one here was taken on April 4, 2010. It is the Polish Tomb of the Unknowns. It is in the heart of Warsaw, and was only three or four blocks from my apartment there. I visited it a number of times. Tombs and old battlefields fascinate me. Now, to the point: I posted this photograph today because I have been angry about the despicable, shabby, unconscionable treatment American war veterans, war dead and their families have been receiving the past few days at the political whim of President Barack Obama and his lackey, Secretary of Defense Charles "Chuck" Hagel. Because of the closure of war memorials and the denial of "death benefits" to families of veterans by the Obama Administration, it seems appropriate to me to spend a few moments thinking about those who serve their nations in the military and especially those who gave their lives -- whether American or Polish or fighters for individual rights and liberty anywhere -- so that their countrymen and women have the freedom to exist without tyranny in their lives. This is a point so obviously forgotten by the current "my way or the highway" (his words, not mine) resident of the White House. Now, just to demonstrate I can be as tyrannical and arbitrary as the next guy, here is an entire Alice Cooper concert. Try it, you might learn something -- about yourself. My favorite Cooper song, near the end of this performance, is "Poison." Every man experiences a woman who is poison during his lifetime .... at least, I hope he does ....

To fall, to jump or to stay put

Once upon a time, I was married to a young lady who is deathly afraid of heights -- so afraid, that I could not comprehend it until I actually saw it occur and she was clinging to me with strength I did not realize she possessed.

As for me, I do not feel comfortable functioning at heights. This is not to say I have any real fear of heights, and I have ample credentials to demonstrate that fact, most notably taking skydiving lessons a few days after graduating from high school. I can and have and will again function at significant heights; I simply do not like doing so and always feel like I am out of my element.

We all, I assume, have an idea of the accepted theories regarding dreams about falling. In a sentence, such dreams usually are associated with fear of failure or experiencing actual failure in any of a thousand ways. I have had such dreams, but not for a number of years.

However .... in recent months, I have experienced dreams in which I am on a precipice and in imminent danger of falling. How different is this than a dream of actually falling?

Most of these dreams have involved being near the rather steeply sloping, grassy ledge of an earthen cliff. A sandy beach with scattered boulders and the sea are far below. I am sitting down and leaning back on my elbows -- sort of half reclining. My feet are within a few inches of the edge. I do not dare to move, thinking I might slip on the grass or the edge of the cliff might crumble and give way.

In these dreams, someone is behind me. I do not know who. I ask the person to find a rope, to secure it and to toss it to me before I try to move back up the slope. 

At the same moment, I am wondering if I could successfully navigate a descent of the cliff without actually falling. There is a small protrusion from the cliff ten or twelve feet below me, and I am visually trying to pick a pathway for jumping from outcrop to outcrop until I safely reach the beach below. Once upon a time, this was sort of a game for me, and I never took too bad a fall doing it. But, this cliff is steeper than those in games of the past -- almost sheer. A new and more difficult challenge.

The dreams always end at this point, with me waiting to discover if the unknown person behind me will toss me a rope and, at the same time, considering making an attempt to actually descend the cliff.

I suppose some of us usually (constantly?) are perched at the edge of some manner of cliff in our lives. We never are completely happy, never entirely content, never fully satisfied -- always gazing to see what is around the next curve in the road or the next bend on the river, always anxious to reach the crest of the next mountain in hopes of sighting Shangri-La in the valley below.

Who knows? Perhaps, the dream will never end and I will forever remain on that steeply sloping, grassy ledge of an earthen cliff high above a sandy beach with scattered boulders and the sea far below.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My dog bit me today

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

When William Shakespeare wrote those words, the birth of Alice Cooper was still a few centuries into the future, but the words could easily be applied to him. Cooper is originally from Deeee-Troit. I saw him perform there a few decades ago. His voice is harsher now, huskier. I am not sure if that is from wearing it out or is part of the evolution of his stage persona. I was not planning a post this week, but when I stumbled onto this performance by Cooper just two months ago at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, I could not resist the temptation to bring the two of them here to my page. For anyone not familiar with the Wacken festival, it is held for three days every August, has been around since 1990 and draws seventy to eighty thousand hard rock fans from around the world each year. Back to Cooper: His act looks like chaos personified, but watching him and his troupe closely reveals a show choreographed to ensure everyone -- not just Cooper -- is recognized for his or her importance to the production. Cooper has more stature in the music world than some might guess, and the musicians on stage with him are among the best in the realm of hard rock. And, in case some might think the attractive young lady is there as a "beauty beside the beast" stage prop, Orianthi Panagaris probably is the premiere female guitar player performing today. She was the lead guitarist in Michael Jackson's "This Is It" concert series. (Little doubt, the most aptly named tour in the history of rock.) Anyway .... here are about twenty minutes of Alice Cooper and Wacken. Both are more than mere show events; both are "happenings," and I personally hope to see Cooper perform again and to attend a Wacken festival before my time runs out. Incidentally, speaking of time, Cooper, who is 65 and has been on stage since he was a teenager, for sure, is having the last laugh on those who five decades ago predicted his musical career would never last. Whether you like his songs or not, he has earned immortality among the legends of rock. Having the last laugh is cool .... is it not?

Something special ....