Saturday, May 02, 2009

Love Hurts

So, my question tonight is the same as Tolstoy's: What is art?"

What if all art is nothing more than the little twists and turns in our private little worlds, that only but for the turn of fate, remain so unexceptionable as to be dismissed as trivia?

Watch these two videos, please.

No one could argue that Eric Clapton's brilliant work here was anything short of artistic, in rock n roll terms.

Yet, all he was talking about, in the real world, was his forbidden love for Pattie Boyd Harrison, the wife of Beatle George Harrison. That's all. Forbidden fruit. The muse for many an artist.

(Pattie & George.) Actually, in reality, Clapton succeeded in stealing Harrison's wife from him, and then, later on, this illicit couple broke up as well. Maybe that is why they call it the blues...


All That Matters

In my confusion, having trouble finding my way, one thing anchors me, and that is witnessing my children as they work their way, each at his or her own stage, through this troubling and confusing game of life.

My 14-year-old is an athlete of uncommon grace and skill. On the soccer pitch, he has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

Today was one of his days. He played brilliantly, and as I watched him, all of my other concerns evaporated. Forget about this problem and forget about that! Screw that jerk who treated me so unkindly! Fuck that idiot who tried to take advantage of me! Who cares about the one who treats me as if I am a creep when the truth is I am a sweetie pie, always have been, always will be.

All I do, in the end, is love others; it is their problem when they cannot let that in! But I do keep a soft spot for each of those who truly love me even if they can't quite currently say it. Toward all of these very special souls, I bear absolutely no amimus. I'll wait for each of you as long as you wait for me.

Meanwhile, who cares about money, and who cares about "success"? What are these anyway but empty concepts, created, no doubt, by those with so much emptiness inside that a big, sloppy, sharing, caring mess of a man is an easy target for their twisted desire to score a takedown.


No, tonight I am envying no man, desiring no woman, not aspiring or even willing to trade places with anyone else on this precious planet. Because today I got to walk aside my son after he and his 'mates utterly and oh so artistically demolished their opponent.

In soccer, winning is sweet. In life, sadly, all is only bittersweet meaninglessness.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Six a.m. in New York to One p.m. in San Francisco

The haze moved in over Manhattan late yesterday; after a day up and down in the skyscrapers of some of our country's leading media companies, and a relaxing decompression meeting in the Gramercy Park Hotel, it was a night of reporting, writing, and publishing from my large (but cheap) hotel room at the Hotel Metro.

Around midnight, I went up to the roof terrace to check out the view and my memory. But the Empire State Building, so brilliant just last week, looked like the Golden Gate Bridge in heavy fog: You knew it was up there, you just couldn't see anything, except for some dull wattage from its lights at the bottom of the fogbelt.

Three girls giggled over in the far corner. I stood there for a moment, shivered, and went back to my room, for a couple more hours of work.

Up by six for a quick breakfast and off to JFK, where I once again jumped on an earlier flight. We landed in the rain after 1 p.m. local time, after vectoring in over the north and east bay.

Ten days: five here and five out there. If I am supposed to feel jet-lagged, it's taking its time to hit me. Mainly, it's good to be home, as always, and I think this will be Pizza Friday Night at Dad's House.

Some people live a cross-country lifestyle, I know; and in the past, I was one of those folks as well. A life combining the Bay Area with New York City has a lot of appeal, and there's just one thing you need plenty of to pull it off.



Thursday, April 30, 2009


So, from here in New York tonight, I have no photo to upload. Rather, this is a kind of Groundhog Day for me. I am reliving last week, in the same place, trying to figure out how or even whether I could get it right this time around. At this hour, there are so many people congregating on the roof of my hotel, engaging in merry-making, that I cannot stand being up there.

They are much too happy, and clueless, for the likes of me.

I am seeking poetry. What do I mean by that? I mean language spoken truthfully and economically. Language that hurts and heals the soul.

There are too many voices here in New York City for a person like me. Don't get me wrong; I love my time here. That I am back so soon after my last visit is a shock. It is opportunistic, unexpected, and very weird.

If I believed in the idea of God, maybe I would posit that she sent me back here, to reclaim or rediscover whatever it was last week that I lost.

Non-fiction cannot help me now, so I must grow quiet..."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bubbles at Mealtime

(Written airborne enroute SFO-JFK)

My upstairs housemates are not the type to give up easily in the face of adversity. Any raccoons who try to deplete our new population of fish are going to have to be willing to go far deeper into the water, as the new pond is bigger, wider, deeper, and has more hiding places for the fish.

So far, so good.

There are reasons this pond and the fish are so important to everyone in our building, though I may not be able to articulate them very clearly. There is something about needing to establish some peacefulness in a time of growing anxiety and fear involved.

Though I rarely think or feel this way myself, today I started fearing that I live alone too much of the time. My kids come and go, which is terrific, but they rarely sleep over at Dad's House -- they do that at Mom's House.

I am not currently in a relationship with anybody, so no one stays with me at all, nor do I stay with someone at her place. It's just me.

As a writer, I need to be alone a certain portion of the time, of course. My writing happens when others are around, but more slowly, with more interruptions, and higher odds that I'll lose my thread.

This evening I am headed back to New York for my second visit inside of a week. That's a lot of flying for a guy who prefers being land-bound, and who has been gazing at the fishpond seeking some answers.

Tonight, back in Manhattan and staying at the same hotel as last week, I intend to once again visit the roof terrace and look upwards at the Empire State Building, just as I did last week.

Alone at the fish pond; alone at the terrace.

Looking down, looking up.

Trying to make some sense of all the senselessness around me.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Poetry & Math = Solace

We're cool here at Dad's House. We know the world sucks.

When Your Noisy World Yields Only Silence

There's Twitter, Facebook, LinedIn, Digg, Yelp, Flickr. There's email (sign). There are blogs.

Everybody frantically trying to connect with somebody else, even just for the briefest of moments. Signals sent; signals received. Signals misread and misunderstood.

Connection is not our social problem. Alienation, confusion, loneliness, and fear are our problems.

A counselor friend of mine often repeats the mantra, "The most radical thing you can ever do is connect with another human being." I know she's right, but in my experience, connecting is far easier said than done.

Of course, one may be an especially clumsy connector, erratic, odd. Different people have very different senses of boundaries. I try to comfort myself that I am (in my own eyes) a gentle, sensitive, sweet, loyal person with only the most honest and kind intentions.

But then there is that other part of me -- the one with a knack of holding up mirrors and drawing out reflections that a friend may not wish to see. Of course, I make no pretensions that the mirror I exhibit is reality, that it is true. It's only a mirror and we all know mirrors lie.

Plus, any journalist worth his byline learns that there is no single eternal Truth. Rather there can be as many different truths as there are voices to tell the story. Everyone's perspective is unique. And thank god for that; the world would be a boring place, as my Mom used to say, if everyone agreed with each other about everything. (I think she usually said that after my Dad and I had once again disagreed about something.)

And when it comes to looking into our own mirror, we never will see what we hope.

There are other things a journalist learns. No matter how accurately we notate a person's words, we will always be accused of misquoting them. Many reporters use tape recorders just for that reason.

Personally, I hate tape recorders. My goal is less to strive to capture an exact quote in words but an honest sense of meaning. Meaning is far different from literal truth, naturally.

And since I do not subscribe to the notion of literal truth, anyway, everything for me devolves into symbols. Clearly, my own private world is an utterly silent place, where no sounds can enter, I need to shut all out if I am to create my music, even if it's a bad sort of music that no one wants or needs to hear.

But, still, the voices say:

Reach out.


Take risks.

Tell another how you feel.

These are all great pieces of advice to help somebody fight the evils of alienation, confusion, loneliness, and fear, except that they often do not work. Often they will backfire and therein lies the dilemma.

Maybe it is safer to stay well within your own fortress, and not risk reaching out, where an angry world lies in waiting to scorch your tender parts. There is nothing like a simple gesture like the dismissive wave of a hand, the turning away of eyes, or the disruptive words of defensive anger to pollute what moments earlier felt like a safer world, a place where peace just might be attained.

Of course, these are only my incoherent ramblings. There is nothing based in current reality here, only a lifetime of observations and experiences, all of which boil down to a lot of noise that adds up to nothing whatsoever.

Utter silence.

You might wonder about the small photo of a child's art tenderly placed at the head of this strange post. I was thinking that maybe someone somewhere out there is feeling lonely right now, sad about something, confused, disconnected. If so, this photo is for you. I hope contemplating a child's attempt to create her own beautiful objects gives you at least a fleeting sense of peace as you rage on against the machine.


Monday, April 27, 2009

No Place for Old Men

The peaceful garden masks the violent challenges of aging in this society. I don't want to grow old. Who does? Somehow, I seemed to be handling it more gracefully until recently when a series of personal setbacks struck me down.

Like most people, I can't look at my "retirement" accounts without pulling my hair out. Where did all that mutual fund investment go? Why was it supposedly a safe channel for somebody like me? Come again?

If I weren't inherently such a saver, as opposed to a spender; and an avoider of credit, as opposed to a plasticaholic; I'd just be every Joe who can default on his house and seek personal bankruptcy, etc., and then "start over."

But I started saving whatever extra money I could in my 20s. A life full of emergencies, tragedies, opportunities and excitements required most of this money for one purpose or another, often involving my children's best interests.

Luckily I had it to spend much of the time.

But now, at another stage of life, the greediest, least regulated part of our society -- Wall Street -- has corruptly and callously traded all of my "retirement" away. Assholes. I read that those crooks who work in the financial industry are back to their hateful ways, earning over $500,000 on average (not counting their bonuses), trading derivatives and sustaining hedge funds again.

In other words, these creeps are back to doing the precise things that got us into this mess, this recession.

Unless the Obama administration wakes up and imposes tough new sanctions on the people at fault for this economic disaster, it will soon spiral downward into something much worse -- a depression.

While the mad dogs of the right scream about "socialism," the fat cats are quietly rebuilding their monstrous Ponzi schemes that collectively will make Bernie Madoff look like a sandbox player.


California Dreaming of New York

There may be no two American cities that share certain aspects of culture in ways that excite writers more than San Francisco and New York. But out west, we are a tiny version of the other place on the continent that refers to itself as simply The City.

If New York is an apple, we are an apple seed.

Sometimes that bigger, faster City plants itself so firmly in my imagination that it replaces my conscious mind and hijacks my dreams.

Concepts like what could have been, or what still could be...But dreams always end, sending me crashing back to a daily reality that includes some fairly crushing weights.

There is a lot of crankiness around me. Missed signals, misinterpretations, anxieties. There also are moments of rare beauty. My 10-year-old went to an "art party" yesterday and brought back several tiny colorful works that inspired a new wave of hope.

A few hours later, several extremely bad memories surfaced, knocking me backwards again. This period is like trying to hit fog with a hammer -- all one can do is swing wildly in the air, looking foolish.

If you see someone doing that, of course you back away. He has to be crazy. Or maybe not. Maybe he just really badly needs somebody to hug.

I brought back little pieces of New York this time, to remind me afterward that I really was there. As the line between what is imagined and what is reality degrades, not just for me but in our world in general, concrete reminders might help what dreams remain to continue to flicker during those long, dark nights of a thickening fog that never will settle.