“And all that glitters is gold. Only shooting stars break the mold.” – Smash Mouth, “Rock Star”
It was during an Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble rehearsal in either 1987 or 1988….we were taking a quick breather between rehearsing a couple of charts, and someone had brought up the subject of how videos were making music much more visual, and that the quality of pop music was starting to fade into the visual background. I don’t remember what band we were referring to at the time, but I remember our director Steve Brown’s response – “Hey, you can take a piece of shit and wrap it in gold and glitter, but it’s still a piece of shit.”
Here we are, 33 years later, and those words still resonate with me. As I’ve gotten older (especially since turning 50), I find that the “gold and glitter” material things in my life mean less and less to me. I drive a pre-owned car, I wear sweatpants every day, and I just bought a used VCR online, and just ordered a replacement amplifier and CD player for my living room. Heck, the EWI that I finally purchased has been around for over 30 years! It’s not the newest hi-tech stuff, and it sure as hell does not define me in any way.
There are so many celebrities whose personalities could qualify for the “gold and glitter” theory (yes Kanye, you’re who I’m thinking of as the poster child), and I also have a number of acquaintances who give off the same aura (thankfully not the scent). As horrific as this pandemic has been, it has also leveled the playing field – as the number of lives lost continues to climb, people are showing more and more compassion, especially as communication has become so important to all of us. Material things don’t seem as relevant, as our way of life has changed significantly. I have a few friends who defined themselves by their flyer miles and hotel points – flights and hotels are somewhat like an endangered species now…bottom line, as we go day by day until we get back to a sense of “normal”, unless it’s masks and ventilators for those in need, what material things that we take for granted have any significant relevance right now?How important is it to be pretentious and condescending, while we all feel isolated enough as it is?
Right now I have the utmost respect for first responders, and ALL people in the medical industry, putting their health at risk every day to help save the lives of others….this goes far beyond the act of selflessness. I’m also deeply touched by the genuine (and sometimes random and anonymous) acts of kindness of strangers. We had a homeless woman who was seeking shelter at the bus stop near our house – Jenn and I gave her clothes and blankets, and we encouraged her to find shelter (which she eventually did), but what really touched my heart was that quite a few people in our community were also concerned about her well being, as I was contacted by an elderly member of our neighborhood who also took steps to provide clothing, shelter and transportation. It’s really cool when material things are used as a way of helping others instead of being used as a selfish way to define one’s status.
I thank my mom for instilling in me the compassion to help others, as there are for more important things than having the biggest house, the newest car, and a pretentious attitude. There are those who define others based on “what can this person do for me” and there are those who define themselves as “what can I do for others”….the first group is purely gold and glitter – the second category are the true rock stars.
May these people be the shooting stars that continue to break the mold.
February 22, 2020. Pre-COVID. The day I emotionally hit rock bottom.
I was put on a two-week medical leave, because I told my boss that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being that I wanted to “check out”, I was at a 3. I felt out of place wherever I was, and my triggers were completely out of control. I was emotionally angry (not physically), and every word that came out of my mouth felt like I was speaking a foreign language, as I felt like nobody could hear me, and that nobody had a clue about what I was feeling.
Perception vs. Reality – my perception was that the walls were caving in around me, and that I could do nothing right. I was not communicating with Lauryn, and still struggling with the insults from Miss Vitriolic (who will henceforth be referred to as “The Karenator”). People at work on my staff were working my last nerve, and I felt like giving up. The reality was that I had internalized so much of my anger and frustration that it was consuming me. The reality was that I had (and still have) friends that truly care about me, and they care about my well being. And the true reality is that I’m loved unconditionally, and that I have so much to be thankful for.
I can never thank Ryan Forrester enough….a year ago tonight, I had a gig with him, and at the time, I didn’t realize just how much that helped me. I knew I couldn’t cancel on him on such short notice, and it forced me to find my footing. Had I stayed home, I would have spiraled even more.
In hindsight, I’m thankful that my breakdown happened before COVID. It gave me and my therapist time to start my recovery and develop better coping skills for me, which I still use to this day. I’m also thankful that the stigma of mental illness is changing for the better, as during this pandemic, mental health awareness has become part of the mainstream discussion in society. It was not an easy journey, as I had to figure out all of the things that were constantly consuming my brain (only being able to dwell on mistakes triggered my frustration, anger, and feelings of failure), and I needed to find ways to focus on having a positive mindset.
I’ve had to let go of the way I’ve always processed things, and learn a new way of rationalizing certain situations. It’s easier said than done, but over the last 365 days, I’ve found my footing, and although my life isn’t perfect, I definitely have a lot more good days than I do bad days.
My dreams tend to be pretty random, but every once in a while I’ll have a dream that is so incredibly vivid, so incredibly random, and so incredibly confusing. Last night’s dream was one for the ages.
I remember that I was in a hotel lobby or a gigantic lobby of an office building, and there was a reception going on. For some reason I was in a collared cotton dress shirt with my sleeves rolled up, wearing khaki cargo shorts and flip-flops while everyone else was in suits, dresses and tuxedos. The people in the room were from my past and present, and they were people who thought very little of me, people who went out of their way to be cruel to me, or people who have been incredibly fake and shallow, acting like my friend because they have to, but being very two-faced. My elementary school principal was talking with my ex-mother-in-law, and they were staring right at me as they talked….beyond surreal. As I went up to people to try and talk to them, they just stopped talking and stared right at me…..correction, they stared right through me, as if they could see my insecurities. It was like “the naked dream”, but I was emotionally naked instead. As I walked through this sea of negativity, I saw Lauryn, and I can’t even begin to describe the look of disgust on her face.
At that point, I got on the elevator…..there was nobody there but me, and it was eerily silent – no music, no nothing, just the sounds of the lobby on the other side of the doors. The walls of the elevator were olive green, the tops of the elevator walls were white, and it was incredibly bright. I don’t remember pushing any buttons, but I felt the elevator going up, and it got amazingly quiet. And then as random dreams tend to do, I have no idea of how I got there, but I ended up at the Ashokan Reservoir in my hometown of Shokan New York. This has always been a place of tranquility for me, from enjoying the sunsets with the mountains, or for going there on a perfectly full-moonlit summer night to take in the stars (and where I used to make out with a past girlfriend 30 years ago). In this dream, it was an incredibly bright, sunny warm summer afternoon….perfectly blue sky, and the sun almost seemed like winter sun glare, as it was so incredibly bright, but felt so incredibly warm. All I could hear was the sound of a small gong like you’d hear at a Buddhist service (and I remember the pitch was a Bb right under middle C)….it rang every 20 seconds or so, and as powerful as the ring was to my ears, I felt very centered.
This is when I saw my friend Sean Tarleton, who just said “What took you so long to get here, man?”, but it was the Sean that I remember from high school in 1985 (with his mullet haircut), yet I was still my current-day self. As bizarre as this seemed, it also felt incredibly…….normal. I vividly remember the smell of the summer leaves and the deep blue of the sky, almost as if I could reach out and touch them.
What does all of this mean? Was the elevator a metaphor for going to a better place? Was the lobby representing Hell, and the reservoir representing Heaven? Does it represent that my true friends are geographically further away than my local “friends?”
I used to go to this spot at the Reservoir a lot to practice my photography back in the early 90’s….I remember listening to a certain album a lot back in those days, David Benoit’s album “Every Step of the Way.” It always felt like a “sunny day” kind of album, and there was a track on there featuring bassist Nathan East called “No Worries”….I’ve equated that to sunny afternoons in Upstate New York, and I’ve been listening to the album while writing this blog post.
I’m still trying to make sense of this dream, and it’ll probably be in the back of my mind for the next few days……there’s something that I need to figure out, but I’m not there yet.
Today I have the utmost respect for Ed McMahon, Paul Shaffer, and all the cats that were in the Rat Pack with Sinatra.
I am my dog’s sidekick. This makes me very happy. As I’m not playing any gigs in the near or extended future, I needed to do something to stay creative. Having the greatest dog in the world has made this incredibly easy.
Otto definitely has personality – he’s already a celebrity in our neighborhood, as neighbors that I don’t know call him out by name. He’s also a huge (literally) hit at doggy daycare, as the staff is very excited when I drop him off, and his daily report cards are exceptional.
Although Otto is not a “therapy dog”, he has been very helpful to me in dealing with my depression. My FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) anxiety has decreased significantly, as my free time is spent taking Otto to the dog park, and taking him out for his nightly walks before going to bed. He likes riding with me in the car, and doesn’t bark at my musical selections. I’m pretty sure that Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” is one of his favorites!
Otto has his own social media, and I enjoy being creative with his posts, as I try to connect them to his personality as much as possible. It’s not hard to feel like a proud parent, as I see how Otto’s protective instincts have been helpful to myself and to others.
For all of these things listed, I’m proud to be Otto’s sidekick. He has filled an incredible void in my life, and he loves everyone unconditionally. My focus is on him, not on dwelling about my perceived flaws or shortcomings about myself. I love that people are so happy to see him, and that I can stand in the background and see the joy he brings to others.
He is The Floofinator – and I’m thankful to be the Robin to his Batman, the Pete Townsend to his Roger Daltrey, and the Scottie Pippen to his Michael Jordan.
Some days there are things that trigger me….it can be a good trigger (usually tied to something musical), or a bad trigger. I had something that triggered me the other day, and I’ve been really trying not to let it consume me, but I’m struggling. This is what I refer to as “going down the rabbit hole.”
When I was in high school, my dad was a very popular and respected teacher at my school. There were students that would kiss up to him, and treat me and my brother like dog shit, for lack of a better term. As my dad did nothing to discourage this, it is something that I’ve never forgotten, nor will I ever forget. There are people in my life now that do that with me and Jenn, and it sometimes is a trigger. They either ignore me to my face like I don’t exist, or they only speak to me because other people they feel are more important are in the vicinity, and they have an image to maintain….seriously, ARE YOU THAT SHALLOW??? I’m not mentioning any names, but a lot of their lives revolve around acronyms….I’ll just leave it at that.
The situation with Lauryn only adds fuel to this fire…..the 10+ years that I’ve spent trying to be in her life as best I could now mean nothing to her (and I know why she’s been made to feel that way), and we may not speak again for years, or possibly never again. The feeling of detachment is truly hard to describe, as there are days when It feels like I’ve failed her as her dad. And that’s when I feel like I’m really down the rabbit hole.
Crosby, Stills & Nash have a lyric in one of their classic songs – “Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.” What if you feel surrounded by people who either think of you strictly because of your mistakes, or they just can’t forgive in general? What’s even worse is when you feel treated differently for no reason….I have one friend who seemed like a supportive person, and now they only communicate in one-word answers.
I know, don’t worry about what other people think….but what about when it’s your daughter, or people that put a wedge between you and your family, and know that they’re doing it and don’t care? These aren’t my friends, and I’m tired of being treated this way. Right now, I feel as if I’ve replaced my daughter with my dog, and I know that’s a horrible thing to say. Otto loves unconditionally – he doesn’t remember my mistakes and hold a grudge, and as “Human’s Best Friend”, he sure as hell doesn’t try to be a pretentious asshole like some of the people in my environment.
When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself – “to thyself be true”….this blog is a space to write how I’m feeling, good bad or whatever. Sometimes I might be pissed off when I write in here – this is one of those times. But I’ll work through this, and I’ll bounce back, and feel good about all of the wonderful things and GOOD people I do have in my life. It might be time to take another social media break, especially after all of the negativity of the last few months…..it definitely has not brought much positivity to our society.
Time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again….and climb out of the rabbit hole.
“Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
I’ve started watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. I won’t be a spoiler, but I can tell you that this gives a completely different spin to the original Karate Kid movies.
There’s a common perception that people never change. That’s not true – we can all look back on who we used to be. The journey isn’t easy….even as we try to correct past mistakes, we keep making new ones.
What’s interesting about the character of Johnny in Cobra Kai (the villain in the original movie) 😊is that he’s aware of the path to changing his life for the better, but he still keeps getting in his own way. A day does not go by where I don’t feel like I’m having the same issue. My heart is in the right place, but I don’t know how to convey how I’ve changed, and it’s not recognized by others. This can be disheartening and disappointing, but I know that I’m on the right path.
There’s a storyline in the show with which I can truly relate – it involves the strained relationship between parent and child. There are scenes that really resonate with me, because the negative perceptions and external voices far outweigh the reality. The frustration of the characters trying to reconnect really hits home with me, as there are barriers that keep this from happening.
If you haven’t watched Cobra Kai, it’s very well-written, and it has added dimensions to Daniel and Johnny that gives them tremendous depth. It’s intriguing to see them in a different light, because you see how they’ve grown and gone in very different directions with their lives.
To Johnny Lawrence, I say thank you….we’re both finding our way to redemption, and doing it one step (or kick) at a time.
Otto took a leak on the downstairs carpet last night.
Yes, my initial reaction was anger, but less than 30 minutes later, we were out on our evening walk, and I truly enjoyed being out in the crisp air walking Otto around the block.
This afternoon, it dawned on me – why was it so easy to forget about the carpet and enjoy my evening? Why was it so easy NOT to hold a grudge? Yes, he’s a puppy and these things happen, but why do we find it so hard to forgive each other when we make mistakes?
My ex-girlfriend Tina and I broke up over 25 years ago, and to this day, she still holds a grudge because of an argument we had. Forget the fact that I apologized – what’s the point in carrying that anger and resentment for 25 years? My college roommate and I had a falling out about five years ago….we reconnected last Christmas, and although we don’t talk as much as we used to, I hold no grudges. It just doesn’t feel healthy.
I know I’ve said and done things that have hurt people, and I’ve had things said and done to me that were hurtful and traumatic. It’s been very hard, but I’ve forgiven those people who I felt wronged me. My daughter sent me a very angry and vulgar text this fall, and I had no choice but to forgive her. The words still hurt, and the course of our relationship has significantly changed, but there’s nothing gained by holding a grudge.
It comes down to this – if you carry a grudge and cannot forgive, how can you expect forgiveness? Yes, the saying is “forgive but not forget”, but how is carrying a grudge part of forgiving? We’re all forgiven by God’s grace, and yet we still feel the need to not try and turn the other cheek.
It’s a new year – we all can agree that none of us will miss 2020….I’m choosing to look for the good in people, even the ones who have hurt me deeply. I wish no ill will on anybody, and I hope that others will continue to show compassion and forgiveness as well. It’s needed now more than ever.
And as appreciative as I am for being reminded by Otto’s mistake, I truly hope that forgiveness doesn’t end up going to the dogs.
They spent a pretty penny reuniting the main characters from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to introduce their new hybrid Mustang. I’m sure it will have some nice bells and whistles, but I can’t help but wonder if this car will be the Edsel of the new millennium.
Gone are the days of muscle cars revving their engines at a red light to the music of Steppenwolf – are they now replaced by hybrid muscle cars (Steroid cars) competing to see who’s engine is more silent while listening to Kenny G’s “Songbird?” God, I hope not.
Going to Great Britain is on my bucket list after COVID, as I want to see everything from Big Ben to the West End. There’s a lot to love about England, from the history of the Beatles to going to see Buckingham Palace (they even drive on the left side of the road, just like they do on the Maryland side of the Beltway! 😂)…I just have one small pet peeve….why the extra U between words with O and R? Are we uncivilized in America for spelling color instead of “colour?” (On a side note, Living Colour gets a free pass, because their music is so awesome.) If it was called “Mister Rogers Neighbourhood”, I would expect Mr. Belvedere to come through the front door!
Anyway, these two things popped into my head at 2:27 this morning, after waking up from a horrible dream. What I vividly remember was saying these words to someone in my dream, and it’s been on my mind all day….perhaps because we’re just about to end one of the worst years of our lives, and I’m hoping that next year brings peace and prosperity to everyone. Here’s the poem: “For the wretched venom that you spew/bad karma will come back to you/first walk a mile in another’s shoe/and then you’ll know what you should do. Whenever it snows, whenever it rains/may frigid ice run through your veins/your evil words you can’t contain/just show that you don’t use your brain.” Perhaps my subconscious is tired of all the bickering on social media?
May 2021 be a wonderful year…perhaps I’ll get a steroid car with a red colour?
This horrendous year is almost over. We’ve seen so much negativity and sadness this year, and there seems to be a level of exhaustion that our society has not seen for quite some time.
I know that Christmas still is the most wonderful day of the year for a lot of people. I used to feel this way, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s more about the real meaning of Christmas, much more so than the commercialization of the holiday. I enjoy seeing the happiness of others this time of year, but as I no longer have any of the traditions that I grew up with as a child, I just don’t get into the holiday spirit the way I used to.
That brings us to 2020 – a year in which COVID and social injustice were a part of all of our lives. Just this past weekend, I found out that five of my friends lost loved ones, with a few of these due to COVID. I have other friends who are seeing the impact of COVID on their families, as it’s impacted our abilities to be together during the holidays.
I had a very good friend ask me today how I was feeling about the holiday, as they were struggling….I told them that I feel like it’s a “duct tape” holiday, as a lot of us are just trying to hold it together. Im thankful for a lot of things this year (including our new floofy bundle of joy), but my heart hurts for all of the negativity that we’re seeing around us each and every day.
I hope that there is peace on Earth, and that we get back to good will towards each other. That would be a tremendous holiday gift. That’s another reason why a “duct tape holiday” could be a good thing….because we all need to stick together going forward.
Happy Holidays, everyone….here’s to a much better 2021.