Friday, September 25, 2009

Iran Continues to be Attacked by Imperialist Powers of the West During G20

CNN the most rusted name in fake-news reported today that the United States, France and Britain have presented "detailed evidence" to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog that "Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility," President Obama said Friday before the start of the G-20 economic summit here."

What's ironic of course about this sudden announcement is that those same three countries -- in a covert CIA-led coup d'etat never reported by Western media but largely known about now after the fact -- invaded and then ousted Iran's democratically elected president, Mosaddeq, in 1953 after they became a democracy in the early nineteen-fifties. Those same three countries then installed 'the Shah' as a puppet leader against the people's will and split Iran's oil up three ways for themselves, paying the Iranians pennies a barrel for it for nearly thirty years; they called their new "company" British Petroleum, or BP - you might have heard of it. This led of course to the extreme 'Islamic revolution' of 1979. (Religious fervor as the powers that be would have dumbed-down TV guzzlers believe had nothing to do with the American Embassy hostage "crisis," but rather thirty years of rage and frustration over imperialist domination and their oil being stolen from them.)

Next up came the eight year US-led Iran-Iraq war where the Reagan administration funded a young CIA operative named Saddam Hussein, giving him millions of dollars and chemical and biological weapons to use against the Iranian people, where over 20 million of them died. And then when Iraq proved unable to defeat the strongly proud and patriotic Iranians, Reagan decided to play both sides against the other in the infamous Iran-Contra Affair and started illegally selling weapons of mass destruction to Iran as well, thinking one assumes that if both countries destroy each other in the process with US money and weapons that the US and Britain could walk right in and grab at all the oil in the region. Of course the plan didn't work. The United States added yet another fallen hero to its shelf of publicly shamed and sham presidents. Iran and Iraq eventually called a truce.

The Iranian people sit at a crossroads now. Their first Democratic Revolution of 1950 didn't work because the Great Britain wouldn't allow it. They needed Iranian oil too badly to win World War I, so they installed Shah number one and forced the Iranian people into totalitarian monarch rule. Their second democratic revolution of 1950 didn't work because the United States and Britain wouldn't allow it due to still wanting all their oil. And now unhappy with their third 'Islamic Revolution, they need help, but can't trust the largest alleged democracies in the world due to past deceit and abuses; so they fight, or sit as many do out of fear and rightly so, helplessly alone not sure of what to do. It is obvious to anyone who visits Iran, as I did in 2008, that the people there are no different than any other country, West or East. They dress the same, look the same, act the same, and want to be LED democratically, not RULED by an Islamic dictatorship. They just don't know how to make it happen, and don't know who to trust.

One thing is for sure, anything that the United States, Great Britain, or France "say" about Iran is probably no more credible or legitimate than their BP corporation was when it was first formed. So they know they can't trust these countries. But at the same time, they don't want to continue to be led astray by their current government. Another thing is also obvious when one is so closely associated with Iran's people as we now are at the non-profit, and that is this: the Iranian people do not hate America, nor do they harbor any negative feelings toward American people. In fact, they are rather awe struck by Americans and love their art and entertainment. Most Iranians are too young to remember the past abuses levied upon them by the United States. (Iran has the youngest population out of any country in the civilized world today.)

The most blatant disregard for 'truth' and respect if one is still hoping for an ounce of it to come out of Washington or mainstream media about this whole charade is that the same countries that are demanding that Iran "not be allowed" to make nuclear weapons all currently have, make, and sell for profit nuclear weapons themselves. An irony that is not lost on Iran - a deeply intelligent, insightful and wise country that was once the largest empire on planet earth known as Persia. Newly selected Bilderberg Group Managing Director, better known to most as "President Obama" is being forced by his bosses to go public and mandate "rules" to the country of Iran regarding their nuclear program, a preposterous notion given that Iran, just like the United States, is a sovereign nation of planet earth and doesn't have any 'rules' to follow. (Isn't that precisely what then-select GW Bush said when he broke every "rule" in the "rulebook" and even international law when he illegally invaded the country of Iraq?)

What Iran might be prone to do though is FOLLOW the United State's lead... should they ever decide to lead again and disarm themselves. Obama is a smart man. He knows this. He just can't say it out loud, not in public. He might get fired. The same way JFK was fired. In other words, he takes his orders and shouts about Iran every few weeks to keep the powers that be happy without once mentioning that the US is the largest owner and profiteer of nuclear weapons in the world. Sad. Funny. Ironic. Twisted. Truth is that way sometimes.

To the country of Iran/Persia, with a five-thousand year history and a claim to being the longest running and greatest kingdom on earth for hundreds of years, the United States -- with its crumbling economy and long-ago eroded democracy -- must seem like the tail that's still trying to do the barking. Iranians are known for their patience and their skill in poetic diplomacy. While the US sits around complaining and name-calling over the last few years, Iran quietly walked into recently 'liberated' Iraq and discreetly took over that country's fragile government in less than a day, turning it Shia overnight. The embarrassed United States is of course in a tizzy as it has over one-hundred and twenty thousand troops stationed there fighting to maintain stability in a country now being controlled by none other than the Iranian government. One reason possibly why the United States seems so hellbent on continuously publicly attacking Iran, rather than sitting down to diplomatic talks with them, an option that every country in the free world, even the US itself, knows that they will eventually have to do if they are going to get anywhere with either country; or with any other Middle Eastern country at this point. Iran is still one of the most respected countries in the entire region, being the only one bold enough to continue to not take United States bribe money like Turkey or Pakistan AND speak the truth about what is actually happening to them.

And yes, they still send their presidents and other government leaders to the United States to speak and invite Americans to come there as well, an honor that I partook in personally. Again and again they implore the United States to shut down its tail-barking, grow up, forgive the inequities of the past, and come to the diplomatic side of the fence to talk. The US continues to refuse. And in the process continues to lose respect in the international community. Twentieth century politics don't work in the twenty-first century world of today. The United States is going to eventually have to sit down and start acting like a leader of the free world, and not its wanna-be ruler.

If one wants to learn more, simply google any of the keywords here. There is nothing here that is not common knowledge or easily obtainable. But most importantly head to to join up for free and stay in touch with world news about Iran/US relations which tends to be much less biased and more honest than White House-dictated US news.

God bless the United States. I have feeling we're going to need it.

Yours patriotically,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How Do We Know What We Know?

Yo dog, (welcome to the Transcendence Diaries by the way. I found the circumstance addressed below stimulating enough to warrant some further thought; and ink. Or bits as we would now say in these modern GEL times)

I'll tell ya, you and the fam have the most uncanny way of asking good questions. (Your father's "That's all great Ed, but how is your soul?" comes to mind...) In any case, post GEL i did notice a bit of stuck attention on how best to answer your question "But HOW did you know, these things? In what WAY did you know them?" in regards to the knowledge one gains from hallucinogens. It was a great question. And of course it is one that has been answered tens of thousands of times in books by aldous huxley, albert hoffman, tim leary ram dass, carlos castendea, pauo coelho, alan watts, thomas merton, etc... But in the moment i did find it a challenge in an elevator pitch to explain how do we know the knowledge that we gain is actually knowledge and not just "a thought/idea/vision/hallucination/wishful thinking etc" Yes of course we are stimulating other regions of the brain and therefore accessing knowledge stored there whenever we ingest or take anything that stimulates other areas of the brain that we do not normally have easy access to. But that really isnt an answer to "how do we know the knowledge." That may be the explanation as to "how do we gain this new knowledge" but it isn't an answer to "how do we know we actually are learning new knowledge.

It was a brilliant question. Due to the fact that it was such an honest, simple, and direct question. No bullshit academic posturing. Just a very simple and sincere and earnest question from curiosity. Which is we know (how do we know even this?) the place where much of our collective knowledge comes from. That healthy curiosity for truth, knowledge, and understanding that many possess. I realized that the question was bigger than the specific frame it was in and could be applied to knowledge itself. How DO we KNOW anything? I believe that in that brief moment you mentioned "empirical data" - something i struggled with for years in college as a philosophy major undergrad, and then later have had to deal with on an almost daily basis being in the health-sciences industry for so many years. In the arena of science it all comes down to empirical data...

Realizing this led me to spend some time on Sunday contemplating knowledge itself with your particular question as the backdrop. It brought up the age old quandary of 'how do we know that we know what we know?' Reflecting on the work of Loren Elsley, Descartes, Kant, and Aristotle to name a few and 20 years ago it would have been easy to answer the question from a more philosophical point of view that often ends up the final answer in philosophical debate after that last cup of coffee and the last cigarette has been put out (philosophical meaning "impossible to know for sure and therefore all sides can most likely be true. Or false. Depending on how you look at it...") in other words, we know simply because we know. This is what "i" believes and I am aware enough to recognize that some "you" may believe the opposite is true. But in the end, as with many things, "I" chooses to know this.

But we're not in college anymore. (Ok, well actually you are... once more) and we aren't sitting in a dark cafe after having to deliver this week's thesis on "free will versus determinism." So after all these years, and thought, and reading and studying, and consciousness exploration had we come any further in being able to answer the question, "But how did you know?" My mind kept escaping to the safe confines of the most obvious answer that minds do when confronted with such a question, that is: "because i just knew/know." But that won't fly half as convincingly as proving your knowledge of gravity simply by tossing someone off of a ten story building. "Now that's some empirical evidence for ya."

So how to make the leap from said ten story building to the ground without getting smashed to a thousand bloody pieces and still prove your knowledge of gravity is true and valid... Eventually i came upon the idea of sexual orientation. Don't ask me why. It is certainly better than the leap to "God" or "the soul" or "the after life" as these are still areas of knowledge up for grabs as to what we really know of them, if anything... but yes... sexual orientation was one that anyone would be hard pressed to argue with. Simply because most people are quite comfortable with their sexual orientation. Which is, when we break it down, nothing more than "knowledge that we possess or at least think we possess and believe is true" - and yet empirically speaking is entirely unprovable. You could ask a person till you are both blue in the face "but how do you KNOW that you are heterosexual?" and the answer is always going to inevitably be "because i just do. That's how." Which is, for the time being, until we are able to isolate the 'sexual orientation dna molecule' and have it imprinted on our own personal 'identity chip' along with thousands of other identifying datum and simply slip it into our hand-held computer and show the person, "there, you see? I am clearly heterosexual. Nuff said."

But such technology does not yet exist, at least not in the common world that we live in today. It indeed might already exist in a few labs around the planet. (Note to self: purchase one.) So what we are left with is what we have always been left with in terms of what we believe we "know," in the field of "knowledge." That is, "I simply know. Just as I know that I am sexually orientated toward being heterosexual.

In regards to the knowledge one gains from consciousness exploration using plants, herbs, seeds or even synthetic compounds such as MDMA or LSD, it comes to us much the same way that most of what we now "currently hold to be true" comes to rest in our individual reality spheres. We listen, we observe, we ingest the data, contemplate, ruminate, compare, contrast, combine with previously filed data... all in a matter of milliseconds of course.... and what we end up with are either questions or conclusions. In a healthy mind most likely a combination of both.

I believe that the first bit of knowledge that I shared with you that one might perceive from experimenting with hallucinogens is "my soul is immortal." (a conclusion, like much of what we claim to know, that in the world of philosophy we believe certainly begs the question, because it hasn't even answered the question as to whether a soul exists or not - one of the fundamental philosophical dilemmas.) But a foregone conclusion for many. For me it was a bit of data that somehow made the leap from 'intellectually curious idea to think about' to 'relatively certain.' Now mind you, I did not say "YOUR soul is immortal," nor "ALL souls are immortal." Because another bit of data/knowledge that one gains from exploring consciousness with hallucinogens is "What might be true for one person may not be true for another. Therefore I may indeed possess a soul that is immortal, and someone else may not. And the likelihood of that reality is directly correlated with what THAT PERSON believes." Which one could argue is actually TWO more bits of data, not one. Which then leads to another understanding, that is "Consciousness, hence the perception of reality, and therefore perhaps even reality itself, is NOT made up of absolutes; but rather a collection of many possibilities that very well might be absolutes, even contradicting ones, but that all seem to be able to coexist simultaneously." An alarming bit of knowledge when one first encounters it in their explorations. But actually comforting after one settles into it and begins to contemplate its implications.

Much of the bloodshed among humankind over the last ten-thousand years has been due to the assertion that one group's set of absolutes is more true or valid or right than another's. Whole civilizations have been wiped off the face of the earth because of this seemingly innate though primitive and evolutionarily declining need to "be right," or to believe that WHAT we believe so must others. Some people, many people actually still today, seem to believe that if they believe something then it is impossible for the opposite to also be true at the same time. But this is one of the first bits of knowledge one gains from intense or even playful consciousness exploration - whether through experimentation with hallucinogens or through other means such as meditation etc.

Indeed my own belief is that we live in a large and expansive enough universe that it has the capacity to hold many 'seemingly' conflicting or contradicting realities simultaneously. For example, I believe in a heaven – based on the idea that in the Super String Model of physics we may be looking at a universe with anywhere from ten to twelve dimensions, and therefore this idea of ‘heaven’ that we have created may indeed exist in one of these other dimensions. I also believe in reincarnation – depending on WHAT that particular person believes, so shall he/she experience at the time of the death of their body and the passing of their soul. I also believe that there are still others who still believe in “hell” though I myself do not believe in such a place, I do understand that there may be others who DO believe in such a place, and therefore may be creating it, that just like heaven it would exist in one of these other dimensions that we are still completely ignorant of, and yes, THEY might actually go to ‘hell’ simply because they are so convinced that such a place exists. This might be true for them. And therefore an absolute even in consciousness and in the universe. But it might not be true for me, or someone else.

I also hold it to be true that consciousness itself is capable of this as well. (whether one wants to reduce that down to mere 'human consciousness' or include 'all known and unknown consciousness in the known and unknown universe’ is up to them) But to me it is entirely plausible, and provable since I myself am able to do it, that a mind can believe in two apparently conflicting or contradicting absolutes simultaneously. (I believe that most people do not give consciousness enough credit. They believe it is smaller and more limited in power than it actually is, and most tend to believe that a person is only capable of believing one side of an idea at a time, i.e. one is either a theist or an atheist. Though it is entirely possible for a person to be both.) One can also believe in free will AND determinism at the same time, and many do and just don't realize it, even though the ideas blatantly contradict each other. Most people tend to believe in a subtle and convoluted combination of both theories, myself included, and would find it very difficult to explain empirically. Especially since ‘determinism’ itself implies and downright necessitates a ‘something’ doing the determining. Now whether this is an alive and aware “God,” or simply a Divine Force, or another force at play in the universe like gravity or electro-magnetism – such as ‘The Unified Field Theory’ that we have simply not yet discovered, or our “higher selves,” or something else entirely – such as angels, spirit guides, our own selves in a different dimension or a different place in space-time, “I” don't yet know. Which is to say that I currently hold many ideas/absolutes to be true simultaneously. Confusing for some. Outright blasphemy to others. Poppycock to still others. And the beauty of it is that WE ARE ALL RIGHT. AND WRONG.

That, there, in a nutshell, in regards to your question as to ‘what sort of knowledge does one get from doing hallucinogens, is perhaps one of the greatest bits of knowledge one acquires from the activity. The idea that there are many absolutes all possibly/probably occurring at once and that it is not only possible, but it’s also “o.k.,” or that there is no such thing as an absolute. The only one or two that I have been able to come up with so far in my own life is/are: “I am.” “I am here.” and “So are you and them.” And that's about it...

From there, the next that follow are “I do not know where I came from.” “I do not know who I am, except that “I” am “I.” “I do not know where I am,” or “where this is.” Of course we pretend that we do know the answers to these questions, because we have created words and labels and ideas behind them, in order to not all go mad. We call ourselves “human.” And we call “here” “the earth/the here-now/the milky way galaxy,” etc. But these are all man-made words, labels, theories, and ideas. The truth is that none of this is true. It is all man-made. We can call ourselves “human,” but we still have no idea who we are, what we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we are, or where we are going.

Though I can tell you that based on what I currently believe that I am “heterosexual.” Hope this answers your questions. Thank you for the food for thought. Enjoyed it. See ya later today. Fishy

Monday, April 13, 2009

Something IS Happening - Easter Notes...

What an absolutely perfect and glorious Easter day it was today, no? [Warning: we’re gonna free-flow here. Tonight. (or whatever time it is wherever you are NOW) Stream of frontal-lobe consciousness. Blog style. In other words, our objective here is to data-dump as much as possible before I become bored with the task -- NOT to “write in the artistic sense of the word.” (Yes we will use plenty of parentheses, and dashes, and a few semi-colons (which for the life of me I still just cannot get over my uneasy bias against for some reason) as always in order to attempt to maintain some semblance of order and readability. (which reminds me: a quest I have been on for years, perhaps decades... this fascination with WHICH – if one had to choose - is the best for of punctuation to use when attempting to free-style in no particular order. I mean, we do speak like this. some of us at least. And therefore this isn't exactly note-worthily innovative, new, or unique; at least not from a speaking voice sense. And yet when we sit down to write, even if we are attempting to quote one or another or an entire conversation, we do tend to dress it all up a bit and put it in a certain order... I mean, look at the way dialogue in films are... always one person speaking at a time, and always in full sentences... utter rubbish in the realism department. So no, this is not new, this style of writing. It’s just taking down as quickly as you can whatever happens to be on your mind either now, or a few minutes ago, or a few minutes from now, in order to get it all out – without worrying about how it will read as “writing.” The idea is simply BLOG. Don’t WRITE. Get the ideas out to the readers. Save writing for writing and some times, just let blogging be what it was originally intended to be: free-flowing thoughts, remnants of the day. At least until we are able to read each others’ minds, which I believe will be sooner than later, this will have to do.)

Doesn’t it strike you as interesting how there are so many FORMS of writing? All based on what their particular objective is one supposes... perhaps not something to get into now since it is already well past midnight, (and I with this new “new year’s resolution” to finally grow up and start paying attention to the things that “grown up people do” such as “getting to sleep at a decent hour” and “waking up at a decent hour” (I slept until 2:51 in the afternoon yesterday. I was quite proud of that one. Does that count?) So I will need to cut this is as short as possible. Hence my forewarning that it might be a bumpy road ahead, (but many of you are already used to the bumps and curves and back alleys aren't you? They’re not really as bad as some make them out to be, are they. Certain friends absolutely loathe them. You should read their comments and emails... accusing me of being far too divergent and tangential – to the point of implying that I am selfish for being so tangential in my writing... and yet it’s my writing... (figure that one out). Catherine is occasionally impressed but constantly yells at me “Can’t you just get to the point?!” And of course the point is that this is ALL the point. It’s like life in that sense. I mean, where exactly ARE you running off to? To death. Right? Ultimately? So why live your life “on point?” It’s a perceived point at best. A non-existent and ultimately meaningless point at worst. So why not just let it rip? Let it all hang out? And see what comes of it? (By this point, trust me, we’ve lost her. Three or four paragraphs up she was outta here. I'm sure of it. Her brain just can’t take it... it’s like some people really need “point” delivered like punchlines in jokes... like BAM! Other people prefer the whole joke to be one giant punchline. Life is more like that. So for me, that’s how I fly. Half naked, off the wing, stewardess in one hand and a bloody Mary in the other. Wind blowing through my hair, and if we crash, my God was that one hell of a fucking ride or what? Jokes with punchlines are a little passé’ Truth is, I bet that very few of the 15,000 subscribers to this blog actually go for it all the way to the finish line with me when I go off like this, in this manner. Personally I'd be one of those very few. But that's just me. Think Eddie Izzard. Half the time you have to ask yourself “where the fuck IS he right now? And HOW did he get there? (I bet he’s asking himself that question half that time as well. But people dig it. So it’s cool. What I don't like is comics who seem like they say down and “wrote” out their routine. I just absolutely loathe that shit. This is something I don't do when I blog. Shit I don't do it when I write anything. I just sit down to blog/write/dump. Whether it’s a song, or a blog, or a book, or a screenplay. I just sit down let it all pour out. Charlie Kaufman. What a fucking genius. Right? I wonder how much he writes versus how much he just “dumps...” Good question... )

So where we’re we? Yes. Due to my earnest desire to communicate and express as much as I possibly can – as much as there is to – nothing more nothing less – and yet not let it take me five hours – which is how long it usually takes me to write an average blog post in the Transcendence Diaries – when I really sit down to “write” and make it make sense – as opposed to what I'm doing now – which is just dump data out of my insanely warp-speeded carnival-like mind. Wild huh? Hard to believe. Hard to imagine that any person in their right mind, or at least pretending to be ( which at this point I would say I'm not even sure I'm doing too good a job at that one ) would dedicate three to five hours a day to writing ONE blog a day for seven straight years; let alone admit it publicly. From an economical point of view, it is an entirely worthless endeavor, (at least now – let us not fool ourselves for a moment that we are attempting to fool anyone else that we feel that this will not NOT pay off at some point in the future... for that would be dishonest, and transparently so. (Nothing wrong with dishonesty if you can get away with it... but don't make it totally honest...) (And yet, I am somehow reminded of US politics and US presidents... and from that perspective one doesn’t really even need to be concerned with our lies being transparent anymore, do we?. I mean, at this point, it’s more like latter day Rome. If you want the throne you just kill your mom, your dad, your brother, your wife, and pretty much do whatever the hell you want to and tell the rest of the world to shut the fuck up and go to hell. We’ve been living like that in the United States now for over fifty years... ever since Eisenhower warned us we were headed down that path. Oh well. Not the subject of tonight’s post. But still, something to remember. Note to self: don't worry about being honest. It’s totally not in anymore.)

I would never say it is a thankless task or one without merit or benefit though, blogging, writing. The truth of the matter is that I enjoy it immensely. It helps me relax. It feels like weight-lifting or cardio for my brain and emotional well-being. Both relaxing and energizing at the same time. Keeps me sane. And I also enjoy the occasional comments and notes from readers. Just to see – from a sociological standpoint – what stirs things up and what doesn’t.... Add to the Transcendence Diaries the six other blogs that I maintain and post to regularly, and well, one gets the picture. A life completely dedicated to work and not much of anything else...and yet my work is my play. So I am a very very lucky manchild.) Being one mother hell of a prolific writer (I have easily written tens of thousands of pages of printed material. At the very least. shit. just in the last ten years... Its unfathomable how much of my time I spend writing and how quickly I can do it... but at the same time knowing full well that I am not a writer, meaning that I didn't earn a degree in writing, (though I did major in it for a brief spell in college – along with just about everything else one could “major in” before I finally succumbed to that constant nagging whisper of a realization that I was one of those “major in life” types and the sooner I faced it and acknowledged it the sooner I would become successful at it – which happened remarkably soon after I am still surprised to reflect back on), and I also have never really had anything published – well that's not true actually, in fact there have been plenty of things, but nothing MAJOR, so I'm not in that place yet where I would ever call myself a “writer” but have absolutely no qualms about calling myself “a genuinely near-supernatural prolific writer (figure that one out) – so I bet, I just bet, that yes, there probably IS a table of sorts that lists what the best forms of punctuation are for this kind of mind-babble... call them inner-dialogues... Voltaire-like or Shakespearean soliloquies in the mind of a mad gone half mad during the third act. But alas, as a non-writer, I simply don't know what those “best forms of punctuation” are yet. So forgive the tug of war between them all as I struggle to make sense of what is shooting out of my head faster than I can get my fingers to follow. And this is after decades of training these damn fingers... but still... this mind always manages to pitch faster than these fingers can catch. Oh well. We’ll deal as best we can. Don't say I didn't warn you. END OF WARNING]

An absolutely glorious Easter day. Weather in New York was perfect for it. A cool brisk 41 degrees. Bright blue sky. Sunny. A calm over the entire city. Couldn’t sleep all night due to anticipation for this morning. Just couldn’t really fall asleep deeply. Felt like when we are little kids and we know that we are going to Disney world the next day. That’s what Easter Sunday always feels like for me... Kept waking up the whole time, which is fine because we are turning in the new solo album to the manufacturer tomorrow and I needed to approve the art director’s entire CD project, so the waking up helped. I'd fall asleep for an hour, not really asleep, rather lucid and vividly aware that I was “attempting to fall asleep,” (which has been going on for about five years now. Can’t say I really like this.... on the one hand I find it cool in the ‘super-natural” sense that I have this new unique ability to be both awake and asleep and dreaming at the same time; and on the other hand I don't ever feel as though I rested thoroughly enough. It’s during the day when I take a thirty minute nap or two that I really knock out and get “rest.)

Easter itself is very special if you are a practicing Christian or a well-studied and historically aware Jew. (no offense meant, just read your history.) But Easter is a day that follows 40 days of intense self examination and repentance if done properly with a sincere desire to improve oneself and make the most of it all. Easter is that giant exhale that you wait for after forty days of constant prayer and self examination and repentance and “I'm sorrys” and towards the end of this particular season I even found myself on my hands and knees praying... just begging, pleading... for forgiveness, for new life, for more self awareness, for more closeness to the Divine, for more understanding of Jesus and what he meant in the bigger picture, what he means now, and what he may mean in our future, and just a lot of “trying go deep.” Deep-deep. Not superficial deep. Like some people giving up chocolate or something, but DEEP. Like “I know who I am, but I want to know more. I know I want to help, but I want to help more. AND I want to help in the way that YOU want me to help AND in the way that I can help the most. AND God am I fucking sorry for what a fuck up I've been all year. Please forgive me and if you have to just smack me down lord because I long to be as good a person as I can be and for the life of me I still fuck up too much for my own good. But thank you for listening and thank you for understanding. And thank you for continuing to listen and seeming to understand and forgive and help when help is needed. So yes, Easter brings with it that trumpet call that echoes “Alright little buddy you can go a bit easier on yourself now... You did a damn good job of it. Let’s see if you can walk your talk for the rest of the year. Easter, to me, in that respect, is a sort of New Years really. more so than New Years is actually.

And besides all that, the personal aspect of Easter, Easter services at this particular church are very very special. Not a particularly old church by earthly standards. Rather new actually. Built in 1928. That would be considered a “new home” in England wouldn’t it? Well in any case, the sanctuary is breath-taking. Something like thirty-eight million tile mosaics were shipped over from Italy during the 20s and 30s to make the church. All marble and tile... giant ceilings. On top of it, Easter service there is well known world-wide for many reasons not the least of which is its prime real estate being smack dab in the middle of Manhattan on park Avenue in the most expensive zip code on planet earth. So what you end up with is several things there when one breaks it down. (if one feels so inclined to do.) For starters the church is in the heart of the tourist area of Manhattan and therefore draws all these non-regular-church-goers that just come out of fucking nowhere and all of a sudden seemed to have discovered their religion on that very day. So the place fills up like nobody’s business. One has to get their an hour early to even get a seat. And that's in your own fucking church. It’s a little on the “iffy” side in that manner. And the other thing is that the neighborhood itself forces this particular church to bring out the best of the best in everything that it does. The music director is a Dr. All the Pastors are Doctors. There are flowers galore, and the best musicians money can buy and the choir – half of which are paid (which still strikes me in a not-exactly-positive way to this day and I've been a member there for five years now) is the best damn “white choir” that you'd ever want to hear. (White choir so as to differentiate it from the “black choir” up at Abyssinian Baptist church in Harlem – the oldest and FIRST African American church in the United States. You just can’t compare the two. Its like VW to BMW. There is NOTHING in this world like the choir at Abyssinian. This is MUST SEE/HEAR for your bucket list) But still, the choir at our church is really quite something. Especially if you dig music from the “classic” period, Bach and Handel et al. horns, strings, woodwinds, brass, tympony... it is quite something.

And then of course there is the head pastor, Stephen Bauman. And his sermons from hell as I like to call them, pardon the sick irony in that. But they are just so over the top intelligent AND insightful AND futuristically enlightened that you’d swear that you stepped into Christianity as it might be practiced in forty to fifty years now once the majority of the so-called Christians out there grow the fuck up, stop taking bible literally, and realize the true nature of what this man Jesus was trying to get across. In a nutshell, Bauman preaches in a way that even an atheist would walk away inspired and thought-provoked. And one suspects that on Easter Sunday – knowing full well that that sanctuary is going to be filled to the brim with more people crammed into that space than at any other day of the year – that he is going to pull out all the stops.

So no, of course I couldn’t sleep. A brilliant Easter Service awaits in the morning, followed by a magnificent feast with hundreds of your closest friends... all in great spirits by hearing the good news... (whether or not that good news is true or not half of us smart and honest enough to admit that we still aren't quite sold on one way or the other – but still, the good news sounds and feels good and it promises many things that nothing else being offered on the fruit cart of modern earth offers at this time, so it just feels really really good.) New life. New beginnings. Love one another. Resurrection. Whether real or metaphorical. After all these years, does it even matter anymore? Now that might seem like blasphemy to a catholic or a born again Christian in middle America... but Stephen Bauman is a man on a mission that is so far ahead of the rest of the pack... so in tune with the Divine NOW. The Divine as it is NOW, as one can FEEL it is NOW (if one actually opens one heart up and STOPS just READING for knowledge and instead starts asking and feeling and praying for knowledge -- as opposed to what some book written six to two thousand years ago says about this ‘God character’ ... the man is on fire.

One gets the feeling every single freaking Sunday that he is the closest thing to a modern day Jesus or Gandhi or MLK that one can find these days on planet earth. And trust me, as most know, I've searched high and low for them. On Wednesday we’ll be meeting with Dr Cornell West himself... I've read or studied them all in this mad quest of mine to see what's out there... And I will admit that Ram Dass and Harry Palmer certainly tie for first place in the “knowledge plus enlightenment plus new information plus passion plus purity of heart ala Kierkegaard plus sincerity plus commitment and dedication equals a man who can easily be called the most inspirational and important man on earth in terms of what he has to offer in the way of spiritual enlightenment goes. Stephen Bauman - though he would humbly disagree and laugh his butt off if he heard me say it or heard that I wrote it - fits the bill to a tee. Or trust me, I wouldn’t be a member of a church. And there are tens of thousands of them out there. All doing the same thing. All beautiful people. Both religious and non-religious. From Bill Maher to Wayne Dyer to Marianne Williamson to John Shelby Spong to Deepak Chopra. But these are all second placers. What they offer is not new... it may seem new to mainstreamers. But it is old-hat to long-time seekers. Bauman is in the top tier. Consider him John Lennon if Ram Dass is Jimi Hendrix and Harry Palmer – being the most advanced thinker of the bunch -- is the Bob Dylan of the “new knowledge” bearers. [NOTE: You can listen to his sermons online at iTunes. Just search for Stephen Bauman at Christ church New York city. Listen to any of his sermons from 2009. You’ll see what I mean.]

Long story short? A gorgeous day. After service and feast I went home and just laid down in silence.... doing my best to connect and commune with the Divine one more time... till I drifted off to a short nap. Something is happening? Yes indeed. Something IS happening. Don't let anyone tell you any different. We all have plenty of friends who don't yet recognize it. They're more than willing to play the fool, or the cynic, or the wise-ass, or the logician, or the pragmatist. Just as we once did, or might do in the future... But this does not mean that they are still not our friends. And no this doesn’t mean that we need to preach to them nor convert them or any of that nonsense... because as I've said so many times before. It has nothing to do with religion. What is happening is NOT about religion. It just is an ISNESS that is happening. And it’s all about LOVE. Underneath that, a very rock solid foundation of honesty, sincerity, and a strong desire to HELP. But it IS happening. And it’s happening NOW. And goddamn if it’s not a beautiful thing to behold, let alone take part in. God bless us all as we journey forward.

PROLOGUE: Mom sent us all Easter baskets this year, as always. I sometimes wonder if we are the only grown men alive who still receive Easter baskets from our mother via express mail every year... either way, it is a very good feeling. Heart-warming and homey. Just makes one feel good all over. Hope she never stops. And then when she gets too old to send us Easter baskets we will send them to her. Pay it forward. I love that woman.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Fight Which the Good Fight?

Had this dream that I was helping an underground movement working for African American rights. Actually not sure if I was in the States or in another country. a lot of covert crawling through tunnels and jumping over barbwire fences to get to secret meetings... I was like “the white connection to the outside world” so to speak it seemed to be. All very hush hush and dangerous. The people in charge were all black from what i can remember and we were in a very impoverished environment. I was constantly sleeping amongst or jumping over homeless type people in rags or box-homes.

At a time when I am rethinking where to fuel my activist energies right now, a lot of prayer and meditation and observation about it... feeling the peace/anti-war movement is always going to be there but as a species we are essentially fucked in the face of these giant corporate-controlled entities that pose as governments on planet earth right now. ten million people marched to protest the United States' invasion of the country of Iraq and it did absolutely nothing. It had no effect. There are still over one million Iraqi civilians dead at the hands of the so called “coalition forces.” Meaning what? corporate controlled/Matrix Styled robot-soldiers who do whatever “force” tells them to do. And we the people of the planet truly just have no say in it.

Inspiring that that many people came out on one single day to protest all over the planet? sure. but is it going to stop newly elected US president Obama from attempting to occupy Afghanistan? No. Won't even be an issue. I don't think anything is going to wake Americans up to the horrors of war and what it actually means for foreign insurgents to enter your country, boss you around, put up blockades, kill innocent people, and arrest thousands of your neighbors until it actually happens in their own country. Then we may be able to muster enough understanding to build a real coalition of a large enough group of people to actually have an effect on these “selected officials” and their war-mongering ways. Until then, anyone anywhere in the world is a target for arrest, occupation, imprisonment, or death at the drop of a hat if the United States and other large nations decides that's what they want to do.

We not yet be living breathing batteries as suggested in the symbolic Matrix film series, but the people of earth for better or worse are clearly prisoners of powers much stronger than they are able to overcome. Only they're not machines. (perhaps they are?) But by all accounts they appear to be living breathing human beings no different than ourselves. We live in a comfortable prison for some to be sure. Say if one lives in Kansas or New York. Not so comfortable for many others... Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, on and on the list grows.... or shrinks, depending on how one views it.

So the last few months I have really begun praying and meditating frequently and intensely on “what next?” in terms of where I might be able to better serve more people in real tangible ways. After Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Grenada and Panama and Nicaragua and Iraq (and so many more I simply fail to mention out of being too lazy to want to look up right now) it is clear that any efforts put forth by “the people” of earth to stop war-mongers is moot and in essence a waste of valuable time effort and energy.

It does though explain two things: why people as powerful and influential as Bono and Al Gore and Bill and Melinda Gates take on other causes, rather than what one suspects they believe in their hearts to also be a worthy cause – peace on earth. AND it also helps explain the motives and actions of people such as the Weather Underground, Che Guevara, Osama Bin Laden, the IRA, or the leaders of the Iranian Revolution. Crazy? Sure. But what they were/are fighting against was/is equally crazy.

So like the Buddha i sit quietly and meditatively torn between two worlds: out and out underground revolutionary to the death, even if it means three weeks or months from today i breathe my last breath in this current form. Or a more elegant peaceful and orderly style of helping... albeit one that requires more patience and a more mature ability to endure the ludicrous and unnecessary atrocities and lies, death and destruction that surround us at every corner of the globe at the hands of people who live in our own backyards and neighborhoods. Decision not made yet. So I sit.

Worthy causes: poverty, AIDS in Africa, women’s rights around the world, human trafficking and slavery, every 3.9 seconds someone dies of hunger or thirst somewhere in the world. If we wanted to we could end it in a year or two. But again, if WE WANTED to. Equal education. Gay rights. Fair trade. Blacks and Latinos still have it pretty tough. And no one even bothers to dare broach the stomach churning plight of the Native Americans and the other indigenous peoples of the planet. But that is one I would love to see brought up and finally faced and reconciled in our lifetimes...

We ask and it shall be given... so every night I am thrown into these random dreams/nightmares involving some sort of revolutionary events I have found myself entangled in. Some more terrifying than others. Some tame and reasonable and more “court and circus oriented.” Some downright “action adventure movie” style craziness. Each morning I wake up and scribble down as much as i can remember of what I was doing, how I felt, if the goal seemed a noble one... how I truly feel about it... if I believe that it is my calling to take it on and try to help.... a transition phase to be sure. But one that I will soon have an answer for I am sure.

Still one-hundred and ten percent behind helping bridge peace with the country of Iran, bring Tibet back to the Tibetan peoples, freedom of the Chechens, feeding the hungry, housing the poor, fighting poverty, and general do-gooding. But there is plenty more we can do... that's for sure. In time we will know....

"We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Visions on Third Avenue

Walking down Third Avenue with Derek and Little T during a photo shoot for the new album we just finished recording. Little T co-wrote the lyrics to five of the eleven songs that made it onto the final master. All of fifteen years old the kid is. Met him in the apartment building I lived in when I first moved to New York five years ago. He was just a little guy back then. We’d hang out. Eat cereal. Watch movies. Play guitar. Who knew he’d end up a freaking brilliant poet by age 12... At least I was smart enough to recognize it. We started co-writing songs together right around the time he turned 13. One day he's sitting there in my apartment fucking around on my guitar bothering the hell out of me while I was at my desk trying to write something. I can tell he's holding an Am chord and just shooting shit out of his mouth. I was used to it though. I let him hang out whenever he wanted to. Things at home weren't easy. I remembered being 12, 13, those years. Shit, I still felt 16, sometimes 18. On good days. I figured better he's hanging at my pad than out on the street getting into trouble. Out of the corner of the periphery of my hearing I hear him mumble something to the effect of “blood runs down pensylvania avenue/and I find myself unfortunately hating you...”
“Dude! What the hell did you just say?”
“I don't remember.... I don't know.”
“You said something like “blood runs down pensylvania avenue. Where is pensylvania avenue? That was cool.”
“Uh, are you serious? The White House?”
“No shit? Man that's cool.”
So I grab the guitar out of his hands and we proceed to write the song “White House Jihad.” Each of us adding lyrics along the way as I flesh out a melody and a chord progression. Five minutes, maybe ten, and we’re done. That was it. I knew. This kid’s got more talent at 12 than I had at 22. “Dude start writing poetry. You ever think about writing poetry?”
“I wanna be a rock star man, not a poet.”
“Yeah. Totally. I dig that. You can be both. But you have a gift for lyrics man. And I got songs coming out of my ears. They never stop. But after thousands and thousands of them, lyrics start to get harder and harder to come up with. But the songs keep coming and coming. Just never ending. It’s the lyrics that hold them back from becoming finished songs. Do me a favor. Just shoot me every poem you write, o.k.? cool?”

So Little T starts hitting the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sitting around all day while he should be in school, sitting there sipping coffee and writing poems. One, two, three, ten, twenty. Pretty soon he's shooting me five songs a day. I never had to do anything but print them out, put them up on a music stand in my room, stare at them for a while, and bam! The melody and chord progression would just flow out. Half the time I never even paid attention to what chords I was playing. It was like the song would just speak to me by looking at his poem sitting there. It wasn't work. It was more like magic. Channeling. I print one of his poems and five minutes later a completed song is out here in the world. Existing. Playing God. Instant manifestation. Just like that. I'd call him at all hours of the night. “O.k. man listen to this one....” Sometimes two or three a day. We easily wrote fifty songs in ’08 in that method. I had found something new. Someone else giving the songs a start by supplying a poem. “Keep them short brother. you're sending me poems that end up being ten minute long songs. Keep them to one page.”
“o.k. man. Sorry.”

And on and on it went. It was a much needed breath of fresh air. I was still writing my own lyrics too. But this really precipitated one of the most fruitful and productive songwriting periods of my life. Notebooks were filling up. And more importantly, the poems he was sending were inspiring some of the most honest and sincere songs I had ever composed, musically speaking. They had to come out that way. The lyrics were just so damn real. Not just throw away stuff. Real stuff. Last forever kind of stuff.

Only thing was that we weren't writing TRANSCENDENCE type material. I still was. But the kinds of poems T would send me weren't inspiring alternative rock or Brit pop styled songs. They were more like old school acoustic singer/songwriter kinds of songs. Simon and Garfunkel or Dylan type of things. What the hell was I going to do with these? I'm in a band. A rock band. What are we going to do with these songs? They're so good. We have to do something with them.

Bunny is hanging in my room. Listening to me play her some of these new songs... “Fishy you know you should cut an album of these songs. I love TRANSCENDENCE but this shit is deep man. It’s way hip. Mad deep. I can feel you more in these songs than in some of the TRANSCENDENCE stuff.” Weather Girl tells me the same thing. So does Britney. So does Catherine. So does Princess Little Tree. There was obvious flow. Always follow flow....

So we decided to make an album. A few investors hear the songs. Immediately step up and offer to sponsor a new album if we promise to keep it just like it sounds with just me on the guitar by myself. “none of that experimental noisy TRANSCENDENCE stuff o.k.? Just this. You and your guitar this time Fishy. Maybe some piano and strings. But keep it simple. Stay true to these songs.

I fly to Miami. Vancouver offers to produce. So its pretty much the same lineup. All the boys from TRANSCENDENCE join in plus a few other notables from the Miami music scene. People popping in to see what’s up. “I hear Fishy’s back in town cutting a new album... is it true? You need backup vocals bro? Just let me know. A real family affair. Ex Norwegian is in there everyday checking up on things, acting as a sort of executive producer. Gene Genie is around us constantly with her camera and video camera capturing the whole affair. The workload is grueling. Ridiculously grueling. We are on the clock like we’ve never been before. Usually we have anywhere from fifty to a hundred thousand dollars to make an album. This time we were told we had five thousand. It was an impossible proposition. To promise to record an entire album for so little. And in so little time. Four weeks. Couldn’t do it. So we got permission to extend it to five.

The schedule was simple. We work everyday seven days a week till we drop. Sick or not sick we work. No breaks. Eat in the studio. No leaving for any reason. Record eleven songs from start to finish AND mix them. No way to keep up that schedule without help. Artificial stimuli. Brutally abusive to the body and nervous system. But no other way to make it happen. Up all night, up all day. No stopping. We got sicker and sicker. Vancouver’s in the bathroom throwing up. I'm running outside to throw up in between vocal takes. We’re getting sicker and sicker everyday. We all have the flu we think. So more artificial sustenance. Push through the pain. Conquer whatever ails us. At least that's what we think is the answer. Use turns into abuse turns into “I don't think I can stand up anymore. we’re going to have to record with me laying down a lot of the time bro. I just can’t stand up anymore. I don't know what's wrong with me.”

I'm chugging eight to ten energy drinks a day and five to ten cups of coffee. Plus various other things. Anything we can do to stay awake and keep the project on schedule. Vancouver is shooting down quarts of Cuban coffee to stay awake. And worse, all we are eating is sugar and fried Cuban sandwiches because that's all we can get delivered to the studio without leaving so we can keep on working. We hadn't had a fruit or vegetable in over a month.

He goes to the doctor. He's got walking pneumonia. He goes on antibiotics. His eyes are all closed up and swollen and he can’t stop coughing and sneezing and hiccupping and throwing up. I can barely stand up. can’t see straight. Can’t think straight. Can’t sleep either. Too tired to sleep. Too worried about the money this is costing. Too worried we aren't going to make the deadline and aren't going to be able to finish the album. So we step it up even further. By week five I'm flat out on the floor curled up on a blanket. Barely hanging on. I need to get to the hospital. First time in my life when I ever had that thought. Up until that point in my life I felt as though I were invincible. I could do anything I wanted to my body, ingest anything, lack anything, take anything, never mattered. I never felt it. Always woke up the next day or three days later and felt like me again. This time was different.

No more pretty little Eddie Darling. I'm starting to look like the old and fat Jim Morrison. Swolen and bloated. Tightened scrunched up face. Too much stress. I don't want anyone to see me. I tell everyone 'no more pictures. no more video taping. not until i get better.' This is pure madness. But we have to finish.

“Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital Fishy?” Vancouver asks me as I'm laying on the floor calling out mixing ideas to him.
“Dude, what the fuck? Are you freaking kidding me? And then what? And then we wait for me to get better? We don't even know what's wrong with me! It could take weeks. by then who knows what will become of this album. Nah man just keep going. Give me some of that Cuban coffee. Let’s just keep going.” I've been in situations where you start something and don't finish it before. There are many things I dislike. That is one of them. I have always pegged those sorts as weaker people. Not having or doing what it takes to complete a project. See it through. I don't want to hear about your book. I want to read it.

Felt like I had hit a wall. Literally. Only way I can describe it. Felt like my body had hit a wall and no matter what I tried, I just couldn't climb over it. It felt like an invisible wall. Bruised, battered, beat up, busted. I thought about Joe Gideon in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. That moment when he realizes he's hit the proverbial wall and all the hard living has finally caught up with him. He's going to die. And there's nothing he can take for it. But i remained in complete denial and continued to attempt to take everything and anything to work my way through that wall. Or over that wall. Or around that wall. First time I was ever challenged like that. I was in shock. Where is my inner Dorian Gray? Have I truly lost my invincibility?

Misery is about the only word that comes to mind. But also joy. We knew we were making something special. Something beautiful.

In the long run I did end up in the hospital of course. And so did Vancouver. He on antibiotics for only God knows what kind of infection and me all curled up in the fetal position shaking, crying, moaning in agony for three weeks. Throwing up. In the bathroom every five minutes. Back to bed moaning, crying, writhing in pain. Exhaustion is what they call it. Among other things. There are things we never speak about in rock 'n' roll. That moment in Scorcese's The Last Waltz where Levon looks at Marti and says all seriously "I thought we we weren't going to talk about those kinds of things?" It's true. We never do. Not directly at least. Not until years later.

It wasn't pretty. It was an experience I hope never to repeat. Once is enough. But a funny thing happened. A few weeks into the recovery, my mom God bless her asks to hear the album. “If you got yourself into this bad of a condition let me at least hear why honey. I know you don't like playing your music for people before it comes out. But let me hear it.” She puts the CD on. I'm listening to it for the first time in two weeks after what seemed like an eternity of pain and agony and despair and many more horrible symptoms caused by irresponsible abuse of the human body. I can’t believe what I'm hearing. Vancouver has recovered and he has mixed the album. I start crying. No. More like sobbing. “We did it mom. We did it. Listen to that... wow. we did it. It was worth it... I'm gonna be o.k. eventually. But more importantly we did it... thank God. I was worried maybe that we were kidding ourselves... but we really did do it....” I pass out. I'm exhausted. But I'm happy and relieved.

Derek is all eyes ahead, scouting cool locations for the next batch of photos. Me and T holding back, shuffling along. More like strutting. As one tends to do when all dolled up and dressed to the nines for a photo shoot on a gorgeous though below freezing day such as this one. photo shoot strutting.
“Man I'm really worried,” T mumbles.
“Why what's up bro?”
“When I got the CD with the new songs I was so excited I listened to them everyday for weeks while you were sick. I was really worried about you. But I was so happy about how good of an album you made. And then my mom’s boyfriend heard the songs, and like, every song he had some critique to say. It kind of bummed me out. Why can’t people just like stuff without making some critique, without having to give their two cents?”

I look over at him and smile, “welcome to the art world dog. Get used to it.” You think listening to your mom’s boyfriend’s criticisms are bad? Wait till the album hits the press. It’s hit or miss bro. We could get smeared in the press. Do yourself a favor and never google yourself once this album comes out. If you can’t stomach it then just don't read the reviews... cause it’s a fucking toss up bro. They could crucify us. Easily. We took a big risk with this album. Fishy going all folky and shit. Who knows...”
“if that happens I'm going to get really depressed...” Little T says shuffling along staring at the ground beneath him.
“Listen. T. Seriously. Don't you have opinions about music? about other artists? You like Bob Dylan right?
“But you don't like Fifty Cent do you?”
“Hell no.”
“O.k. then. But plenty of people do. And I bet he likes his stuff. That's why he makes it. I bet he's even proud of it. Just like we’re proud of what we just created. you dig what I'm saying?”
“Yeah. But can’t we just hope that everyone likes it?”
“Yeah sure man. And we can hope that two beautiful girls fall from heaven right now and want to hang out with us and make love to us no strings attached. But chances are that's not going to happen.... hope all you want bro, but we aren't making music to be liked.”
“We’re not? I thought that’s what we WERE doing!”
“No bro. On the contrary. We’re making music because we love to make music. think about it. Think about how you feel when you put that album on in your iPod. How does it make you feel?”
“I feel better than I've ever felt in my life. I can’t believe we turned those poems into songs. I can’t believe we wrote them so fast. I can’t believe how good they sound. Really dude, when I listen to the album it makes my day. I wait all day to listen to it.... is that weird?”
“No little man. That's why we worked so hard to write those songs. And that's why I almost killed myself making the album. Dude we don't make art for other people. We make it for ourselves. We make it because we have a vision and passion and because we are inspired. There are plenty of other people who make music to be liked. Kanye West whines like a little bitch because he doesn’t win a Grammy for his album. As if that's why he makes music. Maybe guys like that make music to please other people, so other people like them. But artists, real artists don't do that. You feel what I'm saying?”
“Yeah. I know you're right. It would just be nice if all that work paid off....”
“Listen to me man. Maybe you don't know this. You met me now. only in the last five years. But the first concert I ever performed was for the Eddie album which came out when I was 18 years old. I played at the Fox Theatre for five thousand people. That year I never played a venue with less than five thousand people. that went on for about a year or two. Then my star died down a bit in the public eye. And its been up and down ever since. I haven't played a venue that large in years man. But that doesn’t stop me from continuing to make music. Why? Cause I fucking love making music. I love creating art. I feed off of it. My brain gets flooded with endorphins when I'm singing man. Whether its to five thousand people, or ten, or just to myself in my room at night. It doesn’t matter. And besides, there's the bigger picture bro....”
“What's the bigger picture?”
“We’re building something man. We’re creating a catalogue. A legacy. We’re creating a body of work. Think about that. A body of work. Of brilliant work that we love. Maybe only brilliant and special and beautiful to us. But still. It’s there forever.”
“I never thought about that...”
“Well think about it. What we do now bro will last forever. As long we keep doing it... the more we create the better the chances that something of it will last. Think Picasso. Think Mozart. Think Van Gogh. We aren't making music for the masses bro. Let Christina Agufuckinglera create music for the masses. We’re creating art for eternity. For our very souls. We’re creating art for our very survival. If we didn't make art what would we be doing?”
“I'd probably be back in a psych ward....”
“Yeah. Exactly. And I'd probably be dead or in jail for going mad and doing something stupid. You see? Our art sustains us. It gives us life and hope and joy and peace of mind.” Little T was smiling.
“You're really on today man,”
“Yeah, thanks. I'm starting to feel better and better everyday.... more like myself....”
“How sick were you anyway?”
“Sick bro. really sick."
"I sort of felt guilty about that. Like it was my fault for pushing you so hard to make the album..."
"Don't worry about that man. It wasn't you. I did it to myself bro. I needed to make the album as much as anything I'd ever done. And it was worth it. We did it. We really created something special. If I had it to do all over again naturally I would have taken better care of myself, but still, I wouldn’t have compromised my intention to get that album done with that ridiculously low budget and in that ridiculously short time frame. I would have done the same exact thing. Why?”
“Because you are insane?”
“Yeah. That's a given. But seriously... we had one shot. A lucky break. A chance to record an album in between deals with a distributor that hasn’t paid us in almost two years for our album sales. Fucking bastards. But you know how lucky we were to get this chance? We got the shot. In cases like that you do whatever the hell you have to to run with that ball and score that fucking TD. Period. If you die, even better. You die proud and happy and fulfilled.”
“You're insane. And morbid. But that's why I like you. You're the only person that understands things like this in my life Fishy.”
“Glad I can oblige little brother. Glad to oblige. But don't go chasing rainbows because of me dog. I've got some sort of voodoo angels protecting me or something. I've cheated life and death so many times... I don't know how I'm still alive. It’s like there’s some sort of magic bubble around me or something. But plenty of guys end up dead a lot younger or worse, they look like shit. All beat up from too much abuse, too much drinking, too many drugs, too much road. Not enough reality.... If I had the choice I'd rather die young and beautiful than live all fucked up looking... luckily I don't have to make that choice. At least not yet.”
“You're crazy! Do you mean what you say? Or do you just say it?”
“Both. I never mean what I say man. Unless I do. You know?”
“Unfortunately I think I do...”
“Good. Look dude. Just to recap so we don't lose track here. Look at it this way. You're a visionary. You're a gifted 15 year old poet with tons of talent. Visionaries create art because they have vision. They don't give a shit what people think. All they care about is fulfilling that vision. That's the goal. Fuck the people. Some are going to dig what you do. And some are going to think you're a total fucking talentless dweeb. Some are going to call you a sell out. And some are going to think you're the greatest thing since who knows what. And what's worse, most of the time you aren't ever even going to know who thinks what about you. And even worse than that, most people are not even going to ever know who you are. So you just hold your vision and stay a visionary. That's our job. That's what being an artist is all about. Success or no success. Money or no money. Sometimes sold out houses playing for five thousand people. Sometimes grungy old bars that stink of booze and cigarettes with no more than twenty people. Either way you're still a genius. A poet. A visionary. That's who you are. Stay true to that and you will never regret your life. Cause a life of regret is not a life worth living. Now let’s go strike some poses, look like the sexy bastards that we are, and take some pictures for this album cover.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Learning About Che

Excerpted from this website:

Nickname "Che" derived from Guevara's habit of punctuating his speech with the interjection che, a common Argentine expression for a friend or hey!

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born in Rosario, Argentina into a middle-class family of Spanish-Irish descent. Celia de la Serna y Llosa, his mother, had lost her parents while she was still a child. Celia was raised by her religious aunt and her older sister, Carmen de la Serna, who married in 1928 the Communist poet Cayetano Córdova Itúrburu. Guevara's family was liberal, anti-Nazi and anti-Peronist, and not very religious. With Celia's fortune, the family lived comfortably, although Ernerto Guevara Lynch, Ernesto's father, managed to spend much of it in his unlucky business ventures. In his youth Guevara read widely and among his reading list in the 1940s were Sartre, Pablo Neruda, Ciro Alegría, and Karl Marx's Das Kapital. He also kept a philosophical diary and in Africa 1965 Guevara planned to write a biography of Marx.

In 1953 Guevara graduated from the University of Buenos Aires, where he was trained as a doctor. During these years Guevara read Stalin and Mussolini but did not join radical student organizations. He made long travels in Argentina and in other Latin America countries. At the same time his critical views about the expanding economic influence of the United States deepened. In 1952 he made journey with his motor bike, an old Norton 500 single, around South America. The journey opened his eyes about the situation of the Indians and was crucial for the awakening of his social conscience. Like Jack Kerouac later in his book On the Road (1957), Guevara recorded his impressions in The Motorcycle Diaries. "The person who wrote these notes died the day he stepped back on Argentine soil," Guevara wrote in his diary. "Wandering around our 'America with a capital A' has changed me more than I thought."

After witnessing American intervention in Guatemala in 1954, Guevara radicalized and become convinced that the only way to bring about change was by violent revolution. He wrote in a letter to home: "Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated." In Guatemala Guevara met Hilda Gadea. They married 1955 and had one child. Guevara was arrested with Fidel Castro in Mexico for a short time. He had joined Castro's revolutionaries to overthrow the Batista government. In 1956 they loaded 38-feet long motor yacht Granma full of guerrillas and weapons and sailed to Cuba, landing near Cabo Cruz on December 2.

They made their base in the mountains of Sierra Maestra, attacking garrisons and recruiting peasants to the revolutionary army. In the areas controlled by the guerrillas, Guevara started land reform and socializing process. In spite of his chronic asthma, Guevara enjoyed the hard conditions and war. Land reform become the slogan, the "banner and primary spearhead of our movement" as Guevara described it in an interview, that made eventually peasants participate in the armed struggle. Guevara was respected by his men, although considered violent - he shot Eutimio Guerra who had cooperated with dictator Fulgencio Batista's army.

In the mountains Guevara met Aleida March in 1958, 24-year-old revolutionary fighter, and she became Guevara's second wife in 1959. He continued to write his diary and composed also articles for El Cubano Libre. A selection of Gurvara's articles, which he wrote between 1959 and 1964, was published in 1963 as PASAJES DE LA GUERRA REVOLUCIONARIA. For the media Cuba was a hot subject - New York Times, Paris Match and Latin American papers sent reporters to the mountains to make stories of the revolutionaries. At the same time when Guevara was in the mountains, his uncle was Ambassador to Cuba.

Guevara rose to the rank of major and led one of the forces that invaded central Cuba in the late 1958. After the conquest of power in January 1959 Guevara gained fame as the leading figure in Castro's government. He attracted much attention with his speeches against imperialism and US policy in the Third World. He argued strongly for centralized planning, and emphasized creation of the 'new socialist man'. In his famous article, 'Notes on Man and Socialism', he argued that "to build communism, you must build new men as well as the new economic base." The basis of revolutionary struggle is "the happiness of people," the the goal of socialism is the creation of more complete and more devoped human beings.

In a discussion on September 14, 1961 Guevara opposed the right of dissidents to make their views known even within the Communist Party itself. However, privately Guevara was critical of the Soviet bloc, but so was also Nikita Khruschev. When the executions of war criminals started Guevara acted as the highest prosecuting authority. The condemned were soldiers found guilty of murder, torture and other serious crimes. Because Guevara was a doctor, one of his friends once asked how he could work in such a position. Guevara's answer was like from Western movies: "Look, in this thing you have to kill before they kill you." In 1959 Guevara adopted formally the nickname Che and was granted honorary Cuban citizenship. He was visited by such intellectuals as de Beauvoir, and Sartre who saw in him the "most complete human being of our age". The most famous picture of Guevara was taken by Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez, known professionally as Korda. He declined to take royalties when the picture became worldwide icon. When a British advertising agency appropriated the image for a vodka ad Korda rejected the idea: he never drank himself," said the photographer, "and drink should not be associated with his immortal memory."

From 1961 to 1965 Guevara was minister for industries, and director of the national bank, signing the bank notes simply 'Che'. He traveled widely in Russia, India and Africa, meeting the leading figures of the world, among others Jawaharel Nehru and Nikita Khruschev. Guevara was also the architect of the close relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union. Although good relationships with Moscow become the cornerstone of Castro's foreign policy, Guevara followed the emergence of the Maoists. In 1965 Guevara made public his disappointments in Algiers and described the Kremlin as "an accomplice of imperialism". Guevara's dismissal from the ministry followed immediately on his return from Algiers.

To test his revolutionary theories Guevara resigned from his post as a politician. He had published highly influential manuals Guerrilla Warfare (1961) and Guerrilla Warfare: A Method (1963), which were based on his own experiences and partly chairman Mao Zedong's writings. President John F. Kennedy had Guerrilla Warfare rapidly translated for him by the CIA. Guevara stated that revolution in Latin America must come through insurgent forces developed in rural areas with peasant support. The is no need for right precondition for revolution - guerrilla warfare can begin the activities. In his last article, 'Vietnam and World Struggle', Guevara outlined his global perspectice for revolutionary struggle, and stressed the dual role of hate and love.

"And he did have a saving element of humor. I possess a tape of his appearance on an early episode of "Meet the Press" in December 1964, where he confronts a solemn panel of network pundits. When they address him about the "conditions" that Cuba must meet in order to be permitted the sunshine of American approval, he smiles as he proposes that there need be no preconditions: "After all, we do not demand that you abolish racial discrimination…." A person as professionally skeptical as I.F. Stone so far forgot himself as to write: "He was the first man I ever met who I thought not just handsome but beautiful. With his curly reddish beard, he looked like a cross between a faun and a Sunday-school print of Jesus…. He spoke with that utter sobriety which sometimes masks immense apocalyptic visions." (Christopher Hitchens in New York Review of Books, July 17, 1997) During his disappearance from public life Guevara spent some time in Africa organizing the Lumumba Battalion which took part in the Congo civil war. He was not happy how Laurent Kabila fought against Joseph Mobutu, although his first impression on Kabila was positive. "Africa has a long way to go before it reaches real revolutionary maturity," Guevara concluded in his diary.

In 1966 Guevara turned up incognito in Bolivia where he trained and led a guerrilla war in the Santa Cruz region. In his manual Guerrilla Warfare, Guevara had stressed that the guerrilla fighter needs full help from the people of the area, it is an indispensable condition, but Guevara failed to win the support of the peasants and his group was surrounded near Vallegrande by American-trained Bolivian troops. "The decisive moment in a man's life is when he decides to confront death," Guevara once said. "If he confronts it, he will be a hero whether he succeeds or not. He can be a good or a bad politician, but if he does not confront death he will never be more than a politician." After Guevara was captured, Captain Gary Prado Salmón put a security around him to be sure that nothing happened. Guevara told him, "don't worry, captain, don't worry. This is the end. It's finished." (from the document film 'Red Chapters,' 1999) Guevara was shot in a schoolhouse in La Higuera on October 9, 1967, by Warrant Officer Mario Terán of the Bolivian Rangers at the request of Colonel Zenteno. Terán was half-drunk, celebrating his borthday. Guevara's last words were according to some sources: "Shoot, coward you are only going to kill a man." In order to make a positive fingerprint comparison with records in Argentina, Guevara's hand were sawed off and put into a flask of formaldehyde. They were later returned to Cuba. Guevara's corpse was buried in a ditch at the end of the runway site of Vallegrande's new airport. "Che considered himself a soldier of this revolution, with absolutely no concern about surviving it," said Fidel Castro later in Che: A Memoir.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Good Art Bad Art - Part II – Dancing in the Nude

So yes, here we were. Invited to welcome one of Iran’s most famous painters, Gizella Varga Sinai – married to the award winning and highly controversial filmmaker Khoshro Sinai – to the United States where she is facilitating a two week intensive on painting at a school in Connecticut. Best behavior. Eyes on the manners and etiquette. Revolutionary or not, she is still Muslim at heart. No insane ambassador shit Fishy. Mind yourself. Don't push it over the edge. Shit man, I flew over that edge twenty years ago. You know that. Yes, yes, I do. No truer words ever spoken. And everybody knows it. But she doesn’t. So at least pretend that you crash landed and survived and climbed back onto the ledge somewhere between here and eternity. That you are still halfway human, or at least semi-in-touch with reality. O.k. roger that. Will do. Will try at least. Good boy. Now go on and get. Let’s go play the game.

More than a mere welcoming committee we were to be, we were to accompany Mrs. Sinai to a live performance we were invited to by acclaimed choreographer Amy Greenfield that featured all-nude dancers performing in front of film and photography being flashed over them by Leonard Nimoy, while original music by Phillip Glass and John Zorn played in the background. Just another night in New York. And I mean that. At any given minute in New York City one has the opportunity to experience hundreds of such events. The city is raging with opportunity for these kinds of things. Every block is celebrity and spectacle. Perhaps we just get so accustomed to it that something really spectacular has to come in the mail to get us excited about attending. Reminds me of Oscar Wilde. Our lives in New York are one big Oscar Wilde dream. Cynicism invisibly walks beside us down our bustling crowded streets and jumps inside of us and possesses us in between sips of Starbucks and Jamba Juice. Not necessarily great, but certainly Gatsbys each and every one of us.

But this was different. I have long admired the work of Gizella Varga. Her painting is glorious. It is truly transcendent. And I looked forward to being in close contact with her, eye to eye, human breath to human breath, waxing philosophic about the arts. Poetry, painting, dance, theatre, literature, politics. I knew by studying her painting that she was a valid force to be reckoned with and this was one opportunity that I should not call in sick for and “work through” as I was accustomed to doing. My own work is more important to me now than it has ever been. So it is easy for me to rationalize not doing much of anything else other than spend as much time as possible to attempt to complete as much of it as I can while I am still alive. Art is, after all, life itself. Without art, there is no life. There is only living. And living is thoroughly boring. Unless of course it is lived artistically. Which brings us right back to the necessity to create as much art as possible while we are lucky enough to still be able to fog a mirror with our own breath.

Italian restaurant. Giant plates of antipasto. Huge. Radicchio, arugula, salami, Romano, mozzarella, duck sausage, olives, chicken stuffed with cheese and spinach. On and on. Bottle after bottle of wine. We spoke of many things. Compared the subtle beauty of the poetry of Hafez – Iran’s greatest claim to fame in that arena – to the complex intricacies of the wordplay of Vinicius De Moraes, perhaps Brasil’s most beloved 20th century poet. Iranian music. United States and Iranian relations was a big topic of discussion. Iranians are radical. They have to be. Death or prison is constantly knocking at their door. When it’s not, they know it will be soon enough.

In America we are a wee bit more secure. But only if we allow that all we hear is bullshit and propaganda and that nothing is real. We are awash in debt, sold out to China, out-sourced to India, and drugged up on prescription medicine too expensive for us to be able to actually afford, and hypnotized by celebrity. Reality television has become the new opiate for the masses. No more need for bread and puppets. And for good reason. Real life is just too damn sickening for most. Sit down. Stand up. Sit the fuck down. Pay your taxes. You don't have health insurance. Tsk tsk, shame on you. Don't worry, we’ll get around to that. One day. Not in your lifetime, but one day. Slap that back. Grease that pocket. Did you pay your taxes? Why don't you get married? Have some kids? Worship Britney. Now hate her. Now worship her again. Now laugh at her. Let’s kill Anna Nicole Smith. She's our bitch. She won't mind. We gave her fame and money and celebrity. She's ours for the taking. Read all about it. Get your very own copy of the New York Times today for only twenty dollars a week. Can’t afford it? Charge that shit man. Fuck it. Go ahead and CHARGE IT! Heath’s dead. Killed himself on prescription drugs. You're next. Don't worry. What’s that? That was Owen Wilson? Not Heath? But Owen only TRIED to kill himself. Heath was accidental. Oh that's right. No worries. He won every fucking award we could give him. It was worth it. Aint that America? You and me? Aint that America? Home of the free baby? Eat your Quarter Pounder. Drink your milk. Or your Budweiser. Or your “highest rated Vodka three years running.” Just do it! And don't forget to just do it in your sweat-shop-sewn Nikes so everyone knows you are one bad mothafucka.

How was the play Catherine? What's that? Ethan Hawke was sitting right behind you? Did you manage to snap a picture of him on your new 3 megapixel camera phone? Aw too bad. Maybe next time. Speaking of pictures, did you hear about all those poor people in Gaza? Yeah I know, what a shame. Too bad we can’t do anything about it. Hands are tied. We’re in up to our arses with Israel. Democracy be damned there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Another one bites the dust. And another one’s gone and another one’s gone. So buy that new CD, or magazine, or tabloid, or pack of gum, or new car, or refinance your over valued house so you can buy more stuff you don't need to relieve you of the burden of having to think about how truly fucking irrelevant and shallow our lives are here. And while you're at it, don't forget to donate to the ONE campaign to help those poor starving people in Africa. You'll get one of those cool rubber bracelets. Larry King wears one. You should too.

So yes. US Iranian relations. And painting and poetry and literature. The table confidently agreed that Italian was the most beautiful of all languages. I begged to differ, inviting everyone to actually listen to Portuguese one day. And despite their overt Frenchiness, French is still pretty freaking mellifluous as well. But German is the language of philosophy. Agreed. But still have no interest in becoming fluent in it. No reason why. Just don't like the way it sounds.

“It’s because you have seen too many propaganda films about Hitler. That's why,” she tells me. No. That's not it. Look, the guy was a murderous fuckhead bastard who killed millions of people. I'll give you that. But the American government killed over three million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and you don't see me refusing to speak English. Nah. I've been around long enough to be utterly immune to murdering fuckhead bastards. Even in my own country. Shit, we’ve killed over one million Iraqis in the last six years and Desperate Housewives is still the hottest show on TV beeyotch. Or 24, or Grey’s Anatomy, or Weeds, or 30 Rock. Truth be told as long as that wine, whiskey and song, and that TV and tabloid trash is still flowing we could give a shit. Hitler is nothing more to us than a good excuse to see Tom Cruise rake up another box office smash.

Good conversation. My head spinning. Too much wine too fast. Head to head with a sure footed and worthy fellow intellectual entirely confident from 60 plus years spent travelling the world as a respected and revered painter. My kind of gal. My kind of night. But what of this Leonard Nimoy in the nude tripping on acid performance art thing? We have to go now. Get your coat on. Let’s ditch this bitch and head out into the bright city lights of Manahatta.

We’re in the theatre. The lights have dimmed. It’s been minutes. Feels like hours. If I wasn't one of the guests of honor I would have bailed by now. I am going to fall asleep. Perhaps no one will notice if I pass out. You can’t bail bro. You know how rude that would be? Just sit here and act like a gentleman. Act like you are enjoying yourself. Act interested. Meditate with your eyes open if you have to. Never mind that I'm so bored I'm going to shoot my fucking head off and splatter my brains all over our guest from Iran. Easy for you to say. I'm the one who has to sit here.

The films are a blur of nakedness and boring light shows. I cannot believe this theatre is filled 213 people. I saw it on the sign when I walked in. Maximum capacity 213 persons. And for what? One of the dancers is running around the theatre dressed up as some sort of reject from the Star Wars franchise. All lit up like an android but naked. I feel like I am at Disney World. Bored. Tired. Slightly awed that people pay for this. That it even exists. I want to go home and write. I’d even take a bathroom stall. Just sit there with a pad and little pen and scribble ideas. Anything but another hour of this.

A naked woman writhes on the stage in front of us while another one reads from the Kabbalah into a microphone. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. It was that bad. Blurred images of more naked women running through the forest flash on the screen behind them while Dr. Spock himself mind-numbingly mumbles something about finding his spirituality through photographing naked women’s bodies. Well if that’s spirituality I must be a fucking saint or a Bishop by now.

This is New York at its worst. I glance over at Gizella and wonder what she is thinking. She has exhibited in every major gallery on earth over the last 40 years. What could she be thinking now. Her head nods. I knew it! She's going to fucking fall asleep. O.k. good. So can I then. But that repetitive music just keeps going and going. My God when will it end?

There is good art and bad art, I think to myself. But there is no way to qualify such ideas. It is truly all completely subjective. For all I know there are people in this theatre who think this is good art. I am no more right than they are. What is “right?” Exactly. Never been such a thing. Just idea-labels slapped onto things by consciousness fooling itself into thinking that it is awareness. No, art is art is art. Some you will like. Some you will not.

I contemplate Gizella’s paintings. All her different periods over the last fifty years. The fact that she is still so vibrant and alive and intellectually stimulating at her age. We agreed to start emailing in order to continue our dialogues, but only in Farsi. That way I learn faster. So I can better appreciate the poetry of Hafez, Sadi, and Rumi in their native language. I agree to turn her onto to all that is good and glorious about Brasilian and Italian song and culture. There is much to be learned. That was good. If anything came of this... plenty did... I now have a place to stay in Iran. Good respected people high enough on the totem pole that I am guaranteed to get in again. I tell her about my love for Esfahan. She shares it. But tells me that Yazd is actually prettier and quainter. I will go then.

At some point I blacked out. My body was there. My eyes still open. But I was adrift in another world entirely. Trying to justify what I deemed the rubbish being presented to our Iranian friend as art when she had combed the greatest museums in the world as an insider. Surely she must know that we are better than this. It was at this point that I realized the enormity of the contributions of America. Fully asleep in my own ruminations and entirely unaware of what was going on around me. I was reminded of Steven Spielberg. Of Woody Allen. Wes and P. T. Anderson. Of rock and roll. Jazz. Gospel. The automobile, the telephone, electricity, the fax machine, the CD, the personal computer, the first man to walk on the moon. This was America. We had contributed plenty. And perhaps one of our greatest contributions has just appeared over the horizon twinkling golden radiant light halfway around the globe.

Let all of the Bush bashing and fear mongering wash away like blood soaked sand on a deserted beach in the middle of the night. Let our cynicism and heartbreak of the last eight years slowly disappear into the recesses of our collective unconscious and forever be nothing more than a bad dream or a fading memory. Obama is our mama now and all the world watched as we proudly cheered our new leader smiling from ear to ear as he walked down that avenue to the new White House. A White House that will never be the same again. There was art aplenty in that day. His speech, the way he carried himself. His elegant and gracious wife. The centuries of reconciliation that the moment carried with it, the sighs of relief, and the promises fulfilled that may be lurking just around the corner. That was good art.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Good Art Bad Art – Part I - Agoraphobia

“Until recently, agoraphobia was defined as a fear of open spaces. It now also includes several other related fears, such as having a fear of entering shops, a fear of crowds and public places, or of anxiety associated with being unable to reach a place of safety (eg, home), in a quick enough time. In extreme cases, people with agoraphobia may be unable to leave their home.”

I know it well. Although considered and even berated by the elders in my prim and proper family growing up for being what they used to call “a social butterfly” I have long suffered from a severe resistance to leaving the confines of “wherever I happen to be.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. I travel more than most. Traveling is a big part of my living. Whether it be for music or research or activism I tend to be on the road more often than in town. That's true. Traveling is not my problem, though it used to be as the below will illustrate. Nah. It’s more of a reluctance to actually doing anything other than sitting alone and working.

It was 1 AM on Thursday night and all I felt was dread knowing that I had an engagement the evening of the following day. Not that I had anything remotely objectionable to do that evening. It was after all a social gathering that involved the most famous painter in Iran, the most infamous filmmaker in Iran, Leonard Nimoy of “Dr. Spock” fame, the composers Phillip Glass and John Zorn, and Choreographer Amy Greenfield. Along with a bevy of gorgeous dancers and models and the usual assortment of Manhattan socialites one expects to see at such affairs. But for the life of me I could feel nothing but dread with the knowing that I actually had to leave the house that evening. And here it was almost a full 24 hours before the scheduled event and I was lying in bed perspiring and tossing and turning just thinking about it.

Why? I have no idea. Been that way for years. Never even questioned it until recently.

There was the time I was booked to fly to Seattle from Miami and cancelled the day before. No need to name names, but it took almost a year for her to speak to me. Understandable. Just couldn’t bring myself to get the get up and go to actually get up and go. So I laughed in the face of an already booked airline ticket and just didn't bother to show up. Heartless. I know. On another occasion I was scheduled to speak at a friends wedding in Vermont and so dreaded the fact that I was supposed to pack a bag, hop on a plane and fly somewhere that I didn't sleep at all that night. I woke up and told my friend who was also flying out to the wedding that morning and who drove by to pick me up that “I wasn't going. I just don't feel like it.” Never quite got over that one. Took me years to get it into my bloodstream that I actually stood up the whole damn wedding party and respective family so I could “just stay home where it’s safe.” There was no excuse for it.

Perhaps it was laziness. Perhaps it was just the fact that I didn't care enough. Perhaps it was the associated hassle of having to do so much to get ready for the trip. I do find that when someone else is responsible for taking care of everything involved in booking the trip and getting me there, including accompanying me and making sure that I actually leave the house, that I'm usually fine. I am as plenty of my friends will readily assert an extremely social creature. Overtly social. So once I'm out I'm fine. (Except for the fact that all I can think about is leaving unless something truly spectacular is happening.) But the truth is that after one lives a few decades, and especially lives the way I have lived, and has pretty much seen and done it all, left no stone unturned, nor declined the offer to sample just about everything, that there just isn't much “truly spectacular” left to experience. And that's putting it about as honestly as I can. Now I grant you that I I have never actually witnessed a man copulating with a horse in real life, only on the internet. But that isn't going to get me dressed and out of the house. Perhaps aliens landing on the White House lawn would. If and only if I had a press or backstage pass.

There's just something about “having something to do” that bothers me. It gets under my skin and drives me crazy. I'll brood about it the whole day until I am forced to drag my sorry ass out. Late of course. As usual.

Had six appointments this week and canceled four of them. Well, not exactly. Going too easy on myself. Had six appointments this week and didn't even bother to call to cancel four of them. Now granted, I'm having a tough month. A tough year. Going through a rough patch so to speak. So I need to go easy on myself. That's what they say anyway. “They” always know. So I'm giving myself a break. But for how long? How long am I supposed to “give yourself a break” before it becomes enabling? Or just plain old and tired?

In 2007 I gave a party for a friend, invited a bunch of other friends, hosted it at another friend’s loft in Gramercy because at the time she had the most sprawling pad among us, and at the last minute I decided to bail on it. Little Dawn was furious. “Fishy get your lazy ass here now and help me prepare for this goddamn party now!” “Dawn how mad would you be if I didn't show? I'm tired.” “How the hell can you not show up for a party YOU are hosting? Fishy I love you. We’re friends. So I know you'll forgive me for saying this and appreciate my willingness to be radically honest with you. If you don't show up for your own party that you have conveniently decided to throw at my apartment I will never speak to you again! Got it buddy?!” “Yeah. Got it.” So eventually I reluctantly made my way there. And in the end it was fine. In fact, it was a damn good time and an important occasion to celebrate. It was the getting out of the house part that was hard for me.

The band has hated me for it for years. Every band I've ever been in actually. I was infamous for my tendency to be late to everything or cancel at the last minute. I used to cancel concert performances all the time simply because I didn't feel like leaving the house back in the college days when we were in the band Shattered. The drummer would be in his car on the way to the gig and I would call and tell him I wasn't going to show. A truly heinous action I know. The club owners used to hate us back in the college years. Problem was that we were one of the biggest draws in town when we did manage to play so they couldn’t say much except “don't ever do that again.” One club did ban us from ever playing there again. But that was a different story.

The “lateness” thing eventually came to a head on the fateful night of the official CD release party of our Sleep With You album. I was already in the city of Orlando, on an Avatar course. Mere minutes from the venue that we were to play that night. The band was driving up in a rented maxi-van from Miami. An almost five hour haul filled with our equipment. Short version, they got there with plenty of time to set up, eat, and relax before the gig and I was an hour late. And yet I was already in town and staying just a few minutes from the venue. Piano Man bitched me out so hard for that one that he threatened never to play with me again if I ever pulled a stunt like that. He pointed out that I was the only musician that he had ever played with, ever, that showed up to rehearsals late every time – even though the rehearsals were at my own house. True. Funny. Sad. But true. So I was forced to really take a look at it. What WAS happening? How the fuck could I be late to my own CD release party for a new album when I was already in the freaking town the concert was in? And the rest of the band got there in time with a five hour drive ahead of them?

Eventually I realized it had a lot to do with this whole reluctance to leave the safety of the house thing. Granted, I was staying at a hotel. Nothing feels safer to me than a hotel. Not my “house.” But hotels feel safer to me than just about anywhere else. Another mystery. I just like hotels. Everyone does everything for you. Your only job is to have a pulse. That I can do. Most nights anyway. Another mystery: Send me packing off 3000 miles away and I'm fine. Invite me to lunch half a mile away and thank Allah himself if I actually show up. But Piano Man’s insistence that I stop showing up late to everything really got me thinking. I finally came to realize that it just came down to motivating myself to actually get myself out of wherever I was... pure and simple. If I'm “here” wherever “here” is, I would rather stay “here.” Newton’s law of inertia or something.

“In New York we make plans so we can break them” we say. We have more to do in The Big Apple than anywhere else on earth. Our calendars are filled to the rim so escaping a prior engagement feels like a sunny day in January. There’s no explaining the feeling of relief when someone cancels on you at the last minute. It is as if one minute you weigh 300 pounds and in the next you feel as though you only weigh 150. Just because someone cancelled on you. Can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t live here. They wouldn’t do it. They would be shocked by it. We stand each other up for lunch, dinner, meetings, appointments, the ballet, symphonies, the Philharmonic, even weekend getaways. All so we can “just stay home and experience some quiet and get some peace.” New York does that to you.

I had an amazing day yesterday. I fell asleep the night before with the awe inspiring realization that if I reneged on a few promises to call some people back to “get together” that I didn't have one engagement that was absolutely necessary that day. It would take flying off the radar but I could pull it off if I really wanted to. I wouldn’t even have to change out of my bathrobe. Woke up early. 7:30 AM is early for me. By noon I needed some more coffee and to drop off some mail. Ever increasing clarity of thought coming at me from all angles over the last two months, I started getting the notion that I really didn't need to change out of my bathrobe if I didn't want to. We were in New York after all. Which roughly translates to “no one gives a shit what you do. Just keep moving or step aside.” Which is why so many of us live here I think. How else do you explain eight million people crammed onto an island 12 miles long by 2 miles wide? Living in our little shoeboxes that sell for roughly $1300 a square foot if “you got a good deal.” Yes. There is true peace and tranquility in a city that never sleeps and where the only thing that is demanded of you is that you mind your own business and stay anonymous no matter how well known you happen to be.

So downstairs and out into the loud raucous world of midday Manhattan I trekked in nothing but a woolly blue bathrobe, a pair of well-worn furry Hammacher Schlemmer slippers, and a pair of sunglasses to retrieve said coffee and drop off the mail. As suspected no one even blinked. “I could take this Gonzo effect seriously if I allowed myself to” I thought. How far could I take it? That was the question. We will see over the next few decades. One thing I have learned is that once you cultivate a certain proclivity for eccentricity there is no limit to what people are willing to accept from you. You could be stark raving mad, as I often suspect I am, and people will get used to it.

When I ordered my coffee the lady behind the counter, who happens to have a soft spot for me because unlike most of the rushed and hurried English speaking “just give me my fucking coffee and bagel” Manhattanites that she is used to dealing with, I speak Spanish with her and take the time to at least say hello, makes a comment about the fact that I am still dressed in a bathrobe and slippers and I'm in a coffee shop on Broadway at 12 o'clock in the afternoon. “I've got nothing going on today. So what the hell?” I replied and smiled. “It’s still a free world, sort of, right?” And she just laughed. That was that. Nothing. Chalk that up to one of the multitude of greatest things about Gotham City.

So what about the aforementioned grand affair that I was expected to show up promptly for this evening you ask? Well, truth be told, and I hate to admit it, it did indeed cause an influx of panic and dread so palpable in my entire being that by 3 PM I had to lay down and just breathe, knowing that I was expected to actually show up somewhere by 6 PM, and worse, show up “on time.” Why? I have no freaking clue. But at least I'm onto it. at least I know that this malady exists now. Rather than enabling it by not bothering to even acknowledge it or recognize it and rather just rationalizing it all the time using wit and charm, I am now fully cognizant of it and more importantly ready to tackle it.

I am reminded that most people I know do not seem to suffer from anything remotely similar. In fact, they normally feel honored when invited to such things. A friend says to me a few months back, “Fishy we know you aren't going to come and we feel guilty for inviting you to things knowing how uncomfortable it makes you to have to decline everyone so we just don't bother to invite you out anymore.” Well for fucks sake, don't do that I yell. At least allow me the courtesy to politely decline your invitations.

Catherine Darlington works her ass off all day, often times 12 hour days and still manages to see a Broadway play, a ballet, or have drinks or dinner with a friend almost every night of the week. Princess Little Tree will do just about anything if you just ask her. She's up for it. Weather Girl too. Has one of the busiest social calendars I've ever heard of. And perhaps that's all there is to it. Social events just don't do it for me anymore. Is Zeus himself going to appear in the sky and pull a laser light show out of his ass? Probably not. So why bother? Reminded of the late Hunter Thompson in the latter few decades of his life. Everyone knew he wouldn’t leave the comfort of his beloved Owl Farm. There was always a party happening at Hunter’s place. It’s just that you had to come to him. He never left. And for most people that was just fine with them. Hugh Hefner had and still has a similar ethic. Not only did he never leave his home, he made his home his office, running the entire empire out of his living room, demanded that everyone work out of HIS house, and hasn't changed out of his bathrobe in decades. Smart men. Good ideas. Life as art.

Remember. Try to remember. It's only wrong if you make it wrong. Choose to make it right. Love it and live it. One life. Live it as art. Every moment. You are an artist. Be an artist. Make love to the entire world from the comfort of your own private world if you have to, but whatever you do just don't forget to make love. There is art in it.