Saturday, February 1, 2020

Senate Votes for Lawlessness. Whose Pyrrhic Victory?

In An Unreal Play, Here's Something Real. We're Not Rotten. #NoWitnesses #Sham

Like an overly ripe plumb, it's nearly sickening but still somewhat sweet as it's swallowed. But one post-mortem assessment is worth noting as something of which we might be proud as a justified entity:

After 3+ years of blatant malfeasance, miscreant, abhorrent and at many times undeniably unlawful behavior that to all who bear a shred of dignified moral discernment allowing only scant room for charity in the form of reserved opinion, it was the last straw when the whistleblower emerged.

Most had been frustrated with Nancy Pelosi's and the House's extensive hand-wringing and hem-hawing prior to formal impeachment, their opting to optimize--then emphasize--the "information gathering" phase which would serve to vividly display the abject nature of this dark administrative season replete with as many wince-worthy nooks and crannies as possible for the overall complexion to be regarded as starkly irrefutable.

They did just that, lacking only a probably foolish total counter-intransigence in the pursuit of successful enforcement of subpoenas in the face of a stonewalling, obeisant and corrupt AG William Barr-led judiciary. Challenges to each obstructive non-response would likely be mired in courts for years as per the audaciously designed agenda of the Trump Corp.

Once the decision to impeach was reached, it's my opinion the Democrats did what they could with proper decorum, assertive jurisprudence and clarity and did so as effectively as was allowable under the onerous weight of a win-at-all-costs opposition.  [Note: Yes, the Majority was lawyered to the teeth with celebrity statute benders and murderer defenders with redundantly iterated highly questionable standards of ethics. Merely glance at this emergent story.]

At this moment, we can be assured and perhaps slightly mollified that the right was on our side, the moral spine was ours and a proper posture of respectable forbearance was almost solely exhibited by an honest, thorough and forthright team of House managers each of whom were articulate, righteous, dignified and truthful.

The maddeningly blind dedication of the liberally estimated 30-40% of Trump's GOP electorate is too far gone in their transfiguring ingestion of alt-reality for their re-convincing or re-educating. Alas, they're not worth demeaning any more than they continue to demean themselves.
It should suffice to say that the present day legislative GOP has demeaned itself almost incredibly and probably indelibly.

The rest of us should and shall continue to wage a civil but morally resolute war with compassionate souls and honest fair minds that see to it that this avarice infested and Trump manifested GOP will be held accountable for their moral and legal negligence come this November and beyond. We must however assist them with their political suicide.

Our pride is real and well-founded. We're not bent. Our heads are held high, bearing forward and full on for the bigger battles ahead in this insideously fomented culture war. We will win or go down swinging on the right side of an endemically bent arch of history.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Comment re: Sen. Patrick Leahy's Take on Senatorial Conscience and Responsibility

Responding to: 
What The Senate Does Now Will Cast A Long Shadow

Historians and politicians are quite fond of invoking the "point of inflection" within any active paradigm. There are in fact an infinite number of these. With today's 10 to 20 minute news cycle the epochal benchmarks are ever more frequent and nearer between but, as Senator Leahy points out, this trial phase of this impeachment portends to be the real doozy. 

The GOP appears to have been rather unabashedly building its one-party conscience over the last 40 years, holding party unity and fealty to the cause as its paramount credo and this moment may be the "high-noon" of this insidiously planned and sometimes clumsily implemented campaign.

No one doubts the intent of this majority Senate. It will hold its collective breath in the face of an all-pervading truth storm until every lawyerly slight of hand, word, reason and logic are manifest within an all too pro forma protocol toward their retention of legislative power.

All linguistic orchestration and improvisation, every policy construction and each manipulative gambit has more than affirmed their resolve.

There will be no change of heart or moment of moral relenting. If so it would have occurred by now. The litany of assailable optical demonstrations of this President's moral turpitude had long ago reached the critical point.  They'll stand in there, blue lipped, bug-eyed and swooning until the last gavel strikes.

A small consolation is Trump's narcissistic pathology making this more discomfiting for them. Too small.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Comment on "The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley" Op Piece NYT By BARI WEISSJAN. 29, 2018

The legislative Left has--had, rather--for too long insisted on bringing a high and holy frisbee to the knife fight that the Right is unabashedly still waging, praising and perpetuating.

Since those obliquely insidious conservative Republicans are allowed to sling about all sorts of variably encoded to outright blatantly inflamed red meat to their eagerly homophilic base, then wink and chuckle later that it was perhaps "merely politics as usual" and that it's a "dirty business", why then must the Dems-- who rather naively enjoyed the civility and restraint of their last executive branch champion while he chronically opted to not be perceived as the "angry black man"--continue to play nice and trust that their postures, platforms and ideological policies must inevitably "will out" alone by dint of the moral high ground they occupy?

Those same arbiters of low ball politics then rather effectively play the shocked victim as if "they never!" would throw a punch with lower than a dignified trajectory. Please...

Lest the Pollyannas among us are neglecting to notice, our country is in the midst of a constitutional coup and it's time to lose the velvet gloves and begin counter-punching without the Lose What We've Fought For routine. Let's cut to the immediate and real story, the battle at hand and see to motivating those in our ranks toward the polls later this year, vote as many of these guys out as possible, then see to our tomorrows and those of the next generations.


"The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley" By BARI WEISSJAN. 29, 2018  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Net Neutrality & Information Tiananmen Square

If you were born after 1980, you may have not heard of the Tiananmen Square protests. If you were to now live in China, you may not know nor dare ask without fear of acute consequence.

Governments have much power. If you, as I, feel as though powers here have recently become emboldened and unabashed with an agenda that does not include nor represent the best, healthiest and most common interests and concerns of the average American citizen, then read what can happen, what DID happen. And with government (and corporate) control of the dissemination of information, as we've seen ratcheted as of late, factual events can be wiped away as if they never occurred. Much of our conventionally taught history has already been shaped, fashioned and edited. Creationism is still taught in our schools today as if it has scientific groundings.

We've been well underway into a marvelously accessible and mostly open informational (and commercial) era. In America and most advanced nations, citizens are free to easily research, explore and discern truth from an infinite number of deliberately delivered sources. A rescinded neutral internet precept would begin the gradual downhill process of closing it.

We've witnessed mergers and acquisitions of major media organs, (AT&T--Time-Warner, Fox-Disney,  National Geographic is now tied up as part of a Rupert Murdoch & Sons Fox/FX syndicate) not only calling into question anti-monopoly issues but also becoming aware that much of this march toward a new corporate cogency is according to strongly plied agendas that have less to do with humanity and sustainability than with short term gain and entrenched greed. There is scant concern for the broader welfare or common good of the people. It's my belief that it has even less ultimately to do with borders, patriotism or nationalism in any sense. Group think and team-playing tribalism responds to such rhetoric, however, and we continue to lap it up as readily as it's served to us on a subscription-bought spoon.

The Internet--this wondrous and heretofore relatively affordable facility is not invulnerable and can very quickly become limited, regulated, prohibitively priced and yes, policed.

Do you wonder why the present guard, who proudly tauts itself "anti-regulation" is seeing methodically to rescinding as many of these guidelines as "bad for business"? Why wouldn't seats of power here and abroad become dead set on regulating an open internet?

The time of this particular political season in which get involved has passed. Net Neutrality legislation had passed but has now been repealed.

We lost.

During the feverish 11th hour scramble to mobilise, we did call 1-202-418-1000 to reach the voicemail of the Chairman of the FCC. Took 12 seconds. The fix was already in. We're losing our rights, our safety, our civility and the present climate (literally, as well as politically) is widdling away a promising future for our offspring and our one planet.

Read below not only of Tiananmen 30 years ago, but of China's repression to this day of its very presence within their arc of cultural history. Then attempt to successfully convince yourself and another that that very same phenomenon could never occur here. It may be a bigger challenge than what you anticipated.

The main reason for that is the abject evidence that within the Halls of Government, throughout the courts, throughout the corporate worlds and down your street that it's already underway.

“Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” ~Abraham Lincoln

"Public memory of the Tiananmen Square protests has been suppressed by the authorities since 1989. Print media containing reference to the protests must be consistent with the government's version of events. Currently, many Chinese citizens are reluctant to speak about the protests because of potential repercussions. Rob Gifford held that many young people born after 1980 are unfamiliar with the events and are apathetic about politics while some older intellectuals no longer aspire for political change and instead focus on economic issues. Youth in China are generally unaware of the events that took place, of the symbols such as tank man,or of the significance of the date June 4 itself."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why I'm Keeping My Sirius-XM Subscription

Thoughts, notions & knee jerk responses on the boycott SXM issue and yes, Steve Bannon's an ass:

There are now, and have been for years, more than a few Fox stations broadcasting on the platform, plus the Patriot channel among others whereon much partisan and bigoted gasconade blows chronically, harshly and steadily. It’s my opinion that many of these “broadcasters" suck at the job. Their style is hackneyed, their elocutionary skills negligible to nonexistent and their efforts to compel are pedestrian, at best.

I am a professional musician, songwriter and artist, have been for nearly as long as I can remember. I’ve performed at Sirius/XM, and my own recordings as well as those upon which I’ve contributed are regularly played on various channels, a few of which are adroitly hosted  with the talents of some my oldest and dearest friends.

I’m somewhat regularly surprised when other fellow artists seem unaware of the existence of some relatively rarified informational/ talk / debate/ conversation/ interview show programming on SXM channels such as POTUS, Insight, PRX etc. Many times and to many bright folks have I enthusiastically explained that after being a faithful and enthusiastic denizen within the comparatively meager listenership of those shows that if they were indeed made available in the “mainstream” media that our country would have already taken a few more evolved, erudite and enlightened turns away from the situational chaotic mess we’re in now.

I was in fact out for my afternoon run on a tour stop in Iowa City this past Summer, when I heard Llewelyn King (whose show, White House Chronicle is albeit a weekly PBS/NPR mainstay, but whom is a regular guest on Stand-Up w Pete Dominick (Insight), Morning Briefing w Tim Farley, and The Press Pool w Julie Mason etc.) as he was assessing insightfully how a White House should NOT be run state: “This is chaotic without historic precedence, and NO GOOD has EVER come from chaos.” I had to pull up my gait and ponder that pensively.

I’ve been a subscriber to XM and Sirius/XM for over 10 years now and I must unabashedly state that my awareness, my social and political scholarship, and political views have been informed, formed and made more than ever robust via more than a dozen truly enriching, elucidating and opinion fortifying (and dispelling) articles, authors, journalists to who I’ve become aware through these AMAZING shows and their programming. 

The number of authors, journalists, pundits, specialized and dedicated EXPERTS (yes, remember them?), provocateurs, satirists, inflective agents from qualified and compelling quarters are far too many to mention here if I were to try to lay out a litany of pathfinding champions that have no better nor more accommodating formats in the post Suskind, Pine, Cavett, King (and now Charlie Rose) age of interview shows. Stephen Kinzer, Matt Taibbi, Eric Segall, Aaron Carroll, Chris Frates, Jennifer Bendry (actually, the Weekly Round Table on Julie Mason’s Press Pool show on POTUS has more unfettered and factually formed opinions than ALL the network Sunday shows combined). Anyone who would like a direct line to the worlds and wile-wary ways of straight up honest to goodness investigative journals need only prevail upon the Twitter feeds of the hundreds of adroit and arcanely savvy and skilled minds heard on the multitude of these impartially dispassionate shows.

I thought it was a joke when I tuned in two mornings ago to hear callers say, on the seminal StandUp! with Pete Dominick show, that they were unsubscribing due to Sirius XM’s gift of a platform to this “monster”. The reason was that they “had to stand for something” and that this was the only way in which they could have their “voice heard”. Again, this was on a show called Stand Up! and they were voicing their opinion on live radio. Oh, well anyway…

...I agree that Bannon's an asshole, but he most certainly isn’t alone. I can tune him out—and usually should and do. BUT, if I were to want to tune in to inform myself of the particular tack and spin being employed by him to his dim minions on any given day (ever read Don’t Think Of An Elephant by George Lakoff?), I would be able to call and challenge he and them directly, or at least do it live and in real time.

Over 16 years ago, when XM & Sirius were slowly birthed as the Gemini twins of the new satellite broadcast technology whose eventual demise was speculated and trumpeted by forecasters and detractors  (XM Satellite Radio's first broadcast was on September 25, 2001, nearly four months before Sirius) there remained terrestrial radio and a slowly emerging 'new-normal’ which we now know as media streaming.

12 years later in 2013, the survival of the companies relied on their merging, and since then Sirius/XM has slowly come literally out of the blue, out of the red and into the great black as a cash juggernaut of an established economic model with 30.1 Million subscribers.

During its touch and go years, though before the merger, both companies were hemorrhaging dollars,. After the merger, one life-saver was the acquisition of Howard Stern’s show. It had already garnered solid millions of faithful listeners. It’s been arguably claimed that Howard and his show which many consider jarringly sexist and otherwise offensive to many, was indeed was one of a few stalwart assets that kept it all going during those formative subscriber-base building fiscal years.

There was one 6-month period of my life when I listened to terrestrially broadcast Howard Stern show (and was sporadically entertained by it). After one or more profoundly offensive allusions therein, I made a point not to continue listening. I see that his show is still carried on SXM, just as Fox carries Sean Hannity and Co. (not to mention White House Briefings) and well, I feel this is not a zero sum gain.

I could reiterate the obvious, stomp my feat and say no, no, no to anyone who is participating in any way in the accommodation or propping up of a truly evil person, but since we’ve been seemingly waltzing at times blindly with the devil himself in so many broader realms in myriad fashions, I choose to stoke up on as much compassion-based knowledge and implementable insight that I proudly receive, ingest, digest and make manifest with my own tools of persuasion therein to make small differences in my daily sentient life and creative art. I choose to stay engaged, informed, enticed, interested and eager to learn and be proven wrong from time to time while arming myself with fact-based insight and germane data with which to debate folks who’ve proudly imbibed and are eagerly regurgitating their various flavors of homophilic Kool-Aid.

I’m keeping my subscription to Sirius-XM. It’s worth every penny. Plus, they pay broadcast performance royalties, which is more than I can say of terrestrial radio. What a country. I do love it, though.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

To My Best Friend Mike. I Love You and Miss You.

Backstage at Maloney Hall, Catholic University 1975
November 15, 2017

Dear Mike~

Today is your birthday. I’d be calling you today, sending you a video or something that I thought was funny, perhaps make you laugh. If you were having a “good” day you might even call me first, making a stentorian declaration as joyous as it was absurd about another year in a long life. Anyone who knows you can fill in that blank.

That’s what’s easy about this: so many folks loved you and knew you. They’re closing their eyes--and then wiping them--for yours was a personality easy to conjure, easy to love, easy to celebrate. We're hearing you right now because yours was “the big voice, that leaves little choice”. You’ll always reverberate. I’m happy for that.

But I’m also very sad. Because you were my best and oldest friend in this life.  Yes, our families know us and love us, thank God…but 12 year old buddies?...forget it. We knew so much about one another, for so long

I never will apologize for our regressed goofball behavior later in life. There was too much information there to not return to high school, where I think we may have each been happiest. Everything since—what we did and didn’t share—was too copious a lot to haul into our every moment. It was the world we all are forced to confront, and it’s not always easy, actually seldom is.

There’s something I never told you, Mike. I didn’t because I hadn’t realized it as the truth until after you were gone. I trust that you nevertheless were aware of this on some level because you were so smartly observant and sensitive to others’ feelings.

I'll explain. 

From my earliest points of recollection until right before my father died, I was a mostly happy kid. My parents and siblings made me feel special, the world was playful and interesting and I felt that I had some special gifts with which I could make people feel good. They'd have a good time and make a big deal when I played, sang or danced at parties, in bands or stage musicals. I “knew my calling” pretty early, I think.

You had that early childhood, too! You were bright and brave (moreso than I) and the adults and kids alike would find you entertaining, high spirited and mostly fun to be around.

But you and I had yet to meet. I was in Fredericksburg performing in my first local bands, school operettas and talent shows. You were doing the same sorts of things in parallel up the road a bit in Springfield.

At the age of nine though, things became dark as my Dad got sick and stayed sick for a long while. My younger sister and I were young enough to compel the older others to shield us from the harsher aspects of what it would portend for as long as possible. I was unaware that our Father “wouldn’t make it” until the day before, and my sister didn’t until the day he didn't.

As one would suspect, things immediately became complicated and insecure.   

Needless to say, emotional, economic and spiritual survival became a challenging morass before us all, especially our Mom. A gentle and good-hearted friend who became a rare consolation to her during this time met an abrupt and all-too-untimely death, we suffered the stressed and vigilant posture brought on by the chronic surprise appearances of prowling peeping tom, and the official "Big Brother" assigned to me from that organization proved to be a pedophile who indeed would kidnap a boy the following year. All this while the Viet Nam era raged away with its assassinations, riots and transformative madness. 

In January of '69 our mother moved us from Fredericksburg to Washington, DC where we stayed in our grandparents’ house in NW. My younger sister and I were the “new kids” at a parochial school in the neighborhood.

It was a long, cold and sad winter. The kids—in my class, at least—weren’t very welcoming to the kid who some “thought was a hick” for his “southern accent”.  The big deal “boogie woogie” boy in small town Va. was to most therein that DC neighborhood a personae non grata. The pain of that bigoted non-acceptance was acute against the needful anticipation for a happier next chapter for me and my decimated family.

Mike, we still hadn’t met, but soon I would see you for the first time.

That May my mother enticingly informed me that she and I would that weekend be attending the Spring Musical production at Bishop Ireton High School. My cousins Steve and Tim Sheehy were in the pit orchestra, and BI enjoyed a sterling reputation for high quality productions. I’d be attending there the next year, and I was holding out hope that all it had to offer, according my Mom, wasn’t more mere hype. (She had tried, bless her, but living right off of Tenley Circle kinda sucked--barely skate-able sidewalks, a library and the biggest Sears store up the block not withstanding. I was also at that point suffering symptoms of PTSD from the last year and a half in Fredericksburg).

We drove to Alexandria, and my mind raced the entire way. The show was Mame, and you played Patrick Dennis, the kid. I had been in a couple of school shows, had seen a few, but THIS was the BEST I’d ever seen, the music sounded top notch, the singing, the acting…and YOU were spectacular. You sang and danced, acted believably, projected articulated zeal. It was a true thrill! 

I learned that you were allowed to audition even though you were an 8th grader. You were awarded the part since you would be a Freshman there the next year (like me !), you had a brother there already, and two more to follow, and you were so blatantly and perfectly qualified for the role. Of course you were, I thought, and I was transfixed with an anxious excitement for the near future for the first time in what felt like ages.

A month later I looked for you in vain at the language aptitude test night. It was great knowing that ALL of the kids would be new there, but I was still pensive about this new scenario—but man, that show was great, and where IS that guy?!

We finally moved to our new house in Alexandria for which we’d left Fredericksburg, and the first day of high school arrived. You had to be there somewhere, but there were so many kids everywhere, I thought perhaps we’d be lost to one another among the masses of long hair, sneakers, ties, corduroys and desert boots.

It was the second day of school that I heard a commotion up ahead in the main foyer of the school. “Aw, MAN…” a familiar voice crowed, “…come ON, you guys…gimme a break!”

Wild laughter erupted from the gaggle of older guys who had—for the second or third time—just batted all of your books out of your arms and onto the floor. “What?? Little Cotterrrrr!?” one taunted. “Get your brother to help!!” Tommy, your brother, was a Senior whom I’d soon later see straddling the bannister at the top of the stairs and winging a hefty book pretty damned hard down the stairs at someone. I'm not sure if it related to little brother's episode, but I like to think so.

It was chaos amid the rush of boys headed to their next class. You didn't push back, strike out or call names, but merely let them and that pass until you had the time and room to finally pick up your spilled stuff. 

I helped you, and you thanked me. I told you that I’d seen you in Mame the prior Spring and that you sure were great. “Aw man, REALLY??” you said and introduced yourself. I did the same, and said that I had been in shows, too. But you wanted to talk about music, said you had a classical guitar, but wanted a nicer steel string one. I mentioned that I played, and you said, again “REALLY? You play? Man, we should have a duo!”

That’s how I remember it, Mike…it was that quick. The next day we played and sang together, and it was as if that was always the reason that we had come there. At the time, modular scheduling was somewhat experimental--students could arrange their classes and schedules to foment huge blocks of continuous “study” time, which was time NOT in class. A,B,C,D,E & F days. Your schedule coincided with mine on E, “togetherness day”, and we’d hang and rehearse wherever we could find a space or stairwell.

Mike, you and I and most folks looking over our shoulder at this letter know everything that happened after that, since then and what it meant, the things to which our friendship would lead, but I never thanked you for being the first person to turn the page from a few really bad, sad and seemingly interminable laboring chapters of a kid's life to the next happier, more exciting and rewarding chapters that led all the way to this moment I’m gratefully appreciating right now.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share something else about you with everyone:

When we graduated—after so many adventures both personal and professional throughout our high school years—and college--that great Sword of Damocles of the growing adolescent-- loomed above us like a great interrupter of all our most appetizing dreams. You would be going to Catholic University and I to Miami University in Coral Gables. We both lamented the interruption and our separation, but held out hope that my Miami University deal with my mother wouldn’t work out and I would be back in the Spring to pick up where we left off—doing shows, writing songs, opening for big acts in big halls by ourselves and with Bill & Taffy and others. Mostly, Cotter & Carroll would resume and not falter in DC.

I hated it in Miami. There were no clubs in Coral Gables, just a juke joint a few miles away that had 50 cent 7 and 7s on Wednesdays. Mostly all I did was play piano, sing and write by myself in cramped rehearsal rooms on campus. Circled on my calendar was Oct 26th, when I’d be flying home so you and I could join Bill & Taffy for their set at DAR Constitution Hall, opening for Jackson Brown. It was in fact a magical evening, when Jay Winding, Jackson’s sideman convinced me that THIS was what I should be doing, that college wasn’t for everyone, and that I’d have time to get back to it if it didn’t pan out, but he thought that it WOULD. I decided that night that I’d return from Florida after the semester, one way or another.

After repairing back to Miami and in the worst kind of funk, I thought that I might not last until then. About a week later, Bill & Taffy phoned to propose an idea: come back to DC, but stay in school by enrolling at nearby Catholic University. And, would I be interested in rehearsing a few songs as a group—a singing group. The group would be Bill, Taffy, Margot Chapman and me. I said sure, are you kidding?

No, they weren’t, but I was asked to not mention it to anyone for fear that word might get out too soon, and that could be a bad thing for a few good reasons. I reluctantly agreed.

You were so excited, and I was too--I was coming back, and we'd both be at CU, no better. 

But there was more to this picture than I could divulge and that was difficult, awkward and I thought somewhat unfair. My promise would be broken within a week on the night I showed up at your door at Spaulding Hall dormitory with a bottle of Stoly.

I explained it all, sheepishly, shamefully and contritely. It wasn’t that Cotter & Carroll would be handcuffed from doing our thing, but this other thing was very much on the platter, too.

“Oh…” you halted for thought. I sat and watched your eyes dart about with your high-velocity thoughts and braced for understandable anger, disappointment and indictments of my betrayal.

“Wait a minute, so, you, Bill and Taffy and Margot—that hot chick from Breakfast Again?—that’s kind of cool, huh!?”

“Yeah, I guess”, that aspect was indeed exciting I supposed and concurred.

“Wow…” Another pause…here it comes, I thought.

—“Man! I can’t WAIT to hear THAT, man! That’s gonna be FUCKING AMAZING!”

I sat amazed and grateful and a little less ashamed for my silent period of non-disclosure, but mainly I realized what a true friend is. You were more psyched than I, about something that would ultimately mean the end of our duo. We would always play gigs, you and me, you and Margot, me sitting in with your band and vice versa, but it never crossed your mind that our friendship was threatened. I was prepared to lose and lose again, but you flipped the polarity switch masterfully. This was a GOOD thing. It was a win-win. I had never admired anyone more than you at that moment.

Your “up” side was the most buoyant lift that I could ever imagine.
It was a constant, a lighthouse that was always on and spinning above a churning coastline.  Nothing could deter or reset your positive compass, your proactive enthusiasm. We started with the simplicity of doing something we loved that we could trust would always be there, and ended by having the thing that was simply always there. Love and Friendship. 

Mike, I was aware early on of your chronic attenuators, how you could be profoundly hobbled during those emotional valleys, but you muscled through them countless times. I hope folks will remember and appreciate just how many times you soldiered through the darkness so bravely.

A few years ago, when the two of us were going over some parts in a dressing room before John Jenning’s fundraiser finale, you were so tenuously there—I looked up from the page to see an expression on your face that I thought was surely your goofing at me like so often, only to realize that you were desperately reaching to the bottom of your stores of stability for a gasp of fuel and strength. I know if it weren’t that particular reason for which we were all there--for John--that you wouldn’t have been. You would have been in the place where “misery doesn’t know better times” until a sunnier day dawned. 

You were BRAVE, Mike.

And you had so much love for your friends, for your family. We all know how utterly ironclad your resolve was when it was time to be there, when we really needed you.

I just need to know that somehow you’re aware of your profound meaning in my life. I need everyone else to know, as well. The day we met was Day 1 of the rest of my life. I wasn’t at all certain that things would ever start to work out, then you were there. Like a lighthouse. A life preserver. You’re my oldest and dearest friend and I’m just now beginning to contend with your being gone. I miss you so so much, and I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I hope I see you later, somehow, some way.

My last conversation with you was on July 1, and we talked about all sorts of things. Mostly you were just erupting with joy and enthusiasm over your Summer with Georgia, her studio project and how wonderful a person Lisa was. You told me how much you missed sister Christine, how she lured you lovingly over to her house and laid books on you all the time. Gratitude gushed from you that night. No one appreciated good will more than you, Mike.

You exclaimed again that you “never talk on the phone this long with anyone!” and we laughed alot and loudly. 

Then you told me you had just finished an “amazing” book—James Agee’s A Death In The Family.
“That’s one of my favorite books of ALL TIME”,  I spat. “Meredith had seen it somewhere and thought I might like it and, wow...”

“It’s UNBELIEVABLE.”  We spoke of it being brilliant, how it managed to decode the shock of an untimely death through the eyes of a child. I mused of how the brakes failed on the car in the story, how the accident left nary a mark but a just a slight cut on the bridge of the victim’s nose, as I remembered. 

You chimed something abruptly that was at first garbled.

"Huh? What?"

“A Cotter pin!! It was a COTTER PIN!” You loudly exclaimed.

You couldn't stop. “Do me a favor…read just the last ten pages—it’s amazing—just read the last ten pages.”

Happy Birthday, Mike. I wish you could come back, even for a day. Visit us in a dream, OK? We're waiting. 

~Me (insert any of your nicknames for me here)

From the BI-Word, March 1972

Below are some notes and perhaps some insights that I had prepared in case I had the chance to speak at Mike’s Memorial:

We wake each morning to gravity. We usually don’t consciously address it—we merely rise, get up somehow, greet and get at a day wherein we’ve mostly learned to ignore the utterly inescapable and inexorable force—that constant reminder that the center of the earth wants us.

We do it, day after day after day, because we manage to somehow find a reward. We’re fortified with purpose and we see to our dedicated endeavors until we get there— a sigh, a laugh, some measure of gratification, a prize that’s a degree measure of a larger elation. We defy the gravity that has never—will never—let go, leave us alone. Its tenacity is ancient, its origins only a distant cry of unfathomable forbearance.

It’s quite possibly the first worldly in utero sensation we have. It’s our oldest companion, friend and foe.

Some find aid and splice in a skewed perspective, something that makes the challenge ahead look approachable, do-able, manageable.

We feel we’re in a vessel upon rough waters, and the deck is coated with renegade rolling marbles. Or maybe tumbling rolling tubes which won’t rest until they come to rest. Where gravity puts them. We clamor sometimes desperately toward something to which we can cling—a rare slab of stability where we can regroup and refresh. This ride is even thrilling, maybe…perilous…we don’t worry about the landing but …

We grow and come to realize that the vessel is just an illusion. We are and have always been completely IN the water.

We rise, fall, gasp, hold our breath, become completely submerged…all the while the current carries us.

Like the naturally wise adult salmon we see or feel reason to battle our way upstream …against the most tenacious and inexorable currents…to our natal homelands. Some of us need to do that regularly and some early on realized that they would need to remain close to their beginnings.

Whether a boat, a fish, a bird, a man…we as Neil Young puts it “collide with the very air we breath”.

We make bolstered runs up against the very wind we need to fill our sails, to lift our wings. We swim upstream to survive, in the very water that will sustain us and our offspring.

The moments where we can merely relax and enjoy the ride are seemingly few and far between.

Our futures are nagging entities in need of building, planning, providing for the future. The future steals much of the present, wouldn’t you agree? And much of our concerns, cares and conundrums reside in not so tidy compartments tucked well within the family home on the back side of that welcome mat.

Our friends, our families, our fellow humans are in need, and we draw many lines to sort out for whom and to what we choose to see.

There are those among us who find their calling within the framework of rescue, companionship, care giving—the immediate alleviation of another’s pain and suffering, are they are lucky…for they have the instant gratification of immediately improving the well-being of another.

Alas, there are those among us who aren’t personally rewarded by an altruistic spirit. They don’t get a rush, they only get slightly inconvenienced. 

What Mike and I had in common, I think, and what has also been a frustration of sorts is that our spirits, whatever our  gifts and tools that we bring as entertainers, are usually gifts of joy, mollification, relief, inspiration. Plus we usually love doing it while we’re doing it. We bring a release, maybe some elation, some healing if we’re lucky and we dig it while we’re doing it. A win win.

If only it were that simple. Art reacts, it reflects, it even thankfully deflects…rock and roll, it doesn’t solve our problems, it just allows us to dance all over them for a while. The hard realities and the hard work still stare at us coldly when we return to the churn. 

As much as he may have appeared to be the typical exemplary middle class fence painting lawn mowing suburbanite male (which he was, in at least those respects) Mike didn’t believe in the paint by numbers life.

What conforming to convention Mike managed to do was voluntary, or discretely begrudging. By discrete, I mean to say he was polite and considerate of others’ feelings, respectful of others’ RIGHT to have their own beliefs. BUT, one large ethos of our friend, what he DID NOT believe in, was passing himself and his beliefs off disingenuously. Mike was not a hypocrite. He loathed hypocrisy, yet he did not loathe the hypocrite. He understood THEIR plight. That was their “cross to bear”. But he was highly unnerved when one expected him to go along with the motions, the ceremony, the pageantry of and about something he truly knew in his heart he DID NOT BELIEVE. 

And when a scabrous policy on high reached indiscriminately down to affect the under-privileged, the under-served, and the under-informed, well…here we are and we know how Mike felt about that. 

He was of this world, but his boyish enthusiasm for the weird, the wild, the wonderful was couched in an old soul’s discerning insight into much much deeper philosophical issues.

Cognitive dissonance and dishonesty came into play only when he needed to cover his rear end to keep from shame. From shaming himself or his family and friends.

In his affairs, his relationships, his dealings, I never knew Mike to EVER be—in even the slightest way— underhanded or deceptive out of avarice or spite.

In this way, and in so many others, Mike was so very brave. He was brave to choose to always be true to his heart. He knew how much work that would require. The currents he would come up against within and without.

So many of us need to adhere to some existing code to help us determine our paths, decisions, battles. We turn to sacraments, commandments, societal and familial expectations. That’s our culture, and it includes multitudes of other cultures big and small, heirloom and nascent.

I think Mike was up against those deliberations ALL THE TIME, for he thought for himself. That should make all of us even more appreciative of those times when he went the extra mile, or yard or footstep to be where he knew he counted most. To be there for someone else. To put in the good word. To refrain from a personally derogatory one. To be a cheerleader. A fan. A friend.

To not be petty. To see to the other side of a sticking point and move on. Michael looked to see the diamonds in the rough. Ironic, but true. Between the two of us, I heard from him scads more pep talks than he ever heard from me.

The truth is that none of us have any of the sure answers. Well we have some. That money changes everything. That it’s better to have it than to need it.

We hold other answers in our hearts. It’s better to love than to hate. It’s better to try to see someone’s perspective, or at least respect that one’s perspective, whatever it may be, is inarguable. At least try to understand. If Mike and I were Jem and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird we’d have spent more time than they on Boo Radley’s porch.

Mike’s Spiritual Creed: Be good for goodness’ sake. These approaches are better. Not because we give them 4 out of 5 stars, but because we should give them 9 out of 10 nods. We should affix them like pocket watches in folds nearest to where there is the least sunshine. We should WORK to be BETTER. Then we’ll ALL be doing better, a little closer to all doing well.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bravo to David Brooks and his Let's Go For A Win On Opioids

for being a rare voice that cites an increasingly exigent crisis yet manages to pull the lens farther back to frame a larger picture: addiction as the insidious disease it has been conclusively and clinically found to be. It is cunning, baffling, and fatal.

It's a jarring fact that opioids are universally addictive--they require neither distinct genetic predisposition nor personal predilection toward abuse, and the recent exponential increase in their effected fatality numbers is abject and stultifying.

But Mr. Brooks nevertheless points with unabashed certainty toward an issue that so many others avoid for fear of piquing uncomfortable cognitive dissonances.

A three fold increase to 33,000 opioid related deaths last year is, dare I say it, sobering; but that figure is still less than half the seemingly accepted death rate from the culturally well-marbled alcohol usage, which is 88,000+ annually.

These figures do not include the plight and ills of the disease that occur during its active and progressing stages: hobbled spirits, wounded relationships, traumatized families, lost wages and productivity, extreme and needlessly burdensome health care costs.

It's encouraging to see Mr. Brooks point out that addiction, as an acute disease, is slow suicide operating at varying rates depending on the individual sufferer, the circumstances and drug(s) of choice. But the core drivers are despair, blight and anxiety which saliently present themselves as endemic to the darker and more hopeless gulches of our economic landscape. A vicious downward spiral is created, one that manufactures more and more pain for the addict internally and externally.

It's nevertheless encouraging that there's an aspiring nod toward political agendas that might address the over-arching causes of this blight writ large.

Not mentioned in the piece is an interesting and telling statistic: some European countries--Germany and France among them--have higher per capita alcohol consumption, yet an overall lower fatality rate.

More plainly, and at least as far as booze is concerned, the French and Germans drink more than us but fewer die.

Could that be partly due to their citizens having less of the pervasive background anxiety and stress that we here in America experience in the face of our record high health care costs, child care costs and the more and more for-the-more privileged system of continued education? That's another subject for discussion, but an arguably closely related one.

I'll hazard the observation that we Americans live in a more stressful society than those in more socially supportive and more self-investing nations.

Bravery is required. Any recovering addict knows it, and it would be refreshing for well placed apt leaders to accept and step up accordingly to create a new season of understanding and proactive measures that may enable a change in our approach to mollifying the societal effects of chronic substance abuse.

That some social conservatives immediately seize the opportunity to pivot from the subject of opioids to weed legalization issues seems to me clueless and irritatingly tone deaf.

Drugs and vice are here to stay, for better and for worse. But our species will continue to evolve if we so allow.

Perhaps the more urgent and dramatic scourge of opioids is another type of gateway, one that might open higher minds to formulate and legitimize efforts toward a more enlightened culture with universal benefits for all. In our deliberative hearts and minds, there is much room for improvement.