Thursday, August 31, 2017

Old Posts

I do not do it often, but every now and then, I glance back at old posts to see where I was in my life. This morning I looked and realized I was coming to the end of something I tormented friends with, called 100 Days of Hopper. In this day, in 2014, I wrote of my decision to leave Westchester for good and all the reasons. There was no joy in leaving and definitely no joy in staying. The change in my life has sadly had very few positives. It's changed me. It's made me more cynical, if that were possible. It's made me question the humanity of others and see people without their facade. It's also made me pay attention to what they say, and I believe I've learned to read messages between lines they don't realize they've revealed. Sadly, I don't really believe I've found much out about myself, other than the walls my mother described so often. She could always set me straight, even if only for a while.

I also read a post about that one friend. The one who saw through the bullshit, of others and of my own. Maybe he gave me a bit of a pass, because we had common misgivings and misfortune. I smiled at first and then realized how detached from reality I have become. My friend isn't here anymore. I've lost a lot of people I once called friends, not once n the past three years having a chance to say goodbye. There's a lot less laughter lately. A lot more sorrow, sickness and loss. I'm not the person I once was and feel I'm losing my ability to feel pain. I used to cry a lot. At movies, books, but most often memories. I don't cry very much and I feel it, bottled up waiting to burst, but it never does. I've become callous, not really towards individuals, but mankind in general. I have become obsessed with news and the future, but not mine. My life has no news and I wonder about the future. A soft purr and the occasional nuzzle, reminds me I'm needed, if only for a bit. I have true friends, but that list is dwindling and my time with them is lessened by distance.  It's my fault, mostly. I am aware. I haven't lost that.

It's been almost a year since I spoke to my friend, never once thinking it would be the last time. I did not have some philosophical lesson about cherishing days, times or epiphany of seizing a day. I learned the same lesson I've known. I enjoy moments, surrounded by many more that I don't, and those moments define my nature. For good and for bad.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ed Lavandera:

CNN has a journalist named Ed Lavandera and while filming the flooding. He kept rolling, kept reporting as an elderly man was removed from his home. He kept reporting while pulling the elderly man onto a boat. He then pulled the family's dog on, still reporting. Then he paused, as he relayed the message to the studio that the man's wife was bring brought out, he said "Give us a minute. She has Alzheimer's and we don't know what condition she is in. It was a rare moment of compassion in a field where a photo or a sound byte is everything. Moments later, the woman was filmed, but he demanded the cameraman put down the camera and help, reassuring the woman "you look great,"

Forget that this reporter was putting himself in harm's way, doing more than he was sent to do. Forget he showed basic human decency by assisting in rescues. In the height of the madness, when people don't think straight and most reporters would be thinking about their careers, possible awards, prestige, Mr. Lavandera stopped and thought, I assume, about the women in his life, maybe people he knows, and showed a level of compassion we all need. Despite what some may think, he proved, he and those like him are not our enemy, but one of us, with a job to do and on this day, he went above and beyond "doing his job." He showed empathy. People who call him an enemy could learn a thing or two from this man.

Friday, August 25, 2017

I Wonder If...

I left the library today. Three movies in my hand, knowing one was at home. I thought about how I'd be back on Monday to return them. Who knows if the woman with her three kids, one in her arms, maybe three, four months old, and two others, maybe four or five, wanted one of them. The automatic doors opened and I was immediately hit with the smell of a diesel exhaust. The gray haired lady approaching winced and her nose twitched like Tabitha. She gasped a little, then passed. I turned the corner and saw a woman in a short black dress checking under the hood of her car, almost leaning in far enough that the workers across the street would be rewarded for their stare. I walked down the street, passed a bow legged old man, wearing a slightly too small blue polo shirt, with a tattoo reminiscent of Popeye. I nodded, then thought of whether he was a sailor and if he'd seen battle. A muscular man with ear buds passed again, almost trying to bump shoulders with me on the more than wide enough sidewalk. I crossed over mid street and felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I stepped onto the sidewalk and noticed a man, the hotel's employee, chasing an empty plastic bottle in the breeze. His blue shirt, matching that of the old man, but with words across the chest. I think his name or that of the hotel. I smiled, he laughed. I turned the corner, changing my gait to give way to a woman with a fancy walking stick. Too proud to use a cane,, I suppose. A bucket hat pulled down to protect her from the glare. I stopped briefly, letting a car pull into a driveway, the father waved, the two children in their seats, screaming, seemingly having a ball. I heard the father laugh and I smiled. This smile continued as a past by a woman with short black hair, green shirt and yoga pants. She smiled back and locked eyes, then looked ahead. I passed a young college girl, staring at her phone, bopping her head to music, shifting my steps to avoid her concentration. I skipped over some leaves and into the street, entering my car. The heat from the interior felt immediately, turned the key, as the windows rolled down, the music came on; Chuck Berry's No Particular Place To Go. Apropos, I thought, and shifted into drive. Left or right?

I wonder if anyone I passed remember me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sharing Space: Do Unto Others

I've never been a neat freak, but have always taken pride in how I treat other people. While living in other people's homes, even if for a single night, I've always made sure to, at the very least, leave it as it was before I arrived. I do not think we can excuse people based on age or ignorance. I don't think being respectful of other people's property, especially their homes, is a learned behavior. I simply don't believe one needs to be told to be respectful to do so.

Living in other people's home has taught me a lot. I've learned that the expectations other have of me are very often the exact behaviors they lack within themselves. I've learned that my level of respect both for their material items, privacy and general comfort, is not always reciprocated. I've also realized that sarcasm and playful jokes are not effective in remedying these inconsistencies. Many times I find, it's just easier to do what needs to be done and move on.

The real issue I'm finding is that with the addition of a new person in the house, I made a preemptive effort. I pointed out the things in the lease, the house "rules" and the general happenings, both good and bad and how we can make things run more smoothly. My cries fell on deaf ears. A 25-year-old, who apparently doesn't do much other than eat cereal and play video games has entered and it dawned on me quickly, that it's not today's youth that isn't being brought up right, it's today's young adults are simply not held to any level of civility. They are championed for protesting a cause that only affects them, but rarely scolded for being unconcerned with their futures or the current lives of those older or younger. They are told they shouldn't be judged by their clothing or hairstyles, but never once told to do the same for others. They are commended on the material things they've obtained, but never corrected when they disregard those things of others. It's not children who become this, it's adults, who view the world as their domain, which it is, but their lack of interest in sharing it is my issue.

Good luck in your future endeavors. Enjoy your car, your clothes, your video games. I wish you all the best for you and your generation, just one thing. I'm not your mother. So clean your dishes and put things that aren't yours, back where they belong. Life really is that simple and it's even in The Bible. Do unto others....

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Nazi Stuff

I had to unfriend someone on Facebook yesterday.
I have three rules about friends, as it relates to Facebook.

  1. Don't get nasty with my other friends
  2. Don't lie about me
  3. Don't you ever fucking sympathize with Nazis
Now here's the thing. I don't think this kid realizes he's sympathizing with Nazis, but that's somewhat how Nazis began. The naive, the complicit, the cowards and the stupid, didn't want to ruffle any feathers, so they either went along or stayed quiet. A few years later, six million Jews and many millions of others were killed. This is known. This is taught in school, by our elders and it's clearly understood that while history has a habit of repeating itself, never again will we allow Nazis to be a thing, especially in the United States of America.

So it's 2017 and I have a friend, an ex-friend, because I'd likely lay him out if he stood by his posts, whose comparing some group called Antifa to Nazis. Now, I'm not up on my Antifa knowledge, but hell, you could bring out Vikings and I'm giving them a pass in comparison to Nazis. I'm giving Caeser's Romans a pass, in comparison to Nazis. Hell, Stalin helped with Nazis, so there's that. Nazis don't get a "many sides" pass. There are no two sides when it comes to hate groups, especially Nazis. There are no "very fine" people who are members of, support or sympathize with Nazis. Not ever! 

Here's the thing. My mother was the most important person in the world to me. Her parents were #2 and #3. They were Jewish. I grew up hearing stories about the Holocaust and before I could learn on my own, I never quite believed them. The atrocities were too unbelievable to comprehend as a truth. So maybe that's Donald Trump's problem. Maybe that's his followers problem. They just aren't educated or intelligent enough to perceive that the horrors were real. So how do we impress upon the ignorant, my ex-friend included, that supporting a president who sympathizes with Nazis is in fact, sympathizing with Nazis? How do I let people know that what they view as a harmless Internet meme, touches a part of me they would never like to see. I mean this sincerely.

I love the art of tattoos, but would never get one on my own person, because of Nazis. Out of respect for my mother and grandparents, I would never desecrate my skin, because so many others had it done as identification. I will never forget the day I shook a man's hand and his sleeve rolled up and revealed his number. I shook. I went home and I wept. We didn't discuss it. I didn't let on that I had noticed. I simply felt overcome with emotion. I was 19-20, and in my mind, a tough guy. Here was a somewhat frail older gentleman whose strength is unparalleled in my world. I was humbled to be in his presence. The respect I had for this stranger was greater than of anyone I'd actually known. That's what my feeling about Nazis is. There will never be many sides to hate. There will never be "very fine" people who hate. But I will go one step further. There will never be a place in my world for people who are complicit when faced with hate. Are there times we all let stuff roll off our backs? Yes, of course. That being said, when you take the time to copy and paste or share something that breeds hate for another group, especially Jews, while promoting Nazism, you're dead to me. Luckily for you, it's only via the Internet.

I hope this young man realizes his mistake and I'm not one to easily forget, but I do forgive. I can forgive ignorance, because it's easily cured with education. I can forgive being a coward, because it's easily corrected with conviction. What I can't forgive is never caring enough to learn or never standing up for others, because it's easier to be who you are. An ignorant coward. Because if you're not an ignorant coward, you actually believe in what these white supremacist, white nationalists and Nazis have to say and then, you're in an entirely different category.

As for the rest of society. Let's stop pretending Trump didn't promote their cause in all of 2016. Let's stop pretending he isn't a coward or ignorant. Let's stop pretending he cares about "us." He does care about them, because they elected him. Do you really want to be on the wrong side of this part of history? You may not view yourself as a sympathizer, but history will. Educate, stand up for others and for the love of God, please stop posting and saying things that even hint you believe there are good people on that side and that anyone, I mean anyone, is wrong for standing up to them, with or without violence. They're Nazis!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Funny Patriostism

I just spent the better part of an hour writing an epic blog on American Patriotism. As I reached the end of what had turned into more of an essay, I realized something. I had spent the entire time explaining what isn't patriotism, referencing many things I've read or heard lately, in defense of patriotism. It was all nationalism, socialism , capitalism, Marxism, communism, conservatism, liberalism and a few other ism I don't know the names of, but nothing was patriotism. It then dawned on me that patriotism isn't a love of country anymore, but a love of a country we all desire, but as the current culture has shown us, isn't attainable.

My main theme was "we all hate Nazis."
Another theme was "we all SAY we hate white supremacy."
Finally, the last theme was, "do we really love our neighbor?"
I deleted that and this is all that remains

Nearly every great politician has spoken of patriotism in terms of questioning one's government, for the good of the people. Nearly every dictator, has spoken of the reverse. Nearly every great writer has condemned patriotism as, not the love of one's country, but the hatred of one's neighbors. Nearly every great philosopher has questioned how one could view their own superiority as a love of anything other than themselves (and those who share those beliefs).

It left me thinking, most of us don't claim to be patriots, because we believe we are and those who pound their chest over it are the least patriotic of all. Somewhere in the middle, we all have a love for our country, but most who speak of it embrace being content, as if this were a marriage. Marriage is a choice, so we accept our flaws and adjust. Patriotism is not a choice and should always be about being better, but never a disbelief that the sum of our parts is great.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Grass Is Always Greener

Almost every morning, I walk in the dew soaked grass behind the house I'm living in. It started as therapy and I keep telling myself it is, but there's another reason. It's the only time the grass doesn't hurt my feet. The moisture softens the hay-like blades, so much so, it feels like a cushion. I know the mid-morning sun will turn that comfortable stroll into something akin to a bed of nails, taking all the leisure out of this morning routine. Sometimes I sit and watch the neighbors meticulously cut their lawns, envious of the green lush landscape they create and I have to remind myself, "it's not my house." The once bare deck is now adorned with a massive hot tub, a table with six chairs and an umbrella, but oddly no glass. A second table with a hard plastic top, I assume to make up or make due for the broken one. A grill with a giant cover and some scattered toys cover the rest. I usually pull a single chair and lean it against the house, to give myself some sort of view. It used to be a serene setting, but the addition of all these items has blocked my vantage point of nearly all of the yard. The hot sun bakes my toes, which stick out from under the shade given by the house and I hear the rumble of the John Deere, ridden by the not-so-thrilled son next door. I think about my morning walks and the cool grass under my feet. How when it's freshly cut, by someone other than the owners, the clippings embrace the tops of my feet and in between my toes. The green, brown and tan strands, look camouflaged, as if I'm prowling the yard, like my cat. I sit and watch as the mower descends into the garage and sip some spiked lemonade. Admiring the job he's done and wondering if he realizes how it is appreciated, by someone who is simply envious of how green it is. The sun has now moved over the house and my knee caps start to burn and my ice cubes melt. I return inside, alone, see some grass on the rug from the early morning stroll and wonder, about the son and his family. Wonder if their house feels more like a home. Wonder if their lives match that grass that always seems to be greener elsewhere. My cat jumps up on the bed, nudges me dangling hand, and is rewarded with scratches and pats. He tires quickly, then licks his paws. Bright green strands fall and I stare at them. He's been there, he knows, but he always comes back. I guess that's all I need to know.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

June & July - Movies of 2017

I'm still only about 110 movies, so far this year. Paltry numbers compared to years past. This month a slight change has occurred; a library card. So possibly going to revisit some classics, but who knows...my new list is growing and growing. Hard to believe I was in the hospital and a rehab center during this time. Seems like months ago. Also, a side note. I do not count documentaries in my top or bottom 3, so I am not a Negro is not getting snubbed. It's brilliant and is a must see film.

  1. Black Belly Of The Tarantula - Giallo. Beauties and young Gianinni. Works, but a bit boring.
  2. Sarah Silverman: A Speck Of Dust - Her delivery is like no other and it works magnificently. 
  3. Headshot - It's no Raid: Redemption, but unreal action and violence and non-stop energy.
  4. The Image (short) - Young David Bowie as painting comes to life, with It Follows vibe. 
  5. The Keepers (series) - Strong start, but too much staged dramatization, hurts message.
  6. Blondie's New York - Doc about making of Parallel Lines. Very good and personally important.
  7. Dead Silence - Horrible James Wan film about dolls, spirits and bad script writing.
  8. In The Mouth Of Madness - Solid Carpenter, starting to feel dated. Uneven Sam Neill.
  9. I Am Not Your Negro - Powerful! Baldwin's tale is infuriating in that we've not come very far.
  10. Carnival Of Souls - The version I saw was colorized and this film needs to be in B&W!
  11. The Salvation - Fun, if not silly Western, with marvelous and good looking cast.
  12. The Addiction - Abel Ferrara's 90's vampire flick is a metaphor for everything. Lili Taylor A+
  13. DePalma - Wonderful doc about the director's life in film, his success and many failures.
  14. The Lodger - Silent Hitchcock didn't work for me, other than in it's use of light.
  15. Little Dieter Needs To Fly - Herzog doc that became Rescue Dawn. Painfully dull.
  16. The Snare - Pretty people lose it. We've seen it before. Tries to be cerebral, but fails.
  17. The Void - Homage to Carpenter, Lovecraft and others, suffers from style over substance.
  18. Human Lanterns - Shaw Bros do a martial arts horror movie. Beautiful, but boring.
  19. The Last Man On Earth - Vincent Price as The Omega Man. Dull, rushed, but effective.
  20. Teheran Taxi - Jafar Panahi's Taxi is a beautiful, funny and powerful look at Iran's daily life.
  21. Master Of The Flying Guillotine - Rewatched one of my all-time favorite Kung Fu films
  22. What the Health - Food Doc. Follow up to Cowspiracy. Much better and scary in many ways.
  23. Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge - Short film chronicles woman's life. Wonderfully done
  24. Antarctica: Ice and Sky - Brutally boring. Sad, because it should be fascinating and important.
  25. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia - Beautifully shot. Powerful. What movies should be!
  26. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - I wanted to like it, but it was bad in every way.
  27. Shame - Being a Bergman classic, I expected more, but Nykvists cinematography is tops.
  28. Here Alone - Zombie movie, but so much more. One of the best horror movies in years.
  29. Rashomon - Re-watched Kurosawa's masterclass in storytelling. A true game changer.
  30. Colours Trilogy: Bleu - Binoche dazzles in visually and musically dazzling Kieslowski film
  31. Colours Trilogy: Blanc - Suffers from dull plot, but makes its point. Just didn't click for me.
  32. Colours Trilogy: Rouge - The best of the three. The clever duality and Irene Jacob shines.

Top Three: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Rouge, Here Alone
Bottom Three: Dead Silence, The Void, 
Biggest Surprise: Here Alone
Biggest Disappointment: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

For Sam

April 1, 1984. It was a Sunday. The night still held onto winter's chill, but the sun of the day had felt warm. Warmer than it was I suppose, but at thirteen, I was never still enough to feel the cold. I stood, the furthest from my home. Two sewers down, protection from the long ball. The pros hadn't begun, but the children of my Brooklyn neighborhood had retired our footballs for bats and baseballs. It was my favorite time of year. The smack of the bat, whether it be a real baseball, softball, tennis or rubber, made a sound that made me feel whole. All the sounds of baseball rung out like a symphony in my ears. A weak grounder to the pitcher and it was our turn to bat.

I jogged in, nodded to the older black man who owned the laundromat, sitting in his folding chair, smoking a cigar, paper folded neatly by his side. It was Sunday, so he still had on Sunday best. He lifted his fedora, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. Then used the hat to motion me over. "Aren't you cold young man?" not sure whether he was commenting on my summer attire or kindly reminding me that my jacket was strewn across the hood of his brown Cadillac. "No sir. Thanks for reminding me." I grabbed my jacket, careful to make sure the zipper didn't scrape the hood, and jogged back. Grabbed a bat, one I'd attained from a previous Bat Day at Yankee Stadium. Bucky Dent was emblazoned on it. Ironic looking back, because I had just started hating Dent, the New York City hero of just a few years ago. I stood at the plate, a manhole cover and awaited the first pitch.

The bat cocked over my shoulder, my eyes squinted and the pitcher, an older boy from across the street got ready. Suddenly a door opened an a friend was called by his mother. The game stopped. I relaxed a bit, but then another door. Then I heard the familiar sound of my mother's voice. "Come in the house, quickly," she yelled. Then another door and soon the lively streets were silent. I ran into the house and she was already heading upstairs to where our television was. I locked the door and followed. I arrived to hear "Tomorrow, he would have turned 44."

Marvin Gaye had been shot and killed by his father. In the ensuing weeks, more would come out and the usual rumors of drugs, money and possibly a woman, were all blamed, but for many, this was akin to John Lennon dying and the underlying cause was dwarfed by enormity of the loss. For the next few days, the sound of his voice echoed in the streets, coming from inside homes, outside corner bodegas and from the boom boxes carried up and down the avenues. People stopped and listened, smiled at each other and some were brought back to different times in their lives. For us, it was all new. An icon had died and as people like Gaye, Lennon and other started to depart, part of our childhood too.

Yesterday, a few hours after learning of Sam Shepard's death, I thought back to right before, or maybe after Gaye's death, when I was lucky enough to see his play True West, which at the time starred two unknown actors from an acting troupe. Their names were Malkovich and Sinise. In the following years, I'd grow to know their work, as well if not better than that of Shepard or even Gaye's. All four, oddly linked to 1984. All four helping mark the end of my childhood; innocence, as some would say.

Last night, some 33 years later, I sat with a drink, under the bluest sky, so similar to that day from my youth, but hot. Feeling the same pain over the loss of Sam as I felt for Marvin and understanding death much more now than I'll ever understand life. I sat and read a short story he wrote, Berlin Wall Piece, which brought back laughs more than sorrow. Childhood is funny, because we expect our elders to know everything. As an adult, we remember times and places, but the history of that time isn't so much a memory, but simply a list. I barely remember the Berlin Wall being taken apart, but remember the smell of that old man's cigar, his brown suit, matching hat and his big brown Cadillac. I remember the name on my bat, the blue stripe up on the handle and the sound of my mother's voice. I miss Marvin, Sam, the old man and the games in the street, but most of all, I miss that voice.