What is it about rush hour traffic that turns people from normal, functional adults into insane death machines? For the past several months now, it’s been every morning and every afternoon to and from work that there’s been a long delay from an accident on the roads I drive, and it’s really not surprising. I’ve seen some bad stuff out there. Careless, high violcity driving where people don’t seem to know either the laws of physics or that there are other people on the roads with them.
I’m told, this is a Chicagoland thing. That drivers in the Chicago metropolitan area all drive like this. Makes sense. There’s the whole idea that if you start someone out driving in the chaos of these roads that they soon will have to either drive like that too or die trying. Still, I want to believe this isn’t a regional insanity, as much as I’ve seen it to be true with all of the other places I’ve driven. Oddly enough, in the end I always end up being the one that is the insane driver, out of place from the others on the road, no matter how hard I try not to be. There’s that look of disgust with myself when I look in the rear view mirror and realize the monster I and all the others around me are railing against is me, the monster I have become.
It’s that werewolf of me that I’m realizing was more in charge of my life than I was for so many years.
Just the other day, I figured I’d go through one my old blogs from 2000-2008 that I posted in almost daily. Some of those old ramblings and thoughts seem so familiar and yet so cringe-worthy. There was something I wrote about the death of Bob Denver that went off course about my hatred for the occupants of Gilligan’s Island, that was about where I had to stop reading.
Most of my old posts were either elaborate, exaggerated stories or what could be best known as “angry old man letters”.
So, when there was a point on the drive in this morning when both of things. I’m stuck in traffic and a something comes on the radio about LED light bulbs. Now I know, they are better for the environment and a cheaper to use and, frankly, just make sense. But, aren’t LED’s light emitting diodes which means rocks, right? I know there are a rocks in the world but we’re talking special, light creating rocks. Isn’t there a chance that if we keep going down the path of using LED’s for everything that makes light that we’ll have a shortage of LED’s?
Rocks, like everything else, are a finite resource. Sure, it will take a lot longer to run out of them but it’s not like something the Earth is creating as a sustainable resource. Then again, maybe that’s the answer, Earth. Perhaps we’ll finally get the future where planets and asteroids around our galaxy are mined for TV screens, phones and light bulbs. Sure, it is usually a bleak, dystopian future where our ventures into the cosmos to bring back rocks usually leads to us bringing back hostile, alien life forms as well…but I digress.
Is this the next “Big Oil” problem? At what point in our lives will we have to pay $100 for a light bulb and ponder out loud “There has to be a better way…”
It’s Spetember 11th. It goes without saying that thirteen years ago this was a horrible, horrible day, in so many ways for so many people. One of the things that will always stick with me was hearing a lot people talk about how after what happened that “We would never be the same”. Continue reading
It’s been over a week since I wrote this note to myself. Since then I have seen several discussions on this topic, including two by Henry Rollins that really spoke to me. They spoke to me because, while it appeared he was flip-floping on the issue, I think he could have benefited from taking some time between writing and posting his thoughts and feelings and getting them out into the world.
Like I said, I have done just that. So these are my thoughts.
Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world.
Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.”
The man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”
Over the past week you may have read that excerpt from the comic book Watchmen, in reference to the death of Robin Williams. It may or may not actually be relevant to the situation but to me it made me stop and think. The death of Mr. Williams affected me. To be honest, I’m not sure why it did as much as it did. Yes, I have always been a big fan of his. I remember having my Mork and Mindy lunchbox in grade school and being the only kid I knew with a Mork action figure, with accompanying egg vehicle. I remember having to see all his early movies; The World According To Garp, Popeye, Moscow On The Hudson, even if some of them weren’t really age appropriate for me at the time.
When one of his first stand up specials aired on HBO, I remember sitting down to watch it with my dad. It just happened to come on as we were looking for something to watch and it touched my life as we both recognized the genius of it. That summer, between my eighth grade and first year of high school, I would sit in my room and watch his act in a steady repeat with Monty Python’s and Steve Martin’s Hollywood Bowl performances at least twice a day. No, it didn’t make me a stand up comedian or actor but it did make me feel good and helped me find my voice, even if it was just another of the ones in my head.
There is more. I could go on for quite a while talking about how the work of Robin Williams made a mark on my life, but that’s not why his death affected me so much. The fact of the matter is being someone who (like him) has experienced bouts of depression and substance abuse, I pondered what lead him down that path that seemed all too familiar in my head.
What is it that makes someone so loved, so successful, so seemingly caring and with it end it all. Honestly, this is not a line of thinking I should probably have been scraping and poking around but I couldn’t stop myself. I can’t answer for him, obviously, but I can relate my experience and talk to what I know with a situation such as his.
Now you must develop a taste for free-form jazz – Patrick Starr
I guess, as this is my first blog post here, I would like to start out with saying somethings about myself. How do I start with that?
For starters, there’s that old exercise that every therapist has given me, “If you could go back in time and talk to the 17 year old you, what advice would you give him?” This is a question that I never knew how to answer, no matter how much though I put into it.
But thought putting into it, I did. Um, that kinda sounded very Yoda there without even trying.
This morning, at peace while driving into work, it came to me. Charles Mingus started playing on my phone’s music player. I knew who Charles Mingus was for so long now but up until a couple months ago I don’t think I could have picked him out from any other jazz artist. That’s kinda changed. Then again, so much in my life has changed. I’m doing so much differently from how I was doing things for the last 20 odd years or so. Underline the word ‘odd’ in that sentence. I see that now after having a year of sobriety, starting a new job and falling in love then getting married. All that came before was just odd, off from what my life is now that it feels right. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I can look in the mirror.
My life gives comfort now.
But I digress. What is it that I know today that I would tell stupid, drunken, stoned, teenage me to enlighten him and send him down the correct path, the one that I’m on now, sooner than I took?
It would be this, “Listen and enjoy more jazz”.
Not the jazz that they play in jazz band in high school. That’s bullshit. That’s not jazz. It’s structure and old people wanting to make you listen to the sappy music that came before rock n’ roll because that’s what destroyed music as they knew and were comfortable with. Swing jazz in high school is even worse. Don’t let that keep you from jazz.
Run from that every chance you can.
Also, I know you’ve had a problem with your father’s jazz. Truthfully, you’ll find out that jazz isn’t so bad but that’s not the path to jazz you should take. You should find a “jazz of our own choosing”. You know the idea of all that guitar riffing and improvising you hear and love, take that and apply it to jazz. Look for that, seek that out. It’s out there. It’s been out there since before you or even your father were born but you it won’t come find you, it’s not mainstream. You’ll have to search for it but not very far.
On a side note, past self, you don’t need to hold onto jazz. That is, you don’t have to have a copy of every song you hear that you think you might like. That’s just going to make you grow weary of jazz. For seventeen year old me, that means vinyl, CD and tapes. I’m not going to explain to past me why those things don’t matter right now and that I’m not talking about physically holding onto jazz recordings while I am talking about collection them. The idea of a interconnected network or computers that hold digital versions of songs might be a bit much to get your head around.
See the forest for the trees. Jazz is really good. Jazz makes you happy to listen. Random jazz really surprises you in a good way when it’s good.
So yeah, after years of soul searching and pretending to answer the question when it was posed to me in a way that was supposed to help me have a ‘break through’, I’ve finally done it. While I don’t think this would have cause seventeen year old (and slightly older than him but younger than me) me figure out all of my defects and helped them (and by way of proxy me) avoid all the issues of my life, I do think there are a lot of way it would have illuminated corners of my life that I’m noticing until now.