Friday, October 21, 2011

We Were Free

My old man called me while I was on my way into work the other day- whenever that happens I always think that someone died or he has to tell me he's got some disease- he just doesn't call much. Well he did tell me that someone died, his best friend had a heart attack while driving and crashed into a I don't remember ever meeting this friend of my Dad's, but I respect the hell out of the way he went out...that's pretty rock star.

But the purpose of the call was to ask me if I remembered a particular weekend from my childhood when he and all of his childhood buddies took their kids out to a house on the Cape and we all ran wild like a pack of ferrell dogs for two or three days. I learned how to throw a knife that weekend, I was about 10 I think.

I learned how to open a beer bottle with literally anything short of a cotton ball that you hand to me.

I talked about running away from home with my best friend Lenny.

I fell down a mountain and read a bunch of "Little Monster" comic books.

I cooked without supervision for the first time in my life.

Yeah, Pop, I remember.

I have one picture from that weekend- it's the one above. Me in my Celtics jacket, Little Mikey is the 8 year old with the knife in his mouth like a pirate, Lenny is the one with the bow and arrow and Jason is the sweet smiling 7 year old that grew up to be a 6'5" linebacker for Pitt. I haven't seen any of the people in this picture in almost 10 years. I haven't seen Lenny in probably closer to 15.

But I remember.

My Dad recently had another birthday- he lies about his age on Facebook, but I know how old he really is- and his closest friend is gone, he's three times divorced, he's a hell of a sweet guy and I'm just like him, for good and bad- I'm charming as hell, but riddled with neuroses.

I wonder if when I'm in my 60's and I have another birthday, if I'll think about this day and want to call someone?

My Dad said that that weekend would be one of the freest times I'll ever have in my life. And he's right and I thought about that all day. It depressed the fuck out of me to be honest. Everywhere people talk about freedom and being free and thanks to my Old Man I realized that the older you get the less free you'll ever be. You're attached to your memories and your regrets and your fears and prejudices...and, honestly? That's OK. I think that it is all up to you how you choose to remember your life, mourn your losses and that if you can figure out how to be ok with it all, you might just get somewhere at the end of the day.

And maybe that's the great freedom can't figure out how to be free until you remember you already are...

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's Not My Fault...

I wish that I could effectively put into words how I feel after one of my beloved sports teams loses and let's me down. It's odd, because up until 10 years ago EVERY one of my favorite sports teams always lost and let me down. The Sox, The Pats, The C's*...they were all perennial losers that I never expected anything out of. You think I'd be used to it.. But watching the Patriots lose the game yesterday, I cannot help but think of this scene- one of my favorites.

I know it's not my fault that the Patriots lost- but somehow it feels like it is.

I was thinking about this all morning as I found myself grinding my teeth through meetings and realizing that my patience, sense of humor and capacity for rational thought have flown straight out the window. But why? Why am I so attached to giant men, that are all mostly younger than me, that get paid dizzying amounts of money to play a game? Why do I let my mood and peace of mind rest on the shoulders of these giants that have no idea I exist and could care less if they ever knew that I did?

It's simple.

As a boy, I looked up to  these people- Larry Bird in particular- because they were figures to aspire to. Something to live up to- that's a simple fact. Larry Bird was the best at what he did, everyone loved him and I wanted to be that. Loved by the masses, top of the heap, tons of cash and one hell of a 3 point's all good. I wanted it, wanted all of it.

As I grow older (old?)- I am the Alpha Male of my species (my species being the suburban businessman trying to remain cool while easing into my middle age)- I am the boss at work, The protector of my family, the bread winner of my household.

So what should I care if Tom Brady loses a game? Seriously, fuck Tom Brady, with his good looks, hot wife, jet set lifestyle and outstanding football career. That's what I want to say! But I would never say that out loud to anyone for fear that it might get back to him and I would have lost all chances of ever being best friends with the man.

It's pretty simple when I start to think about it- our lives dictate that trusting people is hard- relying on other people is dangerous. So my fellow men and I don't rely on too many people. Given the chance we provide for ourselves, make our own money, assemble our own IKEA shelves, apply our own band aids. BUT sports teams- in our minds, we can quietly allow these players to take care of us- we can rely on these players. If for nothing else, we can rely on them to entertain us for good or for bad.

Being a Boston sports fan is a little more sinister though- Boston sports run in waves of very, very good to very, very bad. It's like having an alcoholic father- they're abusive and they don't show up for the school play- but then they feel bad. They go into rehab, get their heads on straight and then come showing up with an arm load of Christmas gifts, promising that they've changed and you can count on them.

That's what yesterday's Patriots game felt like. It felt like I was duped by someone I trusted. Father, Politician, Girlfriend...they all have the ability to turn on you. But not you Tom Brady. He was supposed to be the one that didn't let the bad feelings get me. He was supposed to be the one that was always there for me. The one that I could always count on.

But he let me down. And he let me down hard. Took away one of the trusts that I have in this world.

And today I have to keep reminding myself that it's not my fault.

And then I also have to remind myself that it's really, at the base of everything, just a stupid game and that pitchers and catchers start work outs in 28 days so whatever. No big deal. I'm OK.

...but it's not my fault.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shake It Up. See What Happens.

Almost 10 years ago, I had a dream that was very vivid and very disturbing- but somehow it stuck with me and has been the idea that has embedded itself in my head more deeply than any others.

I was in a band with some buddies- I don't remember who anymore. We were getting ready to do our first gig on The Conan O'Brien show and I was wearing a dress...Bowie style, not Divine.

There was a knock on my dressing room door- it was the guys and they looked pretty sheepish.

"Why the long faces guys? We're about to play in front of a million people!"

"we're kicking you out of the band...we found a new singer and we think that we'll do better with the new guy..."

"What the fuck? Are you serious?"


"Seriously, serious? Like, really, really serious...?"

"yeah, we're really sorry- we want you to be a roadie and hang out with us and stuff."

"Fuck that and fuck you and fuck the new guy...whoever the fuck he is...! Who is he?"

"howard stern."


"howard stern. we're replacing you with howard stern."

"I don't know how to feel about this guys."

"he looks really good in a dress. he can actually sing pretty good."

"Fine! I don't care! Do whatever you want! But there's two things that I want!"

"anything man- we feel really bad."

"ONE! I want to meet Howard Stern and TWO! You have to change the name of the band. Jackalbox is mine!"

As the dream went on, the idea of Jackalbox came cleaner in my mind- I explained to Howard Stern (it turned out that the reason he even wanted to be in the band was because he liked the name Jackalbox and he thought I was brilliant and I eventually went on to work on his show and become his best friend...) that I had had a dream about being in Egypt, at a local marketplace with a guide that was working with me. A dust storm kicked up- a big one, very suddenly.

To get out of the sand my guide and I ducked into a tiny shop down an alley. The place was empty except for a very old man, with paper skin and thin hands. He welcomed us into his shop and told us that everything was for sale...everything except for The Jackalbox.

Being the ass that I am I said that all I wanted to buy was The Jackalbox- he told me that I could pay him to use it, but only one time.

My guide, acting as my translator as well, told me what the old man had said and told me we should go and told me that I should not use The Jackalbox- that it was dangerous and it could lead to my doom.

I looked at the box- it was small with ancient carving- dark cherry aged and black in places- it looked solid but ordinary- like something you might find in home decor in your local Target. I asked what it did, how it worked. The old man, smelling a sale told me that all I needed to do was take a small slip of paper, put it in the empty box, shake the box and when I pulled the paper out of the box- written on the paper- would be the one thing that I needed to do in my life to feel peace.

I examined the box- it was empty. Turned it over, shook it, poked it, rubbed it- and deemed that there was no way this could be true. Even less, there was no way that it could be dangerous. I decided that the trick was with the old man himself.

"I know how this works." I said to him

"I do too, sir." He replied. Looking very seriously with a small smile.

"There's some sleight of hand involved- I'll put the paper in and somehow you'll put another piece of paper in- something will be written on the paper in Egyptian that I won't understand and you'll give me some happy answer about being nice to my mother or something..."

"No, sir- the writing on the paper will come out in whatever language that you want it to in your mind. The Box does not tell you anything that you do not know- it just sorts through your mind and finds something that you are may be something very obvious or something that you your heart...but have hidden."

I turned to my guide and asked, "Is he speaking English, now? Are you working with him?"

"He is a demon, we should go."

"OH! Good job Mustafa!" turning to the old man I said I would give it a shot. My translator left me alone. The old man pulled out a small piece of papyrus and handed it to me.

"You hold the box in your left hand. Place the papyrus in the box and close the lid with the right hand. Then shake the box as much as you want. Only you will know when your message is ready. When you are done, take the papyrus out of the box- your future will become clearer."

I did as he told me. I shook the box hard, soft, spun it in circles and whopped a little Native American jig.

When I was done, I was a little guilty, I was making fun of the old man and regardless of whether this was all a trick, it was probably based in some sort of cultural experience passed down from generation to generation.

I reached into the box, pulled out the slip and started to hand it to the old man- still convinced that he would have to interpret the message for me.

The old man snapped his head away from my hand, "NONONO! I cannot see what is written on the paper, sir! Only you can read that- you show no one!"

This was getting good- better than that David Blayne trick when he levitates.

He looked back at me- I smiled wide.

He motioned to my hand, "What, what does the papyrus say? Do you understand it? Is the vision clear?"

I looked at the paper. I was surprised to see that there was writing on it.

I was even more surprised to see that the writing there was in English.

What it said made me not think that I was having fun anymore.

On the paper- in a delicate scrawl said the words, "Kill Arthur"

And yes, they made sense to me.

Based on that dream, I have been searching for my very own real life Jackalbox- something that I can shake up in my life that will show me the road, the path, the way- whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it's a trip to K-Mart and picking up cheap Crayola watercolors and imagining all the cool things I could paint with them- sometimes I stare too long at a piece of plywood at Home Depot and think about what an awesome headboard I can make.

Trouble is- I never do.

I. Never. Do. Any. Thing.

And now here I am- sitting in an Indian casino doing a side gig- a side gig from my corporate douchebag real gig- 37 years old, no creative achievements of any note under my JC Penney belt- I am off of anti depressants for the first time in over 3 years and I want to shake some things up. I want to learn to write again- want to put my creative stuff on display. I want to tell you about about the dumb thing I saw in the grocery store or the profound thought I had on my long drive home.

I don't know yet. But maybe I'll get there and maybe you'll be watching.

So welcome. Welcome to my Jackalbox.

Sorry about the mess.