Friday, December 29, 2006

When The New World Is Revealed...

It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog with any regularity whatsoever, or to anyone who has known me for any time at all, that I am an inveterate and thoroughly unashamed fanatic for The Boss.

However... this song, which I heard him play last spring as his encore at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival just completely knocks me over the edge. When I heard him play it last spring, he introduced the song by saying something like, "there's at least a dozen people here right now who can do this song better than me..." and then he moved into it with such a soft touch and such a sincere heart (as he had played his whole set) that I just sat down in the mud and cried.

My dear friend Mary sent this link to me the other day and when I finally got around to viewing it tonight, I had the same reaction I had at the New Orleans Fairgrounds eight months ago. I simply sat down and wept.

It's my nomination for best performance of the year in any medium and with any purpose. It's the perfect way to end this horrible year and begin a new one that I hope (and I imagine you hope) will be as good as any time gets. It does what a gospel song (and really any song) is meant to do... it calls us to be better than we are right now; it calls us to be fresh, and hopeful, and new.

Take the time (even if you have a slow connection) and listen to this amazing version of When The Saints. Think on the plight of the city I love so much and the city that I hope you too hold in your heart, but also let it wash over you and disturb you a little bit; let it call you to be a better person, in a better place, with a better heart. The sixteen (that's right... sixteen) months since Katrina have remade me in a way that I never would have expected and through a process I absolutely would never have chosen voluntarily. However, the fact is I'm a better person (maybe even a MUCH better person) than I was the day I started writing this blog, and while I wish I could wave a magic wand and prevent all of the suffering that came out of Katrina, and that continues to this day, I would not wish for myself a different path.

I DO want to be in that number... both right now and in the far off unseen future.

Oh yeah... Happy New Year Y'all!

Monday, December 25, 2006

On the First Day of Christmas...

The day started before midnight amidst several thousand people in the giant cave of Grace Cathedral and next to my daughter, standing, singing (and me crying through it all) Oh Come All Ye Faithful and smiling, weeping, swooning with what I experience of the magic of the myth and the grace of the story.

It really started much earlier in the evening when I had dinner at my daughter's new place and she, her boyfriend, his brother, and I opened presents, laughed, talked and ate an amazing vegetarian repast (concluded with bronzing our own creme brule'e). After that, Jen and I headed to the church.

The service, as always was a moment of clarity, encouragement and affirmation in the midst of an awful lot of confusion, a time to stop, to remember why we exist on the planet and to live out the hope that we might be able to do it better this circuit around the sun. Alan Jones sermon was especially poignant this year, the night was magical, musical and worshipful (and you can hear the entire two hour service here).

I got up this morning and opened a few really wonderful presents from friends and family (thank you so much!) and then sat down with a glass of champagne, and lox and bagels to watch the movie Scrooge, my favorite version of the miraculous (and always life-transforming) Dickens' story.

After that it was lunch time and for some reason (I don't know whether it's the Christmases I spent in Arizona, or the winter trip that Marsha and I made to Santa Fe where I discovered the dish, but Mexican food in general and stuffed pasilla chilis in particular, mean Christmas to me. My chef housemate Matt left me a particularly wonderful version of the stuffed pepper for which I prepared a black bean sauce with roasted red pepper salsa... Red & Green, sharp and spicy; whatever it is, it says Christmas to me.

Finally, in a couple of hours I'm off with a huge bowl of my Shockingly Decadent and Unbelievably Miraculous Egg Nog to spend an evening of eating, drinking, chatting and singing.

Beats a Partridge in a Pear Tree... but not Kwan Yin in a blue box.

Jen and I even caught a glimpse of Santa roaming through downtown San Francisco at about 1:30 in the morning. Jen made the observation that he must of lost his reindeer. Maybe that'd be why he showed up in the Bayou last night with eight alligator instead... well, at least that's the report I heard.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Longest Night

This is quite possibly my favorite night of the year.

From here on out the days get longer and the nights grow shorter. The sun returns to my side of the planet and the dark fading cave of winter... while actually just beginning, is already fading into the fecundity of spring.

People have lived this reality out for all of human history and I first became enamored with it when my astronomer father brought a CBS film featuring Astronomer Gerald Hawkins and his theories on the origin of Stonehenge to my Lake Worth Florida grade school when I was about 10 years old.

The Winter Solstice brings together all the things that make life real for me. The dynamics of the universe, the way the world plays out its reality in a system that remains mostly beyond our understanding, the fact that for all of human history we have been trying to explain our existence with songs, and stories, and big piles of stone.

Welcome to the solstice... Have a drink on me!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yentl for Chanukah

Last Saturday, for the second night of Chanukah, KQED ran Barbra Streisand's remarkable film, Yentl. Okay... so first of all, I'm a sucker for faith of just about any disposition. I'm also a sucker for brainy women; I am definitely one of those folks that believes the brain is the most important sex organ. In addition, as anyone who has spent any time reading this blog knows, I am a father who dotes on his daughter, and if there's a better father/daughter movie than Yentl, I have yet to see it. In addition, I still have memories of my DDD at the age of five or six sitting and watching Yentl over and over with me and both of us crying and laughing and loving it all (just like I did all by myself on Saturday night).

We won't even start on Mandy Patinkin or Amy Irving, okay?

Finally, I'm also a fanatic for the basic concept that you should never, never, never give up your dream, and THAT really is the point of the movie... and the point of Chanukah itself. Between the steadfast determination of the Maccabees to refuse the forces that sought to overwhelm them and the "miracle of the oil" at their triumph... Well, it's just a great great story; a story that EVERYONE should make a point to know better than most of us do, and one that I find especially worthwhile at this particular moment in my life.

So thanks (again) Barbra and thanks KQED... you made my night!

Happy Chanukah... Papa watch me fly!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Always take the drop with commitment...

Well damnit! I suppose if I'm going to ask for suggestions I damn well better be prepared for them.

Hoz's link to Shaun Tomson's new book and the discussion about it in Surfline has given me the first of the thoughts for the day... "There will always be another wave." He has provided the second as well, which I found on the Surfline site when I went to read the first. It's that second thought that I feel a real need to take with me into the day. "Always take the drop with commitment..." feels like a surfer's way of relating what E's quote from the Dalai Lama was about yesterday. A way of saying that the day is out there for you to make a life and if you're going to do it... do it. This is not a trait that I am particularly adept at. My life has tended to be characterized by actions that are hesitant, confused and timorous. I have a tendency to more often ask "what could go wrong" than "what could go right." The fact of the matter is that you may not succeed at what you attempt today (or tomorrow) in fact, much of the time you can be pretty sure that you WON'T succeed, and that's where the other thought comes in... "There will always [always!!!] be another wave.

It's a new morning... a new day... time for commitment; time to get moving.

I need to get to the beach.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Place To Begin...

Okay... So I rose out of my bed this morning, awake and painfully aware; knowing that I have no money, knowing that most of my resources have disappeared, and ultimately knowing that I really know nothing at all. In the midst of this I rose up choosing to move forward with determination, and meaning... and glee.

Before I've even made coffee, I check my email (on the ancient iMac that I borrowed from a friend) to find that my friend E has sent me a bit of electronic encouragement for the day...

"Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings."
-His Holines the XIV Dalai Lama

Stop and think about that for a minute. There is something very deep there. That fourth sentence in particular; His Holiness puts a real responsibility on the act of living in that one. "I am going to use ALL my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL BEINGS." Damn... all I was worried about was how I was going to pay the rent on my office and buy a couple of Christmas presents for my kid!

It's going to be a great day!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

18 months and counting... Could we start again please?

I began this blog just short of 18 months ago... The first post was an exciting launch into a new idea and a new plan... a way to report on a new adventure that I thought was going to be a truly new and interesting phase of my life.

Well... it's certainly been interesting, I'll give it that.

What I knew at the time, but did not expect to continue in the way it has, was that I was jetisoning much of who I had been and what I had collected over all the previous years of my life. That process has continued, unrelentingly, for a year and a half. Many of the folks I know in New Orleans lost everything they had in a matter of minutes and hours. For me the process has been more of a general fading away, a dropping off, a peeling back of layers to the point that I stand now pretty much with nothing and on the edge of a chasm that I can't see into, let alone through.

It's time to find a new road... But I seem to have lost my maps.

I expect that the journey is going to take some time, after all, it's taken 52 years to get here.

I guess I better get started, even though I don't know where I'm headed.

Any suggestions?

Would Jesus Shop At Walmart?

In my frustration with the reality of corporate America and the way Apple, a company that I thought of as the best in the bunch, has personally affected me recently, I have accidented upon a couple of pieces about a company that I've never had any illusions about... WalMart.

I've written about this on George Washington's Cousin this morning, and you can find those reflections here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It Just Works... WRONG!

I've been buying Macs since Macs were created. I'm the guy who drank the Kool Aid and passed it on to everyone else. I'm the guy who made every argument that it's possible to make about how great Apple is and how smart Steve Jobs is and what a lovely, helpful, thinking company Apple is.

I have, on many occasions, made the statement that the world would be a better place if everyone used Apples.

Well... this is the moment of truth; this is the point where I realize the dark, sad reality that not only do people who you don't know steal your car and computer, and not only do other people sell you (to the tune of $1,000) a broken machine that has only been glossed over enough to pass the visual test, but the "perfect company" with the cute commercials and the smiley faces, the company that claims "It Just Works" and promises to repair a product for a reasonable flat rate fee ($326.00 to be precise) is just as crooked, greedy, and evil as the rest of them. That the holy mountain is actually populated, not by the lovely vegetarian Buddha of cyberspace, but by a penny pinching Ebeneezer Scrooge who will suck every cent out of you that he can get ($1240.00 to be precise... a sum that I neither have, nor would pay if I did).

And yeah... I'm not only feeling anger at being cheated, and being lied to, and being given the run around by the "geniuses" (did someone at Apple perhaps spill liquid on this machine???? I know that I certainly didn't). I am also feeling the pain of the betrayed true believer who finally discovers that the Wizard is just a little man behind the curtain.

Apple used to be a GREAT company... now it's just like the rest... greedy, predictable, unhelpful, unbending and uncreative (except in inventing new ways to get people to spend more money).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Who Dat!?

This evening the New Orleans Saints destroyed the Dallas Cowboys, and they did it in Dallas. That makes me VERY happy!

I've never been a real [American]football fan. In fact, until I landed in New Orleans last summer, where The Dome holds the skyline and where the team is everyone's team (unlike the Bay Area where the choice of Raiders or Niners tends to be a class based choice), I never really had a team I seriously cared about. But the Saints captured my imagination and my heart before Katrina and AFTER Katrina... well, forget aboud it!

Now... the other side of this equation is that having grown up Southern Baptist and having attended a Baptist seminary, I was conditioned to the religion of the Dallas Cowboys... and what that means for me is that I pretty much feel like ANYONE beating the tar out of the Cowboys is a very very good thing.

Well... tonight the Saints not only STOMPED th Cowboys 42-17, they did it in the Cowboys' own house!

Who dat? Well... You KNOW who dat!

Slipping into Darkness...

It's dark and grey and alternating between dripping and pouring... Welcome to wintertime Northern California. Right now I'm thinking that pretty much all of the suggestions from the last post (surfing... acid... nature... and holding) seem like a darn good litany of coping mechanisms, and just the fact that there are people wishing well and making proposals of the sort goes a long way to making the day work a little bit better.

We are 11 days out from the solstice when we will have the shortest day and longest night and then we start the circle again. I love the smell of optimism in the morning!

Last year on New Year's Eve I spent it with misplaced musicians and cooks from New Orleans... dancing to "I'm a lonely boy... I ain't got a home." This year I'm considering attending a "Pirate Ball." What better group of homeless people to party with than PIRATES? I mean... after all... we're a year further on, and I (along with so many friends) still "ain't got a home."

Something else I ain't got right now is a computer. My "replacement" for the computer that was stolen seemed to pick up something like the same disease my brain had a week and a half ago and so after several days of spending 10 hours working with it to get an hour of work out of it, I decided to leave the damn thing in the ICU unit of the Apple store for repairs... At this point I'm about ready to start looking for work, any work, that doesn't require the use of silicone based technology.

Topping the "good news" list this week: my bill from the hospital came yesterday and clocks in a little cheaper than I expected (though it doesn't include the ambulance charge) at just over $2,000. Maybe the pirates will help me pay it!

Regardless of all the above... it's the second Sunday of Advent, one week into the church's new year, and I still choose to believe that things have GOT to start looking up soon!

Like I said... I love the smell of optimism in the morning!

Go Saints!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Onward... Through the FOG

It's been just over a week (sitting in the exact spot where I am sitting now) since I had my seizure and just under a week since I started popping Dilantin again. It took a couple of days (the half life of the drug is 22 hours) before it whacked me, but it's done the job now.

I spend most of the day in a slight haze that feels not terribly dissimilar to the hazy aura I get right before a seizure. I find my patience, something that I have been very happy about developing over the last several months, to be easily worn thin. I guess that at least some of my "progress" of late had more to do with not taking Dilantin than it did a great spiritual and psychological breakthrough. The fear of not eating, and thereby setting off another seizure is taken care of; I find myself constantly hungry and perpetually tired. I just read someone else describe this feeling as "tired but wired" and that's as good a description as I have ever seen. My brain goes ever around in circles and there is no straight line of thinking. I find myself doing the same tasks over and over again while letting other things fall by the way.

Basically... this sucks.

In the words of Huey Lewis... "I want a new drug!"