Working Man Blues

Good night on the poker table the other night. I won both games of 7-card stud, which is my game. I am not a big fan of Texas hold em. Mostly because I hate everything about Texas, but also just because it’s a stupid fucking card game. But Thursday night Billy Ray called up two games of stud and I had the lucky cards. 

As usual, some good political conversation. We are a fairly balanced group. I am of course way out on the left and at least 2 guys are pretty far right. Brian is closer to me and Matthew is slightly left of center, but mostly moderate. One of the guys is pretty full of himself and cocksure. A little white privileged. But it’s his right and while we often clash, it’s not too bloody. I am not even sure that he believes everything he says as much as he just wants to try to wind me up. He knows I am a sucker for the vulnerable and the downtrodden. 

I’m not a big fan of crudity. It’s unbecoming and inelegant and even this hillbilly recognizes that. This guy is also crude, which biases my opinion on his political views.

I am a big fan of profanity however—when used judiciously and artfully. 

Busy week. Very busy. And I am tired. But booze and rest on the weekend will make everything right.

Good to get out of the house though. Throw a little stimulus into the local economy.

It’s interesting observing the political dynamics between Biden and Congress and comparing it to Obama’s relationship with Congress. Obama was ‘in charge.‘ He was clear and direct about what he wanted. Biden seems more malleable; like he just wants to be liked.  Like he will go along with whichever way the wind blows. If the moderate Dems take a strong stand, I think he will roll that way. If the more liberal faction pushes hard, he will get on board with that. Just a feeling. I don’t know the man. And not enough history yet in this administration to know for sure.

I like Obama’s confidence and strong moral compass. I admit that some were a little put off by that, but you knew where the man stood. I don’t get that feeling with Biden. I get the feeling that in spite of decades in government work, he is still trying too hard to please everyone. But of course compromises must be made to get anything through. Every senator wants their pound of flesh.

Republicans in Congress, with a few notable exceptions like McCain, actually seemed to hate Obama. Racism probably, but also perhaps jealous of his intellect and personal discipline. 

There is a large population of white racists who have burrowed down in this country and who are unfortunately allowed to vote. And those folks will never change.  Biden needs to learn from the lessons of the Obama administration and take a stand and move things forward. We need to take care of people. That should be our moral compass. Those most vulnerable among us and who need our support to relieve their struggles and help break the cycle of poverty and discrimination. 

it’s instructive to point out that every democratic senator voted for a $2T relief package when Trump was still president–even though pushing that through reflected well on Trump. But on this go-round, every single Republican senator voted against the $1.9T relief package. Preferring instead to try to obstruct and disrupt Biden’s administration. Republicans will continually do the wrong thing to try to make themselves appear relevant, even when it hurts the most vulnerable citizens in our country. It’s a shame, but unfortunately a very predictable response by a party that is so detached from reality that they are accelerating the decline of what was once a decent place to live and raise a family. But our inability to reconcile the shame of our past, and our continued attachment to racism and regressive policies is simply unacceptable to me. But of course, moving countries is not easy, especially when my super badass mom lives here.

In the mornings, I am easily and often distracted from writing by reading. I always like to read a bit before writing. For some reason it helps me get settled. Helps me subconsciously prepare for organizing words and thoughts into coherent paragraphs of detail that progress a larger story. Every word has to serve its purpose. Both in the immediate moment in the story, but the paragraphs must also somehow relate back to early events or foreshadow developments yet to be delivered.

Continuity. Flow. Cadence. Relevance. Brevity. So I read the masters. Hoping for osmosis. It helps a little I think. 

I love this quiet morning time. But always the clock is there. Telling me that work must soon begin. And the dog is looking at me, thinking it must be time for breakfast. And then I think of the emails that came in overnight that I glanced at over coffee. Some must be dealt with. 

Soon, the computer alerts that the first meeting of the day is nearly upon me. Am I prepared? And the meeting after? So, I’m pulled from reading and writing to do those things that pay the bills. I’ve too much pride to do them poorly and doing them well means trading time away. And, in an increasingly complicated economy that I don’t fully understand, I worry about the gig that comes after this one and the one after that. If they quit coming, then my ability to live a comfortable lifestyle becomes at risk. What I do for large companies is intangible and the value is not always apparent to some. Many see the value only after they are deeply stuck in a whirlpool of bad decisions. So I need to always have some hooks in the water to make sure work keeps coming. 

And as much as I appreciate Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, and agree that contentment is essentially achievable in any circumstance, I find material comforts…..well, comforting. Long, lazy, expensive dinners with good wine and scotch and a tidy and pleasant home to return to are things I’ve come to appreciate. European vacations and African bush camps on the Savannah and gifts for those I love. Not that I don’t also enjoy tacos in a dive bar. I do. And if everything I have was stripped from me today, I know that I would be fine. But still. Work is in my DNA. 

I should have had the courage to become a writer first. When I was in my 20’s, I read like a man possessed. Long long days at sea in the navy, I would sit in my pit (bunk) and read book after book. Even at that age, I would have a book with me everywhere I went. I read alone in cafes and parks during the days I was free. Nights of course were for adventures, always at one bar or another to keep an eye on things. And collect stories to write about later.

And I wrote a good bit then too. Mostly journals and letters but occasionally a short story. But I had no goals and never considered myself good enough to make a go at actually being a working writer. Had I made that decision then, and applied some discipline, my skills would be 10X what they are today. 

Alas. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. The holy trinity of regrets. But no qualms about my decisions really. My life has been and remains blessed and I have a chapter or two ahead that is yet to be set down. 

As if we needed further evidence of the erosion of rational thought and decency, I heard on NPR this morning that there has been a re-make of the 80’s classic ‘Coming To America.’ Really? Classic? That’s the word they used. Talk about cheapening the currency of a once proud word. I’m guessing Arsenio ran out of money and this was less painful than bringing back the ‘Arsenio Hall Show’.

In Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In the Dark’ he says ‘I’m just tired and bored with myself.’ That’s a sentiment I understand and sometimes feel deeply. For me, movement is life. Proof of life. I’m like a shark that has to keep moving or it will die. Tired and bored with life is reducing this experience to basic survival and I don’t really see the point. I don’t yearn for permanence here. I want to be here as long as it is fun and interesting.

I’ve read plenty about the spiritual nature and peace to be achieved by stillness. Perhaps my soul is not yet mature enough to appreciate that at scale. Certainly I enjoy my time at home and I bend towards solitude at times. When I’m home I own that shit. Music is on loud or NPR or a podcast or just carrying on a lively conversation with the dog or sitting by the fire with a whisky and a cigar or deep in a book in the reading room. In the neighborhood I might be having a cappuccino at the local coffeeshop or a tuna melt at the diner or a drink at my local chatting up the bartender. These are normal things, but they have their own sort of joy when practiced with purpose.

But I am speaking of broader movement over time. I am in Cleveland now for two years. On the micro-scale, I am content to be hanging about the house with the dog and a good book and something to write about. But over time, I need to refresh my nomadic side. I feel that yearning in my loins. I feel it building up. The need to be on the move. To explore. To be somewhere else. To get out into the world and watch and listen and learn and share my stories. 

As Steinbeck says ‘Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.’

Mom told me the other day that she tells her friends her 4th born is a gypsy. And her kindred spirit.

I’m an occasional recluse, but I know for certain that life is meant to be lived with gusto. We are a mass of contradictions. All of us. Perhaps that is what separates us most from less cognitively adroit animals–the realization that we are not predictable or to be fully comprehended. We are here to live and love and be loved and roam and experiment and debate and gaze into the fire and look up in wander at the blue sky on sunny days and the stars by night and wonder what we are compared to that infinite magnificence. 

All those little poems we see on wooden shingles hanging in kitschy stores are true. 

Years ago, one of my favorite dates of all time. We went on a long hike. This was in Idaho. After the hike, we stopped at a dive bar for a few drinks. Then, across the street for Chinese food for take away. While we were waiting, we slow-danced to an old country song playing on the jukebox. When I looked up, the 4 or 5 people working there had all come out of the kitchen and were watching us. There was no other customers there. Just us dancing and the cooks watching. It was a scene man.

I don’t judge, but I am curious why so many don’t strive for more. I know that some are born to circumstances that sentence them to a more difficult life than I’ve enjoyed. They are overwhelmed trying to survive and are constrained in many ways. And that’s sad to me. But we must do what we can do with the cards we are dealt.

But many seem to choose a life of monotony. If it works for them, and apparently it does, then who am I to say otherwise. But I just know it’s not for me. Also, completely acknowledging that one man’s monotony is another man’s shangri-la. So maybe I am the one living a boring life and they are the ones killing it.

Is it really the best expression of ourselves to be found with a bowl of popcorn on the couch with a blanket and Netflix? And I ask that as a guy who loves to occasionally watch a movie on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. So the answers I say is yes. Sometimes. We are nothing and yet we are everything. 

Finally, I am very self-aware so understand this post smacks a little of privilege. Not my intent. Just seeking to understand why some choose one path while others choose a very different path.

Threw in a Zoom screenshot of some of the crew so I remember this job 20 years from now. And the friends I’ve made along the way. And, a couple of photos of Errol and Bev at Big Sur sometime in the 60’s. Great photos. And a screenshot from our poker game. Of course I took it while I was on a runner and smoking everyone.

The amazingly cute baby is Beverly’s daughter Rachel–whom I am yet to meet. Someday this year hopefully.

The young boys are 4 of the group that Sue picks up from DRC every Saturday and takes to the Parkrun in Swakopmund. A sponsor bought the boys some cool drinks and a snack this week. This very small thing to us, is a remarkable memory and experience for these lads. Their lives are light years away from the very normal things we take for granted. They live in small wooden shacks. Most with no electricity and none with running water. They have dirt floors or perhaps they have put cardboard down. They cook outside, normally using propane if they can get it. They carry water from water stations around the township. I’ve included two photos of the DRC here to remind us of the conditions these boys live in a mere 5 miles from significant wealth. Sue and I continue our experiment to get gift baskets to as many families as we are able to support.

The young man that comes with the painter, Lukas, is still helping me walk Pops. And still climbing everything in sight. He won feature image of the week.

I caught the mural of Frieda when walking to the taco shop yesterday afternoon.

Saturday is fresh flower day for the house. Always boosts the energy a bit.

No more news of note.

Humbly submitted.

 

 

DRC, Swakopmund, Namibia

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