For What It’s Worth

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I’d been staring at my phone for so long I didn’t notice the tear until it had settled at the bottom of the black. Watching a live feed of a split screen, the President spoke to the nation urging calm in the wake of another young unarmed black life gone at the hands of a policeman and the local legal authorities announcing there wasn’t enough evidence to indict, while the town, Ferguson, Missouri, was being pelted with tear gas on one split. It looked like a video from fifty years ago, during the turbulent 1960s, when the Man and the oppressed Man clashed over civil rights. I expected the next video to be The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and for me to watch it while I took up chain-smoking. Then I realized it was now, today, 2014 and at some point, I cried.

No one really talks to each other anymore, hence the phone, this blog, and the media that are sort of social, but not really. It’s a dumping ground for opinion, misguided anger, and a lot of wrong.

Missing from the night, and now the day, is care for each other. It’s called empathy by some, I prefer to call it compassion.

The guy, Darren Wilson, who pulled the trigger, on the unarmed dead teenager, Michael Brown, in the Ferguson case, never mentioned his victim by name, calling him “a demon” and “it” then later releasing a statement never even acknowledging Brown or his family. This is the way the sides have been drawn in debating what happened. Names are replaced by labels and no one even considers what the other is thinking, especially if their skin color is different.

“Do as you’re told and you won’t get hurt” and “It’s about the choices you make” are the lectures given to people hurting as their community burns and they mourn a body left in the street for hours while being referred to as “it”.

I don’t even care about the politics anymore. I just want to know where is the compassion? Do you hit send through a sociopathic hadron collider that breaks down your humanity?

I’m afraid to die. I’m convinced my wife and kids will be trolled by my Facebook friends list like a Westboro Baptist Church picnic celebrating my decaying flesh.

All lives matter. For what it’s worth, nobody’s right, when everybody’s wrong.

Superunknown, A Rant In The Key Of Grunge

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It’s a horrible, morbid, and superunknown thought that I know so many people my age think; maybe Kurt Cobain saw the future and that’s why he took the easy way out. That’s an explanation for the awful situation and unfathomable set of circumstances that make up this dark, cold, and unforgiving world we’re supposed to be running, and by we, I mean middle-aged people born between 1965 and 1980, aka, ridiculously, Generation X.

We were supposed to be better, smarter, more enlightened than our parents and grandparents. Sure, they lived through a Depression, won a World War, navigated the turbulent 1960s and survived the Watergate, energy crisis 1970s. In doing so, they turned their backs to racism, allowed Jim Crow laws, treating women as an underclass and ignoring gay people. They also gave us skyrocketing divorce rates, drug abuse, and exceptional narcissism that turned their kids and grandkids into pill popping misery-filled jerks on which they could blame everything. The problem is, we’re just as bad as they are, maybe worse, because we became like them.

Police and minorities are still in trouble with each other, women are losing rights to their bodies, and while we’re kicking all kinds of righteous civil-rights ass in getting same-sex marriage in 30 states and counting, homophobia is so out of control, it’s infected both houses of Congress and turned our social media accounts into spit-ball contests that treat friendship like those key parties some of our parents attended in 1973 while snorting their coke at discos a few years later.

Screw them, let’s talk about us. Why can’t we get our act together? For those of us who can’t make it through a day without a cocktail of meds and a trip to a CrossFit box just so we don’t go off on some buffoon in line at the big box store we vote for in every election that kills our economy and makes poor people even poorer, then the other lot is acting out against anything that isn’t white, red, white again, and blue.

We were supposed to question authority. Michael Stipe, Henry Rollins, Morrissey, Eddie Vedder and Kurt all told us we could. Yet, too many of us are watching Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh and posting right-wing blogs on Facebook with posts filled with so many lies and chockfull of so much racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic rhetoric it churns the stomachs of, well, anyone reasonable.

I sat at a table at some Bar-B-Q place in the middle of the Deep South, today, at 44-years-old, the youngest person of 8 diners, and heard 7 others rip the millennial generation or whatever we’re calling my 3 daughters’ age group, as lazy, shiftless and stupid. Have they looked in the mirror lately? Have they seen who they keep voting for? Have they read their Facebook walls? They’re the problem, too.

If I hear one more person bitch about rock and roll being dead, I’m going to make a citizen’s arrest, impound their CD collection, and expose their country music contraband. Florida-Georgia Line, the Nickelback of contemporary not really country music has the number one album this week. Have you heard them? They’re what you get when your high school friends’ media that are social accounts learn how to play guitar and crap out worthless things that are sort of not really songs.

It’s all our fault.

Are you reading this “friends?” Of course you’re not. It’s not on InforWars or Obamasucks.com or downloaded from Sean Hannity or Paul Finebaum’s radio shows.

How bad are things? I walked through my living room last night and two “stars” of the 1990s music era, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Gavin Rossdale of Bush were on a reality show for singers giving career advice. Yeah, Kurt knew. It wasn’t just the drugs and depression, it was the future.

It’s how we react to injustice and then refuse to get along with those who disagree with us that makes us so terrible. A cop maybe, possibly, kills a black man and we run to our grandparents and find out what Fox News said is wrong with America then vomit the word “liberals” like my golden retriever rejecting that week old cereal bar he found under the couch. Then you don’t care that one of your best friend’s is a black, I mean liberal guy.

Kurt, forgive us, whereever you are. We failed you. Nothing we do Smells Like Teen Spirit, it’s all just Superunknown, like that other Seattle band whose singer ended up doing a James Bond theme.

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, I’m A SMITH

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If you hang around blogging long enough you become one of “those people”, that don’t write. It’s been a while and I have plenty of excuses but lack the energy to list them. I used to make fun of people who didn’t blog every day or every other day, then I turned into one. What happened to me? Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, I lost a fight to someone bigger and tougher than me, real life.

I miss it, I promise. The prompts, like my own creation, 100 Word Song, the tight-knit community of like-minds and same publish button-pushers. Then my oldest daughter went to college, I started traveling for work, the other website I started ten months ago needed attention I couldn’t give, and my own mental illness started running my game by its rules.

Wait, those are excuses. It must have been the burrito I had for lunch that gave me the strength.

I’m struggling, with a lot of things. For now, I’m still working on the sequel of The Ballad Of Helene Troy, called Woman Of Troy. I hope to release it by the end of the year. Silas and Olive will be made into a novella, too, to be released soon.

I wrote two pieces, one serious, one humorous, about my life with mental illness, bi-polar disorder, and the things that surround it for my a new book coming out around March 2015 called SMITH – Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor.

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Since I was a teenager I wanted to be a Smith, and now I am, maybe not Johnny Marr or Morrissey but a new kind of SMITH. I’ll keep you updated on when the book comes out in the spring. Here is our the website

My focus for this space needs to return on what I love to do, fiction writing and posts about myself and the four women of whom I live. I need to say thank you to the dozen or so people who have inquired as to what the heck I’m doing with my writing life. Things are still busy at Lefty http://www.leftypop.com, please go there.

The notebooks are full, my mind is active, and characters are being developed. I just need to start hitting publish more often.

One of the changes I’ve made in my life that’s affected my writing is we cut our cable television off. Now, I’m watching my handful of favorite shows through HULU, NETFLIX, and whatever streaming services there are over my phone. This has allowed for more time to scribe.

I’m here, and I’ll be more, here, soon. Maybe, even tomorrow. I apologize for turning into one of “those people” that you view their blog and it says the last post was a date requiring an “s” to be added to the word “week”.

Since I’m a SMITH, I should play The Smiths. They just got nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Cartoon

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Last time: http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/heaven-knows/

I needed something to stop the tears after leaving my daughter at college and the rock song of her generation blaring from a nearby dorm made me feel even older, so stopped at the red light and tapped my iPhone music library. The opening lyric, “now everybody’s looking after me,
If I’m dragging by some coat tail“, in front of twangy late 1980s college rock guitar brought on a 26-year-old memory I didn’t realize was there.

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Dude, like really, could you give us a minute! She’s upset!”

I surveyed the uncomfortable situation and didn’t know what to do. With two minutes before my 10th ever freshman DJ shift at the student radio station, I was being ordered out of the studio so some guy I didn’t know could console a crying girl I did know. The room was small, dark, and suffocating with more than two people inside. I tried to please two masters, my radio gig duty and their wishes to be rid of me. I decided to cue up my first record on the turntable next to the girl so I leaned into the thin, pale sophomore named Jule. I suspected her name it was Julie or maybe Julianne and she was reinventing herself like the rest of us social rejects at college. Those were the types that inhabited the University of Alabama student radio station, WVUA, in the fall of 1988.

“Why do you keep doing this to us? Leave us alone for five f**king minutes, a**hole!”

I thought I was a melodramatic bad actor but this guy blew me off the stage. The  vinyl record was ready with needle on groove, all that had to be done was push a button and the world would hear staion approved college rock for the top of the hour of 1am.

Before I walked out, I turned to Jule and placed my hand on her shoulder. We’d hung out for a few minutes at a time during station meetings. She was from suburban Atlanta, Georgia like me, but a town about an hour away. I muttered over my shoulder as I reached the door.

“Hang in there, I hope you’re okay.”

The guy started to scream at me again.

“Get the fu…..”

Jule placed one hand over his mouth and pointed to the door with the other. When he pushed away from her and stayed in his chair, she growled, low and intentional.

“The music comes first, here. It’s his shift, you leave and don’t call me, again.”

He got up, threw the rickety black office chair back into the radio console with his butt, then glared at me. He elbowed my chest like a rebounding basketball power forward and cursed into the hallway. I looked at the clock in the studio then at Jule. She wiped her eyes, rubbed her hands on her dirty jeans, then asked.

“What are you starting your show with?”

Her lips trembled. I wanted to ask her what happened. Instead, I just answered.

“Soul Asylum, Cartoon, it’s my favorite song right now, well, you know, until tomorrow.”

She laughed and leaned back in her chair as I pushed the button.

Like my teenager, I had a different life one month into my college career. I owe her a huge thanks for instant recall.

What I Like About You

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In two weeks I turn 44-years-old and what scares me the most is I still have little to no self-esteem. You would think after more than half my life gone I’d have accumulated some cockiness about my resume. Nope.

A couple of months ago, I visited a new psychiatrist. She was a very nice Indian-American lady who exuded warmth, kindness and positivity. Either she was a fantastic actress or the perfect person for her chosen profession. She made me feel safe, welcome, and relatively okay, for a crazy person.

One of the things she told me was I was too hard on myself and didn’t give myself enough credit for the good stuff I’d done and my positive attributes. She gave me homework that of course I didn’t do, until today.

“Go home and write 5 things you like about yourself and say them aloud to the mirror.”

My first thought was, lady, you’re lovely, but I’m a writer, isn’t that enough narcissism for one person. Then I realized I was paying her for the hour, so eventually I obliged.

It was difficult. Five things about me? Really? I’m a mess. Okay, but note, I wrote out like seven, then realized that two of them were sarcastic lies so the five you’ll read are absolutely it. I don’t recommend any of you do this, because I know most of you will whine about paring your list from 37 to a top five and then I’ll have to hate you.

5) My taste and knowledge of music is pretty stellar. I can’t remember my kids’ names but I can recite Lou Reed lyrics from the Transformer album. I always forget at least two things on my wife’s grocery list but I know more about 1970s punk and glam rock and 1990s grunge and alternative music than the average dude or dudette. People ask me for playlists all the time, tag me in their Facebook posts about music stuff, and if one more person argues with me about the merits of Diamond David Lee Roth Van Halen versus Sammy Hagar Van Halen I’m going to curse them to choke on brown M&Ms. If you don’t get that reference, we can’t be friends.

4) I don’t drink coffee or play the lottery. This means I’m the perfect person to be in line with at a convenience store. You don’t have to worry about me bickering over the quality of the cappuccino mix or taking 14 extra minutes selecting scratch off tickets.

3) I’m reliable. I hated this about me until about five years ago. I’ve moved over 30 people by either owning or tracking down a truck, dollies, and boxes. I’ve bailed over 10 people out of jail. I’ve never failed to pick someone up from the airport, school, or work when they needed a ride. You ask me to be somewhere, I’m 97.3 percent of the time punctual and proud to do it, publically. Privately, I’m probably making fun of you and making snide remarks. Seriously, I’m that dude you’re supposed to call because it’s the right thing to do.

2) I can write. I’m not saying I’m Hemingway or Palahniuk or even Franzen but I think I know what I’m doing. Time and deadlines are hard to meet sometimes because of real life but I know my way around sentence structure and storytelling. My editing sucks, but I have people for that. I think I know what I’m doing as a writer compared to most.

1) I’m a good parent. I didn’t say I was a great one because that’s crazy talk. I know my 3 daughters love me, mostly behind my back, but with one in college and two others at the tops of their classes, I haven’t screwed them up or nullified the fantastic work of their mother. There’s a lot of love in our house and all 3 of my girls are smart, beautiful, and can tell a good joke.

What are your good attributes? Please, limit them to five. I’m very fragile, emotionally. You start showing off with more than that, and the next 47 posts will be dark dystopian tales of woe that will make you want to punch yourself in the face, too.

Here’s The Romantics.

http://youtu.be/Rqnw5IfbZOU

I wrote two books. They got good reviews. The third one, a sequel to the first, Woman Of Troy, is on the way, very soon.

The Ballad of Helene Troy, an underdog story about a female musician in New York City, and Soul To Body, about an ex-1990s guitar player trying to raise his teenage daughter after the death of his wife, her mother, are available, digitally, on Amazon.com for your kindles, and in paperback from Lulu.com

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Basket Case

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Walking the ten steps upstairs to pick up clothes for the laundry basket, check the cat’s food bowl, and shudder at the mess of my 3 daughters’ bedrooms is a routine that has suddenly changed because one of them is gone.

Since my 18-year-old daughter graduated high school in the spring and prepared to leave for college, there have been a lot of tears. Yet, with her moved in to the college dormitory at Georgia State University yesterday, I realized that those bouts of crying were in anticipation of a harsh reality that she’s no longer living in my house. Now, I’m just numb.

College move in day was pretty standard stuff. I bought and hooked up a mini-fridge, maneuvered around several twenty minute parking zones in downtown Atlanta, and owned my dad moment when I handed over pink pepper spray mace and lectured her on being smart and safe as a pretty, naïve, young woman on a large Metropolitan campus.

It was a long hard day without a defining moment. My wife and I were just like the other moms and dads stumbling around looking for carts to roll boxes into rooms and kicking ourselves for forgetting obvious stuff like silverware and toilet paper. We were too busy to stop, drop and roll through our emotions and pinpoint the mind-blowing instant our lives were splitting the atom and changing forever.

Until I went upstairs this morning, and saw her room, almost empty, and without her.

For the emotionally draining months to come to a mildly anti-climatic end seemed appropriate. This is real life. I have two other daughters currently filibustering for their sister’s room, to take care of and stress over growing into the same kind of young woman my oldest did.

Now, I follow my college enrolled daughter’s day through her social media accounts wondering if there’s a boy just out of screenshot or she’s eating something more than Doritos and cheese dip.

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Our relationship has been unique because I didn’t meet her until she was twelve, we were friends while I dated her mom, then became dad after we married. It’s a 37 minute drive from our driveway to her dorm. I know at some point I’ll embarrass her and show up for a lunch or a freak out night trip after she doesn’t return a phone call because she left her phone at a fraternity party.

Friends who have gone through this have told me it gets better. “You’ve done all the hard work and it’s all up to her, now”. I don’t think I buy into that, just yet. The next four or five years of her life in college will matter a lot more than the ones before it because of the choices she makes off the lessons her mom and I have tried to teach. As hard as yesterday was, It had to happen.

Now, I just hope she let’s me fine tune some of those lessons and realizes I wasn’t just some annoying basket case after all.

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Freeze Frame

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I don’t usually hitchhike on bandwagons, but this one rides smooth, gets good gas mileage, and possibly ends at an amazing destination.

A friend asked me to take part in the internet phenomenon, The Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness and money for the horrible illness Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease“.

It took the life of a family member and has stricken the lives of people I know. So, I loaded up a kitchen pot full of ice water, fetched my teenaged daughter as an assistant and gave my wife my iPhone to shoot the results.

This is connected to the writing prompt, “phenomenon”, at http://www.velvetverbosity.com.

Today’s song is from the J. Geils band. I couldn’t pull the trigger on Foreigner, Madonna, Vanilla Ice, Slayer or Metallica. This is too good of a cause.

If you would like to donate to ALS, go here: http://t.co/PFA50C9Pxa – MJsArmy.org