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The Chronic Fatigue Cycle of Life

I’ve felt horrible the last four days.

I’m lucky to have a peanut butter sandwich on days like those. Cooking a full meal is akin to climbing Mount Everest. If it weren’t for boiled eggs, oatmeal, and milk, I’d probably dry up completely.

This morning however, I woke up at 5:00 without a headache. This, in and of itself, already puts me in a more positive frame of mind. After cleaning litter boxes and filling food bowls, I sit to rest, and vape while I quaff two cups of coffee. These are the only two ‘treatments’ that I rely on to get me into ‘work’ mode. Sometimes they make a big difference. I don’t trust doctors or the FDA anymore. How can they prescribe something to treat my condition, when they claim that they don’t even know what the hell has caused it?

I look at the studio equipment that I disassembled over a year ago. I really want to put that thing back into the operational mode, but today there are more pressing matters to attend to. The house has gone to hell over the last four days and I simply have to clean up.

I start the dishwasher, and drag a load of clothes into the laundry room. As that process plays out, I run my big, yet lightweight microfibre floor duster, then draw a big pan of hot water, and add plenty of bleach.

I have a big kitchen, a big den, the laundry room, and a bathroom to mop.

I’ve been in the ‘process’ of tiling the floors for the past two years. A few years back, my son helped me take up all of the carpet, because vacuuming that nonsense was becoming close to impossible for me.

I have three portions of the kitchen in a sort of ‘grid’. I mop one grid, then rest, vape, and drink more coffee while it dries. Then move on to the next portion. I have the entire floor done within an hour. Sufficiently warmed up, I start on the den, which is also where I ‘live’. My bed and everything is in there.

The rhythmic back-and-forth motion of mopping is beginning to make my back ache and tire, but I do my best to ignore the pain.

Half-way through the den, the washer signals that the laundry is ready to go into the dryer, but it really is nice outside today, so I haul the bed linens out to hang up and dry. Sun dried bed sheets are one of the finer things in life.

Another hour later, the den and bathroom floors are finished. I rest up and look at the studio equipment again. I’ve got at least twelve sketches of new tunes recorded into my phone, and I feel pressed to get them properly recorded.

I haven’t produced a new CD in almost three years, and am beginning to think that the format is a waste of time and energy. Owing to the fact that I am a visual artist as well as a songwriter, it only follows that I feel it necessary to do all of the cover art and liner notes myself. I’d like to just quit production of CDs, however the artist in me eschews mp3 files, and feels that in order to truly release songs, they must at least be recorded to CD to count as a ‘work’. I come from an era that the purchase and ownership of a physical product was part and parcel of a ‘music collection’.

I reflect on my immortality, and hope to the heavens that I do not die, leaving a bunch of orphaned tunes on my phone.

After putting another load into the clothes washer, I sit down at my desktop to work on a generation of my on-line genealogical tree that has been giving me a problem, but this is not what I really want to do. I see enough of this on days that I can do little else. Besides, the light from the screen hurts my eyes.

I need to get back to work. After folding the dried clothes, I empty the dishwasher, and then sit down to rest and vape. Darn it. Where did the time go? It’s a quarter to eleven, I’ve drained an entire pot of coffee, and I need to cook something. Won’t everyone be surprised when they get home! Oh, boy! A hot meal.

But I’m already feeling the effects of my efforts, and I’m thinking that tacos sound extreme enough for what is left of my energy reserves, so I start cooking the meat and chopping the onions. Repetitive motion tasks seem to be the worst. Onion chopping kills my arm now. The onset of fatigue is so quick that it still leaves me incredulous, but there was a time that I was capable of butterfly curls – 50 reps of 25 pounds – without breaking a sweat. Glory days.

After eating, I’m shot. Food affects me like a Valium, and sleep becomes unavoidable. While lying in bed and checking my Twitter feed, I glance across the room at my recording equipment once more. How many times in the past few years has this scenario played out? I can only hope that tomorrow will be as productive as today was, but experience has taught me that tomorrow I’ll most likely feel as if I’ve been beaten with a rubber hose because of today’s efforts.

If I’m lucky, I’ll feel better in a few days and will be able to begin the cycle all over again, but my chance of ever getting the studio back together looks slim from this side of life.

By the way – in the event that something unexpectedly happens to me, the code to open my phone is PEnnsylvania 6 – 5000. If there are any tunes on there, I would like to think that one of my musically inclined colleagues will take it upon themselves to finish those tunes for me.

CFS Worst Case Scenario (Typical Day)

I’m going to write a bit today, not about music, but about this damned affliction that I have mysteriously been strapped with, generally referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I’ve only attempted to relate this disease in one or two other blog entries, but it seems to garner a decent bit of attention when I do, so I’m going to take a stab at it today, primarily because today is one of those days that I almost think that I’d be better off dead, although that may sound a tad harsh.

No, I’m not contemplating suicide. I don’t have the guts to do that to everyone else involved in my life that such an action would inevitably and adversely effect. The stigma surrounding CFS alone is bad enough. The inability, or unwillingness, of the scientific community to get to the root cause of the disease is enough to drive an individual into deep depression, and to withdraw from society.

No fun can be had. No breaks can be taken. Nothing is available that will alleviate the constant dull headache – the constant pressure at the top of my eyeballs and consequential sensitivity to sunlight. Nothing can take away the God-awful feeling of constant sluggishness that I feel from the moment I rise to the time that I fall asleep.

I have most recently described the feeling as one of having a constant hangover, coupled with that of coming down with influenza. I am aware that this may be impossible for those who do not suffer from the affliction to identify with this notion, or even believe that it is possible to feel this way 100 percent of the time, but I can assure the reader that this is the way that it is.

And then, I have to awake and begin the day. The difficulty of having to get through a day, accompanied with these symptoms, cannot be over emphasised. There are things that need to be done around the house, and I have to do them. The smallest tasks are sometimes nearly impossible to surmount, because the symptoms that I have just outlined are only baseline symptoms. Sometimes they are considerably worse, and other days they are marginally better. On the better days, it almost reminds me of how good I used to feel. If one is not careful, this will bring on a bout of depression, and I learned that lesson the hard way, so I must put that out of my mind, and be glad that I’m having a “good” day. It is almost laughable to refer to it as good.

One has to rest several times while washing the dishes. One has to rest after cleaning the cats litter boxes. One has to rest while sweeping and mopping the floor. One has to take breaks while cooking a meal.

Some have asked, why not use a dishwasher? Because washing dishes gives me something to do.

Others have asked why I don’t order out. Because it’s too expensive, and again, cooking gives me something to do.

One inquired, “Why don’t you lose the cats, dude?” Because the cats give purpose to my life. I talk to them, I fuss at them, I cry to them, and I tell them my troubles, and they respond by nuzzling and marking me. Sometimes that in and of itself is annoying, but I tolerate it, because if I were completely alone, I would begin to question the value of my life, and that is best not to ponder.

What it seems that many do not understand, is that as humans, we want things to do. If we begin to strip away ‘doing’ in order to ‘not do’, then our lives reach a point to where we feel useless and unnecessary.

Lacking the ability to do an honest day’s work anymore, one’s life becomes amazingly empty. I used to imagine having nothing but all the time that I required to do nothing but write and record my music. Having reached this point however, has been a mixed blessing, as recording music has become a major task. Singing is a task. I have to pause the process and rest between verses, because singing requires an incredible amount of energy. Either it always did and I didn’t notice because I had a seemingly endless store of it, or it did but it didn’t matter because I had said endless store.

These dishes – the litter boxes – the mopping and the sweeping. These tasks have taken on new meaning in my life in the past nine years, and if you can’t imagine how that must feel… you should consider yourself very fortunate indeed.

The Benefits of Being a Student

I haven’t written lately. For those who have noticed and wondered why, the reasons are varied and legion, and have little to do with anything in particular. I did not plan on it, it just occurred, so there was little I could do in the way of informing anyone of any intent on my part; I simply went with the flow.

But whatever the case, I arrived at a point at which I felt I had said just about all that needed to be said. Until today.

I’ll be turning 60 years old this Summer, and it gives me cause to reflect. I’ve been kicking around in pretty good health most of my life – that is, until the CFS thing, which I’m still battling going on nine years now – but it has recently become apparent that I may be coming upon some of the most turbulent years of my life. There is also the realisation that I may only have twenty years left, at best.

I don’t need to tell you how quickly the last twenty years have passed. If you haven’t gotten here yet, it won’t be long, and if you have – well then, I don’t need to tell you about it.

It almost feels like a version of the ‘crossroads’ theme, wherein one begins to wonder if he has done everything that he intended to do when he was younger. Or perhaps, whether or not the things that he did was the right thing to do.

Recently, my daughter inadvertently caused me to call this thought to mind and inspect the content.

Neither of my two children have elected to have children of their own, which I happen to think is the ‘ultimate responsibility’ of one’s life. At the ripe ages of 32 and 36, I’m assuming they will never know the feeling, and will thus miss out on one of the most pleasurable, and in some ways tormenting, passages of life.

In a less therapeutic sense, this gives them nothing but themselves to think about, and thus they never will be able to truly remove themselves from the centre of their universe. An unfortunate circumstance to be sure. One day I fear they may find something missing that they cannot quite put their finger on; for at the very core of our existence rises the irrepressible urge to leave something of ourselves behind, and there is no better thing to leave but a living, breathing organism that is a product of oneself.

So, I suppose one could say that the last 59 years have been a learning experience.

I’m thinking that this was, at one time, something that was understood by those younger generations, and that they viewed older people as having good information to impart, simply for the asking. This at least appears to have been true in the culture of the Far East.

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During my twenties, I became more than ‘a little’ curious about the origins of religion, and studied each one with a voracity that I can no longer muster. I studied them all, attempting to find the common thread in each. Although raised in the Deep South in America, I could not embrace without question the Middle Eastern teachings of the Jews nor that of their rebellious son and miracle worker. Blind faith was required to swallow these pills, and this was something that was not a natural part of me, and attempts to instill it through fear had failed, and only succeeded in making me more determined. The only thing that I had carried away from all of the regularly scheduled programming was the quote, “Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and the door will be opened”.

I studied Hinduism, bought the Rig Veda, and the Upanishads, but found the personification of man in deities far too dated and cryptic to my liking. I studied Islam, but quickly realised that there was nothing there of value. I burned my Koran. The author was clearly not writing as an enlightened individual, but one filled with hate for his fellow man.

When I found the Dhammapada, a Buddhist text, I began reading it expecting little in return. It took some while before I began to detect a certain ‘taste’ in these scriptures, but it was enough to keep me interested, as the translation was so incredibly clean and uncluttered. I also discovered that, at its core, Buddhism is not a religion, as many believe, but a philosophy of life. As I became more interested, I studied the different ‘branches’, and determined that Japanese Zazen seemed to me the purest form, and decided to attempt to practice the art.

Over the past thirty years, I have held to the philosophy, and, along with P. D. Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way, keep the Book of Buddha beside me on my bed, as it is one of my most beloved texts. At this point, I feel as if I have become a well versed student of the philosophy of Buddha. Enough so that I keep it to myself. I concluded that talking about Buddhism is the worst thing that one can do, so I’ll stop here.

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My oldest child, and only daughter, who lives many hundreds of miles away, visited last month. I was overjoyed, having been forced to live without her nearby for the majority of her life. My influence on her was not as I would have preferred it, but the cause for the distance between us was one of her choosing, as she freely admits. After she departed, it seemed like a dream, and I was saddened by the feeling that I no longer knew her.

As of late, I was contacted by her, and blindsided by her attempts at blaming me for all sorts of her personal suffering, the greatest transgression being that I was unavailable to her for the majority of her life. She then informed me that she had recently been studying Buddhism – Zen in particular – and implored that I ‘resume my studies’.

Ah – kids. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

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Yes indeed. Wisdom is wasted on the elderly.

 

 

The World Is Changing and Has Taken Me Hostage

Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to own a shortwave radio. Nevermind the fact that I didn’t know anything about shortwave, or what would be waiting for me there. The medium simply offered the capability of hearing things I’d never heard before, and the radios had all kinds of knobs for adjustments and tweaking. Besides that, nobody else I knew listened to shortwave broadcasts, and that gave me even more reason to pursue the endeavour.

My first exposure to these fantastic devices came to me by way of the thick annual Radio Shack catalogue which at one time came through the mail. Radio Shack seemed to have one of everything back in the days before mobile phones and computers came along. They should have never attempted to change their business model, because they had a developed a unique niche in their market, and lost their identity in the newly booming digital world.

But out of all the items that the catalogue featured, my favorite section was all of the specialised radios they offered. There were receivers specifically designed for eavesdropping on police, medical teams, fire departments, train yards, ham operators, and yes, shortwave stations.

The primary impediment for me at this time, was of course money. Multiband radios were generally big, and expensive. Back when twenty dollars could purchase what two hundred will now buy, $229. for a radio was a dream that I could only envision. I used to think to myself, ‘If I were rich, I’d buy a shortwave radio.’ The thought of boats, automobiles, and houses never entered my mind.

My initial infatuation with the shortwave waned, and as years passed I married, and started a family. But within three short years, my fate once again changed as I found myself single again and embroiled in a messy divorce. The year was 1981.

With young daughter in tow, I moved back to the town that I was raised in, got a couple of part time jobs, rented myself a small house, and concentrated on the acquisition of new audio recording equipment in order to re-immerse myself in the music industry.

One Friday evening, after getting paid, I dropped my daughter off to visit my parents for the night, and then stopped into Radio Shack to pick up a couple of microphone stands. Something in the window caught my eye and made me stop in my tracks before even entering the store: The big DX 200 shortwave that I had lusted after so many years ago was displayed there, with a hand written sign which read, Closeout Item! Last one left. 50% off!

I walked out of the store that day, not with mic stands, but instead a big box with the coveted radio inside. I stopped at the corner market and got a six-pack. This party had been a long time coming.

As the sun sank lower, I popped a beer and began to build a long wire antenna, which would be required to hear the transmissions on the radio. I didn’t bother to ask my landlord if I could install it, because I knew that it would be all but invisible. I stealthily twisted a screw hook into the eve of the house and, tying a length of paracord into a slipknot, slid it onto the hook and tossed the other end of the paracord into my window. Once back inside I assembled the insulators and bare copper wire and waited for nightfall.

Soon it was dark, and I tossed the finished antenna out the window, grabbed a ladder and sneaked to the garage apartments behind my little house. Propping the ladder softly against the building, I uncoiled the antenna, climbed the ladder, cranked another screw hook into the apartment building and, hoisting the antenna up, pulled it taut and tied it off and scurried back inside with my ladder. My covert work had gone smoothly, and undetected.

I filled a bong, and when it was cashed, I went back into the room with another beer and prepared for the moment of truth.

After attaching the antenna lead to the radio, I turned it on. The big drum dials lit the room up with a warm glow, and the static was punctuated with unfamiliar undulating howls and electrical crackling. I cranked the dial and before long, a big, strong station was booming through in English. However, the news programme was full of strange headlines and weird stories of World War II. Finally at the top of the hour, a powerful voice boomed out, “This.. is the External Service of Radio Moscow!”

I flipped out. I was listening to a Soviet broadcast!! I turned down the volume and looked around. I began to wonder if this was even legal activity, or if I would be viewed as a Communist sympathiser if anyone found out.

I reckon I stayed awake most of the night listening to Radio Beijing, Swiss Radio International, Radio Yugoslavia, and the BBC World Service, among others. I was in complete awe that I could lie on my bed and listen to a radio station on the other side of the World. The impact of how amazing this was at the time will probably be lost the younger reader. These days, we’re so used to turning on the computer and getting Tweets from all over the globe, and news broadcasts from Al Jazerra, the world seems like such a small place in comparison. During the eighties, when cable television was just coming into widespread availability, I was the only person that I knew who was able to get news from other parts of the world, without being at the mercy of the American news services ‘filtering’ what they thought I ‘needed’ to know.

Flash forward to a couple of nights ago.

I climbed into bed, plugged my Sony MDR-7506 headphones into my android, opened the University of Twente website (which is located in the Netherlands*), accessed the Wideband WebSDR, and began sliding my finger across the screen to tune into shortwave stations that were audible in that area of Europe at 2:00 GMT.

As I lay in the darkness, I stared into the screen, and wondered why this hobby no longer held the excitement for me that it once did.

* For anyone who may be interested, go to: Faculty for Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science

Voluntary Versus Involuntary Personal Slavery

I know this big, friendly fellow who had a severe heart attack a couple of nights ago. The prognosis isn’t good. A wife, three teen-aged children, and there he lies today, not yet forty years old, in a coma, somewhere in the middle of time itself.

As in all such instances, the fragility of life got me to thinking about my own achievements, or lack thereof, made in the time that I’ve been so far given. As I’ve aged and suffered setbacks, I’ve become a pretty reliable authority on how to do things.

Mostly on how not to do things, unfortunately. But one way or the other, we learn.

As far as my own choices go, I like to contrast my life against that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It keeps me humble.

According to Arnold, he was a poor kid from Austria who had developmental issues, and one side of his body was a good deal weaker than the other. As a result, his doctor prescribed weight training to address the problem. Arnold quickly adapted to the regimen and decided to take big, giant steps to become the best he could be. And he did.

He came to America, although he barely spoke English. He lived in his car for a while. He took lots of risks, but he believed in himself so strongly, he didn’t allow anything to stand in the way of him and his dreams.

His abilities and achievements are a direct reflection of his dedication to, and practice of, his craft.

This same thing can be said for each and every one of us as musicians and songwriters.

One can argue with this logic all day long (mostly in defense of one’s own lack of achievements), but at the end of the day, the fact will stand as testimony to the undeniable truth that can be found there.

Universal truths are glimpses of universal facts, tucked into timeless proverbs.

For instance, if one wishes to be a guitar player, yet practices drinking beer more than he practices guitar playing, he will become a better drinker than guitar player. The facts bear my words out. I know some devoted drinkers who play guitar only tolerably.

Several years ago, I quit drinking and applied myself to the craft of practicing guitar, within five years my guitar playing improved 1000%. Seriously. But I was encouraged early in life to play to my strengths, and one of my strengths was to make rational decisions. I decided that I wanted to play guitar more than I wanted to get a buzz.

A man who I much admire once said, ‘a man who wishes to become a Man cannot sit between two stools for very long without losing everything’. Now I, at fifty-eight years of age, understand the meaning of his words all too clearly.

I wasted time sitting between stools, and by the time I got good enough at my craft to write and record suitable compositions, the music industry had taken a hard turn. Within a decade, a once thriving business was going down like the proverbial Titanic. The model changed, largely on account of the digital revolution, and it caught a lot of musicians with their pants down around their ankles. Others perceived the coming cataclysm and diversified.

But the losing horse blames the rider.

I went through that phase for a while. It was bullshit, of course. Now I blame no one but myself.

I still have beautiful melodies arise from the ether in my noggin, and I, ever dutiful to the Muse, pick up my instrument and do my very best to transpose the sounds in my head onto tape. I do it for a different reason now. But I do it. And I do it the best way that I know how.

Unconscious, or Involuntary Personal Slavery is a terrible thing. It is the worst form of slavery, for it is the hardest form to release oneself from. It is so much easier to designate a scapegoat. Most people who cling to Involuntary Personal Slavery secretly love their chains. They’ll come up with every excuse under the sun to justify staying chained down, rather than rising up and leaving the plantation. Most of the time, fear is the prime motivator for remaining clapped in their imaginary irons. Fear of failure. Fear of nothing of real value in the free Man.

This type of slavery takes many forms; addictions to food and alcohol, religion, sex, fame, anger, notoriety. All such slavery is simple stupidity. Until one can break these chains, one will never truly be free. But most people do not really wish to be free, for slavery gives them the option to apply blame to an outside instigator or oppressor.

Let us use the analogy of slavery in America. Now, slavery hasn’t been practiced in America in over 100 years, but most modern Americans have been taught very little about the role of slavery in America, or of the War Between the States for that matter, which was more over money and states rights than slavery. Even free blacks owned slaves in America before the War, but that is never discussed because it cracks the mold; and although most modern American blacks wouldn’t recognise a cotton stalk from a corn stalk, they live as if they are still on the plantation.

And in one sense, they still are.

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African blacks regard American blacks with disdain. They think that they (much like the modern Jew) are big crybabies who have every opportunity to make something of themselves, yet who prefer to spend all of their time and energy making themselves out as victims, blaming past events for keeping them in their present set of ‘circumstances’.

Ask anyone who has spent time getting to know the blacks who inhabit the continent of Africa. African blacks are very tribal. If an American black is unable to trace his tribal ancestry, he is not considered a ‘long lost brother’. He is just another Black American. Neither is he referred to as an ‘African-American’. African blacks will tell you that they would gladly trade places with any American black in order to be able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to them. However, African blacks, in spite of all of their difficulties, such as walking miles daily simply for water, are among the happiest people in the world, always smiling, always joyful.

These native Africans have every reason to wear their daily struggles like a badge, but they choose to have a bright outlook on life, unlike American blacks, whom the Africans think are a bunch of brainless fools, shooting one another up, running drugs, and rapping about how ‘hard’ life is. African blacks feel that American blacks know nothing of real struggle.

I pretty much agree with the Africans, because the so-called ‘struggles’ of the American blacks are primarily imagined. The mindset is passed down like a disease from one generation to the other. These days it is referred to as ‘white privilege’. Meanwhile the genuinely enfranchised class becomes extremely jealous of their lawfully granted privileges: Although American blacks, who in the past thirty years have been born into a society which, through all sorts of legislation, grant them more rights than most other American citizens enjoy, the majority of them still choose to blame their own failure to act on white people, primarily because it has been made too tempting to whine about some perceived inequality.

And many whites exacerbate the image. They choose to believe that they, via inheritance, are partially to blame for the black population’s imaginary suffering. This further allows the American black population to keep themselves ‘down’, while allowing many of the white population to actually defend the mindset.

Both attitudes, incidentally, insure the continuation of the Status Quo.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but once the squeaking stops, the greasing stops. Some American black ‘leaders’ have figured this out, as ‘spokesmen’ in order to keep the wheels greased, as well as their pockets.

What a sad joke. It is unfortunate that so many people buy into the whole facade, because there is no solid foundation on which to base the belief, only a lot of justification for imagined anger.

The point I am attempting to make here, is that this is just another form of Involuntary Personal Slavery.

This form of slavery almost always takes on the form of justification and false inculpation.

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If one cannot look objectively at one’s position in life, one will never be able to make the most of one’s skills and talents. Merely mimicking another person’s way of doing things is not being true to oneself.

I discovered that until one is made aware of the fact that he is indeed a slave, he never feels the need to escape. This is a fact that I did not discover this on my own.

By quite accidental and ‘miraculous’ intervention, I found the student of a teacher of a ‘school of another kind’, who tempted me to ‘look’ at myself. It was said that if I could only realise that I was enslaved, that I might, through cunning, obtain certain metals in order to devise tools which would then enable me to design and file a skeleton key which might then unlock the shackles of imagination, but nothing was guaranteed. The prescription was not an easy pill to swallow. The idea, in and of itself however, was painfully simple. It required me to sacrifice my ‘self’ to the will of another for a period of time, to sacrifice my imaginary suffering, and suspend all of my beliefs. This can be thought of as Voluntary Personal Slavery. I found that this was much easier to discuss than to put into practice. This work necessitated a great deal of inner struggle, as one of the requirements was to mercilessly destroy all of my idols. As prescribed, it took years to reach some semblance of achievement. It also caused me to become very calloused.

What I found left was nothing more than an empty shell, a raw animal, devoid of form. There was nothing of my self to be found. All of my ideals were baseless. I was an idiot in the truest sense of the word. All of my opinions were those of others. All of my ‘beliefs’ turned out to be little more than silly Jewish fables parroted to me in my earliest days, from one hyperventilating idiot to the next.

Then I was sent to ‘school’, where I was ‘educated’. Simply put, school gives us ‘vocabulary’, teaches us how to crunch numbers, and instructs us in all of the vogue sciences of the day, but gives us very little solid knowledge.

It took me far too long to shake the shackles of my musical influences, The Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, and the ‘singer songwriter’ phase that I went through. I was none of these. I was simply trying to copy someone else, but wasn’t aware of it.

This was the slavery that my so-called ‘freedom of thought’ consisted of.

It was during this extended period of ‘wandering the wilderness of my soul’, that I experienced a ‘shifting of poles’, wherein everything seemed very superficial and inverted. But then I began to practice my instrument in a certain way, and things began to take order.

Robert Fripp’s school of Guitar Craft was extremely instructive in this regard.

Robert was also a student of the same particular ‘school of thought’ which I had discovered, and there was a ‘secret language’ of sorts which I immediately recognised as school terminology. His instruction in guitar led to further ‘enlightenment’ for his approach to practice was completely different. It was only then that I began to distinguish the Muse from otherwise distracting thoughts, and gave myself over to it.

In this realm, the music has existed from the moment of the beginning of time, and the musician is merely an instrument which makes himself available to the Muse. In this respect, the music makes the musician, rather than the opposite. The feeling is much like being taken down a wooded path blindfolded. Often, the musician is only vaguely aware of what he is doing until he is done. Music is a moving and ‘religious’ experience.

Everyone already really knows what I mean: The annual television cartoon ‘Merry Christmas Charlie Brown’ is really only good because of the music. And everyone gets that fuzzy feeling inside when Linus quotes the short biblical scripture and everyone begins the a cappella ‘oooh’s to ‘Hark, The Herald Angels Sing’ around the proud little Christmas tree. You don’t have to be religious to feel religious. The secret is the music. Not the religion.

That’s precisely why all churches make use of music. Closer to God. It’s that simple. Oh, some denominations will split hairs about the use of instruments and whatnot. That’s just a lot of nonsense. God invented music. Don’t believe me? Just go to church and tell everyone that you don’t believe that music or singing have a place in the church. They’ll look at you as if you’ve lost your mind.

But you won’t do that, will you?

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Since finding my Muse, I have developed into an instrumentalist which I would have never imagined myself, and have ‘ghost written’ many tunes which It has presented to me. Fame and fortune were not to be mine, but I would not trade my task for anything in the world.

My achievements are mine alone, and the rewards are likewise.

Due to illness, there are many activities that I have been forced to discontinue, but my guitars and my Muse will be the last things that I will surrender when I follow the others into that timeless void that John is edging ever closer toward tonight.

Spots, The Forever Cat

Spots was quietly absent Sunday evening. I looked for her, but she was not on the roof. She was not lying in the seat of the truck. She was not in any of the resting places that I could normally find her.

This mildly disturbed me, for Spots had been lame for the past week or so, her right hind leg slipping out from under her as she made her way along. Taking notice of this, I’d resolved to moving her about, first to one place and the other, that she would telegraph to me where she wanted to be, in order to keep her from having to use the leg. I figured that over time, the leg would heal, and that she would resume her normal activities. But upon finding her missing, I was filled with an unsettling emptiness.

Now I believe that Spots has left home, for what will be the last time.

It isn’t as if she hadn’t done it all before. Yes, she’d done it several times, and each time, after two or three weeks, after I’d convinced myself that I’d never see her again, she would invariably, and when it was least expected, appear, sashaying up the driveway, much to my incredulity. But did she arrive emaciated and haggard? To the contrary, she looked as if she’d been living in the lap of luxury: coat gleaming, and every whisker in place.

Of course, I’d charge out with equal portions of joy and disbelief, and embrace her in my arms. I’d make a big fuss and scold her for making me worry, while she ignored me with the detached nature that cats are generally hated for.

Spots is a yellow tabby who elected to spend a portion of her life in close proximity with me. Mostly at my prompting and tempting. Cats have no emotion. None. This seems to be the source of the distaste that many people hold for these animals.

Most folks seem to want an animal that, in contrast, is wholly dependent on them. They enjoy ‘owning’ an animal which they can exercise a certain level of control over.

Cats are among the most persecuted animals in the history of man. They’ve been tried as witches, exterminated on account of idiotic superstitions (with dire results) and accused of killing babies by, ‘stealing their breath’. The primary reason, I think, that cats are despised, is because they cannot be controlled, manipulated, nor tamed practically. We cannot ‘own’ cats. We can lock them up in our homes, we can attempt to regulate their feedings in order to feel more ‘in control’, but cats eat when, and what they want to. Cats choose to become domesticated, and only when it suits their needs.

If a cat becomes ‘homeless’ and left to his or her own devices, it will not only survive, but thrive. Cats can easily swing from domesticated to feral living. The poor dog however, having the common sense of its brother the wolf bred completely out of it over millennia, will generally starve without intervention of human compassion.

I hold a quiet, yet firm, respect for cats for the very reason that most people hate them.

I wonder how many times the same scenario plays out; we, for some reason or another, and with misgivings, take on some stray animal that doesn’t necessarily appeal to us, but out of the aforesaid compassion that many others seem to be completely devoid of, take the hapless creature home, only to fall helplessly in love with it over the period of time that we are blessed to be in company of it.

This is precisely how Spots came into my life to eventually become my favorite companion.

While working for a client during the summer of 2006, he asked if I might be kind enough to ‘eliminate’ a certain supposedly feral cat, which he had surreptitiously observed meandering around one of the dumpsters on his property.
I’d seen the cat before.

Spots Doin' Her Thang Feb

The first time was when I observed her moving stealthily through the forest behind the complex. Five minutes later, I had witnessed three dogs, hot on her trail. Ten minutes afterward, I saw the same cat negotiating her way in the opposite direction. I had to hand it to the cat. She was cool.

Engaging in discussion with those living in the vicinity, I ascertained that, although many people had taken to feeding the cat irregularly (thereby negating my client’s claim of the animal’s being feral), she seemed to belong to no one . However, this cat had it made. I thereby resolved that I would have nothing to do with the ‘disposal’ of the feline, but rather directed my son, who happens to be very good with animals in general, to try and lure the cat to him, which he did in short order.

Bringing her into where we had been performing work, and were presently breaking for lunch, the cat nonchalantly walked over to where I was sitting, and took a bite of my blueberry bagel. I decided there and then that nothing else would do but to take the poor thing back to my home, where two other cats were currently residing along with us.

I eventually settled on calling her ‘Spots’, on account of the unusual looking darker circular stripes which formed a sort of target pattern on either side of her body.

As is the custom of cats, she displayed a penchant for the outdoors, which is where she has lived out the remainder of her, eternally mysterious, life.

Spots, not particularly caring for the company of other cats, preferred instead to live a life of solitude. Wishing to avoid the others, who also went outdoors during the day, she finally settled on the following routine: Quite early in the morning, she would be waiting at the door for me to feed her, after which time she would wind her way down the long and steep drive, spending the remainder of the day in various places down the hill. In the evening around six, I’d round up the others, whistling the tune of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’. After they’d been recalled and safely indoors, Spots could be seen making her way idly up the hill where, eating her evening meal, she would stay outside on ‘guard duty’ until the next morning.

Years later, I began to refer to Spots as the ‘The Forever Cat’ because during a time that the coyotes were especially problematic for me, and losing three other cats to them, Spots continued negotiating the long, steep drive, lined with kudzu on either side, unscathed.

Spots and I spent countless nights sitting in front of the fireplace on cold nights, over the course of many a winter. We would talk about all kinds of things together, although I must admit that she did most of the listening.

She never appeared to age. Eight years on, she looked exactly the same, and I have the photos to prove it. I’d finally convinced myself that she was immortal. I’d decided that Spots was indeed the forever cat, neither being born nor dying.

Today is day three, and she still has not shown up, but you can bet that I have been looking for her, but to no avail. If poor Spots felt that the end was near, she would have nothing of being catered to any longer. And by no means would she lower herself to having someone watch her die. She was fiercely independent in life, and I can only imagine her as such in death.

There will be no grave for the one I so revere.

Spots the Forever Cat 2011 copy

I look out through the forest, continuing to call her name in my signature sharp, strident tone, but I fear that my poor forever cat has disappeared into the same setting from which I first saw her creeping so long ago.

Farewell, old girl.

When Life Calls, The Best Thing to Do, Is To Answer

 

Sometimes, in very rare instances, it becomes very quiet where I live.

Not often, mind you. Usually the din of cats, chickens, raccoons, dogs, and sirens make it impossible to imagine that anyone who writes and records music for a ‘living’ could ever get anything done.

Yet on occasion, it all dies down at the same time, as if some exceptional form of solitude falls upon all of the beings in the area, and a wonderful silence is all that remains.

This Sunday morning occurred one such case, just before sunrise.

The hush was an especially enlightening one. From the East there came the only remaining sound that I could detect, that being one of a freight train running along an old Southern Railway track which lies about four miles away.

I like trains. They make me think of people like Jimmie Rogers, Brook Benton, Red Skelton, and Roger Miller. The distant, residual rumble of the cars, coupled with the echo of the whistle reminds me of days gone by when I, stripped down to the bare essentials of surf shorts and Adidas, would take prolonged excursions down those very tracks. The exposed portions of my body would bake beneath the glaring Sun, and I would wear the resulting tan with detached pride. (This was before all of the bad press that the Sun received from those in the medical field, the government, and Doonesbury.) I would sometimes walk for miles, deftly balanced on the left rail, dismounting only long enough for any approaching engine that I might encounter.

Diesel trains require particular grades in order to haul their heavy loads with expedience and resourcefulness, so most railways generally span the path of least resistance. Here in the South, that means that they meander along through valleys, gorges, and at the ‘backsides’ of where two properties, usually pastures, conjoin. I used to walk for hours, never seeing another human being, except for where the rail would intersect a road. Motorists would always stare at me from the ‘air-conditioned comfort’ of their cars, as if I were some sort of idiot. Perhaps to them I was, but the feeling was mutual.

Sometimes these railway jaunts would last an entire day, so I always had a contingency plan: Before heading out, I would call a trustworthy, albeit less adventuresome, friend named Eddy Woods, who preferred driving to walking. I’d inform him of my plan and ask if I might call on him to come extract me from wherever I might end up. With this bit of ‘one-way insurance’, I would, at times, walk all day long. Later in the evening, I’d give him a ring from a payphone, sometimes from as far as twenty miles away, admitting to him that I was beaten for the day, and he’d come and retrieve me.

Eddy mostly thought that I was crazy as hell, but I was having the time of my life, and quite naturally enjoying life, on the road to Nowhere.

On this quiet morning, however, as I stood in all of my CFSing glory, listening to the distant sounds of the engine rolling along the rails that I have walked so many times, I closed my eyes, and once again answered the call of life.