September 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Jury Duty. Two words none of us want to hear. Yet feeling the paternal eye of civic duty, I made my way to the County’s Superior Court Building. Through the metal detector and onto the Jury Pool. Looking around, I thought to myself, “With all these people, what’re the chances I get on a jury?” Not likely, I happily surmised. “The day is shot, but with a little bit of good fortune, I’ll be back to my own grind by 3 PM.” Not so fast. Once called into the courtroom, before I could warm the seat I’d taken, I was called up to the row of alternates. As the Judge proceeded to give us a primer on what was expected of us as potential jurors, I did the math. I was third alternate. Not in the box, but not looking good.
The attorneys excused three, and that was that. Juror number 12. It took me all of a minute to accept my fate. If this was the seat for which I’d been chosen, I was going to do my part. These people: the plaintiffs and the defendant, the attorneys, the judge, they were all counting on me and the other eleven members of the jury to do our very best in rendering a just judgement. So, I determined that I wasn’t going to fail them because I was too busy whining about inconveniences.
The case was a relatively minor one over a traffic accident. After all the evidence was presented, we went in to deliberate. The consensus was that without actually being there we really had no way of arriving at any certainty. The evidence as best we understood it seemed to point to the defendant not being negligent. After we cast our vote, I told my fellow jurors, “I’m glad this wasn’t a 25 to life case. If rendering a decision on a couple thousand dollars is this agonizing, can’t imagine what a felony case is like.”
During a lunch recess, I sat out in a courtyard adjacent to the Court building and thought to myself, “This immense institution with all it’s countless mechanisms, this multi-million dollar fixture of our society exists because people cannot get along.”
April 10th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We’re sitting in the line up this morning, “line up” is surf lingo for the area just off shore where the wave breaks. And my brother turns to me and says, “We invested in a buff juicer.” Now, there’s nothing delicate about my brother. From his overall appearance to the way he drives, he is the very antithesis of refined. Growing up, he was the brawler. The dude shovels his food and throws back his beer.
“You bought a what?”
“One of those industrial strength juicers. Hey man, it’s nice. You should get one.”
After trying to take in this picture of my bro getting all vegetable, I ask, “What that set you back?”
He tells me what he and his wife ponied up for this juicer. As I get to taking a mental inventory of all the things I’d rather buy with that kind of coin, like a Scotty Cam Putter for instance, our buddy sitting next to him, whose only slightly more refined – to give you an idea, lately some of our friends have taken to calling this guy “the Gorilla” – turns to me and says, “Hey, you should get the ____. It’s rated higher than mine or the one your bro got.”
I’m thinking, “You got a juicer too.”
And then they go on and on about all the stuff they put in their juicers.
Back on land, changing in the parking lot to get off to work, and we’re still talking juicers. It occurs to me, “This has nothing to do with refinement; nothing to do with lifestyle.” Aha! It’s middle-aged man talk. The frivolities of youth give way to the ambitions of life. The ambitions of life, released with a sigh give way to talk of kids, colonoscopies, and yeah, juicers. “Damn, you guys know how to party. Listen to us, ‘Hey, man, come over. 6 AM. You bring the oranges, and you bring the carrots, and I’ll have all the green stuff. And don’t ring the bell when you get here; do not wake up my wife.”
You better believe I’m gonna take a look at some juicers. Hell yeah!
In life think it’s important to closely carry with us the reality that none of us is here for long.
March 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Know thyself. It’s the ancient Greek aphorism. Oh, man. Only if I could. For most of us, the self is the most important thing in the universe. And most of us, dare I say, all of us have been hard at work making ourselves who we think we ought to be. We will employ every device at our disposal to achieve our creation. Our masterpiece. The whole business is toxic – rising out of the sludge of fear and dread. Even the mildest of unbalanced attention to self, even when manifested in good is in the end, unbalanced. But one of the most dangerous device is illusion: The formation of a genuine belief that you are somebody other than your true self.
I don’t think anyone lays perfectly over their self-perception without creating some distortion. But you can get a little 3D affect or you can get “Not even in the same ballpark”. I’d like to get to only a little blurring, minor deviation. To know myself. And I’m learning the only way to do that is to care less about who I think I ought to be and more about who I really am. Ironically, to become true to who I really am, I need to care most of all about others. It’s what makes it tough.
“Oh, man. You ready? You sure you wanna see this.”
“Yeah, pull back the covers. Damn the illusion. Wake me up! Even if it kills me. Better to die than use people for my absurd creation.”
October 13th, 2012 § 2 Comments
What is it about the human condition that makes us crave control with such voracity? Workaholism to obsessive/compulsive behaviors, addictions to rabid consumerism. What are we after? Some placid, comfortable numbness? Some summit – some untouchable transcendence? Me? Right now? I just want some guarantees.
That craving unchecked will take your legs out. The past few months, I’m afraid I’ve run about with my cravings unchecked. Soon enough, that appetite gets its “hands on the wheel and its foot on the pedal – stomped to the floor.” And you’re a wide eyed, white knuckled passenger in your own life. Couple weeks ago, I hit the wall. Thankfully. Hell, I’m tired. When I’m tired, I got nothing to say.
It’s ironic that we crave it so – control. What we grasp of it is at best an illusion. And yet, even as an illusion, it destroys.
August 6th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I peed next to Hugh Hefner. It was a few years ago. I walked up to the only open urinal at an LAX men’s room, and assumed the awkward lean. Whilst keeping the appropriate eye-level visual field, I caught in my periphery the diminutive figure to my right. A feeble old man slouched over some focused work. “That sure looks like Hugh Hefner,” I told myself. Double take. “That’s definitely Hugh Hefner.”
The Playboy himself. He was gray and disheveled. The brash purveyor of men’s fantasies in his clichéd silk robe, the pipe and slippers? Well, he was nowhere to be found. The dark, slicked hair was gone. Gone too was the “Can you believe how good I have it?” smirk. The old man was ashen, grim. And since he was there when I pulled up, and still there when I backed out, it appeared the plumbing had gone the way of everything else. The man who had not denied himself a thing his eyes desired, peered down at his limp spigot thinking, “What I’d give to take a good leak?”
Have you ever stood next to greatness? I have. But it wasn’t that day in that LAX men’s room peeing with Hugh.
June 6th, 2012 § 2 Comments
Spiderman the Movie is coming out. Oh, wait a minute, no, it’s The Amazing Spiderman that’s coming out. Spiderman, the Movie came out ten years ago? The Amazing one is going to be drafting off the nice box office pace set by The Avengers. The Avengers of course came on the heels of Ironman, Captain America, and Thor. Before all that, there was Batman, the two Hulks and all the X-Men. And hey, don’t forget those cinematic golden nuggets, Daredevil and Elektra brought to you by that cute couple who frequent those Fenway Park infield, box seats. Superheroes are the rage.
I have a little theory on why the Superhero so captures our imagination – especially the imagination of a boy. I wrote in my last post how the soul, the ego knows what lies beneath. It is brutally honest with what it sees. A boy looks inward and sees weakness (more than physical). The world in all its untamed glory looms over him like a giant villain. Fear. Powerlessness. Fear feels bad – powerlessness, loathsome. Just the kind of crap necessary to fertilize the sprouting fantasy: Oh, that I were able to command my universe or at least kick some ass. Into this fantasy the Superhero swoops in. Powerful. Unafraid. The mythology only strengthened by the Superhero’s vulnerability/weakness or some sort of internal struggle. Huh? What d’you think?
Yeah, I never got the Superhero thing. Wasn’t into comics. Aside from a brief fascination with Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk, Superheroes just never have had much appeal. Comics? Guys running around in tights, masks, capes? C’mon. Kinda dorkie, right? Nerds. Thinking about all this though, it dawned on me: Bruce Lee! My superhero was Bruce! Buff: Check. Super powers – flies around and kicks ass, all while “OoWahing” and cawing: Check. Style: Check. Tight jumpsuit: Yep, check that one too. Damn. Count me in – A Superhero dork.
April 19th, 2012 § 6 Comments
Lola by the Kinks. Good song. If you haven’t; give it a listen. It’s hilarious. The song is about the confusion caused by gender lines being blurred to non-existence. Supposedly, it’s based on a true story of the Kinks’ manager’s regretful encounter with a transvestite. As the story goes, the man was so hammered, he spent an entire evening with a … um, dude and didn’t realize the dude was a dude. Right. Fair warning: You let yourself get that inebriated, all bets are off. But, I must contend: Life is confusing enough; we don’t need one of the most basic things to be a trick question. Do we?
Well I’m not the world’s most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
A lasting impression of my visit to Korea will be the alarming proliferation of effeminate dudes. When I was growing up, Koreans didn’t have much. Not much international clout. Not much money. We weren’t particularly known for anything. If nothing else, what we had were some dudes: Men were men. Yes, agree, to a fault. It did demand a swing in the other direction. Good. But that’s the trouble with pendulums, right? The momentum. Swinging the other direction, that momentum carries it flying past the “happy” medium. What I saw in Korea was a gender pendulum blown off the hinge, careening out of control – way out there to where … well, where Lola lives.
Well I’m not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man
And so is Lola
It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world … lo-lo Lola
April 17th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The last place we lived before our family immigrated to the States was in a town called Noh Nyun Dong. It was a two story house on what was then the outskirts of Seoul. My parents scrimped and saved on their modest teachers’ salaries to purchase it. It sat on an unpaved street with an open sewer running through the middle. One in a row of homes hidden from the street by concrete walls. Each with its own front gate leading to an inner court, and then to the house.
It was the second of two homes in Korea I can recall. When we moved in, I remember being awed by the indoor plumbing – my first ever toilet. Oh, and when we got our first refrigerator. I remember repeatedly sticking my hand in it in disbelief, laughing, “Oohing” and “Aahing”. We heated and cooked with coal, and sat in front of a little black and white TV with programming starting in the early evening. Out front, we played for hours in the dirt, games created by poor kids with rocks and sticks. We ran around on the hill behind our house catching frogs and grasshoppers. And the concrete bridge over the sewer became the neighborhood pitch, an old flat volleyball, the soccer ball.
Boys walked around, arms draped over shoulder, even holding hands. Old men squatted in circles, talking story. And the young rose for their elders.
Are they real – my memories? Did these things really happen? Or are they pieces of my past, polished to a glow beyond reality by that narcotic optimism – the optimism of a child?
Just got back yesterday from a short trip to Korea … back from where I once belonged. The Seoul of my youth – my dirty, poor, living Seoul I discovered was hidden behind a guantlet of cold, glass high-rises; the plain, humble people replaced by walking mannequins. I had to get on foot, look down alleys to see the lingering vestiges of my Seoul. And wondered, “If this is progress, what’s all the rush?”