Category Archives: Life

Another Lone Crazed Gunman

That’s the expression one of my Facebook friends, and former high school classmate, used to describe and referred to the shooter in Las Vegas last week. I commented that we have far too many of them and that lone crazed gunman seem to be endemic to American history. We have an unnatural love affair with weapons, the more destructive and easier to use the better. This madman was not happy that his rifle was a semi-automatic. He bought a conversion kit to turn it into an automatic rifle. That’s why he could kill so many people in such a short time before taking his own life. It is apparent that this man put very little value on human life, both the lives of others as well as his own.

 

My friend Dan responded with the usual “gun control does not work because criminals will always be able to get guns.” I totally agree with that sentiment. I said, in my original comment, that we needed to make some drastic changes in the hearts and minds of humans. Apparently, Dan missed the point. So, I responded to his comment about gun control not being effective.

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Pigeonholes and Language

Yes! Yes! I know. It has been over a month since I have written anything on either of my blogs. Rest assured, I am well and doing fine. So, what was the problem? I guess you could say that the stream of creative juices slowed down to a mere trickle. I guess we all have spells like that from time to time. Unfortunately, it seems the older you get the more frequent the droughts are. I guess it’s just something I have to live with. The alternative does not excite me at all. I kind of do want to live forever.

 

I guess I’ve been a creative person, more or less, all my life. I took up acting when I was in kindergarten, but then did not do anymore until our junior class play way back when. I took one more stab at acting my senior year in high school. Doing “the Mouse That Roared” was one of the major highlights of my high school career.

 

I have also dabbled in the visual arts. I did cartooning starting in junior high school as the art editor for the junior high school newspaper. I did cartooning posters for my mother’s bakery shop back then as well. In my 20s, I took up photography rather seriously. I even did exhibits at several local art fairs. I still have a 35mm single lens reflex camera but have not used it in a very long time. My isolate just doesn’t permit me to do that anymore. I have never been much for cameras that do all the work. I do not like giving up creative control. However, I have finally given up and ordered a simple digital camera online that should be here next week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make that one work and you all will see an occasional photograph on this blog and on my Facebook page.

 

I have been writing for more years and I can remember. I have done my own newsletters, both print, email, and RSS. I have written several digital books about online marketing. I have done research papers in high school, college, and grad school on a variety of topics. I’ve also tried to take a crack at writing poetry back when I was 20. That was a disaster! I do not have the soul of the poet. My writing tends to be dry and intellectual. I guess that is because I, because of my life experiences, AM that dry, somewhat intellectual individual. I would not have it any other way. The greatest thing I have achieved in my life is that I have come to understand who I am, what I am, and am very comfortable with both. Not bad for someone who spent most of his life flitting from one interest to another like a butterfly going flower to flower…

 

So, I guess if you wanted to pigeonhole me (I hate pigeonholes), I am a nonfiction writer with a wide variety of interests: science, magic (or as some call it, witchcraft), philosophy, religion, music appreciation, literature, and movies. I also have an intense interest in politics. That is probably the prime subject for my writings these days. You would think that with all the stuff going on in the US and elsewhere, I would have no problem being inspired to write about those events. Unfortunately, what our illustrious (sarcasm) current President has been doing disgusted me to the point where just thinking about it makes me sick and very angry. I learned some years ago disgust and anger are not the best Muses for a writer.

 

I want to close this post with a somewhat lengthy comment about pigeonholes. We all assign labels to everything and anything. That is what language is all about. Words are nothing more than labels for people, places, things, actions, feelings, etc. We humans need language because we are social creatures. In 1 million years or so that humans have existed on this planet, they have always existed in social groups. A solitary human trying to survive on their own would not make it. Sooner or later, your rather meager resources that you brought with you and that you are capable of making for yourself will run out. You will either die of starvation, exposure to the elements, or the predators will get you. It is only in a community, no matter how small, that we humans could thrive. Language is what made it possible for humans to live and work together and something approximating peace and harmony.

 

However, we forget that language, and therefore labels, are fluid and subject to change. All kinds of things can lead to changes in language. I have been alive for 70 years. The language that I use in my informal conversations is sometimes like a foreign language to my younger son, Michael, who is nearly 21. His informal language is sometimes Greek to me. I think that is one of the reason for the so-called “generation gap” that is responsible for parents and children having difficulties communicating. Though before I get too far off track here, let me go back to pigeonholes.

 

Pigeonholes come about when people treat the words they use (labels) as if they were carved out of some incredibly hard stone. Pigeonholes are useful as starting points in trying to describe someone or something. We need to remember, however, that people and things are not carbon copies of each other. What I mean by that is that I am a 70-year-old man. I know several other 70-year-old man. They are as different from me as I am from the man in the moon. When pigeonholes become overused, they become rigid and people think that that is the way things should be. What I mean is you all have a conception of what a 70-year-old man is in your mind. If you are not a fundamentalist, that picture is somewhat amorphous and allows for a great deal of variety. Fundamentalists have a very clear, distinct, and rigid conception of what a 70-year-old man should be. I do not live up to other people ideas of what a 70-year-old man should be. Nor do I expect any other 70-year-old man to be exactly like me. That conception in your mind is only a reference point, not a commandment from God. So, let’s be a bit more flexible in how we understand labels, how we understand the words we use. Let’s be more flexible and you will see a much greater level of peace and harmony in the world.

 

Peace and love!

John

Oh Well

When I was in high school back in the mid-60s, my favorite rock groups were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, as well as the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. When I went off to college in 1966, my taste in music changed. I became a huge fan of Bob Dylan, the Kinks and Fleetwood Mac. Not the Fleetwood Mac that became very popular 15 years later, but rather Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac. You see, although the band is named for the drummer and bass player, it was originally a Peter Green sub-band. How Peter lost that band is a very tragic story which I will tell in just a few minutes.

 

Fleetwood Mac from 1967 to 1970 was predominantly a blues band. In fact, had Peter Green not suffered his “tragic accident”, I think Peter would be discussed in the same breath with Eric Clapton as the greatest British blues guitarist. To see what I mean, click here. The first song you will hear is “Black Magic woman.” Most people associate that song with Santana hat I mean, go to YouTube and search “Fleetwood Mac live 1970.” But it was Peter Green who wrote this song and Fleetwood Mac who originally recorded it. To this day, Fleetwood Mac’s version is still my favorite version.

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The Great Pretender

Writing this post has been very difficult. I’ve rewritten it several times, which is something I don’t normally do. Normally I’d just write it and then let Michael edit it for me. But because of the emotional investment that this post requires, I have had a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings into words that make sense to anyone other than me. After all, isn’t that the goal of any writer worth his salt? Making his words make sense to his readers.

 

As some of you may know, I am now 69 years old. That is a lot longer than I thought I’d ever lived. I probably have spent more than 50 years of my life pretending to be someone I am not. Actually, I think a lot of this do that. No matter how much we pretend, there always is a core that is the genuine you or me. Sometimes that core gets so buried that you lose track of who you really are. That’s what happened to me. I spent so many years being one different me or another, that by the time I got to a point in my life where I could actually be myself, I really wasn’t sure who that was. It took me probably almost 20 years to really figure out who I was and to get rid of all of the sides I had accumulated over the first 40 years or so of my life. It is and has been the love of my wife Elizabeth that has made it possible for me to undergo a rather torturous and lengthy reconstruction of myself.

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Witchy Woman

In my previous post I mentioned that breaking up with Alice, my high school sweetheart, was the second worst day of my life. For those of you who know about my life a bit, obviously the worst day was the day my mother was killed in an automobile accident in January 1966. I talked quite a bit about that day on other posts, so I’m not going to spend any time on it today. What I want to talk about today is the third worst day in my life – the day my marriage to my second wife, Glenna, ended on a very ugly note.

 

My relationship with Glenna was rather unusual even for the 70s. We had an “open” marriage, that is, no required monogamy on either side. I reluctantly agreed to this condition for us to get married because I was so totally “bewitched” by Glenna. She truly was the most captivating woman I had ever met up to that point. What I did not realize until it was far too late was that what Glenna wanted out of life was far different from what I wanted. She wanted material security along with her freedom to do as she pleased, while I wanted a stable traditional marriage with lots of love, both physical and otherwise. Material security did not mean much to me then and it still doesn’t. My interests and passions are more, for the lack of a better word, spiritual than those of most people. By spiritual, I do not necessarily mean religious in the traditional sense. Rather, I am looking for something more mystical, more esoteric. I am looking not only for a physical union and a psychological union, which is pretty much the definition of a good traditional marriage. I am looking, and apparently have found, a soulmate: my present wife Elizabeth.

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Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me

There is something special about your first love. No matter how the relationship ends, you carry a torch for that person for the rest of your life. That is certainly true about my first love, Alice, who I met back in the summer of 1964. I had just finished my sophomore year in high school. She had just finished her freshman year at a different high school. We met at a district convention for Teenage Republicans of Pennsylvania, which was held at Valley Forge.

 

I really don’t remember how we actually met during that can convention. All I remember is spending most of the day with her. The reason I was at that convention was because I had been elected treasurer of the local TAR chapter. The guy who had just been elected its president was a friend of mine named Jack. He was a senior. He asked me if I wanted to go with him to the convention. I said sure. I really had nothing better to do that day. It turns out Alice had been dating one of the other members of my local club who did not go to the convention. His loss, my gain. 🙂

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In Memory of Greg Allman

For those of you who were never fans of the Allman Brothers band, the title of this post is a tribute to one of my favorite songs of theirs, “In memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The Allman Brothers were an iconic band for my generation. They were still playing together, with some new personnel, a few years ago. I saw them on TV (one of the music stations on cable) front a performance in 2013 or 2014. Given the fact that a number of the members of the band where into their 60s then, I doubt they performed all that often, which is way sad.

 

The Allman Brothers were basically a blues band. Greg was the lead vocalist and keyboard player. Boy, did he have the voice for the blues: kinda low and gravelly. The band has gone through more personnel changes over the last 50 years than even the Rolling Stones. Their first two losses there were the loss of Duane Allman to a motorcycle accident just when the band was getting popular. Duane also appeared on the Derek and the Dominoes album. It is his guitar that is at the forefront on “Layla.” For someone to outperform Eric Clapton is really doing something and Duane does on that song.

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The Summer of Love 50 Years Later

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of what has become known as “The Summer of Love.” In 1967, my generation – or at least part of it – espoused that hippie philosophy of peace and love. That summer was marked by many gatherings of young people all over the country. These gatherings were called “be-ins.” The biggest one was held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Those of you who are close to my age probably remember the anthem of that summer: “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Yes, I did wear flowers in my hair that summer. No, I did not go to San Francisco until a few years later and then only for a visit.

 

However, I have my own little story of what happened that summer. I was in The Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia one day at an impromptu gathering of “flower children.” We were just sitting around the park playing music and singing, celebrating life and the summer weather. The police, however, took exception to what we were doing. We were all arrested for disorderly conduct and hauled off to jail. We all posted bond and were given a court date – all on the same day.

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Through the Doors Of Perception

The Doors of Perception is the title of a book about taking hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD. It was written by Aldous Huxley almost 100 years ago, now. Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of The Doors read this book. It inspired the name he chose for his group. Timothy Leary read this book and became a prophet of LSD. I read the book back about 1966 or 1967. It took me until fall of 1968 to screw up the courage to try LSD. That first trip is an experience I will never forget, along with a few other memorable “trips.” “Trips” are what we called the experience of taking LSD.

 

The first trip was on a nice warm day in October, I think, as I was hanging around with some friends on the streets of Old Town in Chicago – the hippie district. The reason the trip was so memorable was that was when I called my father back in Furlong, Pennsylvania, to tell him that I was in Chicago and I was not coming back. A very interesting conversation, indeed.

 

About two years later, I was working at an auto parts store on the South Side of Chicago. I had recently moved in with the woman who became my second wife. We shared a large apartment on the North Side of Chicago, a couple blocks from an elevated train station. The reason that is important to this story is that I used public transportation, a bus and the elevated, to get back and forth to work. I had been there at the auto parts store for several months and had made friends with several of the guys who work there. One afternoon, when we were outside on a smoke break, one of the guys I knew handed me a little orange barrel shaped pill. I knew exactly what it was – a very, very good form of LSD called “orange sunshine.” It was recognized as one of the purest forms of acid available on the street. My friend said I should take this as I was leaving work and I would be tripping quite nicely by the time I got home an hour later.

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Backsliding Away

Today is the last day of March in the year of our Lord 2016. That means it has been five years since I had my pulmonary edema/heart attack/kidney failure. I had one foot through the veil. Nothing like a close encounter with the Grim Reaper! It makes you appreciate all the things you have, even if think only have a little. I think my last post explains how much I really had to lose.

 

One of the results of my near-death experience was that I quit smoking altogether. Cold turkey! No messing around! Although it has been five years since I spent two weeks in the hospital, it has not been five years since I gave up smoking altogether. In the last month or so, I have gone back to smoking my pipe occasionally. That is the backsliding I am referring to in the title to this post.

 

I know I will get a fair amount of criticism for my apparent weakness of character, at least from some of the fundamentalists on the Internet. So be it! I am almost 69 years old and I am fully aware of the consequences that I face for going back to smoking. I believe the consequences of smoking my pipe occasionally will be minimal. Certainly nothing like the consequences of going back to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, which I did for about 50 years. I know my doctor will give me all kinds of crap, if he finds out, as will my cardiologist. But, it is my decision and no one else’s. I accept the consequences. That is what a real adult does. Make a decision and live with your decision and its consequences. Don’t go blaming God, Satan, the tobacco company, the Marlboro man or anyone else. If you choose to smoke, like I did to some extent still do, it is no one fault but your own.

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