Tuesday, August 28, 2012
How You doin'? You aiight? I hope so. It's Your boi, Lin. You know that cat with all these dreams in his head and longing desires deep in the recesses of his heart and spirit that he *never* tells to anyone? Yeah, that Lin.
Well lately, I've been thinking-- pondering really-- that if we are truly to be on good terms, then perhaps I should speak to You more... tell You what's on my mind, reveal a few of my deepest desires. Actually, this is my attempt at a mini-quasi-prayer session, where I talk, and hopefully... just maybe, You'll listen…
Below are some things I would very much like to see come into my Life.
My Metaphoric Desires:
*"I want to go where the wild geese go.
I want to know what the falcon knows.
I want the sky up over my head.
I want to live until I’m dead."
My Artistic Desires:
I want to realize and manifest my most enduring masterpiece: to live a life of Meaning.
I want to write like no one else, but me.
I want to pen an opus that speaks to and for the human condition.
I want to be artful, and for Art to be my mission.
My Hedonistic Desires:
I want to live out of a suitcase, in Paris.
I want to wear a natty beret and take copious notes inside some small Parisian café.
I want to live and love and dance and sex and live and love and dance and sex.
I want to send my company home, write deep into the indigo hours, and then to sleep, the sleep of accomplishment… All. Day. Long.
My Beauty Pageant Desires:
I want peace and unity and for the world to know the meaning of Unconditional Love.
I want for there to never be hunger in any part of the planet again.
I want every man to realize this own humanity, and to appreciate that same quality in his fellow man.
I want every child on the planet to be safe and happy, and disease-free.
My Selfish Desires:
I want to go on an excavation to all the ancient places within me.
I want every song I ever loved easily accessible to me.
I want to possess every book and manuscript ever placed on my wish list.
I want at least one famous friend who thinks I’m truly “brilliant.”
I want my first book made into a movie with my illustrious dream cast emoting in it.
I want to laugh and cough in the face of every editor/editrix who ever chose to rape my words and sentiments.
I want to be comfortably rich and successful within the deepest regions of my soul.
I want to be known and respected for my gift, and yet remain virtually paparazzi-free.
I want that dream of my grandmother’s prophesy for me to become a wonderful reality.
I want to make sweet Mrs. Ferreri (my 1st grade teacher) be mad proud of me.
I want the astute Mrs. Lang (my high school English teacher) to have been right about me.
I want “The Next One” to be the Best One, and The Blessed One.
I want to buy my mom a modest colonial home in Virginia.
I want a better home, a flyer wardrobe, and finer art on my walls.
I want to throw a huge NY party for all my friends and thank them for their unceasing love.
I want a certain well-loved face to be right beside me throughout my journey.
I want my last play produced on Broadway, and a fabulously memorable opening night.
I want the homeless cat down the street to have and lead a better life.
I want the ease and ability to pay off the bills of all the people I love.
I want a grand piano, topped by a mess of photographs, each with a sepia glow.
I want to compose the perfect sentence, perfect poem, the perfect torch song.
I want to hitch a camel ride somewhere out of mind.
I want to sit with the Maharishi at the foot of the Himalayas, and ohmmmmmmm... from deep within my solar plexus.
I want Heaven to truly exist for all people I love and miss; I need to believe they are there.
I want my spirit to breathe free and my eyes to be wide-open on this journey of self-discovery.
I want to be healthy
*See, 'I wanna go where the wild geese go.
I wanna know what the falcon knows.’
I want to paint my most enduring masterpiece.
I want to write like no one else on this planet, but me.
Peace-out, Universe. Thanks for listening.
Again, this be Your boi, Lin. Aiight?
•*Partial lyrics to the song “Right On, Be Free” by The Voices of East Harlem
Monday, August 20, 2012
Last Friday as I was leaving my doctor’s office, heading toward the elevator, I overheard a woman having a very disturbing conversation on her cell. I say ‘disturbing’ because it was not your typical exchange between two friends shooting the usual shit. The voice wore this defeated pitch and aggravated tone of a woman who was dying. It was far too early in the day to get so deep, or to be so dour. Yes, when you really consider the Essential Truth of Life, we are all dying, and we begin that process as soon as we’re born. But to hear this woman tell it, she was not even sure if she’d make it for another “week.” In fact, she seemed extremely convinced that she'd be gone, finis, nevermore, and life as she knew it would be some event within the past-tense in less than seven days time.
Her exact words: “I told him it don’t even matter any more. I don’t have much time. I’ll be dead by next week.”
I tried to act casual as if I didn’t just hear her speak those words. But sensitive soul that I am (some might even say punk-ass), it truly stopped me in my tracks... and it made me pause.
This was a very serious place of business. It's an all-inclusive medical center and I was in the cardiology building. The doctors and specialists there tend to give it to you straight, no chaser, and there are times when I’m not so sure if that’s my preferred method of receiving bad or terminal information about my health. For instance, it was at this very same facility last year that I received the troubling news that people with my particular heart condition usually lived “five years after diagnosis.”
I would never be the same again after that statement. It left behind this profound effect. A sobering reality came over me. I guess you could call it a concentrated Sense of Purpose. I went into this daze and it morphed into disbelief, and anger, and then from anger into a case of sheer panic: OH-MY-GOD! Five YEARS! Just FIVE YEARS?! I can’t possibly do all I want to do, need to do, dreamed I’d do in FIVE YEARS!
I left that place deeply depressed, but with an attitude that I was not about to waste a single day on bullshit or bullshit people. I've done my best to keep that promise. I’d all these beautiful plans and suddenly I was given this impossible timeline in which to make those plans a reality, or else that fated Jeopardy BUZZER would sound (ANNNNNT!) on me, and I’d be just another one of those fools who planned and schemed and died with most of his dreams unrealized.
This is why I’d been in this Strict Determination Mode of having, needing, desperately desiring to finish editing my next novel, to release it into the world, and wanting it to be PERFECT... knowing full damn well that nothing is EVER perfect, nor will it ever be. I just feel that artists who leave behind serious, probing, illuminating works are the ones, who, generations from now, will still be remembered… long after they’ve gone on to that great Algonquin Round-table In The Sky… and beyond.
We people who create can be strange, single-minded and a totally different breed. Most folks leave children behind, and they are more than contented and satisfied that this will be their legacy, the physical evidence that they were once here on earth… and that’s wonderful. But children are human beings, first, and all human beings are assigned to these impossibly unfair and often random life spans... and what then? At least with art, there’s a chance that it will live on to feed, to nourish, entertain and inspire others for perhaps centuries to come. And so, my noble goal has been to make Fine Art in my finite time here, and to leave behind this undying entity, perhaps even this deeply immortal evidence that, yes, I once existed and I had a story to tell and some lesson to impart about Life. That’s it. That’s all.
Anyway, that’s MY goal. But this entry isn’t really supposed to be about ME and my dreams!
So, upon hearing this woman speaking of her death and its probable arrival being “next week”, which is now THIS WEEK, if her claim or her morbid declaration is to be believed… it was extremely bothersome to me. However, no matter what she thought and no matter what her doctor might have told her, Doctors AREN’T GOD… and as such, we really should NOT put too much trust or stock into their predictions.
This was a youngish black woman, maybe about 35 or 40. She didn’t appear to be particularly sickly and certainly not even close to looking as if she were in her final days of life.
As I entered the elevator and rode it to the lobby, all alone, her words haunted me slowly. I gather she had some terminal disease, and that perhaps she was just tired of dealing with that specter of impending death looming over her head.
I know and have known people like that, and I just can’t comprehend how they do it or get through it, day in and day out. Does that knowledge (of their death) become their friend, their hangout partner... or does it become their enemy?
But then my mind veered into this other darker place.
How can anyone, not confined to their deathbed, seemingly able-bodied, still appearing to be sane, clothed and in their right mind possibly be so certain of when their end will come? Hmmm… Was SHE considering the possibility of ending her own life? Had she already decided? Maybe she planned to go out on her own terms (much like director Tony Scott just did. RIP, Mr. Scott). It occurs to me that this would be the ONLY way someone could speak with such morbid certainty on when they would die.
But then again, maybe for some of us, if we’ve been around long enough to have experienced people dying who were once close to us, there’s this sixth sense knowing/feeling that can come over you, and it almost whispers: this will be the last time you’ll ever see this person alive again.
I recall the feeling in the late 80s and early 90s as I would see old friends who looked so thin and frail and sickly and sad, as if they were wearing their illness like an old overcoat that didn’t fit gracefully upon their spirits… and was then that this whispering thing would occur to me. I HATED that feeling. I hated that I was getting to be too damned accurate at FEELING it, and then having to deal with the sudden repercussions of it.
I still, to this day, pray for them.
Anyway… before the tears begin to fall and I lose all track of my thoughts, what I’m really trying to say is that this woman on the phone, speaking of her upcoming demise has been on a loop inside my mind. Maybe she was being a realist and maybe she was just completely accepting of her fate, but I don’t think it’s HEALTHY to speak that way, to say NO to life, to embrace dying or to accept one’s death in this almost casual conversational way. I think, maybe it pisses off God. It seems as if, when one does this, they are calling upon some self-fulfilling prophesy.
Everything happens in its own time, and according to The Creator’s Plan. Not any man's... no matter how learned or degreed... and we certainly can't predict our final strut and fret nor our last dance upon this stage.
Yes, when you really consider the naked Truth of Life, we are all going to die, and we begin that process as soon as we’re born.
And the rest..? Well… that’s really not for me to say.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
“Everything you can imagine is real.” – Pablo Picasso
"An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise." ~Victor Hugo
"As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might." ~ Marian Anderson
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank
"There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” ~James Baldwin
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde
"Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world… except money." ~ Johnny Cash
“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
“I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.” ~ Woody Allen
“All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.” ~Markus Zusak
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~ Mae West
"May you live every day of your life.” ~ Jonathan Swift
“Snatch JOY!” ~ L.M. Ross
Monday, August 6, 2012
“Oh my damn!” we silently think to ourselves. “What the hell happened to YOU?! Your face. It blew up, yo! It’s… like ... you just swallowed a damn pumpkin!”
It’s so good to reconnect with old friends. Nothing quite beats that feeling of having shared many of the same experiences and memories, laughed at the same jokes, feared those same fears and shared an affinity mixed with a rich and varied history we have with another person. Yet, in our mind’s eye, when we see or think of those old friends, it’s usually in the way they were, the way they appeared when we last saw them. We don’t always allow for time to do that sly thing and hideous THING it does to all of us: It ages and matures us to the point where we barely recognize each other anymore.
I took particular notice of this last week as I attended a funeral for one of the old neighborhood's elder women. She was very much beloved and we all had warm stories and vivid memories of our adventures in her presence. For instance, for decades, each 4th of July, she would plan these elaborate barbecues where everyone who was anyone within the community regularly attended. She was quite the hostess, an expert chef/griller and her food was always top-shelf delicious. Her spacious backyard became the IN spot, the holiday jump-off, and the hottest place to be.
Rest in Peace, Miss Easter.
And so, with her passing, and because she was so beloved, people came from near and far to honor her memory. It was a wonderful thing to see. Many of these people were faces from my childhood and teen years. I had not laid eyes on some of them in about 20, 25, hell, even 30 years!
After the ceremony, people were stepping to me, as people usually tend to do at such events. They seemed to know my name, to remember me vividly, and that felt strange because these were people who I didn’t know, had no recall of ever knowing, and it caught me by complete surprise. But the biggest surprise came when they REINTRODUCED themselves to me.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking: Oh snap! Oh MY Damn! That’s YOU under all that?
Yes. I know I’m wrong, but that’s me just being real, mentally. I would never say it out loud. It’s just a bit astonishing to see someone you once knew has become this whole OTHER person physically. But it’s also another naked fact of life: Unless we have a plastic surgeon on speed dial, we don’t tend to get prettier or more handsome as we grow older. We change. The body shifts and it morphs. The pounds appear. The gray hairs sprout. The wrinkles settle in…
… and we are no longer the hotness, or the serene beauty queens…
… and awesome Adonis boys of yesterday.
Sad but true.
So as I’m conversing with this person from my previous life as a young buck, I began to do a visual survey by looking for signs of the person I once knew. That’s when it HIT me: Do the people we haven't seen in years all develop chubbier faces? I mean is this to be our true fate: Fat-face-did-ness?
Unless you happen to be naturally or unnaturally angular, maybe sporting a fatter, fleshier aspect is simply the way we tend to age. We don’t obsess about it… in fact, we hardly pay this much attention. However, when we see an unflattering picture of ourselves, and we silently recoil... then ummm... that's a problem. Also, when something happens, some watershed event or some benchmark episode occurs and it brings people together, it has the feel and vibe of a high school reunion, and it’s then we are suddenly face to face, eyeball-to-eyeball with our reality.
And it is then that we are reminded of how time changes the mugs of those people we knew long ago, back when we were young and we all had thinner faces.
This may just become my new reference point to measure how long I’ve known someone. Example: Hell, we go back, waaay back to when we BOTH had skinny faces!
But having noticed that one old friend’s (once thin) head was now a BIG, cheeky ballooning dome, that was just the beginning. It seemed as if people would appear out of the proverbial woodwork to remind me of this strange and growing phenomenon. So many of my old school friends showed up and ALL of them sported these rounder, chubbier faces (yes, myself included)... even the formerly skinny people... and suddenly I was left wondering "What's up with this?"
It can be gradual… so gradual as to be one of life’s more insidious occurrences. Stuff happens to us and we don’t even notice it. We’re too damn busy living our lives to pay any attention. And then, something happens, and it suddenly opens our eyes: “Oh my damn!” we silently think to ourselves:
“What the hell happened to YOU?! Your face. It blew up, yo! It’s… like ... you just swallowed a damn pumpkin!”
And please believe I’m not only cracking on the rest of them. I fully own up to my personal bout of pumpkin-headed fat-facedid-ness!
(Top): The more angular Lin…
(Bottom): The current, more fat-facedid Lin…
There are some days I’ll accidentally catch a glimpse in the mirror to find I'm repulsed... because suddenly I possess these mad puffy-verging-on-Dizzy Gillespie-type cheeks!
This is all very odd because, most of the elderly people I know tend to have thin, sunken-in faces. So, perhaps this is all a part of that whole middle-age-spread concept… and IF we live to become older and more elderly, we can at least look forward to a frailer face, and thinner physique.
It’s reached almost epidemic in proportion as it effects the people I know personally. When did it happen that so many of us became afflicted with this dreaded disease of: Fat-Facedid-ness? It seems we are not our physical selves anymore… no… we just become these older people with BIG faces.
Don’t believe me? Go on, do your own visual survey. Trust me, it won’t always be pretty. But it will be LIFE!