Saturday, November 16, 2013

10 Songs For An Estrogen Afternoon (Part 1)

OK it's not really fair to be sexist about this list of songs, as I am assembling these tracks fully admitting that they have a profound effect of me, as a male, as well. Well, I do have slightly elevated Estrogen levels and I do like to lay by fires as some of you know but regardless, as far as I can tell I am 100% dude. With that out of the way and still not really clearing anything up, let's talk about what the songs on this list are all about.

There area million "love songs" out there. There's at least the same amount about loss, pain and sadness of varying kinds, but not all of them have the power to touch us on a deep and emotional level. Why is that? It's a personal thing between the listener and the song really, but it usually comes from a combination of the lyrics and/or melody, or the performance itself. The songs on this list all connect with with me for some of the reasons previously stated, and some just because I can't listen to them without getting misty eyed and I have no discernible reason. Go ahead, listen the them all and read the lyrics and try to be a tough guy. I dare ya. 

"Goodbye My Lover" - James Blunt

Relationships are great, and love is wonderful...until it ends. Then it's like a vicious beastie that lives in your heart and soul and tears you apart from the inside out. This particular song by James Blunt was one I heard years earlier but I hadn't really had an impact on me. Until I saw this particular live performance. Mr. Blunt puts it ALL out there, leaves it all on the stage, takes you inside his pain and lets you feel it first hand. The "so hollow..." repeating at the end is just pulverizing. One of the best weepy ones going.




"Rain" - Patty Griffin

I have always loved Patty Griffin, and her song "Little Gods" which is on a still unreleased album, is a track I listen to often and has such a great, haunting chorus...but THIS song, especially the live version, is just flawless and amazing. It's an absolute staple in all my mellower playlists, and it's words will resonate with anyone who hasn't been blessed with perfect relationships their entire lives. So...all of us.



"Both Sides Now" - Joni Mitchell (re-recording 2003)

I had to note the specific version of this song because honestly the original song never did anything for me at all. This re recording by Mitchell in 2003 however is simply perfect. It was featured in the great film "Love Actually" in a pivotal scene (made more powerful by playing the whole song) and the hushed beauty and smoky raggedness of Mitchells voice is beautiful and mesmerizing and a million times more textured and intriguing than in the original recording.




"Sky Blue and Black" - Jackson Browne

This song has long been a favorite of mine, for it's beautiful words, echoing "that's the way love is..." at the end and the typical great vocals and arrangement of Browne, but it took on new meaning a year or so ago when I drove across half of the country with my father. We had "The Best of Jackson Browne" playing on repeat for much of the ride, and my dad would always turn this tune up just a little. He was a romantic and a dream like me, like Browne, and like so many of us. I think of my father a million times a day, but when I hear this song it's a with a bittersweet smile and a couple days worth of road memories that were crazy, fun and sad all in one. One of the best "love songs" ever written, in my opinion.




"Gatekeeper" - Meg Hutchinson

I had written about the beautiful and inspiration acoustic song from the gifted Meg Hutchinson a few years ago, and it's still an absolute favorite of mine. The song is about a cop in San Francisco who had a unique yet untrained gift of talking potential suicide jumpers off bridges in the Bay Area by simply engaging them in conversation about everyday life and their "plans for tomorrow". A great story and a wonderful song and artist.




"Sorrow" - The National

The National recently performed this popular yet very somber and dark song as part of an art project in Europe for 6 hours straight. Over and over the same song without stopping...an Olympic-like endurance event focused on a very sad and haunting track. The first time I heard this song and Matt Beringer's lyric "I don't want to get over you" repeated in the chorus I was just chilled to the bone, almost hollow. It was so easy to connect with the tangible sadness in those words and the way he conveyed them. I recommended this track to a friend who had asked me to "help her purge some feelings of sadness about a break up" she had and wanted a song that might bring the emotions out. The text I received back shortly after was priceless: "Listened to Sorrow 10 times and have no face left. FUCK YOU". Exactly




"Codex"- Radiohead

This haunting track was recently featured in the dark movie "Prisoners" right near the end, but long before it showed up on the big screen it was giving me chills on the brilliant album King of Limbs. I generally like to read lyrics with songs I connect with deeply on a musical level or where the melody intrigues me but I have yet to do that with "Codex" because I don't know what Thom Yorke is saying and I don't care, I just know that's it makes me shiver and tingle in strange places and that's enough.




"Why Should I Cry For You?" - Sting

Sting is a great artist, but I have never been as big a fan of his solo work as I was he work with The Police. When they reunited, the show I saw them perform on that tour was one of the greatest I had EVER seen. A musical lesson in jazz/rock fusion and artistry. However, this ballad by Sting always got to me. It's not complicated songwriting or anything mind blowing but it's just a great song, and the way Sting delivers the line "Sometimes I see your face...stars seem to lose their place" is perfect. A long time favorite.




"Gravity" - Sara Bareilles

If you've ever been in a bad relationship and found it difficult to break away...or been lured back to said relationship because the ex lover is like your own personal kryptonite, then this song will resonate with you. It's dark and sad and real and just nails it.




"All I Need" - Matt Kearney

I saw Matt Kearney a few years back and he's a great artist. A regular guy that actually came out into the audience at Toads place and just walked amongst the crowd and sand some of his great songs like he was hanging with friends. His voice has often been compared to Chris Martin of Coldplay but it was pointed out to me today that he's got a little Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) as well, and I can definitely hear that. On this song I particularly love the way the end builds and how he wraps his voice around that. Great song.



(Bonus # 11!)
"Beth/Rest" - Bon Iver

One of the truly great modern bands out there, made up of the singer/guitarist and primary member Justin Vernon, Bon Iver is a band that has fans as wide ranging as rap stars to metalheads. This particular song that closes the brilliant album "Bon Iver" from a few years ago has a distinct 80's-ish ballad feel that actually created a lot of negative attention by longtime fans of the band who called it everything from "A bad Richard Marx impression" to "a shitty tune that was almost written to just appear on a Muzak playlist". I immediately love the track, with it's soft country twang and yes, subtle 80's feel. Reading the lyrics will likely just make you scratch your head but venture there if you must. Also check out "Blood Bank" from their earlier EP. An all time favorite song.




-DAA
























Saturday, November 9, 2013

5 Bands/Artists You Should Be Listening To

The excuse of there being "no good bands around" has never held any weight with me, but if all you listen to is Pop Radio then you might be inclined to believe it. If you tune into the Alternative channels, Indie Rock stations and such (www.radioparadise.com is a great place to start) you will discover a wealth of exceptional music you never knew existed. I am focusing today's list on Alternative/Indie and Rock for now, but I will post recommendations from other styles in the future. Check these bands out now to add a little depth and color to your musical palette...


CHVRCHES - "Recover"

A newer "Synthpop" band from Scotland that's making a lot of noise right now and one that I am seriously hooked on. The entire album is great and the single "The Mother We Share" is also making the rounds on Alternative Radio. This is my favorite track from their debut "The Bones of What You Believe":



Gary Clark, Jr - "Numb"

Gary Clark, Jr. is Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan all rolled into one and certainly at the top of the list of the more recent blues rock shredders. While not quite as proficient as Joe Bonamassa and without the pop sensibilities of a John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr's gritty and stripped down blues rock is raw and powerful and engaging still. He will be opening for Kings of Leon on their current tour.



Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"

Arcade Fire have been a favorite band of mine for a few years now and they have long been the Alt/Indie rock Gods, often being called the best band in the world. While this most recent CD "Reflektor" doesn't have the depth or richness of their previous, "The Suburbs", this CD has a few real high points including this first to last on the CD (followed by the hypnotic album closer Supersymetry).


The Vaccines - If You Wanna

So the "English Strokes" have been around since 2010 or so and have been gaining lots of momentum with opening spots for The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their blend of Ramones-like fury and Interpol's texture provides for a band that will please fans of all styles of Rock and Roll. The Vaccines aren't breaking any new ground, but they are reinvigorating the landscape that's already been here since the 70's.


Shearwater - You As You Were" 

When I first discovered this band from Austin, TX, after hearing this track on Radioparadise.com, I played this song and a few others off their Album "Animal Joy" incessantly. The blend of Jonathons Meiburg's dramatic vocals and the haunting alternative rock supporting it just had me hooked. Around since 2001, Shearwater are a favorite amongst the Indie Rock elite.


-DAA

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Extended "Family"




3 World Series Titles in the last 10 years.

If you had told ANY Sox fan that it would be a realistic possibility after the Aaron Boone Incident of 2003 they would have laughed in your face, then probably kicked you, then wept and then said "Well, ya know, it could happen I bet…". Red Sox Nation is an emotional bunch to say the least, taking their lead from a very emotional clubhouse. Well, there's reason to get emotional yet again in Boston as the Red Sox actually did it, winning an incredible 3rd World Series Title in these last 10 years.

As I scanned through Facebook last night I saw a few different friends post comments about their lack of interest in the World Series, Baseball, Sports in general, etc. What's great about living in this country and having Freedom of Speech is that we can say just about anything without fear of any real reprisal, other than getting hammered by others if we choose to post our opinions on a public forum like Facebook, Twitter, etc. I completely and totally respect the fact that many people aren't turned on by Baseball or the World Series but what I don't understand is why they are so bothered by those of us that are?

Baseball is a dirty game. It's played by men that often grab themselves openly on TV, chew tobacco and who knows what, spit incessantly and are often caught cursing on television. You know, like Basketball, Football, Hockey and even Golf. It also sounds a lot like many of the parties and get-togethers I go to throughout the summer season, so why is this a reason to knock the sport?
Baseball is a boring game. Sure, sometimes it is, and the time between pitches can seem like an eternity, but have you watched NHL Hockey? I enjoy that game a lot but no one's going to tell me it's wall to wall excitement. We watch sports like Hockey, Baseball, Golf or whatever we like because we're emotionally invested in the game and it brings us pleasure more than it brings the inevitable pain. Sounds a lot like something else we're close to, no?
Family.

The lure of Professional Sports, especially those involving a team, is very likely rooted in the love of family. Our families are dynamic, flawed, strange, messy, odd, emotional and a little crazy, but they're also beautiful and hysterical and passionate and perfect because they're ours. The Boston Red Sox have always been made up of big personalities, dramatic temperaments and players who seem like an Island they're so remote and hard to reach. One wonders how they all seem to get along, co-exist and function effectively, and sometimes they don't…just like our families. The Red Sox history also has its share of baggage and demons, just like so many of our own families, and therefore they're easy to relate to and empathize with. The Red Sox are what we hope to be when we're at our best, and they're what we wish that we weren't when they're at their worst. They are a reflection of ourselves and they are the dangling carrot that we reach for in times of desperation and need. They are the place we seek Salvation and they're the receiver of our anger and frustration. They are us.

Yes, it's true that many of the Red Sox and other Professional athletes make millions and millions of dollars, so most of them are far removed from the daily struggles we face as "regular folks". Since when is being wealthy a guaranteed path to joy and isolation from the pains of the world though? These players bleed like the rest of us, they get sick like the rest of us and they have internal struggles and pressure and fears like anyone else, except with bigger bank accounts. The strange thing is that I would wager a healthy amount of money that all the parents I know of would be incredibly proud of their child were they to become a professional athlete in any sport, including baseball. Wouldn't they also lobby for their child and work diligently to make sure they are paid what they are worth, based on market rates and conditions in their chosen sport? So why is it often so "disgusting" that these children of some other parent are paid millions? We can argue all day about the Veterans, the Teachers and the Firefighters and the wonderful heroes that deserve to be rich and provide services that are far more amazing, dangerous and necessary than a pro ball player, but why does their deserving more praise and/or money make professional athletes unworthy?

I have always believed that there should be value-whatever value we want to attach to it-to anything that gives us pleasure and makes our short time on Earth more enjoyable and worth living. For many of us it's watching professional Baseball and rallying behind a team and its players. This costs money, sure, in cable TV fees, game tickets, clothing and gear and so on, and much of it goes into the pockets of wealthy grown men playing a game as well as the owners and executives of the club. So what? They provide a service, an entertainment value to us, our children and the masses so why should it anger me that they make great money doing it? If I could create a venture that drove millions of people to watch, enjoy, share in and promote wouldn't I expect that over time I might make great money at it? Which one of you reading this right now is living your life to make less money and plans, were you to win Powerball, to give the majority of your money to people and entities outside your family? Exactly.

Major League Baseball, like many professional sports leagues, donates millions of dollars to Cancer research, youth groups, inner cities, education and various other charities. The players often sponsor and donate their time and money to similar causes as well, and although some are far from great role models to the kids who adore them out there, the majority are. They were children themselves who had to work very hard every day to attain the level of skill they possess. They are hard-working, dedicated individuals that are just trying to make their way in the world, make a few bucks, and make their parents proud. When has that ever been a bad thing?

It's easy to demonize the wealthy, especially those who play a game for a living, but it's we the people that have always determined the wealth and relevance of that game. Consistently the citizens of this country show we love, adore and even worship this game and its players, despite the naysayers. I have often responded to others that have put down Professional sports and it's high paid players with the same thing I say regarding politicians: "The best way to show you don't like them or their policies is to vote for the other guy". So, if you're not a fan then change the channel and watch something else. Don't go to the games; find another hobby or event to enjoy. If the player salaries bother you so much when compared with Teachers and the like, start a lobbying group to advocate for changes.

Do whatever you need to do to make yourself happy, but don't try to rob those of us that love the game(s) of ours.

The Red Sox have won the World Series. The New England Patriots are looking like they could still have some magic in them. The Bruins and Celtics are just underway so it's too early to tell but it doesn't really matter because just like our families, we're going to stick with them for the duration, through good and bad, as they conquer and as they fall. Rooting for these teams is our right as citizens of this great country and the euphoria that follows the victories make every heartbreak that accompanies the defeat worth the price of admission. It doesn't matter if the detractors don't understand and don't share the sentiment as long as they step out of the way and allow us to enjoy our passion, as I will do the same for them. Now is the time for celebration, jubilation and love for the team that I adore, the mighty Red Sox, have won it all. In my universe, (and millions of others apparently )having an extended family of emotional, flawed, crazy and overpaid athletes feels pretty good and I can't imagine my life without them.

Until next year, after a long losing streak, a few bad trades and dropping home games to the Yankees.

-DAA

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do The Work

My girlfriend and I just finished the series finale of The Sopranos, and for me it was actually the third go around with the show but she had never seen it. The series was as good as I remember it, if not better, and the best part was after the "controversial" ending it was wonderful having someone intelligent and insightful to discuss it with. Whether you think Tony was killed at the end (I do, after much discussion with Lenore and some additional reading and thought) or we were left hanging to ponder if Tony's fate was simply that he will always be looking over his shoulder or that metaphorically he's a "Dead Man Walking" because of pending legal issues and future assailants, there was a theme that I picked up throughout the show that was likely missed by the masses. Obviously a central focus to The Sopranos was the therapy Tony was receiving from Dr. Melfi, but it wasn't until the end that the notion that maybe it was doing more harm than good might be true. For me as a viewer, watching the show I came away from almost every episode thinking something along those same lines: "Does therapy have any chance if the participant isn't willing to do the work?"

Throughout The Sopranos we watch characters like Tony, Christopher, Janice and Carmella travel the road of attempted self-improvement, but except for isolated incidents or small slices of time we never really see an evolved or mentally healthy individual emerge in the end. Christopher made the most valiant attempt with "admitting he had a problem" and getting himself into AA/NA, but he consistently regressed back to his destructive ways because he was unwilling to completely change his life and abandon the enablers who made a life of sobriety possible. Tony was the biggest failure, because consistently he used therapy as a method to air his grievances and seek counsel and/or affirmation that his choices and the results that came from them were not his fault, instead of being forthright and totally honest about the details of his life in order to find and effectively treat root causes. Of course the idea that a Mob Boss with sociopathic tendencies can or ever will be totally honest about the details of their life is fairly ridiculous but Tony has a real problem in the panic attacks, and the only chance he had was to do the work...but he never does. The majority of us in our day to day lives are guilty of the very same problem.

I like to think I am a pretty decent guy. Funny, charming in a mildly creepy way, pseudo-intelligent, kind, fair and loyal. However it's not lost on me that I am also deeply flawed. Yet with each failure in my life I try to employ that tactic taught to me by my father a long time ago, straight out of AA, that says you should often take a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of yourself and that will be the conduit to change. Just like with the therapy that Tony and others seek in The Sopranos, however, that in itself can be a vehicle to lead us to change but we have to be the ones that make the hard choices and do the uncomfortable work that change requires.
Every day, all of us read and post and share inspirational quotes on Facebook. We add commentary, acknowledging that we believe in the words or share the ideology, and we espouse some of these ideas in social gatherings and family outings. Are we "liking" the message, though, and not truly employing the content it contains? I would venture a guess that most of my friends on Facebook, co-workers, family and casual acquaintances would be supporters of statements like "Be the change you want to see in the world" and "Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does", but in practice are any of us adhering to these things consistently? I know I want to but I often fail just like so many of us. I love the message but I am not doing the work. But why not? The answer is multi-faceted and involves everything from laziness to fear to hypocrisy.

Change is difficult, and it involves time, patience, strength and endurance. Someone's who a drug addict or alcoholic has to change EVERTHING in their life, and abandon friends and associates who enable and learn to adopt an entirely new way of thinking about themselves and the world, and they have to wake up every day of their lives that they seek sobriety struggling to fight back the disease and embrace the benefits of change while they attempt to suppress the fears of failure. If we're someone who tends to be aggressive and adversarial but find it's having a negative impact on our lives with friends and family and we want to attempt to change that, the path to peace can be riddled with obstacles. Traffic, annoying co-workers, long lines, phone trees, political arguments and kids that don't listen; they're all enablers to our anger. Reading an E Card that says "Cherish the little things" isn't likely to turn things around for those of us who find frustration and rage always at the ready. So what do we do?

We do the work, and stop making excuses for the enablers and pitfalls and distractions in our lives.

In Season 4 of the Sopranos, Carmella visits and older man for therapy and she essentially complains about Tony the entire time. His temper, his drinking, the philandering and the criminal activities have all caused her grief and made it difficult for her to be the happy person she wants to be, though she has always "supported" him as a wife. However, this clever therapist isn't buying any of it and explains that she's been an "accomplice" or in fact and enabler to his bad behavior all along, and of course she has, as well as used it as an excuse to allow her own mistakes to be ignored. One of the best quotes from the old man is his response to her telling him that "My Priest says I should work with him, help him become a better man," to which he replies "How's that going?". In three words he's summarized what's wrong the entire situation of their lives, that none of us can "change" another person but in fact we can fortify their bad behavior with appeasement, support and even rejection. Neither Tony, Carmela or any of us can nor will ever change if we don't do the hard work that's required as an individual to achieve the results we seek. At the very end of the Sopranos that idea is expanded on when a study is discussed that maybe therapy for certain personality types is actually harmful because it may actually serve to validate some of the patients dysfunction and serve as a sort of "cleansing" instead of force them to be honest about their lives and actually modify behavior. Therapy and self-improvement without an honest accounting of who and what we are is nothing more than going on a diet and eating the same amount of calories except in different foods; it might feel good at first but nothing will change.

Those of us that really want to improve our lives, be physically and mentally healthier and be happier more days than we are angry or depressed have all the tools at our disposal. We have friends, family, children, therapists, medication and sometimes even wine. We have opulent sunsets that paint the sky in vibrant reds and yellows and moons so vast they seem to rest on the horizon and a strangers smile so unexpected in a time we need it most. We have our lives, the gift that is the vessel that allows us to experience all things great and small and absorb the majesty of love and landscape for whatever years we're fortunate enough to travel here. Tools, however, are useless unless we take them in our hands and do the work that's required.

Tony Soprano may have died in that final scene or he may have perished later or he may have gone to Federal prison, but none of that really matters. He spent most of his life lying to himself and others about who he really was and therefore never became the man he could have been or experienced the peace that comes from the freedom of emotional honesty. As the series showed us (and why so many of us loved it so much), there was a little Tony Soprano in all of us. The dichotomy in our souls where good and evil are often juxtaposed, hand in hand even while they battle one another. The desire to be self-serving instead of self-sacrificing. To commit evil deeds while excusing it with our own moral code. Doing what is easy and not what is right. Tony, in many ways, was an everyman, in a world full of men that could serve themselves and mankind better by working harder to rise above the median and Be That Change You Want To See In The World.

It doesn't have to just be a photo with a caption on Facebook that you click "Like" on. It doesn't have to be a dream or an ideal or a hippie mantra that's left to someone else to try, it can be your life. You have all those tools. You are the architect, the builder and the inspector, and you can decide when you're ready, but the project will likely be fluid and evolving and may never end, and that's OK. Your friends and your family and even strangers will let you know with their words and gestures if they like what you've built, and of course they will. Kindness and quality of heart and soul looks and feels good, and those who share moments in your life will thank you in ways that can't always be counted...but they will be measured.

Do the work.


-DAA

Monday, September 30, 2013

WTF Gap


One of the great joys of travel is taking a long, hot shower in a nice hotel. There are no worries about letting the water run all day and the shower itself is often well appointed with stone or marble and very conducive to comfort and relaxation.  The shower at the Hotel Empire in NYC, where my girlfriend and I stayed this past weekend, was just such a shower. Lavishly appointed, aesthetically inviting and complete with multiple showerhead attachments and gadgets, the shower in our room was incredibly inviting. There was, however, one small oddity that made me very curious and resulted in a far more adventurous shower experience than originally expected: The shower only had half a door.
You’ve seen the nice showers in fine hotels I am referring too, straight out of some Italian villa with their stonework and tile, often a tiny bench seat and rainforest type showerhead above. They are beautiful and they make us hate going home to our off-white mold boxes with the curtain that always has a half inch of mildew cheese on the inside bottom. OK, maybe that’s just mine but, regardless, these showers are amazing…but they usually have doors. In most cases it’s a classy looking glass door on a hinge or possibly two panes of glass that slide alongside one another so you can get in and then close everything back up and let the steam dream begin. So what happens when the shower only has one door? One pane of glass only and a huge fucking gap with no discernible cover, lining, curtain or shield from the inevitable spray of water that will shoot through it onto the floor. What happens is just as one would expect: liquid destruction.
I would say that in most of my relationships water on the floor from the shower, whether from me not properly securing the curtain or door or simply by not drying myself well enough before I step out, has caused at least 71% of major battles fought. I am not sure what disconnect happens when I am immersed in that hot water but for whatever reason I lose the ability to understand the consequences of not securing doors and curtains or allowing my large and mildly hairy body to drain all over a dry bathroom floor. Sadly, I also fail to properly dry the floor and surrounding area post-shower so I am really my own worst enemy in this whole thing, and certainly deserve the resulting wrath from my other half when it comes. So, in the interest of trying harder with my current girlfriend and not being the normally selfish, sloppy, lazy bastard I often am, I paid careful and close attention to the shower situation at our hotel. OK, yes I know it was not our home and a little water here and there wouldn’t cause a monster battle but no one wants to come into a soaking wet bathroom so I studied this situation carefully when  I first walked into the bathroom of our hotel. Carefully, curiously and frustratingly.
The shower was missing half a door! There was no other pane of glass on the open side, there was no sneaky little curtain built into the wall or the metal brace above and there was no marvel of engineering that set the shower up in such a way that water flowing from above or any of the attachments wouldn’t spray everywhere out through the “WTF Gap” and soak the floor, walls, toilet and entire bathroom…or was there?? The first thing I tried was the dangling attachment that was hooked to the wall and sort of looked like a metal baton with a few holes in it. I couldn’t really imagine how this attachment would benefit anyone in a shower setting unless they were using it to clean the inside of their body through careful insertion (or other personal enjoyment activities that I can’t discuss in such a family oriented column as this), but I wanted to turn it on and see what happened nonetheless. Well, a half second in the little metal wet wonder wand was slashing around violently and whacked the one piece of glass that did exist in the shower and almost destroyed it, while simultaneously soaking me and the towels that were previously dry and folded on the rack above. Epic fail. Owned. Etc.
My follow up plan was to turn on the Elephant shower attachment that was attached to the ceiling, and I know, because I am very smart-ish , that in order to get water flowing to that location I may have to use a doohickey or lever of some sort to divert the flow to that area and away from the psychotic wet death stick. So, I searched around and found a little black knob and pushed it up and then turned on the water again. A few tiny drips from the above shower head, but nothing exciting. At least the attachment was no longer trying to kill everything in its path so it felt like a small victory. What I started thinking to myself was that, were I able to get the ceiling mounted showerhead flowing, maybe the other shower door wasn’t needed. Maybe the WTF Gap was there to make ease of access and exit smooth as possible and that the shower had been designed in some amazing way that my feeble mind couldn’t comprehend and that as soon as I actually got that water flowing from above and stood in the shower, incredibly the moisture would be self-contained within my little stone cavern and not spray and leak out onto the floor and walls. All I needed was to get that showerhead going…
I won’t comment on the reasons why I wasn’t able to discover the actual device that activated the showerhead and why in fact it was my girlfriend who located this and got it working but let’s just say that I wanted her to feel important and smart because that’s how I roll. Either that or I occasionally have the common sense of the average Lima Bean. In any case, the showerhead was now ready to rock so I secured the Silver Drizzle Death Wand to its post, and turned the water on. Jackpot! Water was gushing from the showerhead above and filling the shower with warm, wet goodness and sheets of relaxing steam! It was also sending 90% of its moisture right out the fucking WTF Gap, all over the bathroom floor and scorching my skin in the process. See, the beauty of the WTF Gap is that it was apparently created on the side where a moveable door may have at one time existed so on the other side where the piece of glass exists (the “half door”) it’s fixed to the wall. It doesn’t open so you’re forced to sort of lean in and turn on the water unless you want to risk the sheer horror of starting the shower while you’re already fully in it. My experience with this in the past has been slightly worse than miserable so the lean-in was my preferred method in this instance. Water was intermittently scalding me, soaking me, bouncing off me and onto every square inch of the bathroom and with the general exception of the shower drain in the floor.
I am a big, burly man and I tend to get dirty from time to time, and after spending several hours in Greenwich Village that day I NEEDED a shower. So I got in and hoped that maybe the presence of me inside there would help channel the water flow down the drain and not entirely out the WTF Gap, but my hopes were dashed as I watch instant lakes form on the pseudo-stone tile floor as I began to wash my Grundle (see “Taint” or…just don’t ask) and the water shot off me like popcorn kernels landing on the surface of the sun. This wasn’t my place, I had enough towels to dry the floor and I wasn’t about to try and make one of my legendary sexy moves on my girlfriend Lenore if I wasn’t fully scrubbed so I just finished my shower, starting out the WTF Gap the whole time like some sad child watching his carnival balloon slowly deflate as he held it. Why? Just…why?
A short time later I went to the front desk and asked the Desk Clerk about the shower situation and she explained “I know, it’s really strange huh? Well I think what happened some time ago was that someone fell and broke the glass and hurt themselves so the company just ended up removing the actual door part.” I smiled and nodded and walked away, wondering how the #%!^$ removing just that one pane of glass, the part that slides, would do anything to avoid accidents? Couldn’t someone still fall in the shower and hit the other pane of glass and end up impaling themselves or worse, step OUT of the shower and slip on the river of sudsy wetness that was all over the freaking floor and injure themselves in a variety of fun ways on a multitude of objects in the bathroom?? I needed answers!!!! But the explanation I received at the desk was likely all I would be getting, and sometimes in life you need to accept that fact that there will not always be the closure you seek in every situation. Trust me, I can do just fine in a world where destroying a bathroom with sloppiness, water and stupidity is acceptable but come on, a fancy NYC hotel? Shame on you, folks. You guys need to be the role models for the slacker, easy way out, no-more-effort-than-needed idiots like me out there. I simply can’t be expected to clean up my act if you guys can’t even put a real door on your showers. I blame you. And Obamacare. And George W. Bush and Haliburton.
Despite the shower and the WTF Gap, the Hotel Empire is actually a fantastic hotel with a great staff and in a phenomenal location and their rooms are beautiful. Would I stay there again? Absolutely (free of charge with a voucher they provide after reading this??), and I would even recommend it. To people who don’t ever sweat, smell, get dirty or that enjoy hydroplaning while brushing their teeth J

-DAA

Friday, September 27, 2013

Oxygen

"Vulnerability is the oxygen to the lungs of intimacy".

One of the most poignant quotes I have heard in a long time. For years I tried to eloquently explain the concept of "true intimacy" to myself and others and although the substance of what I was saying may have been understood and absorbed by some, those nine simple words say it perfectly.

We all have our own definitions of "Intimacy". Many of us, likely men, believe it's something in the sexual realm that likely involves nudity and possibly penetration. Others feel it's simply comfort and closeness with another person, friend, family member or lover. Of course it's all of those things, but at it's heart it's something far more profound and powerful: it's the essence of love itself. I am almost forty-four years old, and in those years I would guess that I have loved a couple dozen or so people, including family, lovers, friends, etc. Of that group of people, as far as I can recall, every one of them have told me they love me as well. However, when I dissect the relationships, especially those that have failed in the romantic realm, I start to discover that what I have come to define as love as may not be what was being shared between us at all.

In college I wrote a paper that passionately told the story of how much I loved riding motorcycles, primarily because I was an adrenaline junkie with a mild death wish, but that's irrelevant in this discussion. The last line of my paper stated that "the true meaning of life lies on the thread which binds it to death," and in some ways I still believe that even though I no longer own a motorcycle and these days getting out of bed to take a leak at 3am presents it's own set of aches and pains and near death experiences as I almost trip over things I left strewn on the floor (see: death wish). The point is, that line has essentially the same meaning as what intimacy is to love, in that in order for you to truly experience the meaning or true power of love you need to be at the absolute limits of vulnerability. In my experiences with my family it's always been pretty easy to make ourselves vulnerable and exposed as none of us have ever had much difficulty expressing how we feel, what pisses us off about the others, what our fears and insecurities are or how we feel we may need to improve ourselves. My father was one of the most self-deprecating people on Earth, at times telling me things like "I think I have failed at almost everything in my life, except that beautiful moment where I helped make you." OK, yes it sounds like a bit of a Hallmark moment, and it was, but often he would go on to say that it was "quite possibly in the back seat of a Chevelle in the middle of some fucking cornfield when your mother was stoned" so, no need to get the Kleenex just yet :)

My father and the rest of us Abares were always good about loving through and with vulnerability, but in many of my romantic relationships sadly that wasn't the case. While I have always been the poster boy for the "heart on his sleeve" type and was comfortable keeping myself well exposed in order to create the best possible environment for love to take root and grow (and not just literally exposed, though 79% of most of my relationships I was), many of my partners weren't willing to be. The question of how I found myself drawn to those types of women of the years is a question for the ages and may never have an answer, but as my dad used to say "Son, I think your picker is broken". In some cases yes, I made some horrible choices and should have known better and taken responsibility for that, but even in those instances there were elements of the relationship that were healthy and promising, though looking back now it certainly does come down to an unwillingness to be be vulnerable. A steadfast fight to not expose themselves, be caught with the cliched "walls" down, open up and volunteer their fears, insecurities and failures...because of course when the floodgates open and those emotions and admissions become part of the fabric of the relationship, then lies the potential for heartbreak, as one can't fully be harmed if they never invested fully in the first place.

We can't give anyone our love, our true and total self, if we're not willing to let them see ALL of us.

Over the years I have heard within a couple relationships that I share too much, that I hold nothing back and that I am "too honest" sometimes. That's like telling me I am "too sexy" or a fish that he's awesome at swimming, it makes not an ounce of sense. OK, yes, I understand it's possible to overshare sometimes in a public setting or with a mixed crowd, but in the confines of a relationship I honestly believe there should exist no such constraints. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable and freely expressing opinions, doubts, fears and failures is the only way to build a real foundation in love, and certainly the only recipe for love that is lasting. I think so many of us get blinded by the beacon of comfort, or hypnotized by the lure of financial freedom or worse, intoxicated by the fruits of sexual chemistry. Relationships of any kind thrive best when both individuals are giving themselves to the other free of accessories, conditions, or limitations, as some clenched and protective fist, but rather as an imperfect yet beautifully exposed set of fingers of an open hand ready to be drawn into another.

For the first time in my life, in a romantic relationship, I feel like not only am I vulnerable and open and willing to experience true intimacy, but the woman I am with is as well. There are no boundaries, no secrets and no limitations on what's shared, discussed or experienced and the very idea that there could be seems ludicrous to each of us. I am a flawed man, that much has never been in question, but for the first time in my life I feel like someone not only accepts that but that they appreciate my honestly about it. I don't exist in some delusional reality where I pretend to be without scars on my soul and blemishes in my character, and I know that my journey to self improvement will never be complete. Life is an endless lesson and our experiences influence how and what we learn, but it's our choices that end up defining us. The choice I made a long time ago to be open and honest about even the ugliest parts of me and deepest of fears was a good one, a very good one, and the choice to be in the relationship I am now was a great one.With a continued pledge to be forthright, honest, vulnerable and therefore totally intimate with her, with a little luck I will have a relationship for the ages to talk about someday with some young couple on a park bench somewhere. Hopefully they will share even half of what I have with my girl.

It's scary as hell to risk being vulnerable with anyone, let alone a lover that might end up trashing you to the masses on Facebook or YouTube or to co-workers, etc., but it's the only way to feel love and intimacy in it's most pure form and to it's most extreme level. Vulnerability is the oxygen to the lungs of intimacy. Taking that deep breath that's so terrifying as you feel yourself start to fall. The true meaning of life lies on the thread which binds it to death. Nothing makes us feel more alive than the sheer panic that comes from being in love. In the end though, if you do it right and hold nothing back, the joy and the rewards are intangibly satisfying and pay dividends to all those around us. So take a deep breath, my friends.

DAA


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Perspective (Re Post)

I have always been a guy that talks about "perspective" as it pertains to an individual's situation. One who asks those who are complaining about their life or their dilemma to put on the shoes of those far less fortunate and try to imagine the pain and reality they endure in order to lessen the blow and give proper weight to one's suffering. However in recent days I have begun to feel and comprehend something that I heard from my father a long time ago, and it's so simple and yet so very profound: "Your pain is your pain." 

The simple truth is that there are grades of misery and anguish, a sort of "ranking system" to how painful things we experience in or lives are, or at least should be. For example, if you fail a final exam while taking an online college course it's certainly going to be a bummer, but it won't wipe you out the way being fired from your job might. If you spill coffee on a new shirt that you love you'll be annoyed and pissed off, but far less than if your house burned down. Grief and suffering are never fun but we have found a way to compartmentalize and prioritize these sufferings based on the impact they have on our daily lives. However, pain and suffering in the emotional realm, especially loss of a loved one or experiencing a highly traumatic event can throw things completely out of whack and it's where I have begun to understand what my father told me.

When I found out I couldn't have children of my own I was upset, certainly, and it was even more difficult because it prefaced the ending of a twelve year marriage to a good woman. As painful and difficult as this time was I avoided dealing with the trauma head on because I chose to "put things in perspective" and convince myself that so many others had so many troubles worse than I and spending time crying or dealing with these issues was foolish. I could be in Iraq and have my leg blown off, I could have cancer, I could be living in a place where there was no freedom, etc. Perspective.

As my divorce went by and I was already involved too soon elsewhere, it became brutally apparent that the woman I loved was not only far from being ready to divorce her husband, but that in fact the mere presence of me in her life had caused great trauma of it's own, and there were many terrifying nights and depressing days enduring what transpired in that heavily flawed situation. As I finally extricated myself from it I did my very best to convince myself "it could have been worse" and to move on with my life without getting bogged down in the details of what had happened over that past year or so of my life. Who was I to complain, really? I made my choices and I had to live with them...

So I took all that baggage into another person's life and luckily she saw right through me and knew I wasn't ready and she walked away, and it hurt like hell. With that one I began to feel the impact of all that had transpired before and I began to feel myself sinking a little but my father, as he always had, reached a hand out to help me up and also force me to face some of the realities of my life and the choices I had made. My mom and brother and many of my friends were also vital at that time and I might not have survived emotionally had all of them not been there. However, I wasn't truly dealing with the pain, or fixing any of my issues, I was just leaning on those around me to help the hurt feel a little better, and before long I was back to perspective arguments with myself. Convincing myself I had no right to even grieve because in my case especially, with so many bad choices, I hadn't even really earned the right to be upset or in pain. I deserved it.

Well, a few quick relationships where I was totally unavailable and hurting a few people in the process, and I found what I thought was to be my savior in a beautiful woman with four kids. The problem was, of course, I was the only person who could save myself and the pressure it put on that relationship was too much to bare, as could only be expected.

There's no need to go into the details of why "that girl from Avon" and I failed, because the truth is that as much as I had to endure things that had no place in any relationship, I chose to make that move. I chose to get deeply involved with a woman with four children weeks after I met her instead of take my time and let things grow naturally and assure that the kids had plenty of time before forging bonds with me, only to be hurt with our inevitable failure. My selfish desire to heal myself through the promise of new love and the excitement of an instant family was the warm embers that lay resting beneath the wicker frame of our union that so quickly ignited and burned us down. All the while, the source of so much of my strength and support, my father, was tearing himself down from the insides as well, only to be gone before I even had a chance to say a real goodbye.

I know that many times in my life I have experienced joy and happiness, and it felt great. I know that I have been proud of myself at times and felt good about a choice I made or an action I have taken. I am certain that I have given and experienced love and understand how blessed I am to have that in my heart. I also know, though, that in the last few years I have been in a tremendous amount of pain. Deep and debilitating pain, some of which is of my own cause and design. The rest is just along for the ride and it's a bitch as well, and it's time for me to stop trying to put it in perspective for awhile. If I don't let my pain be MY pain and stop trying to minimize it as a comparison to everyone else that suffers in the world then all I am is just someone floating in the river of denial, with no chance to heal and move on. If I blame myself for everything and never forgive myself then I can never love myself, and then it's truly impossible to love another person. I don't want to live the lonely, empty life that I know that would be.

I am horribly saddened by the loss of my father, and I miss him more every day and I'm afraid I haven't fully even come to terms with it yet. I wish I could have children of my own and there's not a day that goes by that I don't get a little sad about that. I wish I had made better choices in relationships and didn't hurt the people I did with those choices, some of them very selfish. I wish I realized some of the great things I had in my life sometimes and hadn't taken them for granted. I wish I didn't act so impulsively at times and have to endure the pain of what followed those actions. I know in my heart that I am a good man, but I am one that's in dire need of a "searching and fearless moral inventory", followed by some long and deep healing that I WILL do, because I am not going to let myself talk myself out of feeling my pain anymore. There is always someone who suffers more or endures worse, I know that, but I am not them and they are not I, and the only life I can control is my own...and it's time I start doing that. 

And I will. :)

DAA

Writing: The Most Rewarding Form of Self Torture

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Without doing a full review, i...