A world that focuses on e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop while children in Aleppo perish in schools and makeshift hospitals is a world that holds little for me. Let me restate that:
This is my world. Your world. Our world. Men with silk ribbons tied 'round their neck, women in pantsuits and pearls scratching and clawing for power, attention and gold- not so much. It's the culture that I dismiss.
Our priorities are wrong. As long as people are hungry, as long as folks are sick, as long as animals are mistreated and injustice is everywhere, there is a world that needs fixing. The world, itself, needs fixing. How can we allow the destruction of our planet for men to make money?
Another friend asked, "Why don't you write a book?"
My short answer is usually that my stories don't have any substance. Don Garlits offered me a job. Elvis said that he would teach me karate. Speedo took me to a party. Sounds like three good chapters, huh?
Well, Big Daddy didn't give me a job and Elvis didn't teach me a lick of karate. Looking back, Speedo took me to the party because there were young, white girls in his hotel room and I was his idea of a calming effect.
Having lived a long time I've got lots and lots of stories. Most of them would make really short chapters.
The bulk of my existence has been centered in my head and in my heart. The time, money and energy that I have invested in romance overshadow any love story. I'm afraid that I don't rate my own chapter in anyone else's book.
Oh, I've been places, too, but I've never seen much. Wait, I take that back. Loch Ness. I've seen Loch Ness. I didn't see any monster but I saw lots of lake.
Having failed at romance, let me say that I have loved. That part I've gotten down. Sometimes I'm almost overcome with the love in my life. Dogs, cats, friends and relatives- it's everywhere. As my friend, Panama Red, says, "At this point in life I know more dead people than ones who are alive." Doesn't change a thing. Love's love. It doesn't go away. Except in books and movies.
It surely won't go away in my book. Who knows, maybe they'll make a good movie out of it.
Just because your nose runs, your eyes water and you can't stop coughing doesn't mean you have a cold. What if modern medicine declared tomorrow that the common cold doesn't exist? What if your doctor informs you at your next appointment that it has all been our collective imagination?
Well, if you're at all like me, the first thing you're gonna do is to buy up the NyQuil to hoard before they take it off the shelves.
Why have I just discovered the term, empath?
My immediate reaction was, "Great googly moogly, my madness has a name!"
It was the same feeling that I can recall so vividly when I saw the term, obsessive compulsive disorder, in Time. It must have been 1972 or '73. So it turns out my pal, Harry, is officially crazy. His condition has a name. It's not even a particularly exclusive club. Dang!
Now I stumble across this term, empath, and I feel like I have found my people. My tribe. Empaths, I read, tune into others' energy. They are sensitive to the emotions and energy of people around them. Empaths are basically spiritual sponges.
Of course it's all too good to be true. Real mental health professionals rank empaths with phrenologists, mentalists, mind readers.
So, I'm a quack? A charlatan? A phony?
This is not an association that I was seeking. Really.
Well, maybe the term isn't real. Maybe it's all hocus pocus. That doesn't change who I am, what I am. They can argue about the validity of the name forever. I still feel your pain.
Bill Clinton, by the way, is not in the club. Not by a long shot.
I'm not going to bore you with the details. Google it.
Over the past six months I've learned more from a blind cat than I ever learned in school. There are only two lessons- love and loss. I'm trying to get better about love. I won't pretend to get good at loss. We look to the saints, we rely on the stars to show us the way.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
These days I don't do much around here. That includes worrying about not doing much. Songs go unwritten. Weeds grow.
Over a lifetime I've bought a lot of Rust Oleum. A lot. Now I find myself siding with that idiot, Mike, on American Pickers- I love rust. Oh, I don't have anything against Mike. I don't know Mike. I'm just annoyed when I know more about junk than he does. Not only that, he's frequently disrespectful to Danielle. Let's face it, we only watch AP for Danni. I'm not even gonna bother with Frank.
I'm pretty sure that I've told you before that I lay in bed when I was sixteen years old, unable to sleep, worrying about rust ever finding my '32 Ford. I may as well have fretted about the sun coming up.
Now my hair is gray. My dog sleeps late. The wrought iron furniture on the porch is rusty.
I won't be here to see it collapse. So what? Jamaica and I hang around to keep each other company. Oh, and to take care of Angel.
What is success? Who decides? The real saints are tethered only to kindness. There is no competition in the world of need. Those kids in Aleppo need your help. Those animals in the shelter need your help. Those folks in the nursing home need your love. Maybe we're all a little too stingy with our love.
Do you suppose that people might not take you seriously if you blather on and on about peace and love? You're right.
Do you think that your neighbors might be impressed, maybe a little jealous, if you show up tonight in a new Rolls? Right again.
You're equipped with unlimited love. Use it. Try to waste it.
We've all seen the message, the warning. It's all over social media and bumper stickers. Older folks sport it on t shirts as they walk the shopping malls in the early morning.
"Don't Grow Up. It's A Trap."
Maybe I'm not a good one to give advice here. Except for a larger shoe size and a deeper voice, I'm not sure I've done much growing up. I can put you in contact with ex-girlfriends and wives who will vouch for me.
It seems clear to me that the secret is to take the good parts and reject the rest. At every stage. I'm just going to give you a few examples, then you're on your own.
Be nice. Oh, they have to fill big books to look important. If the Bible or the Koran or the Torah had been graphic novel size, nobody would have ever taken them seriously. You can't make Charlton Heston movies from pamphlets. For the most part, though, all the good books compile stories to help make the point, treat other folks like you want them to treat you.
Ten commandments? Make up your own. I did. Twice! Same deal- they can all be summed up with "be nice."
Preachers have to fill up forty minutes each week. If they just show up for three or four weeks in a row, remind you to be nice and scurry off to the golf course they're gonna lose a good deal. Society will pressure them to sell annuities to retirees or start a lawn service.
You don't have to own a mansion to be nice. Or happy, for that matter. Oh, and that Corvette? Girls have joked since the first ones rolled off the assembly line in Flint in '53 about the car and the size of your talleywhacker.
My point is, none of it matters.
You're tricked into competition in kindergarten. I didn't go to kindergarten.
Tie a silk ribbon around your neck if you want to but don't do it because the man at the bank does. In fact, wear what you think is pretty. Pink's good. Oh, I like purple, too.
Now, it occurs to me that girls have a head start. Let me point out here that I use the term, girls, intentionally and with all the respect in the whole wide world. Girls start off nicer. Don't get tricked into pant suits. Oh, wear 'em if you like them but don't give up frilly dresses or Levis in order to become Secretary of State or head of Yahoo.
I could go on and on about your neighbor's wife or his ass but I have no obligations here. I'll say it one more time- be nice.
Pretty sure that I've told you about the alien message that I found planted in Jack and Jill Magazine when I was six. On a Florida vacation to visit my cousins, George and Sandra, I struggled through an article about space visitation. I learned that when you hear a high pitched whine, that it's the space people trying to get in touch. The secret is to get very quiet in order to tune them in. When you are still enough and quiet enough, they will get through.
Well, for sixty three years I've been screeching to a halt mid-sentence to find out what they have for me. I'm a patient man.
It occurs to me that rock'n'roll is the secret language. Here I've had a good, clear line all this time. It's all peace and love and they've been in touch all this time.
Dave Marsh told me that rock'n'roll came from outer space. I figure that he should know. He said, "Well, you know your pal, Butch Hancock, says that Buddy Holly was an alien."
"What does that mean?"
"He says it sure the fuck didn't come from Lubbock, Texas!"
What if candidates wrote and prepared their own speeches. They cleaned up Jesus' act and image before Elvis was even born. No wonder the world has embraced authenticity. Once again the answer to the unasked, rhetorical question is "follow the money."
Maybe I warble off key and frequently miss the obvious opportunity for rhyme but I'm authentic as all get out. I'm small enough to fail and fail I have. I'm so happy to wake up and find that I'm still not Donald Trump. Heck, I'm just happy to wake up.
Are you looking' for me? I'm right here. Don't follow the money.
Should I go on and on about all my prayers being answered? Well, in so many ways I don't have prayers. When I tell friends that they're in my prayers I'm pretty sure that no one ever pictures me down on my knees in a nightshirt by my bedside, eyes rolled heavenward, talking to an old man in a bathrobe and in my imagination.
Don't let me offend you here. It's not so much that I don't believe in anything. It's more that I believe in everything. I try not to be suspicious of my pious friends or dismissive of the atheist folks in my life. For me it's the mystery. It always will be.
Grace beats karma every time. Always has. Always will.
Today Chuck Berry turns ninety years old. He's about to release a new record. It ain't over 'til it's over, right?
Over the years I spent a fair amount of time with him. I can't begin to say that I know him. I can't say that he's a nice guy. Sometimes he's a nice guy.
I will tell you that he's my hero. John Lennon was right- if they hadn't called it rock'n'roll they might have called it Chuck Berry.
When he was first aloof, condescending and rude to me I conjured up a convoluted excuse for him. He had been in prison three times. At least two of his misadventures would not have landed a white man in the pokey. He was in fine financial shape but there were lots of men who were rich from the fruits of his labor. Alan Freed's name still showed up as a co-writer of "Maybellene." Alan Freed couldn't even clap on 2 and 4.
Then I noticed that he and Bo Diddley avoided eye contact with each other. Bo referred to him as "Mr. Berry" and it certainly was not out of any measure of respect.
By the time that he was ever nice to me I was thrilled. I figured that we were getting to know each other. Over time I figured out that I couldn't figure it out. The last time that I saw him we played a two and a half hour set. He was down on his knees, reciting poetry. He must have duckwalked a quarter mile. After the show he begged us to come visit him at Berry Park, his amusement park in St. Louis.
"There's only one cop in Wentzville and I've got Polaroids of him," he quipped. I thought it was a joke. I wish we had gone.
So a Baptist church in Marietta, Georgia is sponsoring Syrian refugees, rejected and dismissed by the government. Not only that, the church's pastor defends the action by considering the teachings and the words of Jesus.
Celebrate love wherever you find it.
A l-o-n-g political season reminds us that weeds are growing in our garden of Eden. Hate is surely the obvious herbicide. Love is the nourishment that feeds the crops.
Well, sir, your Grandma probably told you, too, "If you can't say something nice about somebody, don't say anything at all."
I want to talk about Donald Trump.
That's not exactly right. I look forward to forgetting all about Donald Trump. Meantime, though, that's not possible.
Of course I know about ignorance. I understand that it is the basic foundation for bigotry and xenophobia. Sadly I know about meanness, too. The scale of ignorance in our culture has surprised me. The level of meanness overwhelms me.
Donald Trump has, singlehandedly, directed a searchlight on gender inequality in American society brighter than anything we have seen since Gloria Steinem was thirty five years old and I was a twenty two year old yahoo who lusted after her. One of many, I should add.
Will we rush to fix it? I doubt it. Barak Obama's inauguration showed us where we stood with racial equality. Did it surprise you? It did me. It broke my heart.
The glass is half full, though. It always is. Nobody's gonna get those genies back in those bottles. As long as I have to remind myself I might as well remind you, too: evolution's not fast.
Thanks, Mr. Trump. Thanks a lot.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. Grandma taught me that, too.
How close to the flame do we dare wander? No devil ever offered me anything. For my soul or anything else. These days I spend most of my time weeding in the garden of Eden. All of my time is spare.
Clowns? They showed up in my life before they were fashionable. Should they be able to marry? Which bathroom do they use?
There are songs crowding each other in my head now. I suppose I'm gonna have to start finishing some up to make room for new information. Is there new information? Maybe it's all new or maybe anything that I don't know now is new. Don't call me for Jeopardy. I was something of a ringer when Trivial Pursuit first came along. Thankfully it wasn't fashionable for very long.
Lately I've been naming weeds. I declare a few of them rare delicacies and convince trendy young chefs with good tattoos to collect them to drizzle with fuchsia slime.
Personally I watched race relations change when rock'n'roll shows came to town.
There were three versions of Universal Soldier that were on the radio. Buffy St. Marie's own, Donovan's and Glen Campbell's. The Viet Nam war and Country Joe & The Fish's Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag set us up for Imagine.
Except for hateful, stupid jokes from the same thugs who bragged about "nigger nocking,'" the idea of homosexuality never even crossed my young mind. Nothing seemed "gay" about Little Richard to me in 1956 but I knew something was different. Better. I didn't "accept" Little Richard. I idolized him. Still do.
Oh, I could go on. And on. Sexual mores. Intellectual honesty. Politics. Fashion.
Louis Jordan, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Wynonie Harris, Bill Haley, Bo Diddley, Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Bruce Springsteen...
You know the list. You've got your own list.
Rock'n'roll has saved us over and over in my lifetime. Come on rock'n'roll, save us again.
My world is my world again. The Beatles changed everything for me once, more than fifty years ago. Suddenly I wasn't an eccentric. I was merely fashionable. I was never gonna be cool. I can't even bring myself to use the word.
Over a very long time my beloved rock'n'roll became "rock." Elvis died, the Beatles broke up and Little Richard got old. I haven't been fashionable for a very long time. I haven't changed much, either.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
What if everyone knew everything about you? Everything! Run for president. I'm lucky, I guess. I've always told everybody everything. You can go back through these one thousand, five hundred and seventy blogs and come up with enough to lock me up for a long time. I would have done worse but I'm not really good at it. I'm too lazy to be bad. I don't even have a foundation.
Do you ever wonder why other countries leave us in the dust when it comes to statistics for infant mortality, health care, education, longevity, air and water quality? Don't societies crumble, historically, when war takes over their economies?
No candidate for president is about to stand behind a podium and admit that we spend most of our riches on the military; that our biggest export is weaponry; that our practice of perpetual war is about money and business and ego.
If we were in the war business to protect innocent people we would have stood up to Assad and Putin in Syria. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not pushing for another war. I'm just suggesting that the fact that there's no oil under Aleppo gives us away.
Haliburton doesn't care who we invade. GE doesn't have any interest in what Israel does with those jets. We have listened to Mr. Trump proudly explain that the role of a businessman is to do business. For profit.
Now, I know that this is junior high dribble. There is no sophisticated message here. I have lived a long life blithering on about this. I plan to keep it up.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Recognizing my propensity for drama I seem to have hunkered down with my posse behind a picket fence perched on a rare hill at the edge of a hipster's enclave in Tampa. Life's good. By some measures it crawls along. By some it flys like a saber jet.
Revelations rise as though the drinking water was laced with LSD, then fade as if the preacher suddenly showed up for Wednesday dinner.
Ghosts? When I was a kid, ghosts scared me to death. Then I grew up and realized there are no ghosts. Now I'm old and I know ghosts.
Hurricanes come and it's just like 1962. Nobody bought bottled water then. That feeling in the air, though- you never forget it.
Sour grapes? Rationalization? Who knows? Who cares?
Maybe I wasn't designed to be rich. Or famous. I can still remember the advice from our producer, Phil Gernhard, in 1966. Phil preached, more than once, "Make sure that you enjoy it when you have your first hit. It never feels that good again."
Fifty years later and I'll never know.
Funny, sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Elvis.
Phil took his own life four or five years ago. Wealthy. Lots of hit records.
No reason that I can see to play. My struggle for fame and fortune lasted for years. Decades. By the time that I resigned myself to obscurity my shelf life had expired without my help. No gold records. No gold watch. Rock'n'roll has never been sweeter for me. There's no act now. I am the act.
My station in life has been fluid. I should have listened to Groucho. We all should. I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. I need one of those plaques for the front of my car: No Club- Lone Wolf. My 2001 Camry.
Romance? Let's just say that I don't have many awards on the wall from those endeavors, either.
Living for the moment has become second nature. Easy.
Maybe I should give a TED presentation. Seminars on TV at 4:00 am.
The brisk autumn air wafting with alcohol fuel, roasted peanuts, metallic brake dust and cigar smoke. I miss the stock car races on the old quarter mile asphalt track. I would wait out in the driveway for Uncle Morgan to pick me up. Phillips Field was probably six or seven miles away but I could tell by the sound if it was a six cylinder Chevrolet engine or a V-8 warming up. I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference today.
Standing in line with my mom I could hear the band warming up inside the Armory. Yeah, I was embarrassed to be standing there with her but I was only eleven years old. We were waiting to pay a buck to get our tickets to see Sam Cooke. Oh, he had some support on the bill. Little Willie John. LaVern Baker. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Marv Johnson.
The memories are fading a little in detail now. It's not so much that I'm forgetting anything. It has more to do with all the newer memories piled on top.
I've got stories for you. I've known love. I have memories.
When the wagon comes, I'm driving. All the tattoos in the world won't get you into heaven and I'm surely not paying a stranger to burn me with hot needles. I'm pretty sure that I know who I am. If I weren't so lazy I would dazzle you with melodies that would make you tear up before the bridge. In fact, I'm so shiftless that lots of my major works don't have bridges.
We live for a little while and we're gone. They're not gonna remember anything but the love. That Land Rover? Rust waiting to happen.
Horses with short noses and cards that were good, but never good enough.