So, we have lost two Guatemalan children in the last few weeks over this border posturing and our righteous indignation is palpable. Meanwhile, our best guess is that 85,000 children have starved in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched their war of ego, with the assistance of the United States, in 2015. That is, children under the age of five. That number does not include the ones killed by bombs, gas and bullets.
Where is the voice for the children? Who speaks for the poor and the disabled and the disenfranchised?
This is a holiday season. I want to sing and dance and celebrate. I want to get up in the morning and write about peace and love and rock'n'roll. I long for the day when no person will take orders from anyone to harm a living being.
They're not the boss of you. How many of your friends like their job? If your mom and dad taught you to keep your nose to the grindstone, and if your mom and dad didn't like their jobs, what the heck are you doing?
You do understand that the forbidden fruit is the fruit of knowledge, right? You know- good and evil. While it is most certainly not my job to teach you right from wrong, I will point out that you are a son of God. Hey, I am, too. Now don't do like I do. Don't go telling everybody. They'll lock you up. If you're lucky!
Here's what Kurt Vonnegut wrote:
"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
Okay, kid, I wouldn't take advice from the likes of me. Mr. Vonnegut's quote is a little out of fashion now and more than a little politically incorrect. Still fine advice, though, nearly as I can tell.
Only the saints rely on the stars to show them the way. We are the saints, buddy. We are the saints.
Are there more homeless folks on the street during the holidays or do we just notice them more? I've never been hip, never will be. I hope that I've been kind. Never made any big splash on the music scene. I hope I've made someone smile. Dance.
My ambition runs to peace of mind these days. I have everything I've ever wanted. Two or three of most things. Somehow I manage to find ways to break my own heart. It's a lucky man who has to conjure up his own sorrow.
Don't take anything too seriously. Joy is the natural state.
Why shouldn't the revolution be fun? We're armed to the teeth with truth and love, compassion and resistance. What I didn't learn from the women in my life, I learned from the dogs and the cats.
We'll launch the first big offensive right here at the holidays. First we dazzle them with kindness. Then, while they're reeling, we begin to spread cheer. It's hard to hate while you're laughing. Let the wetting of pants become the new holiday tradition. Blame me!
Here I sit. Middle of the night and I'm wide awake with nothing to worry about. For the first time it occurs to me just how superficial my heroes were. Two criteria for hero in my book are world changing and humility. The dilemma, of course, is the incompatibility.
Elvis and Einstein and John Lennon were well aware of their impact. What do you suppose led to the "more popular than Jesus Christ" comments? Once a hero realizes that he's a hero, I suspect it's hard to give up the role.
How long did Leonard Cohen stay in the monastery? How many times did Sinatra retire? Is it not obvious that the Beatles were responsible for Elvis' '68 "comeback?"
Now most of my heroes are gone. Takes care of the incompatibility, I suppose. I'll watch for Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez to remain deferential.
It's the ghosts, by cracky. It's the ghosts. They've sung to me for most of my life. They sing to me today.
Now I hear them all. When I read back over the years, I realize that I spent a good deal of time in the weeds. People who were never major players in my life moved in to keep me going and, for that, I will be forever grateful.
Rock break scissors. Paper covers rock. Joy trumps depression.
Here's my confession- for the past six or seven years, I've claimed to write a blog for you. I don't even know what a blog is, to tell you the truth. I almost started up a podcast a year or two ago and I know even less about that.
Turns out that I've been doing this for me all along. All of my working life, and I use the term lightly, has been about my search for whatever's out there.
Don't jump to any conclusion that I would be so smug as to claim that I have figured anything out. It's just that I don't ask many questions anymore.
For more than fifty years I've been making records. I suppose I've been making them for me, too. I just didn't know it.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe I've used up all my fun. I'm holding on to hope that it's like love. You know- endless supply. The more you use, the more you got.
Don't ever take any of the magic for granted. Don't let your love expire. In our experience, time only moves in one direction- towards an end. Meantime, it's a party. A carnival. The beauty is everywhere.
Peace of mind is elusive. It doesn't come standard with the new Land Rover.
The only folks who are impressed with your possessions are the other ones who haven't figured it out. If I were you, I would love like there's no tomorrow. One day there won't be.
This season brings memories of legless, homeless men on the sidewalks outside the theaters in downtown Birmingham. They propelled themselves on little scooters, similar to the devices that mechanics use to work under cars, with a half brick in each hand. Often, they sold pencils. Every now and then there would be a blind man with a metal cup and a shiny steel-bodied guitar.
I remember the exotic aroma of hot tamales sold from little bicycle carts.
Until her last days, my mom fretted over my query, "Mommy, are those burr heads?" wondering about the young African American family on the bus bench next to us, late at night, on our way home from the picture show.
Birmingham, black and white. Worlds away.
Intolerance doesn't compute with a child. Hate has no reference point. Love is everything.
Who decides who's important? What is the criteria? Does it matter? I've always had more questions than answers and, to tell you the truth, I'm a little suspicious of the ones who have more answers. You know, the ones who never change their minds.
Here I sit at midnight, Paul Ryan is on my mind. If I had any self control, politics would never cross my mind. I don't. It does. Seems to me that maybe we owe young Paul a tip of the hat. He and his pals seem to have hastened the diminution of men in government. Orrin Hatch may be the final nail in the coffin, pun intended.
Count me as one of those who holds Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a different standard. She's better. Smarter. She doesn't pretend to have all the answers. She seems to have a lot of them, though, and they seem to be good ones. I feel really lucky to have lived to see this.
If I were you, I wouldn't sit there waiting for a wise man to explain the mystery. Since their stories don't match, it would seem that all of them, except one, have it wrong. Dang! Bad odds.
You can't really categorize me as a heathen. An agnostic. Certainly not an atheist. I believe it all. All of the beautiful stories show up in all of the major religions, in some form. Now, I don't buy it all in literal terms. If you do, fine. We're all looking for the same truth.
Embrace the beautiful stories of this season and share your stories and your love.
Well, sir, I sing but I'm not a singer and I write but I'm no writer. This could go on for paragraphs, nay pages. Truth is, sometimes I feel inadequate. I've had lots of jobs over the years. Some of them I think I've done reasonably well.
Seems to me we're all worth about the same thing.
Around this time of year I tend to worry about the dogs and cats in shelters. The folks in nursing homes, too. Don't get me started on the children in orphanages. Use your love to make it a holiday.
Oh, my. Everything that I have to say has been said. I know too much to have an original thought and I don't know much. As usual, none of this is likely to slow me down.
On some days I worry that technology is the only remaining frontier. Once we went to the moon. Chrysler offered a push button automatic transmission. Some genius invented the thermos and a hero wiped out polio. Almost wiped out polio.
The problem, as I see it, is that technology is under control of the moneychangers. Those folks haven't been able to keep IPhones out of the hands of anyone. They have managed to keep insulin out of the hands of poor diabetics. They have managed to profit obscenely from the stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
Feel free to call me a socialist. I call me a moralist.
Sometimes the beauty and the joy and the magic just overwhelm me. For some reason this holiday season really seems to have its hooks in me. The music sounds sweeter. The lights are way brighter than I remember and every TV ad brings tears. I haven't even seen the first Publix commercial yet.
We're talking the "good tears" here. Oh, I lost my Jamaica this year and the news came right before the holidays that she was sick. My grieving, though, has been mixed with beautiful memories and they have outlasted my broken heart. Sort of.
My temptation is to grab strangers on the street and tell them how much I love them. That hasn't worked all that well for me in the past.
I'm dying to play Christmas songs for you, on the radio and onstage. I know how many folks claim to hate that stuff. I don't suppose I've ever given it much thought. For this year, though, I love it all. My only dilemma is "Blue Christmas." Elvis or Porky?
Always heard it's lonely at the top. Well, sir, I wouldn't know. I can tell you, though, that it's no picnic here on the bottom. Unlike Groucho, I would love to be a part of any organization. I wish I lived in a commune. Played in a band. Always wanted brothers and sisters.
When push comes to shove, however, you'll find me at the counter to avoid the sad table for one. I'll frequently plow through a book that struggles to hold my attention in order to avoid lines at the theater or crowds at the bar. MSNBC can generally count on my company after dark. Before sunup, too, now that I think about it.
It's not so much that I'm bad company. It's just that I've had enough of it.
Look, I know that there's nobody waiting for me on the other side of anything. That doesn't stop me from tearing up when faced with the beautiful stories of heaven and paradise, nirvana and rainbow bridges.
My angels come to me in dreams. Oh, they don't bring me important messages. Their fine, gossamer presence merely reminds me that love is eternal.
Someday I'll be the visitor. Remember that I love you.
The stories are all so very beautiful and I believe them all. Of course I'm a grown man and I believe in Santa Claus, too. Some of them I believe in literally. What difference does it really make when it comes right down to it?
Once again I come to the point of making a decision about going on with this thing.
Take care of your friends and take care of the ones who need friends.
Let's imagine a beautiful tropical island with all of the necessities to support life- abundant, clean water; healthy fruit trees and plenty of natural shelter. Now we'll populate the eastern end with women and, on the other side of the mountain, we'll settle men.
If we check back after six or eight months, I imagine we'll find the women have started a book club and figured out a way to make wine. My guess is that on the other end most of the fruit trees will be gone, making up big, manly bows and streamlined, masculine arrows.
Unconditional love is the goal- giving, not receiving. If I knew the secret to being lovable, I would be more than happy to share it with you. I do have a few tips for loving. You can get all the rest off of bumper stickers, t-shirts and coffee mugs.
First of all, imagine everyone as a little kid. We are, in fact, those same scared tykes who romped, laughed, cried and loved through those first sets of teeth. We're just bigger, and often, meaner. Bald heads and high heels be damned.
Don't keep score. Seems to me that too many of us hold ourselves up as some kind of minimum standard. If I expect everyone to be as loyal, honest, sentimental, bright and fair as I imagine myself to be- what about all the folks out there who happen to be more loyal, more honest, more fair, brighter and more sentimental than I am? Am I unworthy of their love?
If it seems that I'm dealing in trite gibberish, I apologize. I probably should have just suggested don't judge, love.
Oh, I suppose everybody needs somebody to look down on. Me, I've always looked down on snobs. The more I think about it, the more I worry that this kind of thinking might just make me the worst kind of snob.
You try not to judge. You find yourself disapproving of the ones that you perceive to be judging. Dang!
As much as I would love to tell you that I don't care what anyone thinks of me, I know that's not true. I'm desperate for approval.
When the magic kicks in, all the dialogue is poetry. Everybody just wants to be loved and the ones who claim they don't are lying to you. I've spent the better part of my life worrying about some future. Now, the better part of that future has come and gone.
Most of my worrying has centered on loss.
Sure enough, everything happened. Everything I worried about. Oh, the worrying didn't cause the loss. It surely didn't prevent it, either. Maybe I should have used my time and energy more efficiently and painted my masterpiece or learned the cha-cha.
This is no time to start worrying about the past. Love is for the here and now.
Change is in the air. Do you feel it? It has taken all my life to get here. Oh, I'm not done. At least I hope I'm not done. Once you've seen the radiance, or the truth, or whatever you choose to call it, you're home.
Read Dr. King's last speech. Martin Luther King was an eloquent man. I'm not. He was tested. My life has been easy. His experience is universal in scope, though. We've all been to the mountaintop. The hard part is looking over the edge. I've peeked many times.
Now my faith is in faith. If I backslide, don't say I didn't warn you. There is no going back, though, once you have looked over. Follow the love.
It doesn't take much to make me happy and it takes less to break my heart. Just how beautiful is this old world? Depends on how much beauty you can imagine. I cry and I laugh and sometimes I cry and laugh at the same time. If music doesn't bring you to tears, maybe you're listening to the wrong music.
These holidays are gonna be quiet. Really quiet. I hope ghosts visit. Jamaica's gone and Angel's been gone for awhile. I talk to them. I sing to them.
Plans for thanksgiving dinner center around a banana slathered with peanut butter. Later I plan to dance by myself. Of course I dance like nobody's watching. Nobody's watching.
Some folks can wear hats and some can't. My pal, Harry, wears 'em like they're meant to be worn. He was born wearing a hat. Me? Just can't pull it off. I'm just no good at it. I'm a fraud in whatever chapeau I put on my head. I love hats, too. I buy them with every intention of changing my life.
One of the reasons I keep up this dumb blog is to put hats on my head. Sometimes I put 'em on other people's heads, too.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
The artist takes in life, breathes reality and gives us beauty. It's a massive responsibility but it's all automatic pilot for the ones called. Very few make a conscious decision to "be" an artist. Gauguin didn't quit his day job to go into art. He just quit wasting time at the bank.
The fact that Beethoven lost his hearing and composed some of the most magnificent music ever created compounds the mystery.
My neighbor, growing up, William Pachner, painted masterpieces as he gradually lost his sight.
In this culture, we sometimes reward the artist by paying them as though they were NFL stars or Wall Street thieves. Mostly, though, they live lives that we describe as bohemian or "starving" artists. Of course there is always the prospect of marrying well.
Artists, in my opinion, feel more. In most cases, they're driven to show the world all that they feel. They're wired heart to brain, direct. No governor. No insulation.
In a world of karaoke, paint & sip, cover bands and sampling, the role of the artist slides. The proprietor of an exclusive photographic gallery in San Francisco told me, "See all those Rolls Royces parked out there? I sell those people autographs."
For me, there is no intersection of art and commerce. Curmudgeon? Sour grapes?
Once again I have been called to task for a tasteless illustration on my blog. Let's start here with my sincere apologies for everything that I do that offends decent folks. I hesitate to call my graphics "art." Of course, my music seldom brings the term to mind, come to think of it.
You may have noticed that I don't know a thing about art. That's alright- I don't know much about music, either. I might tinker around with brain surgery but I'm squeamish around blood.*
Songs? I have songs about war, South America, murder, politics, jail and true love among other things. I don't know anything at all about any of that, either. By the way, I don't know where to stick a bridge or anything about a quarter note triplet, while I'm confessing.
As I have admitted here, previously, the blog exists merely because the page asked, "Do you want a blog of your own?"
Sure. Free stuff!
Seems I'm drawn to time consuming endeavors that don't pay well.
Once I had complained about war, whined over loneliness and grumbled about politics, I had to start over. I've preached to you about kindness, begged your forgiveness and revealed secrets, mostly mine. Again, same pattern as with the music. I started over there decades ago. War, kindness, loneliness- repeat. Sometimes lust, murder and electric chairs just for rhyme's sake.
All I have managed to learn about Photoshop is how to move my head from one snapshot to another. As I waste time on the internet, I have gotten into the habit of keeping any image that I run across that seems dumb enough. In some cases the image isn't really dumb until I put my head on it.
That's it. My only criteria- dumb.
Now, pulp fiction, which is a big favorite, frequently pictures sexist, tacky situations that were used, I'm pretty sure, to make the Don Knotts of the world feel like Charlton Heston. Oh, sure, occasionally you find Amazon women cooking the man in the kettle or a fierce cowgirl using her bullwhip on a city slicker she dragged from the stagecoach.
My point, if I have a point, is that no thought goes into the subject of the stolen art. I'm merely searching for dumb and a place to put my head.
That does not affect the sincerity of my apology. I mean no harm. My only message is peace and love.
*I know the first verse begins, "Don't know much geography." Funny thing is I have a degree in geography. If only they would quit changing the globe!
Sometimes it's a struggle to get comfortable with yourself. Lately I seem to be on cruise control. Kindness from the periphery keeps me awake at the wheel. Just barely.
Who on earth came up with the idea that you make your own luck? I'm guessing some white guy. Me? I grew up surrounded by opulence. Snobbery, too. Oh, we weren't rich. We struggled to keep from being poor. I had no clue. To this day I find the concept of wealth and power a ludicrous idea.What the heck is a bootstrap?
Everything I've ever wished for has come to me, almost literally. To be honest, none of the important things like world peace or an end to hunger and suffering have been available. Every crush, guitar, house, car and toy, however, have been mine. Not through hard work or prayer, I should say.
It would be just like me to explain the one thing, finally, that I have wanted for some time. I can't. Other people are involved. Do you suppose that if I had what I wanted, I wouldn't have anything to want?
Ol' Orson Welles made a whole darned movie out of such a flimsy idea.
If diamonds are a girl's best friend and dog is a man's best friend, who am I supposed to dance with? I came here to save the world and I seem to be struggling. You know my biggest problem- no mystique.
Nobody ever described me as "hard to get."
Ask the wisest one you know why there is suffering on earth. If she answers you, you need smarter friends.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Regrets don't slow me down much. I'm pretty easy on me. Life is just a slow march over a cliff and I want to enjoy the trek.
It's funny, the few things that I remember from school. One is that too many ants in the ant farm leads to chaos and the end of the colony. This random idea crosses my mind every afternoon around the time that network news comes on.
After this long a wait, I seem to have proven myself a more patient man than I had figured. It's okay. I have the rest of my life.