Category Archives: Deep Thoughts, man…

Life Without Proper Internet

At first, I thought it was liberating, but now, as I type this on my iPhone, I grow weary of limited technology. I have gotten soft in my old age.
It was nice to pry myself away from the big glowing screen; to read books, and spend more time playing guitar with my son. And when I did sit in front of the computer, I actually got more work done on my novel.
I hate being addicted to anything, and when I find that I am controlled by anything, I quit. I used to do a lot of drugs when I was younger, and when it got to be a habit, I quit. Just like that.
Same with cigarettes, and alcohol, and coffee, and women. When I am ready to be done, I am done.
But, due to our new society, the Internet is such a harder beast to conquer. I still need it for so many things. And then, there’s this whole blogging thing, which I feel controls me too much as it is.
I have fantasies of going off the grid one hundred percent and shedding all of these electronic shackles, but I think I just need to know what is happening in this world too much.
Next month, I expect to have a new job which will help me to afford proper Internet again in the near future, and I’m sure that I will get sucked back into the whole electronic, narcissistic world.
I do enjoy reading everyone’s blog, and I will continue to do so as long as I have access.
But I really hate the feeling of being controlled!!!

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I Don’t Always…

In keeping with today’s earlier post.

psychedelics

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Masters of Arts Degrees

I have two unfinished Masters Degrees.  The first, in International Relations (IR) with a specialization in US Foreign Policy, is incomplete because of not writing my Thesis after completing my coursework back in 2009. The second, an MA in Teaching, is incomplete due to simply running out of money.  I have a lot of education, but no paperwork to make it worth a crap.

The IR degree was a bad idea from the start.  I got my BA in History back in 2005, and the whole time I was working on that BA, I was waffling between getting a straight BA, with the intention of getting a PhD, or to go the pre-teaching credential route, so that I could teach high school History.  Eventually, my ego won out, and I planned to get a PhD so that I could become one of the great academics in American History.

What a dumbass!

Where it all went wrong was when I decided to switch over to the Political Science department so that I could focus my studies in US Foreign Policy.  I wanted to remain a Historian in name, but I wanted the Poly Sci credentials to give me a better understanding of how US Foreign Policy works.

What I did not know at the time was that Politcal Science is a fucking science!  History focuses on the narrative, and science deals with hard data.  It was like starting a new semester in classes all spoken in Russian—I had no idea what the hell anyone was talking about.

So, my head spun around constantly for the first two semesters until I finally got the hang of it all.  I had no Poly Sci background, and so when I had to do quantitative studies, I did not know what that meant.  They were using Algebraic expressions to explain their theories.  Fucking. Algebra.

I kept telling them that I knew how to use my words, but they insisted that I learned this useless way of explaining things.

I really did get the hang of things, even if I violently resisted using quantitative reasoning.  I insisted that my Thesis would be 100% qualitative, no matter how hard they pushed me otherwise.  Dammit!  I was a Historian.  I had scruples.  I also wanted my readers to know what the hell I was saying.

I do believe that is the entire purpose of quantitative data in Poly Sci; to confuse people into not wanting to question your logic.

In addition, the Government/Poly Sci department at my University was shifting its focus away from academic work toward practical field work—the business side of IR–so my entire body of work was getting more and more useless.

I did try to whore myself out to other Universities, but here is the rub; Universities in Northern California, at least in my neighborhood, do not care about political history anymore.  In the UC system, at least back in 2006, History departments were focusing more on Social, Public, and Cultural Histories.  I talked to a PhD candidate at UC Davis who was writing about the various grasses across the United States and how they influenced the trails of the settlers across the prairies.

Who the fuck cares?

Clearly, graduate level History programs in my back yard were not meant for my studies.  I am bound to the Sacramento area in California because of joint custody of my son.  It is not as if I could just take off to Cornell or Yale, where their History programs would have suited me better.

But that is not why my MA is incomplete.

I finished the coursework for the IR program and prepared to write my Thesis.  I was interested in International Relations theory—specifically, Constructivism—and I wanted to contribute to the nascent body of literature in Constructivist Theory in IR.  In keeping with my historical focus in IR, my Thesis topic was to be something about a Constructivist Theory of Justice, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  “What does Justice look like when both sides of a conflict are sure they are just?”  Sounds good, right?

Well, my Thesis Chairperson did not like it very much, and he continually blocked every prospectus submission.  He kept saying things like, “You have no stated Thesis”, or “Your Theory makes no sense”, or “Your prospectus is not formatted correctly.”

Excuse me?  I got A’s in all of your classes throughout the program, and suddenly I cannot write a simple prospectus?  I got A’s in your theory classes, and suddenly I have no grasp on Constructivism?

Personally, I think that my topic was too hot for him to want to touch.  Nothing starts a war (literally and figuratively) like discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I eventually begged him to give me anything that I could work with.  Just give me a friggin’ topic, and I’ll write the damned Thesis he wants.  But, we just couldn’t work anything out together.

I was disappointed, but I eventually came to realize that what I really wanted to do was teach high school History.  I would have liked a PhD, but I never really wanted to be an academic.  I should have gotten the teaching credential.

And that is what I did. I essentially told my Chairperson that he could have yet another non-graduate from his department to add to his stats chart.  I needed to move on!

Therefore, I went and got my Single Subject Teaching Credential…at a different school.

Part of this credential included a MA in Teaching, but I had spent so much money and student loans wrangling with the other school, that I ran out of funding before I could finish my MA.  I got the credential last September, but the MA will have to wait…for a miracle.

Getting my credential in September meant that I missed out on the hiring year, and so I work only as a sub right now.  Hopefully next year things will be different.  I certainly have been making connection whilst subbing, but the hiring process does not look encouraging right now.

And that is why I share a one-bedroom apartment with my son and sleep on the couch.

Stay in school kids.

And stay focused!

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Lazy

Well, not exactly lazy–more like sick, exhausted, busy, and other various social ailments.

I feel like I haven’t been producing my finest work here this past week, and I am continuing that trend today by bitching about it. But hey, the A to Z Challenge refuses to play by my rules–which would be to take Saturdays off–and I have to post something today, or else they will cut off one of my Meemaw’s fingers.

But I have felt a bit lazy, if only for the fact that I have had a few great ideas, but they required too much effort, and so I skipped them and went with music reviews, or song lyrics.

For “J” day on Thursday, I originally planned to write about the Juxtaposition of my songwriting and fiction writing, and how I am combining the two into a story that has been in my head for years. However, that would have required much more brain power than I possessed this week, and so I wrote a fluff piece on Jane’s Addiction; and not a very good one, at that.

For “K” day, I promoted my friends’ band, The Kimberly Trip, but that was actually my son’s idea. I was originally going to write a history of the Knight in Medieval Europe. Once that seemed like too much work, I decided to honor one of the most magical concert venues in the land: The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, home of the Grateful Dead throughout most of the 1980s. But, “The Kaiser” also seemed like too much work.

I guess I can write those posts some other time.

I am already feeling overwhelmed here in Bloglandia. I post everyday, and I read about 50 bloggers every single day. It’s a bit much. I do not even have any time to finish this stupid book that I started reading ages ago. And now the A to Z Challenge?

Well, this is all my own choice, so I cannot really complain, but since I was sick all this week and working doubles every day, and getting a damned PET scan, I felt as though the “lazy” route was the only route for me to take.

I promise to write better stuff soon. As it is, I feel as though this antiquated computer that I use may not survive April, and so I feel privileged to even get a post up every day.

And to all of you whose blogs I read faithfully every day, I really enjoy them, so I am not complaining. I guess I am just getting wrapped up in a new obsession, and I need to find the balance.

And so, I keep on truckin’ on…

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Grateful Dead

“G” is for Grateful Dead—always has been.  Or at least since 1985, when I first discovered them.  From the time I first saw them in concert in Oakland, California back in November 1985, no other music in the world has touched me like the Grateful Dead.  They will forever be my favorite band.

I understand that many other people in the world simply do not “get” the Dead, and I get that.  There is a lot of music in the world that I simply do not appreciate.  It happens.  I’m already over it.

But I have been successful in getting a few friends and a couple girlfriends to open up to their music.  This is probably due only to my overly enthusiastic play-by-play that I give when listening to a particular show or album, but they went along with it anyway.  However, even as I tried to get them to appreciate their music, no one has fully understood why I saw them in concert 70 times.

Yes—seventy times.

PRZ-001009

Ahhh, just one more…please!

And that is such a low number compared to many friends that I know, but between 1985 and 1994, I saw them as often as I possibly could.  I had a really cool job that let me disappear for a week or two, as long as I had my shifts covered, and as long as I worked 60-80 hour weeks when I returned.  I stopped seeing them a year before Jerry Garcia died, but not because they were a freakin’ train wreck by that time (and they were), but because I met the girl who would become my future ex-wife, and my priorities changed.  I had always meant to get back to see them again, but it never happened.  If Jerry Garcia were still alive today, and if the Dead were still doing their thing, you better believe that I would still have been seeing them all these years!

I remember when I was introduced to them.  I knew a few of their songs from the radio, but did not pay much attention to them until my best friend at the time, Dan, played me some of their records one summer afternoon.  He had a really groovy sister who owned a few of their albums, and we would listen to the records up in his room with the windows open and the music cranked to 11.  I liked them, but I was still not hooked.

I was a huge fan of the Rolling Stones at that time, and Led Zeppelin, and various Progressive Rock bands, and the Dead intrigued me, but I hadn’t grasped the magic of their music until I finally saw them live.

Dan had won tickets to a show in Oakland from an Indie radio station, and asked me if I wanted to go.  This was on a school night during our Senior year of high school, but my parents were uncharacteristically cool about that.  After driving to the wrong venue in Oakland, we finally got to the show and went to Will Call to pick up the tickets.  They gave us little red raffle tickets instead of proper Ticketmaster tickets, and we weren’t sure that we would get into the show.  It all started to feel like a cruel prank.  Fortunately, no one even looked at our tickets. We were allowed in just as the lights went down for the first set.

Grateful Dead 12

I only knew three songs of all that was played that night.  In fact, I remember being playfully mocked by a random Deadhead when I stated to Dan that they did not play “Truckin’” or “Casey Jones.”  She said, “Well, they did play ‘Sugar Magnolia’”, to which I gave some sort of enthusiastic puppy dog response.

What a newb!

Anyway, they grabbed me that night.  I did not drink any literal Kool-Aid that night, but I was entranced by the melodies and noises coming from the stage that night.  Jerry Garcia was in particularly poor shape during this show (this was after his big bust and before his coma), but I just figured that he had a cold, or something.  Something in that frail, gravelly voice touched me, and I needed more and more.

Lookin' good, Jer!

Lookin’ good, Jer!

And that is what I try to convey to people: Garcia’s voice, especially as he aged, had such an emotional quality to it.  He could trigger a response with just a simple inflection, or even a squeaky crack in his voice.  No one else in the world could do for me what Garcia could do with his voice.

A lot of people complain that the Dead sound unrehearsed and sloppy, and at times, that is so true.  Each individual musician had their own unique way of playing, and each one had enough ego to take the foreground at any given moment.  Garcia played guitar like a banjo; Bob Weir played the guitar as if he were trying to do the opposite of actually playing the guitar; Phil Lesh played the bass like a solo cellist in a symphony; the two drummers were complete opposites of each other, and often sounded like rocks in a dryer; and each keyboardist just tried to keep up with the madness.  They were not an ordinary band!

Yeah, I said it: "Rocks in a dryer."

Yeah, I said it: “Rocks in a dryer.”

But they had the capacity to create magic every single night.  There were nights that I could not even begin to explain.

Wait.  Full disclosure:  I did a lot of drugs in my late teens, but by 1989, I stopped altogether.  You cannot say that I only appreciated their music because of the drugs, because I saw far more shows sober than high.

Anyway, there were nights that I could not even begin to explain; moments of magic that seemed impossible, and yet we all felt as if we were waiting for that exact thing to happen.  You can read about at least five examples of this from an earlier blog entry of mine.

There were also moments when we should have rioted and demanded our money back.  However, that’s what you get when you follow the Dead:  Some nights are magic, and some nights…not so much.

I swear this is the exact angle that I saw my second show.

I swear this is the exact angle that I saw my second show.

It would be impossible for me to give a list of introductory songs for newcomers to check out; the Dead are a personal experience, and each person has to find their own way around the maze.  However, I will list a handful of my favorites.  Brown-Eyed Women, Terrapin Station, Crazy Fingers, Help on the Way, Jack Straw, Lazy Lightning, Black Peter, Althea, Scarlet Begonias, and Box of Rain.

Anyway, I am doing a poor job of describing the indescribable.  Let me just end this with a song I wrote back in 1998.  This was about 2 ½ years after Jerry died, and I was still feeling the loss.  I was also feeling the loss of community, identity, and that indescribable moment.

The lyrics to this song are just as vague as the feeling of actually being at a Dead show.  Still, I think they capture it pretty well.  At least in my mind.

Anyway, here it is:  “Hit the Sky.”

Hit the Sky

By: Joel C. Marckx

1998/03/19

There was a fever from off the streets

And all I know, I’ll never hold it anymore

 

A thunderous tune sings, time-struck with wonder

Familiar journey with urgency

Madmen are shouting roaring gospels

Soothing psalms, and galaxies

And all I know, I’ll never hold it anymore

 

            The great foundation, fleeting landscapes

            There are no words for memories

 

Our navigator, a face in red smoke

Lighting fuses in hot pursuit

After surrender, respect is silence

Intoxicated, and scarred for life

And all I know, I’ll never hold it anymore

 

            Discerning pathways near infinity

            Floating in and around the sea

 

I still remember, but I can’t describe it

I sure would love to be there again

Now I just put on my favorite Dark Star

And hit the sky…hit the sky…

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Emotional Costs

Do you realize–that everyone you know someday will die? — The Flaming Lips

One of my favorite bloggers right now is Rarasaur, and she came up with a “Prompt for the Promtless” idea in which she gives a suggestion and in that week, we write about it. I love that idea, because, as anyone who follows my blog closely knows, I never have any ideas ;-).

Well, when I saw that she came up with a prompt this week for “True Cost”, I knew that I wanted to participate. The idea is that true costs are the often overlooked expenses that one deals with in a given situation; which can include financial costs, time-related costs, and emotional costs.

I decided that I would simply touch on the emotional costs of loving another living being. More specifically, dealing with the loss of those loved ones.

Of course, this topic is heavy, and can be extrapolated extensively into an enormous entry (today is “E” day on the A to Z Challenge, thank you very much!), but I will make it relatively brief.

I have been fortunate enough to have not suffered a close, personal loss. I did lose my grandmother back in 1999 (buried her on my 31st birthday, fun!), but she was 89 years old, and while her death was sudden, she was 89. I was saddened and shocked, but I was not heartbroken. She was the only relative that I was close to that passed away, and I did not grieve extensively for her, as I know that others have done with their loved ones.

I also lost an old friend recently to cancer, and that devastated me, but the truth is that while she and I were friends, I think I mourned the loss of my own past more than the person herself (even though I loved her and miss her).

The deepest loss that I have ever experienced was when my cat, Momo, died last year. I wrote about her a while back, and I think I expressed how profoundly I felt her loss sufficiently enough in that post. She was my first baby, and I still miss her to this day.

I still miss that big belly!

I still miss that big belly!

I am thinking about these things right now because last week my son and I lost another pet, and his grandmother, both unexpectedly, and both within 12 hours of each other.

On Wednesday, I noticed that my bunny, Dexter, was looking frail and lethargic. Upon closer inspection, I could tell that he had lost a lot of weight, his tummy was distended, and his bodily functions were not quite right. I took him into the vet, and it was determined that he would need to be put down right then and there. He would not recover. If I did not take him in that day, he certainly would have died that night anyway.

Dexter Duck

Dexter Duck

Airplane Ears

Airplane Ears

I feel a tremendous amount of guilt about that because I had been working too many hours, and I had not been around enough to pay much attention to the pets. About two weeks prior to his death, I had noticed that he was losing weight, but he was still eating, and so I figured that he was fine, or at least good enough. Had I paid closer attention, I surely would have noticed that he was sick, but I was too busy.

Then, about 12 hours later, I got a text from Liam’s mom, Heather, saying that she was on the way to the hospital where her mother was admitted just the day before. She had just gotten a call from the hospital saying that her Mom was dying, and did not have long to go. Heather’s mom—my former mother-in-law, Cindy—was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in September, and decided to treat herself naturally. She took different steps than I ever would have taken, and the cancer only got worse. On Tuesday of last week, her body completely shut down, and she was admitted to the hospital. By early Thursday morning, she was gone. In 48 short hours, she went from weak-but-still-alive, to dead.

I have written a few times about my own experiences with pancreatic cancer, and how I beat it naturally with nutrition and exercise. I kicked cancer’s sorry little ass without chemo and radiation, and I am stronger now than I have ever been in my whole life. Cindy thought that she could beat it with spiritual energy work and naturopathy. She could have, if she had also used diet and exercise in her regimen, but she chose her own path, and now she is gone. There were other factors that led to her untimely passing, but I will not get into them here.

Liam and Grandma Cindy, Thanksgiving 2010.

Liam and Grandma Cindy, Thanksgiving 2010.

And I feel a little angry about that. Not only have I been feeling Liam’s grief, as well as Heather’s grief, but I have also been feeling my own grief about Cindy’s passing. Even though Heather and I split-up in 2001, I had always been very close to both Heather and Cindy all these years. I loved Cindy; she was family, and she was also very instrumental in my own recovery from cancer.

And I am mad that it had to be this way. Liam did not get a chance to say goodbye to his grandmother–to whom he was very close— and barely had time to register that she was shutting down. And she could have beat the cancer easily if she had not been so stubborn! It did not have to be this way.

The emotional costs of love are many, and they can include, guilt, anger, grief, frustration, heartbreak, and sorrow. The truth is that no one knows exactly how they will react to losing someone or some animal that they love deeply—but that’s the price we pay for loving!

Some costs of love can be even more devastating. I have spoken with a friend and fellow parent that if we ever lost our children that we would simply kill ourselves. That is not a cry for help or attention, and I do not need my meds adjusted (although I would love a lifetime supply of Vicodin!); rather, it is the simple truth. I honestly could not imagine the point of living without Liam.

Yeah.  That guy.

Yeah. That guy.

Some people’s purpose in this world is specific enough that trying to live beyond that purpose is…well, purposeless. I would call that emotional cost, selfishness. And all love is selfish, anyway—don’t kid yourselves.

Love is very complicated; whether that love is for a human or a pet, a lover, a friend, or a child, or even for ourselves, love is complicated. The emotional costs are far too many to list in this simple post. Yet, we cannot exist without them. Love is a beautiful thing, even if it causes us great pain at times, and one of the true costs of love is the whole gamut of emotions that one has to feel to experience it, for good or ill.

Bottom line is this: You cannot love someone without experiencing loss at some point. At that is a part of the pact you make with someone (or animal) that one rarely considers at love’s inception.

Oh, and don’t forget to go give Rarasaur a big Rawr!!

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Birthday Yoga

So, as I’ve been posting all week about Liam’s birthday, I thought I would share how the day went. No big celebrations; not even any cake. His actual party with his buddies will be on Saturday, but we still managed to celebrate lightly today anyway.

In case you can't see that, he is 70 inches tall.  70 friggin' inches!

In case you can’t see that, he is 70 inches tall. 70 friggin’ inches!

Today was a school day, but I got to sub at his school, which was nice. So much better than rushing to drop him off, then rushing to the school that I teach, and then rushing back to pick him up again. I didn’t teach any of his classes, but I got to remind all of his friends that it was his birthday so that he could get even more attention at school!

I’ve mentioned before that things have been pretty rough for me financially for the past couple years, and things are crumbling down like a house of cards as I type, so I couldn’t even afford any gifts for him. I’ll make up for it next month (hopefully), but for today, I took him to a place where people love him and were happy to see him on his birthday. I am talking, of course, about the yoga studio.

Toe Stand.

Tree pose.

Everybody just loves Liam there, and since we have been going for two years now, they have watched him grow up. The studio owner always jokes about how she has watched him grow armpit hair! Plus, he is an amazing yogi, so there’s also a heap of respect for him.

Camel Pose.  One of our instructors thinks we should use this as a Christmas Card.

Camel Pose. One of our instructors thinks we should use this as a Christmas Card.

Everyone at the studio sang Happy Birthday to him during “Triangle Pose”. It’s a tradition in our studio, and is always a relief since it makes holding the posture much shorter!

My spine may be as stiff as a 2x4, but I can frickin' do a mean Rabbit Pose!

My spine may be as stiff as a 2×4, but I can frickin’ do a mean Rabbit Pose!

So after some much needed yoga, we came home to my world famous lasagna. My lasagna is pretty amazing, and it is no wonder that Liam requested it as his special birthday dinner. We always joke that it is so good that we can’t stop eating it, and so we eat shameful and embarrassing amounts.

This applies to lasagna, as well.

This applies to lasagna, as well. And then we eat it all in one night.

After sating our gluttonous appetites, he played some Soundgarden for me that he learned recently on the bass and guitar. I am always impressed by how quickly he can learn songs. I used to have to teach him everything. Now, he goes off to his Mom’s house, and when he returns 3 days later, he has a bevy of new songs to play for me! Sweet!

Before bed, we read more of “Inkheart” together (I love that book, BTW), and got ready for the next school day. Rather anticlimactic, but there you have it.

Someday, all of this money bullshit will be behind me, and I can do the things I want. For now, however, Liam doesn’t really care about any of that. He loves his Papa, and is grateful for the time we have together. That is more than enough for me!

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The post-yoga and lasagna glazed-over look.

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