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Work in Progress

Summer is back and the urban sounds of hip hop are painting it black. My birthday is in a week and I am old and white-- that’s a bad combination these days. My son just berated me for his lack of diversity, due to my patrician genetics, and he thanked God for his Spanish mother. I struggle with not wanting to be so disdainful and to have an open heart, but unless I am in yoga class, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of that. I used to think that hard work and some skills were a formulae for success but with incompetence and entitlement being the winning strategy, I am buying more lottery tickets and getting more gas.
 
The world is upside-down, trying to figure out how to be creative while standing on your head is challenging. Retirement is about something being over, forced retirement is about the culture saying you’re over. What to step on or where to step-up? Who to look to or who to look out for? Where to focus or how to focus? 
 
Due to social media we have a paranoia pandemic that we are being left out or left behind.
And on any given day, you are.
 
So what's a white boy to do?
 


Los Angeles

I am a native New Yorker, I was born and raised in NYC, but I have lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years. I love Los Angeles. Many people have mixed feelings about the city: some don't like it at all, others love it conditionally (much like most of the relationships in this city), and all love it when there are those perfect LA days that are like nowhere else. A slight breeze, absolute perfect temperature, crystal clear sky after a rain. This is when LA conjures up that magical elixir, that drug where everything seems possible.

 

Los Angeles is usually regaled for the resources–– the access. The mountains are close at hand. The ocean is close at hand. The desert is close at hand.

 

Physical Beauty is all around, both geographically and in human kind. (A friend of mine once remarked that they feel Comely but Stupid in NYC and Brilliant but Homely in LA.) Los Angeles is now boasting some of the finest restaurants and world-class chefs. All these amenities are fantastic and enhance the living experience, but for me it's what you cannot see that enthralls me.

 

It is a city of contradictions. A transitional city where people come to talk and talk about moving somewhere else but somehow never do. It's a strange place to call home. I don’t think anyone consciously says, “You know I would really like to move to LA to raise a family.”

 

It’s the most authentic city in the world and the most inauthentic city in the world, reflected by many things but certainly the language. The word “wannabe” was coined here; that is not a word that’s used in Kansas. It’s a word that distinguishes the real from the faux, the “haves” from the “have-not’s”. And the city knows who is something and who isn’t. It demands authenticity, and at the same time cultivates in authenticity. The word “Like” was coined here and has become an essential marker for all things LA. Of course, that word was coined here because the entire city is a “Set” it’s not real. It’s “like” something. We have turned simile into an art form. The word “Like” also reflects the commitment of the city. If I say it’s “like” something, I don’t actually have to “Stand” for anything.

 

It has become completely acceptable when dating in LA to promote one thing and be something else. The contradictions are unique. You can tell someone on the first date that you are madly in love and then never call again. We have bitter and possibility cohabitating beautifully here in LA.

It's a city of entrepreneurs. You can make anything happen here, you don't have to have any degrees/credentials. You don’t have to have a history or you can have a criminal history. You can start as one thing but predictably you will end up as something else. You are rewarded for very bad behavior and then you are indicted for the same behavior. Your life-long friends depend on what fad you are following. When we take to drinking more, we have a whole new set of life-long friends.

 

As a little boy, I loved going to the Circus. Going to Madison Square Garden to see Ringling Brothers Circus was one of the highlights of the year. To live in Los Angeles you must love the Circus, you must love The Three Ring Circus and you must have a good case of ADHD so you have the ability to watch all three rings at the same time. Different City’s require different skill sets. It takes some time to figure out LA’s. It’s not as easy as taking off your shoes upon entering a traditional Japanese home.

 

 

 


Digging Deep

It takes something to fight for something, and many times those acts are not public. They are mostly private battles that you have to win every day. We battle with the best part of ourselves, and certainly the lesser part. We are faced with choices all day long, choices like: to have character, to have integrity, to eat well, to exercise, to develop, etc. Knowing what to get behind and knowing what to leave behind. Letting go and letting be or pushing through. In a crowd surrounded by family and friends lost in social media mayhem, we are still alone. We have to get up again and again.

 

I often wonder as I am in the shower for the millionth time, doing the same routine over again–– washing my face, washing my body, washing my hair–– when will I just give up and just not shower anymore? Life is not easy of course, and I have great compassion for what it takes and what makes it difficult for people. From the beginning, we face those challenges, the challenges kids have in school––bullying, peer pressure, focus, fitting-in, feeling safe.

 

Maintaining your spirit, your passion, your heart is daunting when faced with those pressures. That is not say there are not great times or profound moments, but in between those moments there is the struggle. The struggle to keep your vision when all around you is distracting and misdirecting, is a daily discipline.

 

 

 


A Blistering December

This is usually the time for review, a time to look back and reflect but not this time. That does not mean that excavation is not taking place, it just means all of the unearthing is in service of a powerful forward momentum.

 

We are in the throes of great change. We have been coming to this for a long time now. All has been under examination for a while now: how we eat, how we sleep, how we were parented, how we parent, how we relate to one another. We have been examining all that we are as human beings and all that we do, and so it’s not surprising that men are now under the microscope.

 

Most of us don’t like change, especially if it looks like it includes loss. There is a shelf-life to everything. Recognizing one’s outdated behavior and surrendering to a new direction is challenging but it’s also refreshing, energizing. There are historical accounts and retrospectives of what pushes us into new paradigms. There are those inciting events that architect our future, but really there are a series of low-profile moves that allow for an inciting event. One person might get credit for great change but it is thousands of unheralded actions that have created scaffolding for a time which has come.

 

I usually wish for love and care around the holidays, not that that shouldn’t be there always, but this year there’s an additional wish. This is a Sisyphean time where all have to push the rock up the hill and surrender to a new direction. 

 

The truth will set you free but first it will scare you down to your very core... 

 

Here's to truthful Holidays.

 

 

 

 


Heartbreak

Heartbreak is an essential part of being human. It happens to all of us and it happens in very different ways. There are events, such as: someone passing away, a significant break-up, a truly unexpected tragedy, results from poor choices, etc. Heartbreak hits us all differently and hits us from different parts of our lives. We have the ability to “rally” and move on, but heartbreak lingers. Even when we have the drive to move on and move forward, sometimes it’s just too much and will lay us flat. We are living in a time where heartbreak has become a quotidian expression. Heartbreak no longer stalks us, it now inhabits us.

There are new cultural personalities that are developing because of the heartache and the heartbreak. We use to have personalities of rage and anger because there was still the illusion that we could stave off and/or eliminate the heartbreak that hit us, but the endless waves of despair that come with such regularity has changed the way we deal.

When my younger brother died, fifteen years ago, it hit me very hard. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t experience loss before, but this was personal, it brought my mortality into focus. For months, I kept trying to shake off this feeling that hung over me like grey overcast. Until one day it dawned on me, I was forever changed and whatever room I had occupied was forever closed. I had been bumped into a different room, it wasn’t better or worse, it was just different. It didn’t offer up the same sunlight but then there was something more substantial. We have to learn how to live with less sunlight.



I Mean... Really

 
"'The time has come', the Walrus said
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.' 

I think it’s fair to say that the sea is getting hotter and pigs do have wings. However, Harvey’s wings are forever scorched. Do we rejoice in other’s misery (Schadenfreude) or is it more about flying too close to the sun and we want those to get their comeuppance? I don’t think it can get any clearer, we are in a Feminine Revolution and what was tolerated before is no longer tolerable and men will be forced to find other ways to behave. There has been a complicity between men and women, a mutual understanding that has brought out the worst in all of us. We have allowed fear and compromise to dominate. We have allowed gluttony to triumph over character. We have allowed silence to overshadow truth. To EARN a person’s love and respect rather than threaten their very dreams by way of leverage is “The Divine Right of the Insecure.” One can always tell if someone has really found redemption or if they’re just giving lip service, spinning contrite tales in order to reassemble back to what once was.

Sometimes it takes great loss to get the lessons, and sometimes that’s not even enough; but the stakes will keep getting raised if one doesn’t heed the signs. We are so consumed with staying alive, we don’t see how we are dying.

If one is to begin with Lewis Carol than they should end with Shakespeare.
 
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

What is the Truth?

What is the Truth? An age-old question. And one that we essentially are in search of all the time. We look for the Truth in our personal lives, with those we love–– our friends and family. We look for the Truth from our leaders, from our teachers, from whom we date to who we marry. We look for the Truth philosophically: from how to live our lives, to religion, to who we should work for and what we should do.

The need for the Truth is an all-consuming pursuit and it is certainly one of the core-centric commonalities that binds us together. We have Referees, Umpires, Pundits, Lawyers, Police, Committees and self-proclaimed authorities looking out for what is the Truth. There are the obvious Truths, where someone is caught in an outright lie. Then there are the not so obvious, where things are more subjective–– like whether it’s a ball or a strike.

Then there are things that you absolutely think are true, and you live from those truths until later on you discover that they were lies. When one is angry and says hateful things to another and then later on recants, which is true: the hateful things he/she said in the moment, or the loving regret they speak in the aftermath? 

So, how to get at the Truth: I have found that when one takes anything personally they have an inability to diffuse or reveal the Truth of a situation, if one doesn’t feel personally lied to and there is no threat of loss, that seems to offer up space for a person to tell the truth.
 

“The reason people lie is because of Shame, therefore to use Shame as a tool to get to the Truth will just further concretize the situation.”



Turning In

As a country, we are a melting pot of different ideologies, different ethnicities, different points of view and we strive to celebrate those differences. Historically we have been known to be a country that attracts fresh starts and offered a haven, free from persecution.  “Fresh starts” yes, but free from persecution? Hardly.

Our country was founded as a response to persecution, yet we have been the biggest violators of that ideology. It goes to show that the wounds which have been inflicted on us we continue to inflict on ourselves and others, like some sort of Ancestral Pathology.

There will always be hierarchies. There will always be differences. But judgment and prejudice usually stem from insecurity and the fear of the unknown, and we have been conditioned to attack anything that is different. Prejudice and judgment are not relegated to the uneducated, to the poor, or to the over-educated and entitled. Its commonality is a traumatized heart–– a closed heart.

Hatred does not come out of a void, prejudice is a learned behavior. As parents, it begins with us; to be a good role model for our kids, to be generous of spirit. To not jump to believe what you see is the whole story. I am always amazed to see whenever I make snap judgments I am usually wrong. Or at least I certainly do not have the whole story.

I’m being taught everyday by my children: when I interact with their behavior, rather than knowing there is more to the story, I get more unwanted behavior. When I take something personally, I have no perception and I have no ability to assist in diffusing the situation.

Prejudice takes on many faces:
      Fear of the unknown.
      Fear of what you don’t understand or can’t explain.
      Fear of looking stupid.
      Fear of losing what you feel entitled to.

Fear is the reoccurring theme. We have no understanding of how to deal with our fears, we only know that being afraid is uncomfortable and someone will pay for our discomfort.

In times of uncertainty we look for diversions, entertainment, religion, meditation, mindfulness–– anything that can soothe the savage beast, or at the very least, can create some sense of normalcy and stability.

I personally have been looking back, whether it is my age or if I am just remembering a time when the world seemed bright and fanciful. However, the truth is, every TIME has had its pain. It is just our posts and or snapshots that allows us to distort the past.



Turning Corners

I just got back from vacation in Europe with my family where we had such a miraculous time. My heart is full. 

I am moved and touched by the the sweetness and generosity of the people of the world. We were treated with such warmth everywhere we went. I am clearly an American, and like the country I come from, I still think I have that inalienable right to act impatient and entitled. We are a country of “Willie” Loman’s, marketing a time that no longer exists. America has had so many opportunities to reinvent itself but we are too busy inventing slogans that are attempting to resurrect a time that is long gone.

The world is receptive to us but through very different portals. Receptive to our graciousness, our creativity, our ingenuity, our passions, our inclusiveness. I have become arrogant and proprietorial about what I am accustomed to.  What I discovered on this trip, due to gaining some distance from my self-proclaimed reality, is that I don’t particularly like myself. I don’t say that in some sort of self-pitying way or self-accusatory way, but more as an impetus for change. I don’t have enough money, youth, looks or cache for that level of entitlement.

I saw my future in such a clear way; I am to serve, not just sometimes, but all times. I don’t think making this change will be easy, as I have to battle a cultural riptide and personal impulses, but I do think this is the right direction.

In Memory of Chester

I was heartbroken to hear about Chester yesterday. My heart breaks for Mike, Brad, Dave, Joe and Rob (bandmates), Chester’s fans and family. We are not privy to people's pain, we only get glimpses into what people endure. As a father I can’t imagine leaving 6 kids this way, but I then think of Chester and I think more about him as a son than a father. And my heart breaks for him knowing him as an energetic, sweetly sensitive boy, where the world was too much for him. We all try to make sense of life and hell, I have made a profession out of that pursuit, but there is life that goes way beyond our own understanding. I watched a YouTube video of Chris Cornell singing “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles and Chester singing “Hallelujah” at Chris Cornel’s funeral and I was reminded of all things that are beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. And once again I was reminded that we are all heartbroken. Thank you Chester for all that you gave.

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