It’s almost October. I go outside in a t-shirt and still sweat. This is not right. The longest summer of my life refuses to go gently into that good night. About the only thing that feels like fall is Notre Dame losing 3 of their first 4 games. So much for the Coach Kelly era. He may be gone before I ever figure out why his team is wearing red caps on the sidelines.
I’m pulling for Boise State. Rooting for Alabama or Ohio State is like rooting for Wall Street. My prediction is that both teams lose a game at least. No way Bama makes it through the SEC unscathed. They should have lost to Arkansas on Saturday but the Hogs appeared to have one of those “we’re winning but we’re not good enough to beat Alabama” moments in the 3rd quarter and started to shit all over themselves. And Ohio State has some brutal conference games upcoming. Boise just has to stay sober to make it to the BCS title game. My gut is telling me it’s gonna be Boise St and Nebraska at the end, with TCU being the inevitable non BCS team un-defeated but locked out.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, will be lucky to win 4 games. Aside from having no defense, no running game, and a none too bright quarterback who spends much of his time running for his life, they appear razor-sharp. They also have a decent punter who gets tons of game time. Brian Kelly is making Charlie Weis look like Vince Lombardi. Here’s the thing. If your dream is to coach at Notre Dame, take a handful of sleeping pills and go back to bed.
On the pro side, my Steelers are proving you can win in the NFL with Betty White as your quarterback if you can run the ball and have a perpetually pissed-off defense (A freak like Troy Polamalu doesn’t hurt either. He’s like having a plumber living in your basement). Ben Roethlisberger is due back in two weeks if he can lay off the co-eds. It’ll be interesting to see what type of reception he gets. Personally, I think NFL fans would accept Bernie Madoff as their team’s quarterback if he could avoid red-zone interceptions. If Roethlisberger wins, the fact that he’s a probable rapist won’t matter. If the Steelers start to lose, everybody’s gonna suddenly find their inner moral indignation.
Thank the flying spaghetti monster for football. It’s one of the few things that always chases away the blues (as long as you’re smart enough to not be a NY Giants fan). As I type this the Bears and the Packers are locked in a 17-17 tie late in the 4th quarter, which is exactly how a Bears/Packers game is supposed to play itself out. A great end to a great weekend of football.
And the baseball playoffs commence in 2 weeks, which is the only time of the year I can watch baseball. So the hours logged on the couch should rise exponentially over the next month.
Now, in between snaps I have a record to record.
In a bit…
My father was killed by Alzheimer’s Disease. I say “killed” other than “died from” quite deliberately. I consider Alzheimer’s a killer. If the devil exists he or she or whatever it is surely slithers around in the guise of Dementia. Fully 1% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product is eaten by Alzheimer’s. That’s $604 billion. And ironically, as medical breakthroughs allow us to live longer, Alzheimer’s gets worse. At age 85 a person has a 50% chance of getting it. It’s always been with us. We’ve just normally not lived long enough for suffer its wrath.
Alzheimer’s killed my father twice. It took away his memories before it stopped his heart. And before it stopped his heart it surely broke it as well. Surrounded by family, he was still alone. Scared. Confused. Anxious. Furious. Oblivious to his surroundings sometimes, and all too aware of them at others. We could do nothing except hold his hand and whisper that everything was going to be alright. In other words, we could do nothing but lie. So we lashed out. At each other. At caregivers. At doctors. At complete strangers. The last few month’s of my father’s life was not a time to cut any of us off in traffic.
There came a time when my Mother could not care for him at home anymore. I still remember that night. The night after the Super Bowl it was. We pretended when we left the house that we’d all be back. But all of us knew. Except my father. He didn’t know his own house anymore. He wanted to go “home”. I promised to take him. He believed me. He knew the Saints had won the game the night before, so he grabbed a New Orleans ball cap before we left. We went to the hospital, where eventually he needed to be tranquilized so he wouldn’t keep getting up, putting on his jacket, and wanting to go home. Me and my Mom stayed with him until the wee hours. I sat on the floor and a few times caught myself dozing. My mother sat on a stiff backed chair and never once closed her eyes.
Pop never slept in his own bed again.
For me and my mother, it was, at the time, the worst and longest night of our lives.
From the hospital we went ping-ponging back and forth….to a managed care facility, then back to the ER, then to a specialized care unit, then back to managed care. It was bewildering and exhausting for us. Thinking about what it did to him still keeps me up nights. Eventually, you hit a care-wall. There’s nothing even the most well-intentioned care giver can do except ease pain. And allow what’s going to happen to happen in relative peace.
My father was in hospice when he died. He felt no pain. While there he was treated with dignity and respect. There was no cure for his affliction, so we were watching him die. We wanted death to come to ease his pain, but wanted life to stay to ease ours. His last few hours will never be erased from my memory.
Unless of course I too succumb to this disease.
How horrific is it to live in a world full of strangers? Of fear? Or incomprehension? Like a child abandoned. That’s how it must feel. And to know, before the curtains are drawn completely, what your fate is to be. It is every bit as awful as Cancer. Which is why Alzheimer’s Disease is now the 2nd most dreaded affliction in America….redeemed only by it’s inability to kill a child. Cancer is still the undisputed king. But in time? Who can tell? A cure may be found for cancer. But can we cure getting old?
None of us have not been affected by one or the other. Most have known both. Yet still I hear dismay in the voice of others when I speak of my lack of faith. Like I am somehow letting them down.
I feel let down. In a world where Alzheimer’s and Cancer has become a coin flip, I feel silly on my knees. Like a beggar in a city full of rich, obnoxious assholes.
In a bit…
Brand new song. Still tinkering with it, and plan on adding another verse and a mid-section….but I promised my sister I’d post something from the upcoming CD
It’s called “Leaving Home”
The muse is hard to pin down. Like trying to grab a fist full of water. Or a wisp of air.
When it arrives, we sit hunched over guitars or notepads or keyboards, thinking of lightning in a bottle. It’s been captured, and there’s no way it can get way. And then….
Well, you wake up the next day and suddenly you’re playing the guitar with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver. Your legal pad is filled with games of tic-tac-toe and hangman. And your computer screen is as white as Glenn Beck. What the hell happened? Why am I all of a sudden spending much of my day studying a piece of lint on the floor? Didn’t I used to be good at this shit?
Maybe. And maybe you will be again. But not today. And maybe not tomorrow either. What you could pluck out of thin air has now gone underground, like a guerilla army, and you start checking to make sure you can still spell your own name without pulling out your license.
And so it starts to eat away at your confidence. Maybe I was never that good to begin with. That would certainly make a dry patch like this easier to deal with. I mean, what can one expect? Maybe he was born to be a Salieri with a greying beard and a creeping suspicion he’s become a misanthrope? As Ted Knight put it so succinctly in Caddyshack, “the world needs ditch diggers too.”
But please don’t bury me in the cold cold ground. John Prine said that, and he’s a cancer survivor whose songs have done more for mankind than any politician’s policy’s I can name. And as a cynical political junkie, I can name way too many. Liars. Thieves. Partisan maniacs. Sex fiends. What does it say about the brainpower of a nation that it elects somebody (twice) to be President who believes in the rapture? It says we need a new pack of John Prine songs desperately. Or maybe we need to listen to “Angel From Montgomery” closer. We’re alienated. In our own homes. Fear keeps us in front of the TV with a 6-pack. “How the hell can a person go to work in the morning / come home in the evening / and have nothing to say?” These lines taught me more than all of Shakespeare’s poetic wanking.
But on some nights, that’s me. I’ve got nothing to say. The day sucks the air out of your lungs. Spend 8 or 1o hours doing what you need to do as opposed to what you want to do, and try not to arrive at the dinner table with a chip on your shoulder. A successful life these days is defined as one spending more time with people you largely despise (co-workers if you’re lucky enough to have a job) than with those you genuinely love. Wife. Kids. Your dog. When that mortgage payment comes and you can pay it, you’re officially a boring old fart…..the kind of parent your kids walk 10 paces ahead of at the mall so nobody thinks they actually belong to you. The only time they allow you to catch up is when they need money. Pay up and they like you. Say no and you’re the anti-christ and probably on the hook for untold future therapy bills. Want to talk to your kid? Hope he or she hasn’t de-friended you on facebook. If they did, you’re pretty screwed. It’s like when the astronauts disappear behind the moon. Total communication blackout. Wake up one day and your kid has a tattoo of Che Guevara on their left buttock. Nobody seems surprised but you. So you ask, “a Che tattoo. Interesting. Where’d you get the idea for that?” And they’ll give you that look that says “when did you get so old and uncoll?” But it comes out that one of the latest Disney Poster Boys of the minute showed up at some premiere wearing a Che t-shirt, and now it’s an obligation to show support. And oh by the way I owe her money to pay for it because I’m the father and that’s what father’s do. They pay for Che tattoos.
Course none of this has happened to me yet. Politics for my kids during the last election boiled down to the “African American” (never “black”) vs. the “Old Dude’…..who seemed a lot smarter before he picked his running mate than he became after. It dawned on him that first day that he’d asked a crazy, unintelligent bitch who when trapped one on one with a real journalist kept looking for the nearest fire exit so she wouldn’t be bothered with pesky foreign policy questions that could not be put off by the “I can see Russia from my house:” stock reply. It was an interesting, almost surreal time in which John McCain, for whatever reason, pulled the pin on his last grenade and blew himself back to Arizona and his trophy wife and her vast fortune….never to be heard from again. He suffered the kind of presidential beating that even Fox News couldn’t spin. Obama was president. We rejoiced. It was a miracle. Surely, here it came. Another great society. End the wars. Bring the boys home. If not guns and butter, then butter only. Feed the hungry. Take care of the sick. Take this disparity between rich and poor and start hacking away at it. Things were gonna change.
Except they didn’t. Wall Street took all our retirement and 501k and suddenly we owned nothing but clothes on our back. House. Two cars. All that middle class stuff. We paid the bank and they said as long as we did they wouldn’t huff and puff and blow our house down….which was pretty nice of them since I’d just chipped in giving them a $600 billion dollar bailout. Obama was supposed to rise us up. He was supposed to make us all feel better about ourselves. “Yes we can” and all that shit. Well, “yes we can” if we work for wall street and suddenly have $600 billion extra George Washington’s to spend with no need to provide receipts. But for the rest of us. “no we can’t” afford the mortgage and nobody is offering me a bailout and the sheriff is outside with a piece of paper I’m in no mood to read……and a crowbar.
Barack, I voted for you. I believed you. You let me down. I get lip service for TV sound bytes. But my dreams? What do you know about my dreams? Nothing. You take care of your boys now while the getting is good, and I wonder how I’m going to be able to send my girls to college. I work hard. I do the right things. But I’m priced out, That seems unfair. Worse, it seems Un-american. And people tell me I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t feel lucky. I feel used.
Being pissed is good for the muse. It can kick start it…..and set up a roadblock to get it back on the right tract. I have these songs. They’re about my father. His life. His Alzheimer’s disease. His battle. His refusal to not rage against the dying of the light. Watching him die was the worst of times. But it was also the best of times, because for the first time I saw what the human spirit is capable of. Hell, Alzheimer’s had it’s claws in my father, but I’m convinced he was aware enough to go on his own terms. He shut down and said….enough. Forget me. My family has suffered enough. I’m going to close my eyes and not wake up anymore.
And so that’s what he did. Some 5 months ago. He never went to work in the morning and came home in the evening and had nothing to say. Not Pop. Alienation is for weaklings. Like me. Pop had too much to do. Too many people to help. No time for this self-pity shit.
I want to be more like him. I want my muse back so I can pay him this compliment in song. A song lasts forever.
That’s what I’ve learned in all this. A song lasts forever. Everything else dies.
So, that should clear this up. My muse? Where are you? I’m waiting.
In a bit…
Odd country we live in. A lone nut can now affect US foreign policy….by just threatening to do something. In this case, burn piles of the Koran. Some evangelical pastor from Florida with a congregation that can fit on my back porch. Guy has been surrounded by cameras for weeks now, no doubt relishing his 15 minutes….thinking of upcoming book and movie deals, and perhaps even a spot on Dancing With the Stars.
All in all pretty lame stuff. I deal with folks crazier than this guy from 9 to 5 M-F. Except that this is front page news. With another 9/11 anniversary upcoming…..this sort of thing gets folks worked up into a frenzy. Mostly news directors.
So instead of ignoring the guy, this gets elevated to the fucking White House. The President of the United States makes the Bushlike observation that burning the Koran will “endanger our troops” (as if they’re not in enough danger stuck in the middle of a shithole like Afghanistan already). In Afghanistan the Islamic fringe has gotten in on the act, rioting to the tune of 11 injured….keep in mind protesting something that hasn’t happened yet. It doesn’t take much though. This crew went batshit over a cartoon, so motives are questionable. They just might like to break stuff and this gives them a reason in the eyes of a world that thinks little of dropping bombs on each other over ecumenical details. Nobody says…”wow, isn’t it stupid to get so worked up over a cartoon?” They instead say, “oh shit, they’re gonna start breaking stuff again. Get rid of the cartoonist.”
It’s all a bit nutty….this killing ’cause we love god so much. Of course, Christians aren’t above shedding some muslim blood in the name of their deity. Anyone remember the crusades? So long ago right? We would never do so ghastly things these days. Right? Perhaps a Wikipedia search on Bosnia in the 1990s will give one pause. Perhaps not though. Such short memories these days.
I’m against book burning myself. Reminds me of a Nazi newsreel on the History Channel. If I don’t like a book I either throw it away or wrap it and give it to somebody as a gift. There’s probably a bible in my house somewhere….although like most I’ve read “The Catcher in the Rye” way more times. I don’t care if somebody burns the bible, or “The Catcher in the Rye” for that matter….as long as it’s not my copies. If they bought their own to burn, have at it (would be interesting to know where the Florida preacher and his gang procured their copies of the Koran they mean to burn. Some book store owner is giggling up his sleeve). Is it sacrilegious? I guess that depends on where you’re at on the god-meter. But isn’t cutting someone’s head off sacrilegious too? How about stoning an adulterer? Or in this country, how about hating someone for the color of their skin, or for their sexual orientation? All this goes on and on while the lead story on the news is about book burnings. It’s very depressing.
Live and let live I say. Pick someone up when he falls, and expect he’ll do the same for you. Don’t kick dogs or throw cats. Keep the noise down, build a big fence, and wave back when somebody waves even if you’re not sure who it is. Don’t drive a Hummer ’cause you’ll look like an asshole. If you are a member of a church that sponsors book burnings, it might be a good time to question your beliefs. Or to suspend them all together and read “Catcher in the Rye” again.
In a bit…
Finally. A bit of crispness in the air. Full days of school. And football. Taken together, nearly enough to make one forget how messed up things are. Jobs have packed up and moved south. Way south. Those still clinging to a paycheck are left with fewer and fewer options. You take what they dish out. You take what they give you in a “thank you sir may I have another” kind of way. And you walk away gritting your teeth, but you dare not grit too hard ’cause your insurance most likely does not include dental.
But then again, it’s for times like these that Brent Musburger was created. And so I still have hope. When fall fails to roll around, then it’s over.
In a bit…