Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fortune Cookies

As I sat in the local brew house this evening watching my friends through a haze of pipe smoke, I began to contemplate fortune. Were one to ask me prior to this year, I would have spoken of fortune, luck or prosperity (whichever you prefer) as a cumulative effects of the events of ones life and how they form the person one becomes. If one were to ask me about mine,I likely would have replied that my fortunes were a mixed bag or outright negative. That of course is considering only the events of my own life. But lately I have had reason to rethink that response. It strikes me now as a bit egocentric. Even more so considering the bitter (if tongue-in-cheek) Valentines day rants I like to post. It's worth considering the idea that the good fortune of the people whom are important to you can have an equal effect on you if you let it. Energy spent in celebrating the happiness of others is certainly energy well spent. Seeing friends who love can instill equal measures of love in your own heart. Seeing friends who rejoice in overcoming adversity can make you stronger in meeting adversity of your own. Seeing friends stand against the world makes you stand taller in your own spirit. More than once I've watched this idea play out but was usually too busy with my misfortunes to give it any thought. However, tonight the circumstances were right to see the frayed edge of that thread and give it a tug. Am I a better man for watching the people I love walk an easier path? The answer is a firm and joyful yes. And that answer is enough to take the sting from most blows life can deal me. -B-

Friday, August 31, 2012

Time to rant... So Isaac has passed and we never really got hit. But it's been a full week of checking and re-checking preparations and making sure everyone knew the emergency plans should they be needed. But now that the danger (minor though it may have been) has passed, I can relax and think about how fast things seemed to break down here. In three days our little town was stripped bare of necessary supplies and tensions rose to the point of desperation. And this with almost no disruption in normal infrastructure. We never got anything worse than a stiff thunderstorm. A few hardcore souls were calm but that was the exception not the rule. The general public was an embarrassment to humanity. Had this actually developed into an emergency situation, most of this town would have been destroyed not by the storm, but by the sheer panicked foolishness of people who never plan further than their next night of TV. Living in an area where there is an established "hurricane season" every year should be an indicator that you should prepare for a hurricane... every year. When nobody is prepared then you, the general public, become a mob. Shame on you. We dodged the bullet this time so learn your lesson and figure out how to live without the internet and you electric stove. Those of you who had to work this week know what I'm talking about. I feel fortunate to have been both calm and prepared. For that I have to thank my dear Mom and Step-Dad for putting the effort into instilling common sense, confidence and faith into their wayward son. They also saw my fascination with prepping not as a paranoid phase but as a valuable skill set and supported it with many gifts of gear and reference material. Thanks guys for teaching me that walking in the Valley isn't a pretty verse. It's a mindset, a lifestyle and an act of faith. When the REAL storms come I'm ready baby!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Friend at the Right Time.

One of the disadvantages of living in the deep south is the constant onslaught of heat and humidity. For a man who has spent the better part of his adult life in a temperate climate, this poses a few challenges. Fortunately, I usually have the option of setting my own hours which allows me to beat the heat by working into the evening. That is how I found myself, on the wrong side of midnight, driving through rural Louisiana on a warm night in July.

I had packed up my gear and was walking across an empty parking lot to work on my machine when a beagle fell into step next to me. No man with a soul can resist scratching a dog behind the ears, so being the soulful man I am, I squatted down to show the pup some love. She immediately retreated with her tail between her legs. I shrugged it off and continued with my task

Once I finished the work I turned to leave and the beagle lept into pursuit and gave a little yelp. Again I tried to give her a scratch and again she shied away from me. I almost left it at that but I couldn't resist one last try so I sat on the sidewalk and waited for a while. Eventually my patience paid off and my shy little K9 acquaintance came close enough for me to pet her. She stepped into the meager light shed by the streetlights rolled over. I knew then why she was so skittish. In the dim light of the parking lot I had missed the scars. Someone had treated her so badly that almost her entire body was covered by one scar on top of another. Burns, cuts and scars which I couldn't even identify. The only part of her that was untouched seemed to be the part I was petting. After a few moments she decided I must be OK and put her head on my lap and we sat like that for an hour or more while I talked to her. In my mind I was trying to weigh the pros and cons of giving this dog a home. How could I, in good conscience, leave her to whatever situation she was in? The world owed this dog a comfortable existence after whatever hell had marked her.

Just when I was starting to convince myself to start looking for a leash, she stood up, gave a bark and a shake, licked my face as if to say thanks for the chat and padded off down the nearest road leading out of town. It seems that she had found her own path out of hell and only stopped because she saw someone who needed a friend just as much as she did.

After my last post, the few friends who read this little island in the ocean of cyberspace pointed out that when one has friends, it is hard to chalk up ones existence to the negative. After dusting off this old story and giving it some thought, I have to agree. But there are other points to consider. First, when an unknown soul (be it dog or human) can see the good in you at a glance, no matter how dark it is, there must be enough light in you that everything else you do can be viewed in it's brilliance. And finally, the Powers That Be have an uncanny knack of sending a friend at just the moment you need it most... even when that moment is a long way down the road. All that's required is to see them when they come.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Talk With a Stranger

Some time ago, while enjoying a friends hospitality I spent some time conversing with another guest whom I had not previously met. He was a musician, a poet and an all round artist with aspirations to an enlightened life. Our conversation had turned, as it often does, to career paths and I was explaining my rather mundane job when our mutual friend chimed in about how the job may be dull but my hobbies weren't. That, of course, turned us to a discussion of all of the out of the way knowledge I had accumulated on locksmithing, bush-craft, survival, homesteading, gunsmithing, self defense and so on. After questioning me a little about all of that he thought for a moment and said "It seems you've accumulated every possible negative skill". At the moment I didn't react. Everyone has a right to an opinion after all and it was clear that it wasn't an invitation to a debate. He had simply stated what he thought without malice... but it did make me think.

As I began to consider that short sentence it started to sound more and more like an accusation. No matter what the belief system, most people seem to be willing to acknowledge the link between positive thinking/acting/energy and positive long term results. Whether you believe as I do that God rewards the state of your heart by making you a conduit for positive events, (otherwise known as being blessed) or that positive energy once exerted mentally and pysically is reflected by the universe and returned to you bearing the good energy of others, one thing is clear. Nothing good can come of exercising negativity.

So as I sat home later that night mulling over the implications of that one little comment I began to compile a list. Sadly, the more I thought it through, the more that guy seemed to have a point. I've learned a great deal about survival in a world void of infrastructure out of a belief that society will eventually fall to its own lack of foresight and compassion despite the fact that mankind has steadily risen for over 1000 years. I have learned to be content with few possessions convinced that once gained, someone will wish to deprive me of them. I have learned self defense and the art of the trigger because lacking material goods, the next step is the deprivation of my life and the lives of those I love. I have learned first aid because my previous suppositions have been proven true throughout our society. And every career choice I have pursued until just recently has been based on covering the same bases for others who have had to live with the same realities.

On the reverse of that coin, I cannot create beautiful images nor compose or perform music. I cannot please anyone's taste-buds or give them goosebumps. I can injure and aid but not heal. I can block ingress and egress but I cannot show anyone the Way. I can think but not teach and I can earn but not enrich. Nothing I do seems to bring anyone around me entertainment, hope, wisdom, peace or wealth. So I am forced now to re-examine every step of my path and decide whether the things I have learned are knowledge, wisdom or distraction. Am I more than the sum of my parts or a case study in desperate irrelevancy?

I have spent a long time trying to find meaning in small things because I always thought that being content with small images without the bigger picture was a good way to avoid that feeling one gets of being insignificant when compared to the workings of the universe. But the longer I follow my feet, the more I miss feeling like I have a purpose... and the more I wonder if that lack of purpose stems from a lifetime of negative pursuit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Warning

On February 14, 1929, Al Capone ordered the murder of five members of the North Side Gang in Chicago. This bloody event eventually became known as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Experts believe that the hit was set in motion by an unsuccessful attempt by Bugs Moran to eliminate Capone’s lieutenant Jack McGurn (along with the successful murders of several other key members of the Capone Organization) and continual power grabs for Capone’s territory. But there is another issue here which deserves contemplation… The fact is, a bloodbath is the perfect complement to this mind-rape travesty of a Holiday.

Every year I have stepped up onto my soapbox and spoken against this unholy institution. Every year I take this opportunity to interject some reason, some resistance, to this ridiculous invasion of heart shaped boxes and disgusting, misspelled candy. Yet, despite my efforts, I watch the sheeple of this great nation once again get herded into a mass of doey eyed, slack jawed Shakespearians who are willing to get wallet raped by their local florist for a dozen-count bundle of hay-fever. All for the sake of doing what they should be doing EVERY DAY. I have watched as the single folks around me are pitied, avoided, ridiculed and given advise until it becomes their dearest ambition to beat senseless the next fool who wishes them a “happy singles awareness day”. Countless single cubicle jockeys dream of drowning couples in a frothy mixture of chocolate syrup and their own arterial spray every time they are forced to watch a flower delivery (or one of those weird singing valentines) come off the elevator on their floor. And God forbid any of us have to go to the store for a gallon of milk lest we be trampled by the scores or self absorbed pricks who forgot the whole thing to begin with and are now forced to make a mad dash for a trinket, card or flower to appease the God of Poor Planning.The result is that, by Valentine’s Day, I am ready to slit my wrist with a Golden Heart Pendent.

In the interest, therefore, of blowing off some steam let me make a couple of suggestions for all our benefit. First, if you are one of the happily coupled zombies who thrive on this madness, don’t involve the rest of us. Keep your tonsil hockey and “surprise” proposals to yourself. We already have enough to deal with with considering our retinas are burned from all the pink we’re seeing. Trust me, we are at any moment, going to hurl from the smell of those chalky little candies with the misspelled words. If you dare to ignore this suggestion, there are scores of us who would be happy to boil you alive in your own cologne/perfume.
Second, If you know that someone in your life is single, have the good form NOT TO BRING IT UP! Saying “happy singles awareness day” to the wrong someone is a good way to end up as a chalk outline on the 5 O’clock news. Keep your mouth shut and stay safe.
I propose that this should be a segregated holiday, each side keeping to itself for the sake of everyone’s safety. Cross the fluffy red line at your own peril! To all of you who love this day, beware the wrath of the silent minority lest we celebrate the way Capone’s men demonstrated with two Tommy Guns and footlocker full of ammo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Watching the Moon

Earlier tonight I went to a friend's party to wind down for the weekend. As the rest of the group was winding up, talking or shouting over each other, I found myself wandering into the yard looking for some quiet and staring into the sky. As I stared at the moon, I was thinking of all the people who drifted in and out of my life. So many souls who were the stepping stones over the hectic river that has been my life. The girl in Southern California who stuck up for me when I was bullied as a kid or the goofy guy in North Texas who turned out to know more about the meaning of friendship than anyone else I've ever known. Or the troubled redhead who crashed on my couch when she had nowhere else to go... Where did those people end up? Are they happy? And most importantly, do they look at the night sky when things are a little too hectic and wonder in their peaceful moments where that Bryan guy ended up?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Zen of Jazz

I read somewhere that the one thing that makes a great Jazz artist is the ability to create one's own world in music. With its own rules, measurements and rhythms.

For years I've been a Blues man. Blues offers endless room for improvisation but it has a comparatively strict set of rules. For example, when two Blues musicians jam together, one usually plays to the others tune. Almost like a polite deferral to the others musical "brushstroke". But rarely do you see a total digression from the original song.

As I've begun to listen to more Jazz I've noticed that when Jazz artist play together neither gives way to the others style of playing. They always seem to find whole new path through the musical territory. What was a standard piece of music becomes a journey and as often as not, totally surprises everyone involved.

The more I think about that pattern, the more I find the life application agreeable. It serves as a microcosm of interpersonal relationships. Do you politely defer to the rhythms of the people in your life? If so, that's OK. Compromise is an admirable and necessary skill in life. But consider the possibilities when you decide to blaze a completely new trail with someone...