They Listen

 

Interesting thing happened to me recently. I know, go figure, right?

Well, I got a text from a guy named Will, who was a client of mine last year, when I was still a chauffeur. Turned out, Will was a musician, in town for some huge, weekend-long wrestling event. He loves music, and he loves wrestling, and we joked about him maybe making a career combining the two, like being a musical wrestler. Or a wrestling musician.

Anyway, we talked some about the kinds of music we like, and he said he likes stuff with a jazzy vibe to it, so I asked him if he’d ever heard of Steely Dan, whose specialty is just that. He said he hadn’t, which was understandable; Steely Dan was a little before his time. So I suggested he check ’em out; he might like them.

Hadn’t had any correspondence with the guy since.

Until this text he sent me. He said, when he heard recently of the death of Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter and guitarist Walter Becker, I was the first person he thought of.

(!!!!!)

Mind you, I drove this guy once.

Over a year ago.

He still remembered me, and our conversation. He said in his text, he couldn’t believe it. I texted back, “Neither can I!”

 

This was a story about how you never know what you’re gonna say to someone that stays in his mind long after you said it. Good thing for us all to keep in mind.

Will, thanks for the reminder. Great to hear from you, even if it did freak me out just a bit. Hope you’re a successful musical wrestler, now.

Sour Apples

 

Okay, so now we have a brand-new phone that is available to Joe T. Consumer for the incredibly low price of $999.

(At least it isn’t $1,000; that would just be outrageous.)

Let me tell you something. If I pay $999 for a telephone, it better connect me to somebody on Saturn, understand? Furthermore, it should cook all my meals and wash the dishes afterwards, wash, dry and hang up my clothes, change my oil, mow my yard, and service me satisfactorily in bed.

Otherwise, it ain’t worth it.

Of course, I know there are some folks out there who will buy, or have already bought, this phone. To you, I say:

Could I interest you in some oceanfront property in Iowa?

A Ray of Light, Part 2

 

For Cole

(This one’s long, but bear with me. It’s important.)

Hey, friends, I’m back to remind you that September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so I hope to, in my own small way, help in doing exactly that by writing about  it. Suicide is a very important public health problem, and I’d like to see us all have a part in preventing it.

First, a reminder from my last post, courtesy of http://www.bethe1to.com/

 

Do You Know the Warning Signs?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.

 

So, be mindful of these signs, folks. How many times have you heard the people closest to the ones who kill themselves say, “I wish I’d known”, “I should have seen it”, “Why didn’t she tell me she was hurting?” Perhaps, knowing these signs, you can be more aware if someone is at risk because, chances are, they’re never gonna just tell you.

Realize, too, this is something that affects children, senior citizens, teenagers, veterans, men, women, straights, gays…no segment of society is left untouched by suicide.

So, what do you do if you notice any of these signs in somebody? Again, I refer to http://www.bethe1to.com/ , an excellent, informative website, and their Five Action Steps. You can get more complete, detailed information on each of these steps on the website; I’m just introducing them to you, here.

ASK

This one can be tough, I know; just initiating the dialogue with a direct, non-judgmental question. But, studies show that asking someone who is at risk can reduce the likelihood of that person actually following through on his or her thoughts. Remember, though, if you’re going to ask, be prepared to listen. Take what that person says seriously, but – and this is important – do not promise to keep his or her suicidal thoughts just between the two of you.

KEEP THEM SAFE

This step is about, after having the conversation and determining this person has had suicidal thoughts, asking more questions about if he or she has thought about the how and the when, if it’s already been attempted before, if there is easy access to the gun, the pills, or whatever he or she was thinking of using to commit suicide. If the answers indicate this person is in imminent danger of killing himself or herself, then you see about separating him or her from any easily accessible, potentially lethal methods of carrying it out. This is a good way of demonstrating your support for this person, taking action to make his or her environment safer.

BE THERE

Pretty self-explanatory; just be present for this person. Help him or her feel connected; reduce the feeling of isolation. Be supportive and encouraging.

Someone I knew committed suicide a few years ago, after dealing with intense physical pain for a long time. Later, I discovered, he had confessed to someone before killing himself that, had he received any words of encouragement from someone, anyone, he might have fought harder to keep living.

That’s how important this step is. Let people know they’re not alone. Tell them you’ll be there for them, but only if you’re actually going to be. Don’t say it, then not follow through.

HELP THEM CONNECT

Provide him or her with a safety net, made up of people and organizations, local and otherwise, to reach out to in times of personal crisis, like the Hotline, or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . Speaking to someone trained to deal with these crises can reduce the risk of someone going through with a suicidal act.

FOLLOW THROUGH

Again, pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve talked to someone about his or her thoughts about suicide, and provided a safety net of people to contact, stay in touch. Don’t just forget about him or her. Show you still care. Ask if there is anything more you can do to help. The need to feel connected doesn’t go away once a crisis is averted. It’s a lifelong part of the human condition.

I know I gave you a lot to digest, here, but this is serious business, folks. We can all play a role in the prevention of suicide. Educate yourself on what to look for, and how to help. Let’s all look out for each other. Life – with all its pain, tragedy and injustice – is still worth living.

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like it Was Yesterday

 

(A year ago, I submitted this post in remembrance of the events of 9/11. Today, I offer it again, updated to mark the passing of another year since that horrible day. Never forget…)

 

Sixteen years ago…
The brilliant cerulean skies over Manhattan
Suddenly, shockingly were interrupted
By the smoke from a misguided burnt offering,
Offered by impassioned false prophets
To a Prophet they never really knew.

Sixteen years ago…
A throng of innocent, ordinary faces
Stared in utter horror and disbelief
At the face of death, approaching them swiftly
In the guise of a great, winged demon,
Its once perfectly resplendent skin
Now engulfed in the flames of Hell,
The air redolent of burning flesh and jet fuel.

And then – this time, before a captive audience – it happened again.

Sixteen years ago…
Desperate, hopeless, sorrowful voices
Left tearful, heartfelt goodbyes
On cold and sterile answering machines
For the ones they would leave behind
To play back again, and again, and again,
Frozen in their grief, their loneliness, their rage,
With merely a voice to hold through the long, sleepless night.

Sixteen years ago…
Knights in shining armor ascended,
Disappearing into the smoky blackness,
Staring down fear, resolute in their mission
To rescue those who were helpless,
Only to become helpless, themselves
As the once proud and mighty towers
Crumbled spectacularly to the ground,
And we witnessed the Baptism of Dust.

Sixteen years ago…
Another winged demon crashed into a Pentagon,
And still another into a pastoral Pennsylvanian field,
And we all shook our heads in shock and bewilderment and terror,
As we helplessly watched what we believed
To surely be the beginning of The End.

Sixteen years ago…
I saw grown men weeping openly:
Television news anchors, stoic and detached,
Now utterly flattened by the sheer relentlessness
Of report after stupefying report
And image upon horrible, graphic image;
Police and firefighters, hearts irreparably shattered
By the overwhelming number of fallen comrades
Who sacrificed everything in upholding
Their sworn, sacred duty;
Business executives who lost scores of dedicated employees,
Just ordinary people, going about their ordinary work,
Gone, all gone;
Office workers, pained with guilt
Over deciding not to go to work that day,
And resolved to earn every subsequent day of life given to them.

Sixteen years ago…
I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Played, of all places,
In front of England’s Buckingham Palace
At the ceremonial Changing of the Guard,
In a remarkably touching display of sympathy and solidarity.
I heard Congressmen, gathered on the Capitol steps
Performing an impromptu, earnest and defiant rendition
Of “God Bless America”…

And I felt the embrace of the world.

Sixteen years ago…
So many other things happened that September day;
So many acts of courage, of strength,
Of sacrifice, of compassion.
Of Love.

And sixteen years later, I remember it all,
Just like…

 

 

A Ray of Light (Part 1)

 

For Cole

 

Alright, folks, this is important, so please pay close attention.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. During this month, there will be much attention focused on this major public health issue, and what all of us can do about it.

You’re going to be hearing a lot from me about this over the course of this month.

Suicide is something that’s touched my family. It’s touched many families. Maybe even yours.

The first thing I want you to know is, if you’ve had, or are having suicidal thoughts, or if someone you know is, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, anytime, 24/7, absolutely free. Outside the United States, go to http://www.suicide.org to find a crisis center where you live.

(Incidentally, the National Hotline answered over ten million calls each of the last four years. Does that tell you how big a problem this is?)

Whatever you’re facing, you don’t have to face it alone. I swear you don’t. There are people at these crisis centers who will listen to you and help you. Reach out to them.

Please.

 

And, just so you know…

Yes, I’ve had those thoughts, myself.

Still do, on rare occasions, if I’m being totally honest.

Depression has been a part of my life for several years, now. A large percentage of all suicides can be linked to some mental illness, like depression, though it’s rarely as simple as that; there can be many different factors that can lead to someone ending his or her own life.

So, I know. I’ve walked to the edge of the cliff and looked over, more than once. (Not literally, mind you)

Fortunately, thanks to a loving and caring wife, a competent psychotherapist, and effective medication, I walk over there much less often.

But I know, not everyone has those things. I know it would be much tougher for me if I didn’t.

But if you have nothing else, now you got this number.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I hope you never use it. Unless you need to. Then, I really hope you do.

We’ll talk more, later. Please share this with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and all the rest. We need to make everyone aware of the significance of this month. You can find more information at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Also, if you wish to comment, please help me keep this a safe space for everyone, as I don’t monitor this site 24/7. Please, no derogatory remarks, graphic details, or negativity, in general. Thanks.

Please, take care of yourself. You may not believe me, but you are worth it. Trust me.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a qualified counselor; I’m simply directing you to some who can help you. Please contact them, not me. They are always available!

 

Do You Know The Warning Signs?*

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.

*http://www.bethe1to.com/warning-signs/

 

Eclipse His Nails

 

Then, you flew your Lear jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.

“You’re So Vain”, Carly Simon

 

Okay, who do I talk to about getting a refund?

‘Cause I didn’t see no dadgum solar eclipse.

Where I live, we should already have seen it by now.

Nope. Nothing. Zero.

Maybe because I’m not in the “Path of Totality.” More like the Path of, “Ehhh, maybe.”

And who came up with that title, anyway? Sounds like something a guru would say.

My children, I am here to lead you all to the Path of Totality. Everyone, remove your clothing.

Totality of a bust, I say. At least, I didn’t waste any money on those dopey glasses.

Guess I should have just gone to Nova Scotia.

Those of you that did get to see it, I hope it burned your eyes out.

Course, then, you couldn’t read this, could you, so that was kind of a wasted curse.

 

Okay, well, I hope your privates fell off.

Wow

 

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You know what’s really cool about blogging on the Internet?

People all over the world can read what you wrote.

It’s just absolutely mind-blowing to me to realize my blog has been read (so far) in forty-six different countries, over six continents.

Come on, Antarctica, you’re lagging behind! Don’t all you penguins need something to read while you sit on those eggs?

Seriously, to write about what’s on my mind, and know that someone in Vietnam, or Australia, or Russia, or Costa Rica might read it, is not only astonishing, but immensely gratifying.

So, a big Thank You to all of you, wherever you are, for looking in on my humble little blogsite. I genuinely appreciate it.

Some of you are repeat visitors. I’m glad you like what you read enough to come back. Others have visited one time, and may never again. That’s okay; since there are, I don’t know, a few billion blogs out there, I feel fortunate that you looked in on me, even if it’s just once. For my regular customers, I hope to keep supplying you with a quality product.

And, all you social media buffs out ther, you’re certainly welcome to share anything here you like on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Chatsnap, Mmm-Bop, Da Doo Ron Ron, whatever.

Blessings on all of you, and Peace on Earth. 🌎

 

Driven to Insanity

 

I drive a motor vehicle for a living. A shuttle van. 🚐

Bigger than a car or SUV, but not like a big 18-wheeler. 🚛

The point is, I’m a driver. Which is okay; I enjoy driving. Always have, I suppose.

I got to thinking about that lately, and had to chuckle a bit. Because my classmates in Drivers Education (along with the teacher) (and maybe, my parents) would have probably told you back then I should be banned from the road for life.

 

524596747008

My sophomore year of high school, I got to take Drivers Ed. This was a big deal. I was so ready to get my license and be out on the open road.

But the first step was getting through this class. The classroom portion was pretty straightforward and simple, learning rules and regulations, defensive driving, watching that driving film, stuff like that.

But then, there was the actual driving part. Getting behind the wheel and taming that beast!

That gave me a bit of trouble.

For example, my first time to get out on the highway, I thought I was doing pretty well. My teacher wasn’t yelling at me, he maintained a calm demeanor the whole trip, just writing things down occasionally on some kind of form on a clipboard.

Then it came time for me to pull over and trade places with the other student, in the back seat; it was his turn. The teacher got out of the car to stretch for a bit. While he was out, I noticed, in the front seat, the form he had been writing on.

It was a driver evaluation.

At the bottom of the page was a blank section designated “Comments.”

In the Comments section, he wrote: Scared hell out of me.

Hmmm. Guess I didn’t do so great, after all.

Wasn’t exactly perfect on the practice course at school, either. I remember one particular session where I started to slowly drift into the path of an oncoming car. (I mean, 5 MPH slowly, if that.) I didn’t hit the car; I corrected my course in time, but the other people in my car and in the other car all reacted as if we narrowly avoided a fatal head-on collision, blood and scattered body parts and everything. When it was time to switch drivers, the one in the other car got out and, clearly perturbed, asked me, “What are you trying to do, kill us all?”

OK, so I had my moments.

Then, there was the whole ordeal of learning to drive a car with manual transmission. All I have to say about that is: I HATE manual transmission. Please, may I never have to use it again!

 

The first time I took my on-the-road driving test was great fun. (That, ladies and gentlemen, is sarcasm.) For one thing, I took it in our Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station wagon.

Now, if you’ve never seen one of those, I invite you to Google it and check out the images. The thing measured approximately 50 feet long. You could eat breakfast in the front seat while the guy in the back was having dinner.

Now, try to imagine parallel parking that bad boy.

Needless to say, that’s why I had to take a second on-the-road driving test. Took that one in Dad’s not-much-shorter Pontiac Grand Prix. (Welcome to History of Automobiles) This time, fortunately, I had a younger examiner. The first guy, you could literally break pieces of crust off him.

Anyway, I passed the second time. Yaaayyyy!!

Now I could drive on my own, and start scaring the hell out of my friends, too! Which I did, poor souls.

 

Through the years, I’m happy to say, I’ve gotten better. Now, I’m a more conscientious driver, and I can even communicate with other drivers in fluent sign language.

524596300193

 

By the Time He Gets to Heaven

 

Before my musical taste shifted to rock, in my teen years, I listened to country and western music as a kid. Johnny Cash was my absolute, all-time favorite, but I also enjoyed hearing folks like Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens, Roger Miller and Tom T. Hall.

And Glen Campbell.

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Glen passed away Tuesday, at the age of 81, after living the last six years with, in my view, the most cruel, insidious affliction to ever befall a person: Alzheimer’s disease.

The thought of my mind slowly and deliberately eroding, eventually leaving me unable to dress myself, feed myself, or remember anyone I’ve ever known and loved, while those loved ones helplessly watch…

Rest in Peace, Glen. Your suffering is over.

Peace and comfort to you, Campbell family. You don’t have to witness it anymore.

 

Glen had the good looks, the mellifluous voice, and the instrumental skills, and he was an immensely popular recording artist, especially in the late 1960’s and ’70’s. He had tremendous crossover success, earning Grammy awards in 1968 in country and pop music. He sold an estimated 45 million records over his career.

(I’m not going to get into the toll his success took on him, personally, because really, there’s no need to do that here. Suffice it to say, he came out the other side of it.)

Above all that, though, was just the joy, the love of performing, that made him a star. You could see it every week in the late 1960’s and early 70’s on his variety TV show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” He put his heart into everything he sang; from the bouncy, infectious “Southern Nights”, to the resolutely optimistic “Rhinestone Cowboy”, to the wistful, apprehensive “Galveston”, to the sunny and upbeat “Try a Little Kindness.”

Then, there are my two personal favorites, both written by Jimmy Webb, one of the best songwriters ever, without a doubt: “Wichita Lineman” (beautifully orchestrated, like most of his hits), and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, still one of the most sublimely heartbreaking tunes I’ve ever heard.

Even in the face of that merciless monster he battled in his later years, Glen kept on performing, enlisting the help of his sympathetic audience for the words he could no longer remember. He even allowed a camera crew to travel with him on his farewell tour, resulting in the award-winning documentary, “I’ll Be Me.” He was not afraid to make his struggle public, which earned him high praise from former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Arkansas native.

So, if it’s been awhile since you heard you some Glen Campbell, reacquaint yourself with an old friend, and celebrate his life and career. If you’ve never heard of him, take this opportunity to listen to a truly great artist. Even if you’re not into country music, you’ll discover a good song and a good singer transcend all genres.

Adios, Rhinestone Cowboy. Thanks for all the good times, and all the great music.