The Impact Of The Beatles On American Culture

There is no underestimating the seismic change in the cultural values of the young baby boomer set in America, no better way of understanding the sea change that occurred in American youth in the early and mid 1960’s than through examining the impact on American music due to the advent of the Beatles, arguably the most influential rock band of all time… When their music first hit the American continent, spearheading the so called “British Invasion” of rock and roll, it changed the fabric of American society forever….

For the first time ever, American teenagers had their own distinctive musical choices, far different from their parents set of individual crooners like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, and they even eclipsed the iconic Elvis Presley, the god father of American rock and roll….

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Elvis was a true innovator, and the Beatles John Lennon publicly acknowledged that “Without Elvis, there would have been no Beatles.” But Elvis Presley was one of a kind, and his flat, one dimensional pale imitators like Fabian, Ricky Nelson and Frankie Avalon, all Elvis look-a likes, were instantly blown away when Beatlemania exploded across the American landscape… The Beatles music irrevocably bonded together an entire generation…

Never before in history had a music group benefited from being the subject of such an unprecedented advertising buildup….Already a chart topping band in England and Europe, their skillful and clever management team had American teenagers literally foaming at the mouth in nerve wracking anticipation of their arrival, and rumors of “Beatlemania” in England soon had American teenagers following suit here in America long before they first arrived on our shores…

For months before they released their first song for the American market and then made their triumphal tour throughout America, there were frequent and continuous buildups on the American radio stations, all AM radio in those dimly remembered days… Every few hours, some disk jockey on some popular big beat station, like Murray the K in New York or Dick Biondi in Chicago would announce on their shows “The Beatles Are Coming, The Beatles Are Coming” to a rapt and ever more curious and constantly growing audience of young teenagers, who were whipped into a fever pitch by this clever merchandising and manipulation….

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In January of 1964, their first American release “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (their best selling single worldwide ever) was released here and became a #1 hit song in America on February 1, followed by “She Loves You” which became a #1 hit seven weeks later….On February 7, 1964 on their first American tour, they first landed at JFK airport to adoring throngs of fans, mostly young teenage girls, and their irreverence, wit and charm in handling the skeptical, cynical, hard boiled and mostly unfriendly American media made them even more popular to their young fans…

When they first appeared on the most influential American television variety show of the day, the very popular, but decidedly mainstream “Ed Sullivan Show,” it was one of the most highly rated shows of all time, and after their brief appearance, America would never be the same…Their shaggy unbelievably long hair, (by the crew cut, or pompadour male haircut standards of the time), these never before seen or dreamed of Beatle haircuts, their identical suits, their crooning uptempo harmonizing and infectious smiles and radical pop beats amazed, energized, captivated and entranced the youth of America! Things would never be the same again in the music world….

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The Beatles also radically changed the very concept of popular music music, because they rejected the monopoly of “Tin Pan Alley” and were the first successful pop group to compose their own songs….John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with their seemingly endless stream of original, catchy, effervescent bubbly pop songs truly set in motion revolutionary changes in the music publishing business….

They seemingly had a boundless sense of energy, and they had come up the hard way, playing grueling gigs several hours long 7 nights a week in Germany, honing their skills for 3 years before they ever became popular in England. It was in Germany they grew bored with just covering other people’s songs and started writing their own….

When they returned to England, they strongly encouraged other bands, like the Rolling Stones, to also write their own material, and they even found time to write popular hit songs for their friends, like Peter & Gordon…Until then, most English bands had been slavish imitators who admired and copied songs by the great American pioneers, extremely talented black rhythm and blues artists like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters and Little Richard, all mostly under appreciated in America at the time but wildly popular in England….

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The Beatles were able to successfully incorporate these early American black rhythm and blues influences with the bouncy, uptempo beats of the jazz, skiffle and folk music that was popular in England when they were growing up and fused these seemingly disparate styles into their own unique style of music…

Coupled with their raw, grueling exposure night after night in the German clubs, all these influences merged and they created a blend of music that was unique, overwhelming and irresistible, and what soon grew out of all this early seasoning from such disparate sources came together and rose to take America by storm….

The timing of the Beatles arrival in America was also fortuitous to their ultimate success, coming as it did so quickly after the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy…. Grief stricken, shocked to the heart American young people were desperate to move on and submerge their grief and sublimate their angst with something new, something positive, something upbeat, and the Beatles were in the right place at the right time….

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But Beatlemania was a phenomenon in it’s own right, and you really had to be there to understand and appreciate the full depth and impact of the whole glorious experience…

An interesting side note to the Beatles fabulous first impression on America and the hysterical youthful rise of irrepressible Beatlemania in the US was the Beatles musical and psychological maturation and evolving impact on the American youth movement as a whole as the years went by….

From the tragic shock of the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, through the black civil rights movement, and the Vietnam war, their own personal  involvement with transcendental meditation with the maharishi as Americans looked inward for answers, the Beatles always managed to stay in touch with their fans….

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In fact, they produced some of their greatest work in their later years as a studio band with the “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The White Album”…Their music has withstood the test of time, and many people who had never even been born while the Beatles were a band are also among their most ardent followers today…

The Beatles always were, and always will be relevant, and nobody can deny them, now or ever, their unique role in American musical history….I am proud to be a member of the boomers, an original Beatles fan, and as MC Ed Sullivan always used to sign off with his catchphrase question, “I certainly have enjoyed the show”…

Working Class Hero vs Juke Box hero

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I just reread one of the best books I have ever read, and we baby boomers like to read a lot, the book was called simply: “Life” by Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones….It is mostly an autobiography, and I am sure it is ghostwritten, of this incredible hard charging, very talented guitar player and supreme survivor of the drug wars, the legend of Keith Richards as the ultimate rock and roll party boy, and how his legend grows and is renewed every time he still wakes up every morning…Keith Richards is an acknowledged and well deserved juke box hero….

But there was a part of the book that i found unusually touching to read, as Keith grew up mostly poor in a working class neighborhood kid in the stratified, ossified overly stuffy and class conscious layers of English society in the mid 1940’s, and had to fight through the school bullies and arrogant English class system to find his own place in the world….

Keith’s exposure to and love of music was engendered and became possible through his grandfather, who was a musician himself, and who always encouraged him, and gave him his first guitar when he was around 10…But this blog is not so much about Keith Richards, whose life as a wealthy, successful rock super star in the Rolling Stones is well known and documented….

No, the part of the book i found especially relevant and inspiring to me was that part in the book where Keith paid tribute to his father, who never aspired to be the international rock superstar his son became, but was content just to go to his job in a factory every day…

Keith’s theory about this was that because his father had grown up during the Depression, his idea of ambition was to find a job, get the job, and then hold onto it, just going to work every day…

Keith Richards father was a Working Class Hero!…It wasn’t that his father wasn’t ambitious, he just defined ambition in a different sort of a way…. His father was very ambitious, by his own standards, because his father’s main ambition in life was to hold onto his job, so that he could provide for his family, and that part of him resonates deeply within me…

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I too consider myself a working class hero, I have worked all my life, I have been a single parent, and have had my share of sleepless night stressing over money matters….But I can truthfully say that I never lost sight of the importance of always having a roof over our heads, food in the fridge and paying off all the bills, whenever you could, the best you could…

I recognize and salute people who have had it a lot tougher than me, and there are many, but most people who are working class heroes generally don’t make a fuss about it, it is just part of our internal makeup, the way we view life, the way we cope with problems and deal with the inevitable setbacks and occasional rewards….

When you are not born rich, with a silver spoon in your mouth, or well off, things are very different….For the vast majority of people all over the world, life is a struggle against poverty, illness and death….It is like a war within each of ourselves to go out and do the right thing, to be responsible, to not let our weaknesses drag us down, or most especially not to drag our families down with us…

It is not easy to get up every day and trudge off to some dreary, low paying, physical labor job that you hate, but you do it anyway for the sake of your family, like Keith Richards father did….

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Day after day, month after month, year after year, and the time passes by ever so swiftly, but you always know that as long as you keep responding to that damn alarm clock and drag your exhausted sleep deprived body out the door and get to the job you hate on time, one more time, one more day, just take it one day at a time, that you will have done your part….

That is the beauty and irony of that kind of life, but it ain’t easy being a working class hero!…A wise man once said 90% of life is just showing up….

But you never think of yourself as a hero of any kind, ever, while you are doing it; you are totally absorbed in the work, and it just becomes not only a part of your life but a way of life, a means of survival in this concrete jungle we call society….

I have often wondered what it must be like to be one of those people who love their work, who do worthwhile things like save lives every day, like doctors or nurses, or like scientists who invent wonderful new things to better the welfare of everybody, or discover a cure for cancer, or who work with truly needy, sick people in day care or elder care….

But I have never had a job like that, and I don’t think most people ever do…For most of us it is just a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other and slogging our way through the muck and mire of everyday work life that consumes so much of our time, our energy and our passion for living….We struggle to save up that passion and energy for love of our families, since we know we will never be able to save up any money….

It is not an easy thing, this kind of life, to be an anonymous working class hero, to be overlooked or taken for granted by everybody but your family, but the point is you do it anyway, because it is the right thing to do….

And there is a definite reward in that too, and it is not measured in money, or social status, or fame…It is measured in love….There is nothing wrong in being a juke box hero either, you can bring joy and pleasure into other people’s lives, like Keith Richards has done for so many… But most of us will never have that chance, so we need to make the most of whatever hand we are dealt in life……..

John Lennon wrote a song called Working Class Heros, it opens like this:

“As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
‘Til the pain is so big you feel nothing at all”

I think that the working class hero, fighting against all odds, should be recognized, celebrated and appreciated  for overcoming all this adversity…

Because the reality of life is that we can’t all be rock stars or brain surgeons or rocket scientists, but we can all at least try to be, in our own ways, working class heroes!

Music Is The Heartbeat Of Life

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Music is the most important thing in life to me, except of course for the love of my family…Music colors and influences, in the most positive way possible, everything i do, everything i think, everything I feel…Without music, the world would be a sad and lonely place, with music the world is warm and friendly and open and there are a myriad of possibilities and venues to explore and experience….

It helps, or maybe it is just the old cause and effect relationship, that I personally am a musician, definitely NOT a gifted, slashing wailing guitar god like Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, but I am definitely a song writer, and I need to play guitar every day to accompany the words to my songs…This produces a calming, alpha wave effect on my brain that is better than any drug or meditation technique, i guess in a way music is my meditation….

It definitely enables me to transcend the dreary and mundane day to day trials and tribulations of life, to escape from the dreary world of the television daily dose of bad news, all the endless “photo ops,” little snapshots of all the wars and misfortunes that plague most of the world most of the time…I know, intellectually, that these things are happening of course, whether I watch them or not, they always have and they always will, how does that old saying go: “Life is a bitch and then you die”….

But I don’t need to be constantly reminded of them, that the world is a dark and scary place for most people, that “most people lead lives of quiet desperation”…..And I find music to be the most perfect escape valve or release mechanism that exists in this all too imperfect world…. It frees my soul, it exalts my spirit…..

The difference between true guitar artists like Hendrix and Clapton and me is is that they, first of all, have perfect pitch, that they are true electronic/electric guitar geniuses, and they are able to harness and translate all the finely tuned nuances of musical sounds and nomenclature, they truly and instinctively feel the minute differences between pitches and octaves and sound effects, fully utilizing and understanding special effects gadgets like wah wah pedals and distortion techniques and feedback and looping effects…..

They are as one with all the tonal frequencies of the music, they have reprogrammed their brains to reflect the totality of this sophisticated effect, and for whatever reason, dedication, practice, sheer musical intelligence, they have utilized their inherent talent, they have honed their talent to the cutting edge and are able to produce searing, soaring melodic lines of pure, soaring energy, which we all can instantly recognize and appreciate…..

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For my own part, I am more of the “story teller” type of musician, like Tom Petty, Bob Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Chrissie Hynde (to name just a random sampling of golden oldies rockers) where musical virtuosity is not as important as the words to the song, the story lines behind each song, the message i am trying to convey and relay to other people…

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Generated by IJG JPEG Library

There is a place for both types of musicians, but I have found that they are often mutually exclusive, for example, pure guitar lead players are seldom very good song writers, and pure song composers, like me, are seldom guitar virtuoso’s…There are always exceptions to every rule, and I really appreciate musicians like Neil Young, or Mark Knopfler (from Dire Straits) who are both story tellers and quite accomplished musical virtuoso’s, these are artists who have truly mastered their craft, and I am in awe of them and their blending of skills….

Again, I am showing my Baby Boomer tendencies by naming these older, admittedly mainstream particular set of rock and roll musical artists, who knows what kind of music and what as yet unknown and undiscovered by me skill sets the younger generation of musicians, most of whom I confess i don’t even know their names, are right now churning out in the modern day equivalent of the old “garage rock” bands….In fact, the music industry today has evolved into not a monolith but a fragmented, dissonant collection of “niche rock” where every single musical taste can be accommodated if you know where to look…You Tube is a national treasure!

But don’t get me wrong, music is not just for the guitar heroes or the storytellers, it is a universal bonding mechanism for everybody else too, people who just listen to and appreciate the music within the framework of our daily lives….How drab and dreary our everyday lives would be without music, it underscores every dramatic moment in not just mine, but all of our lives…Just stop and think about it for a minute…

Think how music illuminates, illustrates and demarcates each of our own individual lives, either together in a group setting like a bar or party, or music to jog by in splendid isolation…. Or music to make the interminable boring daily commute from the womb of our families, traveling from our own separate houses and apartments into the frenzy and high wire energy of work world on the buses and trains and subways, making it more bearable…..

How often after you break up with your significant other do you hear a song on the radio that reminds you of them and yourself in happier times?….How many bittersweet emotions does that bring to the surface?How many people, young and in love, joyously declare a certain song to be “their song?” How do we mark the Christmas season without Christmas music, played sometimes ad nauseum in elevators, offices and waiting rooms?…

How do we always remember special events, like the “Summer of 1969?”….How about classical music, funeral music, marching band music, patriotic music, wedding music, always in the background, music themes from movies, like the “Memories” theme song from the movie  “The Way We Were” and how they shape and influence our thoughts, our emotions, our moods?

Sometimes the music is barely heard, or muffled, but how sorely would we miss it if it were not there at all?…Did you ever find the same song stuck in your head, on permanent rewind, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes annoyingly so, you want it to go away, to forget it, but the power of music is not easily dismissed….It is the heartbeat of life…

Music is the great unifier of the human spirit, the one common theme shared by all cultures in all times, and we are all the better for it….What would a world without music be like? I shudder to even think of it! The truth is, as human beings, we need music, especially in our modern, fragmented society.

It is the one unifying theme that unites us all, young and old, and cuts across all demographic lines of race, class, ethnicity, wealth and poverty, …..The music represents our spirit, and our spirit will always be there, it is what separates us from the animals, and the world, even with all it’s faults and foibles, is an infinitely richer, far more vital place because of music!

And the band played on….

Do You Believe In Reincarnation?

 

 

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Do you believe in reincarnation? I do, and it is not like the Shirley McClain or various other Hollywood celebrities I have read about versions of reincarnation, who always seem to believe in some flashy, glamorous, trendy type of reincarnation….The type of person who always think that they were Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth or Leonardo Davinci or Alexander the Great or some other equally famous or notorious person in their own personal past lives….

Just for the sake of argument, if reincarnation does exist, we are statistically more likely to have been one of the slaves who built the pyramids, or one of the foot soldiers who slogged through the mud and dust of long forgotten battles, than some glamorous leaders of the time, simply because there were so many MORE regular people than famous people that have lived and died before us…I think reincarnation gets a bad knock because everybody can’t have been somebody rich, famous or powerful in their past lives…

It just doesn’t make sense to think like that, the odds are against it, we can’t all have been rich and famous in our past lives…….At the same time, where DO our souls go when we die? I am by nature a spiritual, not a religious person, but I 100% respect those who are members of any organized religion….

I am sure it is a comfort for the completely invested religious true believers who think there are assigned places in heaven or hell for the good and the wicked, and maybe they are right…..Maybe it IS true for them, the true believers, that if they adhere to the tenets and dogma of their particular religion they will be rewarded or punished as the religious beliefs of their particular faith articulate and promulgate… Maybe in fact the afterlife really IS just that, the sum of all our earthly beliefs, whatever we truly believe it is in THIS life, good or bad….

So that if you are say for example a Catholic, then you will be judged by St. Peter at the entrance to the pearly gates and assigned your place in the after world according to how you have lived your life, what sins you have committed or not, and what kind of person you actually were when you were still alive…

But I am definitely a spiritual person, and find it impossible to believe that our souls, or consciousness just disappears forever when we die, or cease our existence on this planet..Personally I think we are all collections of energy, a unified force, down to the atomic levels of protons and neutrons, and that when we die this energy force is transferred from our earthly bodies to whatever the next plane of existence really is…Or to whatever we truly believe it is…..

I really enjoy reading history, I am an unabashed history geek, because to me it is just like time travel, I am also an unabashed sci-fi freak), because when you read about a certain historical place or time, you can go visit any time period in recorded history through books, and see it through the eyes of the con-temps, the contemporary people who actually lived during these different times….Connie Willis is an especially good author about this, her “Doomsday Book” about a young woman time traveler trapped in medieval England at the height of the Black Plague is an instant classic…

Well, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, they are all gone now, dead and buried, and in a 100 years so will I, and everybody alive today…I think Abraham Lincoln said that, it has always been a very comforting thought to me, and in no way do I construe this fact in a negative or gloomy way, it simply keeps things in perspective for me….

Recently I saw a picture in the newspaper and also watched a Net Flix short documentary of the 500 year old bones, the complete skeleton, of King Richard III of England, found intact in a tomb under a parking lot after all these years!…With modern day DNA analysis, they made a positive match from the bone marrow in the skeleton to an actual living descendant of his, they keep better track of these things over in England, so it was a 100% match…

His bones showed evidence of scoliosis, a curvature of the spine which you could clearly see, and they estimated his height at around 5’8” and his age at death around 32-33, with a massive kill shot to the neck and shoulder area evident, some sort of blunt force trauma, all which fit precisely all of the historical accounts of his having died in battle around this time…..

He was reputedly a very wicked king, supposedly he had his 2 young nephews murdered in the Tower of London to preserve his hold on the monarchy, but the story said that he only reigned for about 3 years before dying in battle. Kings and commoners, we all meet the same fate in the end, it’s what you do in between that really counts….. I have had a good life, but feel like I have lot more to contribute to the creative world, I feel I have miles to go before I sleep, we shall see if my plans bear fruit or wither away…..

It makes you wonder how and to what sort of existence evil people like Richard III are reincarnated… I know that several Eastern religions believe in the concept of “karma” wherein you are reincarnated as a higher or lower form of life depending on how you live your present day to day earthly life…Or the Golden Rule favored by most Western religions: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat them”….

I love reading and even re-reading books because I tend to race through them the first time I read them, and miss some of the best parts, the underlying philosophies of the author’s individual viewpoints….Especially if they are good, exciting books like the Connie Willis “Blackout” and “All Clear” set of books, about time travelers observing and being stranded in wartime London during the infamous Nazi blitz of London in 1940….

Apparently the people there basically lived in the subways every night, like the underground Muni or Bart stations we have today, and never knew what the streets outside would look like until the “all clear” siren sounded, meaning the Nazi air raids were over for that night, at least, and they could stick their heads outside and see for themselves…They had either survived the bombardment or not, and life as they knew it went on….

It is a wonder so many of these hardy Londoners survived, and it shows how history can be balanced on a razor’s edge, because apparently Hitler almost beat England, before America got involved in the war…. But besides being evil incarnate, Hitler was mentally unstable and impatient and made the major military tactical blunder of suddenly stopping the nearly complete beat down of London and abruptly turned to the East and invaded Russia, thus opening a two front war…

That was his major strategic military blunder of the whole war….. Russia is a huge, huge, country, and basically they just absorbed all the damage he did until the frozen winters and mechanical breakdowns and inevitable casualties drained the Wehrmacht, the German army, of all their men, tanks, modern equipment etc….It is hard to believe, but they were also still using horses in WWII!….

I don’t know why I am drawn to certain time periods, but I am especially fascinated by WWII, the Civil War, and medieval Europe, especially England, and I seek out and greedily devour all the sci fi and history books I can about those time periods…Like the other day I read a book about D Day, the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, that was the most pivotal point of that war, opening a second front in Europe across the English channel, no easy feat…The invasion was nearly a disaster, but the Germans were not quite ready for them to invade where and when they did, so by luck and determination the Allies pulled it off and history pivoted….

The only other successful invasion across the English channel I ever heard of was in 1066 or thereabouts, the battle of Hastings…. I am not sure of the exact name, anyway it was when William the Bastard invaded England from the other side, from the French side, and introduced and imposed his Norman ways on the resident Anglo Saxon English….. From that point on all of England’s nobility was derived from French royal blood, it was amazing how pretentious and entitled these people thought they were…The very idea of a nobility, of a class system where people assumed they were better because of their birth status rings foreign to my American ears, no wonder they have had so many revolutions in Europe over the centuries….

Oh make no mistake, we have a class system right here in the good old USA, but it is based solely on money, the rich are the new nobility, but nobody believes they are anything special except rich, not that they have any divine, God given right to rule…The rich people still fear and hate the poor people, so some things never change, but the whole concept of the divine right of kings and the inner nobility of certain classes of people, which stratifies English society to this day, seems absurd, outdated and anachronistic to me, and I am sure to most people….

Our American society is not as rigid as the English, it is more like the ocean, the rich people sail in yachts, the middle class swims to work every day and the vast majority, like me, lurk deep under the surface and observe and scavenge and do the best we can….. I would love to be rich but I would HATE to be famous, and to me rich is just having enough money to not think about having to worry about how much something costs, for example, I would not need more than I could spend! Plus if I were rich, I would donate most of my money to needy causes….

But to return to the concept of reincarnation, I think I am fascinated by those particular segments of history because I truly believe i was somehow involved in them…The WWII time period especially intrigues me, because so many young men died in that war, on both sides….Young people, cut off in the flower of their youth so abruptly, how can their existence have just ended so quickly, so finally forever? Their physical lives, of course, their deaths were real and tragically final, yes…But who can say with any certainty that they were not reincarnated?…

I myself am a product of the famous “Baby Boom”, the generation of Americans who were born immediately after the end of WWII, and have always believed there had to be some connection, some spiritual link, between the sudden deaths of all these mostly young people and the subsequent boom in births after the war….

It is my firm belief that I, and most of the other Baby Boomers were reincarnated into our present lives because of the sudden, abrupt cessation of these soldiers normal lifespans...Unlike the trendy Hollywood crowd probably thinks, I do not believe that i was some famous general or field marshal who died heroically in some now long forgotten glorious battle, much more likely some anonymous soldier, a private or a corporal say, slogging away in the mud and blood and carnage that is war, dying a senseless, too soon death for political agendas…..

All wars are fought for political agendas, even the righteous wars like WWII, perhaps the last “Good War” with clearly demarcated lines of good and evil, of sneak attacks and defense of country….The majority of wars have historically been fought mostly for the advancement and enrichment of personal fortunes, the acquisition of territory or the misguided belief that their side was the more righteous…

Both sides throughout history always believe their side was in the right, but as they say, history is only written by the victors…But just as I am not religious, neither am I a political animal, I consider myself simply a neutral, impartial observer of life…I have always been taught to respect and never argue about religion or politics….

To me, the belief set that I truly live my life by, fully supports the concept of reincarnation…I think that life does not end with our deaths on this earth, that we do not just shuffle off this mortal coil to some idealized heaven or hell…I believe that instead we progress to, or are somehow transferred to some other unknown plane of existence, and I further believe that the way we each live our own lives DOES have some bearing on how we are “reborn” or move on to whatever other level or plane of existence resides on the other side….

Maybe it is just as simple as that, people are just continuously being recycled into various other manifestations of life, or energy, according to the time and circumstance of how and when they died, and that further this transfer of energy is directly and irrevocably connected to how we each live our present lives in this present existence….This again is consistent with the belief in karma….I definitely believe in the afterlife…Too many cultures, widely separated by time and space have felt this way for me to not believe in it too, and I further definitely believe in reincarnation on a personal level….

The problem with this belief set of course is that nobody can ever remember with any certainty exactly who they were or what their previous lives were like, so there can never be an objective way to validate my theory…But then again, maybe it is just simply like the Aerosmith song by Steven Tyler “Dream On”……

“Who knows, where it comes or where it goes” …..

Life In Retirement/My Favorite Influential Songs

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Let’s start with the fact that since I am now retired, I was VERY happy and relieved to get my SSA check yesterday, just the regular, barely enough amount, enough to pay rent and most all of my bills, I love the electronic transfer so that the money is direct deposited, no more scouting for the mailman’s appearance like in the old days, and OMG if they ever lost the check, you would be screwed, and have to scramble to get the money and make excuses and pay penalties etc….
I have been on disability for a year before, so I remember the feeling, it was in 1999 and I loved it, I thought I was going to retire on SSI because I hurt my back badly enough to get a years worth of state disability, that never happened because the Feds denied my claim…. But actually, I can say it worked out better because I am getting more money now than I would have then, it’s funny how things work out….
Somehow, it seemed like I had more fun that year than I am having these years in retirement, maybe because I blew my truck driving job of 20 years extra retirement money on sex, drugs and rock and roll, all sorts of  on creature comforts that year…. Like tons of cable movies, attending baseball games, eating well and even writing a book, never published but still ready to be published with a little polishing, it was about the Summer of Love in San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury experience that I experienced first hand….I still plan on dusting it off and submitting it for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in 2017…. I don’t know why, but that one year off in 1999 really opened my eyes to the reality of space and time and our perceptions of it….
It was right after that idyllic one year interlude that I re-invented myself, I  took some basic computer skills classes for free at the Episcopalian church annex on  Howard street in San Francisco, I did that every day…Then because it was in the middle of the dot.com boom, I hired myself out as an office temp, which I wasn’t very proficient at, but that was how I scored the corporate real estate desk job I worked the last 12 years before I retired…. Again, it’s funny how things work out…..

I transformed myself from a truck driver with a bad back to an office worker, traded in my blue collar for a white collar job, had to wear a suit and tie (ugh!) the last 12 years…I am so VERY glad that particular penance has been paid, I will never go back to work again, but I DO need to develop some alternate non traditional revenue streams to keep my financial ship afloat, well “que sera, sera,” (whatever will be, will be,) right now I just got my SSA check so I will have this month covered, that is as far ahead as I have to deal with right now….

Again, for the record, I just want to transcribe and record ALL my songs, as a project, as a legacy for my daughter, and hopefully I can sell at least one song, be a one hit wonder! Yes, I would love to sell just ONE song to some established group and live off the royalties, I DO have a lot of songs and there ARE a lot of one hit wonders out there, THAT would definitely enhance my revenue stream! And, BTW, personally vindicate my artistic side!.…Or maybe just post one of them and hope it goes viral on You Tube!…That seems to be the wave of the future anyway….
I also spend a lot of time cruising the net now that I am retired, so I am stuck in my old pattern of staying up usually until 2 am and eating right before I go to bed….The good thing is that it doesn’t really matter anymore, and I am truly glad to be free of the tyranny of the alarm clock, I don’t even plug it in except on Saturday nights so I can get up at 8 am Sunday mornings to do my laundry and be ready for the 10 am kickoffs for NFL Football….And truthfully, thanks to the magic of my DVR, I am slowly weaning myself off the alarm clock completely and permanently…
I have said it before and I will say it again, money is funny! When you have it, it means nothing! When you don’t have it, it means everything! All I can really count on is hopefully waking up each day, and then dealing with the problems of that one particular day, and I have to do that each and every day, because we are all only granted 1 day at a time anyway…I am happy when I wake up each day, at least that means I didn’t die in my sleep, although I hope to go by that route when the time comes, but it is like I have no time to even worry about that right now, not that it matters…….
What I want to do is to live to be a healthy 100 years old and I don’t see why I can’t , at least I DO have the good genes, my mom is 88 and going strong, and all of my potential medical symptoms, e.g., slightly borderline cholesterol and slightly elevated blood sugar have been diagnosed and I am being treated for them….Also I have gotten a yearly checkup every year for the last 5-10 years too so nothing much has changed, except I seem to have shrunk down to an average of 183#’s, well that is fully dressed, I’m around 6′ tall, but I don’t seem to gain or lose weight no matter what I eat….I haven’t drunk alcohol for 20 years and have quit smoking too, going on 8 months now…
I am still SO happy that I have finally escaped work world, and maybe this whole financial miscalculation I am still beating myself up about mentally can provide a mental spur to my original plan, which was to somehow come up with an alternate flow of revenue to sustain me…This is not the best time to be in the stock market, but I don’t have much to lose anyway and I want to at least see if I can garner any money that way, it’s worth a shot…..I am a small time nickels and dimes investor, playing it safe as possible…
I have been busy downloading tons of songs on my cell phone, I just go to You Tube and there they are, the hard thing is picking which VERSION of the song to play, You Tube has like 50 different versions of every song anyway, and the sound quality is sketchy, some good, some bad, but all free, I guess that by posting their songs on You Tube, the artists are giving an implicit ok to copy them unlike the whole stupid Napster fiasco of a few years ago, when certain artists mistakenly shot down Napster, which DECREASED their songs circulation and availability…
As a matter of fact, I think that is how most bands get “discovered” these days, if they post on You Tube, and if they get a lot of “hits” the record company THEN comes sniffing around the artist’s door with a contract….This is the exact opposite of how it used to be, but I think it is all for the better, and the technology is out there, you can’t stop it, it is going to be used if it is available...This is what I was talking about a little earlier, submitting my own song to You Tube and hoping it goes viral….
 
This is my current playlist available on my You Tube at any time, these are all songs that have moved me, influenced me, inspired me, consoled me, made me cry, made me happy over the years…Now I  have a long list of songs on my play list,  I will list my favorites, in no particular order of relevancy:
Natalie Merchant is effervescent in 10,000 maniacs, “Talking About the Weather,” George Thorogood,  “I Drink Alone,” a great LIVE version in some Mississippi bar of “Bad to the Bone,” and “1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch & 1 Beer,”….The  Romantics, “What I Like About You,” Bob Seeger, “Fire Down Below,” REM, “Man on the Moon,” Tom Petty, “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” also “A Face in the Crowd,” Berlin, “The Metro, great tune, I can’t get a good version of their smash single “Sex” though, it is all distorted live sessions….
Still with me? Lets go way back, I have a GREAT collection of the Everly brothers, “Wake up Little Susie,” “Dream,” “Cathy’s Clown,” they have a lot of good songs,  I think they were more or less overlooked when the transition to the English music invasion began in earnest….Moving up to the 1980’s and the MTV popular heavy rotation songs, “The Motels, “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer,” Linda Ronstadt,  classic songs like  “Think I’m Going to Love You for a Long, Long Time & “Your No Good,” Greg Kihn, “The Breakup Song,” Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London,” Bonnie Tyler, “It’s a Heartache.”
Speaking of MTV, a good answer to a trivia question, What was the first video MTV ever played? The answer is The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star,”…Then there is always Neil Young, so many, many great songs, he is a personal favorite of mine, but how about the  great jams on “Hello Mr. Soul and “Hey Hey, My My….I also have the Smithereens, “A Girl Like You” & “Blood and Roses,” the more recent crossover band Perry with their Grammy winner song “If I Die Young,” Kim Carnes, classic one hit wonder,” Betty Davis Eyes,” Golden Earring, “Twilight Zone” and “Radar Love”…..
Or  how about the Johnny Cash version of  “Hurt,” the old Trent Reznor from 9 inch nails song, Billy Joel, “Piano Man,” the always romantic Rod Stewart, with  “Maggie May” and “If I Listened Long Enough to You,”  the Grateful Dead’s only top 10 song, “Touch of Gray,” Credence Clearwater Revival’s version of  “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” with the long extended guitar solo version…..Or Wall of Voodoo with “Mexican Radio,” Wheezer, “Beverly Hills” and “Sweater.”
I have weird songs like Johnny Cash doing “Ghost Riders in the Sky, Bonnie Raiit, playing slide guitar, she is the best, even some Jack White garage band songs for simple rock energy…I play these songs mostly when I do my exercises, it gives me extra energy, sort of like a low tech, no cost gym.
I miss listening to  my car radio music every day twice a day and on lunch breaks…. When I used to be a member of work world, I used to be able to catch up on the new songs that way, but now I only basically drive on Mondays and Fridays, so that cuts that opportunity way down….It seems like I have all the time in the world, now that I am retired, but the days speed by as quickly as ever, I don’t know how I EVER had time to work!
I am sure a lot of my music will be familiar to my generation, the baby boomers, the greatest force of adults to ever move through the society and the political landscape en masse in a contiguous bloc…Of course we all have our individual differences but taken together we are still a force to be reckoned with, we always were and we always will be…..I just felt compelled to write down these songs today for some reason….
So these are some of the many, many songs that have shaped, molded and influenced my life, I hope many of them are your favorites too, and I am sure I have left tons off this list, this is just what I currently listen to on my You Tube playlist….I am sure you all have your own set of favorites too, because I write my own songs and play music my list is rather eclectic, but all these songs I have listed here as some of my favorites evoke tremendous emotional responses, energy boosts and waves of nostalgia in me….
To me, music is what makes the world go round, it always has and it always will, peace out…..

Memorial Day

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Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor all of the fallen soldiers who have died defending our country throughout it’s history…We have all probably lost loved ones to some war at some time, since war seems to always be with us, but there can be no greater sacrifice than laying down your life for your country in combat….

There will be marches and parades and ceremonies all over the country today memorializing those who died in the service of their country, and “Saving Private Ryan” with Tom Hanks, the epic WWII movie is playing all day in San Francisco on the AMC channel…But be it in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or wherever American soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, this is their special day….

According to my Google sources: Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for “remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.”

I have my own personal story to relate…My favorite cousin, Danny, served in Vietnam…Every day of his tour there as a US soldier, he volunteered to go “on point” on the various patrols his unit was engaged in…Going “on point” basically meant that you were the first soldier to lead your unit through hostile territory on the patrol, seeking out and searching for enemy positions and hence the most likely to first encounter the enemy….It was a very dangerous task, and most soldiers were reluctant to volunteer for it…

Danny reasoned that somebody had to do it, and he trusted in fate to see him through, and it did, he never once received a scratch while on point, the most dangerous duty a foot soldier in Vietnam could perform…. Although ironically, the war did claim him after all… He died of malaria he contracted in Vietnam a few short years after he returned unscathed from the war itself…

So I am sure we all have our own personal tales of friends and relatives who fought and died in foreign wars, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and countless friends and contemporaries…In fact, almost all of us baby boomers had fathers who served in WW II, both in the European and Pacific theaters of war….These are the men that Tom Brokaw immortalized in his book, “The Greatest Generation”…..

An ex soldier named Brett McKay expounded on Brokaw’s theme when he wrote “But there may never have been a generation when the ratio of honorable men to slackers was higher than the one born between 1914 and 1929. These were the men that grew up during the Great Depression. They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One.

And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the Western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. They were our Greatest Generation.”

I think that WWII will forever be remembered as the last “good” war, when the forces of good and evil were so clearly defined; with the lunatic fringe of Hitler’s Nazi’s and the calculated Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor plunging Fortress America into a war it neither expected nor desired…

But it was like getting jumped on the street, you had to fight back to survive, and every human being will fight to preserve his own life or family, simply out of self defense, it is an innate human defense survival mechanism, without which we could not have survived throughout the ages…

I am not defending war, but sometimes it seems it is thrust upon us and we have no choice but to fight back, and that seems to have been most obvious in WWII…The other wars that followed, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Iraq and the whole middle eastern set of wars still going on  have been assailed by many as politically motivated, and not a clear case of self defense….

This does not lessen the tragedy, heartbreak, and human toll on the soldiers who fought and are still fighting in these wars, and especially on their families at home…. Memorial Day in this country is for ALL the soldiers who died in the service of America, and for all of them and their families we should give thanks, honor, and respect…It is often said “Old men make wars, and young men fight and die in them”….

Anyway that is the real meaning of Memorial Day, so give a few moments out of your busy 3 day weekend of barbeques and fishing trips and travel excursions and family get togethers to at least reflect on the ultimate sacrifice these military men, mostly all young men and women, who were cut down in the flower of their youth serving their country, our country, America….

Remember they were doing it for us, they died or were wounded in action with hostile forces to defend our way of life, to preserve our heritage, our traditions….In truth, many of them did not want to do it but did it anyway, and that is a measure of their courage and sacrifice that should be remembered and honored in this one day of the year set aside for their memories, Memorial Day….

War is horrible, it is ugly and destructive and negative and ultimately self perpetuating, an endless round of attacks and retaliations, and we can only hope that one day everybody, especially ALL of the world leaders will come to their senses and recognize this basic fact….Until then we can only honor our fallen soldiers, whoever and wherever they made the ultimate sacrifice on this, their special day…

It reminds me of Peter Seeger’s hauntingly beautiful folk song” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

 

 

Road Rage

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Why is it that some people’s personalities change so radically when they get behind the wheel of a car?… We have all heard of it and maybe even been subjected to it, but to me it is a very strange and curious phenomenon….I have been doing a lot more driving lately than I used to, so I have been able to observe this behavior with my own eyes once again, and frankly it just baffles me…

Like on the freeway, I can be sailing along in the fast lane at 75, 10 miles over the posted speed limit, but c’mon, everybody else is doing it and the cops don’t seem to really care, when I will invariably notice in my rear view mirror some stubborn driver who has crept up on me and is tailgating me, forcing me to go 80, which is too fast even for me…..I must yield by moving over a lane or risk getting  hit!

I am a naturally slower driver, a defensive driver, and I was a professional truck driver for 20 years, so I have had ample opportunity to observe this kind of irrational behavior, over and over again…….For some unknown reason, when certain drivers slip behind the wheels of their favorite ride, especially guys, I am sorry to report, it flips the STUPID switch on in their brain….

They become ravening drooling caricatures of themselves, speed freaks in the original sense, intent on passing everybody on the road, weaving in and out of traffic, cursing and flipping people off, acting the fool, taking unnecessary chances and demonstrating every wrong driving technique in the DMV manual,… They should be featured in a short warning film by the DMV film as exactly the wrong person to emulate…

According to my Google sources, this is a growing problem in our society, and we are supposed to “Back off from aggressive drivers” and further, “You must realize that you can’t control another driver’s behavior, but you can control your own. When another driver cuts you off, how you react will determine what happens next. If you are able to back off, take a deep breath, and remain calm, then you can defuse a potentially violent situation.

True, you might need to vent about the driver tailgating you all the way from town or the overly cautious motorist who consistently drove under the speed limit. Venting your frustration is normal and healthy, so long as you vent appropriately. Talk to a friend or family member about the driving experience―telling the story can relieve your stress. Some driving clubs or online discussions offer members a chance to vent their frustration.”

“Aggressive drivers routinely:

  • Tailgate
  • Use their horn
  • Flash their headlights
  • Change lanes quickly and often
  • Gesture to other drivers
  • Talk on their cell phone”

This is how you can recognize them, but to me the best way to deal with them is just to get out of their way, since these people seemingly cannot get out of their own way….I know it is maddening, frustrating, and certainly self destructive, so try not to get too emotionally invested in their own peculiar form of temporary insanity….

I always pull over to another lane and let a tail gating speed freak driver pass me by, or myself pass an overly cautious, slow driver…..Sometimes you just cannot move fast enough and to have to watch these maniacs pass you on the right side and then cut back right in front of you! This can be hard to swallow, and is always downright dangerous for both drivers, but they seem to be like the people in that Eagle’s song “Life In The Fast Lane”….“They were rushing down that freeway, messed around and got lost, they didn’t care, they were just dying to get off, life in the fast lane…”

It is like these road rage drivers are channeling into their inner Mario Andretti (a reference for my fellow baby boomers) or overcompensating for whatever personality inadequacies or problems they have in real life, and that the faster and crazier they drive they are at least, for a short time in their miserable lives, THEY are in control instead of being jerked around…

All I can say is that a car is meant to be a convenient means of transportation, and should not be used like you are Charleton Heston in a chariot race to hell every time you get behind the wheel…For the rest of us, just take a deep breath, count to ten and try to stay out of their way….

There is no logical way to deal with a person intent on playing the fool, especially when they are behind the wheel of a car, just don’t add any fuel to their road rage….In a perfect world, they will get what’s coming to them….In this world, they will probably just get by, this time….Next time, who knows?

Just try not to get sucked into the vortex of their madness, people that give in to road rage are truly on “The Road To Nowhere”….(Talking Heads)….

Today Is The Only Day We Have

So this is the only day in my life, today….I am not dying or anything (I hope!)) but yesterday is gone, certainly not forgotten, in fact it was a very good day…We went to the zoo and had a good time strolling the zoo grounds and observing the animals as they observed us…Tomorrow is another day, it may or may not arrive, filled with hopes and promises and plans and things to do, but nobody is guaranteed tomorrow…

No, today is the only day we truly have, and we can make of it what we will…It is always been that way, and it will always be that way…How many people do you know that sacrifice everything today for the bright and shiny promise of some future tomorrow, which sometimes, in fact usually, never arrives at all?…Or when it does, it is somehow different and not all that we had expected it to be?…

Sometimes we forgot about that one true fact, the certain knowledge that we are all only guaranteed one day, today, and how we should be thankful that we even wake up each morning…. Be glad to take the time to smell the coffee and admire the roses before we rush off to begin our busy days….Take nothing for granted, because it can all disappear in a heartbeat…

Work world is a necessary evil, a voracious waste of time and energy but you have to pay the bills, you need to provide shelter for yourself and your children, you need to be able to put food on the table, you need to be able to pay all the bills that make life liveable, no matter what standard of living you are used to, you have to work to keep it all together…All my fellow baby boomers know what I mean….

I think the very luckiest people in the world are those people who actually enjoy their work, in fact I think that is the real secret of life, to find something you would do for free anyway just because you love doing it, and then find somebody to pay you do it! For me, that would be writing, be it blogs, short stories, magazine articles, novels or music, both composing lyrics and playing guitar…

I love to compose songs and accompany myself on guitar, my strength IS my lyrics so I would have to classify myself as an Indie/Folk type of musician…. I am certainly nobody as eclectic and eclectic as a Jimi Hendrix (a once in a lifetime prodigy) or a Jimmy Page or a Jeff Beck or an Angus Young, all men who can pour out molten threads of lead riffs that thrill and chill you to the bone and all at the top of my personal “must listen” to list of musicians…

No, my music, which is very important to me, is all about the words, maybe sort of like early Bob Dylan, although I truly admire Neil Young for his lyrical content and excellent musicianship too, and so many others…Joan Baez for her incredibly pure and angelic voice, Keith Richards for his dogged determination and dedication to rock and roll, Chrissie Hynde and Sheryl Crow for their feminine insights into the rock music world, Rod Stewart for his quixotic love ballads…..There are so many others….

So I try to take advantage of each day as it comes, to just roll with it…I am retired now, so at least I don’t have to deal with the 50 hour hole in my week from toiling in work world, where I spent 45 years in meaningless dead end jobs to support myself and my daughter as a single parent…I was all too happy to retire, to make the most of the time I have left…

So each day when I wake up, I pay any bills that roll in, I do my exercises, mostly walking, I play with my cat, and I write my blog….Then I post it on Word Press to express my ideas, my thoughts, my feelings, I am a very emotional person….After that I check in with my friends on face book, and then I play my music….On a good day I can play up to 2 hours a session, but I always try to squeeze in at least an hour, because something mystical and magical happens when I play music…

It is like time is suspended, there are no clocks, there is no sense of time, it is like that Leonard Russell song: “I love you in a place where there is no space and time,” hauntingly beautiful lyrics….But that is how I feel when I play my guitar and sing my own songs that I have written…

I feel exactly like that, there is only the music and the melody, and the words intertwine like lovers and make me feel whole and complete and it produces I guess what are called “alpha waves” in my brain, it is a similar state of mind like what you achieve through meditation, I am told…

Everything is beautiful and the cares and the worries of the day, all the bad things that may or may not happen become all irrelevant, and I am able to just relax and achieve an emotional catharsis from the sheer joy of playing my music….It sort of puts everything into perspective, and I always feel complete while I am playing and even after…..

I hope all of you have something similar in your lives, like my writing and music is for me, some safe place you can go to, somebody or something that makes it all alright…After all, we all have only this one day, today, to experience it and live our lives to the fullest….

I am enjoying my day, and I sincerely hope that you are enjoying your today as well….

Like John Lennon/I’m Just Sitting Here Watching The Wheels Go Round And Round

I’m Just Sitting here Watching the Wheels go Round and Round”….With all thanks to the iconic and legendary musical genius John Lennon, that is precisely how I am feeling today…He wrote that song after he gave up the glitzy show biz life, after spearheading the world changing music revolution that changed our society forever, after becoming the de facto spokesman for the so called “British Invasion,”  and settled into being a “house husband” and primary care giver for his young son, Sean Lennon….

I just watched the video on You Tube again, the “official video,” and to me John never looked happier and more relaxed as he simply enjoyed life at a normal pace, light years away from the heat and white light, the searing intensity, the 24/7 scrutiny and pressure of the “Beatle Years”…

The point is I completely understand and identify with this song and it’s underlying theme, although unlike John Lennon I am not escaping any pressures except the mundane trials and travails of a common working man who is now retired, going into my 3rd year of retirement, which is not as all as I had expected, except for certain times, like today…

Like most people, I had all these anticipations and expectations of what retired life would be like, and most of them were simply not true…I thought I would have all this time on my hands, a surplus of time, but the truth is that the days pass as swiftly and surely as they did during my 45 year sojourn into work world, where every minute counts, time is money, punctuality is a virtue, and “Everybody is Working for the Weekend” (Lover Boy)……And TGIF is the universal employees mantra for the end of the work week….

See I thought that everyday in retirement would be like the weekends in work world, but they are most definitely not….When I wake up well rested every morning at a reasonably and leisurely 1030 am there is no longer any sense of wild freedom and sudden release from rules and regulations….

Because there are no longer strict, rigid boundaries to rebel against, time constraints to overcome, to triumph over, no longer places I simply “must go to,” activities that have to be done, household chores that could not be avoided, sight seeing that must be included, social gatherings like weddings and anniversaries and parties and restaurants and bars that were all hot and trendy that you had to go to with your friends to make sure you had a “hot weekend,” a great time, to justify and offset the monotonous grind of the actual  the reality of the work week…..

It is a real wonder to me how I did all this back then and how even now all the other current workers EVER have half the time to do all the stuff I did, jamming it all into a 72 hour weekend; yet of course they do, because they must, there are only so many hours in a week….

For me personally when I was a denizen of work world I could only manage it by cutting back on my sleep time, restricting myself to 5 to 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night, with apparently no permanent ill effects, although I must  admit I wandered dazed and confused, sleep deprived and sluggish through all the corridors of power in my work world environments for 45 years, with few exceptions……Nothing bad ever came of it, but every day was hellish to get through….

But today is a simply beautiful, fabulous day in San Francisco, California!…I live close to Ocean Beach, on the very edge of the Western world, in the Sunset district of San Francisco, just 6 blocks from the beach and the Pacific ocean….  The off shore cooling fog ensures that we never get those scorching hot, humid days that are common for most people wherever they live in the spring and summer…

It is like I am doubly insulated, both from the weather extremes and the pressures of everyday existence and survival…. I am eking out a bare minimum living on SSA, like many of my fellow “Baby Boomers” but I have just enough to get by on….

And on a beautiful day like today, it must be at least 70 degrees even out here, I don’t need to spend any money at all, and I am just happy that I have the luxury and wealth of time without pressure, having enough time now  to enjoy what is all around me and be able to savor what most people take for granted and ignore…

I can see the majestic blue ocean just at the foot of my street, rich and magnificent, and reflect that on the other side of the same ocean is the mysterious Far East, Japan, China, all these faraway places, and I wonder too if anybody over there is thinking like I am thinking, throwing a metaphorical “Message in a Bottle”-(Sting) into the waves and currents of the mighty ocean, feeling like I am feeling, doing what I am doing… I wonder…..

Every morning I take a 16 block walk around my neighborhood, prompted at first by my doctor to improve my cardio vascular system, but now I enjoy it so much that I would do it anyway…There is such a sense of relief, such an absence of stress, such a peaceful feeling at strolling around my own neighborhood without having to worry about pressures and daily deadlines and getting fired or making more money by working twice as hard as the next guy, that is all out the window now….

I guess that this is the biggest surprise at being retired, to realize how much, how very, very much we miss in this life by immersing ourselves in the so called “real world” of work world (for 45 years, in my case,) and never even thinking of stopping to smell the roses…The confidence to say “Good Morning’ to total strangers who are also mostly retired and mean it, and to get a smile and a welcome back from them….

The opportunity to watch dogs frisking on the sand at the beach, chasing Frisbees or tennis balls, heedless of anything else but being in the moment, and sometimes when I am with my family doing fun, whimsical things like building a sandcastle, or strolling on the beach collecting rocks or seashells, just because we can….The ability to watch the ebb and flow of the neighborhood, like a heartbeat, as the day progresses…..

The commuters all weary and wound up at the same time boarding the transit system in the mornings, the trains and buses and subways to get to their jobs, and then the vacuum of their absence as they labor at their tedious, time consuming jobs in some amorphous “downtown” area and then to watch the neighborhood slowly swell and fill up as they return in the evening commute…..

And they get home and try to relax and jam in their chores and watch some TV and eat dinner and maybe even try to connect with their families, but the fatigue increases every day and the days turn into weeks, punctuated by the happy grind out the fun weekends and then the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years and the economic cycle is fulfilled until you reach my point in life…

Once you reach the mandatory retirement age, the system just basically dumps you off the conveyor belt, to be replaced by younger, fresher, cheaper interchangeable units, and that is where I find myself now….I am retired but still healthy, poorer in money but richer in time, and the corporate bosses can grind their boots into some other poor wage slave’s face….

And the coworkers who would gladly back stab you to advance their own careers, that is all past me now….They are all “Gone with the Wind,” a fleeting flashing kaleidoscope of half remembered images, faces and places, appointments and meetings, deals and deadlines, all so important at the time, all so trivial and meaningless and forgettable now….

The only true benefit of retirement without lots of money is the freedom of time, to take a leisurely walk, to play guitar, to write a blog, to chat with your neighbors, to reflect on the meaning of life, to evaluate the world as we know it through fresh eyes, to just enjoy the moment without always having to worry about not only what you are doing now, but also what’s next on your “to do’ list….

Like i said, and fortunately i have my health, and on this warm beautiful San Francisco spring day, i totally agree with John Lennon: “I’m Just Sitting here Watching the Wheels go Round and Round”….

The Way We Were

I am writing another blog about nostalgia, which according to my Google sources is defined as: “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I chose in my last blog to delve deeply into the music scene in San Francisco during the famous, or notorious, depending on your viewpoint, “Summer of Love” in 1967….But there was a lot more going on in the summer of 1967 than just the musical explosion….

The music scene in San Francisco at that time was indeed rich and varied, textured and layered, infused with raw energy and good vibes and any of my fellow baby boomers who were privileged enough to have lived here in San Francisco or shared many of the same experiences wherever they lived, east coast or west coast, or anywhere in between at that pivotal point in time, can all pool and share their memories with mine, and we can all consider ourselves as fortunate to have participated in it and survived those turbulent times, just like I do…

It was, quite simply, The Way We Were, like the famous movie of the same name, starring Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand with her haunting, chilling nostalgic musical rendering of the theme song of the movie, “Memories…Misty Water Colored Memories…Of The Way We Were”…..

But like anybody living through a period of great social changes, we were “caught in the middle again” often unaware of the ramifications, implications, spin offs and ultimate results of the things we all did in our daily lives back then, the choices we made, and how they have changed the world we live in today…It is always that way, and we can always see things in better perspective through the lenses of the here and now, looking back…..Everybody has 20/20 hindsight….

But describing the music scene in San Francisco during the Summer of Love led me down all sorts of pathways and deep into the labyrinth of my mind, my memories of what it was really like back then, so different from today, yet the social dynamics and the societal changes that were inspired by the music and the times themselves have engendered and developed and mutated into today’s modern world almost seamlessly….

The world was a far different place in 1967….There was the Cold War with Russia going on in the background, seemingly forever, but meantime there was the very hot and lively Vietnam War going on as a sort of proxy war between the superpowers of the United States and the communist state of China….

China was allied with Russia then in a communist monolith vs democracy for world dominion, as we had so patiently and repeatedly explained to us ad nauseaum by our own United States government…The entire hippie movement was in large part spawned by the rejection of the validity of the Vietnam War by the youthful generation of the up and coming baby boomers….

For the first time, we were learning to think for ourselves, to make our own decisions, to decide if our government was telling the truth or lying, and to our shock and surprise, in the end, we found out we were right all along!

The war WAS largely a lie, as confessed to by luminaries of the time like Robert McNamara, former Secretary of State, who came clean many years later with his famous mea culpa , again culled from Google sources: “We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.” — McNamara, writing in his 1995 memoir, “In Retrospect,” on the management of the Vietnam War…

The politics of the war produced a split in the burgeoning youth movement of baby boomers between the hippies and the social activists, with the hippies opting to “Make Love, Not War” and listening to the siren song of Timothy Leary, “Tune In, Turn on, Drop Out,” as opposed to succumbing to the blandishments of the more strident left wing political activists from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) like Tom Hayden, Abbey Hoffman and Mark Rudd….

Most of the SDS self destructed as they became more and more like the autocratic government they wanted to overthrow, and the peaceful hippies were not interested in rallies, marches and demonstrations…They certainly wanted to avoid the war, but not to the point of active,violent rebellion, and for the most part they were able to ride out the storm in a drug fueled, musically inspired sanctuary of their own making until the war collapsed of it’s own volition….

But this split in philosophies was to become an ongoing thing, with more and more people challenging authority in every way….As a result, today the government is more transparent than ever before, and they are forced to explain themselves more than they ever had to back in the simplistic days of “My Country, Right or Wrong” or “America, Love It or Leave It”…

We will never again be a nation of sheep obediently and willingly herded to the point of virtual destruction just because our so called leaders think it best for all of us….Our political leaders, after all, are just people, with their own personal agendas to push…

This questioning of authority has now become a way of life, and never again will we Americans blindly follow our leaders, and this has all become possible because of the individual courage, no matter their ultimate convictions, of the first generation of American youth, the baby boomers, as we came of age….There was never a generation like us, and there will likely never be another one….

There is so much more to explore, contrasting the world back then and the world as it exists today, but it all had to start somewhere, and it all started with the youth of the 1960’s, questioning the established order of the government, or as the Who so elegantly phrased it way back when, way back then, when they sang “Talking About…My Generation!”