A Life Collected

As you get older, you start to look around at things that you’ve accumulated and they tend to take on a deeper meaning, both monetary and sentimental in nature.  I’m going through that right now, I guess turning 40 will do that.  Instead of buying, it’s about investing.  Instead of owning, it’s about preserving.  Instead of appreciating, it’s about cherishing.  That’s definitely not the mindset that I had when I started collecting as a kid.  First it was baseball cards.  Baseball cards were a big deal to me as a kid, but they were difficult to collect.  Like everything else that one gets involved in collecting, building a serious and well curated collection involves a monetary commitment that is difficult to make on a child’s allowance.  My baseball card collecting days came to an end when I stole a Darryl Strawberry rookie card from one of my friends out of jealousy and had to do chores to earn money to replace it.  It was such a dumb thing to do.  When i swiped it from him, I got scared and didn’t know what to do with the card, so i put it in my pocket.  You can guess what the outcome of THAT was.  Baseball cards don’t depend on sharp corners and vivid (unblemished) pictures to retain their value.  Needless to say, that was probably the fastest mint condition to worthless deterioration in history.  I’m still shaking my head about it thirty years later.

One last thing about baseball cards.  My dad also collected baseball cards as a kid.  I was fascinated by the idea of inheriting his collection.  Unfortunately it had been left with my Grandma and one of my Uncles ended up taking it.  I used to be pretty disappointed about that, but looking back, I’m glad it stayed out of my hands.

As a teenager, I moved on from baseball cards and started getting interested in music and cars.  I collected issues of Hot VW’s and Hot Rod magazine.  I always kept them organized chronologically and tried to always keep them in good condition.  I never REALLY pursued magazine collecting, but I always liked the idea of it.  Just never got sucked in.  I’ve revisited that interest as an adult, but never with any level of commitment.  Probably for the best.

When TEN by Pearl Jam was released in 1991, I was 12 years old.  I bought ten on tape from Wal-Mart.  I look back at that purchase as the beginning of my 28 years and counting of collecting music.  As an adult, I’ve collected everything from DVDs and CDs, to antique radios, books and art.  I’ve sold some things throughout the years as well.  When I was young and irresponsible, I sold records for quick money, not knowing how much I would regret it later.  I regret it still to this day.  Mostly though, I’ve bought things.  I’ve always tried to be a discerning collector though.  I don’t just accumulate to accumulate.  I care about what I buy and I try to curate my “collection”.  I know that’s kind of like an alcoholic saying that they’re not an alcoholic because they drink expensive alcohol, but it is what it is.  At least collecting has been a vice that I’ve been able to control and it’s brought a lot of joy and comfort to my life.

I started collecting records after I graduated from high school.  I stayed home my first year of college and worked at a pizza place called Greek Tony’s.  The restaurant was owned by the family of a kid I grew up with.  He lived in the neighborhood next to mine and we were in the same grade.  His father coached little league baseball when I played and was a big part of the community.  To say that pizza joints attract a certain style of employee is a pretty big understatement.  The owner of the joint where I worked was very open-minded and welcoming to all manner of kids, a lot of them troubled and interested in/exploring a more alternative lifestyle.  I ran into the owner one day at the grocery store and asked him if he was hiring.  He told me when to show up and the rest was history.  I met a lot of great kids while working there.  I was introduced to many things, both good and bad.  I felt a kinship to the core group who worked with me there for those years, because we were all looking for something different.  On night in the alley behind the restaurant, I heard a tape of a band that a couple of the guys were in.  That band was called Rapport and they were a Powerviolence band.  Powerviolence is a micro genre that started in the late 1980’s.  It was a crossover between hardcore punk, thrash metal and grind core.  The band Infest was the first of the generation of bands to move Powerviolence into its heyday in the 1990’s.  That night when I heard my friends band for the first time, my entire world opened up.  Powerviolence gave way to punk, thrash, grindcore, hardcore, crust, d-beat, metalcore, emo, etc.  There was a whole world that was operating underneath the surface that I never knew existed.  I was a little late to the party, but finally wherever I turned, I could relate to what I saw and heard.  In all honesty though, it wasn’t all a great awakening.  I met a lot of kids with very serious problems in those days.  I made a lot of bad decisions and things could have easily gone sideways for me, but luckily I made it through.  A lot of kids weren’t so lucky.

Just like trying to remember the first show that I went to, I can’t for the life of me remember the first record I bought.  My dad had a few records when I was a kid, but vinyl definitely wasn’t something that I had any knowledge of.  I worked with a kid at the pizza place who I would go record shopping with.  I remember that my first record player was one that I had found in the parking lot of Wall-Mart, next to the dumpster.  I took it home, cleaned it up and it actually still worked.

Thinking back, I must have bought my first record at one of the many record stores in Houston that still miraculously exist to this day.  It could have been at a show though.  I remember being instantly taken with the experience of buying a record. Vinyl is a very immersive medium.  Once I bought my first, I was hooked.  Just the act of going to the record store and feeling the records on my fingers as I flipped through the bins was amazing.  I was interested in art, so the covers and inserts and layouts were endlessly fascinating to me.  The level of creativity in the DIY punk community is unparalleled.  I’m still amazed to this day with what I see.  If you follow Mark McCoy and Youth Attack Records, you know what I mean.  I would take my stack of records home and look through each page of the booklets, reading the inserts from the record labels and letting the music transport me to another place.  During those years, if I had any money in my pocket, I was buying records. Collecting records was as much a personal discovery for me as it was an activity to build friendships and share experiences.  Those were years that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

After my first year of college at home, I ended up going to University of North Texas in Denton.  UNT has a prominent music department and the town has and still does have a thriving music scene.  Lots of talented kids means a lot of good music.  Riverboat Gamblers is one of the more prominent bands to emerge from the Denton music scene.  Anyways, I was going to school to study graphic design, but I rarely attended class.  I struggled a lot with depression and self-doubt while I was living there, so I spent a lot of time in my room, hanging out with similarly disaffected (lazy) college “students”, and buying records.  Denton had a small record store on Frye street and I spent a lot of time there exploring the bins.  I can’t remember the name of that store, but I remember how it felt to me.  It was like a warm blanket.  I was depressed and struggling with mental health issues, so while collecting records before had been a social activity, it now had become a solitary activity.  The records had become my friends and collecting them now brought me comfort and security.  I felt safe and confident in the record store.  Walking home with a bag of new vinyl to look through, knowing that I had found some gems during my visit, made me forget all of my troubles for a while.  There is definitely a high that comes with shopping (retail therapy), but sometimes it just has to be that way.  At least it wasn’t destructive.

After I moved home from college, I met my ex-wife and lost touch with my friends.  She was a different person and wasn’t a part of the world I was used to.  I had been smoking a lot of pot and ended up selling some of my records for money to buy more drugs.  My life had changed again and I had lost sight of how much all of those hours of looking and collecting had meant to me.  I did keep a large portion of my collection, but I had stopped collecting for the most part.  I always missed it though.

Once I decided to quit smoking pot get my life back together, I slowly began to regain my interest in collecting.  I had steady employment finally, but I didn’t have a partner who supported my interest in records, so I just did it here and there when I could.  However, when I got divorced, that all changed.

All of a sudden I was alone again for the first time in over ten years.  My marriage had been deteriorating for quite some time, so I had been emotionally alone, but now I was physically by myself.  I felt those same feelings again that I did back when I was in college.  Depression and loneliness are unmistakable, so I turned back to what I knew would bring me comfort.  I started collecting records again and I started enjoying it.  I started collecting and restoring old tube radios.  I started a collection of books and logged all of my records into the Discogs.com database.

One day someone asked me why I collected things so much.  I told them that I’ve done it for many different reasons throughout the years.  The more I think about it though, the more I realize that it’s really only for one reason.  I collect things that I know won’t ever leave me.  I collect things that I can look at and surround myself with, because they’re mine and I know that I can count on them to always be there to make me feel better.  Introverts are like that.  I’m not a hoarder though, because thankfully I have a fair amount of OCD, so I care about what I collect, and I’m willing to do hard work to add to my collections.  It’s all valuable to me, and if it’s not, I will let it go.

A week or so ago, I started a new Instagram page.  I was sitting at home and thinking back about that baseball card collection of my dad’s that I missed out on.  I got to thinking about my record collection and how I’ve always dreamed of having a son or daughter to pass it on to.  I’ve always dreamed about opening their minds to the world that made me who I am today.  I’ve always dreamed about them caring for it and adding to it like I have.  It may just be a dream, but it’s a dream that still makes me smile.  So I’m going through and opening up each and every one of my 1000+ records, reading the inserts and the booklets, looking at the art, cleaning the vinyl, listening to each song, photographing the art, replacing the sleeves and sealing them up for safe keeping.  It may seem silly to some of you to do all of that for a silly record, but it’s the least that I can do for all that they’ve done for me.

No Country for Good Men

I didn’t hear the term “fuckboy” until I had been on this planet for 39 years.  It’s a pretty self explanatory term, but if you need some clarification, here is the definition :

fuckboy

or fuck boy or fuckboi

A fuckboy is that guy … the one who doesn’t respect women, but relies on them heavily. He’s distant, doesn’t care about other people’s time, and won’t commit. He’s self-absorbed, does stupid things, and fucks with others’ emotions.

I’m sure if you are a woman reading this, you know all too well about this particular breed of “man”.  The saddest thing that I’ve come to realize is just how much the world of fuckboys has taken over.  Their bullshit is everywhere and It’s ruining things for those of us who don’t want to live in their morally ambiguous world.

You see, when my marriage fell apart, it was because of fuckboys.  Their disrespect for what I believed in and held close to my heart tore my entire world apart.  But that’s just part of it.  The truth is that my ex wife was already scorned by men long before I met her, mostly from her deadbeat father and less than amazing step-father. Add to that a long line of disappointing and morally challenged boyfriends and the deck was already stacked against any man who has the intention of being honest and true.

The opening monologue by Tommy Lee Jones in the Coen Brothers adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men is about Ed Bell’s disillusionment with the world in which he is living, compared to the way the world used to be; the world as he wishes it would still be.

I remember a lot of people being frustrated with this movie when it first came out, because it ends with Ed telling a story about a dream that he had.  The screen cuts to black and there isn’t any tidy resolution.  I always wondered why people didn’t pay more attention to the opening scene, because all of the explanation is right there.  As the world changes and evolves, it often can become unrecognizable as you get older.  When my parents were kids, they would leave their front doors unlocked.  Like Ed said, several sheriffs that he knew wouldn’t even carry a gun.  Boys would court girls and show up at their family home to meet their parents before a first date.  When I was a kid, if I wanted to talk to a girl on the phone, I had to do it on our one house phone that was in the kitchen.  I remember my sister and I wanting more privacy, so my parents bought a longer chord to stretch around the corner, but we still had to talk quietly.  My parents and my relatives all had/have classic love stories.  They’re all still married and they have all endured their share of good times and bad.  I didn’t grow up around infidelity and marital discord, for that I know that I am extremely lucky.  That stability and belief in the tenants of marriage and commitment made me who I am today.

The problem is that the world of my father and uncles and grandfathers is long gone, and I don’t like the world I find myself in today.  Before I met and fell in love with my now significant other, I went on one date with a girl I met through a dating app.  During our initial pre date conversations, she told me that she was at the end of her rope with dating, telling me that she had dated so much that it could qualify as a second full time job.  She told me that she was so sick of “fuckboys”.  There it was, that word.  I asked her what that meant and she launched into a diatribe about the disintegration of the world of men.  She told me that guys are non-committal, always want sex on the first date, talk to multiple girls at a time, “ghost” her out of nowhere, don’t pull chairs out, open doors, etc, etc, etc, etc.  The list just went on and on.  When I tried to explain to her the kind of man I am, she didn’t believe me.  It sounded exactly like what a fuckboy would say to get close to her and get what he wanted.  I told her that I had a Camaro that I drive on the weekends.  Unbeknownst to me, that was not only a fuckboy car, but I was almost certainly a fuckboy.  It didn’t matter that I was almost forty years old and had loved cars all of my life.  It didn’t matter, because in today’s world, my kind didn’t exist anymore.

So I find myself drifting in a sea of constant suspicion and doubt, because the flippant and damaging world of modern men has created a world where I don’t belong.  Good men these days are forced to prove themselves over and over, working to convince those around them that their kind actually does still exist.

The first is the suspicion around the end of my marriage.  Why did it end?  It was obviously his fault.  He probably cheated or was abusive.  He probably wasn’t a good husband to her.  He probably drank too much, or hung out with his boys instead of his wife.  There’s always a reason behind why divorce happens, so be careful with any man who is divorced.

The second is the constant suspicion of infidelity and dishonesty.  Women have been burned so much by callous and indifferent men that they just naturally assume that all men are the same, and I don’t blame them.  Dating apps like Plenty of Fish have conditioned men to look at love as something outdated and disposable.  Once you encounter one tiny thing that may not be perfect about a woman, there are thousands more at the swipe of a finger for you to try out.  What’s the point in committing or investing yourself emotionally in anything when it’s so easy not to.  Putting in hard work and building a solid foundation for a life long relationship is like building a fire without matches and gasoline to men.  It’s antiquated and the skill doesn’t matter anymore.

The third is that good men have to clean up the messes left by fuckboys, while they are trying to build and nurture a true love story.  Men who are committed to doing the right things and trying to love a woman the way they saw their amazing fathers love their amazing mothers, have to battle every step of the way.  When the stress comes and there are bumps in the road, the first inclination for women is to pull away and prove that they don’t need a man, because they’ve had to do it so many times.  There is a callous that has been built up by years of shitty behavior by men, and it can be hard to soften up again.

I’m trying my best to be the type of man that I know that I should be.  Being out in the world again and starting over with love at forty years old is like watching your seventy year old dad try and use his iPhone.  Being old fashioned isn’t always a bad thing.  Some things were better in the old days.  Life was more meat and potatoes and love was about the magic of finding that one person who completes you, not for one night, but for the rest of your life.  Treating your lady like a queen and being supportive and nurturing aren’t a sign of weakness.  Making mistakes and working to always try and be a better man, so that you can honor and protect the amazing gift that love can bring to your life should never be outdated.

I don’t care if this is no longer a country for good men, because I was never going to not be one anyways.

“They say the eyes are the window to the soul.  I don’t know what them eyes was the window to and I guess I’d as soon not know.  But there is another view of the world out there and other eyes to see it and that’s where this is goin.  It has done brought me to a place in my life I would not of thought I’d of come to.  Somewhere out there is a true and living prophet of destruction and I don’t want to confront him.  I know he’s real.  I have seen his work.  I walked in front of those eyes once.  I won’t do it again.  I won’t push my chips forward and stand up and go out to meet him.  It ain’t just been older.  I wish that it was.  I can’t say that it’s even what you are willing to do.  Because I always knew that you had to be willing to die to even do this job.  That was always true.  Not to sound glorious about it or nothin but you do.  If you ain’t they’ll know it.  They’ll see it in a heartbeat.  I think it is more like what you are willing to become.  And I think a man would have to put his soul at hazard.  And I won’t do that.  I think now that maybe I never would.”

Haunted

At one point in my life, church was everything.  Choir, youth group, bible study, mission trips, I did it all.  When my family moved to North Houston, we joined a small church called The Woodlands United Methodist.  My sister and I used to sit on the end of the front pew, while my parents looked down on us from the choir loft.  Their friends always commented on how well-behaved we were.  We were always dressed in our “Sunday best”.  My dad wore a suit and tie, my mom wore dresses.

Church on Sunday was a given.  If you missed church on Sunday, it was only because you were either very sick or out-of-town.  Even then we usually attended an out-of-town service.  My mom directed children’s choir and taught Sunday school for the kids.  My dad taught Sunday school for adults and served on the Pastor Parish Relations Committee.  He helped interview and hire many of the pastors still at that church, who helped to build the mega church that it is now.  My parents circle of friends all went to our church.  My social circle was comprised almost entirely of church kids.

Youth choir sang in the service prior to “big people’s” church.  I think that was at 10AM. Most of the time I would go to Sunday school after singing in my service.  Sometimes I sang in more than one service, usually on Holidays like Easter, but mostly I ended up in Sunday school.  We would go home at lunch time and I would be back on Sunday afternoon/night for choir practice and youth group.  Throw in mission trips and bible studies and small groups and special activities, and it quickly became all-encompassing.  I was a church kid.

Youth group for me was primarily a social experience, I’ll admit it.  I’m sure it was for a lot of kids.  Youth choir for me was just a chance to sing more, because I was already heavily involved in school choir, plus my parents sang in adult choir.  It was in my blood I suppose.  When we were out-of-town and attended a different church, sometimes my folks would sing in the choir to “help out”.  On the rare occasion that my dad wasn’t in the choir, he was notorious for singing as loud as he could in the congregation.  It’s funny to look back on it now, but man it was a challenge when my peers would turn around and stare at him in shock.  I think that it really just encouraged him to sing louder.

So ya, church for me was primarily a venue for my social agenda, even though saying that I had any kind of agenda would be a genuine stretch.  Mostly I just wanted to stare at cute girls and talk to my friends.

I did think though that I had a legitimate relationship with God/Jesus/Christ, whatever the right word is.  I though that I was pretty close with the guy in the robe and Birkenstocks.  I prayed when everyone else did.  I sang the hymns and praise/worship songs with enthusiasm and “feeling”.  I listened to the sermon and took communion.  I went on the mission trips and was a good representative of the church.  I did the foot washing ceremonies and tried to learn how to be a witness.  I even stood up and gave my “testimony”.  I gave the testimony of a zero drama teenager from the suburbs, even trying to get emotional during it, so that I could “fit in”.  Seriously.

On Facebook a while back, there was a post from one of my friends from that time about the songs that we used to sing every Sunday in youth group.  One was called The Party’s Over, by Kenny Marks.  It was about a teenage couple (Jeannie and Johnny) who had premarital sex at a party, got married and then Johnny divorced Jeannie and left her with the kid.  The chorus was “The party’s over.  It was fun while it lasted, but it ain’t no fun no more.  The party’s over.  Now they wondered what they hurried for.”  It never dawned on me how brainwashing those songs were attempting to be.  I remember harmonizing with my choir friends to them, NEVER once stopping to think about what I was actually singing.  There were countless praise and worship songs just like that one. The Facebook comment thread eventually included my old youth minister, admitting to how awful and ridiculous those songs were.  The weird thing is that in the moment, everyone seemed to be very moved and connected to the message.  I remember that around my senior year in high school, I started to notice the developing trend of raising your hands and swaying back and forth during particularly “moving” times.  I also noticed that there was an increased frequency of tears on Sunday nights.  The more emotion that was shown, the more the leaders would talk about the spirit being in the room.  Everyone seemed to be competing for who could feel the it the most.

I didn’t think much of it at the time.  After all, like I said, I was mostly interested in girls.

I think about it a lot now though.  You see, as soon as I graduated and headed to college, it was all over.  As soon as my social circle had gone their separate ways, I joined a new social circle.  I found the non-believers and was easily swayed to their way of thinking, because the truth is that I had never been a true believer.  Their message was that church goers were sheep, blinded by a false message of hope and eternal life.  I thought that I was a deeply christian guy and that I had this great base of moral superiority, but it was all a facade.  It all crumbled so easily.

I remember driving to church on Sunday mornings and playfully yelling at the people who were out walking and exercising on Sunday morning to “go to church!”.  It was strange, but we felt like we were doing it right.  We were making the right choice.  We had it figured out and we felt sorry for those who had apparently chosen a different path.

Disclaimer : I love my family to pieces and I support their beliefs and faith with all of my heart.  This is one hundred percent about me.  I was given an amazing childhood and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Back in February this year, a quote was posted on one of my social media feeds that read:

“Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me.  There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself.  What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on your stuff or, heaven forbid, disagree with you.  Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.” – Lillian Daniel

That quote stood out to me and really defined the struggle that I have had for the majority of my adult life.  I’m not going to speak for any of my peers, but for me, centering my childhood and formative years around the church taught me a lot about how to be a giving and thoughtful person.  It taught me how to be a good and decent person.  I had great friends and had a lot of memorable times.  I have a lot of fond memories of time spent with my family.  I’m thankful to have spent so many important years in a safe and supportive environment.  I’m thankful to my parents for that.

The church gave me so many things, but it didn’t give me religion.  It didn’t give me a relationship with something bigger than myself, and I have been haunted by that for too long.

As far as the quote by Lillian Daniel referenced above, here are my thoughts.  The church isn’t a comfortable place for those who are disillusioned.  If you’ve lost your faith or if you feel like you never really had it, bringing that fragility into an environment where you are called on your stuff or disagreed with can be a very daunting prospect.  Granted, there may be congregations out there where one could feel comfortable in their doubt and be allowed to safely grow in their faith, but you shouldn’t have to drive two hours to find it.  You shouldn’t have to try churches on and hopefully find one that fits you just right.  It’s easy for the church to have the perspective that true faith is only found when you dig deep into tradition and join the community, because it helps to fill their pews.  The message of “Hey you, staying at home and trying to figure this out by yourself, that’s not how it’s done.  You need us to show you the proper way.  Without us you don’t stand a chance” only serves to perpetuate the guilty feeling that unless your faith fits into the churches defined parameters, then you’re “doing it wrong”.

Once I quit attending church on a regular basis and began to experience the “real world”, I of course started to question what I had known for so many years.  When I looked down to confirm a solid foundation beneath my feet, I realized it wasn’t there.  I realized that a lot of what I thought I knew, I didn’t relate to it at all.  I started listening to music and going to shows.  I hung out with people who were similarly disillusioned and trying to find their own way.  I stumbled a lot and made a lot of mistakes, but I also experienced a lot of things that changed the way I saw the world and more importantly, how I felt about church.

So all of that brings us to music, of course.  A little vocabulary lesson first though.

hive mind
noun
  1. a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence.
    “he has become one of those celebrities whose online presence has made him a favorite of the Internet hive mind”
    • (in science fiction) a unified consciousness or intelligence formed by a number of alien individuals, the resulting consciousness typically exerting control over its constituent members.
      “there is a Borg Queen who controls the hive mind”

Ian Svenonius was/is in a band called The Make Up.  They are from Washington DC.  They wear matching, tailored suits and play a self-proclaimed style of music called “Gospel Yeh-Yeh”.  Ian is a master showman, a professor of the concept of the Hive Mind.  The Make Up want the crowd to be their fifth member, taking their inspiration from gospel choirs, who use the congregation as their fifth member, in order to build emotion and help people “feel the spirit”.  Ian isn’t a preacher, but he understands the power of a unified consciousness.  He knows how to create a rhythm hive, as he calls it.  I can barely remember the first time I saw them, but I remember how I felt.  See for yourself.  This wasn’t the show, but you get the idea.

I’ve thought a lot about this band over the years, and I am still amazed at how profound an impact they had on me.  Going to see them was a revelation for me.  It spoke to me on an emotional, even spiritual level.   I think.  See, The Make Up had emotionally manipulated me, but they did it on a level that I understood, that I needed.  It was genius.  It was theater.  It was performance art.  It was church.

You see, what I realized is that religion has become a business first.  A hugely profitable business at that.  Faith has been bottled and packaged as the energy drink to end all energy drinks.  The achievement of a unified consciousness moves the church forwards and makes the members feel alive.  The crying, waving of hands, emotive and repetitive singing is all a brilliant sales tactic for selling the good word.  It’s marketing at its best.  The cadence and rhythm of the preacher, and the range of emotional dynamics throughout the message is all carefully calculated to build emotion and make you “feel the spirit”.  Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins are activated and released, making you feel euphoric and spiritually high.  It’s kind of like this.

 

We used to talk about how going to church on Sunday would carry you through the week, sort of on a cloud.  It felt that way.  The problem though was what happened when you would come down.  After eighteen years, I came down and found that nothing was there.

Is that why people keep going back week after week?  Is religion the ultimate drug?  Is the church the ultimate dealer?  Are we all just feeding the monkey, or is there actually something real behind all of the pomp and circumstance.  When people would ask me if I believe in God, I would always tell them that “I believe in love”.  I was in love at the time, so I thought that was a clever thing to say.  The truth is that I couldn’t answer that question, because I’ve never really known God.  I’ve only ever known the idea of God.

So what do I do?  I absolutely believe in something bigger than myself, but if church doesn’t speak to me and tells me that going at it alone is a fool’s errand, what do I do?  The church makes those who have lost their way and question what they are being told feel like they are bad for business.  You just have to believe they say.  Give your life to Christ and your sins will be forgiven.  Read the bible and put God first in all things and eternal life will be yours.  Easy, right?  Simple.

I went to see St. Paul & the Broken Bones a couple of weekends ago.  Paul Janeway (singer) was at one time working towards becoming a preacher.  Eventually he left the profession and went to worked as a mechanic’s assistant and attended community college.  When asked about how he integrates his past into his performance, he stated that “you learn a little bit more about how to interact with the crowd — feeling momentum, just feeling that intensity — and it’s not a whole lot different than what we do now.”  When I saw them play, I remembered The Make Up and James Brown.  Janeway was working for that unified consciousness, that hive mind.

When asked about what drew him away from the ministry, Janeway said this.  “Not agreeing with what is predominantly taught growing up the way I did, I had a lot of animosity toward the church,” he says. “One time there was a woman with cancer, and they were telling her, ‘All you need to do is say you’re healed.’ And she tried to so hard, and tried and tried and tried, but she eventually died of cancer, and she died thinking that she didn’t have enough faith to be healed. And that really resonated with me. I still think about that to this day.”

As I was standing there on that Saturday night next to the woman I love, I was thinking about how much faith is enough, or what type of faith is the right faith.  A guy in front of me kept yelling at Paul Janeway to “PREACH”, while holding his giant beer and acting like the concert was just for him.  In a nutshell, that’s what church has become to me.  It’s just a concert, a flashy robe, a bunch of people caught up in the power of a great performance.

Deep down I hate that I feel that way, but it’s something that I have to learn to move on from.  I’m tired of being haunted.  I want to be able to build my own faith and trust that if God really is there waiting for me at the end of this life with open arms, then he won’t care how I choose to get to him.  If Ian Svenonius and James Brown and Paul Janeway can conjure the spirit and speak to me in a way that the church can’t, then I’ll turn them up to eleven and i’ll let them stir my soul.  I’ll surround myself with love and I’ll have faith in the beauty and hope of this amazing life i’ve been given.

 

 

SONG(S) OF THE DAY 9/25/2018

 

The Measure Of A Man

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”  – Thomas Paine

I love John Mayer.

Not the ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ John Mayer or the celebrity John Mayer, but the recovering ego addict John Mayer, the hopelessly messy romantic John Mayer, the work in progress John Mayer.  The Born and Raised John Mayer.  The Paradise Valley John Mayer.  The imperfect but honest John Mayer.

More about him later.

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What the hell happened to men?  How have we made such a mess of things?  How have we completely lost the plot of what it means to be a man?  How have we allowed our sons to stop seeing us as heroes?  How have we created an environment where women feel suspicious and nervous first, rather than loved and respected?  How have we allowed assault and harassment and objectification of the fairer sex to become acceptable, to the point where we’ve voted for and elected officials to represent us who have openly admitted to doing reprehensible things?  What the hell happened to men?

When I started dating, I came up with this idea of putting a flower on the passenger seat of my car, so that when I opened the door for the girl, she would see the flower and immediately fall in love with me.  My rate of success definitely wasn’t what I wished it could have been, but I always thought it was a special thing to do.  My goal was absolutely to get a kiss at the end of the date, but when it came time to say goodbye, I was usually too petrified to make my move.  Probably a good reason why my high school nickname was Duckie, after Jon Cryer’s character in Pretty in Pink.  I hated that nickname then, because Duckie couldn’t get the girl.  He was the friend.  Always the friend.  He wasn’t “the Man”.  That’s ok though, because I like to believe that Duckie stuck to what he believed was important and found a woman who truly appreciated his version of what a man should be.

That’s the fairy tale, right?

The state of manhood these days might make you think otherwise.

Earlier today, my girlfriend was followed in the store by a man.  He followed her to her car, only to run away when she acted like she was making a phone call and began yelling at him.  When the police came, they told her that a house had been broken into in her neighborhood and a woman had been snatched, in broad daylight.  Seriously, this is the world we live in now.

Our pseudo, womanizing president tweeted speculation regarding the allegations of Christine Ford against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week.  He said that if it were really as bad as she says it was, surely it would have been reported by her and her loving parents when it happened.  This is the same man who made “jokes” about dating his own daughter.  Kavanaugh also allegedly liked female staffers to have “a certain look”.

Louis CK and Aziz Ansari are back on stage making people laugh.

Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed though.

Oops, wrong topic.

Or is it?

Colin Kaepernick stood up for something that he believed in.  Colin Kaepernick is trying to be a man of substance.  Maybe if he slapped his grilfriend at a club or took advantage of a woman after a game, he’d still have a career.  Seems to have worked out pretty well for Ben Roethlisberger.

Stay focused.

Researchers estimate that 41% of all first marriages end in divorce.  Almost 50% of all marriages end in divorce or separation.  Boys are growing up all over the country with single parents.  Boys are growing up with dads who grew up without dads.  Boys are seeing men in power, who grew up without positive male role models, consistently fail to set positive examples for them.  Athletes are beating up their girlfriends and wives, musicians are being investigated and going to jail for sexual misconduct.  Actors and artists are being pulled out into the light and having their tawdry behavior exposed.  Politicians are explaining away their reprehensible behavior as just “boys being boys”.  Movie executives are ending the careers of actresses because their advances were rejected.

The truth is that none of this is new.  Its been going on for years.  The difference is that now it’s out of the shadows and the depths to which we as men have sunk keep getting deeper and deeper.  The days of John Wayne and Johnny Cash and Clint Eastwood are long gone.  Men today are more interested in being a man of conquests, rather than a man of substance.  Boys would rather sit in front of a television and play video games all day, instead of getting up and working with their fathers.  Fathers aren’t pushing their sons to be better than they were, because those fathers haven’t put in the work themselves.  Women in turn have been conditioned to accept less and always be suspicious of what’s underneath the surface.  Infidelity is almost assumed.  As boys enter puberty, they see women as objects first, existing for THEIR pleasure.  Fathers aren’t teaching boys that women are the fairer sex and should be treated as such.  Boys are following what they see, and the cycle continues.

Anyways……..

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My dad is a good man.  He’s the reason that I am the man I am today.  He taught me to be a man of substance and to lead a purpose driven life.  I grew up watching him love my mom, always sticking by her side and supporting her.  He always came home and kissed her at the end of the day.  He helped around the house and showed me that a relationship worked not because of defined roles, but because of teamwork and support. He texts my mom when he gets to my house, so that she knows that he’s safe.  He dotes on her when she’s not feeling well and he carries the load when she needs rest.  He volunteers and works to be well-rounded.  He taught me to fix my own car and to use tools.  He showed me what a man SHOULD be.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

So you may be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with John Mayer.  Well, i’ll tell you!  When I was going through my divorce, I started listening to a lot of John Mayer for some reason, specifically the albums Born and Raised and Paradise Valley.  Those two albums were made after John retreated from the celebrity life and tried to find himself again.  They are great albums.  They spoke to me.

When John emerged from his self imposed exile to release his latest album, he did the inevitable round of interviews.  I watched a lot of them.  One of the biggest taglines from those interviews was that he described himself as a recovering ego addict.  He was very honest and self effacing about his struggles to find peace and understanding, to confront who he was and what he had let himself become.  He was a prolific dater, hopelessly looking for the love that all of us crave.  He had no qualms about admitting that he was an imperfect man, but he was also very eloquent about trying to be better.  He was on a journey to find a deeper understanding and to be the best man he could be.

I related a lot to him, because I’m not perfect either, but I have that desire to be better.  I have that desire to be the best that I can be for those who love me.  The idea of being a great man is one that I find very romantic.  I don’t identify with this depleted and misguided version that we see today.  I want to love big, love hard and love with respect.  I want to teach the younger generation about respect and that power comes from within.  I want to be well read.  I want to be able to discuss art and music and politics and faith and love.  I want to be sensitive and vulnerable.  I want to admit when I’m wrong and work to always be better.

We can’t accept what we’ve become,  Sure, there are still great men out there, but there has to be more.  We’re better than this.

Like John says……..

“I’m a good man with a good heart

Had a tough time, got a rough start

But I finally learned to let it go

Now I’m right here, and I’m right now

And I’m hoping, knowing somehow

That my shadow days are over

My shadow days are over now”

SONG OF THE DAY 9/22/2018