Monthly Archives: December 2013

Ever Have a Basil Fawlty Moment?

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2841982Oh yes… I too can be as oblivious, nervous, and socially inept as Basil Fawlty–whom John Cleese brought to life with brilliant clarity. Certainly I avoid that, don’t we all? But sometimes that aspect of self just vomits itself right out into the open. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever goose-stepped around, wearing a finger-under-the-nose Hitler Mustache before a family of Germans, knowing full well you should not have mentioned “the war?” Well, I have!

OK, it wasn’t that bad, but the episode in question was just as absurd and embarrassing, at least in retrospect.

Last night I met Lala Rukh, the amazing Pakistani chef–you know, finalist in the MasterChef USA cook-off. She even stopped by my room (family in tow) last night during a party, as I was desperately interested in learning to cook “Indian food.”

Wait… did you catch that?

I hope you did, ’cause the whole story hinges upon your catching that. Sit back, I intend to fully expose my ignorance as this whole story unfolds…

Allow me to set the stage… it’s worth it. See, here’s the super stupid part about all of what I am about to confess. Knowing that I am personally obsessed with Hinduism and Indian culture, I was very happy to have seen a copy of her book prior to her visit. I was happy to have noted that she was Pakistani, NOT from India per se. I was so happy to know this, ’cause I didn’t want to meet her and rabbit on about Indian and Hindu this and Indian and Hindu that. I made a mental note, a BIG strong poster-board sized mental note/sign, that evidently had fallen down overnight, landed in a puddle, and had been trodden on until the magic marker bled and I could no longer read said sign. The thing is, I do know and understand something of the tensions between Pakistan and India, I do know something of the dramatic history–though not enough, and this is why I was so appalled after the fact. I knew what a gaff it was, I knew I had “mentioned the war.”

So, the very first thing I did when I met her at the party was forget entirely that I was so pleased to have known she was from Pakistan, so of course I enthused over how happy I was to be learning to cook “Indian food” Being a kind, gentle, and all-too patient woman, she simply stared at me sweetly, perhaps hoping I would get my shit together, no such luck, Lala.

She and her family (4 of them!) all stopped by my room to sell me (and sign) a copy of her book. I, of course, had seemingly entirely forgotten my revelation the other night about her being Pakistani, and proudly talked about my Indian wedding quilt and altar… and of course I enthusiastically repeated how thrilled I was at the opportunity to learn to cook “Indian food.” Any mistake worth its salt is worth repeating, right? OK, this wasn’t as bad as goose stepping about in Hitler guise before a horrified family of Germans, but it was no less as ridiculous. And I, just like sad old Basil Fawlty, had known full well, in advance of the whole visit, that I was not supposed to “mention the war.”

Oh, did I mention that I bowed to her and her family as they left? What the fuck was up with that? I mean, I bow to everyone, being a practicing Hindu and having spent a couple years in South Korea, bowing is just second nature, so it’s not that unusual for me; is rather matter-of-fact, actually. Being as good natured as she is, she simply bowed in return, and her and her family excised themselves from the room of this idiot (that idiot being me, in this–and most–cases).

Here’s the real rub… at least Basil Fawlty had an excuse… a head injury! My excuse? I’m working on that… but I’m afraid I just don’t have an excuse, beyond my nervous and chronic (if not terminal) inability to function socially. Actually, that’s a pretty good excuse, fair enough, but had I had a traumatic brain injury prior to meeting her I would feel a lot better about myself. I was tempted to return to her and the party with a bandage wrapped around my head, but all I could find in my bathroom were some Muppet Band-Aids… I don’t know, but somehow showing up with a head covered in a patchy arrangement of Muppet Band-Aids just didn’t seem like it was going to make anything better.

I sent an apology, which is all well and good, but what really kills me, what really really plagues me is knowing without a shadow of a doubt, that I will do shit like this again and again and again. And that is the part that’s really hard to live with… isn’t it?

Addendum: I would like to add that I just cooked my first meal from this cookbook (two dishes)… and they were flawless! I highly recommend her book, if you want Pakistani food made easy and approachable! I can’t wait to try some other recipes. You can find Lala’s book at lalacookspunjabi.com

McCartney Story In Rolling Stone Less Annoying Than Usual!

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“Let’s face it: I’m cool. Everyone tells me that I am”

“People say, ‘Where are all your gold discs?’ I don’t do that. I just don’t wanna get smug–but of course, on the other hand, I want to think I’m great. Because when the hell am I going to bask in this? What am I going to do, wait till I die and go ‘Oh fuck, I should have taken a week.'”
Paul McCartney

Just finished reading the McCartney story in the November issue of Rolling Stone… a thing I have avoided with great stealth for the majority of my life, but this was like a fortune cookie. OK… yeah… I suppose that bears some explaining. I don’t care for fortune cookies, in fact I’m not fond of any dessert that doesn’t involve chocolate (dark) or caramel… and in a perfect world, both! The point is (actually, the point is that I wanted to write) that I only open fortune cookies when I feel compelled to. This happens rarely nowadays, but the last couple times I felt a fortune cookie might be hiding a relevant insight in the hollows of its flat flavorless self, the fortunes were very relevant–even though ordinarily they’re about as relevant as Bazooka Joe comics. This issue of Rolling Stone was like that… I just kinda felt it was gonna be worth cracking open, relevant… I heard the call just as I hear it from certain fortune cookies. As much as I should probably edit out that fortune cookie comparison, eh… it works.

Glory be! How attitudes about McCartney are changing. Oh, sure, there are still dinosaurs like Howard Sounes about, old farts who are still clinging to their faded hipness with all their might, clutching their fingers into McCartney as they slide further and deeper into irrelevance… but the rest of the world seems to be moving on and laughing off the silly affectation of disliking McCartney out of a sense of hipster duty. Yes, Rolling Stone not only treated McCartney with respect, the article actually shone at moments when words like “great,” “Badass” and “cool” were used to describe him; a refreshing collection of adjectives considering that for decades McCartney was erroneously considered anything but great, badass and cool.

Moreso, the article was NOT about the fucking Beatles. Oh, of course a couple of those old topics came up, but the article did not rely on that, nor on entirely propping itself up through discussing Lennon. No, this article stayed admirably focused on the beauty and brilliance of Paul McCartney now. Right NOW! Which is where the attention belongs and belonged all along. McCartney was a Beatle, and now he is a Master, to me, that is more interesting.

In fact, again, unbelievable for Rolling Stone, when the Lennon Myth comes up (that myth in which McCartney is Lennon’s “dimple-cheeked sidekick,” in the words of Rolling Stone), McCartney is not crushed by them in favor of Lennon, no, McCartney and his body of work is treated with more openness and recognition. Dare I say it, Rolling Stone treated McCartney with the generous amount of respect he is damn well due!

When discussing his nature they talk of how Paul is agitated by inertia… which is also good phrasing as it utterly describes his methods and output. Since the end of the Beatles, McCartney has never been inert, rather his approach, attitude, and end results always reveal a restless search for new horizons.

“I’ve always had this sense of wonder; still have.”
McCartney

The article is full of little gems like that, little insights, like his talking about singing the old songs, about his approach to them, to keeping them fresh. He talks about not doing them on auto-pilot, of examining the songs of this twentysomething person that was him so long ago. “I’m still trying to look at it–what the hell is this thing? Why did I do this?” The article revealed unexpected little stories and concepts, like this massive robot he plans on performing with on stage–trust me, you’ll have to read that part yourself. Ultimately, the symbolism of this giant robot bit is what fascinated me… again, you gotta read this bit yourself, I dare not summarize it.

The article actually went into some very surprising territory, regarding both the music and the his personal life. I am astounded to say that I learned things from the article, things that brought me a much deeper appreciation of a few of his songs. In fact, those moments in the article absolutely turned me around on a couple songs… not that they were at all bad… I had simply missed the grander point being made in the songs. The one thing I really was reminded of is just how deliberate he is, how he has vision, real vision, and how many layers there are to his songs. Nothing is a throwaway. Many many things are hidden in McCartney’s songs… which is why he so fascinates me, and so alienates critics like Mr. Sounes… critics don’t have the wisdom to search through to the hidden layers.

Two of the finest examples of songs that I gained insight to through this article would be “Save Us” from the new album, and “Nod Your Head” from Memory Almost Full. I had originally tossed the lyrics to “Nod Your Head” off as not having any meaning, but now that I realize that it was McCartney singing about his love of oral sex… well the song is suddenly not only positively filthy, but hot… but keep in mind… it always rocked. In fact that whole obsessively sexual aspect of McCartney somehow slid by me. We learn about how he thinks about sex through this article, and I can most definitely see it in the lyrics. This was traced back to the Beatles in the discussion, but they also discussed “Eat At Home” from Ram as having been about sex as well. I blush to realize that I really had no idea! Actually, I rather liked learning this.

Regarding “Save Us,” I learned that the song is about (in McCartney’s own words) “The savior aspect of having a good woman.” I love his phrasing of that, strong, religious, and not that of a kid writing love songs. This also reminded me of “Rough Ride” from Flowers In the Dirt, which I had figured was about the very same thing back in 1989… as well as about flat-out sex. Now I know my suspicions were confirmed, and it also confirms my suspicions of “I Owe It All To You” from Off the Ground being about the savior aspect of love. That has always been a favorite, and knowing I was right about it is lovely. “I Owe It All To You” most definitely sings of love as part of the spiritual and mystical life. Again, not kids’ stuff love song wise. As for “Save Us,” it was one of the few songs on the new album that didn’t knock me out… now it’s starting to knock at me a little more.

I learned many other things I suspected from McCartney, that his dancing around affable thumbs-up thing is not phoney… that’s who he is with his crew even when the cameras are off. Of course, every yin has it’s yang, and I also learned that he is a stern employer–wouldn’t he have to be, after all, he is (Rolling Stone’s words) “Paul Motherfucking McCartney.”

Well, while I’m pleased Rolling Stone has caught up… he was always, great, badass, cool, and Paul Motherfucking McCartney, even when they were too blind to see it and too deaf to hear it.

Just goes to show you, doesn’t it? Sometimes… they are ALL wrong, all of them! Sometimes, it’s not Paul, it’s not us, it’s them, and we just have to wait for them to catch up to us. I find this comforting, and am pleased to have learned it through Paul Motherfucking McCartney.

Fuck Rick Scott, Obama, & The Affordable Care Act!

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It’s Christmas.

I am deflated.

Today was the day that I learned that under the Affordable Care Act I will have (somewhere abouts) a $6,000 deductible–IF I can get coverage at all.

$6,000! That’s what I make a year (Again… if I can get coverage at all in Florida)

That’s it. I am losing the health plan (Alachua County Choices) I have now, a plan I like, and am being forced under penalty of law to take on an inferior plan, one that not only does not help me in the slightest, it is in fact devastating to me. That is the best case scenario, the ACA is rigged in Florida to the point where I may simply be left entirely out in the cold. Yes, America, the greatest Aristocracy money can buy! I literally do not know how I am going to navigate my complicated health life with the ACA or without. I was doing fine without it through Choices health care with the county. As far as I’m concerned Obama has been of NO value. He came in, sold us on hope and change and delivered nothing, including the ACA, which does NOTHING to ease the pain of poor people. Blame Rick Scott all you want, Obama was the one that backed down and pulled the public option–and I’m tired of hearing people make excuses for this drone bombardier, Republican in Democrat drag, and conman. In answer to Palin’s question that went something like: how’s that hopie changie thing working for you? Well, Sarah, we’ll tell you as soon as we see some. And NO, the Republicans are not entirely to blame, Obama has been a coward and a follower during a time when we needed a leader and a man of conviction.

I became overwhelmed as I realized the implications of this devastating news regarding the ACA, and had to excuse myself from Christmas to come home. This is one of the most important issues in my life at the moment. I had so naively thought that this change over to the ACA was going to improve my life. Learning that it was going to make my life worse… pitched me into an inner spiral I couldn’t control.

I didn’t know what to do, so I chose to try and do the impossible and meditate.

I lit incense, bowed before Ganesh, not knowing what I was wanting, looking for, needing, let alone what I was asking for. This is how I meditate. I can’t seem to find that silent inner place yet (I have a powerful ego, or perhaps it’s partly because I am afraid of that place), so I meditate in a different way; to still the chaos to a single clarity. I meditate to find my way through the chaos. At moments like this my heart and head are full of conflicts, imaginings, dread, confusion, anger, helplessness, fears, fears, and more fears, I meditate, focusing my eyes directly on Ganesha’s face while I stare through the clamor upsetting my every breath and hair. I focus my mind on the “nothing” in the middle of the chaos. Sometimes, Gods willing, I find clarity there. I find there the only thing I need to know, the only thing that will allow me to rise up and stop the anxiety and depression.

Tonight there was not one thing, there were two.

The first clean and simple spot of clarity was that time and again I am thrown to my own wolves over these sorts of things… dispirited and overwhelmed by them, but there is a way out without having to kick back and fight the biting and snarling wolves. The way out is that single truth, that pinpoint of clarity offered through my meditations on Ganesh. Tonight the first note of clarity was: this is nothing you haven’t survived before, this is just more of the same… I will keep going just as I always have and always will. Believe it or not, this was a profound comfort, it allowed me to shrug it off. This is just one more bullshit thing in the shit-storm of life. Learning to weather these things better, with the confidence that things were never any different before the latest crisis, that somehow made it not only bearable, but hardly out of the ordinary. The ACA has in fact done nothing more or less than deliver me to exactly the same place I was in before it came along. No hope and no change, but I’ve survived this long, so what’s the difference?

The second pinpoint of clarity that came to me through Ganesh was to love everyone else who is experiencing this same distress.

If you are truly being devastated in your poverty by this Affordable Care Act mess (and I have NO interest in arguing over who made the mess)… I love you.

If you are different, have different needs, if this ACA mess makes your challenging life more challenging… I love you.

If you are fed up, exhausted and think you can’t fight one more battle… I love you.

If you become overwhelmed and can’t find your footing… I love you.

If you just can’t bear one more disappointment or complication… I love you.

Now, the hard part, and perhaps with many years of bowing before Ganesh I can learn to do it. Perhaps I can learn to love Obama, the Tea Partiers, the Republicans, the Democrats, Bush, Reagan, the insurance company executives, big bank executives, hospital executives, Ricks Scott… the whole lot of them, if I can learn to love them, then I will truly know God, and know myself. But for now, I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Peace

(p.s. What I am hoping is that what I have learned about the ACA is not going to pan out to be true, in which case this blog was a release of emotion, and a good lesson all the same, however, my source for this was very well researched and reliable.)

And the final "Nosfericktu" by Barefoot Justine is here!

And the final “Nosfericktu” by Barefoot Justine is here!

Clarity About the ACA

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It’s Christmas day.

I am deflated.

Today was the day that I learned that under the Affordable Care Act I will have (somewhere abouts) a $6,000 deductible.

That’s what I make a year!

That’s it. I am losing the health plan I have now, a plan I like that comes through Alachua County, and am being forced under penalty of law to take on an inferior plan, one that not only does not help me in the slightest, it is in fact devastating to me. I literally do not know how I am going to navigate my complicated health life with the ACA. I was doing fine without it through Choices health care with the county. As far as I’m concerned Obama has been of NO value. He came in, sold us on hope and change and delivered nothing, including the ACA, which does NOTHING to ease the pain of poor people. Blame Rick Scott all you want, Obama was the one that backed down and pulled the public option–and I’m tired of hearing people make excuses for this drone bombardier, Republican in Democrat drag, and conman. In answer to Palin’s question that went something like: how’s that hopie changie thing working for you? Well, Sarah, we’ll tell you as soon as we see some. And NO, the Republicans are not entirely to blame, Obama has been a coward and a follower during a time when we needed a leader and a man of conviction.

I became overwhelmed as I realized the implications of this devastating news regarding the ACA, and had to excuse myself from Christmas to come home. This is one of the most important issues in my life at the moment. I had so naively thought that this change over to the ACA was going to improve my life. Learning that it was going to make my life worse… pitched me into an inner spiral I couldn’t control.

I didn’t know what to do, so I chose to try and do the impossible and meditate.

I lit incense, bowed before Ganesh, not knowing what I was wanting, looking for, needing, let alone what I was asking for. This is how I meditate. I can’t seem to find that silent inner place yet (I have a powerful ego, or perhaps it’s partly because I am afraid of that place), so I meditate in a different way; to still the chaos to a single clarity. I meditate to find my way through the chaos. At moments like this my heart and head are full of conflicts, imaginings, dread, confusion, anger, helplessness, fears, fears, and more fears, I meditate, focusing my eyes directly on Ganesha’s face while I stare through the clamor upsetting my every breath and hair. I focus my mind on the “nothing” in the middle of the chaos. Sometimes, Gods willing, I find clarity there. I find there the only thing I need to know, the only thing that will allow me to rise up and stop the anxiety and depression.

Tonight there was not one thing, there were two.

The first clean and simple spot of clarity was that time and again I am thrown to my own wolves over these sorts of things… dispirited and overwhelmed by them, but there is a way out without having to kick back and fight the biting and snarling wolves. The way out is that single truth, that pinpoint of clarity offered through my meditations on Ganesh. Tonight the first note of clarity was: this is nothing you haven’t survived before, this is just more of the same… I will keep going just as I always have and always will. Believe it or not, this was a profound comfort, it allowed me to shrug it off. This is just one more bullshit thing in the shit-storm of life. Learning to weather these things better, with the confidence that things were never any different before the latest crisis, that somehow made it not only bearable, but hardly out of the ordinary. The ACA has in fact done nothing more or less than deliver me to exactly the same place I was in before it came along. No hope and no change, but I’ve survived this long, so what’s the difference?

The second pinpoint of clarity that came to me through Ganesh was to love everyone else who is experiencing this same distress.

If you are truly being devastated in your poverty by this Affordable Care Act mess (and I have NO interest in arguing over who made the mess)… I love you.

If you are different, have different needs, if this ACA mess makes your challenging life more challenging… I love you.

If you are fed up, exhausted and think you can’t fight one more battle… I love you.

If you become overwhelmed and can’t find your footing… I love you.

If you just can’t bear one more disappointment or complication… I love you.

Now, the hard part, and perhaps with many years of bowing before Ganesh I can learn to do it. Perhaps I can learn to love Obama, the Tea Partiers, the Republicans, the Democrats, Bush, Reagan, the insurance company executives, big bank executives, hospital executives, Ricks Scott… the whole lot of them, if I can learn to love them, then I will truly know God, and know myself.

Peace

(p.s. What I am hoping is that what I have learned about the ACA is not going to pan out to be true, in which case this blog was a release of emotion, and a good lesson all the same, however, my source for this was very well researched and reliable.)

2 Anoles & Me…

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Yesterday was a good day, in Hindu terms… an auspicious one, but probably the most beautiful and unlikely moments happened when I went out on the lake in the kayak.

Now before you read on you might want to be warned… there is a hedonistic and sensual aspect to this little adventure that I am not going to tame or shy away from, so if you’re not up to that… move on to another blog entry.

The lake was glassy, the sun just hot enough to remind me why I don’t live in Ohio anymore. I mean, here it was the week before Christmas and I was barefoot in shorts and going out on Lake Newnan to sunbathe and nap in the boat. This activity has become a sort of simple salvation for me, something I need almost more than anything–though up until I had the lake and kayaks, I had no idea how much I needed this, but for the several months when I did not have it (thanks to the floating islands blocking all routes to open water) I suffered. I can let go of things on the lake much more easily than I can anywhere else. I don’t even have to try or meditate on them… I simply feel them going.

Dipping my bejeweled toes in the water, I embraced the chill, then the mud as I sank my feet into it. This is always an amazing moment for me, that moment when I get to step into the water, that moment when I know what lies ahead of me… peace, quiet, wildlife, and the big open sky. After I settled into the kayak and started to drift away from shore I noticed a little anole on the front end of the kayak. I tried to paddle up close to the plants so she could get off and back on dry land, but the anole just looked overboard with some trepidation, so I tried a better patch right up against the shore, she still just stood there looking out, not even hesitant, and I realized she was probably no more eager to get off the boat than I was. She made her way to the front of the boat and hung out on that handle… sticking right out over the water, what an enviable perch. Good enough, I shrugged, I guess she’s getting a little boat ride today, and off I paddled.

I was along on my way to my favorite little isolated cove, a fairly large stretch of water made private by an immense floating island. Between the island and the shore is a lovely stretch of water that I’ve rarely ever seen people in. About halfway there, having that beautiful certainty that today I was alone on the lake, I pulled my top off over my head and began to unlatch my bra. When my bra fell away from my breasts I caught a shiver of pleasure, an embrace of the lake, of freedom, of the warm December air. It was the sort of sensation I live for, the sort of sensation I think back on in private moments… alone… in my room.

On we went, me in my shorts and gypsy bells and bangles, my anole buddy quite content on her perch. With caution I slipped through the pass into my cove, wary that I had once seen a fisherman there, so I checked before I paddled out too far. Confident that he was not there, I paddled out into the open water between the shore and the floating island, and took it all in. I took in how I felt, how my skin felt, how the air felt on my skin, and how it felt to be where I feel most comfortable. I never feel entirely comfortable around other people, for some reason I always feel far more at home among the eagles, herons, cranes and alligators. I prefer their noises over ours, I prefer their rhythms over ours, I prefer their company over that of most other humans. Simply put, I was completely at home, and wholly at peace.

As was my plan, I scooched down into the hammock-like kayak, breasts to the sun, and listened. I love being surrounded by the birds, the variety of calls and cries is something that baptizes me, that washes away my sins. The eagles were out, and the cranes were perching high atop the trees lining the shore. It was breathtaking. It was so primal, so unfiltered, so utterly unspoiled by our constructs.

I had been feeling a little sick, as if I had been fighting off a little something, or perhaps it was just a sinus reaction to the ups and downs of the weather, whatever it was, I had decided to ignore it and slip as deeply into hedonism and peace as I could manage. I dipped my hand in the lake and sprinkled water across my breasts and nipples, and I focused on that sensation alone; though let in the calls of the birds. I meditatively followed one single droplet as it ran a rivulet down my breast and along my ribs… slowly. And with each inch it rolled I felt all my aches and pains disappearing. My physical world became the water dripping along my ribs, the sun on my breasts, and the caress being alive on my bare legs and ever-bare feet. Those aches and pains remained washed away for the rest of the day and night, like some minor miracle; the water, like the tickling fingers of a healer. These feelings of perfect sensual-world kisses had always been elusive, but ever since my vision of Shiva I have been able to do the impossible. I have been able to hold onto these perfect high and magical moments, turning those sensual kisses into invigorating embraces, whereas before when I tried to hold on they would instantly slip away like sand between my fingers. When Shiva came to me, One of the lasting and unexpected side-effects was that I can now focus on and hold onto bliss! It is one bit of magic I know how to work, thank you Lord Shiva!

Like that I remained, ever so content, eyes closed. I’ve had some of my best sleep and meditation on the lake, on that boat and in that cove. This moment was perfection. When I stirred, I looked up, taking care of my anole, and found her wandering around the boat, close to my feet. She was exploring and as content as I was. She looked fearlessly over the side of the kayak, and I swear I saw wonder in her eyes. And if it wasn’t wonder I saw, what I did see was that she too was at peace, her whole body revealed it.

Then it came, after a good long rest, noise. A reminder. The rowing club was in full force, launching teams of boats into the water, the clamor of motor boats and, for Christ’s sake, megaphones! Then, worse, the sounds of athletes and coaches barking out the gutted tribal cliches and calls athletes and coaches cry out, and I realized just how deeply out of step with them I was. Those teams, those coaches, those competitors, organizers, constructs… and so on, were not in the same rhythm as I. I was with the rhythm of the water, the birds, that silence particular to nature. I had to get dressed and go home… the peace had been shattered; less shattered, more ground to a halt with the smells and sounds of gas engines and Nike slogans.

But as I started to work my way out of my private oasis, invaded only by the sounds of the other people, I saw something I had never seen before… an anole struggling in the middle of the water! I checked… it was not my anole, she was still on the front of the boat. I don’t like to molest animals that are quite capable and happy, but this anole did not look as comfortable as the one on our boat. I paddled up alongside her to see if she wanted a ride. She swam clumsily right to the side of the kayak but could not get on. Satisfied that she needed a little help, I scooped her up out of the water and set her on the rear of the boat. She scrabbled along the back of the boat, skittered right up my bra… and perched there atop her silky black lookout.

This was odd, two anoles, one on each end of the boat, after never once having seen one on a boat nor in the water. I paddled us towards shore, towards home, getting dressed well before coming out into the open, and saw that our second passenger was now perched on the handle at the rear of the boat just as the first anole had done on the front. The front anole was now hunkering down as I paddled, but soon crept out to perch on the side of the boat… staring out and watching the scenery pass. These were a pair of content and calm anoles.

Once ashore the second anole hopped off the boat as quickly as possible, the other was in for the duration, she just stayed with me as I drug the kayak back to its resting place alongside the fence. She was still clutching to the kayak as I turned it upside down and walked away.

I fantasize that she will be there the next time I take that kayak out, eager to hitch another ride, eager to enjoy another wild adventure out on the water, but I know that’s absurd… isn’t it?

George Harrison

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feinstein-07I’ve been watching bits of “The Concert for George,” as well as playing “All Things Must Pass,” both magnificent. And for me, full circle. Who is George Harrison to me? I ask that question because he has been part of my life since my earliest memories, a powerful force in my growing up and getting through the heartbreaks of high school and college, and his music still fills me with a sense of the sublime and sacred… and now more than ever.

When I was a kid the very first music I remember hearing was Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, and George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Of course I still love Cash, and have written at length about my relationship to Simon and Garfunkel’s music, but I haven’t yet touched George. His music was forming and shaping me from the moment I could walk and wonder. My old man, a self-proclaimed hippie-hater from his days in Vietnam, came home and had what, sorry dad, I could only describe as hippie parties. I don’t remember any pot, my old man would not have allowed that (too bad, that asshole could have used some), but I do remember a very heavy sixties feel in the air, especially when “All Things Must Pass” fueled the parties. My old man was a parks and recreation director in Akron Ohio, he loved table tennis and making little movies, and I am convinced that had he been able to listen quietly to himself and hear the truth over all the dogma he held in his throat, he would have made one hell of a hippie. But it wasn’t to be, he was far too attached to his obsessive desire to be “normal.” “Normal” was a very important word to my old man, it was what he aspired to be, regardless of the depths of his potential. And I saw that potential most clearly in those days when I would stand up on tiptoes and stare out the window, “All Things Must Pass” blaring from behind me on enormous speakers, out through the open windows to bathe the party below in gold and God. It seemed like every weekend he had a swarm of kids from the park over for sloppy Joe’s and blackberry pig (both specialties of my doting mother), and of course the backyard parties, which I would oversee from the window, Harrison’s music enveloping me as I dreamed of joining those kids, those much much bigger kids. I know “All Things Must Pass” was playing the day they took a queen-size sheet, one to a corner, and held it over the fire, they did this a lot, letting it fill with hot air, then let it go. It would float like a ghost, and I remember the day it caught fire and caught the tree on fire as it passed, but no harm was done.

I often wonder what effect it had, “All Things Must Pass” flooding through my toddler consciousness. I know this, it set the bar very high regarding what I feel music and art should be. The impact of growing up under the shroud of that album and its monolithic mysticism runs deep. How could I have become anything other than what I am? Those moments, that music, gave me no choice. It was formative. At a very young age I learned that art and music are sacred and should be treated with the utmost respect by both the artists and the audience. Art and music were things worthy of sacrifice and devotion.

tumblr_mw9mm4IZZE1s034tqo1_1280As a child, growing up and away from the promises made by the tail end of the hippie era, I have to admit that as the world moved on I wasn’t thinking all that much about George Harrison, I didn’t even know who the Beatles were, dad didn’t play rock in the house, only rarely, it was mostly Country and Western (as they called it then), Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. But as happens in adolescence… I was wandering from my father’s identity and finding my own, finding bits of myself, and I knew I had found a very large bit of myself when I finally realized who the Beatles were–and as it turned out, unbeknownst to me, they were the creators of the greatest songs I had ever heard. Rifling through a piano bench full of 45’s, playing one after another, I came across the Beatles, I Am the Walrus. I remember that swooshy gold and orange label, and I remember how the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I felt the magic of the Beatles enter my being forever. I was hooked, and nothing less than the Beatles were ever going to do. There were several dozen sides in that pile… I don’t remember any of them, just the Beatles.

It just so happened that George Harrison was a Beatle. It was a powerful connection, going from my toddler connection to “All Things Must Pass” to innocently discovering I Am the Walrus as a preteen, without yet knowing a thing about how all that connected. of course, as a Hindu now I realize that this was not a coincidence, this was consciousness connecting to consciousness, this was Godhead to Godhead.

I leaned on my Beatles to get me through the dreadful drudgery of high school and college, a hopeless misfit, no less so today, but I had the Beatles to go home to. I never felt that they understood me, this was love, not delusion after all, but I most definitely understood them–or so I thought. I realized as I grew that they and their music grew as well. I did not grow out of it, but my relationship to them, their music and how I understand them has changed time and again. Just as my relationship to George Harrison’s music changed from my staring out through the window at the very sixties-like goings-on to the profound disappointment I felt when listening to contemporary music in the new world of my teens. That world, was NOT the one I had so longed to enter–though I already wrote about that in my piece on Simon and Garfunkel.

george_harrisonOf course I got older, and so did George Harrison. I followed every one of his solo albums, sometimes being disappointed in them, as they never lived up to my juvenile expectations. It took years for me to meet Harrison’s later solo work halfway and realize that, just as McCartney had done, Harrison had gone on ahead of me. Perhaps that is why I never went astray, perhaps that is why I still find them fascinating… they were always ahead of me! They were a challenge. It’s easy to love the Beatles, it is much more challenging to love the solo stuff, it’s all just as inspired… but nothing could bear the weight of the people’s expectations, especially where the Beatles and their solo work were concerned; it has to be what it is. Sex is like that, too. I recall reading Colin Wilson relaying in his book “The Misfits” how real sex with an object of desire is always a disappointment, as the real sex can never live up to the imagined sex. Reality cannot always compete with our fantasies, and that goes for music as well as for sex. Let sex be sex and music be music without letting our fictions come between us and them. Harrison’s music mellowed significantly in tone. Certainly the lyrics were as profound and intimidating as ever, but the sound did not please my young ears… the sounds most definitely please my ears now. I accept them for what they are independently of the fictions, expectations and bull I’d had wadded in my ears for so many years.

When George released “Cloud 9” in the eighties, my enthusiasm for him as a solo artist bloomed anew, an enthusiasm that remained in place all through the delightful adventures of the Traveling Wilburys. I started to realize what a gifted poet Harrison was.

Grand as all this is, the impact Harrison had on me was nothing compared to what he had done for me without my knowing.

71RlogJIHpL._SL290_I was raised going to a fundamentalist church… complete with a right-wing agenda. At one point in my teens, one of the youth ministers gave me the choice between the Beatles and Christ. The choice was easy, what was hard was filling that hole–NOT the hole God had filled in my heart, that version of God never filled my heart (and was not meant to), no, what I was missing was a sense of purpose. Suddenly death was the end, and no more. It was a terrifying place to be. I did not believe in Hell, but I did believe in absolute death now that I was no longer a Christian. I sought, I wandered, I tried on Taoism, Zen, wandered Ireland in search of ancient preCeltic tombs and monuments–felt the presence of the fey–journeyed into shamanism, paganism, and even had dinner with Buddhist monks in the mountains of Korea. But none of it stuck, I was left agnostic. For many years I had simply quit looking and accepted that I was not religious or an atheist… I simply had no idea at all. It was not comfortable to me.

Hinduism never once crossed my mind as a possibility, it was too close to taking the Beatle thing too far. In fact, I knew NOTHING about Hinduism beyond what was in Harrison’s lyrics, I didn’t know one God from another. Quite honestly, I wasn’t even avoiding Hinduism, I was simply not even allowing it to cross my radar. Of course, many unexpected things happened, too profound to go into here, but I had to go where I was being led, and I was being led to Hinduism.

George Harrison in no way converted me to Hinduism, he did something much more important, what he had done was far more elegantly profound. When I finally realized where I had to go, and that I needed to follow Shiva’s call, the world of Hinduism was not foreign to me. Thanks to George Harrison… Indian music, food, and spirituality were already warm and comfortable to me. George Harrison had made Hinduism home before I ever knew I had a home. This was God at work, just as it was God at work when that youth minister let me know I was ultimately going to have to choose between Christ and the Beatles–God knew the Beatles were going to help me get where I needed to go more than Christianity. Christianity–full of meaning as it is for many–never fit me, Hinduism has fit me like a glove, and I was being called, and thanks to Harrison, I knew how to answer that call.

george-harrison2One of the multitude of signs that India was calling was the first time I saw “The Concert For George,” and heard Ravi Shankar’s composition in honor of George, “Arpan.” It reduced me to the warmest tears I had ever cried! I have never tasted tears so warm and sweet, they came over me like chai! The whole concert touched me, the love that projected from the stage was thicker than honey. There are so many sublime moments in that concert, so many emotions shared and experienced through the music. Watch carefully during Arpan… watch the interaction between the musicians, Anoushka Shankar and her father. Beautiful. Warm air like a balloon inflating in my chest fills me every time I see those musicians connect.

Today I watched some of the bonus features and was moved by the lack of show-biz tributes coming from Harrison’s circle. When they came to pay their respects to Harrison a curious thing happened, every single person who took that stage forgot they were famous, forgot the tribute routines, and simply became people, became musicians, became friends of George Harrison’s.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

The wonder of it all is not knowing what George Harrison is going to mean to me in the future. I won’t even try and predict it, but I am smiling, warm, and welcoming whatever’s next.

All that… and he’s always been pretty damn sexy, don’t you think?

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