12. Story

Then, there I was. Just as I am today. Now, here I am. Just as I was, then.

To say that something was different now (then) would be to misinterpret what had happened (happens). As I said, this car adventure may have been just before or just after “that day that altered everything.”

Parlor tricks and puzzles on white boards are the content that I remember from the presentation.

Paris in the spring…

This guy Joe came into my sister’s house. Seemed like a reasonable fellow, ruffled slightly greying hair, slightly unkempt business suit, personable and relatable. He set up whatever there was to set up and got to talking. I don’t remember anything of what he talked about but I do remember he brought a small white board or maybe a large presentation pad of paper with him and he placed it on an easel and at some point he drew the image above on that white board/pad. He asked one of us to tell him what it said, and I did. Duh, that’s easy. I know how to read. After all, I know stuff and I’ll show you.

Now today, he may have used something more like this video to make this particular point, or not. (This video was used to make this point in one of my classes where I ultimately became a Master).

When I watched the video I’m pretty sure I counted the basketball passes correctly, and I’m pretty sure I read the words in the triangle correctly. Then, the reveal of my selective attention came. I stood up, there in my sister’s living room, and I pointed to each of the words including the XOXOX. Now point out each letter in each of the words. …E…T…Oh.

Maybe the “reality” that I think I see is only a pattern, something that my mind recalls seeing before, so that when I see something similar my mind “does the rest” – fills in the blank, glances over a few “minor” details. OK. I’m listening. Maybe a little closer now.

Then, after some additional not remembered conversational content this widely known (today) 9 dots puzzle was put on the whiteboard. Without lifting the pen, connect the 9 dots using four lines.

Limited options in my “thinking”

Now (then), I was only 19 years old. I didn’t have much exposure to “the world” despite what I thought. So the term may have been in wide use at the time, but I’m fairly certain it was not. Some time after encountering this puzzle I heard the word paradigm for the first time. Didn’t know a thing about paradigms. And then, to find out I was existing within a paradigm. Well, that was a surprise. Later on I’d read about world views and terministic screens and context and matrices and social constructionism and I would add information or knowledge into my store of knowledge about those things. But this nine dots puzzle – it was a surprise, especially within the context (that I didn’t know was a context) of all that talking that was happening that I don’t really remember at all. Learning the answer to this nine dots puzzle wasn’t some piece of knowing something like reading or being told about a concept and then understanding that concept.

It was experiencing the thing for itself. It was an unconcealing. A reveal. Paris in the spring and nine dots. Parlor tricks and puzzles. So I was interested now (then), paying attention in some new way a little closer than I had been. When I say “experiencing the thing for itself” I was now seeing some part of the role I played (I play) in determining what I thought was reality. See I thought (think) that reality was (is). Just that it is. It is reality. In fact, I KNEW (KNOW) that reality IS. Now this charlatan, this magician, this humble and calm, lightly rumpled guy named Joe had me seeing all sorts of things that I hadn’t seen before that just maybe, like a gorilla, had been there all along.

Yet I wasn’t thinking about any of that at the time. I had no language to describe any of that. I didn’t even know how I’d ended up in that conversation…didn’t remember any of it anyway.

I was workin’ on a mystery. Goin’ wherever it leads.

11. Story

New action, the kind that starts to really shake things up and gets you moving in a new direction may be directly related to the degree that you are willing to engage with new ideas. New ideas doesn’t necessarily relate to that normal casual thinking that one does where thoughts flow in and out of one’s “mind”. If you’ve ever had a new idea you may have pondered the thought of where it came from. I don’t know where they come from but I like the unanswerable aspect of the question, “Where do ideas come from?” New idea or not, the question alone brings up more questions. Into the rabbit hole.

Given the gift of knowledge and having Unlimited Power (isn’t half of Unlimited Power still Unlimited Power?) put me in a great position to make something happen. I was open to and having new ideas, I was registered for fall classes and at the same time, being a good red-blooded American boy I had a big problem…I had no car.

Sitting around the old coffee house late one night, me and my man Del hatched a plan to resolve that problem. Now Del, he was much more of a car guy than I was and hanging around him I started thinking that I was a car guy too. I had a little Oldsmobile affinity brewed up after driving around in that sweet Cutlass Supreme for a couple of years. I’m not sure where I received my information prior to the existence of the Interwebs but I had it on good authority that a 1973 Cutlass Supreme was just the model I was looking for. It was a little quirky with that thin front bumper and grill running top to bottom (under/through the bumper) and those sweet, cut into the body long tail lights. And now that I think of it, it was those Auto Trader magazines and classified ads in the newspaper that gave me most of my knowledge, aside from hearing stuff from all those car guys that I knew and general observation about what was driving around town.

One chronic problem that seemed to come up with me finding a decent ’73 Cutlass was the effect that salt and Cleveland winters seemed to have on car bodies. Finding a ’73 Cutlass in my price range (Super Cheap), that still ran and wasn’t a rust bucket was going to be a problem. Then through conversation over coffee, doing some form of brainstorming, me and Del hatched a plan.

We’d heard about all these old runners down south that made their way up north with solid bodies on account of having no real sort of winter down thar. Now summa these cars had some issues on accounta the heat. Sure the bodies on these boys was nice and solid but the interiors may have been sun bleached or dry rotted. Same thing for any of them landau roofs you may have had…vinyl or leather don’t matter none…the dry rot was gone git ya from the sun. Engines run hot down thar too. High temps are the norm and these boys is gonna have some gasket dry rot issues on the engines or other some such kind of problems.

That’s what we heard anyway. But you could get a solid body real cheap. Southern bodies…oh the glory of it.

We picked a destination. South, mild winters, not too hot so you don’t git the dry rot too much. Not too near the ocean so you don’t get that salty air…I don’t even know if that’s accurate to this day that it would have any effect but that was the logic at the time. We was gonna go to Charlotte and each of us buy us a Southern Car. These Southern Cars, they were legendary back in the day. All nice and rust free comin’ up here from down south and fetchin’ high prices on resale. I wasn’t going to sell this one though, once I found it – hell no, I was going to keep it and start making everything good again.

I didn’t think of it that way, consciously anyway, since I wasn’t really aware that life could be good/bad based on choices I made or that I really had anything to do with it. I really thought that life just happened to you. This was different though. And again, the timeline here is a little hazy – was this before or after “that day that altered everything”? It may have been just before, it may have been just after. Certainly the scheming my way out of this hole had already begun over coffee. This was different though.

I said something. I promised it. I had “given my word” and “invented a future” “in the face of (mostly) no agreement“. I was going to go to Charlotte North Carolina, was going to find a car in my price range (Super Cheap), and I was going to buy it. All within about 3 days time which is all my budget would allow. This was going to happen.

Was I worried that it would work out? Yep. Was I worried that I’d find a car in that time frame? Yep. Something was different though. I’d put something at stake. I’d put my a$$ on the line.

Baby, watch me move.

Now, me and Del was gonna go down there together and both do the same thing (though Del was looking for a Laguna package Malibu – a much rarer breed). We had logistical issues though. He had to work, I had little money. Flying for me was out of the question – I’d spend half of my budget on the ticket. Leaving work a day early for him was out of the question.

My mother loves me and she must love an adventure. She agreed to go with us on this mostly hair brained idea to buy a Southern car. Me and Mom would drive down in her car and once we got there we’d pick up Del at the airport when he flew in after work. That would give me half a day or so extra to pick up some local classifieds and start narrowing down the prospects. What my Mother did could be called “being a supportive Mother”. Maybe she was just worried that I’d get taken for $300 bucks like I did in Virginia Beach that time a couple of years prior. What I would call it today, after retelling the story and going over the gift that she gave me would be…”My mother provided a space within her listening for an unpredictable future to arise.” She never really questioned the soundness of the idea. She didn’t judge it, or assess it. She didn’t tell me that it would or wouldn’t work out. She listened. She heard the vision of the future I was creating through my speaking and let it be. In that space, that listening, (and the action that supported the listening) she helped me pull off the first of many victories.

The trip, for the most part, was pretty uneventful and went down, for the most part, exactly as planned.

I likely should have bought the ’73 Camaro. From a classic car perspective I probably could have gotten a better resale on it down the road. It was pretty solid from what I remember, maybe had a ding in one of the doors that I thought would be hard to replace and it may have had some high mileage. Mostly, we looked at it first and I had to see this Cutlass that was a little farther out of town.

We were out in big sky territory, rolling country Carolina hills blue and green all around. I swore I’d always remember his name, but having not thought about it for a while, alas I’ve forgotten. Billy Joe, or Joey Bill or Jimmy Bob or something you’d expect a North Carolina farmer to be called. Out there under the blue sky off the side of the blacktop road on the front of the driveway up to the farmhouse he told us about this ’73, how his son drove it into a ditch one night being reckless. That’s why it had that ’75 front end on her. He spoke in that Southern drawl, real slow…making me impatient slow. We opened the hood and it looked good, no leaks…started right up and it sounded good with that dual exhaust. Just a slight rumble with that 350 rocket popping 8 cylinders in a well timed orchestra. We looked at the body and it was solid. Like every story you ever heard about them Southern cars being real clean. Not a speck of rust on her. It wasn’t pure but since “Armageddon” (my first Cutlass that some kind fellow borrowed from me to assist me on my journey of redemption) was a ’75 I didn’t mind the front end. And the hood had those awesome fake air intake louvers on it. For $650 and with 3 days to shop I’d have to concede some things.

I gave him the money. He gave me the keys and signed the title over. I asked him if it was fast. “Oh, it’ll git.”, he said.

It did. I tried it out as I headed up 77 from Charlotte to Cleveland, with my Mom following behind.

I felt so good, like anything was possible. Runnin’ down a dream.

10. Story

Story is about “my” story. The events and actions (or in-actions) that I experienced and my framing and then re-framing them 30 years later. The story has no intrinsic value and likely will be read by very few. Even if read by millions it’s long term impact is likely to be limited at best. One of the thoughts I’ve been pondering for several years is the notion that mostly, fairly widely even, my life and the life of the many billions of people like or similar to me will never be known. These lives and the impact they’ve had will rarely be legendary. If you look back upon the recorded history of humankind so few are remembered after thousands of years, perhaps a few more after hundreds of years and maybe several more during the direct reach backward or forward of a lifetime. Given my youthful penchant for musical icons, as an example I say who will remember, really, David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Tupac, Beastie Boys, dare I say even Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, (insert your favorite recently deceased icon of popular culture here) etc. in a couple of hundred years? Keith Richards maybe? What I’ve been pondering about that is that it is actually good news. Maybe we don’t need to live such carefully orchestrated lives? Maybe we can stretch out a little, make ourselves uncomfortable and make others uncomfortable?

Deep down (wherever deep down is – it’s not really deep anywhere, I think. It’s actually concealed just below the surface. The surface of what, exactly? Good question? Where is this deep down? I can’t find it. Where is this surface?) we likely know the essential meaninglessness of our lives. Mostly this manifests itself in a sort of resignation or cynicism and general hostility. We cover it up, or do our best to, so we can participate in day to day life without being shunned. Like putting lipstick on a pig.

This is just something I’ve been considering. If it bothers you, take consolation in knowing that it will be forgotten very soon.

One aspect of my experience that I do not often acknowledge or make known is my Catholic faith. As I type I consider why that is, and ignore it for later consideration. For now let’s say I am a “cradle Catholic” in the Roman Catholic tradition. This looks like baptism near birth and Catholic grade school attendee through the 8th grade with mostly weekly mass, and twice weekly during the school year. This set of belief can mostly be summarized in the Nicene Creed. How a set of “beliefs” and practices shapes one and their actions is always interesting to consider and provides plenty of fodder for many thousand word essays…perhaps another day.

Following my 8th grade graduation from grade school I was slated to head off to public high school. Freed from the bonds of institutionalized indoctrination, what would become of me and my relationship to faith? Interestingly, I know today that I am a Catholic based on some choices that I made. Perhaps the indoctrination was successful enough to have me continue on this path and make those choices, perhaps I really chose, perhaps there really is no choice because it’s all just a pre-determined already known and unalterable fate or destiny. Either way, it occurs to me that one of these choices was also a part of the opening to create an opening.

Knowing something, or “being able” to develop some knowing may sometimes require some prior knowing. As we often learn multiplication only after learning addition many knowings are incremental and based on prior knowing. Experiential learning may require some a priori knowing, or not, and in my path of experience the knowing was “of the space”. Knowing that there may be a place where knowing is more likely to occur – like a wondering or a questioning or an allowing for. Rather than a having the answer of. My route to that allowing for a space was a charismatic renewal prayer session where I had hands layed upon me and received the Holy Spirit. As a Catholic, this occurs at baptism, and again at confirmation technically and officially and this charismatic is another manifestation of that…the same, but different. A different expression.

Aunt Sylvia had been going to these events for a while from what I knew and at some point my sister and brother-in-law began going to these every Friday or every other Friday events. I allowed for the un-explainable in my faith much more than I did in my day to day life where knowing things, or at least acting like I did, was the rule. After all, I had been to a Seminary camp the summer after my 8th grade and prior to high school. (Mostly because I’d always wanted to go to some camp). I had been participating in “teen renewal” at my church parish (Mostly because my friends were also participating and then because I realized how many girls were participating in these things). And I had continued attending weekly mass, mostly, during my less institutionalized high school years. I allowed for the miraculous…thought that it could occur and that I didn’t have to understand it.

Even with half of Anthony Robbins Unlimited Power I still had nothing going on. My sister, or brother-in-law, or both invited me to go to this charismatic thing. I don’t think I had a car yet, and I certainly had no money since I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t really have anything else to do. I went once, maybe twice. Observed. Saw people speaking in tongues, wondered if they really were, wondered what they were doing. Saw some people maybe falling over after having hands layed upon them ala “You are saved!”…faint. Again, I think I just trusted some people. Eventually, maybe after the 3rd or 4th visit to this weekly or bi-weekly event, I tried it out.

I got in that line, sort of like getting in line for communion. I waited, nervously. Wondered what would happen. Would I turn into some “Jesus freak”? Evangelizing all over, trying to convert savages to the light of truth? Would I be speaking in tongues and driven to madness? There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the Catholic tradition. “Nothing” happened that I could see. I tried to speak in tongues, faked it mostly because that’s what everybody else was doing. It didn’t seem fake, and it didn’t seem real.

What happens in those moments between when the light is off, and when the light is on? When the eyes refocus and start to see what could not be seen before? It’s more noticeable as the sun (also) rises, as darkness gradually turns to day, as Mauna Kea comes into view as the jet lag keeps you awake.

This gradual seeing, and having knowledge that there is something to be seen – something that may and likely will – come in to view is what it was like to me. The gift of knowledge of the Holy Spirit – not immediate knowing, for me – but the knowledge of all knowledge. Maybe a little like what wikipedia says. Not immediate, but immediate enough that there was an opening – a space. Today I would refer to it as the possibility of knowing. Where knowing is a possibility, a space for what’s possible to occur.

My best image – Consider this link for clarity

With this gift, perhaps I was ready to listen and hear.

9. Story

Steve called me as I hoped he would. He thanked me for the advice. I thanked him for listening, being open. He trusted me enough, trusted “something” enough – whatever it is to trust. I shared my experience, he listened. He told me about his renewed relationship with his brother, he told me that he’d been busy talking with all of the people in his life. He sounded alive on the phone. Vibrant and whole. I listened, wondered what stories Steve would tell in 30 years as a result of having taken my advice.

It’s risky business when somebody asks for your advice, and you give them your best piece of advice, and they take it. You want it to work out for them, in their own way, as well as it worked out for you. In this case, the risk was limited. I didn’t know Steve 10 weeks ago. I had no attachment to any outcome. It wouldn’t obviously affect me if it didn’t work out, other than a little diminished confidence in my best advice. Would I give that advice again as my best advice? It seems to have worked out. The rest is up to Steve.

That risk brings us back to 30 years ago. I wasn’t as open as Steve. “Don’t ever talk to me about that again”…remember. Before there was an opening, there had to be an opening for an opening to occur. There had to be a willingness to risk. There had to be something I was willing to put at stake. In a way, I had nothing to lose.

I‘d been hanging out at my sister’s a lot. I had nothing going on after all. I was like that guy on the radio commercials who got busted for drunk driving. I had no job, had no girl, had no car – for a little while anyway. So I’d go to my sister’s and hang out. It must have felt safe there. I picked up a book one day that my brother-in-law had lying around and started reading. Prior to picking up this book I’m not certain that I’d ever even considered the notion of power. Didn’t even really know what that meant. It was right there on the cover – Unlimited Power. Tony Robbins’ first book – he went by Anthony at the time.

This may be the book I picked up.

I never did finish the book. I have started reading it again to recall what it was that may have been expanding my thinking. I’ll finish it this time. The fact that I never finished the book at the time is irrelevant. It created an opening. New concepts or new ability to see or perceive. Perhaps a new ability to listen in a new way that hadn’t been there before. While Robbins very quickly touches on the fact that there is no inherent meaning in life other than the meaning you give it the topic that I remembered most about this book was the notion of modeling somebody’s behavior if you wanted to produce similar results. If they had X, model the behavior and state that they embodied to get X and you will produce similar results.

At some point I lost interest in the book. I have been struggling to get through the same place where I lost interest then, even now. The sections on Neuro-Linguistic Programming seemed too much like “tips” for my taste. Today, Wikipedia tells me that NLP has been discredited. I’m not sure I would go that far – there are elements to the concepts that still jive with my experience. Nonetheless, the sections to me were a bit gimmicky – like trying to connive response out of people. Not quite what I was seeking – even though I didn’t know that I was seeking anything.

This idea of modeling, while also a bit gimmicky did make sense to me though. The notion that we’re all in essence wired the same as human beings…that none of us are completely lacking or completely better suited to produce similar results, that seemed clear. All I had to do then was find somebody that had produced the results that I wanted in life then model their attitude, behavior, style, thinking, actions…and I could have the same results.

My point of view was still very limited unfortunately. The examples that I had for “pinnacles of success” were limited as well. As far as I was concerned, only a year earlier I’d already reached the pinnacle of success that I could comprehend. After all, I’d had a decent full time job, a sweet ride, and a running car too. All that was gone.

Luckily, like I’ve said…I had plans. All of that working man stuff was temporary anyway. Coming out of high school I always said that I was going to work for a year, save a bunch of money and then go back to school in the fall. College – that was something a few people I knew had done, and we’re doing. It was time to stop moping around and get in action. I never saved all that money, but sometime that summer I walked down Euclid Avenue and registered for fall classes just like I said I was going to do.

Big plans…I’ll show you. My friend Tony says that the words I used, when scoffed at by that former girlfriend, “Baby, watch me move.”

8. Story

On July 31st, the day after I started writing this story I went to get a poke bowl for dinner at Da Poke Shack (yelp link) downstairs from the condo I was staying in while in Kona. The shack was closed and I was contemplating my next move in my grief for missing my shot to get a bowl when I turned around to head back to the car. There was this guy who rounded the corner and looked equally bummed that the shack was closed. I said something or he said something. Then he said, “You want to get some food or something?”, or something to that effect. I said, “Yeah…I was just going to get my car to go get something in town.”, or something like that.

I‘m not sure if he suggested it, or if I did. But before I knew it we were walking to my car and driving the 5 minutes into “downtown Kona” – would you call it that? While we’re chit-chatting I can hear him talking and I can hear myself listening to every word through a *filter. I was watching every move, listening to every detail and listening to myself wonder why I invited this stranger into my car. The last time I was on the Big Island I’d driven down to South Pointe and jumped off the end of the Earth there – my wife was not pleased about my disregard for my own safety and the fact that I could have been killed. To me, this person in the car was a much greater threat, potentially.

He told me how he’d just gotten over from Maui on a short flight and just checked into the hostel across the street from my condo. He was a young-ish “looking” guy so the hostel thing made sense. He told me how the manager of the hostel recommended Da Poke Shack since he’d just gotten over and hadn’t eaten and was starving. He told me he was NYPD, an inspector or something like that. He looked kind of young, but what did I know. He was open, looked honest, willing to share himself – all the perfect traits of a potential serial killer. I planned different moves in my head for when the shit got real. I hadn’t made myself that vulnerable since I’d opened the front door to the guy that ended up punching me in the throat.

We started out by stopping at Huggo’s after hastily trying to decide what each of us wanted to eat. It’s tough enough with people you know. I was driving and had some ideas about where we could go (he’d just gotten to the island after all and supposedly had never been there before – likely story for a serial killer) so I took some liberties. I knew where I’d already been several times so I wanted to try something different. After sitting there a while, and looking at the offerings we decided to move on. No worries said the bartender.

Lava Java it was. Sure it was my fourth visit in as many days but I liked the beer selection, I had gotten to know (as much as you can really know your waitstaff) the bartender and some of the waitresses, and I knew there would be people there. I was starting to get comfortable with Steve already, figuring he probably wasn’t going to kill me but there was one discrepancy in the story that I was still trying to resolve (can’t recall what it is right now, and I resolved it so it doesn’t really matter).

Wings and beer at Lava Java

We sat and we talked about ourselves, and life and whatever. He told me about his Dad and I told him about mine. He told me about work and I told him about mine. We talked about why we were there. We talked about investing and retirement. This guy was totally open to whatever was going to happen. He said being in Hawaii had opened him up – made him open to seeing the world in a new way. He told me about his mentor and his experiences in the hostel on Maui and how they had all these activities over there that a bunch of people were just involved in and everybody was doing activities together with complete strangers and how he met a Swiss girl – how she was coming over on a flight the next day or something and how they were just friends and hanging out. I told him about the Island Goddess Pele and how she draws you to your true self and I told him if there was anything he should do, he should go jump off the cliff at South Pointe. And I gave him my other travel tips for experiencing the Big Island…turtles, black sand, green sand, Captain Cook. He showed me pics of his time with the La Jara Band – a bunch of Hispanic NY cops who play music and create unity with the community that way. How he has no musical talent whatsoever but somehow he’s like the band’s groupie and social media specialist. Honestly, he was an amazing guy to randomly go to dinner with. I’m glad I got the poke bowl for lunch the next day, but even if I hadn’t it would have been worth missing it to meet Steve.

At some point, Steve asked me if I had any advice. Based on how young Steve looked to me even though he was already contemplating and planning what’s next after retirement from NYPD, I’m guessing I look older. Maybe that I have some advice. Nobody ever asks me for advice – not on investing, life choices, whatever. I told Steve this story that I’m writing. The condensed, not every word has to have some purpose because you never know how it will land in the listening out there when it’s the written word, version. The sitting at the bar having a couple of beers version.

I told him my number one piece of advice. The thing that if I were on my deathbed and they were asking for my last piece of wisdom. I told him how I want to tell my kids this piece of advice and really have them hear it. I told him how there is all kinds of nasty stuff written about my advice out on the internet. How it really is kind of strange in the normal course of life…rather unexpected. How I’d spent all this time after the fact trying to make sense of it and understand what exactly happened. How I didn’t mind if he took my advice or not – but since he asked – here it is. I told him how I think it’s free because he’s a cop (a fact I later followed up on and found out that the current offer is that it’s discounted 20% if you’re a police or fire and some other things – teacher or student maybe).

He said he’d look into it.

Today, as of about 6 hours ago, he’s taking my advice and I’m psyched.

*Filter footnote: The filter was pretty clearly “What the hell are you doing with this dude in your car? All that love BS you talk about and being vulnerable as one of the requirements to have love be present and experienced is all well and good but this is the real world man. This guy’s story is way too good to be true, is he gonna kill you, rob you, molest you, whatever. Is he all doped up on the crystal meth or some other whatever it is they’re all hooked on these days? I dunno, I can’t look over at his eyes because I’m driving. NYPD cop – what a perfect story to make you feel more comfortable.” And on and on like that.

And man was it loud that day – like I could hear it – and I could hear him. I was really present to both things, just letting the listening be. Hearing what it was saying, and looking for clues for when to open the car door and roll out, and being with this guy that was there in the car out of nowhere. I’d spent the better part of the previous 3 days just really being and being with “my self” in Hawaii where the ocean really drowns out all the other noise. This “listening” just wouldn’t and even shouldn’t shut up – it really is just there to protect one – all evolution style lizard brain protection like. I kept hearing it, and just letting it be, and listening to Steve.

II. Already Always Listening – This part of the story is an example of where, by being able to distinguish the “Already Always Listening – “People, situations, and our approach to life alter dramatically.”

7. Story

Before there was an opening there needed to be an opening for an opening to occur.

Doesn’t that sound like some BS? Well it is. But don’t worry it’s all BS. It’s just a story, after all. Another way to consider what I said above is: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Let’s say the student wasn’t ready. The student may have been ready to find out that they could be a student.

There are several options to choose from, and maybe it was all of them – I may have required several concurrent openings to have an opening occur from the depths of despair that I was (in). There was a book I picked up and read, maybe even two. There was the wild adventure I went on (with my Mom – that’s what made it wild). There was the declaration I made. There was the charismatic Catholic event that I went to. It may have just been the resilience I mentioned in the last post…that being the youngest and my unrelenting obsession with winning the game – no matter what the game.

Going into detail on each of these phenomenal items may or may not occur in the flow of this story…after all, I’d hate to bore my readers. But credit must be given that it could have been any of those “events” or all of them together or none of them at all that ultimately created an opening for an opening to occur.

Just prior to that, each of the possible openings above, there was the opening that seemed to be the not opening. The closing. The slammed phone. It may be that the closing WAS the opening and it began with somebody saying something and standing for something and putting their a$$ on the line, so to speak. It was weird.

My father died without ever knowing this bit of knowing. My mother still doesn’t know it. In both cases it’s “that I know of”. There is no prescribed way to come upon this piece of knowing that this story is about. I’ve found other instances of it being known, come across in other ways. Knowing something, a currency which I deal in. What is it to know. It’s been said that some things you can only know by experiencing them for yourself. Mom and Dad may have come across this bit of knowing. If they had, they didn’t tip me off. Or I wasn’t listening (a habit of mine).

However, that is what this story is about if you recall. Knowing. A bit of knowing some thing. What is it to know? How do we know? Why do we know? Do we really even know what we know? We like to act like we know…I know I do. I know nothing. I was lucky to find that out…especially at such an early age.

That’s why I’m telling this story.

An Opening?
The phone where my words encountered nothing…

I brought up my father and mother…they were there when the calls started coming. They likely assisted me in forming what I knew about the calls. The calls were rather alarming…they occurred that way. They were certainly different, and new and they occurred as alarming. Threatening. What were they threatening? They threatened what I liked to act like I knew. They threatened the “fabric of who I’d constructed myself to be”. Plus they were just unbelievable.

Note: An aside, outside of the story. One of the issues I’ve come across in my various attempts at being completely vulnerable and authentic in writing is the impact it has on others. As most of these tales involve others in my periphery, and others may not be as willing to be as vulnerable and authentic as I – and/or I may have to reveal more than I might reveal about my thinking various thoughts about people in my periphery – it makes for a challenge. Secret keeping? It’s something we do. Or it’s something I do at least. But they’re not really secrets, they’re just things that we wouldn’t normally say. Could offend, could reveal, could hurt, etc. So I balance sometimes – is this authentic? I don’t know (I don’t know anything, really). It may be that it’s part of the question of what is it to be authentic? What is it to be authentic and vulnerable? Who knows. :Note end

With me being the “youngest” as each of my older siblings moved away I developed certain resentments toward them for “leaving me”. Just another layer on top of “You don’t care about me. You don’t even love me. I’ll show you.” My eldest sister was a different sort of mixture of that statement and being so much older that she didn’t occur very much for me in my existence. Similar to the way my 7 year old son doesn’t even recall being in Venice 3 years ago…I think there are a lot of things that just don’t stick. I didn’t recall having much resentment toward her and the relationship (for me) wasn’t developed enough that it occurred to me as mattering much. I had this experience of older sister who is living out of state and not in my reality all that much and this concept of older sister who is my sister and I go visit her once in a while so of course she cares about me because, well, she’s my sister. I had another sister as point of reference and I had a fairly robust experience that she cares about me – so relationally I could conceptualize the same thing could be with this older sister, if only she were around some.

Make sense?

Well out of nowhere and rather suddenly my eldest sister is calling me, wanting to talk to me, telling me that she cares about me and loves me. She’s doing the same thing with my parents. It was a little abrupt. I have no recollection of what we talked about during these phone conversations. I likely wasn’t listening very intently as the calls themselves were likely just an interruption into whatever it was I was doing (like trying to figure out why she left, and how to buy that sweet in-dash but removable (so nobody could steal it) car stereo with CD player (a relatively new invention at the time)). Anyway, it was kind of like telling my 7 year old son to come and eat dinner while he’s playing whatever video game he is playing as dinner time approaches. Of course, I was 18 at the time, so you know…uh, yeah same thing really.

My sister. She loves me.

Not to mention, that in my house growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in a middle class, blue collar, undeclared slightly alcoholism fueled dysfunctional utopia-like family talking about loving each other wasn’t really something that happened. You just sort of knew, or were supposed to know it. In fact, talking about it almost seemed to make it a little disingenuous. That was the experience of it – you just knew (or assumed that everybody knew you knew and assumed that everybody knew it about you too) and if they didn’t well then you’d never really know but you’d just have to hope for the best or not. But talking about it, over the phone…long distance? Do you know how much those minutes were costing?

Yeah, I gotta go.” Then, this strange thing occurred. Rather than being a reaction to “Yeah, I gotta go” there was this really, really weird empty void that “Yeah, I gotta go” fell into. It sort of landed somewhere, but there was no response to it. No reaction to it. No anything really…other than a sort of reflection of it. In fact, many of the things that I think I said sort of went into this void. It was almost like dropping a penny into a well. Maybe that was the opening? If it was, it closed really soon. In this void where what I said went, rather than hearing the reaction come back to me I heard (though I couldn’t really hear it yet) all this chatter revving up in “my head”. All these thoughts about my sister, and why is she calling and she doesn’t really love me and this is bull$hit and who the f does she think she is saying this stuff to me she sounds crazy and how the he!! can I afford that and why would I want to and on and on and on and on.

Very little (none?) of it had anything to do with what was happening.

I was getting rather “worked up”. Over here. Like I said, something was being threatened. I was backed into a corner that I didn’t even know existed. And I was responding the way somebody responds when they’re backed into a corner. Guns were blazing. That void that things I said were being dropped into…that had to go. Soon, I said something that got some “expected response”. Maybe tears, or confusion. Something, anything. Some response.

Then, I had my first ever encounter with the experience of coaching.

Now, coaching is a well known and common business term today…it’s not even necessarily a business term. It’s just something people do. Life coaches, performance coaches, whatever. But in 1989, man? That was the stuff that cults were made of. When you had somebody interacting with you, behind the scenes, interpreting how you should view the world and providing some guidance toward more powerful ways to interact with other human beings? That was jacked up…

I used the F word a lot. Don’t ever call and talk to me about that again. And I hung up the phone.

6. Story

Background of meaning. This is a term I may use today. It may describe a way I had (have) of viewing the world. I heard some of my “background of meaning” today on the radio. Bon Jovi – I’ll Be There For You. I’d live and I’d die for you. It’s just that the term “background of meaning” doesn’t really do justice to the experience “background of meaning”. When there is a background of meaning, and it is not clear that it is a background of meaning, it isn’t a background of meaning. It is reality. It isn’t even A reality. It is. Reality. Not in the background either…part of the foreground so close that everything is filtered through it. Possibly distorting the view to look like what I’ve always seen before.

I was in a tough spot.

Wasn’t sure why she’d gone, why all those sixes kept showing up, why I’d gotten fired from that job – at least not why “when all of this other stuff was going on”, why that car got ripped off (I should have noticed those guys noticing me put that stereo in the trunk – in fact, I did notice those guys noticing me put that stereo in the trunk – I just didn’t notice it enough to distinguish it as I am about to get my car stolen because those guys are watching me put my detachable stereo in the trunk). I hadn’t had that background of meaning. I’d never gotten my car ripped off.

Resilient wasn’t a term I would have used to describe myself at the time. I’d had no experience being resilient that I knew of. It wasn’t a part of my background of meaning. Happily, nothing very traumatic had ever happened to me. Everybody around me was alive and/or dying in a naturally progressive order, nothing sudden or tragic. I had a mostly solid family background with a not necessarily extra-ordinary amount of undeclared alcoholism fueled dysfunction – most of which I wasn’t even really cognizant of. I ate food. I slept in a house. Sure there was that time my bike was stolen from Silverman’s. And that girl that lived behind us that taught me to play the game “Simon Says, Strip”. Honestly, I thought it was pretty fun (though she may have had some trauma – who knows, and this is my story, not hers). There were those neighborhood “bums” that would randomly upset my sense of calm and order in the neighborhood. The neighbor kids who’d make me fight Billy Bloom once or twice. Mostly though, nothing too traumatic. No need to be too resilient.

This little stretch I was in, this most uncharmed time of my life, this was new territory. I can see now that I may have been a little resilient. Maybe it was those mornings waking up to deliver newspapers, every day no matter the weather – even if it was a little late some days. Driven on by my Mom cautioning me prior to taking that first paper route that nobody was going to be helping me. I’d do it, I said. And I did. Maybe it was developed responding to those people that complained when their paper was late.

Maybe it was that declaration I’d made when we moved to Parma when I was 10. Driven on by my Mom cautioning me prior to signing me up for 5th grade at my old school – nobody was going to be helping me. I’d do it, I said. I vowed to not leave my friends and that I would do whatever it took to get back to my old grade school. Long walks…a mile to State, a bus ride to Bader, a mile to Pearl. Then reverse to get home. Or a 3 mile bike ride. Then back. There was that time I crashed into the parked car because I was asleep on my bike. But I made a promise…didn’t think of it as “having given my word” at the time. Heck, maybe I was just too afraid to go to a new school and it was easier to trudge on, do the hard thing. Eventually I’d even do the new school thing. New high school…I knew very few people because I was so intent on keeping my old crew. I trudged on with that too.

I was also “the youngest” and in that way I did know myself as resilient. Resilient enough that I knew how to manipulate and bludgeon with pleading and ranting until I’d get what I wanted. I knew how to follow through and get what I wanted to get. Looking back, I was pretty resilient, or at least persistent and determined. When I wanted something.

This current beat down from life was new though. Not something I’d experienced before. I can’t recall the exact order of, or when exactly things started to break open. And I’m not even sure that I’ve given a fair picture of HOW BLEAK THINGS REALLY WERE up to this point. How I was desperately trying to break my way out of this jam that life stuck me with. I do recall that the song Runnin’ Down a Dream had come out…and Wikipedia tells me that this song was released on July 29th 1989…the day before my 19th year began.

Like I said. I had plans…

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin’
Trees went by, me and Del were singin’
Little Runaway
I was flyin’

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

I felt so good, like anything was possible
Hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
The last three days the rain was unstoppable
It was always cold, no sunshine

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

I rolled on, the sky grew dark
I put the pedal down to make some time
There’s something good waitin’ down this road
I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine

I’m runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream
Yeah, I’m runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
I’m runnin’ down a dream

…Tom Petty

5. Story

It was around “that time” then that I’d first heard something about it. Though I was scarcely paying attention enough to know that I’d heard anything at all. Things hadn’t become glaringly obviously broken yet (I hadn’t even been fired from that job yet…so I still had that going for me, and I had plans). I wasn’t even open to hearing anything (or was I?). It was May or June, a little over 30 years ago. I don’t recall the first conversation but I recall the last. I was so put off, so outraged, so indignant. Don’t ever call me and talk to me about that again! The F word was used to little or no effect and so finally the phone was slammed down.

There. That will get the point across. I don’t want to hear about it.

What was I so indignant about exactly? That was not a question I had asked myself at the time. I was too busy enjoying my triumphant hangup. Now many years later, as if I’ve been sitting in front of a mirror for all that time reflecting, I see. So many layers of that onion peeled away, so many swipes back and forth to clear away what was concealed, I see. I couldn’t see then.

You don’t care about me. You don’t even love me. I’ll show you.

Odd, yet that was what my life was about. Odd, I say…there was definitely lots of care and love for me. Just another blind spot I guess.

Ted E. Bear
My oldest and most enduring friendship?

You don’t care about me. You don’t even love me. I’ll show you.

This was a sentence I imposed upon myself and a declaration to the world in response to my own sentencing when I was around 4 or 5 years old. Ted was there (As my wife suggested – Ted is my adult name for who was known at the time as Teddy). As friends often do, Ted did not provide a lot of feedback on what had just happened…he just sort of put up with me. He took the brunt of the abuse that day, from what I recall. I’m not sure how he would retell the story but from what I recall…

I had just been sent to my room. For what, I don’t remember. It’s irrelevant. I was 4 or 5. Whatever I’d done couldn’t have been too heinous. I was having a tantrummy, meltdowny kind of response to being scolded. For all I know, I wasn’t even being scolded. In watching my kids today and recalling my world as a 4 or 5 year old I may have just been tired, or hungry and was being “difficult”, hard to be with…a real crabass. Like I said, why I was in my room is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that behind that closed door in my bed sobbing and wailing and screeching, thrashing and throwing (Ted against the wall) and punching (poor Ted – what a friend) and screaming and between quivering lips…until finally I said it. “You don’t care about me. You don’t even love me.”

Who was it referring to? My mother immediately…the imposer of the banishment. But it took on more in my 4 or 5 year old dialogue with my Self. It was obvious to me (it) with all of that thrashing, and screaming and wailing…with nobody coming, nobody listening, nobody caring. It wasn’t just Mom. It was all of them. All of You.

Left with only myself to rely on and too soon a response was declared. “I’ll show you.”

I‘ll SHOW you.

There it was. Done. Something to build a life on. What exactly I was going to show you at the time, again, irrelevant. It was a declaration. It would be there to fall back on. It was hidden. Concealed. Operating in the background. It was using me. To a degree “I” was using it. The degree is important. It was a small degree and I didn’t get to choose when I would use it. So, well, I wasn’t really using it – it was using me.

Ted may have been mad at me for punching him and throwing him against the wall and yelling at him. He didn’t try to talk any sense into me. Didn’t tip me off at all on what had just happened. Friends do that sometimes…they stand by and let you self destruct. Wishing you knew how much they loved and cared about you. Wishing they could say the thing that would make a difference. Sometimes they’re in on it with you…

Either way – Teddy, I want you to know that I’m sorry I treated you so bad that day and for scratching your glass eyes on the wall. I appreciate you standing by all these years and letting me sort things out.

As for the caller I hung up on? I’ve already apologized and thanked them for standing for me…for caring enough to say something. Even if I wasn’t open to hear it…

4. Story

Knowing everything takes a toll on you I think. Now, when I say “on you” I mean to say “on one” as in the collective all of us individually as a one, or maybe “on you and I” is another way to say it. Knowing everything takes a toll on one, I think, or on you and I, I think. As one of a set of the collective one, I will give myself a little bit of credit that I was open to some ideas. If they were written in a song and I liked the song, I was open to that idea. If it were some piece of knowing that would lead me to some desired end (and I could see that end from what was presented) I was open to that idea. If it were some knowing from a friend or somebody I trusted had my best interest in mind (though they would never imply in suggesting the idea that I didn’t already know what was best for me) I was open to that idea. Bottom line…if I trusted you as a source I was open to that idea.

Music was very much one of my most trusted sources for understanding the way the world worked. This likely had something to do with a combination of being the youngest of four, having that stereo system in the dining room so off-limits, and my older brother saving up enough bread to buy his own stereo, and maybe a number of other things. By the time I was 7 or 8 or 9 the belief that music held some deeper truth than most other sources of information in the world was firmly embedded in my view of reality. I can’t firmly place the correct time frame but I can certainly remember that time for a few days, or a few weeks, or however long it was that my brother was singing that final stanza of Stairway to Heaven out loud, everywhere and always, whenever and wherever he went. He was having a jam in his head out loud and I was watching and soon it was becoming a part of me. I even remember that stereo in the dining room getting “tried out” a couple of times while the parents were away, you know, just to see what it could do.

In hindsight it may just be that music tied to lyrics was able to evoke that sense of really being alive from within my experience of the world. Whatever the case, and this is my point of bringing it to the fore, I placed a large degree of importance on music. So much so that I knew many songs and many lyrics and would use those songs and lyrics as a form of expressing my thoughts. Later it would be movie lines and quotes from movies that I could relate to, that brought out some part of “me”.

Cub Scout of the Year
A true expression of the entity I would call me?

These things were pervasive in my world and “when I look back now” (as Bryan Adams may have said) I’m not sure I was given many alternatives, really. I was born into this something…this culture…this reality…this “way of being in the world”. I picked some things that suited me – music and movies, and there may be other things that one or you and I may have been able to select to make sense of this world they were born into. For the most part though, I was given an opportunity set and I picked one or two of a very limited set of options.

I have discussed some of this already in other blog entries but I think it’s relevant to point out the times I recall wandering around, walking from one place to another, doing what I would call at the time “talking to myself in my head”. I was rehearsing conversations that I would have with these “bums” that I mentioned here if I were ever to be confronted by one of them again. I was rehearsing knowing things, knowing about things, that I could use to give them the right answer should they confront me with an innocuous question such as “What are you looking at?” or “Do you like Jim L.? Do you want to go beat him up?” For whatever reason, I thought that these random dudes that I would encounter on these tough Cleveland city streets (they really weren’t that tough where I was, maybe sort of tough, but not too tough – or maybe they were) would be overpowered by my knowledge of musical trivia. Bands, albums, lyrics, Rock & Roll man… Really weird. And hey, maybe you’re reading this and I haven’t spent enough time articulating it and you don’t quite get it, or maybe I did and you think man that’s really odd that an 8 year old kid would be walking from place to place in his neighborhood (say to get to a friends house, or to get to school) first of all talking to himself in his head and second of all talking to himself in his head about Rock trivia items, or which band was better than some other band and why and just to clarify I recall having that thought myself. I think I was afraid. And I protected myself by knowing so that I could out-know a hostile “other” being and this was my way of protecting “me”.

A really strange way to think about things, in hind sight. I got really good at remembering tidbits of information though, so I could outsmart one. A useful and sometimes lucrative skill to have, when it wasn’t busy concealing reality and getting in my way of seeing what there is to see.

3. Story

I was in a tough spot and I didn’t even know it. Looking around out there, desperately trying to find the answers to the questions I didn’t even realize I was asking and all the while acting like I knew what I was up to. After all, as I said, I had a plan. I say acting like I knew what I was up to – much of the acting like was with myself – I was scared, and confused, and afraid, and outwitted, and dumbstruck by all this stuff breaking down in life and what’s really most interesting, looking back was that I couldn’t even be straight with myself about it. I would put on the automatic funny smart exterior but internally there was even something more deceptive going on.

Frantic. There was this unsettled internal frantic sort of trying to figure it out going on. I would have trouble falling asleep because I was so busy having thoughts about who knows what. Like trying to figure life out, make some sense of it. Maybe I just drank way too much coffee before bed. I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to figure out but I would replay conversations, or think of what I would be saying if such and such occurred. I wasn’t asking anybody for any assistance though…certainly wouldn’t ask for any help from anybody because that would really mess up the carefully orchestrated external deception.

Exhibit A. Photo C. M.

So how does one go from the above, fairly happy 4 or 5 year old to the below not as happy not 4 or 5 year old? And, keep in mind that the below photo is a couple of years before things fell apart – I was actually pretty happy to be alive here. Though I wished I could put on a few pounds – ha!

With the evidence presented you can see that there was “always” a little bit of attitude (or was there). At 4 years old with the long hair and tube socks stretched tight and pulled as high as they would go (God I hated how they’d fall) in Exhibit A. To that same attitude displayed in Exhibit B with the plaid Halford hat in full effect. I mean I can’t even play the guitar but you can see that I think I REALLY was.

Exhibit B. Photo P.O

Somewhere in between those points in time there had been a concealing. Like a real cover up. So elaborate was the cover up that the person who’d orchestrated it didn’t even know that it occurred.

However, I didn’t know it at the time. Luckily, I knew everything else…