GETTING TO THE GRAND CANYON …

I highly recommend that everyone, at some point in their life, drive across the country.

It’s important to know about where you live and be familiar with what things look and feel like in different parts of our nation.

I’ve driven across several times. And every time I do it, I’m reminded of how much I genuinely like Americans. As divided as we can be, we also share some inexplicable spirit; a drive tempered with a kindness that can only live in people born free.

My drive across the nation this year was done with my 11-year-old son riding shotgun. It was more of an introduction for him, but it was no different in the results it yielded in my heart and soul. I came away with a newfound respect for certain things and a surging optimism about the future and the general state of the world. In short …I think we (the United States) are gonna be okay.

There are things I might change if I had the power to. There’s some trouble with which we’re always going to have to contend. Still …I like us. A lot.

One of the stops on our journey was the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never seen it, and you live close to it, finish reading this and then get in your car and go see it …now. There’s a reason it’s a wonder of the world. It has become a bit of an American punch line and it resides in the ubiquity reserved for Elvis, apple pie and Christmas morning. But looking over the great expanse can and will put everything – including your own existence – into perspective. And, if you’re really looking, you’ll never be the same after seeing it.

The tricky thing about the Canyon is how long it takes to get to it. It’s not a road side attraction. You don’t just pop off the highway, grab and ice cream, see the Canyon, then head back to the water park. Getting to the Grand Canyon requires time and commitment.

My father took me to see it when I was 10. It took my breath away. But even so, I didn’t fully appreciate the moment I was experiencing. I was tired and hot and sleepy and grumpy. And I allowed all those things to influence what could’ve been a truly transcendent moment.

As it turned out, by the time my son and I reached the Canyon, he was all those things I just described. We had driven all day. We were hot and hungry and by the time we paid our $30 bucks to get in to the national park, I was starting to think jaded, “they’ve-turned-this-national-treasure-into-a-money-grab” thoughts. The traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. My son couldn’t stop whining and wishing we’d just forgotten the whole thing and gone on to Vegas. If I’m honest, I was agreeing with him.

We’d already driven over 70 miles of two lane road. That was AFTER driving for six hours on the interstate. Now, we were trapped in throngs of people and vehicles creeping toward some destination that seemed like it was getting farther away with every agonizing minute.

But finally we got to a parking lot. And we found a parking place. We jumped out of the rental car and stretched our legs, arguing about which direction to walk. As we both huffed and puffed and sniped back and forth about how hot we were and how much of a bad idea this was, we round a corner and topped a rise. And just as our whining began to wane …there it was. A gorge sliced into the earth so far deep and so far wide it can hardly be described with any accuracy.

Once again …it took my breath away.

My son, who had been impressed with very little to that point, was silenced instantly. And as we stood dumbfounded and spell bound, a woman yelled out the word “yes!” and people broke into applause. A man just had taken his girlfriend out onto a jutting rock inside the canyon and proposed. My boy and I looked at each other and kind of smiled. That’s something you just don’t see everyday.

We were both fairly silent while exploring the southern rim and getting whatever inadequate pictures we could snap. We took in every angle we could get to and tried to take it all in. But two human eyes simply cannot take it all in. So, finally we sorta half saluted the marvel …and headed back to the car.

My son fell asleep on the drive to Vegas and kept quiet for most of the rest of the drive. The Grand Canyon had settled us down a little.

Since we’ve been home, we haven’t talked a lot about the trip. And I know that he was miserable for much of it. I can’t say that I blame him. Locking a kid in a car for 5 days is a tough proposition. But last night something on TV was showing the Grand Canyon. I blurted, “Hey buddy! There’s our Canyon!”

He stared at the screen and finally said, “Yeah. But it’s a lot more beautiful in person.” I smiled to myself. He was right. It is. And I’m glad he recognizes the wonder of it …after the fact.

Getting to the Grand Canyon is not easy. For us, there was nothing fun about it. It was grueling and God awful …until we got there.

That is a metaphor for the truly great things that happen to us; the wonders (if you will) in life. Very often the journey isn’t what you think it will be. It is often laced with uncertainty and deflated expectations. Sometimes we have pressed on toward something for so long and we’ve worked so hard to get there that we doubt the destination will live up to our efforts. Is it worth it? Should we keep going? What’s the point, anyway?

All I can say is that if you press on long enough, you will eventually get to a true wonder. And it will be so deep and wide and life-changing that you will forget the perils of the journey completely. They won’t even matter anymore. Because the wonder will re-set your eyes and reshape your beliefs on how amazing things can actually be …if you just keep going.

They say it’s about the journey …NOT the destination. Maybe that’s true.

But sometimes the destination is the Grand Canyon. And true wonders are worth every horrible mile.

R

If you want to follow my daily blog and see behind the scenes extras, subscribe to my Patreon page at …

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES …

People see things differently. They just do.

We humans will argue over everything from the proper way to scramble eggs, to how taxes should be collected …to whether or not we should even HAVE taxes in the first place.

We form our opinions based on our experiences. I’ve read where people who graduate from college tend to lean more liberal in their politics. People who go directly into the work force, tend to lean more conservative.

I fall into the later category. I didn’t get a scholarship to any college and my family couldn’t afford to send me for four years. So I dropped out after they had paid for as much as they could afford, and I went to work. I chased my dreams. I worked multiple jobs. I cleaned buildings and waited tables and did odd-jobs and hustled my butt off. In the cracks of all that, I wrote songs. A lot of songs.

And over time, I was able to turn a weird little talent into a big house and a nice car and great vacations. And nobody at any government agency helped me get there. THEY didn’t build that …I did. And I didn’t take public assistance, or food stamps or anything I probably could have. I just used their roads and infrastructure. And I paid them for it …I paid them A LOT for it.

In my own experience, government has never been anything efficient or sleek or state-of-the-art or cutting edge. I have always seen it as a necessary slog that operates at a functionary level. Because government floats toward mediocrity.

There’s nothing inherently evil in or wrong with people who work in government. I find many of them to be doing it out a sincere sense of duty and honor to their country. The problem with government is simply the nature of it. It, in and of itself, has no built-in incentive for anyone or anything to excel. There are no bonus structures built in for people who hustle. There’s no upward mobility for a job well done. There’s no reason to innovate or revolutionize. There are no brainstorming meetings where ideas, possibilities and (dare I say) dreams are batted around. Nobody stands up with a “eureka” moment, in a budgetary conference meeting, and says “Wait! What if …”

Day-to-day government business is static, non-dynamic and liability encumbered.

In other words, the United States government might get to Mars before Elon Musk does. They have unlimited resources – because they can extract money from the population. But him (or someone like him) will make it a fun place to go. And he’ll do it with money that was voluntarily given to him for goods and/or services he provided the world.

Anyway …

Some people see the government exactly the opposite of how I just described it. Some see it as a savior of sorts; a playing-field-levelor; a refuge from the evils of greed; a backstop against the darker side of humanity. This difference in points of view is at the core; the essence of our continuing national debate. That debate has gone on for as long as this country has existed. In fact, that debate is the REASON this country exists in the first place. And that debate often makes us so angry at each other we cannot control our emotions …even when friends are in the mix.

I sat in a room yesterday with a long-time friend. I’ve known this woman for over twenty years. And we’ve worked together to try and keep each other in the music business. I’ve worked to make sure the company she works for has big hit songs to license. She has worked to make sure I’ve gotten paid for those things. I think, in nature, this is called a symbiotic relationship.

She finds herself in the eye of a hurricane she didn’t ask to be in. The company she works for is owned by a bigger company that is openly proposing an amendment to a certain piece of legislation that directly affects songwriters and music makers of all stripes. This legislation is important. Everyone knows it. She knows it. I know it. The people openly proposing the amendment even know it.

But she is fending off hate and vitriol from people she has worked with for years, because they see her, and her company, as trying to kill their chance at finally getting an equitable solution to an inequitable problem. So rather than sitting down with her and talking about it, they’ve chosen to simply decide she must be a casualty of the fight. I don’t think like that. She’s my friend. And she’s earned a face-to-face meeting.

I’ve net with the other side many times. I know their position. They are friends of mine as well. So this is a weird time for all of us.

My songwriter friends probably want me to get into the specifics of this issue. But it’s all very complicated and convoluted for anyone who doesn’t make a living as a songwriter or a song publisher. And quite frankly, more non-songwriters are reading this than songwriters.

But politics, livelihoods and passions have brought all the personality types to the surface …   

There are the pragmatists who just want something …ANYTHING …done at all costs. There are the casual band-wagoneers, who know what the general issue is and want to be on the correct side of it, so they post memes and talk in general terms. There are the  flame throwers, who want this to be a much bigger conspiracy, complete with evil and greed, than it actually is. And, sadly, there are the straight up cowards who dare not dig into the issue any deeper than political expediency will allow them to. They won’t risk their co-writes or their relationships with people in power, to actually make a phone call. I have no more time for those people. I don’t care how many number ones they have to their name.

Where do I fall on the MMA? I hope it passes and gets signed. And I hope everyone involved gets to stay in business and not have to fold their tents. If it passes …as is …I’ll deal with it. If it passes …with an amendment …I’ll deal with it. None of it changes the fundamental problem of getting people to hear and like your music in the first place. It only deals with what happens when they consume it. In other words, this is always going to be a tough business no matter what the laws are.

I’ve resigned myself to only allowing people to consume my music LIVE or directly through me, anyway. I’m not interested in the masses anymore. I’m only interested in you …the one still reading this. The music business for me, has gotten incredibly small and boutique. And I kind of like it that way.

As for my friends still biting their nails over sales figures and chart positions every week? I actually believe the MMA will pass, even with this hiccup. Everyone concerned (even the big, bad corporation asking for the amendment), has a reason for this to get done. And nobody wants to see us have to go back to square one. But amendments get put on bills all the time. Like, literally every day. I’m not exactly sure why everyone can’t be heard out.

I sure want to be.

R

To subscribe to my daily blog, click the link below:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

GHOST BUSTERS …

That was the first movie I ever saw in a theater …Ghost Busters.

I was 16-years-old. And quite frankly, I was worried sick. My brother and I had skipped a pretty major church service our father was overseeing, to go see it …with two girls.  We were straight up rebelling …on a Sunday night, no less. And as we exited the theater, my head was on a swivel, looking for anyone who might’ve seen us coming out of that place.

Because the service was such a large event, and we weren’t scheduled to perform that night, my brother and I  were able to come up with a decent alibi as to where we were; early dinner with friends; youth group gathering; I can’t recall. I’m sure we massaged enough truth in there for it to not be a total lie. But to this day, whenever I see Ghost Busters on TV or a movie channel, I get a little quiver in my stomach, thinking about all the trouble we could’ve gotten into and the trouble we could’ve gotten our father into that night …just by walking into a movie theater.

Walking into movie theaters was just one of the things I wasn’t allowed to do, growing up. The church I attended didn’t allow such things, worldly and such. When I say “attended” I mean roughly 200 days a year. I was in church every Sunday morning and night as well as every Wednesday night. That’s just when my family wasn’t on tour. When we were touring, I was in church 7 nights a week.

I figured it up once. By the time I was 14, I had been to church more times than most people (averaging once a week) would attend in a lifetime. I knew all the books of the bible by the time I was in kindergarden. I understood the concept of Paul becoming an envoy to the gentiles and writing letters to new converts from prison, thus creating the framework for the new testament, by the time I was 10.

I knew all the hymns. I had been exposed to some of the most intelligent, cogent preaching for my entire life. I studied Greek, Life of Christ and Old and New Testament surveys in my Christian high school. And by the time I graduated, I could recite the entire book of Psalms. I cannot do that now …but I enjoy them more now that I can’t recite them.

My father was a preacher, who was raised by a preacher, who was married to a preacher, who was raised by a preacher. At one time, there were 21 licensed ministers in my family. The church organization we belonged to was tightly knit and relatively small.

The organization grew out of the Pentacostal movement of the early 20th century, that essentially sprung from a meeting at a place called “Camp Creek,” at the turn of the last century. The organization came complete with a figure head (ala, the Pope), a governmental structure, a list of “truths,” another list of rules (referred to as simply “advice”), stringent membership requirements, and (oddly enough) …a flag.

This organization taught me some wonderfully important things. Women were respected and revered in this organization. My GREAT GRANDMOTHER was allowed to preach in it, only a few years after women were allowed to vote in this country. I wasn’t raised knowing that women weren’t supposed to be ministers. I had several of them in my family.

All the races worshipped together. The first church my father pastored was a “black” church in Nashville. And I was almost 3-years-old before I fully understood that I wasn’t black …and that brother Jackson wasn’t white. The marriage of my mother-in-law (a white girl from Clarksville, Tennessee), to my father-in-law (a Mexican from California), was accepted in our church long before it was accepted in the mainstream of the United States.

In some things, the church I was raised in was light years ahead of its time. In other things, however, it wasn’t.

The focus on holiness and righteousness was as the center of my upbringing. And that center didn’t allow for short pants in the summer time or roller skating or bowling or rock concerts …or movie theaters. I was the first person in my family to get pierced ears or even wear a wedding band. My mother didn’t wear anything but full length skirts in certain parts of the country. And my father was excoriated many, MANY times …for having sideburns.

Once you create a world of rules, there will always be those who use those rules as weapons and wield them like swords. So, while my parents were deeply spiritual, wonderful people and taught me better than the “party line,” I knew who they worked for. And I knew who was watching.

And so, God and all things spiritual, became labor for me. The rigid guidelines became sacrament and  communion with the creator of the universe. Church politics and church business and personal business and making a living and making a life, all got tangled up in God and Jesus and the bible and right and wrong and heaven and hell. And when your eternal soul is continually in the balance, at 5 or 6 or 8 or 12 or 18-years-old, it leaves an indelible mark you might spend the rest of your life trying to reconcile.

I wrote a whole book on this subject (Angels and Idols) and I feel like I’ve come to my own understanding of God and my own salvation. And it has more to do with a Chinese orphan than it does rule number 26.

But I’m not alone in my background and story. There were thousands of kids just like me, in that organization. All the churches in that organization were connected throughout the states and there were “state conventions” every year, where we all got to see each other. Then there was a mass “assembly” every year, where all the members from around the world gathered to see each other. Those were fun events. I have such fond memories of seeing my friends from all over the globe, every year.

People ask me all the time, if I really know all those people from all those countries. The answer is absolutely! I’ve met them all and talked to them all …and I’ve probably stayed in their homes.

The other thing our organization had was its own college. It was never larger than a mid-sized, middle American  high-school, but it was there. And that’s where I attended for one year, where I carried a SOLID 2.0 GPA. By the time I reached that college, I was pretty much on my way out of the church of my youth. While attending that college, I never went to chapel. I cut all my “theological” classes. I simply wasn’t interested anymore. I’d heard all the sermons and read all the literature. And it didn’t do much for my soul. And I wasn’t alone.

In fact, there was a mass exodus (if I can use that word) of people from my generation, from that organization. It was almost like we all got the memo at the same time and realized it was time to go. We never really even talked about it all that much, to be honest. We just all inherently knew that going to movies was okay. We knew that piercing your ars was no big deal. The last sermon I ever heard in one of those “assemblies” was a guy preaching on why Jesus was returning in 1988. There were 88 reasons. Get it? 88 reasons he’s returning in 88?

I distinctly remember sitting in a section of the large convention hall (we called it the Tabernacle) with several of my friends, and us laughing hysterically at the sermon and openly mocking it to each other …WHILE it was being preached. The nonsense had finally gone too far. It was now just satire and we were incapable of taking any of it seriously anymore. As it turns out, we were correct. No supernatural entity returned to earth in 1988 …unless you’re talking about the 49ers.

This past weekend, a reunion of all alumni who had ever attended that small college was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They asked me if they could use my song, “Time Of My Life,” as their theme. Then they asked me to come perform it. I agreed to both.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have agreed to either thing. For many years I wanted to hide from my past. This little cult-like church I was raised in was an embarrassment to me. It was incredibly difficult to explain to all the “cool” people I hung out with, where I had come from. It was too long of a conversation to explain why I didn’t own any Prince records or why I still hadn’t seen Star Wars …at 27 (I now have ALL the Prince records and I’ve seen all the Star Wars movies I can stand …but I digress …)

But I felt like it was time to go back and embrace my roots and the people I came up with. And I’m glad I did. We all seemed to have a “knowing” toward each other. We know what was real and what wasn’t. We know what was ridiculous and what wasn’t. I found myself in a room full of people who, like me, went into the world and discovered it …and realized it wasn’t going to send us all to hell.

We’re all older now. Our bodies have betrayed us. In some cases our lives have betrayed us. And as we’ve aged in the world, we have realized what is important and what isn’t. We gathered there as people JUST as entitled to love and respect as everyone else in the world. NOT just “peculiar” and “separate.”

Everyone was wearing some form of gold ornament (a no-no in our youth). There were wedding bands being worn and divorced people and openly gay people and people who drink and people who not only go to concerts, but perform in them. And we all sort of inherently knew that that stuff was the surface stuff. It felt like I was in a group of people who understood that love was the whole thing …and THAT was the real quest of any religion. What we were being taught as children was trying to get us there. But it often got lost in the weeds.

A friend of mine asked me recently, why people are abandoning church as a concept. My answer was that many of us have simply seen a lot of it as something silly. God got bigger than church for us. And we couldn’t keep up the facade anymore or keep him squeezed into that small space. See, we know the earth isn’t flat, now. We’ve got pictures. It’s a ball. And no matter who preaches the flat earth doctrine to us (metaphorically), we simply know it isn’t true. So, God had better be bigger than your incorrect science, if you’re going to preach to me.

You can apply that principle to all facets of Christianity. This is why I no longer call myself a “Christian.” It comes with too many cultural connotations that are too small to embody something so large and unfathomable.

I’m a big believer and follower of Jesus. I’ve got no problem with him. But I’m not sure how much “church” he’d want to be a part of if he were around today. I’m not sure how many sermons he’d sit through or how much fundraising he’d tolerate or how many mega structures he’d be comfortable in. At some point, I’d like to believe those droning, U2 rip-off worship songs (about him) would get on his nerves and he’d have to pop in some Ray Charles or Beethoven just to maintain his sanity. I know I have to.

And he might think that “the world” wasn’t all bad. I kinda believe he’d have an iPhone with some cool apps. I’m fairly certain he would make sure the party continued and that wine would be available to the very end.

And, I’d like to believe, that he would tell a nervous 16-year-old to go see the funny movie at the theater …and laugh his butt off.

Because ghosts are only real if you keep them alive in your mind.

 

R

If you’d like to follow my daily blog, click the link and follow me on the journey …

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE HEDGES AND THE MIDWIFE …

I have no idea what the voice of God sounds like.

I don’t really claim to have ever heard it. In fact, I live in a constant state of wondering if it’s even a thing …if GOD (as I have learned about him) is even a thing. But sometimes I get these …I don’t know what to call them …feelings? Promptings? Thoughts? I dunno. I’ve gotten them my whole life. Sometimes they are feelings telling me I should NOT do something. Sometimes they are feelings telling me I SHOULD do something. I often dismiss them if they run counter to conventional wisdom. But sometimes, they’re so strong I cannot ignore them.

When I was fifteen, I had a temporary job at a book publishing company. I made five hundred dollars working there and something told me to give fifty of it to a friend of my family, who had been visiting us from Indiana. It was a clear and distinct amount and a clear and distinct person to whom I was supposed to give it. I didn’t really want to do it. I wanted to keep the money. But this feeling (or whatever it was) was almost guiding me without my even having control of it.

I went to the guy and told him I felt like I was supposed to give him the fifty bucks. He didn’t really need the money and tried to refuse it …but I insisted and he reluctantly took it.

Later on, he recounted to me that as he was driving back to Indiana, he came up on a woman who was broken down on the side of the road. He helped get her towed to a mechanic, who then fixed her car. It was a small thing and the price for the repair was …wait for it …$49.44. She didn’t have the money. But HE just happened to have an extra fifty dollars on him. With the remaining 56 cents, he was able to buy her a soft drink (this was 1982).

It was JUST what was needed …JUST when it was needed. So whatever it was prompting me, was pretty much dead on …to the penny.

I don’t care what you think about him, some weeks I watch and listen to Joel Osteen. Please (my professional Christian friends) save all the theological mumbo jumbo and righteous indignation about what he does or what he doesn’t do, or how much money he makes or blah, blah, blah. I get it. And quite frankly, I don’t care. When you live the kind of life my wife and I live – day in and day out – sometimes all we want to hear is someone tell us we’re going to be okay. Sometimes I need an impossibly innocent face smiling at me and a corny southern accent telling me that God likes me and wants good things for me. Sometimes I just need to feel good about life. Sometimes I just need Jesus to be uncomplicated and child-like. Yes …sometimes I need Mr Rogers in a tailored suit. Whatever …I’m glad he’s there being shallow while everyone else is drowning in their depth.

Anyway, this particular week, Joel was talking about listening to the voice; the one that tells you to tend to the small things. It’s a nagging voice that isn’t telling you to move mountains but rather telling you to do something as simple as taking out the garbage. And THAT voice is telling you this for a reason. It reminded me of the fifty dollars when I was a kid. And it also made me think about those damn hedges.

You see, for about a month I’d been hearing this voice telling me to trim my hedges …MYSELF. I have my yard done by other people. I started mowing my family’s yard when I was nine. And I decided that when I was an adult, if I could afford it, I would always do two things: have my yard done and ALWAYS pick whatever I wanted on a restaurant menu, regardless of the price.

To this day, I do not look at menu prices …and I have my yard done (even though right now I should probably do it myself).

But this voice (or whatever you want to call it) was nagging me to break out my stored hedge trimmers and do my own hedge trimming. I don’t know why. But it has been strong.

So, an X-box ordeal with my son turned into re-arranging the play room. And THAT got me in the mod to tackle other projects around the house. And having to take a phone call outside, because the service inside my house is sketchy, got me walking around my house, inspecting those hedges. And so, while I was on the phone, I actually started clipping and tearing off hedges. And something weird happened …my phone call started turning into something very positive.

My lack of focus on the call itself, and my tending to those bushes, led me to come up with ideas I was barking into the phone, that led to something happening I’ve been waiting to happen for literally years. The not caring so much about what to say and what not to say, because I was preoccupied with foliage, allowed me to be more in the moment on the call. Finally, the guy I was on the call with said, “Wow …these are really great ideas!”

After the call, I went in the house to hydrate. My wife was watching some Netflix show called “Call The Midwife,” and there was a scene about a deformed baby being born. A nun took the baby in her arms, while the baby was dying, and declared it a beautiful creation; a child of God, and that when it passed through the water or walked through the fire, God would be there with it. My wife and I stood and cried. We always do that when we encounter themes about damaged people …because we’re raising one.

I wiped my eyes and went back out to those bushes. I hacked and clipped and buzzed and cried some more. And the only thing that kept coming to mind was, “I have the ability to do this, when SO many people in the world don’t. Therefore I SHOULD do it. I thought about my daughter and how she loves music. She always claps for anyone who sings. And so we who can sing, must …for those who cannot. We who can dance MUST …for those who cannot. We who can write MUST …for those who cannot. We who can trim hedges MUST …for those who cannot.

While I was trimming those hedges, I got three more phone calls. All of those calls were good news that I and my family needed. I don’t know if trimming the hedges had anything to do with it. But cutting away those vines felt like a metaphor to me. And with every weed stripped away, I felt something myself getting freer.

Before attacking those hedges, I wrote a blistering political manifesto that was going to be this week’s blog. If you want to read it, go subscribe to my Patreon page. I’ll post it there.

But politics isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. And when it seems that we’re about to forget all the things we need to remember, a teacher shows up in the way of a TV series …or a damaged daughter …or Joel Osteen …or some overgrown bushes. And that teacher reminds us to listen …just listen.

R

To follow my daily blog subscribe to my Patreon site at:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …

I don’t post a lot of my songs here.

I try to reserve this site for blogs and commentary and I don’t like to cross the words. But I’ve been promoting my Patreon site (shamelessly) and I thought I would offer a taste of what I’m doing over there.

I do a daily blog there. I also post personal, inside stuff, no one else in the world gets to see. It’s a bit a “comfort zone” buster for me, because I’m sharing things I wouldn’t normally share. THIS is a prime example:

I finished this song last night. On the site, I go into detail as to how the song came about and why it was written. Hope you enjoy.

If you don’t …let’s just forget this ever happened …

THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS

I SHOULD BE MAKING YOUR HEART SKIP A BEAT

EVERY TIME YOU BREATHE MY NAME

I SHOULD BE MAKING YOU MELT FROM THE HEAT

OF A BURNING LOVER’S FLAME

I SHOULD MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE ALL NIGHT

THEN LOVE ME TENDERLY …

CHO

BUT I’M SHOOTING OUT THE TV SCREENS AT 3 IN THE MORNING

I’M POPPING PILLS AND BUYING CADILLACS WITHOUT A WARNING

I’M KISSING STRANGERS ON THE LIPS

I’VE GOT THE DEVIL IN MY HIPS

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

I SHOULD BE FLASHING YOU A MILLION DOLLAR SMILE

AND SHAKING UP YOUR SOUL

I SHOULD BE MOVING YOU WITH PASSION AND WITH STYLE

AND MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE ROCK AND ROLL

BABY I SHOULD BE A KING FOR YOU

WHO CAN MAKE YOU STILL BELIEVE …

CHO

BUT I’M DOING FAKE KARATE

AND KICKING YES-MAN ASSES

AND HIDING MY EMOTIONS BACK BEHIND THESE DARK SUNGLASSES

I’VE GOT THE COLONEL ON MY BACK

I’M JUST A WALKING HEART ATTACK

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

IT’S ALWAYS THE QUEEN WHO WAITS

BEHIND THOSE PRETTY IRON GATES

THE ONLY ONE WHO’S LONESOME EVERY NIGHT …

CHO

CAUSE I’M GROWING OUT MY SIDEBURNS TO HIDE MY DOUBLE CHIN

AND I’M PISSED OFF AT THE BEATLES AND I TALK TO MY DEAD TWIN

YOU’RE JUST A PRISONER WHILE I PLAY

AND I WON’T LET YOU WALK AWAY

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE REPEAT BUTTON …

THE REPEAT BUTTON …

I thought once we learned it, we knew it.

At least that’s how I understood education in school. Once we learned 2+2 = 4 we didn’t need a refresher course on it. I thought Science and Math and English and Civics were all in the same category of settled truths. And that once we knew it, we knew it.

As it turns out, we have to keep learning things over and over again. And we have to keep hearing them over and over again. And we have to keep experiencing them over and over again. And sometimes we still don’t completely have it …even when we’re old and full of (supposed) knowledge.

I left high school (not college, mind you, HIGH SCHOOL) understanding what the Supreme Court of the United States was supposed to do and what it was NOT supposed to do. I thought everyone knew what it did and did NOT do. And yet, as I age, I realize that most people don’t know a lot of what I left high school assuming everyone knew.

As we stand on the precipice of Donald Trump appointing a yet another new Supreme Court justice, I’m watching people wring their hands and clutch their pearls and writhe in fear and trepidation about what a new justice might mean. And honestly, it doesn’t ring true to me, given what the court is supposed to do …and NOT do.

First of all, let’s define our terms: the Supreme Court does not MAKE laws. Surely, we all understand that. Right? The justices make constitutional judgements on the definitions and applications of laws. But they don’t MAKE laws.

Here’s where it has gotten tricky …they DO establish legal precedent. That means if an action is challenged in a court, there will be a legal precedent from the highest court in the land, upholding a certain decision, and basically backstopping any decision otherwise. However, there is a legal authority higher than the Supreme Court …it’s the constitution. So, if the people decide to add a constitutional amendment that supersedes a previous amendment, the court rulings (using that amendment) will be rendered null and void.

In other words, there were probably dozens of legal cases pre-13th amendment, where one slave-owner had a beef with a different slave-owner about poaching his slaves and what were the legal ramifications of stealing slaves and what laws on the books had precedent over such matters? Well, after the passing and signing of the 13th amendment, none of those cases mattered anymore because slavery ITSELF was illegal. And the PEOPLE decided that …not a court. So, while the court could rule on something related to slavery (see Dred Scott), the court didn’t decide that slaves were free. It took the entire country to do that.

I love our form of government. It’s wonderfully genius in its checks and balances. And if applied correctly, it evenly distributes power in a way that guarantees balance. Now, obviously, it’s not always applied correctly. Plus, it is run by human beings. So there are two strikes against it right there. But the goal of our form of government is to provide equal justice and standing among every individual citizen of the United States. We sometimes forget that that isn’t the goal of much of the rest of the world.

I was recently in a conversation with a young film maker who has been documenting a politician from a third world country. Her big takeaway, so far, is just how insidious and evil communism is and how much life it ends senselessly, in its devouring of power and liberty. And it makes you realize that this elusive “idea” we constantly talk about as America, is a real thing. It’s a real GOOD thing. And it makes you realize how hard we must continually fight to maintain it.

For people on the left, they feel that abortion is one of those inalienable rights that was never really spelled out in the Declaration or the Constitution, but is inherent to keeping women basically, personally free. And so, if they see a Supreme Court nominee who might not be a huge fan of Roe V Wade, they feel like the country, and freedom itself, is moving backwards.

But for some of us, that very notion in and of itself, maybe the problem. The fact that we’ve never truly had a national conversation about abortion, but rather, one side won ONE court case, is the nagging problem. And that case was essentially decided by 5 people. The fact that five (5) people made a decision and handed down a decree to three hundred million people, runs almost counter to what this country was founded on.

The fact is, we don’t have any national abortion laws. We have a lot of state laws, but there is no overarching national law governing the act of abortion. What we have is a Supreme Court ruling. And we’ve used that legal precedent as makeshift law. We’ve done the same thing with several other rulings through the years. And when people talk about “activist” judges, they are referring to judges who overstep their boundaries as judge and decide to set precedent in lieu of non-existing law …essentially creating law from the bench.

Let’s calm the air a bit and understand that even if ALL nine judges on the Supreme Court disagree with Roe V Wade, they can’t just decide to overturn it by themselves. A case would have to be brought forward that relates to it. And even if that happened and it did get overturned, it wouldn’t necessarily make abortion illegal. Because, as I said, there are no national abortion laws on the books. There is certainly nothing specific about it in the Constitution (although people cite the fourth amendment and privacy).

But if your life is completely tied to government and what it does, you will constantly be biting your nails over a Supreme Court nominee. I suppose I understand that. The profession I have been in for the last 28 years, has always been completely tied to the government and its actions. And let me say, I’ve hated every single piece of that. It has caused me (and my family) pain and suffering in ways you cannot understand unless you’re directly dealing with it.

Because of this, I always wonder why people want more government in their lives. I wonder why they want to be at the mercy of courts and justice nominees and elections and decisions by elected officials. Because hanging by the thread of a court case is a dicey proposition. If the freed slaves had been constantly worrying about presidential elections and court appointments, to know if they were going to be slaves next year, that wouldn’t have been justice. And it wouldn’t have been American.

That’s why it is so important for citizens to be informed and involved. And it’s important for them to understand what all the branches of the government do. That’s why we teach that stuff in high school and that’s why it’s important to learn it.

The problem is, we seem to have to keep learning it over and over again.

R

If you want to follow my daily blog, as well as personal, inside stuff, click here and take the journey with me:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE BREAK-UP LETTER …

It’s not the amber waves of grain or purple mountains’ majesty.

It’s certainly not the rocket’s red glare or bombs bursting in …well …you know. It’s not even the free market or diversity or apple pie or fireworks or the Grand Canyon or the heartland or even the military (as much as I love them). And I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that it isn’t even the beloved and genius Constitution.

No, the one thing that is the foundational tone-setter for what would become The United States of America (at least, in my opinion) is the Declaration of Independence.

Before anybody won a battle; before anybody ran for president; before anybody pledged allegiance (or took a knee), somebody decided to write something down that had never been written down. It was something you dare not utter and was only spoken of in hushed tones, under baited breath. It was an idea that had been formulating for centuries and was waiting on JUST the right moment to present itself.

It had cousins and predecessors. But it hadn’t found the precise historical context in which to be born. The Greeks and Romans had theorized about it. Barbarian warriors had fought for something they thought of as close to it. The Ottomans and Africans and Indians and Asians had all formulated classes and castes and tribes that provided some semblance of it, for some people, in some places on the globe. But no one had established a base-line for human rights; a written, governing principle to which future generations could aspire.

The Declaration of Independence was quite possibly the biggest gamble in the history of the world, up to that point. The story of the American Revolution is often portrayed as David and Goliath struggle between a rag-tag band of marauding rebels pitted against red coated soldiers who were too well-trained in “proper battle” for their own good. And part of that is certainly true. But the American colonials didn’t just rise up and throw tea into a harbor and bitch about taxes and prance about in powder wigs, dancing to harpsichord music. Issuing a secession letter to the King of the world – basically breaking up with the most powerful nation on earth – was nothing short of insanity.

Doing something like was considered sedition. But the Declaration made it a righteous battle. Those words were a line of demarcation. They set down a marker, stating, “if we win this …nothing after it will ever be the same. This is the line in the sand between Monarchy and birthright …and self-determination; between what someone else decides for the most average human …and what that human decides for himself; between being loyal to a crown and a ruling class …and being loyal to one’s own convictions.”

No one had ever guaranteed the right to literally “pursue happiness” in writing before. No one had dared declare that all men were created equal. And no one had ever ventured to stand up and tell their rulers, “no thanks …we’ll govern ourselves. It’s been fun.”

The Declaration of Independence separates the American experiment from all other forms of freedom fighting. It told the greatest Empire in history, exactly what it wanted. It gave its composer and co-conspirators no way out but victory. And it sent a signal to the world; if you want something, put it in writing …and sign it in blood.

The Declaration teaches us, if you’re not willing to document and declare your intentions, whatever freedom you gain will be cheap.

Obviously, the Declaration was incomplete on the day of its signing. It would be decades before slaves were free and women voted. But that document was the largest step in the direction of personal liberty, the world had ever seen to that point. And if the Revolution had not been won, who knows how long it would’ve taken for its principles to be re-discovered and re-written …and re-lived?

In the course of human events, the Declaration of Independence is a miracle. And its legacy grows stronger and stronger with each new person who shows up under their inalienable right to live. The children of the Declaration still fight over rights and freedoms, over two-hundred and forty-some-odd years later. That spark, of declaring to the world what you will and won’t do, is a raging fire that will most likely never extinguish.

With all the problems we have in our country, I like to remember, on July 4th, why all this craziness started in the first place. It was an idea. And it was a damn good one. Somebody took the time to write it down …and make copies. And it caught on.

The tiny penmanship and eighteenth century language are weird for us to relate to, today. July 4th is a day off and a good time behind the grill or on the water.

But I personally like to take a few minutes of the day and imagine a sweaty, thirty-five-year-old rebel, sending a “come-to-Jesus” note to the most powerful man on earth. I like to imagine a smirk and a sip of wine when he was proofing it. I like to image fifty-six dudes signing it and someone looking at the guy next to him and saying, “that’s it …send it.” I like to imagine the adrenaline that must’ve raced through their bodies as they watched it being couriered away …sealing their collective fates forever. I like to imagine what they thought they were starting …or ending.

And when I do that, I don’t hate my fellow Americans so much with whom I disagree. We’re all just rowdy children of that insane break-up letter. And we won’t be told what to do.

And as we watch the fireworks and eat the hot dogs, I like to remember that we all carry a copy of that parchment in our pockets …whether we know it or not.

R

If you want to follow me daily, subscribe to my Patreon site:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

Daily Blog …

For those of you who follow this weekly blog, I wanted to update you on my Patreon site. Patreon is my paid subscription site, where I post daily blogs and updates. I share private thoughts and go a little deeper into what I’m thinking and how I arrive at the final idea and piece that goes live every Wednesday

Patreon members hear songs I’ve written and get glimpses into my new books or films in progress. My newest novel, 8 Rules, is posted there now, as well as a couple of excerpts from the screenplay version of Angels and Idols.

I don’t advertise on this blog site, so the Patreon page is how I offset the costs of focussing on this work. I really appreciate everyone’s support and willingness to join up and be a part of the journey with me. It has been completely humbling.

If you’re interested in joining, you can go here:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

The minimum monthly fee is $1.00. But feel free to follow your heart in that regard.

Thank you again for reading and listening. I never take your time lightly and I promise to NEVER waste it.

Ok, friends …that’s enough commerce for the day. I’ll either see you Wednesday …or I’ll see you EVERYDAY on Patreon!

 

R

UNSAID …

All marriage counselors tell you to never cross that line.

Every married couple knows where that line is. It’s the point of no return …the thing you cannot UN-say. Once you have shared enough of your soul with another person, they know where your weak spots and painful places are. And as married people, we have a sacred duty to each other, to never go near those places.

If you know your spouse has a horrible body image and has battled that her entire life, you NEVER say anything about her weight …even if she’s struggling with it. In fact, ESPECIALLY when she’s struggling with it. If that is her issue, your saying, “you know, it wouldn’t hurt you to lose a few pounds,” is shattering trust you might not ever get back. They are only words and there are only a few of them. But they represent something deep and meaningful to her. They represent all of the people in her life who made fun of her in middle school. They represent the insecurity of being loved conditionally. They represent that mountain she has to climb Every. Single. Day. They represent YOUR attitude toward what is important to YOU …about HER.

Now, for the rest of your relationship, even if you say, “you know I was only kidding,” or “I was just young and stupid. What did I know?” it won’t matter. She knows something about you now, she can’t un-know. She knows something about your character and how you view women, that she can’t put out of her mind. And you can’t blame her for thinking of you a certain way …forever. Because no matter how much you change (or try to), that little reminder will always be back there: “He values looks over soul” or “If I don’t look as good as the younger girls, he’s going to leave me for one of them.”

Those precocious few words have shaken your relationship to its core.

This works in reverse for men, as well. If you ever laugh at a man’s dream or tell him, “whatever” at JUST the wrong time, he will never be able to un-hear that. He’ll always know you don’t really believe in him or his ideas …not really. And no matter how much you try to make up for it, for the rest of your life, he’ll always have that little seed of doubt, “I wonder if she’s just saying this to make me feel better?”

And let’s not even TALK about what happens to a man’s confidence, if you ever say something like “size DOES matter” or something like that …not that I would know …anyway …I digress. Let’s talk about something else!

 

This concept is true of all relationships. The fact is, humans are messy. And if enough painful truths get spoken, sometimes the truths just pile up too high to look past.

We have this dynamic playing out in our nation as a whole, right now …

The United States is an experiment in tolerance and the acceptance of others. But since its founding, we have pushed the absolute limits of this notion. At one point in our history, the truths stacked up so high we slaughtered ourselves to the tune of over 600-thousand soldiers. And even now, over 150 years later, those scars haven’t completely healed …

When a black person sees a confederate flag on display, they don’t have the same “heritage-not-hate” affinity for it someone else might have. They don’t just see pride in birthplace or respect for the fallen. They hear words that cannot be unsaid. They hear, “We may have lost. We may have even been wrong about some things. But we will never stop believing you are inferior.” And no matter how hard you try to explain otherwise to your African-American friends …they won’t accept it fully. They can’t. The scars run too deep. And they now know something about you they cannot un-know. And that keeps mistrust and skepticism alive.

Conversely, when you take a knee at a football game, you have said to the American people, “I couldn’t care less about this flag or this country. You’re all a bunch of racists. I just want to take as much money from this game and these stupid fans as I can.” You can throw your back out, making excuses for what “taking a knee” really means and you can dress it up in “reverence” or even just cling to the first amendment. But you’ve said something that cannot be unsaid. People now know how you really feel about them and the country. And THAT is why they’re not watching your sport anymore. The “new rules” imposed by the NFL won’t really matter. You’ve said it. You’ve done it. They heard it and saw it. And they can’t un-hear or un-see it.

Roseanne Barr is on a crying and apologizing tour for what she tweeted. And she wants us to forgive her. And we probably will. But the problem is, we all know what was (and is) in her heart. Of course she’s sorry. She’s lost everything. Anyone would be sorry. But she wrote something we cannot un-read. Peter Fonda did the same thing. No matter how much he apologizes, it simply doesn’t matter. We now know that somewhere deep in his heart, he has a place where child rape is acceptable …as long as it punishes the right person. And he can’t un-say it …and we can’t un-know it.

All across the political spectrum we are saying and hearing things we cannot un-say or un-see. Even our own president tweets and says things he cannot take back …all the time. And that seems to give everyone permission to up the ante.

I have re-thought friendships and working relationships, based on some things I’ve read and heard, that I cannot un-read or un-hear. I’ll bet you have too. How many times have you seen a post and said to yourself, “Oh my LORD! She (or he) actually THINKS that?” How many times have people said that about you?

I don’t know if our country is headed for another Civil War, but we ARE saying and doing things we cannot take back. I heard that some people were apparently “going low,” so some other people said they were going to respond by “going high.” But no one is going high. Literally ZERO people are going high. And because of it, we are re-defining our national relationship with one another. I know I’ll never listen to Kathy Griffin’s comedy the same way, if at all. I’ll never watch another Robert DeNiro movie with the same suspension of disbelief. If I ever meet Roseanne, I’ll be nice and offer her every kindness I would offer anyone else …but I’ll know something about her I cannot un-know. And it will bother me.

On the bright side, I now know something about Chris Pratt I’m glad I can’t un-know. Even if he goes off the deep-end and starts snorting coke off of super models’ belly buttons, after watching his acceptance speech (at that award show I cannot remember the name of), we all know his capability for refracting light and love. It’s in there and we know it is. And that’s the part we should probably focus on …the GOOD things we can’t un-know about each other.

I hope for this. I hope we can hear more blessings we cannot un-hear or see more heroic actions we cannot un-see or learn more good things about people that we cannot forget. Because the truths stack up. And some truths I just don’t want to know. Some truths I can’t know without adjusting accordingly. That’s why sometimes, not knowing might be better. Because once you know …you know forever.

R

THE BABIES, THE BELIEVERS, AND THE BIRD FLU …

Oprah told us it was the most important story on the planet.

I distinctly remember that phrase because I thought to myself, “Wow! That’s a big statement. She’ll probably do a whole month of shows on this.” Nope. That was the only show on it. One of the shows that followed it was the interview with Tom Cruise where he jumped up on the couch, and professed his love for some woman …I can’t remember her name. No follow-up show was ever done …on the most important story on the planet.

My point? The Bird Flu story was, indeed, NOT the most important story on the planet. In fact, nobody even remembers it, now. But we got awfully emotional over it for a while. We hugged our kids tighter and worried for our collective futures. After all …the Bush administration wasn’t doing ANYTHING to stop the Bird Flu. And that was borderline criminally negligent, given the circumstances.

The outrage over the Bird Flu was a classic case of drumming up something over which people could get angry and mobilized. Nothing more. The truth is none of us really knew anything about the Bird Flu. OPRAH didn’t know anything about the Bird Flu. The Bird Flu wasn’t any more of a threat than any other flu. But it pitted the sides against each other perfectly …for a few minutes. And sometimes, a few minutes is all you need.

Right now, the current outrage is the children being ripped out of their parents’ arms, on the southern border. My God! I am heartbroken! Okay, maybe not dramatically heartbroken …But I’m interested …let’s put it that way. How can I be so cruel and unfeeling? Because truthfully, I don’t really know what’s going on down there. And truthfully …neither do you.

I’m not as interested in the laws or the Trump policy or, believe it or not, what’s actually happening on the southern border, as I am in the responses to it. As I understand this situation, illegal alien parents, and their innocent children, are being processed separately, when they attempt to come into the country without documentation or a Visa or a passport or a work permit. Is the United States handling this the best way it could be handling it? I have no idea. Maybe not. Or maybe it’s doing an incredible job, given the circumstances. I honestly don’t know. And again …neither do you.

But the hand wringing and cyber tears and cries from the souls of those who just know “this is not US!” is what I’m focussed on. See, if Americans were really incensed about children being torn away from their parents, they would be out in force at every custody hearing, in every courthouse in America. Children are systematically ripped away from dads in this country every second, of every minute of every hour of every day. We’re pretty okay with babies crying for daddy and being taken away from him. Hey, just because he’s out of work or an alcoholic or he cheated on mom or he occasionally loses his temper and hits mom …should those things make a difference? I mean we’re talking about taking kids away from a parent. Right?

What about when mom is on crack and a baby is taken away from her and put into the system? Shouldn’t we get nauseous over that? Okay …maybe that’s a bad example. How bout this? How about when a girl gives a baby up for adoption in …oh …I dunno …Florida, let’s say. In Florida, a birth mother has thirty days to change her mind about giving up her child. So, are there cameras there on day 28, when a baby is ripped from its adoptive mother’s arms and given back to birth mom, who now thinks she can kick heroin once and for all? Do these people nearly faint with indignation then?

The United States government takes children away from parents EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, for any number of reasons and any number of existing laws. Right now, one of those reasons happens to be trying to enter the country illegally. Would I do it that way? I don’t know. I’m not privy to all the facts. Maybe I would or maybe I wouldn’t. Again, that’s not really the point.

What I DO know is my fingerprints and personality profile are on file at the FBI. If I screw up a little too badly, the United States can walk into my house and remove my adopted children without so much as a “nice kitchen.” They told us as much back when we were being processed. I would only hope all the protesters would come to my defense and help me get my kids back. But if Trump was doing something else someone decided to hate, I doubt they would bother.

The problem with a situation like this is that it’s a flashpoint for everyone’s political ire. And that makes it all worse.

And it doesn’t help when our stupid attorney General (who should be fired for a myriad of reasons, by the way) starts quoting scripture in defense of the most damning photo campaign since Abu Ghraib. Stop using Jesus for either side of this. Jesus didn’t work for the government and he didn’t have to deal with eighty thousand illegal border crossings.

This is a processing issue. Period. It’s not a referendum on anyone’s faith or lack thereof. If I hear one more person tell me how a “real Christian” should feel or think about this, I’m going to surf internet porn and drink whiskey and play my rock and roll records backwards until the evil spirits overtake me. I don’t care about how you think I should feel. I don’t care what you think Jesus would do. I don’t care how horrible you think Donald Trump is. The bottom line is YOU don’t really care about families getting torn apart anymore than Republicans care about terminally ill people being forced off of life support. You just need to feel like you’re on the side of the angels. You just need to feel like you’re outraged by the right thing.

If you are seriously crying and having a hard time eating, go to the border and offer to take in a child. Sponsor a family to come here legally. Lobby for laws in your state that shrink grace periods for birth mothers. That’s what I do. See, I actually know kids who were ripped out of homes. I know adoptive parents who’s babies were born and then the birth mothers skipped town the day after they held their children for the first time. Those aren’t just pictures to me. I know what it means. The difference is, those children on the border will most likely be reunited with their parents once the processing is over. It’s temporary. The stories I’m talking about are permanent. And no protestors marched for those families. because they weren’t a cause de jour, and they weren’t simple scenarios to direct outrage toward. They were complicated matters, just like I’m sure a lot of these cases on the border are.

If children remaining with families is your real passion, get involved right in your city …right now. Otherwise, this is just another reason for you to either defend Trump or hate Trump and these kids are nothing more than your own personal soap box to stand on. And next week, they will be discarded, because there will be a different outrage. And we will have all moved on.

And all of this urgency will vanish into the same place every other news story vanishes into …the hole where the Bird Flu lives.

R

 

If you want to follow my blog daily, join my Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger