My Gratitude List
Space Between the Neurons (Installation # 0.73)
Once a month I like to have a short drink, (my days of long drinks are long over), and pick an argument with some left wing liberals. It’s not hard to do, you don’t even have to speak. Just form your lips in the right shape as if you’re going to say the name ‘Trump’ and bingo, regardless of your political leanings, they’re on you screaming ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and ‘patriarchy’ like graft on a Clinton. Just when I thought political correctness was the worst of our problems EPD pops up. Extreme Political Devisivness, an apparent side effect of TDS which has now appeared to spread to other countries.
Such is the state of the American empire.
Like it or not America is the current ruling empire. Before them were the Brits who came after the Romans and before them the Greeks and going back before even Bernie Sanders was born were the Babylonians. In between were a bunch of little empirettes like the Goth Empire, the Franconian Empire and the unforgettable Boardwalk Empire.
Each successive empire has advanced civilization by giving us something and with the exception of politics and religion things seem to be progressing quite swimmingly for Mankind in general.
If you disagree and you’re a doom & gloomer thinking that it’s all one big pile of shit, the ice caps are melting, the oceans are rising, pollution is out of control and we’re all doomed to a horrible fiery end, then sit down, have a drink and a joint and lighten up.
Or just get it over with, kill yourself and spare the rest of us. Just please don’t make a mess.
Contrary to the doom & gloomers, Mankind is making progress.
Any and all social progress is rooted in custom and tradition which give stability to any society and the Americans, for example, have a very nice tradition. Once a year on the last Thursday of November they celebrate their Thanksgiving Day. It is a time when they give thanks for all the fortunate events in their lives. Gratitude for their health, gratitude for their families, their fortunes and gratitude for the little things like not having to suffer another Simon Cowell induced boy band.
The reality of life on earth is that Western society is at its most advanced stage in the 2+ million years since the first hominids and certainly in the 12-15,000 years since there has been any semblance of civilization.
I don’t consider myself one of those people who bitches about life in general, it’s counterproductive. I’m especially not the kind of guy who bitches about being born in the wrong time. I was born at exactly the right time. The exact right time I was supposed to be born in – smack in the middle of the Twentieth Century. Right when things were really starting to rock.
Think what you had to do a mere 100 years ago just to get a drink of water or use a toilet and what you have to do today. You’ve probably got a plastic bottle of water in arms reach right now.
The discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel and the internal combustion engine are important mile stones but few match the achievement of the period between the first successful powered flight in 1903 to putting a man in space in 1961, a mere half century later. And now the first moon colony is underway in conjunction with a planned Mars landing in 2024. And people of my generation are still around! We’re like a bad habit- hard to get rid of.
I don’t believe in miracles but if anything was going to change my mind, developing the ability in that short span of time to get to leave the ground and reach space . . . that’s impressive!
That and every time I see Gal Gadot in that Wonder Woman costume!
After interviewing dozens of survivors who lived through some historically significant shindigs, to gather material for my novels, I’m glad I missed all of those quaint little get-togethers: World Wars, world-wide recessions and famines. I often think about what wasn’t happening in my life time such as a world war, a plague or an unexpected Spanish Inquisition.
Then again, no one ever expects a Spanish Inquisition.
In short there’s been nothing to compete with the transition from the late Industrial Age to the early Space Age, and for being around for this I am eternally grateful.
Additionally, by the time I buy the farm and check out, we will have returned to the moon, taken the next steps to colonizing Mars making us a multi-planet species and likely found a cure for out-of-control liberalism.
I mean guys really? Men competing in women’s sports? Men having babies? Really? What’s next? The earth is flat, NASA’s moon landing was a hoax and there’s a big hairy thing running around the forests of North Am . . . oh wait. Never mind.
Of course we are still no closer to a cure for cancer though. But then again, it is such a profitable research opportunity.
In the arts I’ve witnessed the transition of Jazz into the birth of Rock N’ Roll, Motown, Punk, New Wave and whatever it is they are passing off as Pop these days.
D.J.’s getting Grammys?
Through my parents I’ve learned about and enjoy Big Band music like Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey and have been to a concert by the Glenn Miller Band, seen Gene Kruper and saw the Andrew Sisters perform on Broadway, Steppenwolf at Carnegie Hall and the Police in Pittsburgh.
I saw music lose its way in the Nineties then find its way back with innovations like Blue Man Group, Patti Smith and still follow the ongoing 60 year marathon of The Rolling Stones.
Pardon me while I bow my head in a moment of silent reverence.
“We pray to you oh Saint Mick that the gods of Rock keep and protect you and yours for . . .” Oh, apologies. I live in a hotel and Sympathy for the Devil just came on over the P.A.
I had the good fortune to see Kraftwerk do Autobahn in Frankfurt in ’74 and spawn the birth of techno. I was living in New York City when the Marxist Revival in the arts hit earlier in the Seventies, enjoyed the renovation of Techno in the Eighties, the Punk movement and the New Wave movement out in L.A. later in the decade. Then the evolution of Metal, which now has about 27 sub genre.
p.s.-Dear young ones; Led Zeppelin is not Metal!
In the 60’s Catch-22 and all of Vonnegut’s early works, which were directly responsible for revolutionizing campus lit courses across the western world were assigned us as freshman Lit students.
Through shear dumb luck I’ve gotten to attend premiers and first runs of The Exorcist in New York, The Big Chill in L.A. and The Shopaholic in Dublin, where nearly the entire female audience, save for me and one producer, (the only two males in the audience), all left at the break despite the free wine and cheese.
Sorry Isla. Love you but the film sucked.
The tech developments in cinema of 3D, Steadicams and digital recording were all big news if you followed film. Not all of the tech gadgets worked out though. Brainstorms like Smell-O-Vision which made some theatre goers sick and Sensesurround which was a thrilling experience in films like Midawy, but was most effective when Charlton Heston starred in Earthquake. When that film was shown in L.A. and when the first quake scene hit the screen pieces of plaster started falling off the walls and locales ran out of the cinema screaming.
As is the custom in America some tried to sue.
Through stars in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey I was able to later write for film magazines.
Unless I pen a twenty-seven volume series of 1,000 page books there’s no way to list all the scientific achievements I’ve been privileged to witness in my life time. But here are some off-the-top-of-my-head, chart toppers my sober, partially recovered brain highlights.
From Sputnik being launched into what seemed the outer reaches of space and the moon landing which followed a decade later to the bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960 diving to the depths of the Marianas Trench and the crazy life forms found there which ‘scientists’ laughed at when Beebe & Barton first reported their existence.
From the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson & Crick in 1953 to Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s first successful heart transplant in 1967 and to the development of the NMR machine ten years later which has saved countless thousands of lives.
From the first photograph of a hydrogen atom to the building of the Cern Collider and the discovery and proof of gravitational waves, the last piece of Einstein’s astrophysical puzzle proving the universe we live in is a matrix.
To the deepest reaches of the known universe billions of years in the past as seen after the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope & observatory. The HST out in space, not the spaced out HST in Colorado, although him and his creation of Gonzo journalism and gifts to literature are also invaluable.
All of this accomplished in my life time when a mere decade and a half before my birth the entire world thought the Milky Way was the only galaxy in the universe!
I remember living these events through radio and TV and by reading the newspaper headlines as they happened back in a time before profit motivated, corporate TV news stations climbed out of the slime and back when news outlets were staffed by actual ‘reporters’. Reporters – those are people relaying the facts of world-wide events devoid of self-promoting, political agendas.
Concerning the other thing we’re not supposed to talk about besides politics: Religion; A glimmer of hope which gives me faith in mankind is when I observe the inevitable evaporation of organized religion. Religion still is and will remain for some time to come necessary to modern civilization, however, it will not ‘always be’, that is, it will not endure forever.
Naturally, having said all this, it hasn’t all been cute little birdies, butterflies and baby fawns romping through a lush forest on a sunny Spring day.
I clearly remember the air raid sirens every day at noon to signal the ‘Duck and Cover’ drills back in grammar school when we were certain the nuclear attack would happen any day now and the only way to survive the raging fires of the inevitable nuclear inferno was to hide under your wooden desk. Because we all know that a one inch thick, oak desk will protect against a nuclear fire ball.
Living through the Kennedy Assassination followed by the MLK and RFK encores showed me no one is safe from crazed, political or religiously motivated lunatics.
I had the misfortune to be in Munich at the 1972 Olympic Games when a gang of crazed terrorists attacked and butchered the only people deranged jihadists still attack today – unarmed, non-combatant civilians. Real brave guys those jihadists. I’d like to be a fly on the wall when they get to their paradise and discover that their 72 virgins are all men. Or better yet, gay.
It was at the start of that trip from Keflavik to Munich that perhaps the gods of travel were trying to tell me something. The hatch of the C-130 we were flying in fell off shortly after take-off. You know, as C-130 hatches tend to do. We returned to the airfield without incident.
A few months later back in Iceland at the airbase where I was stationed I was caught up in the eruption of the Heimaey volcano. Which wasn’t as bad as the earthquakes we thrilled to in that country on a fairly regular basis.
Incidentally, there’s a couple of experiences you should opt out of if you get the chance, earthquakes and volcanoes.
I was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida when Hurricane Eloise hit in 1975. A Cat 3 with winds at 125 mph, (202 kph), which was out matched in my experience only by the ice storm of ’73 in Keflavik Iceland where winds hit 175 mph, (283 kph), and cars and Dempsey Dumpsters left trails of rubbish as they strolled down the streets.
I was with a date in the museum of Modern Art when in March of ’74 a crazed Iranian attacked Picasso’s painting Guérinica and defaced it with spray paint. Fortunately, thanks to the professional competency of the museum staff, the work was almost immediately restored.
When I worked as a graphic artist I got to meet George Segal the sculptor when I was attending the Kent State University Annex in Ohio when he was commissioned to do the memorial for the Kent State Massacre.
He sculpted a life-sized bronze of the biblical Abraham about to sacrifice his son for his god. When finished the statue was rejected by the Kent State University board as being “inappropriate” because it was “too violent”. I guess the school board didn’t think soldiers shooting unarmed students with high powered weapons going to class was very violent.
Segal’s statue now stands on the campus of Princeton University.
In ’72 Michelangelo’s la Pieta was attacked with hammer by another brainless religious fanatic and was saved. To my knowledge it is now still on display but is glassed in.
I recall the world-wide hub bub when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, repaired and, following much international controversy, protests and political wrangling allowed to be viewed and disseminated/toured around the world.
I clearly recall “Black Monday” in September of 1977 when the entire Steel Valley industry of Ohio and Pennsylvania, starting in Youngstown, Ohio, collapsed. With the immediate loss of 5,000 jobs almost instantly followed by another 40,000. Driving across Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York to visit my brother I witnessed thousands of formerly prosperous, hard working men lined up with their families around the block to apply for unemployment, welfare and handouts.
Years later in 1986 I was two blocks away in Stockholm, Sweden when yet another crazed madman shot and killed Prime Minister Olof Palme.
I witnessed the development of and consequent abandonment of the STS aircraft. Commonly known as the Concorde. It was so fast, (2,124 kph or 1,334 mph), it allowed passengers to take off from New York City and land in Paris, France fifteen minutes before they left New York.
Wrap your head around that my little druggies!
I could never afford to ride the Concorde but a NYC business friend flew on it to Paris after dropping some purple micro dot. Took him a week before he was able to correctly read a clock again.
Most parents, certainly my parents and all parents I have ever encountered, ask the question, “Did I do a good job raising my kids?” Before I ever dreamt of asking that question my kids answered it for me. And they answered it the best way you could have answered any question, not with words but by deeds.
My kids get the likes of Patti Smith and the Stones. They speak languages and play music. They giggle at left wing liberals, are both scientifically literate and are unencumbered by any vestiges of any of the Iron Age war gods or demons I was raised with.
To grow up with the threat of eternal damnation as a consequence of a sin you were told you were born with is some scary shit.
“Why God be fuckin’ wit me, man?!” – Anonymous.
If you have to ask how any of this applies, you better recheck your relationship with your kids.
Hiking through the Arctic, jumping out of airplanes or diving the depths of the Pacific and orbiting the earth may be a great thrill, but not as great as my kids, teaching me shit like how to make Thai food, American styled pancakes or chocolate layer cake or turning me on to new shit like the things that ‘The Kids’ are into now days, a term which if you use it answers once and for all the question as to whether or not you’re old!
My parents were salt of the earth, old school honest and worked like mules to support all eleven of us. But by their mid-fifties they withdrew from society. I called it ‘getting off the train’. I will never get off the train. With the ridiculously endless multitude of shit out there to see, discover and experience, why would you ever want to get off the train?!
An old Moroccan guy once told me: “Travel and you will know why things are as they are.” That old guy was dead balls on.
Get out of your own back yard for its only when you travel and engage that you can have these experiences and thus really fulfil your life.
There’s a good thousand or so more things I’d like to write about but tempus fugit, (which roughly translate to: time be flyin’ n’ shit), so . . .
So Paddy, what’s your point?
My point is that, other than when we’re on our death bed trying to remember if we did more good shit than bad shit right before we settle the eternal argument; is there a god or not, we all need to occasionally be reminded of the bigger picture.
So next time you’ve finished all your work for the day, or if you’ve decided to say the hell with all your work for the day and have a boint, (that’s a beer topped off with a joint), set some time aside and decide what you’re grateful for.
The answer might fill in some blanks for you.
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