Looking forward to a long and relaxing Fourth of July weekend coming up.
There will be much barbecue cooked and consumed, much loud music listened to, many alcoholic beverages consumed, much revelry had. And somewhere in there, we will remember to be briefly thankful, too, for the place where we will be celebrating. We will feel a little self-righteous and haughty for a bit, us Americans … laughing at the whole Brexit brouhaha, forgetting entirely for a few minutes what our own recent long and arduous (and boring, and demeaning) political primary process has produced, Presidential candidate-wise.
Yes, we’ll be loud and jingoistic and, to people not lucky enough to be us, perhaps a bit ugly for a little while this weekend. But it is also more than that. Underneath all the the noise and celebrating and bonhomie, I will remember to be quietly glad for much more. I will be happy for what else I have found here, where I have found myself. Very happy indeed.
BEING ABRAHAM MASLOW
As part of my ongoing quest for self-actualization, I am taking an honest assessment of myself. There doesn’t seem to be any point to it, other than embarrassment. But, here goes.
1.) I am not particularly religious, but there are a half-dozen or so TV clergy I will go to some lengths to not miss their shows; everything from Catholic priests to some guys of whom I have no real idea what denomination they represent. There was even a rabbi-for-Jesus guy I liked to watch (I think he died a few years ago.) I don’t know the reasons behind this, except I am certain it is not some wayward search for spiritual truth (which is what my family thinks.) At any rate, I find these guys more entertaining than 99% of what passes for prime time on the networks.
2.) I don’t eat sushi or steak tartar, but I went through a phase as a child where I really liked raw bacon. My mother nearly went crazy over this; she told me I would get trichinosis (which is some kind of worm, I believe she said.) So I had to sneak the bacon. You haven’t known shame until you have been caught red-handed, or rather greasy-handed, sneaking a strip of raw Hormel out of the ice box.
3.) Since I was a kid, whenever I mow the yard I sometimes absentmindedly create vaguely geometric shapes. The shapes kind of look like crop circles sometimes. When I notice them, I never have any conscious recollection of having made them. Some have said this is proof I have some kind of connection to the Knights Templar and/or ancient aliens. Perhaps. I should add I sometimes mix alcohol with yard work.
4.) I haven’t seen any ghosts, and I don’t really believe in that paranormal stuff. I did see my doppelgänger once; Webster’s defines doppelgänger as “a spiritual wraith, one’s own ghost,” which is pretty accurate, I would say. But I’ve told the doppelgänger story previously … We won’t even talk about the time I tripped over a screaming banshee while running through my back yard one night (I was trying escape a vicious hobgoblin that was chasing me through the neighborhood) . . . (Note: A screaming banshee should not be confused with the screaming meemies, which are an entirely different thing – Eds.)
5.) I am haunted by plenty of live people, but no dead ones, as far as I know.
6.) I have a friend who is afflicted with a malady called tone-color synesthesia; basically, whenever he hears music, he sees kaleidoscopic colors floating around in front of him. As afflictions go, that one doesn’t seem so bad. Anyway, I don’t have tone-color synesthesia, but music definitely affects me more than it should. I have at various times based my entire lifestyle on certain music I liked. I have made long-term romantic decisions based on what a girl would or wouldn’t tolerate on my stereo. I once got a speeding ticket (88 in a 55, on Highway 69 in Lumberton) because a song I really liked came on the radio (“Under Pressure” – ZZ Top.) When it got to the part about, “She likes cocaine/And making it with Great Danes,” it made me feel so good I just stomped on the gas — I never saw the DPS trooper with his radar gun, until it was too late. Even now, certain songs cause me to “zone out” — basically, to slip into another dimension; so that I may be sitting there right in front of you, but I’m not really there. This often happens at the least socially appropriate times.
7.) I was once loosely affiliated with a group that called itself the Cult of Nines. This was in college. The rather pretentious title was a philosophical conceit – it had nothing to do with religion. Basically, our group’s philosophy was to strive to always fall just short of some ideal – make a 99 on a test (instead of 100), give 99% effort, hit .299 for the season, and so on. Some of us believed our obsession with this was caused by overexposure to modern commerce and the practice of price-pointing, where everything in a store is $2.99 or $5.99 or whatever. Instead of just making it an even $3.00 or $6.00, so now everyone’s got a fucking dresser drawer full of pennies at home.
8.) I once started my own religion – Apostrophism – which was based on a giant lighted apostrophe I stole off the side of a building occupied by a Wilson’s department store. I hooked that illuminated punctuation mark up in my apartment, and I had my own set of commandments and everything. But I won’t go into that right now.
Otherwise, I feel that I am basically normal.
Dusk was approaching, and the evening air was cool, dry, and comfortable. I was sitting on the deck in the backyard of my house, post-cookout, savoring maybe my fourth or seventh 16 oz. Miller Lite of the day. Who knows? I don’t usually count.
I’d been on a serious ‘Stones kick, and I had the Let It Bleed LP playing over the outdoor speakers, pretty damn loud, too. As Keith Richards launched into the searing, apocalyptic opening chord progression of “Gimme Shelter”, I had a shiver run all the way through me. It wasn’t the weather that gave me goose bumps. I looked up and saw my next door neighbor, Ted, sitting in an adjacent lawn chair, a beer in his hands, his eyes closed and his head nodding slightly, to the music. He was smiling.
In the whole great universe, there are many wonderful things to see. I was thinking about that, sitting there rocking to the music, and I’d closed my eyes now, too …
I imagined a vivid image taken from outer space, from the kind of spy satellite that can take vivid pictures of the minutest details of things down on the earth. For some reason, on this day, out of all the awesome things on the planet they could zoom in on and look at, the guys operating the satellite decided to zoom in on my postage stamp-sized backyard, in the tree-lined West End of Beaumont, near the Gulf of Mexico, in Southeast Texas.
And what they saw, in vivid detail, was two middle-aged guys sitting in lawn chairs, beers in hand, eyes closed and heads bobbing in rhythm to something, some type of music, it seemed. It was probably the least important thing going on, on the entire planet at that moment. Seriously, the satellite guys should have been looking for nuclear plants in Iran, or Al Qaeda camps in the Sudan, or something. Somehow, though, they found the sight of these two guys in lawn chairs, perfectly at peace … with the weather, with their lives, with their beers, and with whatever the hell music it was they were listening to … they found the sight of Ted and I so compelling for some reason that they couldn’t pan away, while meanwhile trucks full of weapons grade plutonium were rolling across the desert, just north of Tehran.
People are forever seeking inner peace; and they’ll climb to the mountaintop, move to the desert, blast themselves out and up amongst the stars, just trying to find it. And good luck to them, too.
It is just that some of us have found that sometimes you don’t have to go very far to find inner peace. Sometimes it comes among the simplest details, in the most mundane surroundings. Not a breathtaking vista of the Himalayas, not the austere, terrible beauty in the heart of the Sahara, or the Gobi … sometimes you can find your peace right where you live, in the smallest events, in the simplest details.
The reason I shivered at the beginning of “Gimme Shelter” is because the perhaps unlikely combination of 60 degree weather, and Keith Richards playing lead guitar on one of the best songs ever written by anyone, and Miller Lite, and my friend Ted, brought to me a profound feeling of well-being and peace, right there on my 10 x 10 deck in my small backyard in the wild West End, Beaumont, TX, USA, Planet Earth, Milky Way, Universe, 77707. I didn’t need Sherpa’s or a Land Rover or a Saturn 5 rocket to find it. Just a couple of nine-packs of these bad-ass 16 oz. Miller Lites in aluminum bottles, a kick-ass outdoor stereo system that came with the house, the second of four straight awesome LPs by the greatest band of them all, and my neighbor Ted, who I have known for maybe two months now. That’s it.
The say you can see God in the tiniest details. I am not going to say you cannot. But, if so, maybe God can see us in the tiniest details, too.
Ponder that over your next nine-pack, while listening to the ‘Stones in your backyard with your neighbor. Then tell me if I am right, or if I am wrong.