Why I Love Dogs….

This is another older piece from my pre-blog life that I thought I’d share.

Why I Love Dogs:                                               7/13/10

  1. Your dog loves you for you, doesn’t judge, and doesn’t hold grudges.

2.   Your dog always looks forward to spending quality time with you.

3.  Your dog won’t leave you, “move on” from you, decide they just don’t love    you anymore, decide that you’re not good enough for them, or demand unreasonable things from you that you can’t fulfill only to hold it against you later.  There are no double standards.

4.  Your dog won’t have dinner waiting on the table when you get home, but they will always be happy that you did come home.

5.  Your dog doesn’t mind when you have bad breath or fart.  In fact, they seem to prefer it.

6.  Your dog’s needs are generally pretty simple.

7.  Your dog has faith in you, even when others don’t.

8.   Your dog doesn’t care when you call them derogatory things like asshole, dipshit, or maggot.

9.   Your dog doesn’t get sarcasm, but they won’t give it back to you, either.

10.   Your dog doesn’t care what you look like in your underwear.

11.   Your dog won’t run up your phone bill.

12.   Your dog won’t take your car without asking.

13.   Your dog has no pretenses.

14.   Your dog won’t talk shit about you or tell your secrets; they are the perfect confidant.

15.   Your dog will provide you with lots of unintentional laughter.

16.   Your dog will bond with you in a way you really can’t duplicate with people.  You can know a dog after five weeks in a way you will never know a person in the same stretch of time.  Your dog really will be your best friend.

Belief

It’s been a bit since I posted (I haven’t had ideas, plus it’s a crazy time of year).  I thought I’d share a poem I wrote.  I’ll warn you, though, that if you’re profoundly religious, you may not like it.  As for responses to this post, please don’t try to comment in the attempt to convince me of anything.  Please just take it as that it’s my blog, and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Belief                                                                 1/11/10

You ask me if I believe in God.

I do when I need to ask

why things are the way they are,

when I pray for loved ones

who are suffering,

even, I’m ashamed to say,

when I’M in crisis,

actual or perceived.

I need to feel there’s a God

when I question why there’s

so much hate,

why I have so much hate,

Why people do the Un-Godly

things they do to each other,

often in His name.

I want someone to be listening

when I wonder why we kill

for foolish things like jewelery,

shoes, money, and skin color,

act with cruelty to our peers,

disregard the needs of others,

even PRAY for harm to them.

I needed to pray for Joshua,

for Steph,

for Jacquie,

for Candy,

for my father,

and for many others

who needed aid I could not provide.

I need to have Him there

when I ask why there’s

a Michael Vick,

and others like him

who WON’T get caught,

why there are puppy mills

and dogs being tied to cars

and dragged.

I need to ask of Him,

why He gave us all this free will

to behave like monsters.

Why does he let Catholics

kill Protestants in Ireland

OVER BELIEF IN THE SAME GOD?

How come Muslims and Jews

are going to slaughter each other

until the apocalypse?

Why were thousands of people

allowed to die on 9/11,

millions to die in the Holocaust,

countless others only He knows

in all the wars in history?

Why have we enslaved others,

and still continue to do so?

How come people are hungry

while others can afford

to let food spoil?

Why do we stab each other

in the back,

metaphorically and literally?

Why?  How come?

I ask myself if I believe in God,

but if I only do

when I need these answers,

when I need help

or my loved ones do,

I can only then pray

to have that question

answered too.

“Satisfaction”

This is another “recycle” piece from my early days in one of my writer’s groups.  The prompt given on which to write was “satisfaction”.  I think I need to re-read it a few times myself, as I had been in a pessimistic state to say the least for the last two years, and I’ve been fighting to turn the page, to revisit the thoughts I had when writing this piece.

“Satisfaction”-7/22/09

I often reflect on life in sports analogies. At work, for example, there are the (metaphoric and literal) Captains and other locker room leaders, the role-players, the bench guys who come in in relief. You can’t always win every game, but you do your best.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’ve had your three strikes and you’re out. And sometimes you come up a yard short (remember the Titans?). Sometimes on paper things don’t seem in your favor, but you stick to your game plan, you steel yourself, and you pull off the Cinderella Story surprise victory.

A lot of the time, you remember to be humble, and that you owe it all to the people who’ve trained you, who’ve been on your teams in the past, the folks who believed in you, and supported you even when times were tough.

To apply the analogy again to my workplace, I’ve been in situations when I realized that I had one of the higher salaries on my team, and I felt the pressure of those dollars, because if I’m earning such a high salary and I don’t perform, well, the fans aren’t going to be happy, are they? And let’s not talk about how the Team Manager will feel.

In life, as in team sports, there are those that lead a team by example, those that are the rah-rah guys. There are those who might seem to be lesser players, but you won’t win without them. There are those whose single-minded intensity makes them dominant over all the rest.

So, what does this have to do with satisfaction?

You see, I remember a scene in Kevin Costner’s “For Love of the Game” when a player is leaving the team to sign with the free-spending Yankees (a team I hate in real life, by the way, but I digress). Costner’s character expresses disappointment and feels betrayed, because they had been teammates for so long. What about the team? The departing player points to his wife and child in the corner of the locker room, saying, “You see them? That’s my team.” I not only got that, but felt the same way.

I’ve brought up work in this piece twice now, but I had rubbed the people I’ve worked with the wrong way because I wasn’t interested in friends. If I got along with you, great. But I was there to do my job, and keep my (home) team afloat. I wasn’t there to be social. It was all about the team at home. The team at work was strictly minor league to me.  In sports, the athletes work hard, train, learn from the mistakes of the past, and sacrifice for the good of the team. I know I did these things for my REAL team, for my wife and stepson. My passion for that game should not be questioned, and I gave what I had to give.

Ah, but here’s the Shakespearean rub: teams disband, players sign elsewhere or retire, some players are simply cut from the team. Sometimes there’s a Team of Destiny, and sometimes you’re not on it.

I’ve touched on the end of my marriage and what happened to my stepson in earlier posts.  Using the sports analogy, suffice it to say, that I have lost my players to other teams.  Some (including myself) might say that I was cut. When this happens, the team must rebuild to make another run at it. I’m rebuilding.

So….satisfaction? Some players aren’t satisfied until they get a championship. Look at Elway, Bourque, Bettis, and others who got to go out on top after decades of failure. In a way, isn’t that what we all want? To achieve all we’ve strived for since we were kids? Knowing we never gave up, and persisitance payed off? What about Nomar Garciaparra, a fan fave in Boston, traded away at the deadline to watch the Red Sox win their first championship in 86 years? That’s brutal. Sometimes I feel like I’m that guy.

Will I ever be satisfied? None of us ever knows. There were times I’d believed I had my one chance at a ring (metaphor, anyone?), and that was all the chance I’d get. But the aforementioned retired players eventually got their satisfaction, and poor Nomar, at least, went down still trying.

Will I get to my final day, satisfied that I achieved what I sacrificed so much for? Nothing is certain, but unless I rebuild after my losses, my personal victory lap will always elude me. You’ve got to fight to win, so I’ve got to dig deep, put on my eye black, put aside the pain and weariness, put the losses behind me, and give it another swing.

Prejudice and Boycott

I’m finding it sad today that I have to boycott so many businesses due to political reasons.  Mind you, the reasons are way more than valid, so boycott I must.

For starters, I’m officially boycotting Lowe’s as of this morning.  The home improvement store pulled its ads from a show about 5 Muslim families living in Detroit called All-American Muslim.  A right-wing group started a ball rolling to get public view of the show swayed to their way of thinking, quoted as calling the show, “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”  Lowe’s did an about-face and pulled their ads.

Yes, their are some Muslims out there posing a threat to innocent lives.  There is no denying that.  But we as a race (the human one, that is) cannot continue to treat an entire people with mistrust and hatred.  There are also Catholics blowing up innocent Protestant civilians in Ireland and England for being Protestants.  We’re not (so far as I know) publishing propaganda vilifying the Catholic religion as a whole for it.

As a person born to a Jewish household, believe me, I’ve seen and felt prejudice, and yes, I have to admit that I’m scared when it comes to Islamic extremists.  As with Hitler’s Third Reich, there are Muslims who’d want me dead simply because I was born to members of the Jewish faith.  It would not matter to them what my own actual religious or political views are, what kind of person I am or try to become, just that I was born Jewish.  I grew up actually ashamed of it.  Every time a person in middle school dropped a coin, if the person then went to retrieve it, other kids would call him a “Jew”.  I was afraid that if they hated Jews so much they’d taunt someone who was not Jewish this way, what would they do if they knew I actually was?  And of course I was brought up hearing of the atrocities of WWII.

And I knew as an adult of extremist Muslim hatred, and 9/11 showed how close they could really get.  Oh, yes, I do know fear for simply having a different descent than others and being a target because of it.  But this fear cannot be allowed to dictate how Muslims, or people from Zaire, or Mongolia or any other background are treated.  This television program should be valuable as a way to open doors to love and understanding, and Lowe’s caved to the pressure of hatred and ignorance.  People of my background have been hated, and I will do my damnedest not to do it to someone else’s people.

The next boycott is of Chic-Fil-A, which is difficult because I absolutely love their product.  I don’t really eat fast food, but if I do, that would be what I’d want.  I haven’t done Burger King, McDonald’s, or Taco Bell in years.  Chic-Fil-A is a step above them all in quality (and digestibility), but they have gone on record against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community.  They’ve even sponsored groups and legislation against the community, especially against same-sex marriage.

I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what I am, but I am in fact not any of the above.  I just know that humans come in various packages, and cannot help what those packages are, just as I had no say in my origins and makeup.  Human decency is human decency.

I’m aware that this company is founded, owned, and run by Mormons,which is of course a religious group, so it isn’t as much a surprise that those in charge of Chic-Fil-A feel this way.  But when you are a company in the customer service industry, those things should stay behind close doors.  You want to be a bigot?  Go ahead.  Just don’t be surprised when you have less customers than you used to, and you can count me as one less, too.  I incidentally also heard recently that they won’t allow Jewish franchise owners or managers, but I haven’t substantiated that at this point.

I have several friends from the LGBT community, and if I had to guess what percentage of people I’ve known came from the LGBT community and treated me respectfully vs. what percentage I’ve believed were straight and treated me the same, it would probably be 90% and 15 or 20%.

Another factor besides decency and solidarity with my friends that helps me in this decision is an interview I once read with Steven Tyler, the singer from the group Aerosmith.  In the article, Tyler was asked what his thoughts on homosexuality were considering his reputation for having relations with countless women over his career.  His response was that there is so little love in this world, that if love exists between two people, ANY two people, to let it be, accept it, and be happy that there is love.  That will always stay with me (unless Alzheimer’s sets in).  So my stance on same-sex marriage and the LGBT community is the same:  let it be, and be happy there is love.

My final boycott I will list here is of the Philadelphia Eagles.  I immediately boycotted the team when they signed the animal abuser and killer Michael Vick.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts or know me, you have probably guessed by now my level of animal activism.  The Eagles are my home-town team, but they are dead to me.

I always get the “he did his time” and “people deserve a second chance” crap.  My view is that if you are the kind of person who gets enjoyment from another creature’s suffering, you most likely will not change that.  If you can look a dog in the eyes, hear it crying in pain for mercy and not only not relent but continue, you will not likely stop being that person simply from 18 months in jail.

Vick is now employed as a quarterback again on a professional franchise making millions (although admittedly most of that money is taken from him to pay for damages incurred by his dog fighting ring and all of the legal expenses, plus other debts).  If this wasn’t enough, I even am made ill by the Eagles fans who vowed to not renew their season tickets and join me in at least some level of boycott, and then went and bought his jersey when he started scoring touchdowns.  Way to stick to your convictions (or even have them), folks.  But it wasn’t just the fighting of dogs.  I won’t brow-beat you with the details, but it was as inhumane and brutal a treatment of animals as it could have been.  There are 31 other teams I’d rather see win the Super Bowl.

So there is my Official 2011-12 Boycott list.  If you agree with anything I’ve written here and want to join me, welcome aboard.  If nothing else, I hope I’ve at least given you something to consider.

Every Picture Tells a Story

I’ve covered some of the things that make me, well, ME in this blog, such as some personal experiences, my writing, my activism stuff.  I’ve done this because I’m hoping to make posts a reader will find worth reading while also letting that reader  get to know the person behind the virtual curtain.

I was thinking today, “What else do I have to say?”  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be some grandiose subject, though.  It could just be something of ME.  So what might be something people want to know?

Well, when someone meets me in person, one of the things that they may find shocking is the amount of tattoo work I’ve had done.  I got all of this ink knowing that judgement might be forthcoming, and there are times I’m anxious about meeting people because of it.  Even in my writers’ groups, I was wary at first even though there was every bit of possibility that any of the writers might just view it as another art form rather than a stigma.  Mind you, I don’t regret any of it.  I look at it as getting to wear my favorite t-shirt every day.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to use that analogy, but that makes it no less true a feeling.

Now the question of why I did it.

I’ve been a rock and roll/hard rock/heavy metal fan since I was 13, and tattoos are part of the culture.  It was never a matter of not wanting them, especially from 15 on.  It was a question of money and what to get.  As I got older, I still didn’t have money or ideas.  When I got married, it was to a rather conservative woman with a rather conservative family, so it didn’t seem like the best thing to do at the time.  And, as mentioned earlier in my postings, I married into an instant family, and there was always something more important on which to spend money.  I couldn’t justify the expense, and I still had no ideas.  I didn’t want to get a skull with a snake crawling through its eye sockets and a fire blazing around it all like you see in tattoo shop windows.  You know, the stuff everybody has (if they have them, that is).

But then, at 36, I was separated, and of course having a hard time dealing with it all.  I had many days with dark thoughts, and drank away a great many of those days.  I did it for two months straight when my wife and stepson moved out and many stretches afterwards.  To be frank, I think the drinking saved my life.

A lot of memories from that time are naturally sketchy.  As such, I don’t quite remember the order of events, whether the decision to get a tattoo came first, or the word I wanted to personify did.  I think the word did, but either way, what I ended up with was the Kanji symbol for the word “endure” or “withstand”.  I would start sinking, and I would tell myself, “Endure!” repeatedly until I got past it.  I remember getting the divorce paperwork in the mail one day and huddling on my floor in response, speaking the word to myself to keep from the image in my head:  assaulting my skull with a baseball bat.

So I looked up the Kanji symbol online, turned to a co-worker of mine from China to verify it meant what I thought it meant, and set up the appointment.  Now, the co-worker didn’t have the greatest skill with English, and may not have understood the words “endure” or “withstand”, but after considering the symbol I gave her, she thought about it and said, “Be strong”.  Close enough.

I still intended to have a relationship with my stepson, and his abusive father had a dragon tattoo on his right shoulder.   I was worried that having this similarity to his biological father might freak him out, so I did a “twofer”.  The symbol was to be put on the outside of my upper arm, and I would get my stepson’s initial on the inside of my arm for him as a way of alleviating any negative connotation.  I also liked that his initial would be under my arm, because it would be a way to “keep him under my wing”.

Now, I had these two tattoos on my right arm, and I’d get out of the shower, and see all of this negative space on my left arm.  The incongruence bothered me.  I played around until I figured out what to do on the outside of my left upper arm.  My last name is Fox, I love music, and my first instrument was the electric bass guitar.  So I drew this up.  The fox is supposed to be sort of surfing the bass, sort of guarding it, while screaming heavy metal style.  The cord is coming out of the bass on the left and, instead of plugging into an amplifier, it plugs into the back of my arm on the right.

The problem is, tattoos are addicting.  You start thinking of all the things you can do, and all of the places you can do them.  I came up with a family crest-type thing for my father when he got cancer (since in remission).  I made an outline of New Jersey which has elements of NJ history and some of my own history in NJ included within the outline.  I have a pair of headphones with Kanji for “music”.

In the crest, I’ve got the family name (Fox, duh), my dad’s love of woodworking and being “the handyman”, his tradition, and the most important thing to him, family (represented by the branch). He was a mechanical engineer before retiring, so the border of the “shield” is made up of gears, drafting compasses (bottom and upper corners), and those “L” shaped rulers (at the top and at the lower corners).  The Jersey one includes the phonograph, the movie, the lightbulb, and the solid body electric guitar, all invented here.  It also has the state fruit (blueberries) and the state bird (American Goldfinch).  It was one of the first 13 colonies (hence the older version of the flag), a pine cone (lower left–hard to see here) the outline of the NJ Turnpike, and  a leaf symbolizing the Garden State.  The other elements are more personal, such as falling in love with music here (hidden G and F Clefs), getting married here (the interlocked rings), and getting my heart broken here (I think you can figure that one out).

The blue jay?  I just love blue jays.  You can see an “A” to the lower right of the jay.  There it says “A & M” which are my niece and nephew’s initials.  I’ve decided that I’m not going to have children after all that’s happened with my stepson, so those two are the future of the Fox family.  To the left of the jay’s beak (above the “endure” symbol), I have the symbol for “Fox”.  I also have other pieces, including depictions I’ve made from my own lyrics (not shown).  Other than the jay, my right arm is all family and “home” stuff, and the left arm is music stuff.

I didn’t start getting work done until I was 36 (I’m now 40), but once I quit drinking so I could start to heal, entering this creative faze became the most fun I’d had in a long time, and it sustained me.  It helped me to move on.  My point in explaining all of this in detail?  To hopefully get any readers out there to see tattoos in another light if they aren’t too keen on them.  You see, they all have meaning to me, and every picture tells a story.

Finding New Friends

Since joining the writers’ groups in which I’ve been involved, I have:

Gained inspiration (mostly in the form of “prompts”–being given a word, phrase, or theme on which to create), created many pieces of which I’m proud, shared some of my pieces aloud, and gotten praise for my work.  I haven’t submitted anything for publishing (haven’t quite had the balls to deal with rejection yet), but who knows?

There has been one unexpected but completely rewarding “side effect” of joining these groups, however:  developing friendships.  Becoming involved in other people’s lives, discovering our common grounds, caring for others and (sometimes begrudgingly) letting them in.  It seems rather dense of me, in retrospect, not to have foreseen this, but I was a very shut off person emotionally and socially at the time I “enlisted” in these groups two and a half years ago.

I was terrified of being judged, being found unworthy, being hurt, and on and on after the breakup of my marriage.  I was always guarded to an extent, wary of others and their intentions, but it escalated at that point in time.

It may have been unexpected for these friendships to come into being, even unwanted in the beginning, but I’m grateful and absolutely enriched by these relationships, no doubt.  And new ones are still being formed.

I generally don’t intend to share my poetry/lyrics on my blog because of copyrights, but I will share this one that I wrote about this experience.  The title is in reference to the name of the group for which I had written it, Seeking the Muse.

Musing the Night Fantastic 8/5/09

My friends, we gather but once each week,
A time I anticipate greatly.
Sometimes it’s your singular wit,
Sometimes your prose so stately,
Sometimes those unpredictable whims;
Your crafts combine with balance.
You awe me and I’m honored so
To witness these wondrous talents.
Yet mutual respect that we each have
For our group’s sublime creations
Has grown a friendship’s precious rose,
Perhaps the greatest of our revelations.

Love you guys and gals, InFOXicatedly

Take that, John Keats!

Another Re-used Writing

This is another “prompted” piece from the past, and the prompt was actually a photo, which I posted at the end here.  I hadn’t gotten back to my usual lyric writing yet at that time (I was writers’ blocked for a few years), so my reactions to the prompts at this point were editorial-like writings.  I thought they might finally get to see the light of day in this forum, hence this and my previous entry.

The Reel Life 8/1/09

Life is a film. A movie, in fact. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to it, just as any film has. There is even a back story to the beginning, often mysterious at that. There are supporting characters, antagonists, many settings and changes thereof. Life is even like the films that are a series of acts, a la “The Godfather”, “Star Wars”, even “Austin Powers”, though fortunately not as ludicrous.

Many plot twists will occur, ones that the viewers never saw coming, and there also are moments you could predict with your eyes closed and under water. Sometimes the plot develops so quickly you wonder, “How did I get from that scene to this one?” You will even question the meaning to the whole story.

Some of the life-films are epic in their length, while others are tragically short. These life-films don’t generally stick to a genre, rather they flit from comedy to drama, from tragedy to human interest piece, from romance to documentary, from mystery to satire.

There are political scenes, love scenes, revelations, soliloquies. There are monologues, dialogues, denouements, thrills, moments of violence, acts of kindness, and acts of forgiveness.

There are moments when you simply can not wait to get to the next scene. Some scenes are embarrassing, uncomfortable, or strike a chord that hits home. There are also boring moments you wish you could fast-forward.

My good friend Billy said the world’s a stage, and we are its players. Bill never got to see a film, but I think he’d agree with me in this comparison. There was much he understood before his time, before his own ending.

Unfortunately, these films do come to an end, and these endings can be funny, peaceful, sudden or drawn out, horrific, or, extremely rarely, just the way we want them to be. The endings are nearly always unpredictable, but we keep guessing anyway.

Ultimately, the director makes decisions without your consent as to content, duration, theme, and tone, but you can sometimes figure out where the story’s going. You just need to look at it frame by frame.