Tuesday, June 30, 2015

God, Cowboy Hats, Motorcycles

God, Cowboy Hats, Motorcycles

This whole religion thing – globally – has just gotten out of hand.

I suppose I’m religious, at least I think maybe I am sort of a Christian.  If I am, I can’t go for this six foot tall blue-eyed guy a lot of Americans seem to find in the Bible.  That’s just not possible, guys.  Ask ANY anthropologist.  Even supposedly, if he was fair haired and tall and ruggedly handsome, how would he have fit in in an area where almost everybody else was much shorter, dark skinned and had black hair – and almost certainly brown eyes.  He would have kind of stood out and I can’t see the general populace really trusting somebody who, to them, must have looked as much like a space alien as anything else.

Also, I can’t following any kind of a God who goes around smiting and destroying cities and demanding stuff, like sacrifices.. WTF!  If he’s any kind of a God and he wants something he can just poof it into existence – right?  But the main thing here is why all this yammering in today’s world about it. 

Also – why in American western movies are the cowboys’ hats always so new.  I’ve lived in Arizona and Colorado and all of the hot western states.  It’s HOT in the summer and cold as fuck in the winter.  Any hat you might wear is going to get sweat stained, really really sweat stained and dusty and if it ever rains, that kind of wool felt goes all limp and weird looking – plus it’s hot as fuck.  Did I say that; wool felt like that is really hot to wear around in the summer.  Straw is much better.  Then in the winter your ears are just going to totally freeze solid and break off. 

Did Jesus wear a cowboy hat, and if he did was it always new looking?  He did live in the desert … mostly.  Right?  I own several cowboy hats, given as gifts and purchased.  A good cowboy hat is tough!  It might droop when it gets really wet, but you just can’t wear it out.  I’ve had one for nearly fifty years and it’s still tough as nails.  It’s sweat stained – well, just plain stained – all over, but it’s still wearable.  Now that is a cowboy hat a real cowboy would be seen wearing in a real western.

So, I can see God wearing a cowboy hat and it always looking new, but not Jesus or a real cowboy.  Now I don’t know much about horses, but I don’t think you can ride them as flat out hard as cowboys are always doing.  Racing around.  Then there they are out in that scrub desert country and there’s no water and nothing but creosote scrub for the horse to eat.  ??  That’s gotta be why Jesus rode a mule, and slowly.  Or was it a donkey?  Donkeys can eat cactus, maybe even gravel.

I have a dog that will eat limp left over salad.  Why wouldn’t a donkey … gravel … I guess that’s stretching it. 

The Cowboy Era actually lasted only about twenty years, which is not nearly long enough to wear out a real cowboy hat.  It kind of reminds me of the Hippie Era, which only lasted, at most, ten years.  I know.  I was there – I was, or tried to be, a hippie.  1964 to about 1974.  Before “Saturday Night Fever” and John Travolta stomped, or danced, the shit out of Hippiness Cool.  Now I see all these teeny-bopper children trying to be Hippies.  Dope and weed didn’t make a person a Hippie.  It was, in reality, more about being anti-establishment.  With men and long hair and beards and women not wearing bras.  Wearing beards and Dashiki shirts and Indian toe sandals that stained your feet brown.  And being anti-war. 

Can you imagine being anti-war today?  You’d be thrown out of the country.  Or, this country anyway.  Americans are all into war now, not anti-war.  Us hippies had to be drafted into killing people.  Did everything we could to get out of it, including becoming Canadians.  Now young people are volunteering to do it?  That’s a switch in general thinking.  Everybody packing guns.  ??  !!!  ??

Not like it was all good “in the old days”.  It definitely wasn’t.  The country was as divided, and very harshly so, as it is now.  Just different hate going on.  Of course, as hippies, we never wore cowboy hats.  That was kind of a political demarcation.  Mostly we wore bandanas.  A lot of bandanas.  Even the dogs wore bandanas.  Now that I ride a motorcycle, I’m back to wearing bandanas, but I’m no longer seen as a hippie.  Just an old gray bearded guy on a motorcycle.  It’s kind of liberating, actually.

My motorcycle is like my old stained cowboy hat.  It’s got 52,000 miles on it and I’ve never cleaned it – not once.  I’m not really proud of that, but it does surprise me when people tell me “What a beautiful motorcycle.”  Really.  “What a cool cowboy hat.”  Really.

I wonder if God cleans his (her – it’s) motorcycle.

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**The sculpture piece as shown is 36" tall, @ 16" base.  It is done in ABS filament with a 3D pen.  It is for sale.  (It also glows in the dark.)  More pictures are available on request.  You can contact me by leaving a comment to this blog with your email address.  Or go to my website and email me from there.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thinking at the Speed of Light

Thinking at the Speed of Light
[It's about time for a new blog.  I warn you, this one maybe a bit heavy for some.  So, keep any open mind and try to believe I mean it all in a good way.]

So "Thinking at the Speed of Light" is, of course, an exaggeration, but not much of one really.  I have read and studied the bipolar condition – dozens of books, some deeply scientific and medical, others more about people who live with it.  Some, many I should say, have this condition in a far more severe form than I do.  My own diagnosis is fairly light, on the less severe end of the scale.

However, at some point, I always seem to go too far.  There is no mature conscious thought in it.  Something hits the wrong key and something totally inappropriate comes out of my head.  It is not always a particular thing, more often the accumulation of many different things.  This is why I seem to jerk around in fast conversations, stand up at weird times and my voice will begin to quiver, or choke off completely.  It is never my intention to speak inappropriately.

I am not apologizing for my bipolar condition, sometimes I do have to be precise about just what it is and the symptoms and side effects of the medication program I am on to control it.  Friends have said, I am appreciated and cared about, and I believe that.  I do believe it.  However, my brain is still sort of cracked, it will never be “cured”, I deal with it and everything as best I can.  There are and will be times when I may react very “inappropriately” as a means of immediate unthinking self-protection.

It is always very embarrassing for me.  It sticks in my mind, each time, forever.  I feel the judgment of others like needles in my heart.  And occasionally the medications I am on stop working and I have to go through a whole new program of trial and error(s) with new ones.  So just imagine the mostly calm and quiet guy people generally assume is me, and understand just how much willpower and energy it can take for me to maintain that when my brain feels like walnuts being ground up in a Quizinart. 

This is where the thinking at the speed of light comes in to it.  Every time, every single time, I find myself in a conversation I find my mind racing to analyze what is expected of me in order to participate – as a reasonable person.  You see, when discussing books or something intellectual my brain can go into overdrive and somehow I can remember everything I have ever read, the author, the context, sometimes almost the very page on which I read it.  My vocabulary can become Nobel Laureate in nature and people don’t know half the words I am using.  I always have to stop and define or explain things.

At other times I draw a complete blank.  If pushed, I can’t remember my wife’s name.  Where exactly I live.  Even simple words escape me.  The ole noodle just shuts down.  This is usually when the conversation turns to politics.  Somehow politics gets my heart rate going like a rabbit and my brain goes into dumb.  I admit I am a Political Progressive (I don’t like the term Liberal, because all the nut-case neo-cons have made the word Liberal into something that is heard as profane – fuck their hard hearts).  I just don’t think it is possible to fix problems by ignoring them, hating them, blowing them up or shooting them in the head.  I don’t think wars work and I have been in one.

So some subjects, like politics, I have to try and stay away from.  I can handle it at the voting booth, I just can’t handle it in a polite conversation.  Then there is Fundamentalist Religion.  I can take plain Religious Faith, just not the Fundamentalist “The Bible is the only true, literal word of GOD!”  “And everybody better get on board or we’re gonna shoot you for that one too.”  Or, the Muslim Extremists or any of them.  I’ve studied the Bible and the Koran and the Torah and all that Mechezalbub, and the People of Shafram Ifram Apendico wiping out the people of Whoopieduppee because they cut the Lord’s sacrificial chicken in the wrong direction, is just too much bullshit for me.

“Well, it’s in how you interpret  it.”  How can it be literal if you have to interpret it to have it make any sense?  So just to keep all of my deeply religious friends, of whom I have many (and I do love them as friends, from many many years of friendship) I have to keep my mouth shut because my brain won’t stop shouting, “How can you honestly believe that crap!!!)?”  As much as I love them, I respect them, so it leaves me wandering in a murky mental quandary. 

In so many situations, I have to keep all the thoughts flying across my inner mental mind screen, like the subtitles during a foreign movie from moving so fast I can’t properly read them.  It seems like there are twenty or thirty of these moving lines of mental text streaming behind my eyes all the time.  And, often the languages are not always English – or, at least I can’t totally make out what language they are.  I have to pick one and do all I can to focus just on that one.  Laser in on it, if possible.  Blot out, push away somehow, all the others. 

I force myself to swallow down the disrespectful or hurtful words, or random chunks of sentences, that pop into my head as a reaction to some quip or witticism from an acquaintance.  And, there are some people who just revel in making fun of, or attempting to make a fool of other people.  The first thing out of their mouth will be some witty comment on a hat you happen to be wearing, or the fact that you’re trying to park your motorcycle, or your tie is a funky color – something hahha witty.  Swallow down the “Fuck You!”.  Swallow down the “You know I just donated a pair of shoes like yours to the Veterans Thrift.”  No “You should go to a professional Barber, having your dog chew your hair like that, is just not working for you.”

The thing I have come to appreciate is how my religious friends, and even a few who are rather towards the neo-con side of politics is how they – in particular – are unaffected (I say unaffected, when I reveal my disability).  Seriously, the biggest issue seems to be with people who are stuck in the middle – people who haven’t stretched their minds in much of any manner at all.  I find kindness can crop up in the most unlikely places and people and the same thing is true of bigotry and stigma.

So the next time you encounter a person who seems to have a problem relating on the common plain (plane), as you view it, trust that what might be passing through their mind is so far beyond your own comprehension you might give them a little love and understanding.

Please visit me at http://dalepeterson.us

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Horrible Sin of Smoking?

The Horrible Sin of Smoking?

In my youth – in a galaxy long ago and far, far away – smoking was everywhere.  Everywhere!  When you went to see a Doctor, the Doctor could come in to see you, while still smoking a cigarette!!!  There were ashtrays attached to the walls in the corridors of every public building, including hospitals.  Ashtrays on the tables in the Public Library.  On every desk in every business and on the coffee table in nearly every single home.  The smell of tobacco was so prevalent, everywhere, the only time you noticed it was when it wasn’t there.  Like standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and even then it was very likely the guy standing next to you would be smoking.

When I was in the Army, GI’s would be smoking right at the mess hall table.  I was a smoker and yet, I didn’t like the taste of cigarette smoke in my food.  I would ask the smokers to stop and at least wait until we had eaten.  Frequently I was told, “Go fuck yourself.”  Jeez, stop for ten minutes until we are done eating?  Even at breakfast – cigarette smoke and eggs?  No.  Not a good recipe.  Tastes real bad.  Forget it.  At that time, breakfast was the time to get a good start on the day’s nicotine fix.  Gotta get that nicotine level up – up, up, up.  The breakfast of champions – nicotine and caffeine.  And then hit the can for a good shit.  It did keep you regular.

Really … my mother, who was a Mormon, and Mormons do not smoke or drink, kept a little tray of cigarettes and an ashtray on our coffee table.  My father's business included a number of home parties and socially required events, so the ciggies had to be available.  When I got to college, everyone in the classrooms were usually smoking; always the professor was smoking.  When I started teaching High School in the late 80’s, most of my students were already smokers.  The High School parking lot was always littered with cigarette butts.  When they hung out before and after school in that parking lot, they smoked.  Nobody thought anything about it.  Even noticed, really.

Slowly at first, as we all now recognize, smoking was found to be really bad for a person’s health.  I mean really, really bad.  Where and when a person could smoke began to tighten in on the whole American culture.  At first it was no public buildings, then, with seemingly light-speed, nowhere there were other people.  Second hand smoke was deemed as bad as being on the working end of a cigarette.  Being within the distance of a good rock throw of a smoker was – like – horrible.

When I was teaching High School at a boarding school, students smoked in their rooms.  Now if nicotine is found in their urine, they can get kicked out of the school.
And with all the drug problems, teachers can require a urine test anytime they have a suspicion of drugs or smoking.

I have written about all the exposure of alcohol on television and movies and stuff.  In the old days, actors would be holding a cigarette to make some on-screen use of their hands.  Gotta be doing something with your hands on-screen.  Now, they pour a drinky-poo and dialogue with a shot of booze in their hand.  And we know, for sure, alcohol is also really, really bad for your health – especially if you’re driving a car. 

I just wonder where we are going, what we are saying, when you can walk into a public place with a gun on your hip – bullets are super-di-dooper bad for your health – and yet you can’t have a smoke!  It is seen almost as not as bad to be on a sex offenders list as to be known as a smoker.  At a church I often pass, they have AA meetings.  As you pass by that church, you immediately know when an AA meeting is about to start because there are dozens of people out in front smoking.  Conclusion:  one of the major tools to getting your life back together after you’ve wrecked it with alcohol, is to smoke.  ???  It most places now, even in a bar where the whole purpose is to get drunk, you can’t smoke any more.  ???

Which would you rather have, somebody sitting next you in a coffee shop with a gun on his hip and a pissed off look in his eyes or a smoker?  Who would you rather stand next to at a bus stop, somebody staggering a bit with a can of beer in his hand or a smoker?  Who is more likely to t-bone you in an intersection, a drunk or a smoker (who is not also a drunk)?

Where is the rational here?  Who’s in charge of perceived social sins?  In fact, when and where did the logic of the greater good switch from personal habits that are really stupid to personal habits that are really stupid and broadly destructive?

I’m just sayin’.  ???

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Life, Death and Suicide

Life, Death and Suicide

I was so taken with this article by Ms. Rorrer, I wanted to preface my own blog addition with a link.  She is in no way connected to me or responsible for what I say in what follows.

Five years after I got out of the Army (Viet Nam War), oh some forty-five years ago, my first wife, of ten years, took her own life.  For at least forty of those years I have not told anyone, but my very closest, dearest and most trusted friends of how she actually died.  Of course, my second wife (of thirty-eight years at this writing) knew – but then she is my best, closest and dearest friend and has been since the first day I met her.  And all of our children were told when they were old enough to understand and not be traumatized by that knowledge.

Other than those family members and few friends, we have kept it to ourselves.  She did have diabetes AND post-partum epilepsy – so diabetes has been the quick answer and the subject has been closed.  After that quick lie, everybody who asks says, “Oh I’m sorry.”  That’s it  - we move on.  But it’s a lie.  It’s a lie I have told countless times over the years.  Always figuring it’s nobody’s business but mine.  I have also told that lie to the teachers, baseball coaches or other supervising adults of my oldest two children by my first wife.  To save my children from the stigma that almost all adults did, when those two oldest of my six children were young (they are now in their forties) attached to mental illness.

What I have discovered is that almost all adults still do – attach stigma to mental illness.  Once you admit to a suicide in your family, especially by a spouse, people never look at you the same again.  I know this from observing those treasured and trusted friends.  Some I have actually had to stop associating with because it always seemed to come up, that’s how I know.  Those were my best friends, at the time; so how would more casual friends react?  Forget it.  I don’t need that kind of pebble in my shoe every day.

It is true that mental illness is, or often is, genetic.  It does seem to travel in family lines, but it is definitely not always the case.  We tend to loose sight of something I believe is a fact, alcoholism, and most any form of substance abuse and addiction also tend to follow family lines.  For centuries though, millennia truly, at least alcoholism has been seen as a problem, but never as a possible result of self-medication for what is actually a mental illness. 

Self-medication with socially approved substances and behavior, however, does not seem to carry anywhere near the stigma, though, that mental illness does.  Why is that?  (Blog for another day?)

What happened is this; I spent so many decades pushing down the trauma of my participation in a really stupid war, followed by the death, by suicide, of the first love of my lifeI wound up with a mental illness.  Diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder in my late fifties.  From my behavior over the previous years, it was pretty obvious I was suffering (under the influence of a brain disorder) for a very long time.  Since I had decided in my early thirties to avoid alcohol and anything else that might affect my ability to react properly in emergencies for the safety of my children, I couldn’t blame what was happening in my own brain on substance abuse.
Something was really wrong.  It became apparent, by my own decision, that I needed help.

It was a very difficult decision to come to and only with the help and support of my second wife, that I just said, “Screw it!  I’m going to a head Doctor.  This is just more than I can handle anymore.”  Having been a professional artist for the first twenty years of my adult working life, I was used to being a social outsider.  I was used to having people think, and sometimes even say, “Oh you’re an Artist.  You don’t work? Or, do you have a real job?”  Two decades of that, and as a person I didn’t really have a personal stigma associated with mental illness.  I knew my brain was fucked up, or sup-di-dooper different and most of artist friends were all pretty weird too.

So, in that sense, it made it easier for me to decide that it had gotten too far out of hand to handle alone in the day to day.  And, I didn’t care what anybody else thought.  I just wouldn’t say anything or simply lie like I had about my first wife’s suicide.  In those times past when other people would ask why my hands we're so shaky or that my voice quivered (on occasion when I'm a bit nervous), I'd say,
“I have a brain disorder.”
“Oh, what is it?”
“Just a genetic thing.  Makes my hands shake and stuff; nothing serious.”
“Well, that’s good.”

I no longer do this.  Now I just say, "I'm bipolar.  It's a side effect of the meds.  Don't worry it's not a big deal."  Then I just let the other person stew on that information.  I don't get into long conversations on it.  Sometimes they thank me for sharing something they interpret as deeply personal.  I don't care if they think it's deeply personal or not.  I just don't care anymore.  If they think it's catching, or communicable, and want to avoid me.  That's their choice and personally if that's they way they feel, I'd rather not hang out with them either.  Take me as I am (these days) or walk away.  This is my life.  I really really don't care about your judgements.

The truth; it is impossible to bury the stigma of mental illness.  It will never happen.  Stupid people will always – as in forever – put a label on the forehead of the different, the strange, the mentally ill.  Until, we who live with these conditions just stop caring what others think.  It is up to us!  This is where all the Fun Runs, the Marches, Rallies, speeches and the rest of that shit where we are only preaching to the choir.  Where the audiences are always just full of people with mental illnesses.
Is of not that much value.

My bipolar disorder gives me a deep deep imagination when I soar up into a manic stage.  Everything is sort of magical.  Creativity flows so smoothly, the hairs on the back of my neck tingle.  My hands work from some kind of broadband wifi tied directly into my soul.  It is not ego, it is not a desperate grab for greatness; it is very very simply that intense satisfaction of making something beautiful, seemingly out of thin air.  A small piece of beauty and glory that wasn't there before.

The depression stages are tough, but, to me, that’s what Netflix and exercise are for.  Best is watching Netflix, wearing headphones and rowing for miles on my erg.  And when the depressions are over, it’s like somebody has stopped punching me in the stomach.  When that pain is gone, it’s almost like pleasure.

If I stop for just a second, I just have to remember that life is beautiful, wonderful; yes; deeply challenging sometimes, but still beautiful.  Hold a baby, pet a dog, sit on a dock on a lake and fish ... watch a sunset.  Life is a miracle.  Get help if you need it and stop hiding.

Sure the medications make me overweight and sometimes a bit shaky in the hands, but truly after all of the Art and other adventures, this roller coaster that is labeled a metal illness has allowed me to do; I think it’s actually a good trade-off.

As has been said, “You can’t be extraordinary if you’re ordinary.”

Please visit me at http://dalepeterson.us

For links to my books on Amazon KDP

My YouTube Channel

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