Thoughts after Attending a Book Festival as an Author

The book festival yesterday was thought provoking. Lots of thoughts were provoked. Here are a few of them. As a young person (and today as well) I read a lot – I was inspired by great storytelling from the likes of Tolkien, Verne, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, and London. I am … Continue reading “Thoughts after Attending a Book Festival as an Author”

The book festival yesterday was thought provoking. Lots of thoughts were provoked. Here are a few of them. As a young person (and today as well) I read a lot – I was inspired by great storytelling from the likes of Tolkien, Verne, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, and London. I am inspired by well written history, thought provoking philosophy and spirituality, and approachable, practical how-to books. I like books that allow me to learn. I love books that allow me to visit far off destinations and exotic cultures and landscapes.

As a younger adult – I was also dazzled by the reckless and dangerous lifestyles of many writers. Hard drinking, hard drugging, hard loving, emotional roller coasters – like Hank Moody from Californication – I wanted to live like that.

I was never inspired by popular fiction like detective novels, thrillers or best sellers. I never wanted to be some boring baby boomer slaving away over a word processor and sitting in empty halls filled with tables behind which boring baby boomers sit eyeing potential readers with hunger.Yesterday, I found myself right there. Best selling author Philip Margolin was there too, sitting behind a table, trying to smile, signing books. I had no desire to be him. I had no desire to read his books.

I’ve not wanted to be Hank Moody or Jack Kerouac or Hemingway for quite a while now. The desire has passed. The idea of being an older Jack London type, building a ranch, hosting friends, fighting for good political ends…that appeals to me. I’d still love to write compelling stories…but they need to be stories with a purpose, stories that have more substance than a Moody-esque “I drank, I got fucked up, I got fucked, it was awful, I survived, I did it again, something awesome happened, I was miserable, I did it again”

My books previously have been a combination of how-to, travel to exotic places, introduction to exotic ideas, and fucked-upness with an over-exaggerated desire to attract attention by offending. I was using offense as a hook…which was (perhaps) novel in the 80s and 90s but now, in the age of the internet, is just boring.

I’ve changed a lot. I admit it. Enough that I can see foolishness where before I thought there was brilliance. Enough to see problems where before I thought there was quality. I was in love with my title “Douchebags, Fags, and Hags” I thought it was hilarious…yesterday, honestly, I was embarrassed by it and while I still love the novel – am pretty sure I would have sold a lot more if I had called it “The Sultanate of Baboob” or “Pig and the Sexy Nun” or even just “Pig”. There were other things I noticed and was shocked by, such as my putting of an ancient pre-Columbian artifact showing two dogs fucking on the back of my rather serious “Liminal Travel” – I remember thinking it was funny – an artifact from the MET referencing an off-color joke on the back of my book – but it has nothing to do with my book. Why did I put it there? Probably the same reason I put the horrible back cover on Smooth Living – enough to see that Slackville Road is a good idea with bad execution…and an ugly cover. I was blinded with love for my own creations…and I think the time I’ve taken off from writing has been a good thing.

The money and time I spent yesterday did not yield a financial return, but even so, I think it was well spent.

Making a Better 2016 – Choose Your Own Adventure

One of the things I learned last year, was that it’s futile to try to save the world and everyone in it – especially when the person next to you on the bus is miserable and your backyard is a toxic waste dump. I know- I’m being a little dramatic – call it poetic license and let’s move on.

Well, actually, let’s not move on. I was trying to do something sneaky there – I was trying to make you think closer to home without implicating you or me – and let’s face it – it sounded disingenuous at best. We all need to be implicated. Revolution should start with yourself. Or better yet – with me (since I’m you to you).

I can’t save the world or anyone in it when I’m a mess. The first thing to do is to save myself. Ideally, to save myself while keeping those around me safe. This may seem selfish at first glance – but imagine this scenario:

You are on the Titanic and the ship is sinking. For illustrative purposes, it’s sinking really slowly. I mean really, really slowly. It might take years to sink, but in the meantime – no one will come to help. It’s up to the passengers to save themselves. You are there with your spouse and children and friends around you. Even your parents and siblings are on board. The ship is going down and if you don’t do something everyone will die. How do you save the most people? (Now it’s like Choose Your Own Adventure)

If you ****
****wait for someone to come along and save you and your loved ones turn to page 61 (where you all die waiting for someone to save you)
****decide to save your spouse and children by putting them in a lifeboat and shoving off turn to page 63 (where you float aimlessly while those around you die and then you freeze to death because you didn’t take the time to find a jacket and then your family eats your corpse before dying of exposure because you didn’t think about provisions or the elements – by the way – they die of exposure after they eat you)
****go back to your cabin to put on your cold weather gear and grab supplies turn to page 65 (where you have more decisions to make)
****wait for someone to tell you what to do turn to page 67 (where someone else makes all the rest of your decisions for you and may or may not give the book back to you at a later time)
****give up turn to page 69 (where you will die)
****rally all the passengers and attempt to fix the ship using teamwork and a positive mental attitude turn to page 71 (where the ship sinks and everyone dies but in a spirit of great solidarity)
****make yourself a martyr turn to page 73 (where your story ends and the fate of those you love remains unknown forever)

What’s the best option? You choose.

I choose the option where I prepare myself to be in the best possible position to save those I love and care about. Life is all about options and choosing the best one you are able to. Yes, sometimes we choose terribly. It’s no use beating yourself up over that – as long as you are still alive, you can still make choices. Choose your own adventure. Choose your own path. Fix yourself first and then you will be in a better position to help others. If you are totally fixed – I tip my hat to you. I’m not. Not by a long shot. So, I have no business trying to fix anyone else. I’m working on me – I’m conducting my human revolution. I hope you don’t mind me sharing my journey with you.

What I Learned in 2015

What I learned in 2015.

Snark and sarcasm are lazy excuses for lack of talent. Vitriol is a mask for ignorance. Outrage is a moot justification of fear. Fear mongering is a sneaky way to showcase intolerance, racism, sexism, and prejudice. Love and tolerance really are the answer. Don’t bother loving the world or everyone in it – focus on the people you encounter. Don’t try to fix the world, focus on fixing the places you can touch right now.

I am thankful that I was fortunate enough to learn these things and more in 2015. It’s been a very valuable year.

Happy New Year World.

My 43rd Year in Review

Tomorrow, I turn 44. It’s a magical number only because it is a doubling number and so, I like to think it will herald a magical year. For the moment, on the eve of my 44th and the last evening of my 43rd – I’m going to do what I’ve done the past several years and look at my 43rd year in review before jumping into what I’d like for my 44th.

It’s been a good year – remarkably drama free in my personal, family, and work life – though the outside world has been boiling in chaos. Most of my year has been devoted to work, work, work – mostly in the form of buying dead people’s undervalued possessions and then selling them to people that value them a bit more. There were some live people’s things as well – we did an estate sale for a woman who was moving in with her children and bought a few estates from people who were moving and downsizing. Mostly though, I trafficked in the goods of the dead. It was not a year or much travel or adventure – but it was a good year.

Much of what I bought and sold was low dollar value this year – unremarkable furniture, general household stuff, low end art, watches and common jewelry, glassware, dishes, ‘collectibles’, junk, and decorative knick-knacks. I’ve learned that I hate that shit. If I ever own a thrift-store I will hire someone else to sit and deal with the people who shop in it. I get no pleasure from them for the most part. I feel like this low dollar selling is a big reason that I had to spend so much time working this year – it’s just not that profitable and it sucks up my valuable time. Yes, it paid my bills and allowed us to improve our businesses and life – but it was not enjoyable and took away from what is.

But back to my year end review – every year, I create goals for myself. These were my major goals for 2015:
1. Keep my family safe, happy and healthy – Yes! I accomplished this. At the end of 2015 we watch less TV, play more games, and eat better. We are alive, safe, and happy! Grade: A
2. Improve my health and fitness – My cholesterol and blood pressure improved but I gained a few pounds. I didn’t increase the amount of exercise I get or cut out sweets. I began having anxiety attacks but meditation has helped to curb them. Mentally and emotionally, I feel like I made a huge amount of progress. Grade: B-
3. Improve my business and finances. I fell about $45k short of my goal for this year, but I did improve revenue, start a small newspaper, and pave the way for making more money in the coming years. My credit rating improved.I didn’t purchase a home but I did get a car less than 10 years old. I earned a solid middle of the road grade in this category. Grade: C
4. Make Great Art – I painted a little, I did a bit of wood working, but overall – I didn’t make any great art to speak of. Grade: D
5. Sell more stuff – declutter my life. I sold so much stuff and let go of so much stuff this year it is pretty astounding. I did not realize my goal of doing 2 or more antique shows though – so I can’t give myself higher than a B- on this one. Grade: B-
6. Write More – Sell More Books. I wrote a little bit on this site, but not much more. I did not sell very many of my own books at all, though I have started to sell a lot of used books in my shop. Grade: C-
7. More Joyful Living. I taught my daughter to read and introduced her to the joys of camping and travel. I took walks where I felt fully aware and have tried to be more mindful. I have been meditating and feel like I’ve grown through much of my anger and resentment – things which have hindered me greatly in the past. Grade: B
8. Unplanned Accomplishments. I ran for office and got 35% of the vote with no campaigning. I rekindled several important friendships and hosted a mini-family reunion in my home. I traveled internationally with my wife and daughter and managed to do some kayaking. For all of this, I give myself a Grade: A+

So, how did I average in what I dubbed the Year of Business Success and Financial Freedom? Averaging my GPA from the above I get a 2.74 – or a B-. Not bad but not great. I’m shooting for a 4.0.

When I look at where I was a decade ago and where I thought I’d be today versus where I am – it’s humbling. I was so insecure, so egotistical (at the same time – they go together, I think), and I really thought I’d be a millionaire by now. Not even close. And yet – I have more than I ever thought possible. I am proud of what I’ve done and who I am in the process of becoming. I’m on the right path to the best possible version of me. I’m not anywhere near where I thought I would be. I’m not nearly as cool as I thought I was or would be and yet – I’m happy with me. I’m proud of who I am and what I do in this life. I look forward to getting to know the best possible me in the future because I am getting closer.

Now it’s time to work on my goals for next year. This shit works.

Mixed Christmas Feelings at Middle Age

This has been a strange Christmas for me. There hasn’t been any drama, which is nice. There were no big family Christmas gatherings and the pressure therein- which is also nice. Also, on a more internal note – I think this may be the first Christmas in my life where I didn’t want anything. I’ve been able to provide myself with most of what I want materially – within reason -I mean, I admit it, I’d still like a nice yacht in a Mediterranean port and to own a beach house somewhere – I still have a bucket list of travel destinations and experiences – but in terms of the kind of stuff you get for Christmas – I’m good. My dad sent a little cash which helped with holiday expenses and my wife bought me a few goodies to feel guilty snacking on – other than that – I can’t say there was anything on my wish list. Having a four-year-old – Christmas has been more about figuring out what would make her happy and also finding a way to get my wife a present she would love. I think I succeeded on both counts.

I’m not a Christian – though I think Jesus was a pretty wise teacher who deserves an international holiday devoted to love and tolerance and peace – so I’m cool with the holiday. I don’t go to church (since I’m not a Christian) so that isn’t a part of our tradition – in truth – we are building our traditions – on Christmas Eve, I bought us all new pajamas which we opened and I made chowder two years in a row. On Christmas day, we woke up and watched Sophia open up all her gifts which we gave Santa most of the credit for – and now I start to move into the reason I am feeling a bit of discontent – her gifts were generally expensive crap! I bought her a $40 kids doctor kit and it was packaged nicely and looked like a good quality toy – not so – once out of the package it was so much easily broke plastic crap. The beginning sewing kit was like the leftovers from a yard sale in a pretty cardboard lunch box. The painting set has so little paint in it that we’ll be lucky if it lasts three sessions. None of these were cheap! Except to produce. The fancy kids tablet her grandparents got her is a great idea but burns through batteries like no tomorrow and has a super slow processor which doesn’t do much more than a 2007 smart phone – actually it does considerably less – and if you want to get any games or apps for it – the cartridges and downloads are $25 each or more…her best gifts in my opinion were a wood puzzle and multiple pairs of socks and underwear. She was ecstatic at each gift which made me happy but the quality of these things – it soured my mood. Not because of the money I spent – but because of the trickery of the packaging and products. What happened to quality products and standing behind them? I should know better – customer service has been outsourced to 3rd world nations where poor workers are taught to say “I’m sorry sir, I will file a complaint for you” and if you choose to rant and rave only say the same thing again – and no, there is not a resolution ever.

I didn’t know what to do today. I took a couple of walks. I took a drive. I surfed the net and watched an old Jerry Lewis movie about an alien coming to Earth – I feel like I’m the alien. I heard a pretty interesting interview with Dick Van Dyke on NPR while I was driving. He’s 90 now – he said the world is Orwellian but instead of the governments having control – it’s the corporations – then he said he’s going to Disneyland for his 90th birthday – he called it his home country.

Man, this society we live in – it makes it hard to find peace. It makes it hard to be content. It makes it hard to have an internal human revolution. On the up side – I don’t want anything. On the downside – I want more for my daughter than apps that offer in game purchases and plastic toys that don’t work. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful family and to not be in need of anything. I feel blessed. I feel so fortunate to not be a refugee, not be being tortured, not be starving or freezing or imprisoned by an unfair and unjust system. My health and my family’s health are blessings. Everyone should be able to have these simple things. Everyone should be so lucky. Most are not. I’m not sure if that’s part of what is under my skin today or not…

Merry Christmas Friends. Merry Christmas.

The Human Revolution

Now is the time for all great humans to come to the aid of themselves and their world. The way to do that is within each of us. I am engaged in a great struggle within myself these days – a moment of turmoil, an epic battle between the best possible me and the just sort of okay, muddling along, middling version of me. I am caught up in the human revolution and at stake is my happiness, my worth, and my entire being. It’s the greatest possible battle I can be engaged in and it will never end – nor should it. Every moment of every day, the battle rages on – each decision and the decision of how I spend each moment determining not just my fate, but the fate of those around me, and around them, and around them – like ripples in a pond echoing outward until virtually the entire world is touched.

I’m afraid, my friends, that many of our fellow humans have lost the battle or are losing the battle. They have given in to the dark side of this existence. They have allowed themselves to tap into the baser side of things. We all do it – from time to time- but unfortunately, some people create more powerful waves than others on the great pond of our reality. WE are constantly hit by the selfish, angry, greedy, and manipulative waves of those who are lost in the pleasure principal of this world. They are taking this life for everything they can – regardless of the cost to they or us. Violence, degradation, murder and worse surround us and are used to push us into the same sorts of behavior, the same sorts of desires, that the sick are addicted to.

A great deal of my life has been spent trying to outwardly fight, to expose, and to resist these forces. It is only now, as I approach my 44th year that I realize just how misguided I have been. I may have made a positive difference from time to time, but ultimately, I have not changed anything with my anger, my rage, my fear, or resistance. I sought an external revolution. I was wrong.

The revolution will not be televised because it cannot be filmed. It must take place within us. The revolution must be individual and it must be internal. Rather than hating the circumstances of the world – we must accept them. We must make peace with them. We must discover peace in the midst of turmoil. As the waves smash into us, we will drown if we try to calm them. Like surfers on a breaking wave – we can be wiped out and smashed against the reef – or we can ride the wave. The revolution must come from within. It will be a silent revolution. When the revolution is complete – people will not even realize that it has happened.

I am engaged in my human revolution. I am telling you about it. Those who don’t read this will never know, they will simply wonder why I smile more and why they enjoy being around me. Viva la revolucian humano.