What’s love got to do with it?
YOU CAN TEACH OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS
Woof. Not that I’m old. That’s a state of mind. I still play one-on-one basketball several times a week, will travel halfway around the world to a very foreign culture at the drop of a deep discount and am always open to new music, new ideas, new friends, and new ways of looking at old problems.
But I am one year older as of tomorrow, or as of yesterday as you read this. And while I’ve always regarded birthdays as a celebratory rather than a lamentable event, it can also be cause for reflection. What’s it all about, Alfie?
We humans love to give things and events meaning where there is none. I believe there is only perspective and lessons to be learned. Am I doing it right? Sometimes. How can I be the better human being I know how to be but am too lazy, stubborn, ignorant and unconscious?
Consciousness is the key, for me. I could easily be a saint, but I forget to even try most of the time. We all do so much by habit, without thinking. If I stopped and thought about and weighed every single thing I did, I would probably do a lot more things… better.
FEAR, AND A LITTLE LOATHING
I’ve been writing since grade-school but most of the time for most of my life it was about music. Deep down I think there was an avoidance, a fear perhaps, of putting weightier things to paper, for the world to see and judge. Music I knew. It is, of course, subjective but with all my eons of hours of thoughtful listening experience I was comfortable with my knowledge and opinions. All that is probably why that novel of mine is still waiting. For now, I’m okay with what I am doing, and okay if it never sees the light of day.
I can still aim for being the world’s oldest first-time novelist to win the Pulitzer. Frank McCourt did that with “Angela’s Ashes” but he was still a kid, 66. Harriet Doerr was 74 when “Stones of Ibarra” was published, no Pulitzer but she won a National Book Award. Then there is Millard Kaufman, screenwriter and co-creator of Mr. Magoo, who published his first novel, “Bowl of Cherries,” when he was 90. I’ve got plenty of time.
Some are wont to proclaim that they have no heroes. I can understand the reasoning. Hero worship and the cult of celebrity has always baffled me. But I think there is value to be had by recognizing a handful of personal heroes, as inspiration for your own actions or way of being. Of all the legions of musicians whose work I admire and love, I have very few music heroes. Joni Mitchell is one. Maybe Frank Zappa, maybe Van Morrison. (But I’ll not start a list, short though it would be.) My Mom and Pop are my heroes. My wife and son and daughter. Mark Twain. Bernie Sanders. Martin Luther King Jr. Colin Kaepernick. All of them are loaded with flaws, but those flaws are not important and are so outweighed by the good and their influence for good on the world that I’m fine considering them my personal heroes.
Henry Rollins is one of my heroes (but he is pretty out there). God knows I wouldn’t live my life as he tells us he does, nor would I want to be saddled with the personal characteristics he confesses to that could be debilitating for most. But Henry travels the world speaking about the truths he has discovered, and it sure resonated with me when I sat, laughing nearly every moment, through his flawless two-hour performance at McCabe’s last Saturday evening.
BUT THAT’S THE BLACK FLAG GUY, RIGHT?
Yeah, but Rollins decided decades ago he was too curious and restless to let that define the rest of his life. He started working spoken word into his songs, then started performing just that, has written for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, acted (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Heat” with De Niro and Pacino), starred in his own radio and TV shows, done voice-over including winning a Grammy for his narration of his autobiography (“Get In the Van”), and like George Carlin, he keeps you in stitches while laundry listing some of the most awful realities we are faced with today. Humor always helps get the point across. You laugh because it’s funny and also because it’s true.
I take lessons where I find them when they hit me. Henry cut to the core of many heavy problems we face, did it with humor and without really trashing anyone. And that brings me to Colin Kaepernick.
Wha? I assume we all know who he is from his black lives matter free speech protest, “taking a knee.” But I had never heard him speak until I stumbled across a video recently. He is thoughtful and articulate, and his argument for his protest is to me All-American and Constitutionally consistent. He has a plan of action, and it is getting attention.
I’m seeing a pattern now, in these people and others who have wound up in my path. You need a certain level of motivating anger before you are moved to action, and only action, not talking, gets things done. But all these people are firm in keeping love in their hearts, loving — not hating — the oppressor. Non-violent protest is exactly that: anger with love.
I’m ever more convinced that’s what we need here in Santa Monica.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Have you had it with watching your cherished Santa Monica being sucked down the drain, sold off for pennies? Are you mad, mad enough to do something? Get mad, stay mad, get out the vote, run for City Council, time is quickly running out, can’t wait for the next election, and the next and the next…
QUOTES OF THE WEEK, from Mark Twain:
“I have achieved my 70 years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else… I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can’t reach old age by another man’s road.”
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.”
“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.”
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org