Friday, April 29, 2011

Goodness

A friend called today to ask me what's wrong. I had been giving one-word replies to text messages. Apparently my tight-lipped hostility comes through txt msg loud and clear. I wasn't feeling animosity toward him but was retreating into a funk. The funk was self-inflicted and mostly in thoughts. My gripes against the world were between my ears. I was polite enough not to voice them. The rejections, the silence in request of response, the seeming betrayal of what was promised, what I deserved.

My complaint list revives itself in mid-meditation or afterward. The past week I found myself with a rash-like outbreak of mental affliction. There was no logical reason for it. Perhaps it was the loneliness or being tired. I still acted in ways to help others. But there was a tightness in my help. A reservoir of resistance. What am I holding back?

The past week I've sent out job posting, grant opps, finished calling a phone list for a not-for-profit, connected LHI people together, planned appointments, and pretty much helped take of my parents needs. I shopped for them, drove to appointments, fed them, took the trash out, cleaned up, and gave and gave and gave. On the surface I was a giving machine of physical objects and love and work. On Thursday I sent away a designer jacket to be auctioned for charity. I end the week tired and feeling 'off.' I need to improve my intentions and focus on the goals. I'm doing 'the good' anyway. I might as well get the maximum benefit.

I'm re-dedicating myself. To the essence of indivisibility and the higher goals. And every day I need to renounce myself of expecting 'big name' and big thing.

Goodness is so easy to do in default. It takes more effort to move with goodness in my heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Help, Pray, Wait: Health Insurance

Insurance needs note from doctor for therapy. Set up doctor exam and pay. Get note from doctor. Hand note to therapist company. Therapist company has to hand note back to insurance company for review. Wait on insurance's qualitative approval of the company selected. Then insurance has to quantitatively approve of the how much therapy, which insurance negotiates down to something affordable according to their financial health. Please hold.

Insurance maintains all rights to question claims from medical profession. Insurance has no medical background or license. Insurance maintains all rights to question therapist treatment schedule. Insurance has no treatment training. Insurance earnings depend on treatment limitation, not freedom. Negotiations proceed on legal grounds with insurance lawyers reaching out to doctors. Bargain for health. Please pray.


Patient gets treated once negotiations finish between lawyer and therapist company. At any point if treatment is interrupted due to further illness, insurance can suspend approval and require a new note from doctor. New note from doctor often seen as 'additional treatment' by insurance when it's a continuation of treatment suspended by insurance. Additional treatment is often rejected. Please mute.
 
Insurance earnings increase from banking patient payment. Banking money gets renamed as insurance capital rather than patient resource. And capital belongs to insurance. Not you. Please die.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing Jokes

I've never written standard jokes before. Recently one of my friends asked me to give it a try. He's a Black stand-up comedian and I figured it was a way to exercise my muscle.

I texted my first stand-up comedy joke to him along with follow ups.  I changed the context of the joke a little bit on here to protective its uniqueness.

Fox Joke:

So I was dating this guy who works at Fox News. And gay Republicans get a bad rap.People say they hate themselves, they're too cold, they're traitors. But Bobby was so romantic. He would say the sweetest things a gay white conservative could say. For instance on our first date whispered in my ear, 'show me your papers, nigga!'

And I just melted.On our second date I gave him my long-form birth certificate. That was foreplay. On our third date I showed him my freedom papers.

Once things started getting really hot I had him do what any black man would: cosign on my loans. Cause if I can't screw your credit, you can't screw me. Bobby was so sweet. His credit score was 190 by the end of our relationship. A sore ass last for a few days, but bad credit lasts a lifetime.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Renunciation

It helps that I live by a cemetery and that my parents were always so cheap. The idea of being obsessed by objects and things isn't that strong in me. Even as a child when my parents asked if I wanted the latest Cabbage Patch Doll or the new sneakers, I would shrug. I didn't really care. I don't mind having nice things and, in fact, it can feel comforting. But I hold no opinion of a person who has nice stuff or status symbols of attaining property. I think this is why a lot of rap music these days feels so hollow to me: talking about 'stuff' is as interesting as talking about armpit hair.

It was to my great surprise when an older friend invited up to her mansion a few weeks ago. I figured I would use the few days up there to finish up a play and relax outside of New York. When I arrived there was money on the table and an empty house. I was told to make myself at home. I munched on some berries and decided to make an omelet. In my home we clean up after ourselves, so I promptly washed the pan and dish after eating a salsa omelet. I read a little bit and looked around in the kitchen and living room. In a lounge chair by the window was a huge pile of men's clothes. I was told to try them on, take whatever I could wear. I picked up a few of the shirts by the fistful and began looking at the sizes. Most were too small and then I noticed the name brands. Burberry, Versace, and other European designer clothes. I tried on a few and separated the can's from the can't-wears. Then I tried on the shoes, almost all of which didn't fit.

Still confused as to what was going on, I waited. And waited some more. I looked out on the backyard and the rolling river. I took a step outside onto the deck. When my friend finally arrived she drove into the garage blasting music on her stereo. She swept into the house calling my name and I greeted her with hugs and kisses. She took me around to the pile and told me to pick out what I could wear and I could have it. Stunned, I thanked her and then she showed me the Burberry scarves and other items that I could have and I was informed of a new plan: I was to help her. She needed help auctioning clothes and then was interested in starting up a media company. Slightly wary of what was going on, I asked for details and was filled in on her moving, needing to sell these designer goods, and having too much stuff for one person. She threw name brands and labels at me like an auction barker; most of the names I didn't recognize or even care about but it was nice to be informed. The important thing was that my help was needed.

Now I'm not a great Buddhist scholar or practitioner. I wish I could say I was above the reproach of corruption, but I'm not. I can be corrupted like anyone else. But clothes don't do it for me. Never have, never will. When I back in Miami I shop thrift and cheap and I'm quite happy to do so. I'm writing currently in white shorts and a cheap green shirt all purchased from Wal-Mart.

Then she said I could have a percentage of the profits from selling the clothes and the numbers began running in my head. I'm trying desperately to fund raise for not-for-profit organizations and helping sell high-end clothes could generate revenue to help a lot of suffering. I'm in.

I began making phone calls, getting a feel for consignment shops, selling online. I called and emailed friends furiously and got up to speed in an hour thanks to research. This felt good. I was doing something for a cause and to help others. My friend kept giving me clothes and showing me around to different parts of this giant cavernous house. I became aware of how lonely it must be to live in a house this large with all this stuff in it. Trunks of designer accessories, clothes. The aspect of showing seemed important to her, after all she spent the money to show it to people. The least I could do was feign interest in female clothes and sports paraphernalia. I nodded and said 'wow' a lot and tried to ask the right questions and give compliments because I figured that's what you do when someone is showing off.

The next day I informed my friend that I would have to leave by the end of the night. I had no underwear or socks. I had only planned on spending a day or two there. She went out and bought me designer underwear socks. This would give me an extra day or two to work on this project. Additionally I began ringing up contacts in the field of entertainment to make connections and weave this all together, according to her request. And then I was corrupted.

Compliments and big name. That is my corruption point. She mentioned how great these media projects were going to be, how many people we were going to reach. I tried to stay in the present moment but found my mind drifted slowly off into grandeur. I would pull it back in and then the compliments would come showering down on me: I was such a great writer. And off my mind went to a future of power and producing projects that I cared about. There were slightly concerning and unusual signs of behavior from her but I was slightly intoxicated by the compliments. I could excuse the plants being removed from pots and dumped on the floor in random areas, the paranoia she conveyed of people stealing from her, the disheveled look of the house, the disappearances during the few days I was there to meet in DC with important people.

One night I was up trying to get some writing done and I walked to my guest room to wash my face. I heard footsteps and then a note was slipped under my door. I picked it and read that she had an emergency meeting in DC and was leaving ASAP. It was 2 am in the morning. Calmly I opened the door and called out her name. I asked about the note and she assured me that she would be back in the afternoon but she had to run off to DC. She handed me a wad of cash to get a cab ride to the mall tomorrow and buy some designer glasses for myself. To a normal person, this might seem odd. But I was, once again, living in an intoxicated state. I was an important part of her team and making moves with her. I was being entrusted with the mansion, the cars, the everything. I was important.

The next morning I woke up to the empty house, meditated, made phone calls, and got a cab to the mall. I paid the driver an enormous tip and went to the eyeglass store and picked out the finest designer glasses money could buy. I had my prescription fitted and then I had time to kill. The mall and its mountain of designer 'stuff' felt oppressive and down right depressing. I walked outside and made my way down a side street. My instinct lead me to a glorious red church. I stood there and took out some of my Buddhist literature. I did a vow, looked around, and was just happy to be in the open air by myself. The cab driver pulled up and I got back inside. We talked about the church's beauty and I confessed that I didn't know this area, church architecture or even how to drive a stick shift. He filled me in on everything. I asked if he could pull into a bank because I had also been given some checks to deposit for my personal use.

After depositing the checks I made my way back to the mansion, feeling pretty good. Lunch was made and meetings were set for the auction site and for the media projects. My friend arrived and said she was exhausted. Unfortunately the media person was already there. They engaged in an hour long conversation and she retired to bed. But before doing so, she handed me several more hundred in cash to go have dinner with the media producer. We hopped in a cab and choose Thai. My friend picked the finest steak and ordered a bottle of wine for himself. I stuck to salad, and a few veggie options, sans the wine

The next day it was more of the same and the web designer stopped by. More money was handed out and we dined at a fine French restaurant. I came back home and ordered a ticket to come back to Miami for my mom's surgery. I normally don't sleep the night before flying so I was wandering around at 3am and my friend asked me if I needed a ride back into the city. A cabbie was coming but she offered to drive me in herself in an hour. This would beat the traffic and I could wash all my dirty clothes. Deal. I showered, changed, packed the items she had set aside for me and hopped in the backseat of her Mercedes with my stuff in a box.

She drove me back into the city and I thanked her profusely. I was already planning on gift baskets and thank you notes galore. A few hours later it all changed. I was washing my clothes and I got an email asking where certain clothes were. These were items that she had given me and saw me put in the backseat of her car. And then it all hit me: the strange behavior, paranoia, memory loss, excessive giving. This was her standard method. That's why all of her friends -according to her- had stolen from her. Panicking, I immediately tried calling repeatedly. No answer, and straight to voice mail. I texted her and emailed her. No response. I took the items in question and shoved them in a bag. I frantically ran to the local UPS store and asked them ship these clothes overnight, express ASAP back to my friend's place. Nightmares of cops knocking on my door began to play out in my head.

The UPS service said they would be there by tomorrow. I could breathe again and sat at a computer and wrote her a long email. Of course it must have been my 'misunderstanding.' Yes, the clothes being shoveling at me for several days must have been a 'misinterpretation.' But I took the blame and tried to think of the karmic causes for such an odd ripening: to be given and then to be accused.

I didn't hear any word from my friend for a week. I flew back that day and my mom had surgery on Monday. Afterward I was pretty much consumed with taking care of her and my Dad, while paying bills and keeping the house in order.

A week later I call my friend's daughter and she sounds surprised to hear me. I just sent out a beautiful gift basket to my friend and was just following up. She's a bit stunned and asks if I get the email? No, what email. She forwards them to me and my jaw drops. In the email my friend accuses me of stealing from her: clothes, accessories, sports memorabilia, furs, antiques, even food. She listed things I had never heard of or seen including antique Bibles and 14th century figurines as missing and it was all because of me. I was also accused of having sex with men, whom I brought into the house, and even having sex in front of her. I also impersonated one of her relatives and gallivanted around town running up a tab in her 'good name.'

If you have ever been accused of something you never did, then you might know how I feel. Now multiply that by a billion and you begin to get a sense of how absurd and far-out these claims sounded. Her daughter informed me that her mother had psychological issues and this is par for the course. She never presses charges, but she just invites people in, showers them with gifts, and then accuses the same person of stealing from her.

In her emails I was a degenerate theft right out of a Jean Genet novel. A manipulative con man of unparalleled rank. Money, clothes, lingerie/underwear had all gone missing in my short stay there. I was from "Six Degrees" and her sentences were punctuated by multiple exclamation marks like an enraged high school girl. Her emails ended with her denouncing me but vowing to rise above it all. She would, according to her, soon be a star on youtube, seen around the world. She was too fabulous to be kept down by me or anyone else.

In a follow-up email to her friends she then said that I couldn't get enough of her and was emailing her constantly after she had already told me to stop. The only emails I had sent in the last week was a personal thank you note, a business reminder about the website, and an update of my mom's condition pre- and post-surgery condition that I blasted out to my friends. Quickly I removed her from my list of contacts and began sulking. How stupid, to have trusted! How stupid, to have believed! How could I have not seen the signs? They were everywhere. The woman was clearly out of her mind and I called her a friend (a distant one, but still) for years. I felt so low and foolish.

And then grace returned. I meditated on it and the meanings. Perhaps I should have asked, but I am learning. I emailed if any of the stuff should be returned and didn't get a reply. I've asked around and now I don't know what to do, so I've taken matters into the hands of the needy. Most of the money I have given away to charity. I am finding a way to auction off the clothes so they can go toward the hungry and others who need help. I am trying to turn this around into a way to help others.

We'll see how it all works out. I'm surrendering to the renunciation of these things. These items that so many people value, fight over, make false accusations, these silly little trinkets that mean nothing to me. I can use these trinkets to help others.

In some ways this experience deepened my faith in renunciation Imagine if I had really cared about these clothes or my name. My friend said I could file a libel suit against her and win a lot of money. But I don't care. The experience is one that ranks as the most bizarre thing to happen to me in the last several years. Live and learn.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Favorite Injured Players: Mike and Chad

There is a soft spot in my heart for the smart, alert, and reckless professional athlete. They are a sign of genius and mortality. I grew up in Miami and for 10 years watched Dan Marino quarterback the Miami Dolphins without getting so much as a hang nail. And then one season, during an unspectacular game in Cleveland it all changed. It was a 2-minute drill and the Dolphins were driving down the field before halftime with ease. Marino was at his finest, throwing a dart to a receiver, then a screen, going over the top to the middle of the field. The Brown's defense looked helpless.

Marino went back to pass and suddenly kicked his leg up in shock. He quickly dumped the ball off to a running back and collapsed to the ground. No one had touched him, the field didn't have any major dents in it. The gesture Marino made looked like someone who had been bitten on their heel by a snake. The announcers speculated as to whether he could've tripped over one of his lineman while the injured pick-up truck drove out to the middle of the field. And that was the beginning of the end for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time: a goofy-looking kick and collapse to the ground. On a sunny day in Cleveland with no major warning signs, his achilles tendon just snapped.

Marino returned a year later but it was never the same. Injuries came with increased frequency. A player who hadn't missed a game in over 10 years was now MIA for one or two games a year. Then it was extreme soreness, declining confidence, fear of injuries, demands for better protection, better receivers, a better offensive system to protect and shield him. And then retirement. Confidence in the body can leave so quickly.

There are rare great athletes like Marino and Jordan who can play for a decade without a nick. And they're are great athletes who are the IR MVPs. From the moment they enter the league trainers have to treat them like ceramic figurines. Greg Oden is probably the most famous recent example. A tremendously powerful NBA center who keeps getting small fractures which end his season. Yao Ming also fits the description well. But for a Miami sports fan there are two recent favorites that I hold close to my heart: QB Chad Pennington and NBA small forward Mike Miller.

Chad Pennington has glass shoulder while Miller could probably dislocate all his fingers by calling a time out. Pennington came from the New York Jets and was always the smart, conservative passer with pinpoint accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of opposing defenses. Pennington came down to Miami and had one good year. Better than most QBs. It was injury free, inspiring and a study in how a quarterback should prepare for a game. That year the Dolphins won the AFC East title only field goals and dump passes. Since then Pennington has ended each one of his seasons with injuries. He seems destined to be an astute QB coach, but his days of quarterbacking are almost over.

Mike Miller signed with the Heat last year and promptly got injured in training camp. Freak accident. His thumb got tangled in LeBron's jersey during a scrimmage. Torn muscles and done for several weeks. But there was still hope. By Christmas things would change and Miller was suited and ready to go in 2011. And then his other thumb got injured. And then his hand. And then he got sick with a terrible flu and dizziness, and then he's managed to re-re-injure his thumbs and hands each time he's gone in for significant minutes at the close of the season. And yet when Miller isn't getting taped to look like the mummy or doubled over in pain, he's a glorious player. Strong, tall, wiry, he can shoot 3-points with a feathery touch, use his long legs to break to the basket, goes after rebounds with tenacity, and has sharp court vision. The few glimpses Heat fans have had of Miller are impressive. Dwyane Wade was out a game due to migraine headaches and Miller started in his place. He hit 6 three-pointers in the first half. And he did it while assisting others, playing selflessly, and sticking to his opponent in defensive sets. In the one game Miller started all year, he set a team record for three-pointers in a half.

If Miller has another season like this one, he will be finished in Miami. He will be traded or simply released to make more room under the salary cap. A desperate team will take a shot and probably re-sign him before the fax finishes to NBA headquarters. Yet, he will always be a part of the Miami MVP IR team to me.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Radio MIA

I've been driving around Miami the past few days and flipping through channels. It's a futile exercise but I suffer from phantom fan syndrome. I grew up in the best radio market in America. South Florida in the 1980s and early 90s was a Warholian echo chamber of personalities, scandals, and voices. 560 WQAM and 610 WIOD were kings. Hour after hour you could be driving around the city and find something on the airwaves that was smart, irreverent, ecclectic, and completely fitting of the Floridian's penchant for the absurd and bizarre. I wanted to be these radio circus freaks and carnival barkers. Little did I know that this was a short last gasp of an industry being swallowed up. Deregulation killed metropolitan talk radio and opened the doors for mega-media companies and their national auto-programming.

Now when I turn on the radio and flip around it's Spanish news channels, Cuban politics, and sports. Lots of sports. I flipped between different sports channels because it's something I can tolerate but even that is beginning to feel auto-programmed and bleached of personalities.

Yesterday I let the dial stop at 610. The famed-channel is about 20 years removed from its heyday. Ten years ago it was just 24-hr news repeated on the channel. Recently it's been gobbled up and now is home to nationally-syndicated Fox anchors and broadcasters. Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and Sean Hannity call this former hippie-commune station its Miami link-in.  It's a surreal moment because when I see 610 on the dial I experience phantom fan syndrome. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling as my mind prepare itself for the brilliance of Randy Rhodes and Phil Hendry, the caustic rants of Neil Rodgers, or the absurd buffoonery of Rick and Sudds. Then I'm suddenly snapped out of it by ads for buying gold, erectile dysfunction, and FEAR. Buy fear, sell hope. Fear is trading at an all-time high these days.

The 610 of the past were stoners, comedians, and insane Floridians with pet obsessions, and conspiratorial theories on peyote. They were men and women, rich and poor, gay and straight all united by the feeling that the world was insane, hilarious, unpredictable, and something to be joked about to take away the pain.

Now the 610 caller are mostly from the middle of the country and older white men. And the overriding theme of their calls is FEAR. They call Beck afraid of our economy, afraid of the president, of hippies, of 'inner city problems.' No wonder people are having problems with 'erectile functions' with all this fear. There is little humor to the problems or problem-solvers, but a deep suspicion and distrustfulness of any big organization (oddly enough they don't hold this same suspicion for the media comglomerate they listen to that swallowed up a lot of the smaller 610s all over the nation).

Listening to these callers makes me realize something: they are really afraid. It's not an act or a racist rant, or a cover for their prejudices. They are really scared. Of what, I'm not entirely sure. Scared of change of 'their' country no longer being 'their's?' They aren't pretending. This fear is real to them and people like Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity help fill a role in their lives that maybe keeps them from going crazy.

What do they get from this broadcast of fear? Comfort, community, and a feeling that there is a way. Of course, I would think the way out of fear is to embrace its opposite. Still, they appear to be finding a way. The older white men right-wing radio of hate and mistrust share a field with another genre: gangsta rap. In the 80s and 90s there was a violent, mysogynistic entertainment filled with guns, jewelry, and scandal. Black men were under attack and the response to gangs, crack, and death was gangsta rap. Critics said the music was destructive, but failed to realize it was describing a destruction while not necessarily taking part in it. Yes, there was glorification, exaggeration, and rampant homophobia. But there was also some community formed from this media.

Right-wing radio has come together to offer a community balm of coercive violence, fear, erectile dysfunction cures, and hidden gold solutions to the spiritually and financially insolvent.  These are men who are losing hope in themselves and lashing out. But at least they're also reaching out. It is in joining forces that they can begin to find their real problems aren't anchor babies and secret Kenya Muslims. Their real problems are much like mine. And there really is no difference. Sadly 610 WIOD has been gobbled up and all the stars are gone. Fortunately, maybe it's for a good cause to give aid to the increasingly delusional fringe few who need the station more than myself or my friends.

Birth and Dreams

This morning I drove my mom to the hospital. She entered at the outpatient gate and didn't look back. I turned the car around, pointing it back to the house. She's schedule to have surgery this morning while I look after my Dad here at home. This day, 32 years ago, she also gave birth to me.



Driving home I met the nurse as she was wrapping up and quickly prepared breakfast for Dad, coffee, pills, eye drops, insulin pump. I gave myself the experiment of Cream of Rice for breakfast with berries and green tea. My facebook page is being filled up with the obligatory 'happy birthdays' and I'm getting emails reminding me that today is 'the' day.

Neither real or un-real is the feeling. Slightly numb, dazed fate guides my procedures today. It isn't the surgery. Doctors call the procedure 'minor' with a day in the hospital. It isn't the autistically ritualistic schedule my Dad has for food placement on the tray, how medication have to be set out and organized a certain way in order to be ingested. He takes care of most of the pill rituals himself carefully designing color-coordinated tabs soldiering off into his mouth. The bed has to be tilted just a certain way so that when he looks at it, he doesn't get annoyed. The food is the same, the TV shows the same, the movements are the same, just with diminshing returns. Like the red wind the carves out desert valleys in Arizona, there is something comforting in the fateful organization that erodes away the unpredictability, and carves out a monument to itself. Disease and illness tips the mind toward the comfort of order and rituals. I do my prayers and meditations every day and that too is a ritual. The facebook 'birthday postings' is a techno-ritual, both incredibly monotonous, but comforting: people know its my birthday and are able to muster 13 key strokes and hit send. 

Disease and death chase me toward the ritual. Wracking up birthdays remind me of not only where I've come from but where I could be going, where many are going year by year. I'll have to do some giving from the perfections, read some scripture, and puncture the soft feeling of entombment.