Sunday, May 15, 2011


The world is full of timeless struggles. Good vs. Evil. Light vs. Darkness. To Be or Not to Be. Whether to proceed at a yellow light. Such epic conflicts set up a balance in nature. KAOS vs. CONTROL was such a conflict. I watched it faithfully every Monday night in front of our B&W Zenith portable TV. 

Although named for the bumbling protagonist Maxwell Smart, it seemed like if we all paid attention, we could all Get Smart. Without attending the college course that I'm sure is available.

You Must Listen Carefully Under the Cone of Silence

KAOS was not an acronym, but "an international organization of evil" while CONTROL was, well, there to keep them under control. So let's talk about chaos instead.

It's everywhere. And if not kept under control, well, the universe unravels, constantly moving toward disorder, according to the law of entropy.

Without chaos, we would have little to do. And as it turns out, we could do nothing at all. Take micro-tremors for example. The little fluctuations that we normally control all the time. It is our ability to control them that makes us stronger, provides the steady hand, or the ability to lose our training wheels. They provide the starting point for larger non-chaotic action. Like a seed crystal - a tiny imperfection from which the macro-scale orderly crystal grows. So oddly enough, it is imbalance that keeps you on your toes, so to speak.

Therefore I am not entirely sure it is unnatural for individuals to seek a level of imbalance that feels right for them. To be challenged or to prove something. It may be a healthy thing to some extent. But there are lots of choices when one is on that path.

When healthy imbalances get away from you, the results can be kind of funny. Like when you are almost  riding off the road on your bike. Or careening helplessly into a ditch while avoiding a stationary Yew (Angelito). Or running head-on to the "SLOW" sign on your snowboard and falling over square on your shoulder (leading in turn, to a broken collarbone).
I hate when that happens.

When unhealthy imbalances get away from you, the results are usually not so funny. The occasional event might seem like it at the time, and that will be that. Some would say that is part of growing up and finding one's way in the world. Kermit's phrase "Look Ma, no brains!" comes to mind. But I'm talking about the long haul. When the events become more than occasional and you realize one day that you dwell in the land of the Lotus Eaters.

So remember that not all pools have ripples and they are content to stay that way. Listen carefully. Make healthy choices. And as for the balance beam or tight rope - if you can't leave it to trained professionals, at least start 6" off the floor.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


In American Pie, Don McLean sang of the Day the Music Died. I was only about 3 months old at the time, so I don't remember that day. But I have seen (and own a copy of) The Buddy Holly Story. And Gary Busey rocked it - and in return was nominated for an Academy Award. I can't say if it was credible, but he is Buddy Holly to me. And if only a small percentage of the tale is true, Buddy Holly was one of the few handfuls of people with a gift, a vision and drive. A sad day indeed.

I particularly noted the night he got punched out right before he went on stage. Because the show must go on, he inserted 2 Chiclets where his front teeth used to be. So what happened to Gary after that?

There were other sad days I do remember. JFK being shot. MLK being shot. John Lennon being shot. I see a trend there. Maybe that's why I never picked up one of my Dad's favorite pastimes - gunsmithing - but I don't think that's really it. Challenger. 9/11. I don't tend to dwell on such days. But worse than all those days was the last strip of Calvin and Hobbes.

For only through Calvin and Hobbes could one Transmogrify.

Or so I thought. It turns out you can do it "right in the comfort of your very own home". And it's happening all the time. It might start with a double-dog dare. Or a desire to be "grown-up". Or maybe to somehow have freedom from responsibility - to take a holiday. There were daring adventures to be had for sure. For the price of admission. And then. Before you know it, you can't get out of the box you put yourself in.

Or maybe you end up in a real box. Like the one I learned my brother is now living out of. Or worse. And Oh My Brothers, it is real. For Gary, a lot of bizarre personal episodes, and not wearing a helmet didn't help.

Gary - After Transmogrification. A long way from Buddy Holly.

For it is said that once a cucumber turns into a pickle, it can't go back to being a cucumber. And the same is true of people to an extent. But I like to think that some pickles can continue to evolve - with effort. And without effort, you'll be way past warranty in no time. OK, so the Celebrity Apprentice may not qualify, but it's a start. Keep working it Gary, I'm pulling for you.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Return of the Red Baron

It was a dark, stormy morning. The skies were overcast and the air was cool. The World War I Flying Ace took to the skies again in his Sopwith Camel, in search of his nemesis, the Red Baron.

The theater was crowded. The 8 kilometers covered the famous institute of Higher Learning, George Mason University. As the Flying Ace donned his leather helmet, goggles, and trigger-finger gloves, some thought he was overdressed. But arriving early, he knew it was necessary to suit up.
The Red Baron had been sighted.

Oh yes, the Fokker Triplane was always the snappiest airplane in the skies, despite its age. The Flying Ace recalled a time when he was 5 years old and discovered a hand-made wooden replica in the Rochester House of his grandparents, on Rutgers Street. As he and his brother investigated the many upstairs rooms (egad! some occupied by lodgers), they came across the treasured and fragile prize, built by his Uncle Bob. The whereabouts of the model remain unknown.

The Flying Ace remarked to his daughter Bridget, who would take to the air with him this day, that each race is a journey of the soul. For one starts the race with many, but as each companion falls away, somewhere within the race it becomes your own. For only you know the struggles of your journey, and you will finish alone.

It was at kilometer 3 when the Flying Ace, in his impudence, overtook the Red Baron despite the constant voice in his head - just stay on his tail. Keep him in your sights. The Flying Ace took replenishment at kilometer 5, and as he did so he was overtaken by the Red Baron. Curses! And again he said to himself - just stay on his tail.

At this point his Wingman began to bear down with a solemn and unflinching drive that would leave the Red Baron behind for good. But the Flying Ace, with but 3 kilometers to go, knew he would need to push the Sopwith Camel to its limit to overtake him. And at kilometer 7, he buzzed the treetops and his resolve was renewed as he could hear members of his squadron cheering - "There He Is! 50 meters ahead! Go Get Him!"

The Flying Ace heard the report from below deck "I'm giving her all she's got Captain!" and he closed to within 10 meters. "She's breaking up Captain!" And feeling the weight of its tremendous burden, the Ancient Ship of the Desert could not close the gap. With one last, futile effort he watched as the Red Baron crossed the finish line 10 seconds ahead.

But it was good to see the Red Baron again. And hopefully, we will meet again. For more of the Red Baron, see my earlier post.