Posted in A Day In the Life

Looking for Kinky Friedman

top of wood table and party light of bokeh in bar at night backgroundMy decision was really a whim. I didn’t think it through — I just knew that I wanted it. “I’m on a quest,” I told my husband and my friends, “to meet Kinky Friedman.”

It seemed like a good goal, given that we were moving to Austin, Texas. This was the place where Kinky had once made his stand. As I started to put things into boxes, Kinky bumped against something in my brain and I became obsessed with him. This was more than just a quest, it was an invitation from my psyche.

When we decided to make the move, it was because of the smoke that clogged our little valley in the summer months. For the past weeks, I couldn’t see, couldn’t breath for all that smoke. I became sick and sluggish. I felt trapped and stuck, but not just physically. I felt that way about my writing. And I felt that way about the unrelenting scandal, corruption and wreckage that filled the national news. I think the whole country was experiencing idiot fatigue, the kind of weariness that comes from so many grown-up men giving away their nuts. The result was a sickening lack of courage to stand up for anything, let alone the “right thing.” The move to Austin was a yet unformed promise of liberation from all thing blocking my view. It gave me hope, and a reason to unplug from the news. I’d pack up the television and lose myself in the whimsy of finding Kinky Friedman.

People asked me over and over again, “Why Austin?” I didn’t have much of an answer. I said things like, “They have a great music scene. I like the rolling hills. Warm weather is appealing to these old bones.” But I didn’t really know why Austin. Was it because I might possibly find Kinky Friedman? Could I be drawn to Austin because of a greater rising that was beginning to happen in the Lone Star state — a new nation being birthed, while I again, was experiencing a rebirth, too?

Once, a long time ago, when I was a 20-something, I’d met Kinky. He brushed by me in the hallway at NBC studios. I worked for a television show called The Midnight Special. It was on at 11:30 on Friday nights, hosted by Wolfman Jack, who started out each show with a deep, booming declaration: “Let the midnight special shine its ever lovin’ light on you.”

Armed with a hit record, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys were guests on The Midnight Special. They sang irreverent songs with political overtones. All messages are made more palatable through the activism of laughter. His popular anthem, They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore, was a memorable sing-along ode to anti-racism. That was long before any of us could imagine MTV, cable television or the likes of a Stephen Colbert. I’d thought that Kinky was hysterically funny. But he was also brilliant, a Mark Twain of the times, dressed up in the 1970’s. He said and sang what was on his mind, without worry about what others thought. He was genuine. And I wanted to possess that same kind of smart, funny, edge that made him so interesting. There was a time when I had it, when I felt it.

In that part of my life, I drank hard and stayed up all night listening to music. I wrote poetry and lyrics. I wrote my first short stories with a sharp wit that wasn’t afraid to make fun of things in the word that seemed hypocritical or otherwise disingenuous. There was in me a sense of wild mischief and quirk. But as the years went by, I started to care too much about what other people thought of me, how I was seen. I tried harder than anyone I’d ever met to “get my act together.” The result was that I broke off that wild and quirky piece of myself and buried along the road somewhere. I developed a sense of pride that I’d worked my ass off to become a responsible, upstanding citizen and contributing member of the community. So I forgot about Kinky, except to note he was still making music, and had also became a novelist who cranked out a lot of murder mysteries.

Life happens on more than one level at a time. Moving to Austin was now part of a search for the edgy kid of my 20’s. It was also a bold statement of my 60’s. Hubby and I saw this as a great adventure — doing a huge interstate move at a time when most people are downsizing, simplifying and slowing. I’ve taken risks before and the risks were always worth it, even when I seemingly failed. It wasn’t that I wanted to relive that earlier time, but I knew it was crucial for me to pull it forward to where I was now. Kinky Friedman became my symbol for that, a light that would help me rediscover that sense of wild again.

So where to look for this 74-year-old Texas icon? A bar in Austin? His animal preserve in San Antonio? To start, I bought his book, Armadillos and Old Lace. That might give me a clue. Then, I started to think about what I would say to him if I actually found him.

I pictured myself sitting in a bar in Austin, ordering a soda water and lime, and pretending that it was vodka on the rocks. I imagined leaning forward and asking the bartender if he knew who Kinky Friedman was. I’d tell him that I was on a quest to meet the musician, writer, and political activist. The bartender would nod toward a stage, where outlined in the smoky haze would be a guy tuning a guitar with a cigar in one hand.

I’d walk up to the stage. “Do you remember being on The Midnight Special in the 1970’s?” I’d ask. “Do you remember the young secretary on the show back then, the kind of funny one?”

He’d shake his head no and look perplexed.

“I guess it doesn’t matter if you remember her or not, I’m just looking for her, is all . . .”

“You might check somewhere down that road between happiness and despair,” he’d say, quoting one of his novels.

Then again, the bartender might just shrug at my question and say, “Everyone knows who Kinky Friedman is.” When pressed, he’d answer that he’d “never met the guy personally.” And I’d walk away remembering that I had met him personally, once when I was of a quicker wit, a faster step, and sharper edge. It was back in the days when the vodka in my glass would have been real and irreverent poetry was the prayer on my lips.

Posted in A Day In the Life, Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Year of Convictions

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I like the “new” in front of New Year. Other than that, there’s not really anything that I celebrate. New Year’s eve is my least favorite night of the year to be out and about. People are drinking and they are driving. Restaurants over charge for big meals and staying up until midnight to yell “Happy New Year,” holds absolutely no appeal. So, like most New Year’s, I was in bed and asleep by ten.

There are no New Year resolutions for me, because every time I make a resolution, I break it. Gym memberships and diets are the worst kinds of resolutions, followed by eschewing all negative thoughts and not cursing. I exercise enough. I eat well enough and I keep my curse words close at hand and don’t judge myself for it.

But this year, I want stuff. I want certain things to happen and I know that the old phrase: become the change you wish to see, applies. If I have made one resolution, it is this: to stand in the light of my truth.

I stand in the light of my truth. I am not afraid to identify bad behavior and rhetoric when I see it. If it looks like racism, misogyny and bigotry, then I will call it what it is. I will not support any leader or any human being that defiles another with slurs and policy. I advocate for a world of inclusiveness and civility. I hold these things as personal values and I intend to nurture my character by practicing them.

I stand in the light of my truth. I will not accept the white washing of divisive language by dressing it up and calling it “strong” language, locker room talk, or bar talk. As a writer, I know that words matter and they have power.

I stand in the light of my truth. I fully reject anyone who participates in racist, bigoted behavior or anyone who bears witness to racist, bigoted behavior by stating that they “do not recall.” Experience and age have taught me that we all know when we or someone else is behaving badly, and we do recall.

I stand in the light of my truth. You who bear witness and do nothing; you who participate in the slander of groups based on skin color, religion or sexual orientation; you who try to lie to yourself and to me by telling me that these things don’t matter, but making America great again does matter. I will not be swayed by your weak argument and I will let myself feel disgust and heartbreak so that I fight against you with my vote and my advocacy.

I stand in the light of my truth. I won’t be cowed. I will not waiver. I am not interested in supporting dysfunctional politics. I am interested in doing what I know in my heart is right. And I know the disparagement of targeted groups for the reasons I have stated is wrong. I am going to fight for what is right.

2018 – look out! This is the action that I take: I will not stick my head in the sand and ignore what is going on. And I am not alone. There are many of us. And we stand in the light of our truth, and the power of our convictions.

Happy New Year.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

All That Political Stuff That Puts You To Sleep and What You Need To Do About It!

iStock_000011031548XSmallImagine the United States of America five years from now. What do you see? Are we repairing our infrastructure? Are we still worshiping at the altar of fossil fuels? Does everyone have affordable, sustainable healthcare or are people going into bankruptcy because of a serious illness? Are we still at war in the Middle East? What does our country look like?

Are you more interested in cute kitty videos on Facebook than you are in understanding the policies of our elected officials? Is social media taking the place of social studies in your life?

Is this all just one big bummer? Do you hide from the challenges before us by saying “I don’t watch the news, it’s just so negative.” Truth is,  I’d rather not watch the news either. The 24/7 feed of bat-shit politicians practicing hate on each other is horrid. That being said, I don’t want to find myself tangled in a status quo five years from now that is only feeding our brokenness. So I have resolved to pay attention.

In spite of the problems that are literally engulfing us, I have a great hope, based on experience that informs my heart and tells me that this country is filled with a lot of people doing their best to live a good and decent life. People are great and a lot of our politicians suck. The disconnect is staggering.

Our country is broken. Infrastructure everywhere is creating problems that are affecting not just our bridges, but also our water supply. The lack of investment in alternative energy continues to pollute and poison us. Schools have become baby sitters with a lack of standard, resource and respect to turn out a thoughtful citizenry. In short, we are at the most important turning point in our history.

If you set only one goal for yourself this year, let it be this: to investigate our presidential candidates with a critical eye and choose wisely based on using your brain and not just repeating something you heard on television or from a friend. Then, make sure that you get out and vote. We don’t have many rights left in America, but the right to vote is still ours. So use it and use it well. Stand in the light of your truth and be counted. And before you mark your ballot, make sure that you have thought about where you want our country to be five years from now. Remember we don’t need a savior for our nation, we need an evolution of consciousness.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Pro-Planet and Words that Have Power

iStock_000012181084XSmallOutside my windows, the west is on fire. Smoke hangs thick in the Rogue Valley. Friends and neighbors wear masks when they venture out. Below us are the fires in California, burning so hot that they create their own weather. Above us fires from central Oregon eat away at brittle terrain, battered by an ever-spreading drought. And further north Washington state burns like nobody’s business. Each time the wind shifts, choking smoke from a different direction blows into the valley where I live.

Climate change is not a possibility up the road. We are living in climate change. If you are a denier and want to get up in my face about how the climate is always changing, I can only offer you this: Our lack of conservation and egregious polluting continues to contribute to the extreme and unprecedented weather events we are experiencing, and that is the truth.

The west is getting drier and the east is getting wetter. Tornados and hurricanes are stronger, and as Bob Dylan once famously sang, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Therefore I call bullshit on any stupid politician telling me that they don’t believe in climate change. What does this new and volatile model bring, other than more instability? And I am asking that question of both climate change and our political body. Take your pick.

I was happy to see President Obama talk about climate change in Nevada yesterday. I am always happy when an elected official recognizes and offers intelligent discourse, acknowledging that our planet is sick. She has a fever and you can see it on the west coast of the country. I still hold out for action. It’s not yet too late.

So here’s my new word: Pro-planet. Words have power. We all know what “the 99%” means, not because it was defined by someone, but because our collective consciousness defined it to a point where it became a political battle cry, underscoring the chasm between our growing have and have not society.

I want a word, a word that I can hurl at politicians who want my vote. A word that defines a deeply held, moral conviction. Do not give away your vote to a single person who is not Pro-planet. We once had a proud and noble government that worked for the people. It has been slipping from our grasp for decades and not only are we paying the price, but the planet that we live on is paying a price. I only have one bullet in my arsenal and that is my vote. My vote, coupled with your vote and other votes can become stronger than money and the propaganda that money breeds.

I want a Pro-planet president and a Pro-planet congress and senate. In the meantime, the world is burning outside of my windows.

I have never asked anyone to “like” my posts or re-blog, or anything like that. But this is not about promoting my self; this is about creating a word that can grow teeth and traction. Please “like” this on WordPress, Linked-In and Facebook in order to spread the word. Please re-post my essay. Let’s see if we can collectively define a word that has the potential to instigate change. Start referring to yourself as Pro-planet.

Signing off today as Pro-planet. I love this earth and I choose to stand and be counted in that way.