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SHATTERED FAITH NET

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THE FORWARD BY YVONNE PERRY

The thought processes of some people don‘t always allow for the possibility that the round peg may fit the square hole if the square hole is big enough.

Round peg, square hole? That’s me! My eyes perked up when I read that comment by Nick Oliva, and I knew I was going to enjoy reading the rest of this book.
Nick. Me. Neither of us fit the expected mold and both of us have little use for the practices and dogmatic beliefs imposed upon society by organized religions. All my life, I have butted heads with people who find it difficult to relate with me because I have an alternate viewpoint due to the mystical experiences I’ve had.

Nick chose to remove himself from the abuse of controlling religious leaders. I was “removed” from religion in one fell swoop when the universe (spirit, my soul, God, higher self, or whatever you want to call it) booted me out of the church, its teachings, my marriage, my sense of security, and the belief system that I had tenaciously clung to for forty years. I took what was left of my paranormal ass and went to the corner of my pigeon hole to reevaluate what was working in my life and what wasn’t. There was a lot of garbage to sort through as I examined each piece of black-robed ideology and researched modern Christianity back to its roots.

Nick nailed it when he wrote, “I‘m trying to get people to understand that they are responsible for their actions, not―the Lord.” That’s what I’ve been trying to help people understand for the past ten years. When my life fell apart, I soon discovered that it was up to me—not God, the church, or anyone else—to put it back together. What a difference that discovery has made for me. But, try explaining that to folks who have a rigid indoctrinated view of how life and death should operate.

As one who has had two near-death experiences (NDE) and lived to write a book about them, I was very interested to read what Nick had to say about his own near death experience, which occurred when his heart stopped beating for fourteen seconds as he was literally trying to take a shit. You laughed, I heard you! And, you’ll laugh at the wit, logic, and satire Nick Oliva uses to battle the philosophies of the Atheists and Christians who harshly responded to his posts in an online forum. You may also feel angry when you read the chapter titled “The Real Story of the Christian Bible, or that Black Book You’re Holding Isn’t What You Think It Is.” Seventeen hundred years has made a big difference in the “sacred” text!

I can understand Nick’s hesitancy to write about his near-death experience. Maybe that is why he left it for the last course—like a sweet dessert for this meat-heavy meal.

Death is not something most people want to talk about and yet it is something every one of us will ultimately have to face. I’ve never met any Near Death Experiencer who doesn’t tell me that their experience changed his or her life.

The author’s account of his other-world experience gives us encouragement that our fears about what lies beyond the grave are merely preconceived notions passed from one generation to the next. Those, who like Nick and myself, that have experienced an NDE, may find a metaphysical view of life and death more in line with the laws that are written in their hearts rather than on tablets of stone or in the New Times Roman, black leather, gold-leafed, silky-pages of the King James Version.

I’m glad to have found a friend who is brave enough to write his story and approach the fallacies of religion. I hope this book will open some eyes that have been nailed shut like the coffin they avoid peering into. I know of nothing that is deader than someone who will not allow room to question his or her beliefs. As Nick writes, “To not acknowledge the fact that one could be wrong is to show the greatest ignorance to life itself.” Yet, when it comes to discussing anything spiritual that does involve Jesus Christ, Christianity, or religion, Nick’s reason and logic will probably hit a brick wall—especially when presented to fundamentalists who want to legislate their staunch morals through political leaders.

You may think that I hate those who fill the church pews on Sunday or preach the “not-so-good-news.” I mean, what’s so good about being told that you’re a sinner bound for hell and that you must believe a certain way to avoid damnation? I don’t hate anyone, but I do hate the behavior of some. Like Nick, I can accept anyone who treats others with love and respect. As long as he or she doesn’t try to convert me to his or her way of thinking, it really doesn‘t matter to me what he or she believes or does—as long as he or she does no harm to anyone else in the process.

“If we all could keep our fear, greed, and pride at bay we could accomplish great things in the course of human history.”…Just imagine how the world would change if we took Nick’s words to heart and started practicing them.

Shattered Faith: To Believe or Not To Believe truly is a gift to humanity. If only we would heed the advice this book contains. I invite you to put down your weapon (fear), stop hating those you don‘t understand, and prepare to be tolerant as you delve into this gift.

Yvonne Perry

Author of RIGHT TO RECOVER: Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America and MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: True Stories About Death, Dying, and Afterlife

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We strive our whole lives to bring meaning to our consciousness, to feel as though we are here for a purpose; to have that meaningful relationship with ourselves, our beliefs in external entities of whatever one’s vision of God is, and to counter the selfishness that is programmed as a survival mechanism that usually gets out of hand, in old accustomed, and therefore generally excused, behavior of tacit acceptance or outright deviousness of our human race causing the suffering and death of others.

It is this “meaning” that eludes most both the stringent atheist and emphatic Fundamentalist religious fanatic.  It is not about the self, it is about giving of oneself to help those less able to cope with life; to give them hope and some small piece of time that brings happiness, laughter, and the stirring of endorphins that can make a difference in the short abstract of time we are all bound to on this planet.

Normal people as a matter of normal behavior take psychotropic drugs, anti-anxiety medication and force themselves to carry on through routine day-to-day set patterns to cope with the false sense of security that everything will be fine.  When one convinces themselves that it is real fact, inevitably life proves to them otherwise and the fall from this altruistic grace is a much farther distance than if one just realizes we are human and our time is short.  Make each day count and stop worrying about things you have absolutely no control over and live every day to its fullest – and while you are at it, stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Go to a local Children’s Hospital and look into the eyes that know they are going to pass quickly. Feel their reality instead of dwelling on your petty perceived problems that don’t amount to a piddling compared to these unlived lives.  Visit a hospice and see those who are about to pass on from this world and have no choice but acceptance.

 Enjoy your “salad days” of youth and take each moment and treasure it, instead of worrying about anything else that hasn’t happened yet or living in the past that you have no power to change.  Be good to yourself and then do the work of the divine by helping those unable to have anything close to your chance of happiness that you may be denying yourself because you can’t see the forest for the trees.  Pain is part of life, accept it.  When you get on in years it is the aching in the morning that is a sign you are still here.  Embrace it, fight it, and rail against giving in until the waters of the ultimate journey overwhelms you.  Then acceptance and return to the energy of our source will take you home.  Till then, be here now.

This country-no, this world has evolved to a point where we need to transcend the human selfishness and give of ourselves to others who are less fortunate.  Money cannot save us and the quest for money is not a quest for happiness, so one should be careful what one wishes for in their lives.  True happiness comes from within.  My message for you in 2009 is to find that happiness and share it with everyone you come in contact with in your life.  Make it a life worth living for others and feel the goodness that goes beyond perceived human ideals of “what is” and what you think you are “supposed to do.”

 

This is dedicated to all of my nieces and nephews.  The road is long and always leads to another one.

When I was 5 years-old I was in first grade and fully energized by those of my age together in the playground where a hierarchy of order was made plain by class, color, and wealth.  It was the beginning of abuse by bullies who were stronger and lean compared my to husky size from my mother never allowing anyone leaving the table unless all the food was eaten, and she cooked for an army.  I learned that mass hysteria was easily accomplished on the playground. I watched a mentally retarded brother manipulate my adult parents with ease.  I learn the subtle art of psychology without even realizing it. There were three ‘Nicks’ within two houses next to each other.  We used to laugh when someone called and all of us answered.  Big Nick used to take us fishing.  My best friend Little Nick’s father, Big Nick’s daughter’s husband, died in a boating accident and it was kept from me.  I couldn’t understand the crying and sadness around me.

When I was 10 years-old I was beaten many times in the school yard and to and from home. My hormones kicked in early and I began to lift weights and body build.  A short time later those same bullies, who were expelled from the school system for beating me, wouldn’t come near me.  A few years later in Catholic school the pastor sexually abused me and many others, a long buried event that only came up when I was writing a novel and I used that experience when writing the key element of the main female character.  As an altar boy, I learned that praying was not a substitute for action to solve my problems.  I had to act or allow myself to become merely fodder for those who were sadistically stronger.  I learned to question all authority be it religious or otherwise. I watched as my intransigent brother was put into an institution for threatening my two infant brothers.  I watched as my mother blamed my father for it.  I grew up quickly because of their rift caused by pure manipulation.  I learned to hide fear well.

When I was 15 years-old I was a high school starter in football as a center, odd as I was the smallest guy on the team, and then attempted wrestling due to a coach’s pressure.  I hated it, and got out by exaggerating an injury.  I had become a bonafide athlete. I threw discus and ran track, and girls now became an attractive force of nature, but I knew there was danger in paradise.  I learned how to play drums.  I learned that although I had a far superior education in Catholic school, emotionally there was a vacuum inside.  I sought acceptance and allowed myself to be used for that purpose.  I felt like the poor boy at grand banquet and didn’t deserve to be there.  I learned that I had to begin an ongoing process, to rely on me, to love myself before I could go further.  I learned how hard that really was.  Big Nick passed away as did two of my father’s brother’s and I was in a state of denial for all of them.

When I was 20 years-old I drove a forklift, made a bunch of money, went to Jamaica by myself, didn’t come back when I supposed to and was fired by Scott Paper.  I then went back to college after dropping out after the first semester with the college being on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City due to a construction strike, and earned a degree in music two and a half years later. I gained strength from adversity.  I learned how to really play the guitar and piano.  I came from knowing nothing about music to graduating in Who’s Who in American Colleges in a very short time.  The immersion of myself into knowledge and technology at that time made it the most incredible part of my life.  I learned that I possessed incredible passion and  it made me go for the seemingly impossible as I truly began to believe in the spirituality of a force within me.  I studied the subject of religion voraciously, and cared not about what anyone else thought of me.   I learned I had the power within to do incredible things when I surrendered to that force and allowed the energy to flow through me.  I learned to be vulnerable and to accept failure as a temporary setback to success, and then realized that it was an inevitable part of it. I learned that listening was more important than talking, that being smart was being secure in being smart, without having to prove it or impress anyone else.

When I was 25-years-old and ready for a career after graduation in 1977 the recession and the “gas crisis” made for a harsh time and I shoveled coal at the local utility company and my rental home in the farm area of South Jersey was burglarized and we lost everything that my girlfriend and soon-to-be wife had owned.  We lived in a tent on a friend’s property for the summer.  My favorite Uncle was able to secure for us an old chauffeur’s quarters behind a former mansion that was now being used as an American Legion Hall for $90 a month in Pleasantville, N.J.  We began to play music in the clubs in and around Atlantic City.  I enjoyed the night life and playing great music for appreciative audiences the experience was soul satisfying but paid comparatively little.  I learned not to depend on anyone but myself in all matters and that certain old friends were best left as such when they become toxic.  I realized that the pain I went through as a child now made me better able to handle the bitter parts of life that I could not change.

When I was 30 years-old I was now working for a casino as an Audio Technician and learned my trade both from books and being on the job.  It was a new age of growth for the area with the incredible expansion of casinos, but like anything, greed begets greed and the corporate structure killed the golden goose. The political and corporate stupidity was constantly at work and I learned that what “appears to be” is much more important that “what is.”  I watched my father die over a few months. I learned to accept my mortality and cried for the time back. I saw what seemed so much time wasted and was bitter, I still hadn’t learned the understanding and enlightenment to be at peace with it.

When I was 35 years-old I was now married for some time and had bought a house in the country with way too much grass to cut and I developed severe allergies that would not be discovered or even checked until 5 years later. It was a time of false bliss, of thinking that possessions and money could bring happiness.  My move to the Taj Mahal nine months early to prepare for the opening was to be the beginning of both “The Donald’s” and my demise in that era of the 90’s.  Chasing corporate dollars was a pastime and not really a career that was fulfilling although it provided just enough comfort to not take a chance and remain safely in the corporate cradle.  I learned that physical pain is never understood by anyone but those who have been through similar pain. Headaches got worse and workloads were excessive.  I learned to have trust in but a few key fellow workers.  I learned that one must proactively terminate a threat before it cannot be overtaken regardless of the personal circumstances.  I learned brutal bloody coldness from the very best management that Donald Trump offered.

When I was 40 years-old my health worsened, the headaches went unabated and my high school football-worn knees could barely handle the constant humidity of the East Coast.  Without work I went into depression and then my left arm went numb from a C-4 nerve impingement that no one figured out for 8 months. By that time my marriage was asunder, I was out of a job and I went to Las Vegas with less than $1000 and searched for work while I knew my wife at the time would not go with me.  My divorce soon followed when Merv Griffin called and needed an Entertainment/Technical Director for his new place in Mesquite, NV.  Of course, greed got to those owners as well and they went belly-up.  It was when I moved to Las Vegas that I was diagnosed as having bubble-boy allergies.  The severe headaches and cysts were keeping me in misery, and I was put on allergy shots for the next six years…..this after two futile operations back East without even testing for allergies and two more operations in Las Vegas.  I worked both at the Sahara showroom AND the Stratosphere (pre-opening) full time and made bank to make up for the losses of those previous years.  I learned that the world when confronted by the truth always looked the other way and offered trite solutions to complex problems because they really didn’t want anyone to know anything that could take their corrupt advantage away.  I learned that living in the now was the most important thing to understand.   My past was unchangeable, the future not here yet.  I began to understand the wisdom of the past leading to what was the “now” and the inevitability of what could only be, based on choices that I made. 

When I was 45 years-old I had been working at the Tropicana in Las Vegas and ran audio for the Folies Bergere and then after 3 years completely revamped and operated their Convention Services Technical Department.  After much turmoil from the past, I would marry a woman that I knew for over 24 years and had her band booked many times in Atlantic City at the Taj Mahal and other places.  The irony was that her band would have played for my first wedding but they weren’t available, but I did book them for my brother’s first wedding……her family was from a place 20 minutes from my New Jersey childhood home….I met her in Las Vegas at the Riviera lounge one night..…so it is indeed a small world.  A few years later an emergency operation was done on my skull to stop infection from reaching my brain and holes were drilled into the area above my eyes to drain the poison, like I needed two holes in my head.  Obviously, it worked. I watched as my mother died at age 67.   I learned that the number of people I could really trust, I could count on one hand, as my father predicted and warned me 30 years earlier.  I never gave up on myself.

When I was 50 years-old I planned a big birthday bash and made out the invitations with a picture of a man in a wheel chair on an IV, and being tended to by a nurse.  Little did I know that I would be in a hospital fighting for my life because of an emergency operation for a spinal infection.  I did in fact flat line and die, but was given a choice to fight and come back to the pain and bittersweet experiences of life, and I took it, despite the painless beauty of that afterworld experience.  The nerve damage disabled me but I took this as just another challenge that life has doled out for me since I was that beaten-up child.  I learned that love does truly conquer all and the love I had for my wife brought me back to the land of the living so that I could tell her and others that I was alright on that “other side.”  Despite the best efforts of the doctors and the hospital, I survived and checked myself out after 5 weeks in intensive care.  I also learned “patient do thy own research” and don’t trust “practitioners.”  Irony upon irony was that I had already written a Near Death Experience in my novel 10 years earlier that paralleled my real experience.  I learned to laugh at death, to embrace life’s preciousness and I allowed the epiphany of living, in its own right, to saturate my every action.  I finally published my novel, I opened a restaurant with my brother, and I took chances without fear of the consequences.  I was finally free to be who I always was and dared to do things without fear and was supported by those who cared without judgment of success or failure.

 

Now I have now turned 55 years-old and I am happy to be alive despite the paralyzation and pain from the surgeries and I know that life itself is all that counts.  There is much more to my life than these highlights, there is no describing the passion, the intense work and rewarding outcomes, the dreams that became reality and the dreams that still live on.  It is the how that is much more important than the what I have done.  There is no great secret to how to live your life other than to survive and make lemonade from lemons.  Those of weak minds do not survive and cannot be stable unless they begin to realize- this is it, this is not a rehearsal.  You get one chance and only one chance, so why care about what anyone else thinks?   I have learned that relying on pure hope without the effort of one’s self is an invitation for disaster, but in the overall human existence, it is the singular most powerful emotion that brings us the strength to face another day, then another, and then another.

Now on the day of the First of November, I’ll raise a glass for my diabetic-ridden ass, to drink to the thoughts on my special birth-day of celebrating my life, my wife, and for my parent’s sacrifice to have brought me into this world, and lastly for the suffering and sacrifice to all those who are brave enough to have offspring in this world of unknowns. To my nieces and nephews and to all others, I leave you with this: Do what makes you happy and in the words of Joseph Campbell, “always follow your bliss.”  Anything less and you have no one else to blame for your misery.  Accept the pain and deal with inevitable and then rejoice for your existence every day.

 Waves of Eternity (Photo by Author)

Dedicated to the late  William N. Hilderscheid (Billy)

There comes a point in one’s life when looking at obituaries and seeing your parent’s friends and acquaintances through the years changes gradually, and those names you are reading become your friends and acquaintances and the mild emotional twists in your gut become major ones.  You begin to hear the internal clocking ticking and your steps are more cautious, less risky as the body is not as lithe and the time for healing longer-and more painful in all aspects of life-financial, physical and mental.   

Jackson Browne’s lament “Running on Empty” from the early seventies seems a tad over-reactive worrying about such things at such a young age, but he was very aware of what the future held.  Unfortunately, no one expects the “salad days” of youth to disappear, even when one writes and sings about it.

“In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-o-one
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on….

In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on…”

And then there’s the great lyricist Robert Hunter:

“The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will”

Great artists see things that the general population does not.  They destroy their art to create new art.  They may be tortured souls with the information that they discover, that most have no time or inklings to ponder……..but sooner or later will have to deal with, as the ravages of time move forward and Mother Nature clears the forest for the younger saplings to survive.  The question is-Do you have any drive or wants to “pay it forward?”  Do you want to give something back to humanity to counter the greed, fear, avarice, and selfishness of the world and begin to sow seeds of kindness, confidence, selflessness, and the surrender to the forces of the fate and spirituality?  Do you want to even try and give something back before you dissipate and your temporal being vanishes from the planet?  If you do, then do it now.  Don’t wait to tell someone you care, don’t wait to lend a hand or give someone an unexpected positive boost.  What is it that you are you waiting for?  Is it because no one did for you?  Is it the bitterness and the rejection of youthful dreams because it “just didn’t work out?”  Time is short, don’t wait until you are alone in the world sitting or laying in a nursing home with a stranger wiping drool from your cheek.  DO IT NOW!   You might make a huge difference in someone’s life, even if you can’t make a damn difference in your children’s or your own.  The circle goes round, you can’t go back and you can’t stand still……………..best to give of yourself and whatever you can, while you can.  It will feel good to watch the change occur as the same investment you make takes hold, just don’t expect anything back and keep on, keepin’ on.  Give back in any way you can, be it holding a door open for someone to handing a sandwich to a starving homeless person.  No one’s asking you to open your bank account and clear it out, although those who have made more money than Croceus do for the most part set up foundations and trusts to help their fellow humans.  Do what you can, when you can.  It’s not hard and it’s contagious.

    Any way of life that involves spiritual thinking or should I say metaphysical thought can be termed some sort of a religion if there is a Deity or Deities that are venerated or worshiped.  The root of the word “religion” can be found as the Latin word religare (re: back, and ligare: to bind), so that one is tied to or bound to that ritual that makes up that school of thought. The word relic comes from a similar root as well as it means “from the past.”  Living with different points of view results in different “dogma” whether it is “religious” or a life experience.  Zen is nothingness….to be in a Zen state is to be a state of nothingness.  Buddhism is more of a way of life as no “god” is venerated so I think the word “organized” is the source of confusion of terms that most get tripped up on.  All religions have source points from older religions and all life experiences that constitute a “metaphysical belief” system or disciplined regimen have common threads so to say that sticking with “one” religion or philosophy is a moot point as they are all merged versions of each other in some sense.

     Christianity itself is a composite of older religions and the schism of Martin Luther in the year 1517 along with the not so coincidental widespread use of the Guttenberg printing press, began the different directions of “protesting religion” hence Protestantism.  Catholicism itself is rooted and it’s holidays based on the god with the “halo” or Helios also known as Ra the Egyptian Sun God that was the basis of worship in King Constantine’s Empire in 312 AD when the Holy Roman Catholic Church merged with the Paganism of Constantine to reform the entire European Empire.  Although howls of protest continue on to this day from theologians entrenched in Catholicism, ancient Mithraism was an influence as well and much of the old legends coincide with many of the precepts of Christianity.  Acceptance of new religions required morphing of past rituals in order for any new religion to prosper and this is precisely how Catholicism did spread with little resistance other than the Jewish order that knew Judaism was the basis from whence the schism developed in the first place.  Until persecutions began after overzealous fanatics convinced the faithful to resort to bloody violence, Jews paid little mind to the lifting of their holy words of the Old Testament because of this morphed transition.

     One can believe in Buddhist principles and not be Buddhist.  The acceptance of Christ defines one as Christian.  To be honest I don’t split hairs as billions of beings on this earth all believe in something different than the person next to them and that includes those of the same faith.  One’s mind decides what image their god is, not an organized religion and that is the point.  The rest is just debate over semantics of, why, where, who, and when.  Here’s the secret-No One Knows.  The interpretation of that quote itself is in the Rig Veda one of the oldest religious texts in the world, predating the “Bible” by thousands of years.  What you think and feel is totally different than the guy next to you no matter if you both are indoctrinated in the same religion.  The abstract image that your brain produces is unique to you.  Gods are creations of man and to begin to separate and get totally technical over the four ‘w’s is mentally exhausting for me.  It doesn’t matter.  Even Christianity, (that would be the new members that were converted to Judaism without circumcision or dietary laws) had over 17 sects by 100 AD all of which were radically different from each other.
 

     In the end, you have the choice to believe in the self and your ability to draw on the energy inside and that is the essence of the metaphysical and hence religion’s essence as well, it just that we externalize those wants and feelings to solidify our security factor in numbers and the manipulative power mongers and opportunists take advantage of it as they have throughout history.  Is there a God?  I think so, therefore there is.  Atheists may cringe at that thought but again, there is no absolute proof either way and to reduce the debate to the usual Spaghetti Monster tactic doesn’t prove or probe what is deep seated in our human psyche. God? In what form? The answer is the form I choose as I can only think for me.  Only I can live my life and die when the time comes. No matter what your choice, your brain decides what imagery you choose, it is the only thing you have, you are the only person that can be in your reality of life on earth to think. I have no use for man-made ditherings of belief so I believe in the energy of life (God) and myself as the two are inseparable. 

     It takes conviction and the path is only for those who are strong as it is the road not taken and it is the one path that gets the most abuse from both devout believers and atheists (believe me).  I don’t really care, my life is full and my worries few.  I’ve died and gone over and as beautiful as the experience was, it is much better to be alive than absorbed by eternity. 

     Live life fully and don’t question it’s why, where, who, and when’s.”

My wife has been pestering me for the last few months to take her to see Barry Manilow.  I have been resisting her for many different reasons.  Having been a musician seeking work in the recession era of the mid-70s, and experiencing the repercussions of the disco era disc jockeys that put many a musician out of work, I had a little bit of bitterness at just the sound of his name.  It’s not that I didn’t listen to the songs, I just had a bad attitude towards any of the popular music of that time.  Give me the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, and The Band anytime.  After all, that was the era that produced the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie starring the BeeGees-how much more sacrilegious can you get?  Having spoken to other people who had seen the show, I was aware that, not only was it entertaining, but that many people went back a second and a third time and that Mr. Manilow had to rotate his musical selections to accommodate that.  Not many shows in Vegas have that repeatability factor so I was a little impressed.  I broke down and bought tickets for my wife’s birthday and then had to endure the ridicule of my brother a former metalhead 10 years younger than I.

The crowd became restless when the preshow music repeated itself 15 minutes after the show was scheduled to open.  We were directly in front of the soundboard and there was some hubbub related to the show’s late opening.  Finally the lights dimmed and the show went on.  His voice seemed a little off key and scratchy which is not unusual for a singer in Las Vegas.  Due to the very low humidity and dryness “Vegas throat” can strike at any time.  His band consisted of three very multi-talented and beautiful female dancers/backup singers and one equally talented male, three keyboard players, a more than adequate horn section, and a very tight rhythm section that replicated those pulsing sweaty disco beats that brought a bevy of inebriated John Travolta wannabes to the wooden parquet dance floors as part of the mating call rituals of the late 70s.  Not having heard these songs in over 25 years I was able to judge them without prejudice and indeed I was extremely impressed at Mr. Manilow’s arrangements and especially the complexity of each song’s developmental middle sections.  The little Jewish boy from Brooklyn really did a monumental job of taking influences from jazz and the big band era and infusing them into sugary teenage love ballads that struck a chord and delivered to him the most of commercial success.  For that he should be given his due, and the passion that he evokes from his audiences cannot be ignored.  He IS “Music and Passion” as is aptly the name of this production.  There are film clips and an audio piece of a recording from his childhood that plays into a wonderful true story of how Mr. Manilow began his travels on a path to stardom.  Overall, the music was more than entertaining, it brought you back to a time of innocence a time when you shook your thing (as he did more than once calling himself “a boney ass”), did not worry about tomorrow, and merged with the flashing lights and disco ball’s splintered starlight and didn’t worry about what it all meant.

As he warmed up his voice got stronger and stronger as each song demanded more and more of his upper register, something I do believe was preplanned and smartly executed, as age begins to diminish one’s vocal range.  He performed everything that one would expect him to perform and delved into some Motown and other 60’s songs that were most entertaining.  The grande finale was of course Copacabana and a giant steel staircase with a huge disco ball dropped from the ceiling and he danced and cavorted with his fellow singers and mimicked the bygone era of disco.

Objectively, I must admit I was fascinated listening to his arrangements and the complexities of this man’s music.  He was indeed the king of the pop ballad back then and he deserves his due.  And as much as I despise that whole era of mindless music, his music is anything but mindless.  His words may appeal to the heartstrings of female adolescence, but so did that of the Beatles in the very beginning of their careers.  Yes, I have to admit it, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would highly recommend it.  That, in itself shows you how much I’ve matured as well.  No hard feelings Barry, you indeed were the man who wrote the songs and lived your dreams.

I was lucky enough to procure a ticket for the second night of a performance by Boz Scaggs at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater, a longtime veteran of the musical world whose whose music, although very popular, is difficult to define.  The closest definition to Mr. Scaggs unique voice is silky, smooth, utterly romantic.  The last I had heard Mr. Scaggs, the circumstances were nowhere near the current gestalt of what his talent offers.  Apparently after a concert at the House of Blues a few years back, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, there was a bit of a tirade after Boz could take no more heckling from the audience in insistent on hearing his big disco hit from the 70s “Lido Shuffle.”  One can only imagine this jazz inspired talented singer and musician having to put up with the bad manners of those whose memories of prowling the disco floor was the only connection they had to his wonderful music.  A few days later, he appeared at the Las Vegas House of Blues, apparently still seething from the previous concert in Atlantic City.  As he and his band came out, and took up their instruments, without hesitation they played “Lido Shuffle” apparently to shut those people up  who he anticipated would cause the same heckling at the previous concert.  The audience however, was quite shocked at this, as the song is usually the last number played.  He then began to play many of his current cuts that showed the sophistication of the cross-currents of jazz and the lifelong musical education that Mr. Scaggs gained from the roads of his life and the evolvement from the many years of performing. The audience, over the shock, then gave him the attention he deserved and he might have been a bit embarrassed by his over-reaction as he has always been a humble man, at least on stage.

This was not to be tonight, this was a night for celebration.  The audience was primed and ready for the master of mellow to dig his heels in and as he always does builds, and builds, and builds his music to a fever pitch bringing the audience along on an emotional delightful ride that only Boz can deliver.  He opened with “Lowdown” and then made his way to all his familiar hits stifling somewhat, the cries for “Lido Shuffle.”  Unfortunately as my prime seats eight rows back gave me a full view and put me right into the band’s interplay, two younger girls directly behind me talked incessantly throughout the concert.  It was obvious by their conversation that they were the band’s “little groupies” and had seen the show numerous times.  They knew every word, every line, every song but they were so young there would have been no way for them to have been alive during the years they were popular.  As Boz was using younger musicians (himself approaching 70), I can only assume the cute little girls were given complementary seats assigned for the band to use.  I just wish they would’ve shut up and even after numerous people hollered at them to do so they didn’t.

One of the highlights of the evening was “Street Life” an old Crusaders song made popular in 1979, and it was brought to a extremely high-pitched level of excitement by the scatting of Ms. Monique, one of two very talented black backup vocalists, that filled every nuance and emotion of Mr. Scagg’s classic repertoire.  His new young guitarist had it all down carefully reproducing every timbre of the past superlatively for each song.  He took over many of the solos Boz himself would have played in the past and his execution was right on the money, as Boz looked over in a fatherly way smiling at him for each well-played solo.  Of course, the highlight of the evening was “Love, Look What You’ve Done To Me.”  There’s not much to say about this song other than it’s one of the most soulful, personal renditions of a man’s complete surrender in falling in love again.  Shortly after the song ended, a young woman from the center of the crowd yelled “I love you Boz” as the many women in the audience buzzed about with the same emotion.  Boz Scaggs is an American institution, one that won’t be around forever as we are all getting older and ultimately become more irrelevant to the generations of today.

And then of course the ultimate dance song for those who have spent their money just to hear Lido Shuffle began and a rush to the stage ensued. As a matter of fact, the first girl down there I was sure was the same girl who rushed the stage at the last Boz Scagg’s concert two years ago at the House of Blues and probably was.  Suffice it to say that now everyone was loose, screaming, rocking and rolling, and having a jolly good time as it seemed Boz was as well, a good sign, one that seemed to me that he had made peace with his past and wasn’t going to let the popularity of his own making, interfere with the audience’s enjoyment of his art.  After the song, they waved to the crowd and walked off the stage surprisingly, as the show had not even come in at 70 minutes.  After a rousing from the crowd they returned on que and went into the classic “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” (I’ve got to call my same old used-to-be) and again Ms. Monique stole the show capturing the full essence of the blues and the pain that the title implies.  The dynamics of this very simple blues song are the key that make it emotionally charged.  Beginning with a basic blues riff the song ends up eventually with the guitar player flailing double time at the highest range of chords he can play on his guitar and the rest of the band leaving it all on the field.  The crowd responded with a roar as Boz went into “Breakdown Straight Ahead,” and got everybody dancing.

This sweet sounding balladeer and rock ‘n roll artist has written some of the most romantic lyrics and combined them with a perfect timbre and chords to create songs that will last lifetimes.  His art is of a high order his keys and changes far from typical, brand him with the unique silky smooth sound that will endure for the generations.  As he took his bows, he thanked the audience for allowing him to be there on the stage for them.  Yes, he was now at peace with his craft and his attitude was all positive and humble.  It is hard for a great artist to be content with what they have done.  The drive that makes them great, makes them want to do new and different things.  He has done more than enough for a lifetime. I hope his songs will never end. Boz, look what you’ve done to me.

     I received as a Christmas gift a personalized autographed copy of “Wonderful Today.” This is a very good marketing device for a premium price, but worth it for those who value the author’s dedication in their own handwriting.     

     Beatle George Harrison wrote “Something” for her and it remains one of the most covered Beatle songs ever.  Eric Clapton, the guitar hero of the world for over three decades wrote the Derek and the Dominoes 1974 Album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs,” that fast and furious super-hot rock and roll epic about his love for this model and former wife of George Harrison and eventually Eric’s-Pattie Boyd. She’s the only woman to have two superstars write songs to her, and in her prime, her intoxicating beauty was that of a sexual siren driving men’s souls to the rocks in pure passion. Her new book “Wonderful Today” is a biography that seems to want to tell all, and indeed sheds light on this wonderful woman who came from an abused childhood to make it as one of the world’s top models.  Ms. Boyd begins in a chronological fashion with pictures of family and tales of Kenya with snakes, tigers, and scary natives.  Quite the childhood, but then when her parents separate she is forced back to England with an abusive and cruel step-father.
     The voice of the book is sweet and innocent, but the sixties flower children go through an innocence of their own and as the drugs they use to free their minds and give them empowerment for hope eventually drive them to pure misery as well.  She became the wife of Mr. Harrison at the end of a fairy-tale courtship, but due to the heavy hand of the Beatle’s Manager Brian Epstein, was denied a proper wedding, as the public was not to know George was “no longer available” in the heady days of Beatlemania.  She and George lived a simple life, in a relatively small house with George off to the studio each day and Pattie embracing the role of wife, lover, cook, and home keeper.  It was all she wanted and needed.  George on the other hand became intensely involved in meditation, ironically because of Pattie’s suggestion, to fill a need for a childhood he never completely experienced, and they all went off to the Yogi Master Maharishi Mahesh in India.
     For those who haven’t read past books on the Beatles, her book is full of references such as their Los Angeles house on “Blue Jay Way” and Prudence Farrow, Mia’s sister, was the “Dear Prudence” who would not leave her house in India with the Maharishi.  Sergeant Pilcher was the British police officer who busted John Lennon, George, and many other rock and rollers of the day for drugs including Mick Jagger. “Jennifer Juniper” was a Donovan song for Pattie’s sister Jennifer who was also Mick Fleetwood’s main squeeze off and on and there are many other tidbits of rock trivia that have their place in history connected to Pattie’s life with George. 
     George eventually became emotionally unattached to her as he began binging on drugs and then meditation trying to find his way through a lost childhood.  Eric Clapton then appears writing her passionate letters and begging her to leave George for a life with him.  At first, she thinks this is all very nice and flattering, but then Eric goes on a heroin binge because of her refusal to give in and be with him much like a spiteful boy.  Eventually George’s lack of attention and Eric’s determined persistence, get the best of Pattie and she leaves George to follow Eric on tour.  Years go by and the addiction to drugs, alcohol, and heroin take their toll on “Slowhand” and he shows no attempt to stay faithful to any one woman.  As much as Pattie wants to understand and deal with the issues of his dalliances and drunkenness, she indeed compromises her own principles in doing so, the relationship grinds to an inevitable crash as Eric “keeps on keepin’ on,” in full persona of what a rock star “is all about-After Midnite”-sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Pattie was and is only looking for love with someone who can make her laugh, and treat her as an equal.  This book is not a kiss and tell epic, and one would love to hear some of the intense times of emotion and vase throwings I’m sure, but one can sense the immense pain she had in finally putting this to words for all to read without destroying her relationships especially with Clapton. Her only mistake was believing in young men that couldn’t tie their shoes on their own, and needed to grow up and take their marriage seriously.  But now at last she is on her own, enjoying her life without expectations and has accepted her responsibility in enabling these “boys” and being a part of the problem.  She still maintains great beauty within and without and is and will always be the mythical lady immortalized much like Helen of Troy in that Pattie launched a million flickers of light for encores at concerts everywhere in the world.
“Layla, you still got me on my knees…”
 

The story is told of the power of gold and its lure on the unsuspecting
It glitters and shines, it badgers and blinds
And constantly needs protecting
Balance the cost of the soul you lost with the dreams you lightly sold
Are you under…the power of gold

Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival with simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand

And here is a sunrise to set on your sill
The ghosts of the dawn moving near
They pass through your sorrow and leave you quite still…
Sitting among souvenirs

My brothers’ lives were different for they heard another call
One went to Chicago and the other to St Paul
And I’m in Colorado when I’m not in some hotel
Living out this life I’ve chose and have come to know so well
I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don’t think I said ‘I love you’ near enough
The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band 

 
There’s a ring around the moon tonight and a chill in the air
And a fire in the stars that hang so near, so near
There’s a sound in the wind that blows through the wild mountain holds


Like the sighs of a thousand crying souls, crying souls
There’s a time when the traveler is fated to find
That insight has turned his gaze behind, behind
And the steps taken yesterday will beckon again
And lead to his weary journey’s end, his journey’s end
I will die by a river as it rolls away
Bury me in the nighttime…do not waste the day
High above the waters that roll on to the sea
All the angels in heaven will laugh at me
They will laugh at me….they will laugh at me
They will laugh at me


Through the years as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives
Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow
I’ll be in love with you………..I’ll be in love with you

Funny how the circle turns around
First you’re up and then you’re down again
Though the circle takes what it may give
Each time around it makes it live again
Funny how the circle is a wheel
And it can steal someone who is a friend
Funny how the circle takes you flying
And if it’s right it brings it back again


There’s a magic every moment
There’s a miracles each day
There’s a magic every moment
Oh won’t you let the music play
Oh won’t you let the music play 


My life was naught but a river rolling through my brain
Made of so many teardrops…made of so much pain
And I will always see you dancing through my dreams
And as hopeless as it seems, I will always love you
And now if you think we’ve said it all


Let the final curtain fall on us at last
And just put it in the past and say our last farewell

I take my place along the shore and I wait for the tide
It seems I’ve passed this way before in an earlier time
To every man the mystery sings a different song
He fills his page of history, dreams his dreams and is gone

Goodbye to a man that influenced and taught me the art of a song comes from the emotion within and the story told.

Malcolm Campbell author of “The Sun Singer” reviews my novel “Only Moments.”  Malcolm hails from Georgia and posted this on communati.com on November 21st and gave the book a four star rating on Amazon.com.  Malcolm’s website can be accessed from the links list on the left.

When you watch a man dancing on a dark stage in front of a flashing strobe light, you see only moments of the dance. Nick Oliva has taken the defining, and often poignant vignettes, of musician Chris Vadia’s life and choreographed them into a remarkable novel.

We begin in the future, after all of the moments are long gone–a coming-of-age car trip, first love, marriage, marital strife, a husband-and-wife performance at Carnegie Hall, the death of a spouse–and look at events so fresh they appear to be happening now! But they are of the past and cannot be changed, and they take us–along with Chris–figuratively back in time and where they dance before our eyes in perfect detail before we move on.

The struggling Chris we find within each moment of his life’s journey is not the Chris observing his past from the perspective of a man who learns, is learning, actually, that his seemingly disparate moments of joy and sorrow that appear to have been separated by time and space and vantage point are connected into a well-defined, sensible whole.

If you’re a musician and/or if music impacts your life in meaningful ways, you will appreciate the impact of Oliva’s experience as a musician on the piano/violin practice and performance scenes. But you’ll also see as you read from moment to moment that music is one of several apt metaphors in “Only Moments.” Life’s moments are like the notes in a composer’s great work in progress, a work that in spite of all the choices, false starts, crescendos, decrescendos, and improvisations, turns out the only way it possibly could have turned out.

A long-time fan of Joseph Campbell and his hero path structure or myth and mythic stories, I see within the pages of this novel that Chris Vadia is discovering–like all heroes on the path–that the events of one’s journey, in all their glory, are the tip of the iceberg to the important inner journey we all travel from birth to death and beyond.

“Only Moments” is the journey of a lifetime carried forward on the wings of Chris Vadia’s stirring memories and Nick Oliva’s stirring prose.