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richard-stockton-state-college

This was originally a letter to my college mentor, Dr. Leonard Klein, an incredible pianist, composer, and teacher who studied with the finest people ever known.  He paid homage to Darius Milhaud, a great composer by naming his son after him.  He taught at Mills College outside San Francisco that boasts alumni such as Dave Brubeck, Phil Lesh, Frankie Mann, Miya Masaoka, Rebeca Mauléon, Steve Reich, and many others.  At the time I had the absurd notion that somehow some lower middle-class cocky teenager with no previous musical experience (I was a drummer at least), that couldn’t read music, was not in “Band” in high school and was merely a beginning, self-taught guitarist that knew how to play along with the records of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, and Dave Mason; who’s inert passion made me have the cajones to think I could actually walk into a Seminar II class in the winter (they had a trimester system), after not attending the Seminar I class………Such audacious behavior changed my life forever and taught me that anyone can do anything, if they commit themselves passionately to doing it.  I reprint this as I think it contains a very positive message for the young, the confused, and those who do not know who I am, and perhaps would like to know from whence I came.  At the least it makes me teary-eyed reading it. Just for that reason alone I think it has some value.

Years later in 1994 when I first wrote what ended up being just a fair draft for my novel “Only Moments” (published in 2007) he was one of the first to read it, and the high praise he gave me, was as though he was my father, and it inspired me even more to move forward – as did his teaching twenty years earlier.

Stockton State College in New Jersey was founded in 1971 and I attended the very first classes in a hotel at the somewhat sleazy Mayflower Hotel (since torn  down for a casino) on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. We were known as the Mayflower Pilgrims. A construction strike had delayed the actual campus opening in the middle of the Pine Barrens that I knew as my mother’s sisters lived close by.  The lake and backroads where it was built were the same areas I had rode a bicycle years earlier when my mother was giving birth to my two younger brothers and I stood at my aunt’s houses, being too young to be at home alone with a father working two jobs.

There were over 1000 professors that applied for a mere 90 teaching jobs.  Unemployment was much higher than now, the stagflation had started and money was tight. Stockton hired the cream of the crop. the best minds from the most forward-thinking colleges in the nation (Antioch, Berkeley, UCLA, etc.) and I was lucky enough to be there and be taught by some of them.

You can imagine a 17 year-old first out-of-the-house experience at a hotel-converted state college with a hard core red light district on one side, and the transgender/transvestite/gay district on the other with “Feeleys Bar” in the middle (Now the Irish Pub).  Stockton State College was voted the #1 party school in the nation for that and a few years after.  I dropped out after the first semester and came back in the winter of 1974 after I realized that Child Psychology was not going to work for me, and partying like a fool didn’t require one to pay college tuition. I graduated in the Spring of 1977 with a degree in Musical Composition.

Passion……..the miracles it can perform when one mixes it with a little discipline.

Here it is and forgive me Leonard if you have any objection.

Dearest Leonard,

Last night I went to see the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra because I had to….
Here’s the program:
Masterworks III
All-Tchaikovsky Concert

Symphony No. 6, “Pathetique”
Roccoco Variations
Nocturne for Cello and Orchestra
Romeo and Juliet
Overture to Fantasy
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Guest Artist: Zuill Bailey, cello

It was magnificent and I thought of you, and how much you really taught me. I thought of Trudy Weaver and how she helped me learn how put notes to paper. The music flowed and I listened to the permutations, the note for note genius, the pianissimo and triple forte –  the 5/4 time signature of the waltz-like second movement of ‘Pathetique’ – all of those things that I learned – but could not do in 1974, as I begged you on my knees to allow me to be taught and then fought with valor to learn, with every drop of my own human passion, intellect, determination, and ability would allow. 
I knew that I could never have been a concert instrumentalist, a great musician-as when I met you I knew nothing about music other knowing I had a good ear.  I don’t know if you remember but I graduated in 2.5 years with a 4 year degree with honors in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and had 50% more Music Program credits than I needed to graduate AND worked full time the last year with the Atlantic City Press as a dispatch driver while managing triple overloads……..not to mention that I had no money, no parental financial support and had to pay my own way – all to be honored by being taught by the pedigree of your lineage from Nadia to Darius – that few understand and know, but for those who are classically trained.  I know that I may have not made you proud for my musical endeavors, but know that you enlightened a young man, now in middle age and allowed me the enrichment of life itself and provided much happiness, regardless of the genre of music I’ve been associated with during my life. 
I truly wish I could have been your Tchaikovsky, but if not for you and my fight to conquer ignorance I would have never studied the masters of photography, the anthropological and religious aspect of human existence by the genius of Joel Rubenstein, the connections of Stan Leavitt and the Navaho tribe, the poetry of Steven Dunn, electronic and Balinese music, and most importantly –  the ability to interact with the finest minds of the world in a Pine Barrens dream that I rowed my boat through so quickly, that I wish I had stayed longer. 
And lastly while I listened to Pyotr Ilyich , I was astounded at how much I’ve not forgotten through all these years, and as I sat there dissecting every note and nuance, the tears fell uncontrollably from my eyes in happiness for what I was allowed to be given…the long length of time gone by forever, but lessons not forgotten…and now many years later I am reminded once again of being honored and humbled by a man now in his 80’s who shall never know how much he has done for a once young, stubborn but passionate kid, who was cocky enough to “dare” to tackle the seemingly impossible and improbable and change the course of his life…………a life that would be filled with dreams but thankfully given the knowledge to make some of those dreams a reality.  For that I can never repay you.  Thank you is not enough, the world is not enough to show my gratitude to you and to a young student named Trudy who’s unselfishness helped me tremendously so I could prove to you I could do it and try to make you proud of how far I had come.  I have lived my life by so many of your words and disciplines.  It is hard not to do the right things and expect it of others………those who are hard workers and true disciples of knowledge are so far and few between that life does become frustrating and at times mentally unbearable………hence the art that flows from the soul to take that sorrow and build bridges to understanding through the humanities.  I am so grateful for all of this and for you.
love to you,
nick
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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.

There are some people that think that writing is easy and effortless until they attempt to link thoughts, ideas, language, prose, and a pulse that is identifiable as “rhythm.” All of these things make up the “voice” of the writing as the words are merely abstracts that can mean different things if the writer is not precise in all aspects of the above. Even when those parameters are followed, creativity is required to make it interesting enough to read, but not too complex to be understood. It all sounds so easy doesn’t it?  Staring at a blank piece of paper and allowing the mind to congeal and spill forth contiguous and conjunctive thoughts that add up to some conclusion and/or moral of the story, if that is the writer’s intent and end result. I have some difficulties with a few people, and some young people in general that think when I present problems I am being negative and they don’t understand or comprehend what I am saying. One young site called Bright Future that I was posting my blogs on -without notice other than a matter-of-fact letter- pulled off over 8 blogs that you can read right here for yourself for supposed “negative attacks and general negative tone.”  The one they left “They Should Have Built It On the F…… Sun” was the most negative one I wrote, calling the last three generations at fault for allowing government to abandon alternative energy sources-that one they left…..go figure…..I cancelled that one myself because that was the best example of a negative tone of any I could see.  Here’s the list of censored blogs, if you can find those negative attacks, let me know:

The Road Taken (The Balance of Life Through Centuries)
A Life or Death Issue (Stem Cell Research book)
Mirror, Mirror, The Spirit is Nearer (The Science of Spirituality)
The Future Use of Digitization-Part I
The Future Use of Digitization-Part II Copyright and Issues
The Future Use of Digitization-Part III, Immortality
What is Really Hip? (Ecology)

“Please, Pay it Forward” was about doing things for people to help those in need. “What is Really Hip” was about the hippie generation initiating the groundswell of the environmental movement that I was a part of.  What was I, negatively attacking myself?  Absurd, and I had to really think this out as to how anyone could be that off-base.

 Another wanted a more “rounded” approach, that translates to “make it pretty for the reader.”  I got pretty depressed about for a day until someone whose opinion I greatly value said some very nice things and encouraged me to write for me and the hell with who wants what. This is what I wrote to her:  

I have become very discouraged and about to give up writing blogs completely, as all the efforts made seem to count up to nothing and I am so tired of fools that just don’t get it, much less those who just don’t care. …….  I was never looking for fame or fortune, just a small group of people that enjoyed what I’ve written to make it worthwhile.  I have tried to connect with a younger audience, but I have found that they think the world is just going to be a beautiful place with no pitfalls or reason to think about anything negative happening.  They haven’t experienced half their ass being chewed off as “life experience” yet, so without me writing it up as a “pretty” piece with truth and justice for all, including dessert-I get cast as writing negatively.  When I try to explain the Ying and Yang are what life is, that all decisions one makes can be cast either good or bad and can also be both “good” or “bad” at the same time if one can even classify what is good or bad- it just is, period.  Inevitably any decision anyone makes will have it’s drawbacks and successes, and they just don’t get it

And my friend commented:  “I don’t think you’re negative. Like I said, I think you are brilliant and I respect you.”  Of course, I could never take a compliment well, not that it didn’t make me feel better, so I wrote her back this short poem that came forth quickly and right from my heart:

Of what use is a song that isn’t heard
the sweet melody of a bird
The joy of painted scenes
where no one has ever been

Of course the artist’s art
comes from their inner heart
but no more grace does one know
when just one sees their show

for in the end, the artist…for all….it is indeed the ego.

Today is a new day, I feel better and who reads this, reads it; and who doesn’t-that is their loss.  My perspective is that of what is and to deny the bad things of this world is  pretending they don’t exist and the “Bright Future” website acts as if the world will all be wonderful with no suffering or struggling. Posing problems and solutions without including touchy- feely “happy” articles is not their forte.  Without questioning from whence the problems came deprives any reader of what is really behind the problem to begin with and is not in my opinion negative but is seeking the truth.  In situations where there are already obvious answers, posing questions is a moot point.  Why bother?  The detriment of denial is that the “solutions” become shallow and without deep reflection as to “why” the situation is what it is from the beginning to the problem’s present position.  A problem is there because decisions were made and the past adds up to what is now.  A solution requires the examination of the past to truthfully and definitively answer those questions without bias.  Good or bad is irrelevant, action and reaction are.

It is the questions that are not answered or not easily answered that pose the complexity of reality and allow stimulation of the human mind.  I am disappointed there are younger people whose intent is good but their focus is so narrow as to not allow the freedom of expression other than “happy” news with simple and/or obvious solutions.  The real mature thought process of science and the arts doesn’t just solve problems, it theorizes and postulates while stimulating others to question as well.  The Ying and Yang, the process of BOTH SIDES of life remain regardless of one’s personal wants and accompanying censorship to force their “un-negative” idea of what really is.  If there is any problem to be solved, someone or something has to be causing that problem.  To deny that, is to deny reality. To call history and events “negative” is childish.  On top of that every deed done, every action taken has both good and bad effects relatively for the human race, -always has, always will.

 While we look at the touchy-feely, the warm and fuzzy, there could be negative and/or evil standing right behind you and your touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy may be the damn cause of it.  You refuse to want to see for the sake of wanting the world the way you want it, sterilized of “bad” things.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This theorem just doesn’t apply in physics, but to all in the physical world.  Ignore it at your peril.

 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.”

     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…”
 

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.

I stood at the window the snow crunching at my feet and looked in to see the people eating, talking, and making merry. It was a cold night and I was alone. My stomach twisted and the hard knot made it difficult for me to decide whether to knock on the door. Twenty minutes had gone by and I stood there still frozen in spirit with the same hard knot.

Finally, I went to the door and rang the bell. The door opened and my mother stood half-stunned for a brief second and then broke into tears. We had not talked for three years over a man that she lived with after my father died. He was an alcoholic and his drinking had escalated to the point of her concealing it from me. One day we had words that neither knew would cause the worst to happen. That was three years of non-communication that wasted precious time. I was a pariah to the rest of family as my brother’s children needed a grandmother. I never held that and other complications against them.

My mother had finally had enough and let it be known through my brothers that I was welcome to be there on Christmas Eve, but I don’t think she expected me to show up. Her eyes welled tears and we embraced and she would not let go for quite sometime. I lost control as well and all of those really important reasons for not wanting to be near her, faded away to oblivion with the tears that flowed to the floor.

Three years later she died on October 1st and I often wish I had those years to do over again. I wish we hadn’t both been such proud stubborn people. I wish I had made that effort that I knew was harder for her than me. Of course we reconciled after that Christmas Eve, but the time flew by so quickly and then she was gone forever. I am haunted by those thoughts and as the holiday closes in I see the fragility of life and the merciless hand of time bearing down upon the now eleven years she has left this world.

I know the gift of time now, however late and I wouldn’t ever waste it again. I ache for those years back, but they’re long gone and mere history. Don’t be as foolish as I. Take the time and forgive and forget before it is too late. Don’t give that Ghost of Christmas Past a chance to haunt you in the future.