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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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clapton winwood

It was a rare privilege and honor to be at the “presence” of these incredible intense and dedicated human beings. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in concert, this, first time since they combined to form the group “Blind Faith” in the Sixties. The magic was in the air, the ballads and blues graceful and the memories abounded as their humbleness and love for their music overwhelmed everyone. Steve Winwood, a Hammond B-3 (my god -he even used the stops constantly!) a relic long gone for decades. His exquisite guitar playing and beautiful voice, combined with Clapton totally in the pocket of that ‘zone,” was extraordinary, the height of which I’ve seen but few times in the many times I have seen him in concert. His eyes closed or rolled upwards, no need for him to look at his fretboard; his power, speed, and emotion pulsated through every cell and molecule in your body………..Voodoo Chile……….Eric goes outside himself and reincarnates Hendrix, something that he himself said in an interview that he was “afraid” of approaching………he obviously conquered that fear and went beyond……..he “kept on growing.”
“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”-acoustic piano solo with Steve was precious beyond words…….the acoustic guitar sets with both legends………just a jewel of time to be treasured. May it’s effect last as long as those memories can.

Clapton / Winwood Set List – 27 June 2009
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV

1.  Had To Cry Today
2.  Low Down
3.  After Midnight
4 . Presence of The Lord
5.  Sleeping in the Ground
6 . Glad
7.  Well Alright
8.  Tough Luck Blues
9.  Pearly Queen
10. There’s A River
11. Forever Man
12. Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Acoustic Set
13. Driftin’
14. How Long Blues
15. Layla – (acoustic version)
16. Can’t Find My Way Home
Back to Ass-Kicking Rock and Roll
17. Split Decision
18. Voodoo Chile

The Encore:
19. Cocaine
20. Dear Mr. Fantasy

Band Lineup:
Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
Steve Winwood – vocals, Hammond B3, piano, guitar
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Abe Laboriel, Jr. – drums

Sharon White – backup vocals
Michelle John – backup vocals

waterfall

Photo by Nick    View to a Thrill    Mt. Charleston

I sit and write as if the time is short
I take the time to listen to the waterfall’s echoes
Knowing that the water will cease for a dry summer
I race against that last drop
To capture its wisdom before it is absorbed into the earth
It enables my path to grounding the electric
to a place where it all began
to where I will go
to make the planet green
you gotta let go
you know……

images
5/27/09 by Nick Oliva ©2009 All Rights Reserved (Donner Party of 22)
 
As we the people of this great nation of Estados Unidos have toiled and scuffled with the politics of dancing for so many years, and endured the hopeless expectations that something or someone can show us the way to save our collective asses, I now propose with the help of my invisible friend, Babs, a proper solution.
 
The political parties of today are outmoded and archaic and I for one wish to propose a new party based on simple principles: The Far-Out Party
 
Now, membership in this party is free and expectations few. One does not have to be left, nor right and not centrist; but just Far-Out. Far-Out is beyond the boundaries of the selective few, a people’s movement of back to basics, because if you are Far-Out, then you’re not only on your way to being cool, but you’re already there, and really, would you rather be anywhere else? And who could ask for anymore then to be that Far-Out? What else could be better than to be completely Far-Out, because not only is that totally where it’s at if you’re really looking for it, but Far-Out is as Far-Out as one can get!
 
No need to be alienated by those Looney Lefties anymore, because you are just sooo Far-Out they can’t get to you.  No more Right Ring-a-Round the Collar Ridiculousness with those who watch Frost/Nixon over and over because they actually think he was totally innocent and an outstanding and great President. …And those nasty clinging Clintonian Centrists? Consider them carbuncles of constitutional constipation because you are now just Far-Out, in a great space with your own groove on and when you really get that Far-Out, can anyone really hurt you?  I’m mean; if you’re Far-Off you could fall off the end of the earth or even worse – be ex-communicated if you didn’t think you could fall off the side at the end of the ocean at least at one time. Those were the Dark ‘Far-Off’ Days of Yore, when Monks toiled to preserve remnants and wall-to-wall scrolls of the ancient past, and did so with great fervor and poetic license.
 
If you’re Far-In then you don’t have the room for a view, so you can’t order anything expressly but a Starbucks latte.
 
With the new Far-Out party, you don’t even have to bring the Iced tea to Boston Harbor; you don’t have to whistle Dixie or Trixie; Fort Henry, Sumter, or Dodge-Dix for that matter. You’re a Far-Out member for life, after all – you can’t get back to where you started when you’re really that Far-Out, and you certainly don’t need to get any higher in food chain of life, you’re already Out There – Far-Out There.
 
And now the two rules of the Far-Out Party:
Do unto me as you would to yourself (please!).
Don’t squeeze the Charmin.
 
Other than that, it’s all totally Far-Out from here on in. No frontier riding, pioneer arrow-laden, pissant urine-smelling ground crawlers with golden spurs can tell you what to do, where to do it, who to do it with, or why you’re doing it, because you are very much in the here and now….You are indeed now Far-Out …and have left the building. Thank you…thank you very much and I’ll be signing autographs in the lobby for twenty bucks a pop (and that’s Far-Out).

ROUND, ROUND, ROCKIN' ROBIN ROUND

ROUND, ROUND, ROBIN RUN AROUND........... PHOTO BY NICK OLIVA

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

Won’t you try just a little bit harder
Couldn’t you try just a little bit more
Won’t you try just a little bit harder
Couldn’t you try just a little bit more

Round, round, Robin run around
Gotta get back where you belong
Little bit harder, just a little bit more
Little bit further than you gone before

Small wheel turning by the fire and rod
Big wheel turning by the grace of God
Every time that wheel turn round
Bound to cover just a little more ground

-Robert Hunter

 

 

vhs

The Fighting Poultry Clan…….

 
 
 

I was thinking about our old high school mascot, a male chicken, and the above image the basis for the name “The Poultry Clan” which was changed to the “The Fighting Clan” after I graduated and people call it “The Clan” for short. The word Clan actually means children in Gaelic. Now back then, no one really fixated on that moniker, as racist as it sounds, because Vineland, New Jersey was the center of the egg business.  The “Egg Auction Building” was a huge edifice on Delsea Drive and eggs were the town’s main export along with farm vegetables for many years.  I used to think about what impression an opposing football team might have taking on a team with a mere male bird of fowl for a mascot, but then Brison Manor (http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=MANORBRI01) came from a neighboring town of Bridgeton, and was a starter for the Denver Broncos for 8 years of a 10 year NFL career, and I faced him head to head, me being the smallest guy on the line.  We won that game, I rest my case.  My mind then began to wander to some memories of high school days and I decided to share a few chuckles and some serious thoughts as well. 

Way back in my freshman year I decided that I needed to take a typing class, never realizing how one day it would allow me to do such incredible things with a blank sheet of paper, to create universes of imagination.  My teacher at that time was very strict but also very pretty and young compared to my youthful age of 13.  I started in Kindergarten at age 4 as my birthday was right on the edge of allowability for that year, and so most everyone I knew was older than myself with a few exceptions.

Our recently married, pretty disciplinarian instructor in her twenties would usually wear mini-skirts and for some strange reason sit right next to me on my desk where our books and papers would normally be for typing exercises, and myself at that time having the Vulcan Dr. Spock’s hormonal equivalent levels of “Pon Farr” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amok_Time), it was impossible not to look at her legs  as they were inches from my eye level.  She was the ultimate S & M Queen in retrospect, but damn I learned how to type without looking at the keys!

Then my mind drifted forward to another cougarish teacher of English.  She was divorced, a hottie, and had that same type of personality as my typing instructor, only she was a bit mean and now I realize that was an extension of her defensiveness because ever male teacher in that high school must have hit on her.  I saw her many years later as she happened to be a cousin of one of my lifelong friends (I never knew that information at the time in high school) and I attended his summer party family reunion bash.  I saw her and I knew who she was instantly, but she had no idea who I was.  She had filled out from the slender figure of a twenty-something and was now middle-aged but still very attractive.  I bided my time and then confronted her.  It went something like this:

Me: “You don’t remember me do you?”

Her: “I can’t say that I do.”

Me: “I was in your English class my name is Nick Oliva and I have an old grudge to air out with you.”

Her: (Looking shocked and surprised) “Ah, okay let’s hear it.”

Me: “Well, we had to do a report on the Tale of Two Cities and you made us stand in front of the class and orally give that report, and you required us to speak for twenty minutes, which I thought was insane and the cause for many of the reports to be quite boring to say the least.”

Her: “Well, that’s it? That’s your beef?”

Me: “No, this is. When I did my report I reasoned that Madame LaFarge was NOT the evil person portrayed in the novel by Charles Dickens.  She was seeking revenge against the Evrèmondes, for the crimes a prior generation of the Evrèmonde family had committed and that included the deaths of her sister, father, and brother.  She was also a central figure in the support of the French Revolution.  My point was that if your family had atrocities committed against them and you lost your sister, father, and brother, you too would be seeking the same blood lusting revenge for their deaths and how could she be portrayed so evilly if she was a part of the French Revolution that changed the world?”

Her: “Well, that certainly was a good point, what did I say to that?”

Me: “You said, very interesting but it was only half the time you were supposed to speak” and I said to you, “well it was twice as good as any normal book report and you got pissed off.”

Her: “And how did I grade you?”

Me: “You grudgingly gave me a B.”

Her: “At least you got that!”

She then walked away and purposefully avoided me for the rest of the party.

The last story for this blog is a woman named Zoe Pappas.  Mrs. Pappas along with another English teacher Emily Morin) played a huge role in helping me to believe in myself and instilled a sense that my thought processes, though very unconforming, were on the right path.

It was my senior year and my Civics/History teacher, Mrs. Pappas, had an FBI agent come in (this was the fall of 1970) and explain what the FBI did and the history of the organization.  This was probably an attempt at “educating” young students that the FBI was their friend and to counteract their becoming reputation as a “police state” enforcement agency.  At that time the FBI was collecting names of political anti-Nixon citizens for a “blacklist” to try and deport unwanted contemporary thinkers. (Note: In 1972 the FBI attempted to force the deportation of “radical” John Lennon)  I let him drone on and on and then after he wasted 30 minutes of a 45 minute class, he asked if there were any questions.  Big mistake…..I raised my hand and asked, “So why does the FBI keep a list of people who are considered activists and free thinkers, and try to arrest and deport them?  You could hear a pin drop, and see students jaws drop along with the silence.  I thought I really went too far and that I was going to hear holy hell from Mrs. Pappas after he left.  The agent tried to avoid this issue with bullshit about their charter and investigative techniques and never did answer the question, as I expected.  He left and Mrs. Pappas came back to the front of her desk.  I really thought I was going to the principal’s office for this one, not that I cared at that point.  Mrs. Pappas began to speak of the importance of understanding how our government works and how we must be aware of what it does and then raised her arm and pointed her finger at me. I froze completely.  She then said “and Nick, your question was the best one I’ve heard anyone ask. ”

Well, thanks to teachers like her and a few others that encouraged my “twisted thought process” I gained the confidence to “be one traveler “ who took the other road, the long Dharma road that never ends, and now I understand the real difference a teacher with a free mind can make.

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

sun1

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.

 

THE OBAMA/MCCAIN BLUES
© Nick Oliva October 14, 2008

(Sung to The Hootchie Cootchie Man)
 
I get up in the morning
Put on my shoes
Turn on TV to hear
to hear more crap on Fox News
 
I tell ya pretty mama
They tell me to choose
between one or the other
I got them Obama/McCain Blues
 
I go to the drug store
The radio blares DOOM
If I vote for Obama
The world positively ends at Noon
 
He the Anti-Christ
The Demon of Doom
If I vote for that black man
I can never leave my room!
 
I tell ya pretty mama
They tell me to choose
between one or the other
I got them Obama/McCain Blues
 
I see all the street signs
they all say the same
Give me your vote boy
Give it to John McCain
 
He’ll reform the reformers
He’s a maverick for sure
If you don’t vote for him
There will be a war
 
I’m so tired of hearing drama
And so many untruths
They tell me if I vote for one or the other
The United States is screwed
 
I tell ya pretty baby
What’s a man to do?
I got Red on the one side
and the other side’s all Blues
 
I tell ya pretty mama
They tell me to choose
between one or the other
I got them Obama/McCain Blues