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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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CHEAPTRICKPEPPERS

Cheap Trick performing the Beatles??? Has the world gone mad? Well, only a little. One must realize that Cheap Trick, formed in 1974, built quite a fan base through its own brand of using power-rock chords that emoted a hard-edge but retained enough melodic themes that attracted those on the outer currents of pop rock and punk rock. Their music does combines the tune- worthy formulaic modes of The Beatles but with an energy that speeds up without bowling over into pure ranting and screaming of those in the punk rock genre of that time. The Los Angeles Times has remarked that “Cheap Trick gained fame by twisting the Beatlesque into something shinier, harder, more American.” Your next question is: What were their biggest hits? A few include the songs “Surrender”, “I Want You to Want Me”, and “Dream Police.”

So it was with ardent curiosity when the available ticket brought me to the Hilton Theater, my favorite venue to see them perform Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Having seen Paul McCartney in sold-out arenas four times and never hearing anything as elaborate as a 21 piece orchestra, 6 backup vocalists, a children’s choir, mixed with an old rock bank that I’d thought had hit the old folks home by now, I couldn’t imagine how this escapade could be pulled off credibly. Featured guest artists included Grammy-Award winning vocalist Joan Osborne, Rob Laufer, Bill Lloyd, and Ian Ball all of whom performed in the beginning of the show before Cheap Trick entered the stage through a very clever revolving set that housed the entire orchestra 16 feet up in the air and provided three circular stages underneath them to facilitate the quick turnover to the Sgt. Pepper’s portion. As the curtain rose that set was exposed.

The orchestra opened with an absolutely beautiful symphonic medley of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Love Me Do,” and “Please, Please Me.” Ms. Osborne then took the stage and deftly sang “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and the timeless “Long and Winding Road.” The orchestra then took over and performed the classic “Eleanor Rigby.” Let me stop here a moment to comment that in the nineties I lived in Puerto Rico and had the chance to see the Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra perform Holst’s incredible symphony “The Planets.” That alone was a rare treat unto itself. The most marvelous thing of this show was to watch these players moving and thrusting their bodies into such soulful unpretentious mesmerizations of being one with the vibrations that they perfectly emitted from their instruments, that they naturally drew you into their magical mojo as an unintentional byproduct of their emotionalism and love of their craft exactly as those moments I experienced many years ago.

The engineer’s use of effects to recreate Lennon’s experiment of running his voice through a Leslie speaker for “Across the Universe” with the Las Vegas Children’s Choir was as ethereal as the original. It was truly like “a wind inside a letter box.”

And then the transition occurred and here was Cheap Trick with Rick Nielsen and his baseball cap and striped suit prancing, dancing, and irreverently swinging his guitar to the beginning of that classic album. The album that the Beach Boy’s leader Brian Wilson called the “perfect album,” the same one that he tried to compose first and gave up his quest after hearing what he perceived as the Beatles’- no the world’s – ultimate recording.

I then realized that when I read Geoff Emerick’s name on the roster as Sound Direction and Co-Producer that it all made sense. Those orchestra parts were exactly as George Martin, “the fifth Beatle” had written them in 1967. Every nuance, speck, part and parcel of each tiny inflection of this live sound mimicked that album without exception. And by the way, Mr. Emerick was the engineer for Sgt. Pepper’s back in 1967 so there was the connection to the “how” of this event.

The bonus tracks of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End” and the show “encore,” “All You Need is Love,” brings the Beatles’ genius and the energy and vivaciousness of the current band playing their hearts out into focus after experiencing the beginnings of their musical careers at the top of the show. It was a wise choice than to end with just the Sgt. Pepper’s songs, as the orchestra was already there for that monumental epic, why not go out with a huge bang from their later material? Good call on the producer’s part although I wish someone had sung “Something” that perfect ode to George’s wife Patti Boyd, instead of Bill Lloyd playing lead guitar on the melody, but that is a minor complaint.

And lest I forget a huge part of this ensemble was Magic Christian, the keyboardist who provided all of McCartney’s piano parts and used his synthesizers perfectly to authenticate each track. Todd Youth on bass enthusiastically played every Mac line note-for-note and the conductor affectionately introduced as “Billy Shears” did an outstanding job putting the orchestra though it’s amazing paces this fine evening.

The most amazing part of the show came when George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You” was performed. An authentic Indian ensemble appeared with Gingger Shankar (Her mother was a classical singer, and her father, L. Subramaniam, is a world renowned violinist) playing the double violin, with two sitar players, and bass and treble Tampura instruments exactly capturing this spiritual encompassment of Mr. Harrison’s experience with the music and religious aura of that nation.

The vocals of Rob Laufer were magically suited to every note of the past and this was more than just a band rehashing an old classic. The entire experience, as exacting as it was, evoked new emotional thrills by the live performances of both a rock band and orchestra blending into a dimension of past time that never was. This was a “what if” had the Beatles kept touring and attempted such an endeavor to achieve such lushness of a tracked album by being backed by a full orchestra and vocalists. It was the concert that never was performed by the seemingly most unlikely band using the most unlikely Beatles album. It worked magnificently!

I ran into people who had seen it more than once and honestly I would have gone back for seconds and thirds myself. I mean when the song Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise kicks in that rooster crowing for that split second, the madness of the orchestra of “Day in the Life” swells and then crescendos to its ultimate conclusion, and then that infamous orchestral down stroke to the tonic note, what more does one want out of a concert? It is real and it is hair-raising. I could go on and on about every small detail and the attentiveness paid to each and every one of them, but my suggestion is if you can go see it-GO! This tour will not last forever, like the original band, like any ephemeral burst of pure creativity, the moment passes quickly. Take the time and listen to what could have been, but was only preserved on tape and disc until now. It’s no cheap trick believe me.

Ticket from the Atlantic City Pop Festival August 1969

The following is a comment I received on my blog of the Atlantic City Pop Festival’s 40th Anniversary. Please read it and pass it on to whomever you can, and maybe, just maybe ‘Sev’ will get to look at the pictures that he had taken 40 years ago. It is occurrences like this that make writing this blog all worthwhile. I hope by some small chance we could make this Vietnam Veteran’s wish come true. (Note: I did clean up the letter’s punctuation and language a little bit to make it clearer) Sev writes: I remember this festival well…. I went AWOL from Ft Dix for the three days and I didn’t care because I was getting ready to be shipped to Vietnam. I arrived while Chicago (Transit Authority) was playing and they were so good that I thought they were playing a record to warm people up but it was them live!! I pitched myself a tent and went wandering around. During my stay, I kept walking backstage and no one stopped me (it was a different world back then). My highlights were meeting Janis, Grace Slick, Tracy Nelson, & Frank Zappa. When I met Janis I handed her a button that said “Kiss me I’m Italian” she said, “You’re Italian? I Like Italians.” Her guitarist behind her laughed and said “ahhhh you like everybody.” She laughed and kissed me on the head, under my eye, on my cheek and near my mouth. It is something I will never forget as long as I live!! Frank Zappa was so nice, he looked at me and then my army haircut and said, “Hey you look like me when I was a kid.” I took so many pictures but unfortunately I took them with me to Nam and the day I got there someone broke into my locker and ripped me off… I swear I am telling the truth… : ( If someone is reading this and knows of someone that has them or does remember having them PLEASE post them and send them to me. I would really like to have them back … They were of Me & Janis, Me & Grace, Me & Frank, & a few of other stars including Grace & Janis together. Thanks for reading

Pasquale Severino

Trenton, New jersey

IF ANYONE OUT THERE CAN HELP.. SEND ‘SEV’ HIS PICTURES TO THE FOLLOWING EMAIL ADDRESS             MysteryLyricfest@aol.com

gd1

A 1990’s PHOTO. A MOMENT FROZEN IN TIME

The rain wore on day after day and one could only describe the sky as bleak and bursting with moisture. My hopes of bringing my niece to her first experience at a Dead concert, Grateful but for Jerry Garcia, long gone, was dimmed as to her getting the full experience of the last 45 years that started with the hippie tail-gating parties, that were long established before the football game feasts of John Maddenish times. This night was to be special. The Spectrum, home to such legends as Bobby Clarke and Julius Erving was to be torn down soon, but those fellows in this band had played here every decade since the sixties. This was to be their swan song; two nights of one last goodbye and possibly their last tour together as time takes its toll.

Arriving early while it was still raining, we turned into the lot at the Wachovia Center and by the time we got out of the car it not only stopped raining, the sun began to peek through those dark clouds. It actually came out and it was glorious. The tents were up, the illegal vendors of grilled cheese, hamburgers, chicken, Tye-dyed T-shirts and nitrous oxide were out in full force, along with two completely instrumented rock bands playing in full regalia, hippie buses, modern Prevost million-dollar luxurious cross country rigs, women in their forties hawking illegal beer, wine, and mixed drinks, and purveyors of pipes, paraphernalia, and pot were circulating like pasta on a table for an Italian Sunday meal.

Dominque, the namesake of my father’s eyes opened wide and amazed but I knew this was only the preliminary party. The walk up those old worn concrete Spectrum stairs and the entry into this place brought me back to an age of youth years even younger than hers. The high school nights of The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Yes, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Pink Floyd, and many, many others for a pittance of $8.50 a ticket came back as if it was yesterday. I have seen the Dead countless times across the country in California, Colorado, New York, Maryland, Washington, and so on and had seen them in this building more times than I can remember. Enough to know where to negotiate a great seat for sight lines, sound, and of course for the lack of much younger crazed high screaming, testosterone-laden Dead-Heads that my old frail body could not fit in the mix or blend easily without serious consequences to my health.

It was the same old game that came back to me. The seats half empty predicted a low turnout, but the bustle around the legitimate indoor lobby’s vendor stands was body to body. The lights came down and the first move began by the band to get them to their seats and of course it worked. There was not a seat to be had. One by one each band member gracefully entered; went through their pre-show preparations and people hustled to their seats or to light up leaves of a weed to tune them in, and in this drug-paranoiac age of hysteria, no one would have expected them to do it, but then how can you arrest 15,000 people? And this was the way it always was, and everyone knew it and didn’t care. Obviously no one was stupid enough to stop them. So billows of smoke not tainted by cigarettes floated upwards along with those consciousnesses that inhaled it. And then it began.

Opening with “Playing in the Band,” morphing halfway to a series of unpredictable incredible renditions of old sixties, seventies and eighties lyrical Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia songs, and then those of Bob Weir, the dose of the Dead’s sound, the interplay of pure improvisation, free-form jazz, spirit, and energy took over; And they were on that locked-in wave, shooting the tube and taking chances like I’ve never heard or seen before. Every note was on-beat, on-tune, on-pitch and Bob Weir didn’t even miss a lyric, as the crowd didn’t either. Every human body was dancing, singing, swaying, whirling like dervishes dancing to the Eternal on top of the world in Nepal. It was an incredible experience of communication between the band, the fans, the place, the space and all cylinders were firing hot, heavy, and hard. Can you imagine 15,000 people all singing every complex lyric to every song and being able to be in the middle of this human verbal “wave” of emotion? I think not unless you were there feeling it run through you. Hearing the earth and stadium tremble at the cheering of every familiar song, bar, and phrase. These were fans that any band would die for and that allegiance was rewarded in kind by those gentle men that gave, received, and gave back those emotions in an endless circle of time for the essence of music, spirit, and the vibratory movement of life.

My niece was in awe of the entire gestalt. And after three and a half hours of precise and precision musicianship, even Phil Lesh, now 70 years-old, played with the abandon of that of a human at 18. It all began with the Grateful Dead, the Further Bus, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests, 420 Time, the audio man/then legal LSD manufacturer Owlsey Stanley, the counter-culture revolution of the Romantic Age of our time. They were the cause and draw of the lore of the Haight-Ashbury summer of love in 1967, while they snuck out of their house in the Haight before the hordes of a lost generation of seekers invaded and destroyed the very thing they were looking for as a Time magazine cover propelled the impetus even further. Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and the beat generation’s finest minds were here this night, wrapped up into an experience of vulnerability and chance mixed in with the old and familiar. It was life imitating art, imitating life.

The best part was that after it was all over, I had previously paid for the CD recording at a vendor’s stand for an official record of what I just heard, and picked it up shortly after the concert. This would prove I wasn’t just breathing the sweet air and exaggerating and misinterpreting the amazement of what I heard emanating from that old familiar stage. This was one of the top five concerts I had ever heard, without any doubt and many smiles and conversation with others confirmed it, as did the CD afterwards. What an initiation this was for my niece.

To describe this communing with this band is rightly impossible to do, however an old cliché’ came to mind and that is, “There Is Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert” and whatever name they’ve morphed to, there never will be. I am honored and truly ‘grateful’ to have been there on a night that the band knew was special as well as acknowledged by Phil Lesh saying, “It’s been a long time, we’ve forgotten how intense you all are here in Philly.”

So did I Phil, so did I.

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

axix

It is the 42nd aniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s American release of ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ recording.  This often overlooked powerful contemporary groundbreaking artistry is unique and shows Hendrix at his best with both the poetry of his lyrics and powerful and emoting guitar antics that made him the innovator that to this day, no one has come close to copying, even with all of the advancement in electronics. He among others such as Jeff Beck, used the natural feedback of overdriven amplifiers to produce harmonic overtones and controlled them to produce sounds unheard of for that time. not to mention playing with his teeth, behind his back and setting his guitar on fire..but when Eric Clapton came to see him in England – (as he wasn’t accepted here in the States in the beginning of his career). Their chance came when Paul McCartney recommended the group to John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas, one of the principal organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival) – Hendrix asked Clapton to tune his guitar for him, because he always had a hard time doing it himself. Bending those strings so violently would always cause them to go out of tune. Note: In an interview Clapton recalled this incident and was ’embarrassed’ to do so in front of the audience.

 The lyrics reflect emotional ideas in terms of color- Hendrix stated, in explanation of his color-emotion interpretations, “Jealousy is purple; I’m purple with rage…”, paralleling the lyrical reference to the “purple armor” of a personified anger. ‘Little Wing’ is the Indian name of Hendrix’s guardian angel. Jimi himself said that it was his impression of the Monterey Pop Festival put into the form of a girl. It was also one of Hendrix’s most covered songs by other artists such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Phish, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Skid Row, Sting and the Irish band The Corrs.

Here in full from 1967 are the lyrics to the title song ‘Bold as Love.’

Bold As Love

Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armor

Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him

Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life giving waters taking for granted

They quietly understand.

Once happy Turquoise armies lay opposite ready

But wonder why the fight is on

But they’re all bold as love they’re all bold as love

they’re all bold as love

 Just ask the Axis

My Red is so confident

He flashes trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria

Orange is young, full of daring But very unsteady for the first go round

My Yellow in this case is not so mellow

In fact I’m trying to say that it’s frightened like me

 And all this emotions of mine keep holding me from giving my life to a rainbow like you

 But I’m, yeah, I’m bold as love

Well, I’m bold, bold as love I’m bold as love

Just ask the Axis, he knows everything, yeah, yeah, yeah……….

 and just for the fun of it from the same album ‘If a 6 Was a 9’

If 6 Was 9 If the sun refuse to shine I don’t mind I don’t mind

If the mountains fell in the sea, Let it be It ain’t me

Got my own world to look thru, And I ain’t gonna copy you

Now if 6 turned out to be 9, I don’t mind I don’t mind

If all the hippies cut off all their hair, I don’t care I don’t care

Dig it Got my own world to look thru, And I ain’t gonna copy you

White collared conservative flashing down the street

Pointing their plastic fingers at me

They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die

But I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high

Fall mountain, just don’t fall on me Hello, Mr. Businessman, why you ain’t dressed like me?

I’m the one who has to die when it’s time for me to die

So let me live my life the way I want to

Sing on, brother,

Play on, drummer

 

 

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.

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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.