Holy shit, where do I even begin? This year has been a whirlwind-twilight-zone-time-warp; moving slower than Trump getting convicted, while simultaneously faster than the current rising tide of fascism. Mercifully these last few weeks have been meandering somewhere in between. As winter Solstice came and went to little fanfare, that hyper-commercialized Christian abomination (hijacked from Pagans) dried up like the dead tree that symbolizes it, and just the other night Father Time passed the torch to a fledgling newborn year—undoubtedly scared shitless to even show its lil’ cherub face—cringing at the probable outcome its twelve-month stint will have on this troubled world of ours.
Yet even with that hyperbole of an intro, along with my waning sense of well-being, my loss of faith in humankind, and my overall general malaise, it’s come to that time of year where I traditionally wax poetically, complain incessantly, and yack away endlessly on the good, the bad, the ugly, and what gratitude I can possibly muster up amongst all this insanity, joy, loss, success, and grief that has transpired this last year.
In past years this hasn’t been so difficult an undertaking. But the prevailing atmosphere of self-destruction, the entire world seems to be engaged in, makes this year a tad difficult. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t just a global phenomenon. America is just as much a shitshow as ever. But it’s the daily dose of anxiety and revulsion from the entire planet that’s kicking my ass. Although, maybe it’s safer to say that in years past I wasn’t as directly affected by this colossal universal chaos. Choosing instead to put my fingers in my ear and scream, “la, la, la, la, la…” at the top of my lungs. Either way it’s almost impossible to not be angry, troubled, and distressed at what is transpiring, colluding, and driving this intolerant mayhem.
However, with the promise of an election spectacle, like none ever seen before, 2024 America is gearing up to be the whack-job three ring circus of insanity that will overshadow all the other previous political shenanigans of yore. Pitting the white-supremist Taliban against the middle of the road liberals in an all-out-no-holds-barred grudge match where facts don’t matter and accusations rule the game. But seriously, before I go any farther, are we really going to have this same old tired argument; the incumbent president sucks so I’m not going to vote him… really? Because it’s not really a question of voting “for” him, as it’s more of the same old dog and pony show where we vote for the lesser of two evils. I mean, what’s the alternative? Go with the third-party dark horse of anti-vaxxer RFK Jr.? Jaysus H. Christo, say it ain’t so! Instead, maybe with this election, just for a quick second, put down that prescription of Ambien and do what I do (and have done for the majority of my adult life), hold your nose and vote. Otherwise, it’s that 2016 “oh no what the fuck just happened” phenonium all over again and none of us will know what to do… except cry.
There’s going to be a lot of money flowing in this electoral year—but not to anyplace it should be. The billions spent on putting the “right” person in charge so “the powers that be” can get the shit they want done (read: the will of old white men that are afraid of change and the impending time when the matriarch takes the helm), while simultaneously hiding behind their puppets because they don’t want the masses to know who or what they are doing (the sting of retribution a la the French revolution still ringing in their ears). It amazes me that rich folk are so bent on keeping poor folks down. But we do live in a capitalistic society. It will always be profit above people. That’s just the way capitalism works.
Besides, we were duly warned, we just didn’t listen.
“The year is 2018 in a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries. This is a world in which that freedom is curated. You have your downtime, but only because the rest of your time is strictly regulated by the needs of the corporation. You have television, but only what the corporation will show you. You can engage in educational pursuits, but only with corporate teachers and edited texts. If you play the game you get to live a life of luxury… but it’s also a life without personality. If you fight for your personal freedom the corporation takes notice, feels threatened, and exserts its control” –William Harrison, Rollerball (1975)
“BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC [Ignorance is Strength One]. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered” –George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
I could go on all day, but what’s the point? The majority of you have probably rolled your eyes, muttered “whatever, you freakin’ conspiracy theorist” and pulled up Wordle© on your iPhone™, “isn’t there’s a Friends© episode on Netflix™ I haven’t watched ten times already…”
And you were judging me a few paragraphs ago when I said, “I wasn’t as directly affected.”
But enough about all that. How about some gratitude?
Today I have 23 years clean from drugs and alcohol—which is mind-blowing. I never thought I could live even an hour without the heavy hand of narcotics buffering me from the world. I’m immensely grateful for all that have helped and supported me on this long road. Couldn’t have done it without you. It may not sound like it in the previous paragraphs, but getting clean has shown me that being of service to others is the saving grace for all the prior harm I had caused. I work hard to be that person that cares enough to make a difference—even as the shadow of karma creeps along behind me.
My little immediate family, Jennifer and our two fat-lazy cats, continues to be my solace. I may complain a lot (where does all this fuckin’ cat hair come from!), usually about every other aspect of life. But without Jenn I’d be lost and depressed (well, more depressed than usual). Love you, babe.
I’m grateful for all my friends, family, and colleagues (you know who you are). I may enjoy a bit of solitude, but having you all in my life makes it worth living.
A big shout out and much love to the L.A. literary community and to all the punks; musicians, bands, writers, artists, and general lay-abouts. I don’t think I’d still be here if it weren’t for all your support and recognition.
It’s been a good year for writing. I’ve started working on the last memoir of my trilogy. I’m shopping my novel: LA County for publication. And James Brown and I have revised and expanded our recovery writing handbook to be more inclusive for all writers (not just those in recovery), the new title; Creative Writing for Drunks, Junkies, and Normal People Too, is currently under consideration at several presses.
Although as the years pile up and I continue to put my work out there for the world to do what it will with it. I’d be remiss to not acknowledge that the ebbing tides of time have me feeling irrelevant —old and in the way—not viable, not what’s currently in vogue (not that I ever was), or in the “club” with the cool kids. You become a certain age, especially here in L.A., and you disappear from even the outermost peripheral vision of everyone around you. The proverbial “It’s not you, it’s me,” and without so much as a kiss on the cheek one is resigned to the cut-out bin of history.
That said, I’m working on being less resentful, more accepting. Less judgmental, and more forgiving…
I hope this year doesn’t suck.
R.I.P. Tom Hanson and Mike Mart – you are truly missed.