Checking My Personal White Privilege

INTRODUCTION
For years, I have heard people tell others to “check your privilege.” It has been long enough that I have decided to check my own “white privilege.” Do I have it? Does it exist? Let’s find out.

I first learned about how others viewed my skin tone when I moved to LA and lived on the streets for a while. I encountered a black homeless man outside of a Jack in the Box restaurant. We started talking and I decided to split my last five bucks with him on food.

As we sat at a booth talking, he said, “You should be an actor, because you have a multi-ethnic look. You could be pretty much anything.”

I wrote it off as him being complementary because I had given him some food. All the same, this experience I had in 1986 would stick with me forever.


LOOK AT ME
I’m 6′ tall and just over 240 pounds [my ideal weight would be in the low 180s]. I have a shaved head, which gives me an intimidating look, as well as an ethnic look, depending on the beholder.

When I get enough sun exposure, my skin gets really dark. As it is, my skin tone is slightly darker than average. More on that later.

My own mother said that if she didn’t know me and saw me walking down the sidewalk, that she would cross the street to avoid me. [People who actually know me DO NOT think this.]

I basically scare my own mother with my appearances. But there is more at work than appearances.


THE AUTISM ANGLE
A report showed that 20% of Autistic people will have an encounter with the police before the age of 21. Also, Autistic people are 7 times more likely to have a negative encounter with the police.

Already, I can feel my white privilege melting away.


WHAT OUR FOUNDING FATHERS THOUGHT
There is record of Benjamin Franklin having a problem with Germans moving to the colonies. He said that there were too many of them, that they won’t learn English, and that they won’t integrate, effectively “Germanizing everything.”

Photo from high school, when I got more sun. I have a dark skin tone. On a side note, the t-shirt that I am wearing here was to promote a radio station called WTLC, the may have been the first all-Black radio station in Indianapolis.

He declared that the colonies “MUST be kept white AND English.”

But he had more to say about German people like me.

He said that the “swarthy tone” of German skin was a clear indicator of lower intelligence.

Welcome to America.

Okay, my white privilege is in a state of peril.

But not just now. It always has been.


POLICE ENCOUNTERS
I had an encounter one night at 2am, driving home from San Diego to LA. About 30 miles inland, there is a border patrol. They waved me over. I had my shaved head, and was also wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. I was relying heavily on the car to stay warm.

They told me to get out of the car. The officer, dressed in a wool-lined hat with thick gloves and a coat asked, “Why are you shaking so much, boy? What kind of drugs are you on?”

When cops talk to me like that, and it happens more often than not, I know that they DO NOT view me as being white.

I replied by asking him why he was dressed for an Arctic storm. He didn’t like that and told me to sit down. I first had to wait for over an hour, when they brought in dogs to check the car for drugs, which was when I realized that I’d recently bought this car USED, and did not go through it myself in that manner.

They could find ANYTHING, and it would get pinned on ME.

TWO HOURS after the car search, one cop told me that I could leave. I asked if he meant it, and he said, “Go on, leave!”

I stood up and was half-way to my car, when another cop pulled a gun on me, screaming, “FREEZE! WE GOT A RUNNER HERE!!!! GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN!!!!!!”

So I have to drop to the ground. Someone picks me up and takes me back to the bench, where I would sit for another hour while they decided what they were going to do with me, or to me.

I spent FOUR hours at border patrol, and every hour of it was freezing cold and hyper-terror. I really believed that I was going to die that night.

There are many other examples of this, and on many occasions I feared that I would be facing the end of my life at the brutal end of corrupt police aggression.


A WEIRD INVITATION
Around 2010 or 2011, a guy wrote to me and asked me to join his organization, The Armenian Aryans. He said that I was a ” perfect specimen of genetic superiority.”

I told him that I was NOT Armenian, and even if I were, I’d NOT be joining ANY racial supremacy groups, EVER.

He got really angry, told me that I was LYING about not being Armenian, and said that he would KILL ME if I didn’t join his group.

Where did my white privilege go?


IN THE END
Yes, there are times when the police view me as white. On the occasions when that happens, I might get a warning, or I’ll be asked a few questions and be let go. Other times, I am ordered out of the car via the end of a shotgun, thrown to the ground, and brutalized.

The times where the cops were inappropriate and brutal with me would have ended in a lawsuit and a judgment. The WOULD have, but they never went that far. Lawyers would tell me, “You’re white, so we can’t accuse them of racism.” I would protest that the way they treated me proved they THOUGHT I was not white. Then I’d be told that we can’t read minds, or whatever bullshit excuse there was.

So I could get no traction in the form of a trial or compensation whenever this happened. It’s a case of the cops “screwing up,” so I would be told.

My son is half-Mexican. My nephew is half-Black. I have a motive for wanting to make the world a better place for them, and that includes how non-white people are treated by law enforcement and society in general.

My analysis is that, while I do have SOME white privilege, I don’t have enough to the point where I would ever feel comfortable doing things like driving to the store.

Between my “swarthy” skin tone, my Autism, and police department policies of ESCALATION of situations, I fear that I would have an Autistic meltdown and end up getting shot by an officer.

Effectively, I live in a type of No Man’s Land, where seemingly few can relate, and most don’t really care to even try. So I’d prefer that you NOT ask me to “check my privilege,” because I am horrifically aware already. Thanks.


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Visiting The Weed Doctor

If nothing else, I figured that this might be an interesting story for some.

INTRODUCTION
In America, some states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis [marijuana]. It varies from state to state.

I fought hard in the 90s and 2000s to get cannabis legalized in California. For a while, only medicinal was available. This meant that you had to go see a doctor and get a prescription. More on that later.

We also had a Native American church that sold cannabis as “holy sacraments.” Eventually, California legalized recreational use. All of this comes with rules in the law relating to how much you can grow, how much you can buy, how much you can possess, etc.

GETTING A CANNABIS Rx IN CALIFORNIA
At first, you would have to find a doctor who was willing to write the annual prescription, and it would cost as much as $500. Over time, things loosened up. To be fair, medically speaking, they got too loose.

How you’d go about getting your prescription today is simple and weird. You find a “doctor” who write cannabis prescriptions. That’s all they do. You go to their office, which is usually in a strip mall. The receptionist takes your drivers license and writes down a bit of information for you. You pay the receptionist $60. Then, you watch an Adam Sandler movie in the waiting room. This movie typically also stars Kevin James and is really bad.

You see the doctor in a little office room. He’s wearing a white lab coat and has a stethoscope. He says, “So, you’re having trouble sleeping right? Oh yes! Well, here’s your prescription. Don’t forget to renew on time next year to save $20.”

They MIGHT take your temperature and blood pressure. Maybe, for appearances.


HOW CANNABIS HELPS ME
Before I continue, I should say how cannabis helps me. As an adult with Level 1 Autism, I suffer a few conditions. For one, I’ve had life-long insomnia. With cannabis, I can get up to 6 straight hours of sleep. It also helps to “mute” some of my Autistic manifestations by relieving stress.


GETTING A CANNABIS Rx IN OREGON
When I was deciding to move from California, it had to be a relatively “blue” state with regard to politics. They also had to have legalized cannabis. This is not just because I wanted to be able to purchase cannabis legally, but also because it shows how free or authoritarian their society might be.

Oregon seemed like a rational choice, for this reason.

Right after I returned the moving truck to U-HAUL, I ran across the street to my first Oregon cannabis collective and purchased an ounce of their premium Kush. They were very professional.

I will say that the budtenders in Oregon are generally better than the ones in California. In California, budtenders are typically women who are hired based on how hot they are. In Oregon, they hire people who have knowledge and experience. Unlike many in California, the budtenders in Oregon know what they are talking about and can make recommendations.

I asked the budtender about getting a prescription. He said that it cost at least $200 [it can be as high as $400], and that it wasn’t worth it unless you spent more than $1,500 per year on cannabis.

This is because when you purchase cannabis WITHOUT a prescription, you pay a 3% county tax, as well as a 17% state tax. 20% tax can add up over time. I don’t buy that much, as I do not use it beyond my occasional evening sleep aid.

The first step was to sign up with a collective that offers the prescription service. Most of them do. They might be filled up, so you could end up waiting a few months before they finally call you.

They ask what conditions you’re seeking relief from. I told her about my Autism and Insomnia, and she said those issues are not covered. She also said she believes they should be.

She continued to ask me questions, and we figured out that Type 2 Diabetes is a covered affliction. So we went with that and made an appointment.

I showed up at the collective for my appointment, and they had a TON of paperwork for me to fill out! I sat for about 20 minutes, constantly referencing my phone for information they were asking for that was not committed to memory.

Eventually, it is my turn to see the doctor.

This doctor is an actual doctor who has a practice in Portland, and who works to get patients a cannabis prescription if they qualify and need it. In talking with him, I quickly learned that this is NOT the joke of a front that you will experience in California.

He put a sensor on my finger that measured my pulse [75] and my blood oxygen levels [97%]. He asked a bunch of questions. One question was, “Is your stomach sometimes irritated?” I told him that it was, and that it felt similar to the gut sensation you get when you’re in trouble or something bad is about to happen.

I had previously written off this irritation as me struggling to deal with some internal fear that I could not identify.

The doctor called this Gastroparesis. He explained that Diabetes attacks your smaller, more fine nerves. This is why I am currently “glaucoma suspicious,” and have to have a bunch of eye exams to determine whether or not my Diabetes will cause me to go BLIND.

Yea, Diabetes isn’t cool. Ever.

But wait, there’s MORE bad news!

After he suggested an endoscopy to determine whether or not my stomach lining has this nerve damage, he also mentioned some fine nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the heart. He said that these nerves can be destroyed by the Diabetes.

I felt a great deal of concern. My regular doctor had never told me about any of this before. So I asked him what this meant, in terms of consequences.

He replied, “You could be having a heart attack RIGHT NOW, and you’d not even know it or realize it. You won’t be able to feel it because of that nerve damage.”

This is called Neuropathy. I had it in my foot, and my right heel is permanently numb.

When you suffer nerve damage from Diabetes, there is no going back. Nerves do not regenerate. Ever.

After I thanked the doctor for all of the good news, and paid the collective $150, I went home, scanned my paperwork, created an account online, filled out their form, attached my scans, and paid $50. I got a discount due to my current situation. The online portion can cost as high as $200.

I have a temporary card now, and am awaiting final approval. It stinks knowing that I could spend $200 and NOT get approved. But I am waiting.

My understanding is that this prescription lasts for one year, and then it has to be renewed. There is a discount for renewal, and it looks like renewal is easier.


IN THE END
I learned a great deal from the “weed doctor,” with regard to my Type 2 Diabetes and other issues that can come up as a result of this disease. It wasn’t really stuff that I wanted to hear, but I needed to hear it.

I mean, thinking that I could be having a heart attack right now is rather unnerving. At the same time, it is also helping me to come to terms with my own mortality, my age, my failing body, and my own eventual death.


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The Fine Art of Self-Hatred

INTRODUCTION
If there is just one thing that I’ve learned in recent years about self-hatred, it’s that you don’t realize how much self-hatred you have until you meet someone who hates themselves even more.

There are many sources of self-hatred. In our formative years, it can come from things our parents might say. In school, it gets fed by other kids. In adulthood, your boss or co-workers can help ensure that your tank of self-hatred always remains topped off.

I could go into detail of situations, scenarios, and people who contributed to my self-hatred. However, I think that I’d prefer to jump right into the point in the story where my self-hatred was at its worst, and was made even worse before it got better.


INTO THE PIT
By the end of 2013, I figured out that I had been taken for a ride for the previous four years by a “friend” with whom I was building a recording studio. He was a Malignant Narcissist who had the idea that he’d lost control of me and my money to another Malignant Narcissist. He was correct.

This was swiftly followed by being let go from my only live performance band in early 2014. I would have been forced to quit anyway, thanks to a labrum tear in late March of that year.

The “studio narc” was correct in his assessment, at least to a degree, as I was currently helping yet another “friend” who said she had cancer. She turned out to be yet another Malignant Narcissist who was lying about having cancer to get drug money.

And in late March 2016, LinkedIn decided to downsize me, along with everyone else who was over 45 and not in management. This was the last substantial job that I’d had.

2017’s contributions came in the form of my then-girlfriend’s brother dying from complications associated with Type 2 Diabetes in April, and then my little sister dying at the end of June, right after her birthday.

I had gotten my own Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis shortly before his death.


AN ATTEMPT TO GET OUT
After my sister’s death, I got into therapy, onl to find out before the end of the year that I have Level 1 Autism and Major Depressive Disorder. Therapy was fine, even though my therapist was not really all that compassionate or empathetic.

I still felt as if I needed to do something in order to boost my self-esteem. For me, learning can aid in achieving this goal. What would I learn? I couldn’t really afford to go to college, and there weren’t any classes that were appealing to me.

So I decided to take guitar lessons from a true legend: Zoot Horn Rollo from Captain Beefheart.

One of my early lessons via Skype with Zoot Horn Rollo [Bill Harkleroad].

At first, I hit it off with Zoot, to a big degree. He was the Master, and I was the Grasshopper, eager to learn things from his perspective. Even if I knew it already, I wanted to learn it again from his point of view.

This song sparked my curiosity about his musical views and approach to guitar.

I wanted to get inside the head of Zoot Horn Rollo. To a big degree, I succeeded. At the time, I kind of wish that I hadn’t.


SOME BRIEF ZOOT HISTORY
He was rarely happy. Even his expression seemed permanently fixed in an angry position. I could understand it. He was a musician who got screwed over in the music industry. He had been at a point in his life where he had a handful of successful albums and world tours under his belt, and yet he was still standing in line for food stamps and hoping his mother’s check to pay his rent showed up on time.

He ended up leaving Captain Beefheart in the mid-70s, taking the band with him and forming Mallard. The released two albums that flew completely under the radar. That band fell apart.

In a final attempt, some investors wanted to get the Trout Mask Replica band together for a tour. He was all in, until he got wind of some investors having some problems.

After that, he quit the music business, at least on the official level. He was a manager of a record store for a while before he started teaching guitar lessons. He would release some of his own stuff from time to time.

Even though he’s listed in Rolling Stone Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, he never truly got anywhere in the music business. If he couldn’t do it, then I’d have to wonder why I ever believed that I could do it.

I should add that I am not writing this to crap on him. Also, I am not saying anything that hasn’t been published in articles. My suspicion is that some of those stories are heavily influenced by his immense self-hatred.

Below is a screenshot from an interview that he had.

A brave admission of low self-esteem and self-hatred.

THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT
I was so lost in my own depression, low self-esteem, and self-hatred that I did not really notice much of an impact at first. But over time, it would become more obvious, dark, and desperate.

Zoot would ask me about artist influences, and whose style I’d like to learn more about.

I had heard that you NEVER ask him to teach you anything from Captain Beefheart. According to some sources, he had noted that he had no reason to remember how to play any of those songs.

So, on the spot in our Skype call, I struggled to think of someone I might want to emulate. I considered Zoot to be a strong Blues player, as well as a Master of the Abstract. I wanted to have a good name to throw out there.

My first thought was John Mayer, and I don’t really know why. Maybe it was his appearances on Chappelle’s Show, or maybe it was a live performance with The Grateful Dead that I caught online. It most certainly wasn’t any of his commercial stuff, which I do not care for at all.

So I just blurt it out. “John Mayer.”

He replies, “Oh, so you like THAT asshole?”

I could tell that bringing up these names was not going to help. I continued anyway.

“Jerry Garcia.”

“That loser only plays scales. He is practicing in front of his audience.”

“Okay… Jimmy Page.”

“You don’t want to EVER play like that. NEVER pick every note. He’s sloppy.”

The more relevant the guitarist was to Zoot’s particular moment in music history, the more he hated them. They “made it” and he did not. That’s my guess.

I continue on. “David Gilmour.”

Zoot relents. “Okay, we’ll do that, then.”

The following week, he kicks off the lesson. “So, last week you said that you liked the playing of old so-and-so…”

Old so-and-so? That’s how you reference David Gilmour? Okay, then. I guess I’m supposed to hate him as much as Jimmy Page and Jerry Garcia now. Fine.

Over time, my head began viewing every musician as being a horrible failure. And if they were horrible, then how much worse was I?


HOW BAD DID IT GET?
After a while, I started hating myself even more. Adding to that, I began to hate music.

I hated music so much that I felt like I was learning guitar, not so I could improve my musical abilities, but merely for the sake of learning guitar, and nothing more.

Play guitar to play guitar. Just don’t make music with it.

I countered this mindset by forcing myself to record as many songs as I could in 2017. Those songs are in a collection called “The Year of My Birth [2017].” These songs also served as ways of dealing with the people who caused me harm in recent years, before 2017.


COMPASSION
I am not writing this to paint Zoot as some kind of horrific monster. He’s has always been in a terrible place, like me, except he flew closer to the sun and sunk deeper into the mire.

After I had started taking my lessons with him, I got tested and received my diagnosis for Level 1 Autism. I told Zoot about it. He said that his wife had worked with special needs kids, and he had some understanding of how to approach it. He talked about his own personal issues, which I won’t write about since I cannot find any articles on them.

We brought our conversation on Autism to a close. He said, “Everyone has rocks in their backpack.” That is to say, everyone has their challenges.


CRITIQUE
When Zoot gave me an assignment, I would often want to build a song around the assignment. I did this in 2017 with the song “Finger Nine.”

In his critique of my solo work in this song, he said that one of my biggest strengths was in creating motifs. A motif is the smallest musical passage a person can create. It has to have rhythmic qualities, as well as pitch intervals.

A great example is the start of “Beethoven’s Fifth.” That motif appears throughout the entire song.

That was a positive critique. But there would be negative critiques along the way.

On one assignment in particular, I wrote a Blues song. I also made a video of me driving up to the house where Captain Beefheart and the band wrote and recorded “Trout Mask Replica.”

The song included lyrical references that were relevant to our guitar lessons. One example is near the end when I sing, “An old jug of rum is my only friend.” Zoot told me that my vibrato was too fast, and that I needed to slow it down, as if I’d just drank a whole bottle of rum.

He had fair critiques of the solo work, and gave some praise for my composition. But when I asked about the song, he replied, “It’s okay, I mean, if that’s the direction you want to go with music.”

I told him that it’s not necessarily the direction I want to go, but to me it was something I’d have to pass through, to come out the other side to get where I wanted to go.

Fair enough.


THE BIG FALLING OUT
By this point, I had been taking lessons from Zoot for 30-50 minutes per week, every other week, for a full year, at $75 per half hour. While I was seeing some progress in my guitar playing, my interest in music was dying out. Still, I kept on with my lessons.

At the same time, I was still looking for work. In this process, I got a rare nibble that ended up amounting to nothing. It got me thinking: If I get a job, then I would not be able to take lessons anymore!

I had to do something about this, so I decided to bring it up with Zoot during my next lesson.

Most of the work I was pursuing involved the typical Monday-Friday business hours schedule. So I asked Zoot about the possibility of moving my lessons over to a weekend slot.

He balked at the idea, stating, “I reserve the weekend slots for my really good students.”

Oh. Really.

Okay.

We had our lesson, but his comment about his “really good students” bothered me. I wasn’t a good student? This was clearly a back-handed comment on my abilities.

With my Major Depressive Disorder in full swing, and my self-hatred at an all-time low, I did what nobody in this position should ever do.

I wrote him an email.

In that email, I apologized for not being a good student. Overall, it was an expression of self-hatred.

He responded by telling me that I was wrong in my assessment, and that he had thought that I was a good student. The rest of the email berated me, and ended with, “Stop believing that you have the ability to read other people’s minds.”

I didn’t believe that I had the ability to read minds at all. He probably didn’t even remember what he had said.

And with that, my lessons with Zoot came to an abrupt end. I got dumped via email.


LINGERING SELF-HATRED
The self-hatred that I had before, which was previously contained to just me, got expanded to include the music I had listened to, as well as my own music that I wrote and recorded myself.

I had the same attitude as him, that my music wasn’t any good because I’m a better musician now than I was a year prior.

Music was no longer my escape, and he had taken that away from me. It made my situation more desperate, and my depression worse. It got bad enough that I sought out medication in an attempt to level myself off.

It worked, to a degree.

Even worse, I could not listen to ANY old music that I had ever recorded. It took me THREE years after the end of my lessons to have the ability to listen to my own music again.

I was hating everything that I had ever done in my past, just like Zoot hates all of his own music. This was not a good thing.


A BIG LIFE CHANGE
I had experienced a major life change on President’s Day 2019 [February 18], when my beloved buddy of 16 years passed away.

My cat LP, one week before he had to be put to sleep. He was losing a great deal of weight and suffering for it. He was 16 years old.

When LP died, it lit a fire beneath my feet. My fear of leaving the house got tested when I loaded a van with Ronnie Wood artwork and drove it from Simi Valley all the way to San Francisco and back in one day.

It was proof of concept that I could leave the house. We made plans to move to Oregon, and did so by late May of 2019.


AN ATTEMPT TO RECONNECT
With all of that negativity, I tried to reconnect with Zoot after moving to Oregon. He also lives in Oregon, a few hours away from where I moved.

I’d had only written two times. He finally responded to an email with, “I assume this is my ex-student.” He could have said “former student,” but he wanted to drive home the fact that I was in the past, and would not be re-visiting lessons any time soon.


RECOVERY
In working to get a handle on my own depression, I came to the conclusion that Zoot’s depression will rule him for the remainder of his days, and that he will not change. I got as much as I would be able to get out of these lessons.

I also concluded that his depression and self-hatred was having a big negative impact on me. It’s amazing what an hour or two per month with someone this depressed can do.

It gave me an understanding of the friends who have left me behind. It gets exhausting. I understand this. My own depression has always been exhausting for me.

Today, I’m in a relatively better place with regard to my depression. It still makes things difficult, but it’s not ruling every single second of my life. If it were, then I’d not be able to write this, or do much of anything online at all.

For a while, I sincerely hated Zoot for being so negative, for implying that I wasn’t a “really good student,” and dumping me for referencing his negative words. I was angry that he would effectively slap me down when I was at my lowest.

But I realized that he couldn’t ever help it. It’s a part of who he is, and a part of his personality. He doesn’t like himself, so I can’t expect him to like me, or anyone else.

Alone in my room, I verbally gave Zoot a proper goodbye.

It was done.


IN THE END
When a person has a high level of self-hatred, it can be made worse if they associate with anyone who has it worse off. Before meeting Zoot, I was the most depressed person I had ever known, and it stayed that way until 2017, when I met Zoot.

This was a story of my self-hatred, how it got worse, and how it got better. The purpose of telling this story is NOT to bag on Zoot Horn Rollo. I do think that he can be a decent person. He’s got a good heart, generally, and is a talented guitar teacher.

I just couldn’t effectively tell my story without including the story of my interaction with him. Since his depression and self-hatred is known publicly via older publications, I feel that bringing them up here is not a case of speaking out of turn.

But I want to be clear that it was not all bad.

Of course, I learned a great deal about guitar and music. I also learned how my depression impacts me and others. I learned more about my own learning style as an Autistic adult.

I learned that I have a physical playing style on guitar that is “similar and comparable to Django Reinhardt,” and that I should study Robben Ford’s guitar playing style for future improvement endeavours.

It is imperative that I end this entry on a positive note, and that is precisely what I will do.

We would always do a soundcheck before my lesson. I would play something on my guitar so he could see if he could hear me properly.

One day, I struck an F#minor chord. Zoot says, “That’s a majestic chord.” I agree and tell him that it’s how a song that I’m learning starts out. I then start playing the intro to a song that he wrote while he was in Mallard called “Mama Squeeze.”

Zoot instantly recognizes the song, declares, “Oh, shit!” and proceeds to play it along with me. After the short jam, he said that he didn’t realize that we had the bandwidth to play at the same time.

It was the only time that I saw him happy on video. It was a truly golden moment.

Winged Eel Fingerling, on stage with either Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa.

There was one other time where the names of some old players from his circles came up. He hadn’t talked to Winged Eel Fingerling [Elliot Ingber] in forever.

Since it’s a small world, I told him that I was friends with Elliot’s younger brother, Ira, who ended up joining Captain Beefheart AFTER Zoot quit, playing bass on Bluejeans and Moonbeams.

So I put Zoot in touch with Ira, and he was able to catch up with Elliot. I do think he was grateful for my successful efforts at reuniting them.

In the home studio of the great Ira Ingber. Ira has worked for musicians like Bob Dylan and No Doubt, and he also does a find job mastering music for one of my old bands, Noodle Muffin.

Finally, I must end with a note to Zoot, in the event that he ends up finding this and reading it.

For the longest time, when we would start my lesson, you would always says that you were hearing some reverb from my amp. My understanding was that you didn’t want any reverb cluttering up my sound.

Every time you brought that up, I’d look to my amp knobs, and I would see the reverb knob turned all the way down.

Tibo Bat, modeling my Fender Mustang III v.2 amplifier.

After I moved to Oregon, I took a look at my amp’s settings for the various patches that I have. The patch that I used in my lessons is the same one I use with my pedal board. It was supposed to be a clean setting with no effects.

The physical knob for reverb was all the way down. However, there is also a virtual knob that can be seen in the screen display on top of the amp.

The virtual knob showed that my reverb was set at 0.1, which is the setting right above 0. It’s the smallest amount of reverb I can get on this amp.

It was that small, and yet you heard it, when I could not.

You were right. I wish you well.


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The Difficult Art of Effing Chill

Going for a walk is something that I have to make myself do, even though there are many times where I have enjoyed going on a walk in the past. It’s kind of like going to the doctor to get blood drawn. I’m nervous, get it done, think it’s no big deal, and then get nervous again the next time.

It is as unreasonable to consistently not want to do something you like, as it is to be consistently afraid of something that ends up not being a big deal.

On this walk, I stopped to watch some leaves blowing in the wind. They started flying to the north, before heading west, then north again, then east, then south. The wind, it seems, was incapable of making up its mind which way it would blow.

Within the context of this completely natural event, I did have a preference in that the wind should NOT be blowing any leaves or dirt into my face. Anywhere else, but not my face.

Every so often, I would get some dirt in my eyes, and would have to stop to get the dirt out. The changing wind would sometimes get in the way and make it worse.

“Boy… if only I could control the wind…”

The thought got interrupted with the wind delivering more delicious dirt particles into my face.

I returned from the edge of this little forest, back to my humble abode. I went inside, locked the door, and washed my face and eyes.

After drying my face, I looked out the window and watched the wind as it whipped up the dirt. It was so bad that my car, which I had washed yesterday, was already dirty enough on the outside that it looked as if I had done absolutely nothing, beyond wasting $7 on something that didn’t even last 24 hours.

I stood there, and began to appreciate being indoors.

If only I could control the wind.

In a way, by going indoors, I seemed to have done just that. At least, it might look that way at first. The wind still existed. It was still vicious and dirty.

I didn’t control the wind at all. What I DID do was control myself, by moving myself indoors.

Concerning myself, albeit philosophically, with controlling the wind got me nothing, except more wind and dirt in my face. Changing focus and concerning myself with controlling me made all of the difference.

I have concerned myself with things that I cannot control for a very long time. It’s not healthy. It is, however, something that lots of people tend to do. I do think that my Autism magnifies this issue for me, as it does with other things, like fear and pain.

Around this time last year, I was concerned with surviving in a situation where wildfires and horrible air quality was threatening life in Oregon.

In fact, it was precisely one year ago today that things started to get bad in that regard.

It got difficult to breathe at times. I had to keep the doors and windows shut and kept the air purifier running on overtime 24/7, hoping that it wouldn’t burn out or we would lose electricity.

There was a great deal of fear regarding what would happen. As everyone knows, this was ON TOP OF a deadly pandemic. There were tensions leading up to a very contentious election. Looking for work was horrible, and I had one interview that fell apart via video.

And earlier in the year, I had broken up with my girlfriend of 20 years [we’ll call her “C”], and had an old girlfriend move in [we’ll call her “A”]. THEN, C called and asked to move back. She did so with A’s approval.

As The World Burns: A, me, and C drinking white Russians. The view out the patio door tells the story of the outside.
Photo taken September 16, 2020.

With the bad weather, the living situation, and other stressors present, A eventually lost her mind, walking out one day and never returning.

The election went crazy, the job situation never got better, and the people who supposedly help people with disabilities find work are now complaining that my disabilities are getting in the way of them helping me. Oh boy!

What do I do about all of it?

Effing chill, dude.

I have complained on my blog before about certain things, people, and situations. Why isn’t this happening? Why are they doing these things? Why couldn’t this situation be better?

My complaints were many. What they had in common, besides being complaints, was that they were about things that I could not control.

Let’s take my job situation, for example. I’ve been struggling to find work. When you struggle to find work, and it doesn’t come about after a while, you tend to believe that maybe there is something truly wrong with you. You start to doubt yourself.

I stopped being upset about it, so that I could look at the current situation.

100,000 new jobs popped up in Oregon last month, and yet tens of thousands of adults are struggling to find work.

That’s when I realized that I’m not at fault. It’s not just me. It’s the situation. It’s the broken system.

Could something bad happen to me as a result of not being able to find work? Maybe. My situation is mine, and their situations are theirs, even though it seems that we are being blocked by the same problem.

I cannot control my work situation. I can keep looking.
I cannot control other people. I can be the best version of me.
I cannot control American Capitalism. I can control my spending and participation.
I cannot control the broken American work situation. I can keep applying.
I cannot control the mental health of “A” or anyone else. I can take responsibility for my own mental health.
I cannot control what someone thinks of me. And I shouldn’t care, as it’s none of my business.
I cannot control the weather. I can put on a coat, or go indoors.

While I have NO control over many of the things in my life, the one thing I can control is ME.

One of my big struggles, as an Autistic adult, is responding to situations, instead of reacting. Reacting involves allowing feelings to flow freely, most of the time in a negative way. It’s like cursing someone who was driving poorly, when that changes nothing.

Instead of reacting, the best thing to do is respond. Responding means pausing and taking the time to acknowledge those negative feelings that bubble to the surface quickly. After that, it’s about having a thoughtful response instead of an emotional outburst.

The emotional outburst actually clears up or fixes NOTHING. It does achieve a few things, including adding stress to my life, as well as making me look bad.

Some of my outbursts are actually Autistic meltdowns. Some say that these are temper tantrum fits, but this is highly inaccurate. Rather, an Autistic meltdown is more closely related to a panic attack.

They only happen when a bunch of stress is added to an already difficult situation.

Being able to control my reactions, replacing them with responses, and gaining a handle on potential Autistic meltdowns will further help me to participate in a more challenging society.

As I write this, there are way too many “adults” who don’t behave like adults. They whine about wearing masks, about vaccinations, and other things that are not only OUT of our control, but that are also ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES.

Instead of being responsible adults, getting vaccinated, wearing masks, adhering to guidelines, and behaving like adults in society, they do things like what is in this video.

The human embodiment of childish arrogance.

Getting vaccinated was an easy decision for me, because I decided to view the pandemic as a public health crisis, instead of a stupid political fight. Only Fascists, such as Republicans and The Taliban, are politicizing this virus.

Wearing a mask was difficult. It might be my Autism, but wearing a mask felt like I was trapped in a coffin. At first, I could do it for maybe 5 minutes before the panic would set in.

I practiced at home and kept practicing. Today, I can wear a mask for over 2.5 hours, or maybe even more. I might be getting to the point that I prefer masks over having someone else’s germs ejected out of their face and onto mine.

I’ll close with this: The pandemic, the work situation, and dealing with society in general has not been easy for anyone. There are some people who have decide to make things worse for everyone else, while making themselves look like childish idiots.

I do not know the story of these people. Are they Autistic? I seriously doubt it. Regardless, they still have a responsibility to behave in public, in society.

I actually AM Autistic. Some professionals have also indicated that I may very well be frozen in time, at around age 16.

So, as a 16 year old with just over 4 decades of experience, my opinion is that grown adults should know better.


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When You Finally Get The Girl

INTRODUCTION
So many adults seem to have forgotten what it is like to be a kid or a young adult. Fortunately for me, thanks to the power of Autism, I haven’t forgotten. I can recall the sensation rather easily, and I remember how I felt about certain things and people.

For a young boy, there is no greater sensation than being 11 years old and seeing that 13-year-old girl who lives down the road. I encountered sensations that I’d never experienced before.

So far as I was concerned, this was the precise moment where I lost my innocence.


HOW IT ALL STARTS
I went with my brother down the road to hang out with him and a friend of his. As luck would have it, he had an older sister who was roughly 18 months older than me. We’ll call it 2 years for ease of conversation. Back then 2 years was a BIG gap in age.

We were in his room, and he and my brother were messing with some action figures, when I looked to my right out his bedroom door. There she was, in her bedroom, stretching.

Whoa.

Now, I didn’t always hang out with this friend so that I could gawk at his sister. It was something that happened on occasion. And to me, it was no different from him coming over and watching my mom sunbathe out the kitchen window. I wasn’t offended, and I doubt he was offended by me, either.

As hairless apes, it’s what we generally do. There’s a genuine curiosity and great sense of wonder when these things start to appear. At the same time, it’s absolute torture, because you get these feelings but cannot take them to a true conclusion. This means a simulated conclusion will have to do, but this blog isn’t about to go there. I have to be a gentleman about it.

This went on for years.


A BIG FIGHT
In the spring of 1980, I was walking home when a guy twice my size who threatened to “kill me” outside the gate after school showed up with his own mob of about 40 kids who wanted to see him fight me.

She was in the crowd, and was rooting me on. This might be why I felt so confident to throw the first punch.

This was a life-changing event, not only because the bullies never bothered me again, but I think it changed how she viewed me.


GROWING UP
In the summer of 1980, I was 15-1/2 years old. I had a summer job that paid pretty well, and earned enough to buy a car, as well as have a great deal of spending money. I couldn’t drive the car yet, but I could fix it up and make sure it was ready when I got my license later that winter.

As it was in the past, I continued to spend time with some very personal friends. They have familiar names, such as Insomnia, Autism, and Puberty.

I used to be so restless that I’d head out around 4:30am and meet up with my friend on the road. From there, we would cross Main Street, climb a HUGE hill, and make our way to the edge of the stone quarry. There, we would sit on the edge, dangle our feet into the void, throw rocks, and talk about life.

This tradition fell to the wayside, as they do when we grow up. My friend had some other things to do. As it turns out, I did as well.

I would get dressed and then start to quietly open my window in a way where it would not make noise. I’d hang outside the window of my bedroom [it was a bi-level house], drop to the ground, and start walking. Sometimes I would run.

But I wasn’t going to meet up with my friend at the stone quarry. No.

I had found out that his sister was a waitress working at a little restaurant called “The Lapel Inn.” It was your typical diner setting. Nothing fancy.

I’d head out with my wallet full of money and walk to The Lapel Inn to have coffee. I’d do this every day during the summer. Sit at the counter, drinking coffee, getting refills, and just hanging out.

It was an excuse to be near his sister. I was quickly approaching 16, and she was a senior who would be 18 soon.

She never once questioned why I was there, drinking coffee. It wasn’t exactly something that the 15-year-olds were doing. In fact, I was the only one doing it.

I would drink way too much coffee, and then run home in time to catch a ride with my mom to Indianapolis to tackle my summer job. I’d be tired all day sometimes, but it was all so worth it.

A CHANGE IN FOCUS
The world changed quite a bit after that summer. John Bonham died. John Lennon was killed. Led Zeppelin announced that they could not go on without Bonham. And the year ended with a big of hope for the future that could be found in AC/DC’s first release with Brian Johnson, “Back In Black.”

After Bonham’s death, and one week before Lennon’s death, I got my drivers license.

By this time, my friend’s sister would be running around with her friends, doing their thing, and setting out into the real world. I had a few years before I’d have to do this, so I moved on and got a girlfriend who was about a year younger than me.

It is so weird to look at it in a timeline.

In the summer of 1980, my world was all about her. But by the end of 1980, not only was she no longer part of my world, but we had both moved on. I would not see her again for many, many years.


A BRIEF REPRISE
In 1982, my friend’s mom set me up on a blind date with her half-sister. This girl I had a crush on knew about it, and helped her do her hair for the date.

I picked up my date at my friend’s house, which is where she was staying for the summer.

I ever-so-briefly saw that girl, now a woman, when I picked up my date. In my mind, it was the difference between my friends sister — a rather unattainable girl, so far as I was concerned — and her aunt, who was a year younger than me.

I was so excited about my actual date that I didn’t give even one thought to a potential date with the sister. In a way, this felt like moving on.


ADULTHOOD, AND GETTING TOGETHER
I won’t say when this happened, as I don’t want to step on her privacy. One day, after high school was far, far behind us, she contacted me.

I couldn’t believe it.

We ended up talking on the phone. It was the first time that we’d had a conversation. Before this, we had almost nothing resembling conversation of any kind. She didn’t know much about me, beyond the fact that I fought a kid twice my size.

Conversely, I didn’t know much about her, beyond wanting to get to know her better and to spend time with her.

And that’s precisely what we did. We got together and spent an amazing week together. On top of our alone time, we spend time with her brother [my good friend] and her dad, who was sick. We also visited her mother’s grave.

We talked about getting together, which was wild when I look back on it. We barely knew each other, although we did have a rather lengthy history of familiarity.


DID IT WORK OUT?
Due to circumstances, as well as personal situations that I won’t divulge, our plans to get back together fell apart. Surprisingly, it was I who called everything off.

She cried and cried, as I let her know that I loved her, but that things weren’t going to work. Things wouldn’t have worked, and for a series of complicated reasons that I may touch upon here.


MODERN DAY
As I am writing this, she is married to someone else. For this reason, we don’t talk anymore. It’s just too risky. Besides, we already tried. We had fun, even though it didn’t work out. At least we know.

All the same, I still think of her at times, and often reminisce about those old, old, old days, when we were kids who were running around trying to figure out the world that we had been unceremoniously dumped into.

LIFE IS JUST A FANTASY
This story, which started in the mid-70s, got me thinking. What would my memories be like, had she and I never gotten together?

I spent literal YEARS fantasizing about her. And when we finally got together, it really lived up to my expectations, in a variety of ways. It was a literally boyhood dream come true to be with her.

In the background of every fantasy is that little nagging stream of reality. It’s the mess of relocating, re-establishing, finding work, the cost of moving, and all of the other things we adults have to think about.

When we hit a point in our lives where our responsibilities get too heavy to carry around, it has an impact on the decisions we make.

I did not yet know that I was Autistic, but I did know that something was different or not quite right. While she retained her Midwest sensibilities and charm, I had been re-molded by living in California for long enough that I never wanted to go back to the Midwest.

By the time we got together, we were from two different worlds.

I could see the writing on the wall, that things weren’t going to end well if we put more effort into it. We’d had our week together, which was incredible. None of it seemed sustainable.


THE MEMORIES REMAIN
I veered a bit off-topic in the previous section, where I asked what my memories would be like, had I not gotten together with her.

It’s a strange thing, because I got back with this dream girl’s aunt back in late 2019 and we spent the better part of a year together. Things between the aunt and I ended, and not in a positive way.

I don’t want to detail it, to protect the aunt’s privacy. She had some serious problems and we couldn’t be together. It was a split that was the product of some horrible details of our situation, and I’ll leave it at that.

Because of HOW that connection ended, I don’t have any fond memories of the Aunt anymore. I don’t think about her, except when I’m writing this right now, and I have no desire to ever talk to her or see her again.

But with my friend’s sister, it’s different.

In that situation, I probably could have been selfish and proceeded to up-end my life and go move in with her. We may very well had ended up getting married. But where my life is now, I’ve got my own struggles to deal with. It would not have been fair to put her through all of that.

As I noted earlier, when we broke up, I did not yet know that I was Autistic. This is something that has gotten in the way of the majority of things in my life that would have been good.

It’s as if I had to let her go, so that she could have a better life. I do care about her that much.

I do feel like I did the right thing for both of us by breaking up.

Since I did the right thing, I have been able to keep those precious memories in a way that is healthy, positive, and secure.

It’s a good thing.


IN THE END
What had started as a curious fantasy that may have very well kicked off my puberty, turned into a situation where reality stepped in and brought things to a close.

It gets me wondering. Did she feel this way about me, too? The fact that she was the one who contacted me indicates that maybe she had a some feelings, as well as a genuine curiosity. I suspect, more than likely, it was nothing more than a case of familiarity. I did have a strong presence in the neighborhood and at her house when we were young.

It could have also been a mid-life crisis for her.

How weird to suspect that she also felt a certain way, as I did, and we never broached the subject. It is a question of timing. Did she feel that way after watching my big fight? Was it on down the road? Or was it something else?

It may not matter, and maybe I don’t ever want to know. It happened, and we got to experience it. That’s what counts.

I don’t dwell on it, or ruminate. I wish her well.

We live 1,000 miles apart, so the chances of our paths crossing again are slim. But what would I do if we bumped into each other?

I would invite her out to a diner. We’d sit at the counter and I’d buy her a cup of coffee. We’d talk about those old times more, and I’d get more questions answered.

She was our school mascot one year. While she was on the floor during basketball games, I was up in the rafters, either drumming or playing guitar. School spirit was something we handled separately, yet together.

Even though the relationship aspect of it did not work out, I do not have to wonder “what if.” I get to avoid old man regret, so far as this big life story is concerned.

We actually got together, gave a relationship serious consideration, and then we did the right thing by leaving it all be. It was a difficult thing to do, but it wasn’t a negative thing, a destructive situation, or a horrible ending.

Rather, it was bittersweet and necessary.

If “future me” had shown up when I was 11 years old and told me this story, there would be no way that I’d ever be able to believe any of it.

When I think of her, I feel like a kid again.


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Time, Money, and Experts

There was this woman having coffee in a cafe in France, when she noticed a world-famous artist. Without hesitation, she quickly approached him.

“Please sketch a picture of me!” she asked. He was happy to oblige. Two minutes later, he had created a cool sketch of the woman.

She offered to buy it from him, but scoffed at the price when he told her what it would cost.

“Why should I pay $5,000 for this, when it only took you two minutes?”

The artist replied, “It did NOT take me two minutes. It took me a lifetime.”


Flash forward to our modern times in America. An agency gave me a spreadsheet job to do for a company. They estimated that the job would take 7-10 days.

Being a young worker and wanting to impress them, I got the job done in 7 hours. I thought that maybe I’d see a bonus payment, or they might even want to hire me.

Nope.

It was basically, “Thanks for the fast turn-around. Here’s pay for 7 hours.”

They paid for my time, but NOT for my skill and knowledge. I would have been better off taking my time, getting it done in a few days, and then twiddling my thumbs for the rest of the week as I lie to them about how it’s coming along.


There is something seriously wrong with a system that approaches everything in this way. I understand that you don’t want to be on a low-budget project and then spend months on end working on it.

Time is money, so they say. Time, much like money, is a human construct.

But if someone is able to get something done faster, then why should they be punished for doing so?


THE TIME EFFICIENCY EXPERTS
When I was a teenager, I worked as summer maintenance help at an apartment complex that was owned by a huge management company.

The company was very interested in saving money, so they decided to hire some Time Efficiency Experts out of California, at a price of $2 million, to find where they could cut corners and save time.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that these people had NO idea what they were talking about, and I was only 17 years old.

My first clue came when they asked me their first question. One of my duties was to walk around the complex in the morning to pick up trash, as well as put tape on light sensors to check outside lighting and replace bulbs that are not working.

“We noticed that on Monday you spent approximately one hour on this task. On Tuesday, you got it done in 54 minutes. Today, it took you almost two hours. Why the time difference? Why can’t you do this consistently with the same amount of time?”

I had to explain it to them.

Monday, as it turns out, was a regular day. Average, so far as I was concerned. That’s one hour. The second day, at 54 minutes, was because there wasn’t so much trash to pick up. As for the third day, at TWO HOURS, was because a few light bulbs were burned out, so I had to walk to the garage, get bulbs and the ladder, and go around changing those bulbs.

Fine. I figured they are learning. But it got worse.

“We are evaluating your air conditioning call tickets. In all three calls, the complaint was that the air conditioning was not working. This first call took you 15 minutes, the second call took 2 hours, and the third call took 8 hours. Why the large differences in times?”

I can explain that.

The FIRST call was just a case of the renter NOT knowing how to operate their thermostat. So I showed them how to do it. Minimum billing time is 15 minutes, and it took about that long.

The SECOND call ended up being a bad thermostat, so I had to drive to the warehouse, get a new one, drive back, and install it.

The THIRD call was a situation where the central air unit need to have a Freon recharge. This is a process that takes 8 hours, and there is nothing that can be done to speed this up.

I thought that maybe they were starting to get a handle on things. But I was wrong.

One day, I walked out of the bathroom. There was one of the Time Efficiency Experts, standing there with a stopwatch and a clipboard. Of course, he had questions.

“Earlier today, when you went to the restroom, it took approximately one minute. But just now, it took you a bit over five minutes. Can you explain why you don’t spend the exact amount of time in the bathroom for each visit?”

Wow, really? I have to explain THAT to a grown adult?

I’d had enough of their nonsense, so I took my yet-to-be-diagnosed Autistic self straight to the headquarters. My mother was the Assistant to the Vice President, so I felt a bit of power in the organization. In looking back, I probably could have gotten my mother easily fired.

I walked into the building and went straight to the President’s office. He knew who I was, as he had met me five years earlier, when I was 12 years old.

I told him what they were asking, and how their questions were getting weird. I let him know how their questions indicated to me that they knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about maintenance work, at all.

He said, “We’re paying them two million dollars for this evaluation.”

I replied, “Two million dollars? Certainly you could find someone who knows something about maintenance to do this project for half the price.”

Then I told him about their bathroom usage question, followed with, “Would you like to guess just how much of my time they waste in one single day with their questions?”

That was enough. He called the Time Efficiency Experts and terminated the project immediately. He had to pay a fee to cancel, but he ended up saving a bit over one million dollars as a result.

I went back to the maintenance shed, told these “experts” to expect a call to let them know that their services will no longer be needed. Then, I went to the refrigerator, cracked open a 5:00pm beer a bit early, and put my feet up on the boss’ desk to have a sip.

The sip was followed with, “Ahhhh, the taste of success.”


When I look back on this story, it kind of scares me how easily it was for me to walk straight into the president’s office, take a seat, and just start talking. I didn’t ask if he was available, and I also did not talk to his assistant.

It’s probably not something I would do today, given the experience that I have with being in a situation where I DO NOT have a connection to power. And I do think that it was a valid use of power that would not be deemed abusive. These experts really were wasting my time, and the time of everyone else.

Then I see how the world is now, where workers at Amazon warehouses get TIMED for their bathroom breaks, and get FIRED if they go over. Their drivers are also peeing in bottles and crapping in plastic bags, so they can meet their unreasonable goals, which I suspect were written for robots, and not humans.

That’s the depressing side of our world, which is in a state of End-Stage Crony Capitalism in America. Our K-shaped economy is killing people, and I could very easily end up a casualty in all of this.

What my time is worth is one question, and it seems to be the ONLY question that matters to our Corporate Owners. There are also skills, abilities, and education to consider.

Tom Hanks, in “Big,” reminds me of myself during my early years working in an office. I’ll bust out that spreadsheet for you!

All of it gets me thinking about that spreadsheet that I got done in 7 hours, when they thought that it would take 7-10 days.

Did I really get it done in 7 hours? I started typing in 1971, when I was in first grade. During that year, I also learned about proofreading, and would get paid $0.25 per page to proofread legal documents while my mother typed in her home office. I spent years teaching myself how to use computers, how to create spreadsheets with Lotus 1-2-3, before moving to Excel.

When I told them that it only took me 7 hours, I wasn’t really being honest with them, or myself.

It took me a lifetime.


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Big, Big Lies

This is not about that big lie that Trump told, and that his minions keep alive.

As big and dangerous as that lie has been, and will continue to be, I’m thinking about lies that are so big that they become the fabric of our society.


Hard work pays off: Sure, it can pay off. But when it comes to things like work, this lie gets told to us by bosses, managers, and even co-workers.

The hard truth is that there are no guarantees in life. I have learned the hard way, first hand, that you can work really hard at something and get absolutely nowhere.


The cream rises to the top: This saying can be applied to different situations. While it might be true in things like sports, with regard to work, this is simply not the case.

This saying is in support of another lie that is sold, known as The Meritocracy. In this concept, those who are talented will always rise to the top and “succeed.”

You may have a proper education and experience, and other things that give you merit. However, you can also not be connected, or not play office politics well. Whatever the case may be, your merits can, and most probably will, be rendered irrelevant.

Intelligence is power: Intelligence can be helpful and useful. These days, it is best to hide your intelligence, lest you be confronted by someone who is anti-intellectual.

But within the context of work, your intelligence does not matter as much as who you know and what connections you have.


These are just some of the lies that keep the wealthy and powerful in their positions. They count on everyone believing these things. This is why our American educational system is so horrible. It’s no accident. Keep people stupid, so they are easier to scare and control.

I could go on with a bigger list of this, but after a while it begins to feel redundant. This is not just because these lies come from humans, but also because they all revolve around the concept of money.

Money is a mutually-agreed-upon mass delusion, that is similar to the tuning of musical instruments. That’s to say, we all have to agree on certain terms. In the case of music, we will generally tune to an A440 for maximum results.

In the case of money, consider a dollar bill. We all must agree that it is worth a dollar in order for it to have any value. So when you work, your boss gives you that dollar. You accept it, because you believe in its value.

Your landlord, local grocery, and other service providers also view that dollar as being worth a dollar. The Stock Market might decide that dollar is worth $1.03, or that it’s worth $0.72, so the value slips and slides here and there.

Almost all of us believe in that delusion.


What would I consider to be the absolutely biggest lie of all? One might guess that I would offer up religion. Truth be told, that’s a really close one, because it utilizes and promotes an even bigger lie that all of us buy into. Even me.

It’s the lie that permanence exists in the world.

Religions promote the idea of “forever,” which is a difficult number to envision. Considering that we live a mere 70-100 years, on average, forever doesn’t really have much meaning.

When people get married, they talk about it being “forever,” as if their current state is permanent. Maybe they are in that place where, if they were both frozen and never grew as adults, it might be the case. “Forever” would come to an end the minute one of them dies, best case.

But adults grown and change. Not only does each person’s wants and needs change, but their ability and willingness to meet the needs of others change as well.

For this reason, the promise of “forever,” in regard to anything, is a fool’s errand. And yet, some people still demand and require the promise of forever, if they are expected to live their very temporary lives.

Circling back to the idea of marriage, it is suggested that a marriage is not successful unless it lasts “forever.” There is that other phrase, “’til death do you part.” This kind of works against the “forever” sentiment.

How do you know that your marriage was successful? When you wake up one day, and lying next to you is a cold corpse. That is, assuming that you weren’t the one to die, in which case you’ll never truly know if your marriage was successful.

I PROMISE I WILL NEVER DIE.

When my life would be in a good place, I’d think, “Yeah, I finally made it. I’ve achieved something.” And then, it gets yanked away quickly.

Then I find myself in a bad place and think, “Ah, crap, my life is screwed and I’ll never get out of this.” Then it would get a bit better, usually when someone helps me out.

I have believed that my various states in life were achievements where I could sit and stay, at least for a while. But even a moment is too much to ask. Things keep changing and happening.

The concept of permanence is something that feeds a sense of security. It might be why people find comfort in the idea of being in a place like “heaven” forever. I suppose it helps if they don’t believe they’ll end up in “hell,” but I digress.

When I was a kid, I thought that certain powers would be in power when I grew up. This includes things like the music industry. Today, the music industry doesn’t have nearly the power it once did.

I also believed that my parents would always be powerful people. My father died in 2003, so not really all that powerful today.

Even temporary permanence brings comfort. Any friendship or relationship I have will be temporary, given the temporary nature of human life. Still, I want them around.


With all of this deception revolving around the illusion of permanence, it makes sense that humans want to believe that they are also permanent. If not physically, then spiritually, with the idea being that your spirit lives on in a spirit world forever.

There is no evidence that this is something that factually happens.

What will become of me?

The thing that I call “me” is an illusion that the brain generates to create a sense of self. That sense of self is used to participate, negotiate, and otherwise maneuver through life. Without the illusion of the self, one would not think, “I need to find shelter,” or any other thoughts. Instead, they would be left in the cold, accepting the way things are, until death.

Survival without this illusion might very well be impossible.

The wild thing about this illusion is that it works even if you acknowledge that it is an illusion. It’s the lie you believe, even if you know it’s a lie.

But for an eternity before my birth, I did not exist. At least, I have no conscious memory of an existence. Before my birth, there certainly was no brain in the picture, whipping up the illusion of the self.

Then, I was born. The brain in this body began to generate a person, or “ego,” by taking in the reactions and responses of others to this self. Those reactions and responses from others were based on their limited and biased view of the being that my brain inhabits.

Since the brain in this biological entity is Autistic, it presents in a certain way that puts others off. They react and broadcast this reaction. This brain receives the reaction, misconceives all of it, and creates a “me” to get through life.

It’s not an effective or efficient thing. Not at all.

As it is, I have bandied about through this life, doing what I thought needed to be done and living the way I sense is best for my being. And after a while, this body will cease to work. Blood will stop flowing, and stop delivering oxygen to the brain.

The brain will die, and so will that illusion of “me” that it created in my formative years.

What happens after that?

Many like to believe that they enter a spirit world. I see no evidence of this spirit world, so I do not cling to that idea.

What I think happens is that thing I call “me” goes away after the body goes away. I do not believe that I have a spirit that will live on. If I am wrong, and there is a spirit, then it may very well return to the state in which is existed before I was born.

This is a state of nothingness. No fear. No punishment. No earthly or humanly emotions, responsibilities, or concerns.

Just nothing. Forever.

Was I even alive? If I don’t exist, then that is not possible. I’d not think about being alive, if it weren’t for that pesky concept of dying. And dying is the only thing that we can prove at this point. Or can we?

So far as I can tell, life is an illusion caused by death.


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On Ageism and Growing Old

It wasn’t all that long ago that I used to always be THE youngest person in the office. I was “the kid,” as they’d say.

My change from this status to one of being old happened virtually overnight. I would notice it when I’d talk about things, like past work experiences, and the person I was talking to would have no idea about some of the details.

What’s DisplayWrite/36? I’ve never heard of THAT before.

At some point, I had to accept that I am old.

On April 13, 2016, my age was driven home when LinkedIn decided to fire everyone at the lynda.com HQ in Calabasas, CA, who was under 45 and NOT in a management role.

Since then, I have not been able to find substantial work, and have relied heavily on the support of others in order to survive. Being forced to live this way can rot a man’s brain, not to mention his self-esteem.


Last night, I was watching Jimmy Snow on YouTube. He is a guy who started out as a YouTube Atheist content creator, and morphed it into something more. He’s 31 years old, so he’s in the Millennial category.

At one point in the video, he lamented getting older, as he acknowledged how American society treats [and abuses] older people in our society.

He should be VERY concerned about this. I was deemed “old” by the time I was 50. He will be labeled as such before he is 35 years old.

It’s as if the rest of the world is mimicking the music industry, and how music executives were worried that Avril Lavigne was becoming “long in the tooth” because she was going to turn 17 years of age.


Before I was let go from LinkedIn, I was able to acknowledge the culture around me. There was a game room, with an XBOX and ping pong table. There was a cabinet full of Manga anime videos that could be borrowed. There are “puzzle stations” at various locations throughout the office, so you can just stop and work on a puzzle for a while if you want.

And they even had a monthly day of “mandatory fun,” which they un-creatively called “InDay.” This was where you went out and “had fun” with your co-workers while bonding with them.

As an Autistic adult, I didn’t do much bonding on those days. Also, I saw those days as a trap. Here’s how the trap works.

Everyone has work that is always piling up. Nobody ever has a clean desk when InDay hits.

If you GO with everyone for InDay, then your manager can berate you for going on InDay when you probably should have stayed at your desk.

Conversely, if you DO NOT go with everyone for InDay, then you will be labeled “Not a team player,” and you will be punished.

It’s no different from the “Hawaiian Shirt Day” in Office Space. Same trap.

When Jimmy Show lamented how old people are treated in society, I had to perk up and agree.

I’ve talked with many adults in my family, who are from the generation before me, and they ALL consistently admit that they felt that old people were a waste of time who needed to be pushed aside and shoved beneath the rug.

This got me thinking about how I treated older people throughout my life.


My favorite “old person” of all time was my grandmother. I used to say that the stork dropped me off at the wrong house. It wasn’t until my 2017 Autism diagnosis that I learned WHY I felt this way.

Grandma E inspired me to play drums and bass, and encouraged me being a musician.

It was because she talked with me like a human being and listened to me as well. No other adult who was directly involved in my life ever did that with me as a kid.

We would often times sit at the kitchen table and talk about ANYTHING and everything. Sex, rock music, politics, social attitudes. Anything and everything I wanted to talk about, I did it there.

My mother one time picked me up from my grandmother’s house, and she heard us going at it before we wrapped up. She asked me, “Why do you enjoy antagonizing your grandmother so much?”

And yes, I knew what “antagonizing” meant when I was 8 years old.

I replied, “We’re not fighting. We’re having fun.”


When I was 11 years old, I went to my friend’s house about a block away. He wasn’t home. As I walked out, I saw an old lady sitting on the porch. Her name was Barb Yeryar. As it turns out, her name was a big name in town. But I did not know this.

Wanting something to do outside, I walked over and sat with Barb. She told me stories about the poetry that she’d had published, and even brought out a few books. She also brought out a magazine that showed a Maytag commercial, featuring a letter that she wrote to “the lonely Maytag repairman.”

Later, Barb invited me and other kids who lived in the immediate area to swim in her pool. She had a HUGE indoor pool where one would expect a 3-car garage. It was like a mini-Olympic pool of sorts that got up to 10 feet deep, and was an IN-GROUND cement pool.

She wasn’t messing around with her pool.

After we got out to dry, she came over and said, “When your parents used to come over here to swim, I would give them a quarter so they could go to Owen’s to get a snack.”

Owen’s was a gas station in town that was also a convenience store.

Barb continued, “Today, a quarter will not do!” And then she handed each of us a silver dollar.


Barb Yeryar definitely had an impact on my life.

I would sit with my friend’s mom, Stephanie, and sit at the table to talk with her, just as I would do with my grandmother.

My neighbor, Joan, would oftentimes be alone after school, so I’d go by there and sit at her kitchen table as well. She always had lots and lots of dirty jokes to tell. Like Stephanie, she wasn’t really “old” in social terms. She was just old to anyone who was a kid.

Still, I was the only kid who would hang with these super-old people. At least, they were super-old to me.

Dave [in the Lapel jersey], beating my uncle by 0.1 seconds to win the County in 1969.

I also hung out with my health teacher named Dave. He beat my uncle in a race in 1969, to win the county.

He was not only my health teacher, but he was also my Cross Country coat. He was rougher on me when he learned that he had beat my uncle in a race. But he did it in a caring way.

He also was my teacher in Sex Ed, as well as my driving instructor.

I would sometimes go to his house and we would play guitars on the porch.

No other kid was doing what I was doing.


When I ask myself if I am ageist, or engaging in ageism, the answer is a resounding NO! And that goes in BOTH directions. I watch content creators on YouTube who are my son’s age, if not slightly younger. Some of them are surprisingly savvy with regard to political or philosophical concerns.

I don’t dismiss or disregard someone because they’re older than me, OR younger than me. It’s about the person, not the age.

But, to those who are all about age, and who believe that old people should be swept under the rug and ignored, I have a message for them. This message is on top of the obvious message above, which is that there is SO MUCH to be learned from those who have had more life experience.

If you are lucky, then you will get to spend 5-10 years being the young person in the office. But after that, if you are lucky, you will get to spend at least half a century being old.

This is why people need to get over ageism, and focus more on the person and what they have to bring to the table. In my case, to be precise, it’s the kitchen table, where all the really good talking happens.


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I Want to Take YOU on Your Ultimate Journey

INTRODUCTION
Too many people are angry, upset, afraid, alone, and are coping with various situations. Mental illness and distress are killing people.

It does not have to be this way.

I want to take you on your Ultimate Journey. The cool thing about this journey is that you don’t have to leave your house, you don’t have to consume any questionable substances, you don’t have to spend any money, and you don’t even have to leave your seat.

Plus, the journey takes 45-60 minutes, depending on how fast you read this.

All you have to do is consent to the journey, and then we will start the process, after I answer a few questions that I am certain you will have.


TRUSTING ME, AND THE RISK
To go on this journey, you will have to trust me.

I know. That’s a scary proposition. We barely know each other.

What are the risks?

This journey is comprised of a few questions and commands, followed by a video. The questions are simple enough that ANYONE who is capable of reading and understanding what I am writing can use their own critical thinking skills to answer the questions.

As for the commands, this is not a case of me wanting to tell you what to do, because I’m better or smarter, or insert other nonsense here. Rather, my directions serve to guide you through this journey.

It’s a journey that you’ve taken many, many times, for years on end. The problem is that you forgot HOW to take this journey.


LET’S GET READY
If you have read this far, then I assume that you consent to the journey, and that you are willing and able to follow my directions.

At this time, please secure your perimeter. If you are NOT at home, then please save this for when you get home. Go to the bathroom, have a drink of water, and then have a seat in a comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted with life.

Temporarily mute your phone and all devices.

Okay, let’s get started.


STEP 1: FORGET
Right now, I want for you to forget the things that are bringing stress into your life. Forget about your work for the time being. Forget about politics. Forget about the problems of the world.

Forget about being an adult, and discard all adult-related concerns.

Do not worry, for this will be temporary, and you can return to your previous state of consciousness after the journey, or at any time you want, should you not be comfortable with it.


STEP 2: REMEMBER
Once you’ve forgotten or set aside the above mentioned items, I want for you to remember a time before you became an adult.

Remember a time when you had no political affiliations, and did not care about such things.

Remember a time when you had almost NO care in the world. A time when your biggest concern was which game you were going to play, or who you would go visit.

Remember a time of minimal responsibility.

Think way back to a good, happy moment in your childhood. Go back to this time when you felt really, truly safe.

Imagine that you are safe in this moment in time.


STEP 3: WATCH
This is a 30-minute video that shows our Universe from current day, with the passage of time doubling every five seconds. It’s a journey from where we are right now, to the literal end of time and everything that exists.

After the video, return and read below.

Time eventually becomes irrelevant…

STEP 4: REVIEW
If you are reading this, then I will assume that you’ve watched the video posted above.

At 19:16 in the video, or 55 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years from now, when the evaporation of black holes occurs, and they look like fireworks, the first one explodes.

It does not fizzle out until 71 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years.

That means it took 21 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years for the evaporation of that one black hole to happen.

In the animation, we see it happen in a matter of a few seconds.

Considering the fact that we only live about 80-100 years, realize that if humans were alive to witness this phenomenon, that you would live your 100 years, and literally not see ANY of it moving, at all.

If these facts are altering your perception, then congratulations. You’re on the journey.


WE HAVE LOST OUR PERSPECTIVE
When we are children, we have a great deal of perspective regarding the world. We are curious, and to varying levels, we are free to explore the world around us.

But as we grow up, we lose our way.

Our brains get filled with religious dogma, work culture propaganda, judgment, hatred, fear, greed, lust, and our behaviors change to fit those ailments. Even worse, our brains change to accommodate these things.

Then those states become our norm.

It puts us in a situation where we look rather silly.

She’s like lots of my former friends and co-horts, who used to know how to have fun and enjoy life. Now they’re angry, miserable, political, and missing out on what makes them happy in life.

But we certainly do not FEEL silly. We feel sickened by the anger, fear, and stress that we tote along, like a snack to feed a beast that is growing by the day.


A SERIES OF TRUTHS
Humans have become too self-important.

Humans place value on the wrong things.

Humans hold tightly to arrogance, and the idea that they have eternal souls and that they were created by a god, resulting in a loss of humility.

Humans are more interested in their tribal affiliations than the welfare of their neighbors, travelers, and immigrants.

Humans are more interested in stockpiling money, than they are tending to the needs of their own children.

Humans are more interested in working their lives away, than smelling the flowers and playing with their children.

Nobody who had the luxury of lying on their deathbeds ever regretted not spending more time at the office. They do not wish that they had been “more productive.”


OUR SOCIAL DILEMMA
Anyone who has been reading my writings, or anyone who knows me, understands that I am an Atheist. I say this NOT because I think you should be one, but because I want my thoughts to have some context.

Whatever you believe, so long as you are not harming others, keep at it.

I hold NO interest in your deconversion. At the same time, I DO hold an interest in living in a more positive society, which starts with YOU and ME.

My perspective on all of this is that we are NOT special and were NOT created by a god of any kind. Again, I tell you this so you can have perspective.

I have not sat back and arrogantly held this position. I have searched for evidence of ANY gods out there. I’ve read the bible and other documents considered to be sacred. I even read an encyclopedia set about the religions and rituals of the world.

I have been searching for over half a century, and I have not found even ONE small piece of evidence to support the idea that there are any gods out there watching over us. My door is open to any gods who want to talk. I think that they should have the power to do this.

What this means is, so far as I can tell, we are utterly alone in the universe. Nobody is driving the bus. We are on a giant rock, hurtling through space around a nuclear explosion, all alone.

From my perspective, if more people felt this way, that life is fragile and a special event in nature, they might value their lives more, and they might be more kind to strangers.

My struggle involves being kind to myself. No matter what you believe, or don’t believe, this can be your situation as well. This can also influence how you treat others.

Right now, people are screaming and yelling about things and getting hyper-emotional, instead of stopping, breathing, and listening to people who are there to help them.

They are not thinking.

Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and morgues are being pushed to their limits right now. Some have already been pushed too far, and have simply given up.

At any time, you can contract a deadly virus that will more than likely kill you. This is on top of everything else out there in the world that could end your life.

Once your life ends, so far as I can tell, that’s it. No heaven, hell, gods, devils, angels, demons, etc. None of it. I just see no evidence for any of it. Even if you believe in an afterlife or reincarnation, one day your body will be gone and life as you knew it will cease to exist forever.

Once you’re gone, that’s it. You exist no more. Or rather, the thing that you believed was you that existed is no more. That’s another existential crisis for another day.

Maybe.

Whether you agree with me, or whether you hold some type of religious beliefs, the truth is that our societies are at the early stages of a socio-economic collapse.

It has nothing to do with “heathens” like myself. Discarding of that flawed logic would be a healthy thing. It has everything to do with our owners, their greed for money, their thirst for power, and their desire to not only maintain these things for themselves, but to make them bigger. Because they never have enough.

No, that gay couple that got married isn’t destroying society. Neither is that immigrant who lost EVERYTHING and are running from the only home they’ve ever known, into the vast unknown.

These are the powerless, and the powerful love pointing at them and blaming them for everything. It’s a distraction.

Right now, you’re here. You might not be here in ten minutes. Whether you go to heaven or hell, or simply return to the state that “you” were in before you were born, the fact is that your physical being is gone, and it remains gone forever.

What are you doing with the tiny spec of time that you have on this planet?

If it involves hate, fear, stress, an excess of politics, too much work, too much debt, and the “othering” of people who are not like you, then it seems that you’re wasting the one-and-only life you’ve got.

I would encourage you to try to be kind. Try to have empathy, sympathy, and Humanity for those who are not like you; those who have it worse than you.

Try to avoid demonizing people who aren’t like you.

Stop. Close your eyes. Breathe. Then think.

We have people who are dying out there because they’re afraid of the “other” political team, who has been demonized. They fear the educated, who have been demonized. They fear science, which has been demonized for centuries.

They fear “losing their rights,” instead of doing the right thing, which ironically takes away the rights of all.

Worst of all, they might be too proud to admit that they were wrong, change their minds, and do the right thing. They fear being cast out of their tribe, or otherwise losing their tribal affiliation.

This means they would actually lose friends, respect, and their social standing if they change their attitude, change their course, and get vaccinated and wear a mask.

That’s the kind of pride that kills.


IN THE END
The world is becoming more intense. People are becoming more angry and aggressive.

Anger and aggression are the bodyguard of fear and sadness. They won’t show fear and sadness, because they believe that to be giving off signs of weakness. The truth is that only the weak need to mask their true feelings.

The purpose of this journey was to get you to think back to when you were more than likely a better person, and you probably had less stress.

This might not always be the case, but for many it might be. My childhood was VERY bumpy, but I did have some moments that were good, and I gravitate toward those times.

Examining your life. Is something stressing you? Causing anger? Generating fear? If so, you can investigate and see if there is something you can do about it.

For example, if you are a member of a tribal Facebook group that is all about hatred of the “others,” then please consider quitting that group. Shutting off those voices allows YOUR OWN voice to be heard. It’s that voice in your head that belongs to you, not someone else.

Some people refer to that voice as “god.”

And do not feel ashamed about getting a professional to help you. There are good therapists out there who can guide you toward the best version of you.

When life gets too overwhelming for me, I stop and go on this journey. Yes, that includes the video, which I have watched dozens of times.

After that, I realize that life is an illusion caused by death. And suddenly, my problems don’t seem so overwhelming.


If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading! https://paypal.me/drumwild

RIP, Charlie Watts

I had just read the news that Charlie Watts has passed away at the age of 80.

The last time I saw The Rolling Stones live was in 2015 in San Diego at Petco Park for the kick-off to their ZIP Code Tour [May 24th].

I have two stand-out memories from that night.

The first was a Stones fan who told me a joke when they reached the segment where Keith Richards plays a few of his own songs.

“You know what Stones fans call it when Keith Richards starts singing?

“They call it the bathroom break.”

My OTHER memory has to do with their stage set-up. They have HUGE screens behind them where you can see everything larger than life. We weren’t even sitting all that close, and could still see great detail.

At one point, the cameraman focuses on Charlie Watts while he is drumming. And in that moment, he accidentally dropped a drumstick, on the HUGE screen, for all to see. He grabbed another stick nearby and moved forward, without even blinking.


My favorite Charlie Watts anecdote is about one night in a hotel, after Mick has said something like, “None of this should matter to you because you’re only my drummer.” This was during an interview in 1978.

Charlie kept his anger bottled up until he got to his hotel room. As he tried to watch TV, Mick kept calling Watts, asking him, “Where’s my drummer?”

Watts turned off his TV set, got dressed all proper, and went down the hall to knock on Jagger’s door.

When Mick answer, Watts punched him right in the jaw.

“Never call me ‘your drummer’ again!”

Damn straight!

Below are some photos from that show. Rest in peace, Mr. Watts. No drummer in history pauses their hi-hat motion to strike their snare drum quite like you.


Getting set up
Gary Clark Jr. opened, and later joined The Rolling Stones on stage for a few songs.
Full swing.
The place went nuts!
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