Thursday, August 25, 2016

What have you got to lose?

The Dump 
There is this car that sits on a high end dealership lot.  It has been there for some time.  Since some of the newer models were not to my total liking, I took another look at the one that had been around.
The salesman was very anxious to sell the car and said that it was not made in a standard auto factory, no... It was built by a private company. Although this particular company had never built a car before, it was a well known company and product brand. The salesman claimed that even though this was their first attempt at making a car, it was the best car.  It would drive so well, I would get tired of driving so well. When my neighbors saw what a great car this was they would like me even better. 
When the car started, the engine did not sound like a normal car, but then again the salesman said, "Of course it doesn't sound like any other vehicle.  It did not come the same old factories, this is all new. And you will be proud to drive an American car."  I said, I didn't know that the car was made in the USA. 
The salesman said, "Oh..the parts and equipment were made in China, the cloth came from Indonesia and it was assembled in South Korea, but the name on the car, "Dump" that is absolutely American." 

I told the salesman I did not like the artificial orange color of the exterior, or the oddly shaped cover on the sunroof. The salesman said, "You might not like it but that color is the real thing. Aren't you tired of colors that are subdued and correctly matched. This car is unapologetic and its color is the color a lot of people would like to have but are just too shy to openly desire." 

I asked to see the original sticker price.  The salesman said that sales document was tied up in an inventory  audit and could not be released until the inventory was finished.  

Then I said, "Show me the Car Fax". 
The salesman said the car had never been driven so there was no Car Fax available. But trust him, this car would drive so great, it would Make Driving Great Again.  And with special door locks only people with a valid drivers license could actually sit inside.  I saw another car on the same lot and asked about that one. The salesman was dismissive, "That one does not drive straight. Sure it is a known brand but it is so exclusive some people say you have to pay the owner just to sit inside." 

I asked if I could take it out for a test drive. The salesman laughed and said that is not the way it worked. I would have to buy the car to see if I like it or not.  I said, "What if I don't like it."
"Well," said the salesman, "After four years you can bring it back.  Obviously we can't give you a refund  if you have already driven it for four years." 

"Okay," I said, "let me get this straight. You want me to buy this car, even though it has never been off the lot so there is no maintenance record.  You can't show me the sticker price because it is being audited. I can't test drive it and I have to keep it for four years even if it doesn't work after I buy it. And...This car company has never designed a car before, nor do they really know exactly how an internal combustion engine works. "
" Yeah, but he company does make great steaks." The salesman said.
I was not convinced.  It just didn't seem I had enough information on the car to actually know what I was buying.
It was his final pitch to sell me the car. He looked at the 8 year old dark colored BMW I was driving. I loved that car, it had never been involved in an accident, and had never given me any trouble.  I didn't much want to trade the car, but after 8 years it was time. Besides, the dealership that was supposed to keep up it running had refused to do any maintenance or try to make any improvements for the last four years.  Pointing to my car the salesman said, "Look at what you are driving now?" He asked. His voice got very conspiratorial, "It's never been proven to my satisfaction that this car was even made in the USA." With a big smile he said, again, "Look at what you have been driving? Why don't you give this Dump a try.. What the hell have you got to lose?  What the HELL have you got to lose." 
As you were,

Monday, August 22, 2016

Feelings? Nothing more than Feelings....

What do I feel like today?  I feel like me. I can't even explain what that feeling is. I just know. I know that I am me, but it is more than a physical phenomenon.  It is knowing. I know that it is me even when I am feeling less than up to par.
What does God feel like?  It seems that most of the things have a very identifiable feeling attached to the experience. I remember a television ad years ago with an egg. They showed the egg with a voice over saying, "This is your brain."  Then they cracked the egg into a very hot frying pan. As the broken egg sizzled in the skillet the announcer would say, "This is your brain on drugs.... Any questions?"  It was a visceral image that implied a dramatic change in the way your brain would feel under the influence of "drugs".
Of course they never said what kind of drugs. One could easily reverse the film and say while the egg is in the skillet, "This is your brain with depression", and then show the reconstituted egg in tack and say, "This is your  brain on Zoloft."  

We are all looking for something that makes us feel better.  Religions and Religious teachers claim that a God feeling is the best way to spend the rest of eternity.  They have no answer as to what one is to actually experience when feeling God.  Many people are after some "feeling" that will tell them they are in a state of atonement with Spirit.  To some that can be a euphoric feeling dancing around the sanctuary of a church. Or it could be the realization that you are talking in some other "tongue".  I have seen televised services where people are actually struck down by "the Holy Spirit" falling to the ground writhing.  I have heard preachers quote scripture saying, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and spitefully use you... For yours is the kingdom of heaven."  To me these are not signs that the God feeling is necessarily a pleasant one.  

Looking for that "feeling" has generated religious rituals using hallucinating substances. This drug induced "out of body experience", in their opinion, brought them closer to God and spirit.  Ram Das found God by taking LSD in the 60's.  These "feelings" led him to study with an Eastern Guru.  At one point the Holy Man asked what it was that Ram Das had in his hand. It was several hits of LSD.  He explained to the Guru that these pills helped him experience the feeling of God.  With that the Guru took the drugs out of his hand and swallowed them all.  Ram Das panicked and stayed with the Guru to help him through the very long acid trip that he felt was sure to come.  The Guru had taken five times the amount that Ram Das would have taken to become totally messed up.

For the rest of the day the Guru went about his business, teaching and studying with no apparent effects to his perception.  In other words the LSD had absolutely no affect on the Holy Man.  The next day or so the Guru explained that God could not be found in mind bending pills.  In an object lesson Ram Das learned that God can not be found in "feeling".   

People have become "religious" after some near death experience, morbid tragedy or life threatening illness.  In those cases people are trying to replace pain with a God feeling.  Trying to catch wind in a pillow case or lightening in a bottle is easier.

It is my opinion, if one is trying to find God through a feeling of some kind, they are only chasing a different kind of artificial addiction.  God is not feeling, God is knowing. How can anyone "feel" knowledge? 

Suppose you are on a trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Let's also suppose there are no maps, no GPS, and no definitive road signs to help you.  All you have are the directions given to you by someone you trust. The directions don't give you any clue on how long it will take, just the direction you should be heading.  With only that to guide you, you set upon your journey.   

Along the way you will encounter others on the journey. Perhaps they are going to LA, maybe not, they are just others traveling with vague directions like you.  Some will say, "There is no such place a LA... It is a myth. Let's all just settle down here."  Others might say, "I am sure that we are going the wrong way, we should go back," or "We need to change the direction."  If you are trying to keep your journey on path with a feeling you are heading in the right direction, your euphoria will fade.  The only thing that will keep you on the right path is knowing your directions are good. There are many ways to get to LA from Phoenix and no ones directions will be the same as yours.  Other pilgrims will show you their directions to prove you are on the wrong track. If you just "feel" like you are on the right track you are a long way from knowing.  

Sure wish there was something I could take or words I could say that would make me feel in sync with God.  There is no such magic chant or potion.  The work is not to feel God, the work is to Know God which is an eternal schooling.  I need to know God just like I know that I am me, and perhaps that feeling of being alive is feeling God. I think that is what God was trying to say when Moses asked who it was that spoke to him.  His answer, "I am that I am." That ability to know I am is really just knowing God. 
As you were,

Monday, August 15, 2016

These Kids Today.....

You can file this under, "You kids get off my lawn". I can't believe I'm writing this, but more amazing to me is, "when did I turn into to Old Man Johnson?"  It must have been one of those slow changes like a glacial flow. Suddenly you look up and things have changed beyond recognition.
Sort of like the place where this happened, the Sherman Oaks Galleria.  Located at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda, at one time it was the teenage activity center of the San Fernando Valley. A two story mall with a food court, movie theaters and teen age girls speaking in a vapid dialect that became a parody unto itself. It was so iconinc that it was featured in the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High.  

It was not unlike most malls around the country but this one was Valley Central and became the thing, but Whatever.   I remember during the Rodney King riots of 1992 there were two armored tanks and a dozen National Guard troupes stationed around the Galleria to protect it from the looting and the civil disobedience that was spreading from South Central.  
Not long after the 92 riots,  they gutted the space and made the Galleria into a semi-open air, single story facility. It doesn't look at all like it did.  In fact it looks more like the courtyard of an office building complex than a Mall now a days.  It is hard for me to remember what it once was.  We still attend movies there at the beautiful Arch Light cinemas and our bank is still there so it still serves a function for us even though it is no longer our nearest best mall.  
I can accept the change in the Galleria and reluctantly the change in myself as the years go on, but I can't seem to accept a new generation of Millennials that have come to populate the space.  Perhaps it is just a matter of not understanding them.  

Most of the young patrons are not mall hanging shoppers, but young professionals that work in the various office buildings that either surround or occupy the Galleria, depending on how you think of the complex. There has been a lot said about the over privilege  and  indulgence of this new crop of people.  Since the same was said about a"Bunch of G--Damn hippies" that was my generation, I try not to listen to stereotypical bigotry from the "elders", especially since everyone but me assumes I am one of those cranky elders. 

At any rate, today,  I was cashing some checks at the bank which is located in the middle of the courtyard.   I was done quickly and decided to get a Starbucks as a reward (plus I had cash burning a hole in my jeans.) 

I walked with purpose across the common area and found myself behind a young girl also walking to Starbucks. She was totally involved in the screen of her cell phone when she suddenly stopped cold in her tracks.  Two steps behind her I stepped to my left to walk around her.  At the same time she took two steps backwards and to her left and we bumped into each other before I could avoid her.  It wasn't a bad bump just a crash of two bodies that were trying to occupy the same space.  Over her shoulder I could see that she was playing Pokemon Go which was the reason for her abrupt change in direction.  
Instinctively I said, "Excuse me".  I didn't say it as an apology, it was a comment to assure her it was not my intention to bump her.  She was immediately angry and with her brow furrowed she looked up from her cell phone screen for the first time and said, "Hey, why don't you watch were you are going."

The fact is... I WAS watching where I was going. It was she who had no idea this was a common walkway and not a Pokemon rescue reserve.  For the next few minutes I had to stand in front of her in a Starbucks line. I wasn't sure if I was feeling the cold shoulder or the heat of anger coming from her. She didn't look up from the screen again. 

Millennials... are you not aware that there are more people on this planet than just the people on your cell phone contact list and Pokemons?  It's dangerous enough to be this distracted when you are walking at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, but I have seen some of you in LA traffic texting with both hands while driving.  Although if you are not looking at the road  and don't have at least one hand on the wheel, I would not call it driving.   I guess what I am trying to say is, if you are that unaware of anything that is happening in your life that is not on a phone screen, then stay at home. Those of us just trying to cash a check get a cup of coffee would appreciate it.
As you were,

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Letter from.....

Dear Jay,
I got your request for help. I definitely will be there, as always.  There are just a few things I would like to clear up.
First, where have you been? 
I've been here at the same place for, well, eternity.  You seem to believe that I went on vacation, retired, or just haven't been doing my job. But,  I'm right here, I never left. It seems you are the one who has not been around.  If you had contacted me before now I would know. You remember that one of my abilities is to know everything.  And I understand, that too is one of my abilities. 

I get it, you're busy. Things have been going well and you thought you could handle it on your own.  Well, since you haven't asked for my help till now, I assume that has been working out great for you. No one could be happier that things are going well. Hey, I love you. But back to why you contacted me, Why do you need me now?  What changed?  Not me, I haven't changed for, well, eternity.
You might have confused me with Santa Claus. Just because there is the implication he is a Saint, he is not.  Although I see you when you're sleeping, and I know when you're awake and know when you've been bad or good that is where the similarity ends.  My love and gifts are non-conditional.
I am omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The omni part of those words is very important.  I am everywhere and know everything, always and eternally.  And unlike Claus, I don't keep a naughty list. I am not waiting for you to be "nice" enough to be deserving of my gifts, my light shines on the just and the unjust with the same intensity.  It is up to you to accept those gifts or not, I do not withhold them.
The fact is: you have come upon a situation you think I am not aware of. You also seem to think that I need to be reminded of my job and that is why you have asked my help.  If you think you have to remind me, beg me or make a deal for my help, you obviously don't understand who and I am and what I do. 
I didn't leave you. I didn't stop protecting you, in fact there is nothing you can do that would make me hate you.  You can ignore me, pretend I'm not around and dismiss my help, but that is your choice not mine.  I am just going to keep looking out for you without wavering. 

So, I'm here and I'm there to help you. You don't have to ask, you just have to look around to know that I am there. You can never be special enough or good enough to deserve it, that is just the way I am.  Stop worrying and start looking around.

But, for my sake, don't go posting some prayer request on Facebook. I am not impressed by Facebook comments nor likes nor emoticons.  I don't have a Facebook account, and I don't respond well to empty requests and worn platitudes.  Not that I don't appreciate the attention, it's just that those requests imply that I am not already doing all I can to help. Am I just waiting around for the right person to say the right thing to motivate me to act? No!  I'm doing my job 24/7, not that time has any meaning to an eternal being like myself. 
In short I'll be there. It was great to hear from you again. Remember me a little more often in your daily activity and you will realize that panic requests for me to "be with you"  or "do something to help" is a waste of time for both of us.  I am with you always.

Monday, August 08, 2016

How to be Successful in Show Biz

In a year of political insanity wondering if America is great or not, most people who are disenchanted feel like they are not successful enough.  In America you are not judged by the qualities of your character or the depth of your talents, you are simply judged by your income and credit score.
I don't know much about other businesses but for Show Business I have the perfect answer. It is a technique that I have watched and learned from in my half-a- century of being in Los Angeles.  In Hollywood, as in most other businesses, it is better to look successful than to be successful.  The truth is, only a few creative types in Hollywood really know what they are doing, the rest have just stumbled onto some dumb luck and a twist of fate that proves to be a successful project.  Since they really don't know how to package a successful movie or series they look at what other successful shows have done and try to plug in the same elements.  The rule is, "Get me that successful writer, actor, producer, director to do the same magic for us." That is like mixing gun powder knowing the ingredients but not the proportions.  If the ingredients don't come together in exactly the right way instead of an explosion you have a fizzle. So success in Show Business will always be a matter of what you've done lately.
So in the vain of, "never let them see you sweat" there are certain ways to state your own career when you  haven't just been part of the greatest hit since "Citizen Kane."  Here are some things to think about from a performer who has learned the way it works.
The most important thing is to make everyone  in town believe that you are swamped with work and very much in demand.  Even if the person you are trying to impress is not a career mover in town, the possibility that they know someone who is a deal maker is worth the time to learn how to talk about your career.  You don't have to force it by immediately giving your resum√© before you say hello, but there are always cues that let you know it is time to gild the lily and polish the turd.
Inevitably,  during a social situation some one will ask you, "So what are you up to these days?" here are a few Hollywood answers:

For writers:
If you have more than 5 pages written about anything you can say, "I'm working on a screenplay"  or "I have this novel that's taking shape" or the best "I'm doing some ghost writing" (if they ask "for whom", you tell them it is someone they would know, and that is why you had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

For Performers:
If you just performed for the Lion's Club of Bakersfield you say, "I just had a road gig."  or "I did a club out of town".

For actors -
If you just read a script you say, "Just finished a script I'm not sure is right for me."  or "Someone thought I might like to do a part in this movie."
If you were an extra on a Friends episode you say, "I worked with Jennifer Aniston"
If you haven't worked in a while and your last credit is as a extra on Friends you say, "They (always say 'they' because it implies whomever, agents, casting directors, producers, networks... it's all 'they') THEY are trying to find the right vehicle for me... but with the trend toward reality shows now it is taking a while."  or tell them you are "Working on my solo show".
Never say you "Have an idea..." say, "I've got this project I'm working on."  or  "Thank god I have some time off to work on something I really want to do."

You never have lunch with someone, you are "Taking a meeting out of the office."
Dinner in not dinner it is a "Pitch meeting over cocktails"

If you happen to have lunch in a restaurant where some celebrity happens to be you can always say, "I had lunch with Tom Hanks (insert name here) the other day."

You never just drop by your agents office to see what was going on, you say, "My agent thought it was time for me to come in for some face time."

If you were up for a job you didn't get,  you say, "The director went another way with the part". If you got fired you say, "They replaced me with the producers nephew."

If you didn't get called in for a part that you would have been right for you say, "That part was cast before the script was finished."

If you can get proficient with this way of looking at your career you will appear to be much more in demand than you might be. You will appear to be working when you are not, and you will convince some that they better hire you before someone else does.

Now before I get comments on the fact that this way of thinking and talking is not the truth or God forbid you think it is lying I disagree.  If you look at what the current politicians are telling us, these minor offenses are more like a Jesuit sermon.  Besides  to paraphrase my old friend Billy Crystal (see how subtly you can drop a name) "It is better to look successful than to be successful" around this town.  Now you know.....
As you were,