Saturday, September 14, 2019

A SPECIAL DAY








I call my 4-year-old grandson “my little guy” and “The Dude” and I love that he’s so cuddly and affectionate.

I buckle The Dude into the car and power up an iPad to ensure his contentment during a ninety-minute ride from the American Riviera to the Big City.

My little guy giggles with delight as he battles dinosaurs that eruct comical side effects from his screen.  

Dinosaurs are his passion, and he has collected very many dinosaur toys, from plush ‘sauruses of one type or another to hard plastic dinosaurs in all shapes and sizes, to a walking, roaring, lit-up Dominus T-Rex—his favorite dinosaur of all, almost as tall as himself.           

He knows more names of dinosaurs than I ever knew existed.

Forty minutes on, rolling through Camarillo, The Dude feels a twinge of impatience.  

“Are we almost there?”

It isn’t a whine, just a legitimate question for an active little boy sitting in the same spot for what must feel like an eternity.

“See those mountains up ahead?” I say, pointing through my windshield to the Conejo Grade in the distance.  “We’re going to zoom right over them to the other side!”

“Zoom over them?” he says in wonderment, and maybe that’s one of the things I adore most about this little guy, his sense of wonderment, and his ability to absorb, process and retain new information—and then play it back to me, often with a new twist.

I tackle the grade with ferocity, zigzagging lanes to overtake cars whose engines are challenged by the road’s seven percent incline, cresting the peak and commencing our descent.

My little guy is momentarily awed by my fancy steering, and cheers me on, with glee, before reabsorbing himself with colorful dinosaurs dancing across his screen.

Soon we ramp off, cruise city streets, and he looks around enthusiastically, repeating my words with glee.  “City streets!”

A few minutes later we arrive at LA’s Farmer’s Market, a landmark since it was founded in 1934, and a regular go-to for my mom and dad, my brothers and me, when I was a freckle-faced little dude myself.

Much of Farmer’s Market is the same as it was half-a-century ago, starting with the pie maker whose large picture window allows for shoppers to watch the bakers at work kneading dough and filling tins with pie crust and fruit.

I pick up my buddy and show him the action, and for fifteen seconds he is mesmerized by the activity on other side of the partition.  

My little guy’s favorite food in the whole world is pepperoni pizza, and that’s why we’re here, because the best pizza pie from my childhood is served at Patsy D’Amore’s, part of what may be the world’s first food court, if unlike anything you see in shopping malls.  

For a start, these stands are all mom-and-pops, the way America once was.

My little guy doesn’t just eat pizza; he has a love affair with it.  

As I devour my own plain slice, I watch him bite into pepperoni, cheese and tomato sauce, his bedroom eyes savoring the flavors.

Adjacent to the pizza shack is Bob’s Donuts, so when my little guy is finished I lift him in my arms and point out all the varieties of freshly made donuts.

“Which one would you like?” I ask, though I already know he will choose a donut with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  

(When you ask The Dude his favorite color, he always answers, “Rainbow.”)

Back at our table, while I sip coffee and nibble an Old Fashioned, my buddy dives into his frosted donut, literally, head first, licking at the sprinkles, eventually leaving the dough for sparrows that make their presence known with bold approaches.

My little guy delights in little birds, in living creatures of all kinds.  

He loves animals, especially dogs, and it is uncanny how much canines adore him.  

They are drawn to the innate warmth he radiates through their sixth sense; they snuggle into him, lick his face, and in return he strokes them with a tenderness that prompts dogs, large and small, to roll over, wag their tails, and refuse to leave his aura of genuine affection and happiness.

Afterwards I walk hand-in-hand with my buddy to an old wishing well. 

When I was his age I marveled at the hundreds of coins at well’s bottom.

I hoist my dude up onto the rim of the well and hand him a quarter. “Make a wish and toss it in.”

My little guy thinks about this very carefully with his dreamy eyes, and finally says, “I wish I were alive.”

“But you are!” I chuckle.

And like most little boys he is already on to the next thing.  In this case:  a toy store.

Eagerly, his little legs keep up with my adult stride as we weave around stands that sell nuts, stands that sell fruit, stands that sell chocolate, and fresh produce, and so on, until we reach… Toyland!

My buddy is in his element now, and he knows precisely what he’s looking for:  Dinosaurs. 

It does not take him long to identify his prize:  a plastic cylinder filled with different colored miniature dinosaurs.  

Once in his custody, he spills this collection onto a picnic table and sets them up, one group facing the other in preparation for battle, all the while sucking a blue Tootsie Pop I chose for him at a candy stand.

At some point, and I have no idea how it happens, I turn around and my buddy is gone.  His toy dinosaurs remain on the table but he is nowhere to be seen. 

I jump up, panic-stricken, looking around in all directions, a sea of people around me but no little guy.  

I take a few steps, peer down an aisle, nothing, a few steps the other way, calling out to him, in normal voice at first, then louder, and louder still.  

And just when I think I’ve lost him, I hear, “Here I am,” with a joyous laugh. 

We commence our drive home and my little guy is tired, and perhaps weary of the road, because in no time at all, hypnotized by passing scenery, he falls into deep slumber.

I have my routine in the evening, a couple glasses of wine with friends at a nearby restaurant, and it twinges my heart when my little guy tugs at my leg, begging me not to leave, and then, this ritual over, he waves at me through a window as I depart, and blows me a kiss goodbye.

He’s waiting for me when I return.

“Papa?”  He is standing at the top of the stairs, and when he knows it’s me, he comes sliding down, literally, by the seat of his pants.

Bedtime. Which means anything but sleep for my little guy.

“Let’s fight!” he says, a glint in his eye, his body twisting with boundless energy after he climbs on the bed and grabs a pillow.

And then we are at it, clobbering one another with pillows, and he especially delights in landing a pillow smack across my face and I react like a cartoon character, sounding off “boing, boing, boing” as I back up and crash into a wall.

By this time, my little guy is thirsty.  I twist the cap of bottled water and hand it to him and he raises it to his mouth and drinks with sound effects—glug, glug, glug—that make me laugh, and he says, “What are you laughing at?” and this makes me laugh even more.

Finally, my energy ebbing (while his still flows), it is time for a bedtime story. 

“Five minutes,” he says.  (Everything is always five minutes with my little guy.)

And so, five more minutes of horsing around before we lay down for a story, more a dialog about a business project we’ve been devising between us in the preceding weeks:  our own restaurant, the Dino Dinerie.  

The theme, of course, is dinosaurs, and we are in the process of refining our menu.


T-Rex T-bone steak
Raptor Tails in Spinosaurus sauce
Pterodactyl wings in Stegosaurus sauce
Brontosaurus Burgers
Triceratops Tri-Tip Sandwich
Pisanosaurus pepperoni pizza


My little buddy has a great sense of humor, and we laugh with every new menu item.

After going through it a few times, my little guy turns on his side, and then he turns back to face me.  “Will you be here when I wake up in the morning, Papa?”

“Of course,” I say.

And I watch as his eyelids slowly dip… lower, lower, and lower… until they close… and my little buddy is fast asleep.

The Dude usually awakens before me.  He likes to place his face inches from mine and wait for me to open my eyes. 

But on this morning, I awaken first and I feel him snuggled into my back.  

I turn so that I may study his delicate facial features and thick jet-black hair while he is still asleep, and such a good sleeper he is. 

But all I find is a pillow that somehow made its way beneath the bedcovers.

I look around and still I don’t see my little guy.

So I amble out into the hall, into the living room.

“Hey, buddy,” I call out.  “Say here I am!” 

Nothing. 

I check that the door leading to the garden is closed, and it is, so I gather he’s playing hide-n-seek with me, and I look around, but cannot find him anywhere.

“Say here I am!” I repeat, giving up.

Still nothing.

“Who are you talking to?” I hear from my daughter, on high, in an upstairs bedroom.

“My buddy,” I say.  “Is he up there with you?”

“What are you talking about?”

Now I know they’re both playing a joke with me; he’s probably tucked into bed with her, giggling as I struggle to find him.

I head up the stairs and into their room.

My daughter is sitting up, bewildered.

“He’s not with you?” I ask.

“Who?”

“Your son.”

She looks at me in disbelief.  “I don’t have a son, dad.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about my little guy.  Your son.  My grandson.  Where is he?”

My daughter nods.  “How old is he, dad?”

“Four-and-a-half,” I say.

And the nodding of her head turns sideways.  “Would’ve been.  Don’t you remember?”

“Remember what?”

“That’s when I had an abortion—about five years ago.”

“What?”

“I was only eighteen.  You said I wouldn’t to able to raise a child so young, as a single mother. Don’t you remember?”

Feeling greater despair than I’ve felt my whole life, all I can hear is a little voice in my mind asking, Papa, where are you? 

And I remember what my little guy said at the wishing well. I wish I were alive.



In March 2012, my eighteen-year-old daughter found herself four-months pregnant.

Her obstetrician scribbled the name and number of a late-term abortion clinic onto a notepad and handed the notation to my daughter.

We did not go that route.

Thankfully, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful boy five months later.

I cannot imagine how life would be without my little guy.

I cannot imagine how I’d feel today if I had paid, to scratch from my daughter, from this world, my own flesh and blood.

This happy boy.

This affectionate soul adored by dogs.

My very precious grandson.



On this day of remembrance for aborted children, I honor and pray for all the beautiful souls that were not allowed to take their journeys through life.




Friday, September 13, 2019

RIGHT NOW: PART II






To celebrate Mindfulness Day (yesterday), here is the second half of a children's book (for everyone) I penned on what it means to live in the moment, and how to keep the elusive moment present.



Okay, but what to do about problem people around you, people who are disconnected and don’t have a loving heart?

Unfortunately, there are many problem people around you.  

These people are a problem because they have not learned how to separate their souls from their brains.  

They have not learned to observe and control their own thoughts, and how to live right now.

The way to deal with problem people is by using your imagination.

Imagination is mental energy, and mental energy is very powerful.

A great Roman philosopher once said:  We have free will over how to respond to external circumstances.

This means we have the mental power to choose what to do when problem people are around and if they confront us.

With your mental energy, imagine a shield around your body.  

Imagine that your imaginary shield cannot be penetrated by the negative energy of problem people.  

When problem people try to send negative energy at you, their negative energy bounces off your invisible shield and disappears.

When you are wearing your invisible shield, you simply smile, sit quietly and do nothing.

This comes from a Far Eastern tradition:  Sit quietly, do nothing.

Someone is hollering at you?

Do not answer back.  Sit quietly, do nothing.  Let it bounce off you.

These are some of the wisest words you will ever hear.

But sometimes you cannot help yourself.  

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, and letting negative energy bounce off you is harder than you might think.  

Also, your ego wants to answer back to make your story about yourself feel better. 

This may result in a tiff, which is what problem people want.

If you cannot help but engage in a tiff, think of ducks. 

After ducks engage in a tiff, they flap their wings, fly off in different directions, and give their tiff no further thought.

So, do as ducks do.  

It you have a tiff with problem people, shrug it off with your shoulders, move on, and don’t give the tiff any further thought. 

Why waste mental energy on problem people and the bad feelings problem people try to put on you?

But when problems come your way, through problem people, don’t hide or run away.

Welcome those problems. 

Life is full of problems and they need to be solved. 

And this a good thing.  

Because problems teach you the lessons you need to learn to help you grow.  

And solving problems helps to make you feel good.  

So, don’t run away from problems, solve them, right now.

And now the hardest part: 

Forgive problem people.  

If you do not forgive problem people, you will carry the negative energy problem people want to place upon you.

So, forgive problem people.  

And send problem people a silent blessing wishing for them to awaken their soul from their ego and not be so negative anymore.

Now let’s talk about God.

You hear a lot about God. 

But nobody can tell you where God lives or what God looks like.

Some people think they know, but they don’t know for sure. 

Some people say if you join their club, you will find God.

People in different parts of the world think of God in different ways and through different words.  Words like Mother Nature or Brahmin or Tao or Messiah or Allah or The Essence. 

These are all words for an energy source that created the universe.

Sometimes people think they need to travel halfway across the world and climb a mountain to find God.

Some people think they need to live in solitude and completely clear their minds for a whole year—or many years—in a special place of worship, or on a mountaintop, to find God.

And this is fine.

But it's not necessary.

An American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote:  Don’t look for yourself outside of yourself.

Another American poet, Walt Whitman put it this way:  I am divine and make holy whatever I touch.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman were trying to convey a very important meaning about God.

This meaning:  

You do not have to join a club or go anywhere to find God.

That is because you can know God, right now.

In fact, you already do know God.

God is energy. 

God is every vibrating molecule in every living being. 

God is consciousness.

God is you.  You are God.

When a very influential religious figure said, I am the son of God, what he really meant was, we are all sons (and daughters) of God.

Once you know that consciousness—your consciousness—is God, you no longer have to travel anywhere to look for God. 

You don’t have to live in a special place of worship, or even visit a place of worship.   

That’s because you are already in a special place of worship. 

Your place of worship is your embodiment, which hosts your consciousness, and your very presence in the cosmos right now.

Now that you know that your consciousness is God, you can celebrate your Godliness.

You can draw wisdom from all the world’s great religions and philosophers.  

You can read about their beliefs and practices, learn what they want you to know. 

Then pull those pieces most meaningful to you into a spirituality of your very own. 

Pick and choose your own holidays.  

Make up your own holidays that are special to you.  

Create your own rituals for celebrating your chosen holidays.

You can create your own sanctuary or special place of worship—a place where you can be alone to reflect upon all you have learned, or maybe to clear your mind from all the clutter created by your ego.

This is called solitude.

Solitude is a good way to clear your mind and become aware of your inner, less known, senses.

Find a chair that is yours alone in which you feel completely comfortable.  

Sit in your own special chair and allow your soul to observe the thoughts of your brain.  

Or even better, think about nothing at all. Or just be aware.

Create an altar and decorate it with the artifacts and talismans that you have collected, and continue to collect, through your journey in life. 

This room, with your chair and altar, is your own personal cathedral, for peace and quiet.  

This room sets you free to pursue whatever creative projects you choose to embark upon.

To find peace of mind, and solitude, you do not need to become a monk or a hermit. 

It is easy to find peace of mind in these times.  

Here is the secret to finding peace of mind, and solitude, in these times:  Avoid social media as much as possible.  

And enjoy solitude as much as possible.

Take a walk by yourself and look at the clouds and trees and birds.  Listen to the sounds of nature.  Smell its aromas.

Look around and take three deep breaths.  Open all of your senses.  See, hear, smell, taste and feel what is going on around you, right now.

Pay attention to breathing fresh air, drinking pure water, and eating nourishing foods that provide and enhance the energy force within you.  

Pay attention to live music (choirs and street music, especially), art, trees and wildlife.  

Visit places of worship for solitude and to breathe the positive energy released into the air from prayer.

Now let’s talk about nationality and religion.

You never need to be attached to a nationality or an organized religion. 

Nationality and organized religions are based on deeply entrenched, very corrupt power structures and hierarchies. 

You are an inhabitant of Planet Earth and the cosmos.  

You are a flow of consciousness in a vessel with senses.

You are God. 

You do not need the corrupt leaders of countries or the corrupt leaders of religions to tell you what to believe, what not to believe, who to fight, what to do, what not to do.

As one wise man put it:  We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

During your human experience, honor your spirit by being natural to yourself. 

Do not be wholly influenced by the culture into which you were born, nor the conditioning from the culture that nurtured you.  

Become aware of all other cultures and their conditionings. 

Be your own being.

Don’t allow your mind to be invaded by advertising from the material world.  

For their invasions are based on commerce, on money.  

The people who advertise products strive to invade your mind for one purpose and one purpose only:  to enrich themselves. 

Now let’s talk about death.

Death is an ugly word whose cultural meaning implies finality.

But without death, you cannot have lived, which means that death is part of life.

Death means you are fortunate to have lived, to be alive right now.

Don’t dread death, said a Roman philosopher, Dread the FEAR of death.

Even better, don’t dread anything.

But do give death a thought every day, in order to better enjoy right now. 

And when death comes, which could be any day, any minute, any second—surrender your soul to the natural process of life and, by extension, so-called “death.”

If you do not dread anything, especially death, you will be happy all the time, for no reason.

You will be enlightened.

When death comes, your soul will no longer be constrained by a vessel. 

So, when your ship is ready to sail, throw your masts to the wind and let go.
           
Your soul, your consciousness, which is immortal and eternal, will transform to spirit.  

And your spirit will be set free to rejoin an overall consciousness of cosmic unity, from which your consciousness originated, and to which your consciousness must return. 

You are, right now, a free-flowing consciousness—albeit constrained by your ego, and your vessel—from this fleeting moment to the next.

Live in unity with your ego, but give it a short leash. 

We are all divine, and connected in our divinity.

And remember this:  all that truly matters is the love we have in our hearts and the kindness we show to others.