How Much of You is Just for You?

Masks on tableBy the time I hit college I had set up Irving Podolsky’s Three Rules of Survival.

  • Rule #1: Always tell the truth.
  • Rule #2: Just be ME. Don’t hide anything.
  • Rule #3: Be nice to my sister.

None of those rules work anymore.

Considering Rule # 1, as I wrote in my post, Is Truth Overrated?, we realize telling the truth doesn’t help much anymore. First, not many people believe the truth and two, lots of people don’t want to know the truth. Third, too many of us lost faith in truth and joined the club where lies equal gain.

Rule #2, Don’t hide anything was all about protecting my high school reputation, which actually didn’t exist. Nobody cared that much about me. But in case someday I did get noticed, I figured if I were hiding some big bad secret about myself and somebody found out about it, I could be blackmailed with a few malicious words like, “If you don’t stop talking to Janet Maloney, I’m gonna tell everybody I saw you beating off in the boy’s room.”

If you just winced a bit, you’re not alone. Pleasuring ourselves is something so private we don’t talk about it, and God forbid, we should never be caught doing it. So yeah, we definitely conceal our many just-us climaxes and toilet business which contradicts my don’t hide anything rule. It doesn’t apply lots of times.

But the truth be told, just being YOU and honest cannot protect your integrity. Reputations are attacked and destroyed with lies all the time. There were so many attack ads flying back and forth before the elections, few people knew what to believe. Everywhere we look, whatever we read, there’s more proof that lots of people are really nasty and we have reasons to be scared. Nobody trusts anything.

So where do we find relief from a depressing world? We watch what we’re hiding – masturbation and sex on porn sites. As Google Analytics clearly points out, over 40% of the internet shows brazen people breaking all the privacy rules. I blogged about this in Sexual Privacy – Is that Hip Anymore?  We all crave feel-good escapes.

Rule #3 Be nice to my sister? We don’t talk anymore. Her decision, not mine. Oh well.


Lets go back to Be YOU. Don’t hide anything. high school dance 60'sThis commandment worked well through college because life was simpler back then. Young people were generally honest. Sure, there was party bad-mouthing and gossip, but it didn’t take down lives or cause suicides. There wasn’t an internet. Nothing bad spread too far. Reputations could be reestablished with a move to another city. Now we have revenge porn and hackers looking for cell phone shots. Now things get wildly out-of-control everywhere. Now there’s no place to hide. Now we have to be really, really careful.

Back in the day I just had to be sorta careful. Of course there was lying, stealing and cheating but it felt far away, and it was. Still, watching the wars and political corruption on just three TV channels, I became sadly disillusioned. Who could I totally trust? Just myself in my own private world. I lived there a lot.

Then I met my future wife and Rule #2 euphorically rebooted. That’s because our connection wasn’t only about infatuation and sex. It was about trusting again and a return to comforting honesty. With this new woman, I felt I could be ME. I wasn’t afraid of judgments so I didn’t censor thoughts, fears, cravings and private stuff. With my new found devotion came new found freedom. No more second-guessing about appropriate responses for approval. Simply put, we were in love.

Then the glow dimmed, and although it took some time, after a while we both decided each of us could use some improvement. You all know what I’m talking about. Our Total Acceptance halos warped with the insistence that each other change. Since I wasn’t ready to accept all items on my wife’s to-do list, nor did she want to conform to mine, we retreated six steps back into our private worlds where we could do our thing without the lectures. Sound familiar? Here’s more.

In some cases, doing our own thing relied on little lies. Not big game-changing lies, more like holding back information about those life-habits we didn’t want to give up. And when those conflicting habits turned into periodic fights, we’d call a truce and retreat to our personal sanctuaries for re-thinking. Once cooled off with emotions back under control, we’d bring up the conflicts again and work out the compromises.

We’ve kept this system going for thirty-nine years. It works because lying is kept to a minimum and honesty is a priority. There are certain promises you just can’t break to keep a relationship together.


Cut to: The Present. My wife is not my fan. She doesn’t peruse my blog and I had to push her to read my books. Well yeah, she watches me perform in my band but my current personal domain she rarely sees or feels she needs to. That goes both ways. My wife does things that don’t include me. There’s a good reason. I’d be bored. We meet in the place where there’s mutual interest. It’s a big space and it keeps changing. It keeps changing because we have our lives together and we have our lives apart, so there’s always new stuff to learn from each other.

goldensunrise2Do you have a secret life all your own? Do you have a place of retreat where no one tells you what to do or what to believe? Is there a hidden part of you that’s 100% pure and honest, with all your warts, defects, fuck-ups and naughty shit reflected back to you in your personal mirror?

Do you like and respect that exclusive YOU?

I hope so. I hope you’ve made your Secret YOU special and precious because it is. Your invisible YOU hasn’t conformed to expectations. Your disguised YOU is entirely unique – not made to fit in or blend. Your hidden YOU is an entire universe unto itself and you’re IT! You make the rules. You decide who you are without judgments, influences or validations. And if you’ve purged self denial and lying to yourself, it’s the only place you can totally trust.

WAIT! There’s more!

Your secret YOU is the only space where you can make mistakes and no one cares because no one knows about them. You’ve got unlimited time and space to experiment with new thoughts and abilities. Everyone needs a safe Secret Space to grow. Have you built one for yourself?


Now lately I’ve been a list-maker and this post has more of them. I can’t leave this page without mentioning the secret bad stuff, ‘cause obviously there’s plenty of private thoughts and actions that are totally screwed up and end up as shocking headlines in the news.

We all know that secret thoughts about stalking, suicide, gun fights with police, sex with minors, beheading non-believers, raping strangers and shooting into crowds is destructive to say the least. Insane private worlds of tortured souls are dangerous and we try to avoid them. Thankfully there aren’t that many super crazies out there. Thankfully you’re not one of them. So I’m not writing about that.

I’m writing about the negative thoughts I’ve discussed before, like paranoia, suspicion and distrust; fears about authority, matrimony, sexuality, religion, politics, gender differences and that never ending anger about loss of control.

  • This is the stuff that makes us unhappy.
  • This is the stuff that leads us into warring groups of US and THEM.
  • This is the stuff that eats us alive until we throw it out and see it for what it is.
  • This is the stuff that kills love, trust and security.
  • This is the stuff that’s reinforced by people who want to control us, by those who deceive us as they promise to be our friends and protectors.
  • This is the stuff we can no longer have simmering in our private worlds.

 Contradictions don’t help!

  • We can’t hate on the inside and pretend to love on the outside.woman behind mask
  • We can’t pray for safety while denying safety to others.
  • We can’t strive for abundance as we protest those less fortunate.
  • We can’t demand loyalty when we cheat on our own commitments.
  • We can’t expect freedom when we deny others the right to be who they are.
  • We can’t insist on the truth when we lie to ourselves.

Double standards break everything apart, inside and out. We all need our private worlds but if they don’t match the rest of us, we’re cleaved in half, scared, depressed and angry about it.

I don’t want to be angry. You don’t either.




How to Rate Your Value When You Have None

box of stuffYesterday and today I took final inventory of my father’s life’s possessions, and for that matter, his entire life. As I explained in my last post, he never threw anything away, apparently because those things were valuable to him. Perhaps his “toy” collection boosted his self esteem, like a growing bank account makes us feel more successful. Dad couldn’t stop buying himself things; more and more things, repeats of things, things he never opened or needed. I think his constant consuming was really about self-reward. His own father never praised Dad for anything. Dad’s dad was mean and uncaring, a destroyer of faith.

Anyway, feeling forlorn, a few hours ago I dropped off eight more daddy boxes at Goodwill. As I carried the cartons from the back of Mom’s car to the store’s big rolling bin, I wondered how much value all those things would have for someone else. Would anyone buy an eighty’s Panasonic portable radio, or a plug-in ¼” recording tape de-magnetizer/eraser, or twenty-three AC converters that once powered twenty-three other things in seven other boxes? My guess is, most of everything I just gave away will end up in a landfill.remotes

Ultimately, Dad’s prize possessions had no value. How he would feel about that if he were still alive?

I know how I would feel, because today I also discovered my own past from college days. They were my drawings of fantasy machines. I remember I got an “A” on that art class assignment. One design I even gave to my professor because he wanted it as a model for a sculpture he had in mind. I kept the other drawings because back then they were important to me and I assumed they always would be. They’re not anymore. Still, I didn’t trash them. I left them where I found them – in the back of the garage between the pages of my old sketchbook.

drawingsI didn’t want them but I didn’t want to chuck them either. Those drawings were an imprint of young optimist’s hopes and wishes and I felt a wash of sentimentality as I stared at them. The art student of 1967 is not the older more cynical soul I am today. He feels like a separate spirit and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by devaluing his creations with a casual toss into the recycle can.

What about Dad’s spirit? Was I devaluing my father by abandoning his possessions at a thrift store? He would have been crushed, accusing me of betrayal, scolding me for breaking an unspoken promise. I had failed to respect him forever. And as I write these words, I’m thinking I’m fussing way too much over this, but I’m gloomy just the same.

Mom is too. She admitted she couldn’t finish the job. She moved his stuff from upstairs to downstairs but she stopped short of taking it out of the house. So I had to do it, and will continue to deconstruct Dad’s past a little more and a little more with each future visit. There’s still Dad’s workshop to breakdown, the first thing he put together when he and Mom moved into this house fifty-two years ago. A lot of the stuff in there he inherited from his father and I’ll end up giving that away too. I have no place to keep antique tools I’ll never use.peg board tools

It’s sad. Seventy years ago those hand-crafted, made-in-America, wood and metal implements had great value. Now they’re just remembrances and curiosity pieces. I’m hoping they’ll go to where they’re appreciated again and into the hands of someone who honors the pride that went into making those things. I hope a younger man rekindles their importance, because in Dad’s case, the gadgets he gave himself did not serve their purpose. They didn’t make him happy and in his last years, weeks and days, they didn’t give him a sense value. In his words, “It doesn’t matter anymore.”


So what is VALUE, really? What stays valuable?

I think value is virtual. It doesn’t exist outside the human mind. When you think about it, something is valuable only when someone believes it is, and only if that someone wants it enough to trade services, goods or money to get it. We also know that value changes through time and from culture to culture. What has value to me may not have value to you. Value never stays the same. If it did, we would not be able to build wealth, a tangible way to create value. In some circles, it’s the only way to create value, or at least the only respected way.

But of course ownership is not the only way we build our value. You may be guessing where I’m going with this post. It’s an answer to a question.

How do we determine the intrinsic value of a human life?

This is heavy exploration so let’s lighten it up. To determine your own value on the Podolsky Scale of Good-Better-Best, start by asking yourself these few simple questions.

  • If you’re not rich or famous, if you’re not a Job Creator, if you haven’t invented a cure for cancer or a time machine, if you’re just a regular YOU, what’s your Value Rating in the minds of others?
  • Did you have pre-packaged VALUE out-of-the-box or was assembly required?
  • Do you have value if no one says you do?
  • If you’re gay, an albino, undocumented, homely, pudgy, anorexic, over seven feet tall or under five feet tall, do you deserve to have value?
  • How much value do you need to feel good about yourself, if any?
  • Is it okay to consider yourself valuable if no one else does?
  • Is it okay to go through life without value? Or do you deserve to die?
  • Is it okay to buy value, as in, supporting people so they need you?
  • Is Bought Value just as good as value earned with good deeds?
  • Is Mother Theresa Service Value as good as Donald Trump Moneyed Value? Which is better?
  • Is Negative Value okay, like a serial killer with a heart of gold?
  • If you believe in God, do you believe He/She/It values some people more than others? If so, who are they? Is it you?
  • Do atheists have value? How about the-jury’s-still-out agnostics?
  • Does one religion have more value that another, and who decides which one is best?
  • Will you still have value if no one remembers you after you die?
  • Is After-Death Value better than Only-While-Alive Value?
  • If you’ve never asked these questions before, are you less valuable than someone who has?
  • Will you have more value to others if you can answer 12 out of 17? How about 3 out of 17?     


Seriously folks, in many ways we think about these questions all the time. They motivate us to do what we do and our life’s purpose is wrapped around their answers. And since it’s human nature to seek value and significance, we’re all vulnerable to sneaky manipulation that feeds our ego. Behavior and self-esteem is shaped by praise and rebuke from parents, teachers, bosses, clergy, your best friend, unknown fans, anyone who’s opinion of us we value. We all want our value validated. We have to be careful about that and make sure the flattery and criticism is true.

2 work benchesMy father’s sense of value was totally dependent on the endorsements of others so he never stopped needing more proof of respect, admiration and love. I’m more self-assured but sure, I want to matter to others as well. But I also want people to value me for what I can give them and how I can help them. More importantly, I want other people to matter to me. I want to be more tolerant and patient and forgiving and accepting. I think people who do that have the greatest value of all. I’d like to be able to achieve that maturity sooner than later. Finally, I’d like to accept my father for who was, AS he was, before I take down his workshop hide-away.

Dad, I hope you’re still building things you love. I hope you’re not scared anymore of being disliked. I hope you’re thriving and peaceful and finally happy. And I hope you can let me know if you are.



How to Want Gifts You Don’t Want

Dad left us last June. I stayed by his side for his last seven days and held his hand as he started to cool. Mom was in the family room trying to keep it together with the help of a close friend. She couldn’t handle Dad’s plunge and final burn-out. I couldn’t either but I had no choice. It was time to grow up in a way I had avoided my entire life.

Man_on_cliffAfter the funeral I spent another week with my mother and then flew home to Southern California and into my wife’s arms. I had changed and she immediately felt it. Walking Dad to his personal cliff and then to his final leap was intensely surreal, as I explained in this blog when I restarted it after his death. So in a round-about way, Dad encouraged me in ways he never had before about something he knew nothing about. He had no idea I’m a writer, nor does Mom or any other family member.

“Why?” you ask. One reason. My parents and sister were characters in my novels and I’m not sure they’d be pleased about that. I didn’t write them as horrible villains. I wrote them as who they are and if they weren’t that way they wouldn’t be as interesting, and in fact, inspiring.

So now that I’m again visiting Mom, I’m writing about her once more. I bet she’s a lot like yours. She wants me to be happy and she wants to be happy herself. I’m supposed to make that happen by helping her dispose of Dad’s stuff – all those things he never threw away or gave away.

Dad was an “Early Adopter” way before anyone invented that term. Back then, we just called him a MinoxShopper who acquired the latest new everything; the coolest watch or tiny Minox spy camera, or the first home computer with mechanical switches, or transistor radios, miniature TV’s, reel-to-reel tape recorders or that fully loaded Swiss Army knife with the pliers and magnifier.

There was a downside to all of this. His acquisitions did not apply to me, my sister or Mom. Dad didn’t feel compelled to buy us any cool shit unless he had to. And when he did, it was usually the bottom of the middle-of-the-line, or even the top of the bottom-of-the-line. When it came to himself, Dad sprung for the middle of the top-of-the-line. Nothing in our house was ever the top of the top-of-the-line…except for one thing. And after Dad retired it for its newer replacement, I wanted that very special ornament.

LeCoultreOnce a year, I’d repeat my request. “Dad…”

“Yeah, Irv.”

“Do you ever wear it anymore?”

“You’re not getting it. Not until I’m dead.” And so I waited…and waited…and waited.

Now Dad is ashes in a box. Now I have his Jaeger-LeCoultre watch. And now that I’m visiting Mom again, she wants me to look through all of his stash and take everything else I’ve ever wanted.

I do not want anything else. I just wanted that watch back in June. Not because I really had to have it, but because twenty, thirty years ago I really did want it. Back then I would have felt so proud to wear my father’s status timepiece. I would have shown it to all my friends, impressing everyone with my 1958 Swiss alarm watch, shinny gold with two wind spindles and a brown crocodile strap.

As a thirty or forty year-old, that’s what I would have done. As a sixty-six year-old, nothing happens like that. I have worn Dad’s LeCoultre occasionally since last June. I’ve shown it to few men who understand its $2500 collector’s value. No one is that impressed. They all have their special watches.

Sadly, my watch is not that special to me. It was never a gift. It was apathetically taken.


This morning Mom asked me again to pick stuff from Dad’s clothes. Wanting his things out fast and final tells you something about my parents’ relationship. Mom has finally claimed their bedroom closet, territory Dad staked out the moment he walked into the new house fifty-two years ago. It was a small space so Dad took it all, sending Mom to the closets downstairs. None of this info made it into my eulogy or anyone else’s. This was my real dad, a guy I didn’t respect. Still, Mom wants me to have nice thoughts about my father and she hopes wearing his coats, shirts, sweaters, socks and ties will make that happen. It won’t.

The only Dad I want to remember is the one I got to know in the last week of his life – the man who finally humbled himself enough to gratefully thank me for my help instead of demanding parental respect.

I don’t blame him anymore for the distant father he was. But I can’t conjure warm and fuzzy feelings about him either. I can’t get sentimental about a father who didn’t want to spend time with his young son. What Mom doesn’t understand, is that all the things she wants me to take are the same things Dad refused to share with me when he was alive. And when I see those things, I remember that.

My wife is with me on this Mom Visit and she told me what to do – accept Dad’s things. Make Mom happy. My wife leaves today. I stay on to clean house and then fly back Wednesday. Complying to the prescribed agenda means buying a second suitcase packed with stuff I don’t want so I can check it on the plane for an additional $25 and then wait an extra fifteen minutes in LAX airport Baggage Claim. I’m doing all of this to validate a lie. Last week I wrote about telling the truth and how I could argue that there are times when the truth isn’t appropriate. This is one of those times.


Here’s something even more paradoxical. As you now know, Dad never threw anything out. Whatever it was, to my father it had great value and no matter what, he needed to keep it. Consequently over the past few years, as Dad sunk deeper and deeper into senility, I collected all his radios, cameras, stereo gear, headphones, speakers, all of that; and I boxed it up in categories and stacked it neatly into the garage. Even though Dad didn’t care about it anymore, he once did and I felt I should honor that directive.

Carrying out my father’s wishes was my way of holding his control in place even though he had none. It’s something I want for myself so I did it for him. I made sure he kept all his gear from the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. It was pretty neat, actually – a time capsule. Someone might want it someday, maybe my sister or her kids.

Two months ago Mom had a seriously bad flood in the garage. All that museum stuff I had meticulously boxed up was water ruined forever. In two days I have to throw it all out. I don’t even want to look at it.


One of the last things Dad said to me when I asked him if I could comb his hair, he said, “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

None of his boxed stuff that I tried to make matter, matters anymore. None of the stuff in his drawers and closets that once mattered to me, matters anymore. What does matter to everyone who knew him, was the dignity and courage he brought to his own death. Still, in a few years when we too die, even Dad’s last days of courage won’t matter.

So what does matter? You know what matters. It’s everything we do this moment, this day, this week.Seiko

And that’s why I will lie to my mother and tell her I want Dad’s stuff to make her happy. That’s why I gave my nephew my own favorite watch, a 1970 black-face self-winding chronograph Seiko Dad gave me for my college graduation on his return from Japan.

So in reflection, I did get the big Daddy Prize I wanted, when I wanted it. And now I’ve passed it on at the right time in the right place. Now my nephew in Germany is proudly showing all his friends a rare watch my father gave me when I was twenty-two. I really feel good about that and so does my Berlin family.

Thanks Dad. You helped me to do the right thing.



Is truth overrated?




Need more fingers. Can’t count anymore how many times I wished I recorded a disagreement with my wife. It’s always the same: Whatever the argument, the subject quickly changes to WHO started it, who’s the bad guy. We’re talking minutes here. After twenty sentences Wife and I have opposing memories and we’re both convinced we have the monopoly on THE truth and THE facts. If I were as mature as the advice I blog about, I’d re-read my own posts where I expound:

We all carry our own truths and indubitably believe them.

Rarely do people agree about anything, unless they agree to agree. And when they do that they stick together as best friends forever, marriage mates, golf buddies, political parties or whatever else there is that makes a consensus of two or more before the group breaks up again….over heated disagreements.

People disagree even with themselves. Politicians, business leaders and serial killers quite often deny earlier deeds and words, even when videos or sound recordings prove they’re lying now. And then of course they make up stuff that didn’t happen at all and swear it’s true as well.

I understand why people lie and even why so many people choose to believe those lies. It happens with counties, clubs and couples. Everybody’s got a different story and everybody’s stickin’ to it because it feels more secure that way, lying makes life easier or there’s an advantage involved. And so the world muddles along repeating the same mistakes as it denies its own past. In spite of that, civilizations grow creating new and exciting things. Somewhere, someone is thinking, “Maybe I can make a positive change.” And somewhere else someone’s saying, “Fuck Change. I want it the way it was.”

As a global village, we can’t even agree on progress.

Same with truth. When it comes to accepting fact as fact, which changes as people and events change, some of us use truth to build trust while some lie to fake trust. Lying gets people into trouble but lots of times it doesn’t. There’s no right and wrong about sincerely believing something is true when it isn’t, but too many times people lie about truth for deception and manipulation. I think that’s wrong. Yet I can also argue that under certain circumstances, telling the truth would be damaging or ineffective. Any lie can be rationalized and is.

So who are we kidding? Does anyone really trust anyone to tell the truth all the time? Of course not. And when “truth” actually IS honestly conveyed, it’s not necessarily OUR truth.

There are six categories of TRUTH.truth_in_dictionary

  1. TRUTH that is always true.
  2. TRUTH that is true but not all the time.
  3. TRUTH that cannot be disputed.
  4. TRUTH that cannot be disputed but is disputed.
  5. TRUTH that is true for ME but not true for YOU.
  6. TRUTH that is true for YOU but not true for ME.

Truth is a moving target and it’s hard to figure out what TRUTH to trust, and when.


When I told my wife the subject of this post, she rhetorically asked, “When does agreeing on truth really matter?”

She nailed it. How much truth, how many established facts, how much agreement about those facts do we need to improve our lives, keep well and get along?

Improvement, staying improved and staying improved together is a big order, because agreeing on any TRUTH, whether it’s real or not, will not necessarily make the world nicer and better. Wars are always fought for “Right and Just” reasons with all groups believing their True Beliefs are the only true beliefs. Know of any winners with this?

I slept through college Philosophy 101 but I’m sure these questions came up. Is there any ULTIMATE TRUTH? And if there is, will we all agree it’s a good TRUTH and keep it that way?

gavel_lawI now know the answers and they’re NO. When it comes to nations, states, cities, big business and even courts of law with juries, we can’t stop prevailing Truth from wandering out of agreements. Real facts are argued, debated and closed with reluctant but final acceptance. Then those verdicts, treaties, contracts, handshakes and promises are broken, or at the very least corrupted around the edges. Happens all the time and we’re all putting up with those social breakdowns. Sure, we still want “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” but we don’t expect it. Guilty-until-proven-innocent is really the way we think.

Thank Heaven for you few Optimists. You still believe human nature has a chance to survive. You still have hope we can all get along. You still envision lasting agreements. Let me know when that happens.


So we’re back to the set-up: When does agreeing on truth really matter? More importantly: Does the “truth” have to be true, or just a premise from which to work?

Science wants true truths and it has oodles of facts and models that keep Truth in place, until great thinkers investigate the super big and really small. Then the very existence of the teeniest of particles, the biggest stars, and all that stuff hidden in black holes gets pretty iffy. Generally though, in our human oriented world, laws of physics apply all the time and we use those constants to do everything. We accept Newton’s Laws of Motion because we’ve learned how long it takes to brake our car to avoid a crash. Inertia isn’t disputed. We all believe it, like we accept gravity.

However, we do NOT need to believe that our planet is 4.5 billion years old to drive and brake for racing dogs. When considering the age of our universe, creationists have their own ideas as they still steer clear knights_crusadesof accidents. Their version of truth, which is agreed upon within their own crowd, does not inhibit their personal survival. For most of you reading this blog, the majority of your TRUTHS; religious, political, historical, whatever, don’t affect your capacity to get through the day, or mine. So unless you’re willing to kill infidels to spread your TRUTHS, what you personally believe isn’t harmful. And consequently, your private Truth doesn’t really matter to anyone else but you.

I’m sorry dear religious and political missionaries, maybe I insulted you. But disinterested ears will not hear your message. Besides that…

There is no one-size-fits-all grand truth.


That said, here’s the wrap-up.

There’s no Grand Truth but there are two BELIEFS all of us share. The one that you choose shapes all your thinking, everything you do and everything that happens to you. If that weren’t important enough, these two beliefs swim unpredictably within those six conflicting categories of truth I listed earlier.

This is what you believe, all the time or some of the time:

  1. There are substantial reasons to be afraid.
  2. There are substantial reasons to feel safe.

Since you believe #1 and/or #2 (whether it’s true or not), you’re going to find someone else who agrees with you. That matters a lot, especially within marriage and friendships. If you’re a couple, a group or a nation, it also matters that there’s disagreement about these two presumptions. It’s really, really important to know, for a fact, when and if #1 or #2 are correct. Your life depends on your search.

Are unwarranted fears or a false sense of security determining your decisions?

Okay, you say you know about uncertainty and life’s variables. But are you still overly relying on reflexive old brain instincts and assume you’ve got it figured out? When it comes to more of those indubitable “Fundamental Truths” do you agree that…

truth_on_girl_handsThey’re out to get me.

They want what’s mine and will take it if I let them.

There’s always more than enough to go around.

People are basically good, with exceptions.

People are basically bad, with exceptions.

Things will generally work out.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

It will never happen any time soon.

They’re much different than us.

Everyone should believe in God…our God.

Certain races are more intelligent that others.

Poor people are poor because they’re lazy.

All rich people are greedy.

All politicians are corrupt.

All government employees work less for more money – my tax money.

You can never trust a lawyer, even if you’re one yourself.

The rich have more privileges. (Okay, this one IS a Grand Truth.)

Everyone can make it an America. (This one isn’t.)



Where Ever You Are, I Hope You’re Happy

(Continued from: “Whatever Happened to Nina Pearlstein?”)


teensCaughtNina tipped-toed to my bedside, still in her gown. I was already awake, dreading to ask one troubled question. “How bad is it?”

“Mom wants you to leave.”

“Wonderful…” I mumbled. “Did you get yelled at?”

“She’s not talking. I told her I couldn’t sleep and that I moved to the front couch. I let her find me there and that’s when she told me to call you a cab.”

The taxi arrived ten minutes later. Nina walked me to the edge of their porch. No kisses, no I’ll call you’s, just a humiliating creep-away to my relatives on Long Island. I spent a week with my cousins pretending nothing happened, then spent a few more years growing up remembering every fierce moment of my last days with Nina Pearlstein.


I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, hoping to kick start my never-happened Hollywood career in the place where film was supposed to move and thrive. I was twenty years too early and barely survived by doing all kinds of crazy jobs just to get by. One late night, as I sat in my tiny kitchen eating eggs and scanning newspaper ads for waiter’s gigs, the phone rang. My jaw dropped. I was hearing Nina on the other end, and she was weeping. Between sobs and whimpers, she explained how she got my number from Mom and then cried out the horrible news.

Michael Lichtenberger from Camp Podolsky’s Group A had snuffed himself with a sharp blade to his wrists. I didn’t know at the time that Nina and Michael had seriously reconnected, long distance wise, but were planning coming together with a forever “I do.” Then, without warning he ended everything. I listened to that sad story and others about Nina’s years of therapy, why she left college and the on-again, off-again boyfriends that all fell away.

Our talk was a total bummer and I ended it the only way I could, with a promise to keep in touch, AGAIN. I wasn’t unhappy about that though. In so many ways I admired Nina Pearlstein and her undefended honesty. She loved sex. So did I. She said what she meant. Me too. She exposed her heart. Well, I tried. I just wish I loved her. Even a little. Still, I always looked forward to getting another letter from Nina. They were rarely cheery but they were deep. Nina questioned everything. She was always asking, Why?


By 1975 I had decided Atlanta wasn’t happening for film and that I needed another start. So I quickly began dismantling my life in Atlanta and prepared for another life shift seven weeks in the future. I called Nina. “Guess what? I’m moving to New York.”

“You are!” she yelped. “Really? Like permanent? Or just for a job?”

“No job. I’m hopin’ to find one.”


“April. Wanna get together?”

“Oh my God, yes! Absolutely!”

And so we made plans.

Young couple in bedWe talked about meeting in Manhattan, finding some cozy place for lunch, and later taking the train to New Jersey where her car would be waiting. She would then drive me to her place for a stay-over and we both knew what that meant. Finally, as two young adults, we could share a bed for hours, maybe days, but not weeks or months. I didn’t want involvement like that. I acutely needed a film career and New York would be my third try. Nothing, definitely nothing could get in the way. I was that resolved. And yet, although eight years had passed since Camp Podolsky, the Nina-Irv sex tension was still as tight as a cello string, even over the phone. So yeah, I was really looking forward to my big move starting with a BANG.

Five days later everything changed. I met a German girl, Marianne Falesitch. We went to see the same band because we both knew Lattie, the singer. She introduced us and within 3.5 weeks we were engaged. My family was stunned. Six days later the phone rang and I had more explaining to do.

“Irv! Had to call! I dreamt about us all last night.”

“Oh…Nina…” I swallowed. “Ya did?” Every muscle tightened.

“Yeah! I’m counting the days! You eat beef, right?”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I wasn’t sure. Michael had turned vegan.”

“You planning on cooking for me?” I asked, concerned about the answer.

“I love to cook! I just never have anyone to do it for.”

I swallowed again. It had to be said. “Nina, a lot’s happened in the past few weeks. I got engaged.”

Silence…then, “What?”

“I wasn’t planning on anything and it all happened very fast. I know this sorta puts a turn in our plans.”

Again, no words. Finally the question, “Can we still be friends?”

“Absolutely,” I said, trying to be supportive.

“Are we still gonna get together?”

“Why not?” I just couldn’t say no. “But I’m engaged now. You understand what that means?”

“I understand. I’m happy for you.” I wanted to believe that. “I want to meet your fiancé.” That, I didn’t believe.

“Well,” I continued, “she’s not coming up for a few months. I have to get set up first, find an apartment… After I get the job she’ll make the move.”

“So you’re coming up alone first?”


“Okay, then not that much changed.”

“Not really. We’ll catch up, have fun.” The conversation went on aimlessly for another few minutes with little being said. I was glad it ended.

Not much had changed, she said. Everything had changed. I was no longer excited about Nina Pearlstein.


According to plan, Nina and I met in Manhattan and found a neighborhood bar called, We Haven’t Got a Name Yet. The place fit my mood. I couldn’t have been more conflicted. Although Nina looked smart and sexy as always, with her tight little body inviting me closer with every curve, I struggled to keep focused. She knew I was drifting ‘cause she filled the space with words, all of which were important. So for an hour in a nameless pub, while Nina talked and I listened, my thoughts kept asking: Am I looking interested enough? Am I nodding at the right moments? Am I adding enough to the conversation so she believes I’m involved?

You see I didn’t want to hurt her. I knew what she needed and I wished I could be all of that but I wasn’t anymore. I was in love with Marianne and already I missed her.

holding-handsSo Nina and I left the bar and walked uptown towards a subway to Penn Station for the train to New Jersey. On the way, Nina grasped my hand. To any passerby, our entwined fingers looked harmlessly friendly. To me, they meant betrayal to the woman I left in Atlanta and a hint of resentment squeezed into my mind.

How could she do this? Lovers hold hands. How am I going to shake her off without taking her down?

So I let Nina hold me for a block more and when we reached the subway I let go to grab the staircase railing. And as I descended into the tunnels of New York, I contemplated what Miss Pearlstein had in mind when we reached her apartment. Forty-five minutes later we entered three cozy rooms in a big house on a neighborhood street somewhere in New Jersey.

Keep-it-light, that was my strategy. Keep-it-charged was Nina’s, augmented with persuasive pot, single malt scotch and medium rare filet mignon. It was all great and all too much. So much in fact, that I collapsed on the couch hoping for sleep to hit me soon.

“Oh boy. Let’s get you to bed,” she said, unbuttoning my shirt.

“It’s okay. I’ll stay here.” And I took charge of my own buttons.

“You’re not going to sleep with me?” she said, looking so forlorn.

“I’m engaged, Nina.”

“It’s just being close.” The last time she said that, we both fell into deep shit.

“I know,” I said. “But being close with you is more than just being close. I don’t trust myself.”

“But you can trust me.” She lifted my arm to pull me up. “Come…”

“No, Nina. I can’t.”

“You’re refusing a woman’s bed?” (She actually said that.)

“Please. Don’t do this.” I stayed put with Nina standing over me.

“You’re going to make me sleep alone?”

“We can’t be lovers anymore, Nina. You knew that.”

“I’m not asking for anything more than you being next to me.”

“I can’t. I’m sorry.”

With a sigh, I stretched out, pushing a throw pillow under my head. Nina didn’t move.

“You’re sleeping in your pants? That’s crazy.”

She disappeared into the bathroom and returned with sheets, a blanket and an extra bed pillow. She gestured for me to stand and she quickly made the couch into a bed. It was really endearing, watching her take care of me like a mom. I dropped back onto the cushions and tried getting comfortable, still in my briefs.

“Are you sure?” she asked once more.

“I’m sure.” I kissed her wrist.

She shuffled to the bed on the opposite wall, threw off her dress and crawled into the blankets. I think I heard her cry. A minute passed, then she murmured, “You know what Michael said to me the last time we talked?”

I didn’t want to hear it but I knew I should ask. “What?”

“He said, Nobody really knows me….or wants to.”


The next morning that sad girl drove me to the train. We gently kissed goodbye and separated forever. I don’t know what happened to Nina Pearlstein but I’ll confess now what I should have said thirty-nine years ago.

Nina, I wanted to know you. I really did. But I was afraid if I reached out again, you’d ask for more than I could provide. So I never called you again. I’m sorry.

Where ever you are, I hope you’re happy.




Whatever Happened to Nina Pearlstein?

True story but names have been changed.

girl-walking-awayI first met Nina Pearlstein in Camp Podolsky, a Jewish teen retreat. I don’t know what Christian summer camps are like, or Muslim teenager get-away’s or Zen kid camps. I don’t even know how Jewish summer camps are run today. I only know about the two I attended last century in the sixties. The second one, when I turned sixteen, was all about Nina Pearlstein.

Going to Camp Podolsky was not supposed to be about Nina Pearlstein. It was supposed to be about learning more about Judaic culture, speaking some basic Hebrew, exploring tradition and values as well as artistic expression. The only thing I remember about my Jewish camp days were the girls, and I didn’t care if they were Jewish, or not. Jew Camp for me was Kindergarten College. I got to be away from my parents, sleep in a dorm, eat in a communal cafeteria, take classes and have free time. Free time was the best part, and the only part where I learned anything about anything. It wasn’t about being Jewish. It was about making out.

Culture camp was like those Jewish teen club conventions. Mom enrolled me in SEFTY (South Eastern Federation of Temple Youth) and once a year a five-state gathering commenced in some Southern city. Those weekend conclaves were basically social events – mega-pressured social events, because if you didn’t have a date by the Saturday night dance, you knew you were nobody. So, when we all came together at the first mixer, Friday night after religious services in a temple or “schul”, we teens started pairing off for the rest of the weekend. If two-hundred kids were bussed or driven to a thirty hour convention, two-hundred dating decisions had to go down in the first ninety minutes.JewishCampEating

Same for Jewish camp. By day two, we young people had already coupled off. And of course, the cutest girls and boys picked each other first. By predetermination, like birth, I was relegated to Boy’s Group B, choosing gals from their own B Group. Nina was seductively slinky but face-wise, a B grouper too. Still, Miss Pearlstein was “picked” by handsome Michael Lichtenberger from A Group. That was fine with me ‘cause I thought Lydia Jacobs was more interesting – sorta shy, sans a curvy body but brainy. By the end of camp, Lydia liked me enough for kisses. But as I got to know Nina, her raw heat warmed me and I wanted her more. Nina signaled the same back. Still, we didn’t cheat on Michael and Lydia and so the four of us remained faithful couples and friends until the last day of camp when our parents came to pick us up.

My parents were always late, everywhere, including that day. And as it happened, Nina’s parents were also no-shows for three hours. So Nina and I were left in a deserted campus full of empty dorm beds and the time to use them.

Nina and I were meant to be One, like peanut butter and jelly. Within ten feet our thighs throbbed. Anything closer made fluids flow. So forget about chemistry. Our after-camp nooky went nuclear and five minutes into it I lost control, exploding surges of sticky sauce that quickly seeped through my jeans.

Whoa! Embarrassing! I was so exposed, and Nina felt it happen. I’m sure she sensed a super empowerment after that, like being more of a woman. Her expression said so.

As for me, I was just stunned. I had never, ever felt a rush like that before. Would I ever get that intense again? Would it take another hop with Nina?

Seconds later we heard a car horn. It had to be her parents or mine. Thank god it was hers! She left me with a last kiss and a promise to write. When I heard the car pull out, I dashed back to my suitcase outside, snatched more clothes, flew back into the dorm, changed and threw the crime evidence into the dumpster. I never wanted that to ever happen again. Not that way. Nina made me detonate fully dressed. She had that power.


Years rolled by. Nina wrote. I wrote back. We entered college. Hers was located in New Jersey close to her parents and mine at the University of Georgia. In the first days of summer vacation, Nina invited me up to her home for a few days. Since I had aunts, uncles and cousins on Long Island not that far away, Dad paid for my flight with the condition that I visit relatives after the Nina weekend.

1967ToronadoMiss Pearlstein and her dad picked me up at the airport in the family’s shiny new Oldsmobile front-wheel-drive Toronado. It was THE hottest and coolest car at the time, like a Telsa Model S today, and Nina’s father, a surgeon, had just bought it.

There’s nothing like the smell of a new car while sitting near a hot chick sniffing YOU. Nina and I were close in the back seat, sizzling again which was not practical driving home or later when we gathered around the dinner table that Friday night. Nina’s parents were checking me out. Was I a suitable boyfriend for their only daughter? Maybe I was, because Nina’s dad offered us his new car so I could take Nina to a local movie Saturday night.

Now you have to understand, that for a nineteen year-old guy in 1967, getting to drive a maroon Toronado with its 425 cubic inch, 385 horsepower Rocket V8 engine was like…well…better than sex. Nina decided I should reset my priorities. That night, about ten, while her parents watched Johnny Carson, Nina and I laid on her brother’s bedroom rug scanning the newspaper movie section. The brother was out of town for the weekend so his bed had been given to me. Anyway, as I read aloud the movies titles, Nina grabbed my hand and put it between her legs.

“Jesus, Nina! What are you? Crazy! Your parents are two rooms away!”

That’s what I thought. What I said was…nothing. I was already kissing her with my heart thumping like a four-stroke Harley, and just as loud. But I had to stop. I was afraid of getting caught feeling up a doctor’s daughter. Nina however, thrived on risk. I could see that. I guess being bad made everything more exciting.


It was Saturday night. With me behind the wheel of a grown-up’s car, I drove us to the movies and back very, very carefully. And yes there was kissing in the dark followed by stealth crotch-caressing in the back of the theater. I don’t remember the film but I remember pretending to watch it. And I also remember a wet right ear. Nina like licking everything. Nina was naughty. I like “Naughty.” But not stupid naughty.

“Suppose, after my parents fall asleep, I come into your bed for snuggles?” she suggested, standing behind me in her brother’s bathroom while I brushed my teeth.

I gagged. “No! No! Absolutely not!”

“Okay, okay, she said, rubbing my neck. “Just a thought.” And then she kissed me ‘goodnight’ and I assumed it would be a good night. It wasn’t.


I was sleeping when I got nudged awake. Nina was visiting me, standing next to the bed as she slipped out of her gown in the dark. The glowing clock face said it was after two, and before I could say, “Wait…” Nina lifted my blankets and slid under them next to me…naked and warm. Oh god, no! That’s all I could think, ‘cause my body was already revving. “We can’t do this. Nina. Not here.”

“Shhsss… Let’s just be close,” she whispered. “Don’t move.” And she nuzzled her breasts into my chest, offering a breathy, moist smooch. I kissed back, but I didn’t move… much. One body part had a mind of his own and Nina could feel it, like that last day at camp Podolsky years before. (kiss-kiss) And like what happened on the dorm bed, she again began to sway from the waist down. (kiss-smack, lick-lick) In those high school years we were alone. Not now. Her parent’s room was three doors away and I knew this was oh-so-wrong. (rub-rub, lick-kiss)

What was that? What did I hear? Footsteps on carpet down the hall? Oh God!!!

We froze, eye’s shut, and listened…and listened…and listened. No breathing. No moving, just ears in tracking mode.

(And yes, this is all true, as it happened.)

Step-step-step-stop. Then more steps, this time louder, and closer to our open door. Step-step-step stop. Step-step-step-step stop. Eyes still closed, I calculated that those last sounds ended at our open door, or worse, at the foot of our bed. And then, nothing – not even a quiet gasp or subtle sigh – just cold, accusing parental silence.

If there was ever a time to die, this was it. I wanted to melt into the sheets, forgotten forever. And Miss Risk-is-Exciting? Nina had stiffened too, waiting like me for the light to switch on, throwing us into trauma.

But no light whitened the room. All was still shadows and darkness. And as we waited for what seemed like hours, we finally heard step-step-step-step-step-step-step-step-step…ka-chunk.

Was that a bedroom door closing? Hard to tell. So we laid together absolutely still for twenty minutes. Nina then quietly moved out of my bed, wiggled into her gown, left my room and headed towards the kitchen and living room. As for me, I still wanted to die and sleep finally softened the guilt, but only for four hours. The next morning was not pretty.


To be continued.



Ask Your Doctor If You’re Healthy Enough For Sex

Cialis and Viagra are selling youth-sex to old people. Well, actually not old people, just older people, or any male for that matter who wants harder and longer.

doc with guyWhat surprises me the most about TV ads showing mommy and daddy couples a minute from getting laid, is that those beautifully matured love birds look no older than forty! Okay, maybe forty-five, but why do dudes under fifty need help getting ready? I know. It’s about being MORE ready. Are we men so sexually intimidated by women (who sexually PEEK at fifty, so we’ve been told) that we all have to thump like we’re thirty? Or is it about older men DATING thirty-year-olds…or trying to…after the divorce.

Look, some bitter truth here: Everybody wants to stay young. Actually, everyone wants to LOOK young with a young body. Nobody older really wants to BE young…except for young sex, which is all about discovery.

And here’s more truth about sexual discovery: for those of you who feel free enough to enjoy it like play period in the sandbox, no matter how great it is out of the gate, super sex gets lazy pretty soon. And when it slows down so much it’s boring, we want a new race horse to bounce us around the track.

Yes, we all want racy sex again and again. (Well not ALL, but all my friends and maybe you too.) So some of us jump into new saddles regularly and some of us don’t. I can’t tell how many committed It’s-only-you couples decide to expand the only-you part, but I suspect most people don’t keep their exclusivity promise when the thrill is gone. Let’s admit it, people cheat because “exploratory” sex with all its discovery is way more interesting than, “So do ya feel like it or not?”

Exploring in sex is about novelty and the risk of total exposure with newbies we have to trust. If we’re brave enough to ask for those special strokes, we drop our daily identity and get really vulnerable, holding the assumption that our new partner (or partners) won’t physically hurt us. They rarely do in those first bed romps, if nothing is forced. I’m not talking about rape here, only consenting adults.couple in tub

Still, first-time sex can hurt, like meeting someone who’s super fun, great in bed and then getting no call backs. Feelings do get bruised but that’s part of the risk of being vulnerable and real. Shedding defenses is exciting. It’s exciting because unknown risk demands heightened awareness, the more-alive stuff, as opposed to: been-there, done-that. Instead there’s happy investigations like, “How does this feel? How does that feel? Oh yeah… More.”

And as long as it all guilt-free and you’re both into it, the endorphins kick in, the day’s worries fade away and you become naked kids again playing “Show-Me” and “Do-Me”. It’s all about being human in a nice way and letting your bodies love the touching for as long as it lasts.

Reality check: It doesn’t last. New is only new when it’s new. Once you’ve used up all your “Show-Me’s” and “Do-Me’s”, once you know where all the secret feel-good places live, once trust isn’t a gamble anymore and you both know the drill, sex becomes like a book you’ve both read thirty times. You know the plot and how it ends. The discovery is exhausted, at least physically. So sex becomes more about just getting off and you don’t need another mouth or tongue for that.

Depressed yet? Not to worry. There’s a happy ending. But first, more stuff we need to remember.

couple in bedThe Basic Truth

The most exciting thing about sex is not physical sensations. It’s the discovery of the person you’re with, who is much more than a pulsing torso.

Without a mind, flesh and bones are just molecules, a substance without mental zest. But sometimes that’s all we want – your basic body bang, which is good. Still, I think most of us desire more. We want a deeper connection so we’re not so lonely. We want to touch another soul and learn more about ourselves as we do that. I may be a romantic but I firmly believe sex is just one pleasing way of reaching another mind. And it’s not the only way.

Okay, much of this you know. But you’re probably older. You’re past the sexual learning phase. You may even be past your first marriage, or second. You know that it’s hard to keep the sex exciting for more than a year. Some of you knew killer coitus cools soon and had a Plan B as you strolled down the aisle with spouse #2. Or some of you thought, “This time I’ll to make it work. I’ll keep the promises. She/he will too.”

It helps to keep the promises. Loyalty holds trust in place and trust allows freedom. Freedom allows change and change sparks interest.

More on this later.

couple ON bedThere’s this story going around that if people could have sex all the time with anyone they wanted, everyone would be happier. Swing clubs and open marriages aim for that. I’m not convinced multiple sex partners deliver happiness. I had that. I wanted more.

In the seventies, right after college, I lived in Free-Love Land. I had many one-nighter’s, and plenty of three and four weeker’s. I even had two three-monther’s. Lots of sex all the time. And after all those soft arms, legs and breasts close to me in bed, I still felt alone in the mornings. Those hook ups were experiments with no devotion. Living in the moment, day by day had it advantages, but even at twenty-four I wanted to build a future. I wanted certainty. I wanted an anchor of trust. But what I wanted most, was a mind-meld beyond body treats because sport sex got old fast. So I shifted priorities where finding mental and spiritual beauty became top priority. How did that turn out? You probably know.


When it comes to people with people, we all fly towards New & Exciting. Knowing everything about your partner can be comforting but too many times it’s just plain boring. Accurately predicting how someone will answer is like talking to yourself. So if you know your spouse or partner or roommate or best friend really, really well, there aren’t too many surprises left…unless he or she keeps changing.

He or she keeps changing… THAT’S what you want! That’s what you need. And that’s what YOU should be doing too to keep any partnership stimulating. In my 39 years of husbandhood I’ve been married to five different women, all in the same shell. Every few years my wife reinvents herself with changing interests and new pursuits. I thought I married an operating room nurse. Turned out she’s an artist too. And like most artists, they don’t get hung up on any one thing. They do this-and-that, and then they try this-and-that, and they get really good at this-and-that, but they drop it all to start another this-and-that.

Me too. I’m into this-and-that. Writing is part of this but my music is part of that, and so is photography and my community work. But here’s the key: if my wife and I insisted that we do everything together, we wouldn’t be doing any of the stuff that keeps us alive and evolving. We need time to ourselves. We need the space to change.

And now you know where I’m headed. People need the freedom to grow and try new things. When they do that, when they expand into something more than they were before, we can rediscover them as a new friend or a new beloved.

black huggingThe Final Bitter Truth

If you clutch, stifle and control the one you love, you will douse the fire that attracts you. If you leash your lover, you will strangle New & Exciting in a matter of months. If you force behavior and obedience, you kill the spirit you’re trying to train. I know. I’ve tried to force change. And so has my wife.

And now the happy ending: We stopped and let go. Well almost. There’s still growing up to do, but we’d rather do it together…as long as life keeps growing.




How to Become Something You’re NOT

Young man meditating on rock by seaThere are tons of advice books out there telling us how to better ourselves, how to systematically and psychologically change and progress. I’ve written posts about this, but they’re about dealing with crap BEFORE we change. I think that’s a lot more practical. I think most people are locked into what they are by twenty. Most people do not make a radical shift at any one point, even if they want to. Most people aiming for improvements take years to achieve the perfection they want. Growing, evolving, maturing, whatever you call it, takes lots of time, which gives us something to do between birth and death. (I think that’s the meaning of life.)

But of course the world changes all the time, and fast. Anything can suddenly happen and does. woman@CarAccidentDealing with those instant shifts, and how we learn to adapt to them, can boost us to a new and improved you and me. If we don’t learn from past miss-takes, if we don’t rectify the issues that created those mistakes, we keep the pattern in place. Most people do not want to keep bad patterns in place. Most people want to be happy, stress-free and in control. If they’re not, they want to change…something! Either they change how they FEEL about the shit raining down so they’re happy anyway, or they find a way to sneak past the shit or get rid of it entirely. For a ticket to Happyland something has to change, inside or outside.


If you’re anything like me, you’d love to be better in every way and orchestrate a soothing symphony of life. You don’t want to be bothered by disappointments, obstructions or mean people. You want peace-of-mind, intuitively knowing it will all work out.

But…if you’re anything like me, you don’t think that way at all. You KNOW bad stuff is waiting to pounce and you think about it a lot. Your sought-after life changes are really about AVOIDING the hits, and many times you do. So you still worry but you worry less because there’s finally less to worry about. Instead of buying self-realization books you read success tomes about growing richer and more influential. And then you find, after reading ten of those things, that the reason you are NOT really rich, is because deep down inside you really don’t CARE about being rich.

bags&moneySure, you’d like more dollars, Euros or pounds and everything they buy. But you’re not particularly enthralled with making money just to make money. You’re not fascinated with watching profits grow. You don’t score yourself that way. So you let the natural-born contenders who thrive on building wealth, the ones who don’t need to be changed to get rich, you let those power brokers play the game. And then you wish you were more like them, but not so much that you’d have to change.


Are rich folk happier than you? Some are, some aren’t. “Studies” report that happiness has little do with great wealth. Knowing that rich people are just as unhappy as we are does not make us feel any better when we’re broke. We already know that happiness, or the lack of it, has everything to do with being poor. So if you’re like me, you want to make forward moving changes in the money department. You don’t want to have to worry about it. You don’t want to deal with Not-Enough.

Again, if you’re anything like me you’re dealing with Not-Enough. If it’s not enough money, it’s something else like not enough love or respect or recognition or validation or free time to do something fun just for you.

Yep, like 99% of the world’s population, you live with Not-Enough and you certainly can’t afford that famous Life Coach and his transformational but expensive, fast-track ways to get more. So you’re back to reading philosophical paperbacks about being content with what IS enough – that “free stuff in abundance” like love and caring and internet porn. And as you re-read those chapters about living in-the-moment and out-of-your-brain, you glance down at your carefree cat licking loose fur off her back and you realize you are not your pet and you cannot simply cough up a giant fur ball of irritations and leave them on the rug. You cannot pretend Not-Enough is enough and be happy with that. You cannot pretend anymore that love heals all, even God’s love. GuruOnRock1You are not a guru leisurely reflecting deep thoughts in the Himalayas. You have bills to pay, doctors visits and maybe kids to put though college. Your boss is an asshole and you don’t trust your dentist. Life is hard and what’s worse, you are who you are, with worries that will not go away. And if you’re lucky enough to be born confident and secure, and consequently build a fabulous life, you cannot teach inner strength, even to your kids. You can give them a secure life with examples of success, but if they’re not intrinsically happy in their own skin without having to be winners every second, they too will keep competing just to feel good about themselves. They will not have peace-of-mind without constant validations.

Yep, rich or poor, struggling or coasting, we’re all pursuing the same Secrets of Life – how to grow and still be happy when we misstep, how to be contented with what we have now, and how to forgive ourselves so we can be nice to others. We all need improvement with those things.I'mYourCoach

So here’s my Life Coach advice since you’re still reading.

Peace-of-mind, the real thing, is worth the struggle to keep alive, with total commitment. So don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t come quickly, or not at all…at least yet. Just trying, really trying to be a better, happier person is super admirable and eventually pays off. I’ve been working at it all my life and there are days I can honestly say I’ve achieved inner bliss…for a minute and a half. I’ve been the best husband a husband can be, for three hours. I’ve been worry-free for two days. I’ve felt good about myself for an entire month. Miracles do happen!

So forget about changing yourself. There is no way to become something you’re not. Still, there’s plenty of room to become a better, kinder version of who you are. Don’t give up, be flexible, listen to others and you’ll acquire the tools to make gentle changes around you.

(I know that last sentenced sounded like a five dollar fortune cookie, but I hope these words are encouraging. As usual, I’m writing a post as a reminder for myself.)

Good luck!




Trouble No More

Broken_HeartThis post is for super sensitive people like me who’s feelings get hurt. It’s another story about rejection and it may be yours too.


I’m a drummer. I joined a blues/country band eight months ago with Aaron, Rich and Robby the bass guitarist. By rehearsing once a week we’ve slowly built three sets and perfected our sound, which is astounding for reasons I’ll soon explain. At this point, we’re way beyond average, also surprising. So two months ago we started talking about recording a five-song YouTube demo. It didn’t have to be great, just adequate.

I didn’t agree with that just adequate plan, but since we’re not yet a play-for-pay band and we don’t have recording studio cash, our project would be self-produced. This was doable. We already had the means to lay down eight tracks at a time. Before I retired, I worked for the Hollywood studios, directing voice re-recording and then editing dialogue and sound effects for feature films. As part of the job, I had acquired the computers, interface hardware and Protools software to work at home. All this could be applied to recording and mixing music. And Aaron had the rest of the gear.Digi 002

We set up our sound space in Aaron’s house. It was my idea to separate the three amplifiers into the office, bedroom and bathroom to eliminate what we call “bleed-through” and then later re-record the vocal tracks while listening to the rough instrumental mixes through headphones. Professional sessions are laid down this way and our home project approached that grade. With a bunch of bad starts and takes we eventually recorded the five tunes with enough clarity and low background noise to proceed to step two – the mix down into a stereo two-track master at my house.


Now to be frank, I do not fit in with this band. (I rarely fit in with any band I join. Or any club for that matter.) As is usually the case with my bands, I tend to be the only college-degree, management-type musician in the group. There are lots of garage bands where all the players are business pros but I’ve never been dealt that hand. So with this latest music incarnation, once again I’m consorting with men who would never be my friends had it not been for the music connection. It’s not about income or values. It’s about interests. They never ask me anything about my life, my opinions, my history, nada. We don’t talk about family, politics, world events, personal stuff or feelings. We (or they) talk about music, past, present and future. Nothing else. I’ve tried opening up some worldly topics. A comment or two comes back and then it’s over. And this is okay I guess. We’re a blues band, not a therapy session.

So I’m not complaining. Really. But as usual I feel like I’m in an intellectual and emotional vacuum, which is odd because the blues and county is all about feelings and getting hurt, which I am…or was. I wonder if you would feel the same way.

In my last post I talked about a plumber with the attitude: It’s good enough. I explained that’s not ME. I don’t have too much wiggle room when it comes to my disposition. Between my parent’s past demands for all A’s and perfect-son behavior, plus my natural nature, I got locked into It’s-never-good-enough by the forth grade.

It’s-good-enough and It’s-NEVER-good-enough people don’t mingle easily. I’m playing in a It’s-Good-Enough band.

play_Bass_CUIf I had that attitude in my job, I would have lasted exactly one month. When it comes to movie directors, NOTHING is ever good enough. Twenty takes is not uncommon. With my band, recording anything more than three re-do’s was a heavy lift. When it came to re-recording the vocals, nothing went past two takes. With Robby, our bass player, one pass was it. I think he was so insecure about getting his only singing song laid down right, he didn’t want to take another change that may have turned out wrong. He didn’t want to make more mistakes even thought I explained that in record recording, there are no miss-takes, only variations, some better than others.

Nope, Robby’s first voice take for Trouble No More was good enough. I had no choice but to work with within narrow limits, as I had hundreds of times when I digitally fixed actor’s dialogue in films.


Glen is a close friend, and like me, he came of age in the sixties and seventies. Glen is also an A-List movie re-recording mixer with a ton of hit movie credits. Before he segued into the film business he had mixed records for The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Hall & Oats, Bruce Springsteen, Little Stephen, The Disciples of Soul and Bob Dylan – lots of Bob Dylan. THIS is the guy who recently taught me how to mix my band’s songs! This is the man who arranged the final sweetening session in a professional studio. This is the maestro who, when listening to my mix of Trouble No More, laughed and said, “Brave choices!” And then he turned to me and said again, “Really good work. I’m hardly making any changes to your songs,” which I knew because I was watching this expert focus his attention on the tiniest of audio details.CU_Faders

Nothing is ever quite Good Enough for Glen but he always tries to get incredibly close. He said I did too. He made four minor tweaks to Trouble No More, a song I spent eight hour mixing for Robby because I knew how much it meant to him. I knew how insecure he felt about his playing and especially his singing. I knew he had yet to own a fully realized recording featuring his voice and Trouble No More was going to be IT. My goal was to take a simple, standard tune and turn it into an inventive, stylized, ethereal experience. I was proud of that approach and I knew Robby would be too.


At our rehearsal last night, in front of the band and an invited sit-in second guitarist, Robby said to me, “I know this is kinda sensitive, but can I have your mix session? I need to have Trouble done professionally.”

I cringed. What could he have possibly disliked so much that it wasn’t even good enough? I had sent him my two beta mixes, he made three suggestions about the reverb and delays on the choruses and I made those vocal changes in the final. Aaron and Rich told me they loved the mix, which was miles past the band’s expectations. How could Robby so coldly reject my gift?

And so we started playing. For the first three songs I drummed on remote, keeping the beats simple while I considered the face-to-face words I would say to Robby as we walked outside to our cars. He already knew I would only give him the unmixed start session without my work, which meant that whoever remixed the song would have to start from scratch. He had to realize I was offended. But did he understand WHY?

I don’t think so. He said it was a sensitive issue. Still, his social skills sucked. His timing sucked. His choice of words sucked. And as far as I’m concerned, his taste sucked. I can’t imagine why he didn’t like the dreamy quality I injected into Trouble No More…unless he felt the song drew more attention to itself than to his singing.

But that’s conjecture. It really didn’t matter why he rejected my mix. What mattered to me was how he told me that…and when…and where. And that’s what I was thinking about while playing the back beats to Guru Man, Folsom Prison and Stormy Monday. I was wondering if lecturing Robby about sensitive social demeanor would be a positive change in his life. And I came to the conclusion that Robby is a grown man and that I couldn’t reshape his character, nor should I try. In those time holes between two and four, two and four, two and four, I realized the change had to be in ME and my feelings about my disappointment. I was not going to let it make me unhappy.

CharmsWhat DOES make me happy? Playing music in a band. And Robby is part of that. So in the big picture, this was nothing. Sure, his dismissal was another nick at the heart, another let-down, another reminder that you can’t predict anything with any certainty. But more importantly, it brought me back to the bottom line:

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Writing this post got me back to Small Stuff appreciation. It helped me to reset my priorities and mature a little more. I hope reading it helped you too. As always, thanks for visiting.




If the Trust in Broken, Can You Ever Get it Back?

My wife said, “Give him another chance, Irv. Everyone deserves a second chance to get it right.”

“Okay,” I said. “He’ll get a second chance. But he shouldn’t need one.”

under sink plumberNate came to us recommended. He should have known it was bad and his It’s-good-enough attitude bothers me. It bothers me because I like him. I hoped he would work out. I hoped my wife and I had found another plumber. But Nate installed our replacement dishwasher leaving an inch gap under our counter top and he took another two hours to swap out a hot water dispenser with the heating tank and filter already in place. So how do I know Nate can properly stop a gas or water leak? I wish I could trust him. I don’t.

Sure, it’s only a plumbing job. Why am I blogging about it? I’m writing because this minor event mirrors bigger ones about trust and the breakdown of friendships. Our kitchen project was Nate’s first job for us – our first “date”. He called ahead, showed up on time, was polite, courteous, friendly and he seemed like the right guy, except he didn’t do his job very well. He’s coming back within the hour to correct the problem. I hope it works out.


Dating and jobs…we all know the news. It’s your first meeting, the guy, gal or boss seems really nice and open. Then day by day, date by date, the person you thought you could trust turns into someone you can’t. He’s lying. You know he’s lying. He knows you know he’s lying. It’s business as usual.

If we can break away early from the BS, little harm is done. But many times we really need that job, even with its abusive boss. Or the bad stuff is outweighed by more of the good stuff, so we keep the romance going. Or we just strolled down the aisle and promised love and devotion forever, sealed with a kiss. We trusted the decision. We trusted ourselves to keep it. We trusted him or her to be nice, kind and supportive.

Or maybe we didn’t.B&W wedding

Maybe before that whispered, “I do,” we already felt something wasn’t quite right. We knew things had to be tweaked into place and we assumed they would. Or we hoped they would. We hoped our partner would change just enough to calm our qualms and make the marriage play out.

Did it happen? No, it didn’t. How could it? The union was on trial from the get-go.


But not all relationships begin with second thoughts. Most start with trust because we know what we’d get without it, the world where we live, and it’s NOT a happy place. So when we find someone or something we can trust, we must cherish and protect that connection. To build a sacred sanctuary where armor is dropped and hearts open to love, we must tell the truth and honor promises. That’s what a working marriage is all about, and best-friends-forever, and devotion from parents and family. That’s what living in a caring world is all about.

We do not live in a caring world.

Rules are broken everyday. Sometimes, even the people we love break the rules, and with that goes the trust. Sometimes WE break the trust, begging the question:

Once the trust is broken, can we ever get it back?

Most of the time, no. Sometimes yes. But we’ve got just one more time to get it right, and ONLY when that lie or broken promise or misjudgment isn’t that bid a deal. And then we really, really have to be honest about our apologies and remorse. And then we have to promise to never, EVER do it again. And then, if we’re humble and grateful, we get forgiven and that second chance.

In a perfect world, the trust is never broken again and everyone lives happily ever after. We do not live in a perfect world.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, once the trust is broken, we never get it back, or we never give it back. We live in a world devoid of trust. We live in marriages and families without trust. We work in jobs with no trust. Suspicion and doubt is the norm.

POSSIBLE_divorceWithout trust, there is no rest. Without trust, there is no peace. So why do WE, a race of intelligent beings, constantly break the trust?


We break the trust because we don’t TRUST trust. We don’t believe it’s obtainable and sustainable. We don’t believe trust lasts because we see so few examples of it enduring.


We break the trust because we feel we can’t compete with people who break the rules. So we join the crowd where no one trusts anyone and promises mean nothing. Trust is not part of the game.


Then there’s the occasional cheating: They won’t find out. I can break the rules just this one time. I’ll get what I want and no one gets hurt. Then I won’t do it again. Just this one time…

And maybe we do get away with it. So the next time, breaking the rules is easier. We have more confidence that the short-cut will work – all gain and no loss. The third time is even easier. But the forth time we get caught and everyone gets scorched. Then there’s no going back, no rebuilding the trust.

For those of you who break the rules and consequently, trust, you have put yourself on probation. The people you wronged will either throw you out of their world or deal with you in a constant state of defense while pretending it’s all okay. When trust gets blown away, so does truth. With trust and truth gone, LOVE is next. You cannot have love without trust and truth. Ask any divorce lawyer.

You would think Love = Truth would be a basic human understanding. It’s not, even with religious guidance. Most people don’t believe any of it is real for the reasons I’ve listed here.

But if you’re one of those idealistic, ex-hippy outsiders like me, you haven’t given up. You’re still hoping trust and truth and playing-by-the-rules mean something and if we can just keep the faith, we’ll find others like us and grow a garden of goodwill. We can make the world a caring place. Okay, the entire world is a bit much. How about friends, family and plumbers?


Nate showed up on time to correct the height of our new dishwasher. I didn’t want to be a mean, scolding type boss/client so I told him how happy I was with everything else he had done and then I showed him the gap and pictures of what the installation should look like. “Mr. Podolsky,” he said, “all I want to do is make you happy and I won’t leave until I do.”

I puddled into a blob of love-putty. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Would he do it, though? Would he get the unit into alignment with the cabinets and counter? I left him to do his work. He called me back in five minutes. He had it pretty close. I asked for further adjustments. He made them. He also made me happy. I was ready to write a check for whatever he said, like four hundred or four-fifty. Nate worked half a day with a helper, plus extra parts, plus this call back. Time means money.

“So what’s it gonna be?” I asked.

“What I quoted you,” he said.

“I can’t remember exactly. Somewhere around one-fifty, one sixty.”

Nate corrected me. He said, “It was one forty-five.”

“But that was only for the dishwasher. You replaced the water dispenser and changed out all the copper for flex tubing.”

“Okay,” he said. “Make it another forty-five.”

“One hundred and ninety for four hours?”

“You win some, you lose some,” he said. “That’s what I quoted you.”

I paid him $225. He deserved it. I trusted him again.


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