Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Personal and Confidential

Jazmin, I hope one day when your surfing the blogosphere you'll stumble upon this message. This blog is for you, my dear mentor, you who used your considerable, feminine, wiles to trick me into doing things I never imagined I could do. It is you and you alone who can take the credit for my third career. (We won't discuss the second career. Those were difficult times. One does what one must do to survive, as you know only too well - GISELA - my comrade in sin.) Ah, ha! You didn't think I'd ever learn your real identity -Did you? You see, I too have connections. So, GISELA, are you still masquerading as Jazmin, or are you using some other alias. There's still much I have to learn about your checkered past, but let me tell you what I do know about you. You were born in Villaneuva de la Jara, Spain - a charming village famous for its mushrooms. Your mother's name is Magdalena del Peso y Henao. When you were two months old your father Fernando, ran away with Miguel, the groom, a brooding twenty-three year old with a gambling addiction. At age fifteen you were given into the care of the Poor Clare Sisters whose convent was in the norther part of Spain. For three long years, you struggled to suppress your lusty impulses. Finally, when you could no longer endure the constraints of convent life, you began to plot your escape. Then, one stormy, moonlit night in December, while gale force winds lashed the ancient walls of the convent, you and Antonio, the dashing, young, Jesuit you defrocked, slipped out of a second story window, and lowered yourselves to the ground on a rope made from the love - stained sheets of your bed. Fulfilling a childhood fantasy, you moved to Java to live at the edge of a lava pit. You and Antonio married there, and had two darling children, Catalina and Javier. Antonio made a good living running a trendy spa whose clientelle consisted mainly of stressed-out, execs working on Wall Street. You, GISELA, became a painter, and a fortune-teller. The accuracy of your prognostications made you something of a local celebrity.

On the last of several visits to your native, Spain, you decided to make the famous, 500 mile pilgrimage known as El Camino de Santiago. As you made your way - one bloody knee at a time - to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, dressed only in a burlap sack tied with a bit of string, you were spotted by a gypsy prince. Unable to erase the image of your smouldering beauty from his mind, he returned in the dead of the night, to the place where you lie sleeping under the stars between Antonio and your beloved children. For hours he watched under cover of darkness - his flaming loins a declaration of love for the dark-eyed GISELA. Then, a miracle occured. It was the chance he had been waiting for. You awoke in the night to answer the call of nature. As you entered some bushes at the edge of your campsite, the prince snuck up behind you. You turned around with a look of surprise, but before you could react the prince held his outstretched palm in front of you, and blew some magical, gypsy powder into your face. In an instant you were rendered unconcious. The gypsy prince then placed you in the back of his gypsy wagon, ( a tour de force of design, and a superb example of gypsy folk art), and sped away through the mountains into France.

Little is known of your life during the years immediately following your abduction, for there the trail went cold. However, I was able to ascertain, with certainty, that you were indeed, the infamous - Min, of Jazmania. As to why the adjective 'infamous' was always affixed to your name, noone can say, or rather, none dared to say. Whenever inquiries were made about you, the people responded by grasping their amulets, and making strange hand gestures which they tried to conceal behind their backs. Apparently, whatever threat you made to the Jazmanian peasants to guarantee their silence, worked. We also know that for a period of roughly two years, you passed yourself off as Min of Minotopia, the charismatic, medicine woman who hid her face behind a black veil. Your specialties were painless midwifery, fertility, and wart removal.

Many gaps remain in your biography, but I know that you eventually made your way back to Java as a stowaway aboard a slow boat returning from China. When you got to Java you learned that Antonio's business had gone bankrupt, and that he was forced to accept work in the United States. A week after arriving in Java, you travelled to Connecticut where you were finally reunited with your family. It was during your first year of living in Connecticut that you and I met at a class you were teaching in gypsy dance. For the next couple of years we were inseparable friends. But, then one day, (I remember the exact date because it was Michaelmas, and I had gotten my second chest hair), I went to visit you at your home. When I got there you and your family were gone. Your entire house was emptied of furnishings. As of today, it is a year and one month since you dropped off the face of the earth. GISELA, what caused you to run away, and why did you conceal your identity? What was the meaning of all those aliases, and why didn't you return, immediately, to your family once you had escaped from the gypsy prince? Most important of all, when my dear, when, if EVER, will you return? GISELA, if God wills that you should find this blog - I beg of you, Please! Please! Contact me.

Your devoted friend, and grateful student,

Pigeons and Porn: What I Saw Before Breakfast

This morning I woke up with crazy over-the-top energy. To keep from jumping out of my skin I hopped on my ten-speed, and headed for a picturesque, rural highway that begins at the end of my street. Here are some of the things I saw along the way.

I saw a catbird chasing a raven. Next, I saw a raven chasing a red-tailed hawk. Nice symmetry - raven pursued, followed by raven pursuer. Anyway, my next find was a soggy porno magazine with a french title. It was nestled in a patch of my favorite weeds - the lovely Japanese day flower - not to be confused with the very similar Virginia day flower. Being uncompromisingly noble, and chaste of spirit, I resisted the urge to sneak a peek at the cavorting nudies depicted inside the smutty magazine. Still, as I pedalled onward, I found myself feeling oddly distracted. I couldn't stop thinking about that nasty magazine. Finally, I had no choice but to take myself firmly in hand, and give myself a good talking to. In no time at all I had my moral compass pointing in the right direction, and was able to go about my business. About an hour later I stopped for a drink of water in the driveway of a firehouse. On the blacktop nearby some pigeons were picking at a disgarded hamburger bun. Among the garden variety pigeons one stood out from all the rest. He was a fancy specimen with a puffed up ruff that extended from his chin to his belly. The feathers of his ruff reminded me of those Chinese chrysanthemums with the curvy petals. I was certain that this bird had been someone's pet. Clearly he did not belong on the street with the pigeon riff raff. Nevertheless, to his credit, I was unable to detect the slightest bit of attitude on his part - no preening about, no swagger - just the same head-bobbing, herky, jerky gait as the rest of the birds. Likewise, the other pigeons never gave any special treatment to their more glamorous companion. In fact, they seemed oblivious to his superior good looks. I couldn't help but think that we humans would do well to imitate their indifference to appearances.

Returning home, I made one more noteworthy find. I discovered the upper portion of a clown doll impaled on the post of a roadside fence. The clown looked remarkably like Chucky the psycho, knife-weilding doll of movie fame. Lucky for me his eyes had been removed - enucleated, as they say in medicine. Otherwise, I would have convinced myself he was staring at me, trying to memorize my face. If that were the case, and let's say, someday he were to be miraculously reunited with his lower half, he could then find me and chase after me with his stubby legs. Of course, it's unlikely he'd catch me - fleet-footed, chetah that I am. Still, you never know. As I rode away from my bifurcated friend I glanced over my shoulder, and was relieved to find that his head hadn't turned in my direction. The remainder of my ride was uneventful.

Well, there you have it - gentle reader. Those are the things I saw on my morning bike ride. When I returned home I tucked into a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, (easy over with the yolks broken, and a dash of ketchup), home fries, toast and marmalade, and two delicious cups of coffee. Nothing like a little exercise to whet the appetite.

See ya! Glen

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When Our Friends Hold Us Back

All of us are made up of many 'selves', but other people generally get to see only one of them - our trusty persona. Our persona is the face we present to the world. We're constantly buffing it up to make sure it remains the same. The 'nice guy' must always be seen as nice. Bright kids will dummy down, adopting the persona of their more intellectually challenged schoolmates in order to fit in. Cynics never reveal an iota of faith in humankind lest they be labelled closet Pollyannas.

Frequently, when people try to step out of the boxes they've created around themselves, their friends sabotage their efforts. For example, people who have lost significant amounts of weight report being subtley and/or blatantly rejected by their fat friends. Perhaps they fear they'll be judged for remaining overweight. Or maybe it's just a case of misery loving company.

Several times in my life I've removed myself from my social circle in order to make it easier to reinvent myself. Now, I'm well aware that 'real' change must come from the inside. However, external changes can sometimes make our efforts at personal growth a lot easier. For instance, there was a point in high school when I felt myself becoming more and more alienated from my friends. My interests had broadened. I became more creative - writing and painting - spending more time alone in nature, and focusing on my spiritual journey. Activities such as, hanging out with my pals in our favorite pizza place, and competing to see who could wolf down the most pizza (one friend could actually eat two large pies, and still want more), just weren't doing it for me. As the bond between my cohorts and me lessened, I became increasingly more depressed. One day, acting on a whim, I took the Metro North train from Ct. into Manhattan. For reasons I still don't understand, I began pouring out my angst-ridden soul to the guy sitting next to me. I told him all about my unhappiness at no longer fitting in with my peers. As fate would have it (I really don't believe in accidents) my fellow traveller turned out to be a shrink. Here is a paraphrasing of the simple, but powerful advice he gave to me. He said, "Relax. In a couple of years, fitting in with your current friends will cease to be an issue. Once you,re on your own you'll gather friends around you who share your deeper interests - people who support your emerging self." Being a neurotic adolescent, I didn't assimilate the lesson immediately. Nonetheless, his prediction did come true.

Two years later, I postponed college and became a member of that crazy, diverse, and hyper-creative community at the very tip of Cape Cod. I was never happier. It was a rich, new, life filled with magic - 'real' magic- ( I'll get more into that in future blogs) and mystery. Practically everyone I knew was an artist, writer or musician, and - more importantly - they were focused on inner elightenment.

Summing up the lesson I learned from the commuting shrink: If you want to make a fundamental change in yourself, or maybe just shake things up a bit, consider a change of environment. You could move to a new location, or - if that's not feasible - take a vacation in a place markedly different from where you are now. In the same way that fasting at the onset of a diet can dial-up your metabolism, a different environment - free of old ties, and old patterns - can jump start your process of personal growth. Give it a try. It just might work. Life is all about change. Good Luck! See ya, Glen

Friday, July 18, 2008


Hi! My name is Glen. I'm an artist by profession. Recently, a good friend suggested I start a blog. When I asked her what she thought I should write about, she said to just talk about whatever interests me. Since the scope of my interests is daunting I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go with whatever is circulating in my brain at the moment. It's a trick I use to short circuit my A.D.D. Well, here goes. I hope what I write resonates with someone out there in the blogosphere.

The name of my blog is "AmoMoi". It's a very unscholarly Latin-French hybrid that is meant to translate roughly into "I love myself". "Moi" is actually "me", but the french word for "myself" just didn't flow. I would have chosen straight-forward english, french or latin but all of these were already taken. Despite how it sounds, my reason for choosing AmoMoi wasn't narcissistic, but stemmed from a life-long effort to develop the habit of being kind to myself. More than a few people have told me that I usually do things the hard way. To help remedy this I use the phrase "I love myself" as a mantra. I figure if I repeat it long enough eventually it will stick, and I'll begin to treat myself more kindly. Goofy, New Age crap, you say. Maybe. But I'll give it a shot anyway. I'll try fakin it til I make it.

Most people are better at being good to themselves than I am, and some people really excell at it. I remember hitchhiking with my roommate on Cape Cod. The guy who picked us up was,( to my starving artist's eyes), a very posh fellow, indeed. He was impeccably dressed, and his car was a miracle of comfort. Leaning back deep into the plush, beige upholstery of his Beamer - at an angle I feared was dangerously close to being horizontal - our driver prattled on in his silky smooth voice about the seeming perfection of his summer on the Cape. Working two crumby jobs to pay for an apartment, and a studio, I hated him, instantly. At the time we were picked up my friend and I - armed with a dufflel bag stuffed with dirty clothes - were headed for the nearest Laundromat which was about a half an hour from where we lived.Thinking back, I marvel at the fact that our fancy friend even bothered to pick us up - beggarly sight that we were. Perhaps he was practicing noblesse noblige, or maybe some form of slumming. To be fair, it was probably just plain old human kindness on his part.

Anyway, as I was saying, while my friend and I were headed for the Laundromat, our driver was on his way to a fresh water pond to have a swim. He chose the pond over the bay because, and I quote: "It's just such a bother to rinse off all that sticky salt after swimming in the ocean." Hearing that, my roommate and I exchanged the obligatory, clandestine rolling of our eyeballs.

To this day I picture the guy arriving at his destination. I imagine him spreading out a sumptuous, over-sized beach towell with a thread count exceeding 1,000, after which, he walks down to the water's edge, inserts a newly pedicured big toe, and proceeds to display an uncanny talent for knowing precisely how many degrees plus or minus the temperature varies from his ideal of 72 degrees Celcius.

Despite my sarcasm I have to admit there was something I admired about the guy. He had what I lacked - and I don't mean money. He had the ability to be nice to himself. Now, mind you, I wouldn't want to be him. He was too laid back to suit my somewhat stormy artistic temperament. Also, being a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, I bridled at what I perceived to be his obsessive pursuit of bodily comfort. Personally, I like being a tad salty. As any good cook will tell you : No salt, no flavor.

All this being said, after a period of reflection, I realized that my encounter with the posh guy in the cushy car had taught me a valuable lesson that I think can apply to anyone. It's simple. If being good to yourself doesn't come naturally, and you haven't a clue as to how, or even, where to begin to do so, start with your own body. Fritz Perls, that self-styled dirty old man, and father of Gestalt Therapy, called it the "contact boundary".You see, the body, unlike the mind, is something concrete. It's something we can apprehend directly with our senses. For instance, if you've made a decision to take a certain course of action, and the course you've chosen elicits a pleasant response from your body, you've probably made a sound choice. However, if your body tenses up, or say you get a hollow feeling in your gut, or maybe you suddenly get inexplicably tired, then stop a moment, and think of other options. As you do so note which ones produce favorable reactions, and choose one of them instead. TRUST THE BOD! It's a genius at knowing which actions best reflect your authentic self. And, one more thing: Remember, feelings are physical, and not to be confused with emotions. Emotions issue from the mind, and are more ephemeral. But, that's another topic, altogether - something best discussed on another day.

Hmmm! Think I'll give myself a little love and take a nice, leisurely bath. I know, I could surround the tub with legions of candles - maybe burn a little incense. How about that CD of Tibetan monks chanting, or the one with the waves lapping against the shore. Sound too much like a New Age cliche? It does, doesn't it? Last one in the tub is a self-loathing, curmudgeon.

See ya! Glen

P.S. Check out Perls' book, "In and Out of the Garbage Pail". It's a classic!