LA RINGRAZIO PER UNA BELLA CENA (Thank you for a wonderful dinner.)

It began as a dinner with new Italian friends and turned into a wormhole to my past coupled with a new way of saying hello to myself.

We had met only once before at a restaurant where a group had gathered to listen to a mutual friend’s band.  By chance, the four of us sat together and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.  We made noise about getting together in the future, but they were soon leaving for an extended trip to Sri Lanka and India so the future would be a long way off.

But they did call, invite, and we went.  The conversation over the delicious dinner was fast and furious.  At one point they lapsed into Italian–perhaps to make certain they both understood what was being said, or because they didn’t want us to understand.  Didn’t matter.  It was lovely to listen to the music of the language.

For some reason their lapse into lyrical Italian still danced in my head the next day.  The harder I tried to understand why, the fuzzier it became.  It was only that night, not really thinking about anything in particular, that a childhood memory flooded my mind.  Family scenes where parents or older relatives would, in a hairpin turn, speak Yiddish.  In those moments, there was no confusion.  They simply didn’t want me to know what they were saying.  But those hairpin turns, natural on their part, always drew a silent gut wrench without my ever knowing why.

I doubt I would have given those few short Italian sentences any thought at all without my hour a day, four days a week, eight year stint with Dr. J that began about twenty-five years ago.  A particular crisis drove me to the Boston Psychoanalytical Institute to become a test analysand, but the day to day work soon embraced multiple dimensions. Anyone who has done a psychoanalysis knows that once you jump down that rabbit hole….

Of course we spent a significant time on what had been an explosive childhood that had me living with other people.

Spent serious time on my first marriage, which had reduced itself to a protracted custody battle.

Spent time on being a single parent half the week for years.

Spent time working through issues that existed between me and my current domestic partner.

The list is legion.  I had more than enough issues, and that much time on your back makes it so.  But when the eight years were over, I had become significantly lighter emotionally through the discoveries gleaned by talking every day to someone who listened, supported, and was truly smart.

I also left believing the couch had cracked the door to my creative imagination.  Two fantasies I’d harbored since forever were writing and making music.  I walked out of Dr. J’s for the last time confident about constructing a brand new writing life.

Along with these accomplishments, I also left the couch hauling a suspicion that I’d never really learned an important lesson analysis was supposed to “teach.”  I simply hadn’t found a method of diving into my subconscious.  I did think about what I thought or felt, though it was through an active process, driven by overt consideration or focused reflection.  Similar to having someone confront or ask pointed questions.  However, this nag was left behind as I powered up my “creative imagination” to build my Matt Jacob writing career.  Still, I’ve always been jealous of people–Sasha Cohen, Jon Stewart and, of course, Robin Williams–who are seemingly able to dip into their down below at will.

But that night, lying in bed, relaxed and open to possibilities, age, experience, and a lack of defensiveness delivered the association between the Italian talk and Yiddish memories.  Long ago that gut wrench had been the only part of the iceberg that registered.  The difficulties of my childhood, the exclusion, the difference between myself and my family, the alienation within my own home, and the ugly bitter batterings finally rose from beneath the surface.  Half a century later I understand what that Yiddish represented.

Ahh, the subconscious.  I guess I get what it takes to let the game come to you.  Not active pursuit, but a headspace that’s vulnerable enough to let it happen.

So, thank you, Alesandro and Camilla, for a great dinner.  And a special thanks to Dr. J.  Sometimes it takes a really, really long time for understanding to sink into an old dog’s head.  Even when the information is already there.

Love Me, I’m A Liberal

Maybe it began because I worked a telephone bank for Barack Obama. Or, perhaps it started when the ACLU emailed a request to join. They’re big on the First Amendment and so am I.  It seems to me the right of skin-headed Nazi’s to march is a fair trade for the right to present art that is frequently attacked and banned by the Neanderthals who pock-mark the country.

So I dues up, get my card, sign their petitions.

Then came the email from People For The American Way.  Hey, anyone who created Archie Bunker and Meathead and actually mobilizes against the Wing-nuts who want to hurtle the country back to the 18th century I gotta support.

So I join and sign their petitions.

What can you say about Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International other than they shine light upon some of the most horrific abuses throughout the world.

More dues, more petitions.

I figure I’m set–spent my charity budget and feel pretty righteous

But it ain’t over.  Slow and steady, email by email, link by link, the requests to sign this and that and the other pile heavy into my inbox.

How do I turn down requests by organizations who protect a woman’s right to choose?

I sign.

How do I turn down Mayors Against Guns when 34 people a day, every day, get shot?

I sign.

How do I turn down environmental groups when I believe in climate change and have worked closely with laborers who have died from the toxicity in their plants?

I sign.

Well, by this time, I’m not feeling all that righteous.  Hell, now when I click a link I don’t even have to fill in blank boxes.  They know me.

As a result, I get a stream of form letters from senators and congressmen thanking me for taking the time to express my views.  And a promise to keep my ideas in mind when relevant legislation lands on the floor.  To absolutely no avail.  Virtually every issue I’ve sign up for loses when it hits the House or Senate.  So much for their minds and my signatures.

But signing has become crack.  I can’t stop.  I’m fucking signing petitions to protect polar bears.  Why? The closest I’ll ever get to one will be on the NatGeo channel.  But I think it through.  Palin and her motley crew must be behind this bear slaughter.

I sign.

I’m signing petitions against virtual fences, for new filibuster rules, against budget cuts, for the recall of state politicians in states that aren’t mine.  I’m signing save  bowhead and beluga whales and walruses.  I wouldn’t know a beluga if one skateboarded down my block and chomped on my legs. (Isn’t it actually caviar?)

So, for sure, I sign.

I’m so devoted to petitions that more often than not I think I’m the president signing executive orders.  But then I look around and see that none of my orders command any respect.  Just the opposite.  The country is sliding back in time and all I see are wars, poverty, loss of rights, worse racial inequality, and right-wing Jihadists running the show.

Guess it’s time to admit the obvious.  If this is how high my “freak flag flies,” I owe an apology to David Crosby.  Somewhere along the line, I cut my hair.

From error to error, one discovers the entire truth.
-Sigmund Freud

Dylan, Ochs: A Conversation

(Artistic License Taken)

Thursday night I’d anticipated going to the documentary Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune. This edited instant message conversation took place between me and my blogger friend Rawrah ( or see “Links” on this site):

Rawrah: From what I’ve read he hated Dylan. Ochs would torture himself to write and Dylan would simply pull magic out of his ass.

Me: For sure Ochs poked fun at Dylan. In one of his songs (forgot the name) he did it in a self-deprecating way. But I would call Dylan’s lyrics poetry, not magic.

Rawrah: Ochs believed in what he was singing. Dylan rejects the idea of “meaning” in his songs.

ME: Hell, I’ve used that line about my Matt Jacob books. Don’t make it true.

Rawrah: You might bullshit but that doesn’t make Dylan a liar.

ME: Trudat—but I still think he’s doing a throwaway.

Rawrah: Good to be a mind reader, huh?

ME: Asshole. It’s interesting. Dylan is talked about at the music studio. Probably ’cause I bring him up.

Rawrah: About whether he actually knew what he was saying in his songs?

ME: No. Because I say he’s the most important songwriter in our lifetime. The argument is usually about his “musicality.” I’m hit with “He can’t sing and his music is at best rudimentary, if that.” I say the poetry of his lyrics supersedes—but that don’t really fly at a music school.

Rawrah: I think people attribute a lot more depth than is actually displayed.

ME: Thanks, pal.

Rawrah: I read he’d skim a newspaper and dump out three or four songs of lyrics. Or eavesdrop on a conversation then spew out its essence. A savant.

Me: Depends on the definition. Savant means “sage” or, as in “idiot savant–an intellectually disabled person who exhibits extraordinary ability in a highly specialized area, like mathematics or music. Gotta be a stretch to call Dylan intellectually disabled.

Rawrah: Why? Some say most people have “savant” potential but few have the series of experiences to trigger it.

ME: You know, we’re writing my Monday post. You mind?

Rawrah: Feel free.

ME: Thanks. See, what I think when you talk about Ochs’ needing to struggle to write and Dylan “pulling it out of his ass,” is their difference in ability to access the subconscious. Take Robin Williams…

Rawrah: Uh oh.

ME: When he’s on a talk show and somebody says something that clicks you can almost see the door to his subconscious open and out comes a riot. But a crafted riot. So I’m saying that Dylan’s door was more open than Ochs but that Ochs got there anyway and both used craft to hone their message into art.

Rawrah: And isn’t that the real difference between Ochs and Dylan. Ochs had to work to create—to say nothing about living his ideals—and Dylan didn’t.

ME: I probably call that the difference between genius and not. As for living ideals, don’t forget Dylan helped ignite a movement and Ochs ending up killing himself

Rawrah: Now who’s the asshole? I’d say there are truly gifted people and when their particular gift intersects at precisely the right circumstance, what emerges is magic.

“Please… could somebody just go ahead and WikiLeak whatever it is Bob Dylan has been singing for 50 years?” Bauart

Harbingers Of A Boston Spring

Soot-covered snowpiles

City soot covered snow mounds.

Potholes that can be seen before driving into them.

Dirty snow.

Boston University students wearing shorts and tees in 35 degree weather to get a jump on their tan.

Dirty snow.

J.D. Drew complaining about an injury on the second day of spring training.

Dirty snow.

Sue chirping about her first red-winged blackbird.

Dirty snow.

Ten dollar drop in monthly heat bill.

Dirty snow.

Autos stretched around the blocks of car washes.

The expectation of another large snowstorm.

Dirty snow.


A month of monsoon rain, meltage, and flooded basements.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” Lena Horne