A Lovely Garden: A Poem.

 

Young boys turn to young girls

To whittle away the time.

Young men turn towards war.

Comes a day when but a few young men remain.

 

In the bars and parks they congregate,

And polish their pain to badges of honor

With stories so bold.

Comes a time when the stories all sound the same.

 

And then as old men,

Dog-eared stories put away,

They turn to God

And perhaps a very lovely garden

 

Frantic nation…

I use to be on Blood pressure medication, but it was doing weird things to me, particularly on the creative side. I would zone out and produce little if anything substantive. I couldn’t concentrate or focus, but I was calm and sedate, and nearly a shell floating through life. It also affected me physically, in a number of ways that were corrected, thanks to  a pharma-loving family physician, with, you guessed it, more drugs, that low and behold had more side affects, which were solved with…breathe! You get the picture.

So I got off the drugs, began to exercise more and began eating better. In the interim, I completed several paintings (Including one of my very best) wrote three books, a play that received critical acclaim, dozens of articles and now host a successful radio program. Help the homeless. All in the span of a couple of years.

And all would be peachy if I lived in a bubble, or in the northwoods, and not in a major metropolitan area. Moreover, sometimes I wish that I could simply ignore what is going on with our politics, the economy, the world. The curse of Plato’s parable of the Cave, in which society is deluded by the shadows upon the cave wall, and heap derision upon those who turn to face the sunlight as well as the shadow makers. Most people are comfortable with the cognitive illusion of the shadows and become hostile when forced from the illusion of security within the illusion.

Part of that is noting that our society has become increasingly frantic. The wife pointed out to me that since coming off the meds I am more agitated. That may very well be, and probably is true, but to a degree I have some cause. That was illustrated as I drove home from dropping her off at a friends earlier when this silver Suburu in front of me could not wait 20 seconds for the vehicle in front to make  a turn, and thus drove up onto the sidewalk. Let me say that again; drove ONTO the sidewalk.

It use to be maybe once a day or so, driving around the city and suburbs I would see something so egregiously obnoxious and dangerous. Now, simply running from here to the grocery store  a few miles away feels like running a gauntlet of survival, as people routinely blow through street lights and stop signs, weave at perilous speeds, cut others off without remorse or worse. And it isn’t just on the roads, it is in our politics. It has infected the instant profit economy, invades our shopping malls and poisons our religions. Now-nOW- NOW!!!

America has become a frantic nation of pushy, self-concerned, frightened and frantic people. Friends in retail and restaurants have noted the frantic up-tick to the culture. Customers curse, berate and assault clerks, cashiers and managers because a holiday line isn’t moving fast enough. Or they barge in the middle of other customers demanding immediate attention for THEIR needs. Less than a week before Christmas, with the USPS, UPS and FedEx all at or beyond peak loads, especially in the age of Amazon, this exchange between a store manager and a customer.

Customer: I want this shipped and I want it to arrive by Christmas Eve.

Manager: We can ship it, but I can’t guarantee this close to Christmas that it will arrive by Christmas Eve.

Customer: Can’t you overnight it?

Manager: UPS and Fed Ex is swamped this close to the holiday.

Customer: Well, can’t you make it a priority?

I so wanted to hear this beleaguered manager to shake this lady by the shoulders and snap, because the millions of packages everyone else hopes will arrive by Christmas aren’t nearly as important as yours!?!?? And, oh, by the way, lady, if you weren’t so pushy and frantic you might be happier, the people around you damn sure would be and I probably wouldn’t have to TAKE ALL THESE DAMNED MEDICATIONS!

Okay, part of that might have been me. Too frantic? Preachin’ to the choir, sister.

Now was that so hard?

To My Democrat Friends:
Please accept, with no obligations implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender- neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasions of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2018, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped to make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other countries nor the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere. Also this wish is made w/o regard to the race, religious faith, color, physical ability or sexual preference of our friends.

To my Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

See, we can ALL get along!

The flaw in the American system, and the reason that capitalism is failing 89% of the population is that America starts with money and adjusts minimum standards of acceptible living to accommodate finance, rather than finance adjusting to those minimum standards of acceptible living. In other words, at some point you have to understand that you can only tighten your belt so far before your legs fall off, then it is too late to try a better approach…

A Progressive Summit: Thursday, December 28 8-11 pm

Val Leventhal and Linda Solotaire and friends, Bring you:

Progressive Summit: 

A Gathering of the Tribes

Thursday, December 28
8-11 pm
 
The OuttaSpace
An attempt to bring different groups together in solidarity to expand our work to protect our Democracy and our Diversity. There will be a sneak preview of a new Val Leventhal video from VR Sarti, live music all evening with songs to inspire activism and hope. There will be songwriters, there will be political enthusiasts, there will be a great venue with great local spirits for purchase, there will be no cover. This is not a fundraiser. Speakers will be limited to 5 minute presentations, after which they will invite you to come to their table to speak with them, take materials, sign up for petitions, and other upcoming actions! There is only one rule: No Arguing! We all love to debate our favorite issues. The mission of this event is to meet one another, learn from each other, and form solidarity! Let’s get busy networking to fix the mess we’re in! Whether you want to work on racism, sexism, immigration, the environment and animal rights, social security and medicare/medicaid, the creation of peace instead of war, voter’s rights, and the machinery and financing of elections, etc., etc., if we can’t get on the same page about some forward movement, nothing will get done.  All are welcome to join in the evening and find out what political action looks like! Hope to see some of you there. THere’s alot of work to be done in 2018!
 
The event will be 8-11 pm. There will be a list for performers and speakers – first come first served. After 11, music and discussion till the joint closes at 1 am.
And don’t miss Val on Playtime with Sid and Bill, Featuring Kerri Kendall on Sunday Dec 17th between 1-3pm on AM1590 WCGO, on Facebook Live and at www.1590wcgo.com

Occupy My Heart, 6 years on. Where are they now?

This month is the 6th anniversary of my play, Occupy My Heart: A Revolutionary Carol. It was my very first foray into Theatre. I wrote the play in less than a week, and was joined by amazing talent.  The play went from first reading to first show in less than 3 weeks.We received national attention, standing room only audiences, critical reviews and changed the media narrative on Occupy Chicago for a time, and raised more than two thousand Dollars for the cause. But where are all of the cast members today, and what are they up to?

KEITH GLAB: lost himself to the international acclaim from the show. He became a Pez Addict, squandering his musical condom fortune. he lives in a cargo container in his north side condo conversing with some 3200 empty Pez dispensers.

ZACHARY JOHNSON-DUNLOP: went on to become Oprah Winfrey. Born a tall white man with fiery red hair, Zach says he has never been happier than as a proud black woman deeply, deeply in love with Stedmon. He was there when Barack Obama was sworn in, and now lives in LA with a family of undocumented Panda bears.

TERESA VEREMENDI: moved to Colorado to find God. She found God, then became God until last May when she was laid off due to budget cuts. She now is currently hunting the Great White shark on the snowy slopes of Mount Everest. Asked why on a mountain instead of the ocean, Teresa says, “Safety first!”

BABUR REALER: Played a protester in the play. Inventor and activist, Babur is close to perfecting a flute which when played a certain way causes the pants of police and politicians to fall down. No tear gas here. More like tears in my eyes, LOL! After a health scare, Babur will return to his native Turkey, climb Ararat and rehab Noah’s Ark into a luxury cruise liner. Can you say LOVE BOAT?!

DONIER TYLER: teaches the Ninja arts to her First grade class. her goal is to defend without guns their school from ne’re do wells, bursting from waste paper cans, popping from lockers or dropping from ceilings. Tyler confesses that it is a work in progress. Until someone opens a “Baby Ninja” store outfits only come in adult sizes, resulting in sheer stumbling chaos the moment Tyler commands her students to attack.

TIM CALDWELL: Initially moved to New Orleans and grew to a height of over 90 feet in an effort to battle the George Bush monster. Tim purchased the mineral rights while drinking one night to snowflakes. You can find him each stormy winter’s day in scuba gear and wool mittens trying to collect on his investment.

REBECCA KLING: is a very private person, except on Thursdays when she is dancing topless at the DMV. She spends most of her time following the Google Streetview vehicles with a sign that says “View this!” In 2017, Rebecca realized a life long goal of climbing the highest mountain in Indiana.

AGNES OTAP: With proceeds from the play, she bought Poland. In 2015, just days after the sale was final, we heard she had joined an elite unit for the fight against Terror. Turns out it was the fight against TERRIERS, part of a worldwide struggle against annoying little dogs. Agnes returned from the war on Terriers, and though she says the war will continue for some time, she says that she is …dog tired. Yeah, I went there!

HANNA FREIDMAN: My director. If you have ever heard the phrase “Like herding a bunch of cats, “well, Hannah in 2014 actually did just that. Using many of the same strategies employed with the cast of Occupy My Heart, Hannah organized 47 feral cats who now perform Shakespeare around the world, except in parts of rural Indonesia, where tragically several were lost to a wedding brunch.

Finally,

And I…I went on to become an itinerate vintage Elvis fan impersonator. Not Elvis Presley, Elvis Perkins, son of actor Anthony Perkins. It’s a virtual monopoly as I pioneer the act at Jiffy Lubes across the rural South. My motto, “Start small and be the biggest, fattest, hairiest fish in the little plastic kiddy pool in back of the trailer, out by truck tire sandbox where the dog was buried last year!” I am also pondering becoming a motivational speaker, as you can see.

 

The Prince of the Foster Ave Bridge…

Ana and I began distributing something to the homeless today because of the coming cold. Under the Foster Avenue Bridge I met Senad. His thin brown hair was He was sitting just inside a small donated tent. he hasn’t slept much lately. Someone is asleep beside him, hidden but for tennis shoes beneath layer old blankets and coats. It was rush hour. Traffic was backing up, and so was the exhaust. Senad’s health isn’t good. He’s lost many of his teeth, but when I said I knew Sarajevo like the back of my hand tears came to his eyes.
Senad said that he was once married and had a business. After his business collapsed his wife left him. Depressed, he started drinking. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, he was on the street.
“You know Sarajevo?” he asked, buoyed and uplifted.
“Like the back of my hand.”
“Burek,” he said, referring to a local meat pastry. “I miss burek.”
Senad tells me he fought during the war with a Bosnian special forces unit in Dobrinja 4, referring to a frontline apartment block that saw terrible fighting. He never thought about the war after getting sponsored to come here. Now, sitting in that tent under Foster Ave, he is haunted by terrible memories.
I tell him I was in Dobrinja during the war. I know how terrible it was there. he assures me that he will get back on his feet, and when he does he will take me to Bosnia as his guest and that I will want for nothing. His gaze at that moment is distsant. From this vantage point, at this moment, it is an impossible distance. Some part of him knows that.
i wish I could find him a way home. He says he has no one here. everyone he loves is in Bosnia. A bag of food and some clothes feels like such a paltry gesture. It feels like a drop in the ocean. I hand him a card. he speaks abstractly about a possible home assignment. I give him my card and tell him that when he gets a place I will help him with clothing, and do what I can to find him a job.
As I return to the car, I know full well there is a very good chance I will never see Senad again. The city swallows people up. The city has little mercy for its homeless. The city, and it’s princes, like Alderman Cappleman have used city resources to sweep people like Senad from the streets so as not to upset the new white wealth gentrifying the lakefront.
As I write this I am enjoying a meal of rice and chicken and salad. Senad may be lucky for a fruit cup…