Tag Archive | "Elvis"

Tell Me That It’s Human Nature

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Deeply embedded in our DNA are certain genetic traits that propel our species forward or at least, ensure its continuation.   Every human being possesses the drive, if not the actual ability, to earn, create, or steal his or her most basic survival needs.  On some level, we all share a sense of humor and a profound desire to be respected and loved.  But beyond that, we are uniquely different individuals, as evidenced in the way that we conduct our daily lives, confront challenges, and rise above our basic — and most base — instincts.


Environment, to a certain extent, determines our perspectives upon and responses to life.  But, environment is not the sole criteria.  Some people assume that karma makes us who we are, and determines what we accomplish, in this life.  Simply put, the concept of karma holds that every human being must set to right those wrongs committed in previous lifetimes.  Thereby, we learn the lessons that advance us spiritually, cease the tedious process of reincarnation, and get on to the next stage in our evolution.


But even karma doesn’t quite explain the quintessential differences between human beings.  If we come into our lifetimes without memories of our previous lives, how are to we know — other than through extremely focused meditation/reflection — which lessons we came back to learn?   And even if we did remember, would we all do the same thing under the same circumstances?


Suppose, for example, that humanity was an experiment in some cosmic lab.  If the being conducting the test were to place two individuals into the exact same environment, under the exact same conditions in order to observe the results of a specified stimuli, five’ll get you ten that, minus the introduction of some variable impacting one of the test subjects, the results would still be vastly different.


Why is this so?  Did our Maker imbue each of us with a very specific personality gene?  Or was it a rogue gene placed there just to amuse that Maker?


Whatever it is, I still can’t answer these questions, not even after twenty-plus years of interviewing and working with individuals from all walks of life.


I still wonder, for example, how Christa McAuliffe, the first female astronaut and a teacher by trade, found the courage to enter a space capsule for the first time, a capsule that would tragically explode above the earth before even achieving orbit, due to a faulty O-ring.   I wonder what caused the strange woman on the subway to loudly and hatefully spew her opinion that Christa deserved to die because she should have stayed home to take care of her family instead of venturing into outer space, and what made those of us who admired Christa unloose tears instead of hatred.


I wonder why one child, physically and verbally abused in early childhood, grew up to make gentle, beautiful music, while another treated the same way in his tender years grew up to make violent and misogynistic rap.


I wonder why Tom Cruise, a renowned actor blessed with success and money, never learned to stop making a complete idiot of himself while John Travolta, another renowned actor blessed with success and money, quietly flew his own plane over New Orleans to airdrop critical supplies, on his own dime, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — while our government sat on its ass and twiddled its thumbs.


I wonder what gave Michelangelo the precision of hand and eye, and the inner vision, to craft something as beautiful and glorious as The David from a lifeless piece of marble. And what causes Puritans the world over to replicate that statue with one major difference: a fig leaf disguising the part of David’s anatomy that shows him to be unquestionably male.


I wonder what caused the highly placed senior executive at a firm that shall remained nameless to flip out one day.  While the man was tossing extremely sensitive documents concerning work that his firm was doing for the government off the roof of the company’s building, and while said executive was giving away bundles of money to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the street, the “lowly” secretary was not only explaining things calmly to the FBI, she was holding the entire company together until its inevitable collapse.


I wonder how much blood money was enough to assuage the consciences of those in government who took bribes from BP and looked the other way while the fuel company raped our environment and our economy in the Gulf.  And I wonder how, in response to that tragedy, unpaid volunteers give tirelessly of their time and energy to clean up the beaches and the wildlife devastated by the worst oil spill the world has ever seen.


I wonder why one contestant on a reality TV show mouths off to a judge’s criticism, another one bawls, and yet a third laughs good-naturedly in the judge’s face.


I wonder why some teens bully and debase those who don’t march to their drummer.  I wonder why those on the receiving end take to heart the cruelty of those who contribute nothing of value to society, and why the victims suffer irreparable emotional harm and some even commit suicide, while their tormenters blithely go shopping at the mall, take in a movie, and spin the latest hip-hop records without a care in the world for the damage they have inflicted.


I wonder about the mother of one the scuz buckets that blinded and killed innocent animals several years ago, under cover of darkness, in the Popcorn Park Zoo, Forked River, New Jersey.  In court, during her son’s trial, the woman had shrugged and told the judge, “They were just animals.”  I wonder what she’d have said if her son had been murdered in jail — for he was incarcerated for his crimes — if his killers had shrugged and said, “Hey, he was just an animal.”


I wonder why Mario Batali’s recipe for struffola seems to work for him, even with what read to me like an overabundance of flour.  But when I tried Mario’s recipe, it yielded something that our military could easily use as weaponry on the front lines.


I wonder why some of my beloved relatives have passed on, while their earthly possessions remain intact.


I wonder why some of us who live healthy lifestyles are felled by cancer, while some of us who smoke like chimneys and eat like gluttons live well into our 80s and 90s.


I wonder if it was that last fried banana sandwich that truly did Elvis in and if it was more romantic/mysterious to hint that he died of an overdose.  I wonder if Aretha Franklin, one of my favorite singers, who must consume a bucket of fried chicken before every concert in order to calm her nerves, wonders the same thing that I do about Elvis.


Sometimes these things, and things like them, keep me up at night.  Sometimes I think that Sting was right when he penned the line, “History will teach us nothing.” Sometimes I think that yes, God must have implanted us all with that rogue gene, just to keep things interesting — if not supremely perplexing! 

Jailhouse Rock

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The title of this article is also that of a Gold hit record by Elvis Presley, and within its content may lie a message for all so-called law abiding citizens!


Most Hollywood films about life behind bars have been far removed from Elvis’ phantasmagorical version of round-the-clock music and wardens partying with the inmates.  Movies like The Fortune in Men’s Eyes as well as hit series such as Oz were scripted and shot to portray the seediness, isolation, and violence of incarceration.  Fellow inmates place worms (or worse) in the chow and rats in the cells of those they wish to brutalize.  Vicious guards, such the one depicted in The Long Green Mile really do exist, and prison administrators may be blind to their antics.   And, of course, that seemingly innocuous phrase, “Don’t drop the soap!” is anything but innocent when cried behind bars in a prison shower.


The general public has been conditioned to understand that jail is so much more, and so much less, than one long vacation with three squares a day and regular exercise.  Those of us who are lawful citizens never dream that we might one day wind up “a-breaking rocks in the hot sun” beside hardened criminals.   However, the inane mandates issued by our government may soon cause John and Jane Doe — a lot of John and Jane Does, in fact — to meet the hanging judge and be sent up the river to one of these institutions.


Under the Obama-care insurance directive, if you do not drink the Kool-Aid … oops, I mean, buy into the plan … you will be fined a considerable amount of money.  Under these dictates, what is an impoverished person to do?  If you cannot afford the insurance, you certainly cannot produce the fine.  Ergo, you’ll wind up at the mercy of a hanging judge!


If enough of us find ourselves in pinstriped pajamas or those lovely orange overalls favored by inmates involved in road work, trust me, we won’t be enjoying the perks that say, Martha Stewart was privy to during her State-paid “vacation.”


The good news for the nation, however, is that there will be a lot less of us out on the streets and a lot more of us workin’ on those chain gangs.   This outcome will solve America’s food stamps, PAAD, and homeless problem in a right jiffy.  It may throw a good number of illegal aliens behind bars, but heck, the illegal folks will think they’ve died and gone to heaven in an all expense paid “hotel” surrounded by barbed wire.


But what is to befall the Gramps and Grannies among us: the largest segment of our population now living on Social Security?  Will special considerations be given to senior citizens, a la the recently closed luxury hotel a.k.a. GITMO?  Or will your 89-year-old grandfather truly have to watch his step in the penal showers?  (Remember, we’re not talkin’ about handrails here.) Will your 76-year-old grandmother be allowed to hang onto her knitting needles and thus protect herself from a similar awful fate?


Will you find yourself baking triple layer chocolate cakes with files embedded therein, and if your elderly loved ones discover the files, will they know what to do with them?  Will they scratch their heads and mutter, “Gee, this looked so easy on The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy!”


God help them if they recall I Love Lucy — particularly the episode where Lucy, dressed as some loony-bin version of Superman, was forced to step out onto the ledge of her apartment building.   Maybe the seniors will take this notion into their noggins, join the pigeons out on the ledge, and attempt to break out of The Big House in this manner!   Are prison shrinks trained to deal with such situations?  How old are these so-called professionals anyway? Do most of them even remember the famous battle cry, “Babalooooooooo!”?  It should be a licensing requirement!


If seniors take over the prisons, dentures will replace the worms in the chow.  To take revenge upon their fellow inmates, Granny and Gramps will commit unspeakable acts, such as pilfer Depends™, futz with the volume on hearing-aides, and jury-rig canes (walking sticks, not the reeds that produce sugar … duh!).  To keep them in line, prison wardens will force the unruly old folks to watch the gyrations and hear the shrieking so-called performances of “artists” such as Adam Lambert and the Pussy Cat Dolls … ad nauseum.  Hmmmm … Gramps would probably dig those Dolls: a backfiring if ever we saw one.  Speaking of backfiring, suspect items would be removed from prison menus nationwide, and this would include any member of the bean family.  Nix-nix on the tacos while we’re at it.


A brisk “inside” black market trade will spring up, in which Viagra™ and Prilosec™ will replace cigarettes, booze, and other illicit recreational substances.   And imagine the pandemonium at the DMV when crocheted blankets and cookies baked from scratch replace the license plates normally stamped out by less, uh, long-lived inmates!


To waylay these nightmare scenarios, perhaps one of our statesmen in the hallowed halls of Congress will present a bill (without earmarks) for Les Miserables of America.  Perhaps, they can find a loophole out of Obama’s dictate so as to ensure “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as Granny and Gramps live out their golden years behind bars.  Come to think of it, I kind of like Elvis’ version of prison.  Imagine the chaos that would ensue if our jails were overrun by a plethora of seniors high on Vics Vap-o-Rub™.  Oh, what a sight and sound they’d offer, snatching up chairs and guitars and harmonicas, grabbing the wardens ’round their waists for an arresting version of  “Jailhouse Rock!”


We should invite the bloodthirsty, ratings-ravenous media in to film such riotous acts.  Special showings, replete with popcorn and bonbons, can then be viewed in The House, The Senate, and of course, The Oval Office.  (These, of course, will be free of charge to The Powers That Be; the general public will pay normal theater prices, of course, of course.) The seniors can bring their performances of “Jailhouse Rock” to rousing conclusions with a special, much-cherished, and decidedly unmistakable gesture.  This gesture is well recognized, and well utilized, among those of us in America who consider ourselves disenfranchised, and indeed, imprisoned, by the choices this Administration has made 

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