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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in BTRIPP's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
8:37 pm
place holder
new stuff, soon
Sunday, June 30th, 2019
11:51 pm
Around and around and around ...
Well, this time seems oddly special, because the dates lined up on the calendar the same way they did back in 1985. Not that there is anything particularly special about the 34th anniversary of my not drinking ... except, perhaps, that I'm still here and still not drinking.

Needless to say, the past year and a half have been the biggest nightmare I've lived through (including that near-fatal car crash back in '93), and the odds of me killing myself in the midst of this were quite good, and one might assume that I would slink "back into a bottle" to help blot out the hideousness of existence. But, no.

On Sunday night, June 30, 1985, I was out boozing it up as usual, while perhaps getting back in a bit early so I'd be rested for the appointment I had on Monday morning, with a psychiatrist which I was hoping would help me get over some emotional issues I was having at the time. I ended up sitting across the desk of a psychiatrist all right, but this particular one was operating as the intake person for the "Chemical Dependence" program down at Northwestern hospital. Ooops. Guess I'd been snookered.

I was very proud that my vitamin regimen was approved by the Dr., not wanting to add or subtract from what I'd been taking to keep myself held together ... this was also good as it sort of took the inpatient program off the table. However, it was stressed to me that no psychiatrist was likely to work with me when I was drinking as much as I was (which involved pretty much a baseline of a liter of gin per day). I was so pissed off with the world, and in such a negative space, that I was basically saying "fuck it", and took them up on the offer of starting the outpatient program as of that night.

The program was 3 hours a night, five nights a week, running (as I recall) 6-9pm M-F for four weeks. The first hour of each week was an NA meeting, and the last hour of the week was an AA meeting.

Being that I was a "dedicated drinker", who had never even considered stopping drinking until sitting at that desk Monday morning 7/1/85, it took me six weeks to get through the 4-week program ... not because I was drinking, but because I was still having issues with the concept.

Frankly, for me, stopping drinking was sort of like suicide ... it was dropping the only thing that made living manageable ... in essence, throwing down my shield and yelling to the universe "OK, motherfucker, do your worst!", which, needless to say, it did over the next 30-some years.

If there was one thing that I wish I'd got out of the Chemical Dependence program, it would have been coaching regarding AA. The only thing that got through to me in those six meetings was "GodGodGodGodGodGodGodGodGodGod", which wasn't a game that I was interested in playing. So, rather than being a good little recovering alcoholic, for my first thirty years of not drinking, I probably attended less than 10 AA meetings (including the 6 in the CD program). In fact, I ended up back at my local bars every night after the program (albeit not drinking), and continued to hang out at the bars for about nine months following (until I got sick of being the only sober person around). It's only since getting into AA in the past 3 years that I see how incredibly useful it could have been.

Once retreating from the bars, I pretty much isolated. Yes, I had 10 years of Cubs tickets (weekend then weekend/night packages ... I could suddenly afford to go when I wasn't buying a 16oz beer every inning), got married, etc. but I was exhibiting most of the signs of being a dry drunk. Now, I'd had this tag applied to me on occasion, but I'd always brushed it off as being some "cultist" (in AA) being resentful that somebody had managed to stay off the sauce long-term, without their "God crap".

What this expressed itself as most of the time was living in rage and/or self-loathing for 30 years. Everything that used to make me want to drink suddenly was re-cast as "the universe trying to make me fail" in my not drinking, so minor psychological/situational discomforts that would have previously been dealt with by applying gin now were met with seething anger.

Of course, in my mind, I didn't qualify for AA, since (of the "first step" elements) I was "obviously" not powerless over alcohol, as I was quite successfully avoiding drinking year after year after year, and my life, while not working out the way I had hoped/anticipated, was still "manageable".

Until it wasn't.

The nightmare that the past year or two have been had a long decline leading up to the carnage. On Sunday evening, July 17, 2016, I was sitting in the McDonalds at the corner of North & Wells, working through a coin-flip situation of throwing myself in front of the El at Sedgwick or going to some sort of meeting. I almost ended up going up to the Hare Krisna temple (which would have at least included some free food), but decided that it was going to take too long to get there in time, so decided to head down the block to the Mustard Seed AA club.

I knew of the Mustard Seed, as they used to have been down in my old neighborhood, and I had wandered in for a meeting on my 30th anniversary at the current location "for shits & giggles" ... so I was familiar with the location. I ended up meeting a guy there who was my age, and had a similar "chemical history". He encouraged me to go to another meeting the next day where he was "giving the lead" (speaker), and there I was prompted to try another one the next night. At that one I met a couple of guys I'd gone to high school with, one of whom pressed me to do a "90 in 90" - ninety meeting in ninety days. Being the OCD maniac that I am, that was the sort of challenge that hooked me, and for the next 619 days I went to 628 meetings - right up to missing a week's worth during the move.

The move led into lots of health issues, including the broken leg/ankle I had last October (leading me to only making 3 meetings in the 4.5 months following), which kept me out of "the rooms" on the daily basis that I'd been doing, but I'm back to showing up about 10-20 times a month.

Anyway, on Friday I got my 34 year coin at the big open group meeting. There it is. I've still not achieved the "sanity" of the second step, but the search for that was what got me into the rooms in the first place.

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Thursday, May 30th, 2019
11:31 am
Monday, May 27th, 2019
10:13 pm
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Thursday, May 16th, 2019
9:59 pm
Urgh ...
Well, 10 years ago yesterday, we shut the doors on Simuality/Liminati, and I have now officially been looking for full-time paying work for a full GD decade.

Sucks. To. Be. Me.

Yes, I've had "jobs" in this time ... but none of them generating a check. A couple of years with P2P Microversity, a while with HyperLocalLIVE/ClickVisionTV, the bizarre few weeks that HeadsUp Communications lasted, and the three years or so that I was actively with Nature's Little Recyclers ... all for "equity" that never arrived. These, interspersed with paying projects of varying duration and frequency that did provide a tantalizing dribble of income.

While due to dealing with all the health stuff I've pulled back from cranking out resumes of late, over the first seven years of that decade, I applied to well over 4,000 jobs. None of which producing a hire, and damn few even generating an interview (I think I estimated that I even heard back on only 1 in 200 resumes).

I feel defeated.

I feel massively rejected.

I feel incredibly bitter.

After all, had I managed to land almost any of the regular gigs I'd applied for in that time, we'd not lost our home. But there was the Universe saying "Brendan, nobody wants you", again and again and again.

So, whoopie! Another notable anniversary. A decade cast out from society to starve in the wastelands.

I wish I could say that I'd have my revenge, but even that is looking doubtful at this point.

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Sunday, May 12th, 2019
1:08 pm
LJ 20th anniversary

You can get your own card here!

Sunday, May 5th, 2019
6:59 pm
Nineteen years ...
Happy LJ to me, happy LJ to me, I've been posting here a long time, happy LJ to me.

Yep, 19 years of my blitherings around here.

What a long strange Tripp it's been.

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Saturday, May 4th, 2019
11:47 am
Friday, April 26th, 2019
2:25 pm
Warning ... warning ... warning ...
I have had the same black/grey theme to my journal since I started it back in 2000.

Unfortunately, LJ has depreciated the old "S1" system in which the various formatting elements of this existed, leading to some notable lacunae in how things showed up (for instance, the "lj-cut" element no longer shows the text that one wants it to, or even the old "Read more" default, just an inverted carat - which brought this to my attention).

When I queried the support folks they basically told me to get set up with something in "S2". OF COURSE, there isn't just a "new version of the old thing" (that would be too easy), so I'm having to undergo CHANGE, of which I am notably averse.

I was poking around in the sample pages and found a couple that I would not totally despise, and am getting ready to make the switch. I figured that since my LJ anniversary is only a week or so out (LJ itself just had its 20th, and I'm right behind it with my 19th - having been the 2,663rd user), I'd wait for that, giving a good run of nineteen years on the old style before capitulating to the new one.

So, given the possible situation that you're as "change averse" as I am, I figured I'd give a heads-up that this page will look different for the first time in nearly two decades in the all-too-near future.

Yes, it's safe to assume the subtext of "sucks to be me" here as well.

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Wednesday, April 24th, 2019
12:49 pm
So, this happened ...
My previous therapist had been encouraging me to dip a toe back into writing poetry. I explained how that had all gone sideways for me back before I stopped, but she thought it might let me get a handle on some of the stuff that's making me nuts now. While I hadn't acted on her advice, it was evidently kicking around in the back channels of my head, and for no particular reason last night I pulled the trigger on it.

It has been a LONG time since I've written poetry. As is evident from the course of my annual collections, my OCD-spurred 250/year pace ebbed away towards the end of the millenium, with the last of the "easily found" works being in 2001 (I really, really, hope that I didn't lose those later ones like I did all my early poems in the hideous extremes of last year's move). There was a time when I put what I was writing here (along with long-since-disappeard audio files), but the most recent one I could find (via the "poetry" tag - I'm very lax at tagging my posts) was from November 2006, but not posted until April 2007.

Anyway, I noted over on FB that I had, indeed, written a new poem, and there was a minor clamor (my audience is in the dozens, so there's never much of an uproar) to actually see this remarkable confluence of ASCII characters. And, here it is (behind a cut tag ... click on the little "v"):

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Monday, April 8th, 2019
1:29 pm
Wow ...
Wasn't expecting the bottom to drop out on my psychological state.

Not fun.

Also, just got started on a couple of new meds, one of which is messing with my blood sugar, and I'm waking up to numbers nearly 100 points over what they had been running. Have to figure out which one is doing that and get something else. Bleh.

Did I mention that I have really grown to regret that I'd didn't go through with killing myself 12/31/17?

Sucks to be me.

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Sunday, March 31st, 2019
7:03 pm
And ...
Still not writing.

Hell, still not even reading much (of books - I spend hours on the web digging through info).

I do have a stack of books from last year which are awaiting my reviewing.

I also have an over-stuffed shelf-full (40 or so) of new books I'd love to get to.

But, in a year of living up here (yes, this is the anniversary of the move - I still wish I'd killed myself before it came), I have yet to find spaces in which I can read or write. I do occasionally read on the bus or the El, but I've not been out as much since breaking my ankle last fall, but there don't seem to be any replacements for Mariano Park, Washington Square Park, Connors Park, Watertower Park, or Seneca Park from my old neighborhood up here.

As far as writing goes - it's been ages since I was able to do reviews at my desk. I wrote most of them at the Starbucks on Rush at Oak, arriving at 4pm, and writing until they kicked me out at 11pm. Up here stuff closes at 8 or 9. Or earlier. I have contemplated taking the #151 down toward North Ave., and walking the 3-4 blocks over to the 24/7 Starbucks at North and Wells ... but given the issues around walking I've had (and the winter), that hasn't held much appeal.

Speaking of my leg ... I see that my last post here was about being freed up to walk, and to be in real pants. Unfortunately, I'm back into the sweats again.

Since I've not been doing daily blow-by-blow kvetching in LJ (lucky you - all that stuff's over in FB), maybe I should do a bit of catch-up on what's been happening. I fell and broke my ankle and fibula on Friday, October 19th, having just come from a "CyberKnife" cancer treatment, and heading to a lunchtime AA meeting up on N. Michigan Ave. A very expensive ambulance trip took me to NWM's ER, which got me stabilized but wouldn't release me until we had a wheelchair at home, so I spent like 4 days in an "observation" wing of the hospital. I had to turn around and come back down the next day, to meet with the Orthopedic team, and schedule surgery. They did the screws-and-plates work (see pic, click for bigger) on October 29th, and did a preliminary cast. I was back in on November 7th for them to cut off the initial cast, check how things were healing (I had incisions on both sides of the ankle), and put on a more substantial cast ... which got replaced on December 19th with a splint and a "walking boot". Now, from the point I broke it on October 19th till when I got greenlighted to walk on February 13th, I was not supposed to put any weight on it. I went from the wheelchair plus walker to a "knee scooter", to the boot (which I was still using the scooter with), but it was a long time (nearly 4 months) till I could actually walk.

Then things complicated themselves.

Now, we'd been living with a minimum of furniture since the move (The Wife opted to throw out what we had rather than move it ... go figure), and a few days after new years, we had a couple of couches delivered for the living room. I'd had a pretty clear shot for scooting prior to this, but was challenged by the now-convoluted access paths. On January 4th, I was trying to get around one of these, and fell off the scooter, ripping open a vein on the shin of my left (other) leg. Between the gaping hole and my blood thinners, I bled out a good quart or more onto the living room floor before we got me up and into the wheelchair. Given the enthusiasm of the bleeding, we decided that going to the local (Weiss) ER was probably a good idea, so out into the cold (me in shorts/tshirt and no footwear) we headed. They got me patched up and sent me home, but less than a full week later (January 10th), I was back (via ambulance) in the ER. For some reason, while I was sitting at my desk, the wound managed to open up and bleed through the bandages, creating another quart-plus pool under my chair. I hadn't noticed this at all, but when The Wife brought in our diabetic cat to get his evening shot, she said "you're bleeding!", to which I responded "Huh?" and looked down at the now-coagulating pool of blood and the gory stalactites hanging down from the gauze on my leg. Again, I got patched up and sent home.

But wait, there's more! I had scheduled an appointment with the wound clinic down at Shirley Ryan, which just happened to be the next day ... they changed around how that leg was wrapped and set me up on a schedule of coming in every week or so to check on the gash. At some point I decided to ask about my other leg, where the outside incision hadn't healed up yet, and so we were dealing with both of those until the left one healed up. On February 6th, I started on a 2-3 times a week course of physical therapy to get the ankle back working, which continued through mid-March. Everything was moving right along, right ... but the wound folks decided that I needed to address the swelling in my right (broken) leg. Back in 2015, I'd had laser stripping of the veins in the legs, which helped a lot, but both the Ortho and the wound team felt that the lymphedema was slowing the ability of the surgery site to heal, so I got referred to the specialist in that over at Shirley Ryan.

This is what has me back in sweatpants. The gal dealing with this suggests that all the surgeries I've had from the 1993 car crash, etc., have messed with my lymphatic system (which - I've been reading up on this - is very weird, for the most part it's just liquid under the skin that carries white blood cells around the body and eliminates waste). She said that any surgical intrusions can block the flow, and that's likely what I'm dealing with. The problem is, there is very little they can do about these things. It's primarily a matter of binding up the affected area, and on my most recent visit, that's what she did - like a sofa ... I have cotton batting and foam pads over compression hose, with my toes wrapped like an Egyptian mummy's, and three zones of stretch bandages holding everything relatively snugly, from my toes up to my groin. Not something I can get my jeans on over (dammit).

Back when I had the laser work done, the surgeon had written a prescription for a fancy-schmancy machine that did progressive leg massages to move the lymph back up towards the heart (or wherever it ends up in that area - I'm currently doing self-massages starting at my neck for the leg, so it's all very odd), but our insurance back then was disinclined to cover it. The Wife is very gung-ho for me getting a machine (so she doesn't have to mess with wrapping my leg), and had me bring in print-outs of units I was looking at on Amazon (there are many options). The lyphedema gal said we'd consider that, but they had a recommended system, and thought (she's checking) that our current health insurance would cover it ... but it sounds like this isn't a "primary therapy" option like the hip-to-heel upholstery that I'm currently sporting (and, aside for not having pockets for keys/wallet/phone, I'm also having to deal with going back to "sink bathing" rather than the relative luxury of the shower).

Anyway, that's about it on the leg. Happy (hah!) first anniversary of the worst day of my life (so far).

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Thursday, February 14th, 2019
12:03 pm
Sometimes it's the little things ...
Well, yesterday I got "permission" from the Orthopedic group over at Northwestern to "start transitioning" from the boot I've been wearing since they got me out of the cast and into a regular shoe.

Last night I went out IN ACTUAL PANTS. Since October 19, when I fell and broke my ankle and fibula, I have been living in sweats, shorts, or just undies ... and I've never been a sweatpants fan. So, it was quite a thrill to get back into my jeans (folded up since arriving in the ER), and put back on the right shoe that had likewise been sitting around for nearly four months.

I had been doing a good job of weight loss prior to busting my ankle, but I'd spent a good half of that time pretty much stuck in bed, so, while my jeans fit OK, the belt (bought following the aforementioned weight loss) was a bit of a challenge. Going to have to work on getting out and getting some exercise in, again.

I think the nicest part of this (I didn't do much, went across the street to catch the #151 bus, took it down to the new Dollar Tree, wandered around the store ... 2-3 blocks worth? ... then walked up the block to the bus stop to head back home) was having pockets for my wallet and keys. I have a belt pouch that I usually have my phone in, and for the past few months, that has been the home for these, on a lanyard, with my phone relegated to a shirt pocket. Having everything back to where I habitually reach for them was a treat ... sort of feeling like everything (well, a very limited "everything") was again right with the world.

Small victories ...

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Thursday, January 31st, 2019
11:59 pm
Record breaking cold ... yadda, yadda, yadda ...
So it appears that my wanting-to-post drive (such as it is) isn't up to the task of over-riding my angst/ennui which leads to non-posting.

However, there was this very cool video, shot from a balcony on a building just a few blocks up from us, showing the amazing stuff the lake was doing when the air temperature was 50 degrees or so colder than the water temperature (from WGN's Tom Skilling's post on FB).

I actually went out on the first day of the sub-zero cold, having a Dr.'s appointment, and various other errands that I tacked onto that, but it was only heading for sub-zero when I was outside, although the last block (coming back in from the fifth bus ride) was pretty brutal, as it was maybe -1°, but with a raging wind coming up Sheridan Rd. ... froze my face up real good.

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Monday, December 31st, 2018
11:30 pm
And, so ...
2018 was a horrible year.

So many of my fears were realized, and in ways that were far worse than I imagined.

As those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed, after numerous years of writing dozens of book reviews, I managed just one this year, back at the end of January. This arose from a number of factors, all conspiring to silence me. Of course, I did make a valiant effort to at least blog something during July and August, doing daily posts over those months, and four days into September, but that also suddenly stopped, with just a couple of echoes happening in the week following, up until now.

Again, those “following along at home” for a while will realize, the core issue was that we finally “lost our home” (or, “had to sell”, which I guess is a different thing, but less emotionally accurate), after my having dreaded that coming to be for nearly a decade.

The dynamics of this were truly horrible. I have always been a “keeper” of things, needing the physical reminders to keep the past alive. I also (as one might imagine) had built up quite a library over the years, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500-3,000 books. My wife was quite adamant that these were not going to be moving with us when we relocated, so I spent a great deal of the first few months of the year getting my library boxed and transferred to a storage locker, along with my photography (about 24 linear feet of binders), and music (both records and CDs).

I was still working on sorting and boxing things the day the “junk” people came to haul out everything that I hadn't been able to get to storage. This (the last weekend of March) was when it really got ugly. I had been putting things that “really meant something to me” (out of the thousands of items that had enough significance to me that I had kept them for years) into a couple of boxes, and had done a box of books I'd read but not reviewed yet (more on these below), books from my to-be-read stacks that I wanted to get to next, and some key bits of “must save” items such as my only copies of my first six poetry collections (and their Library of Congress forms), plus a couple of racks of my favorite CDs.

None of those made it here.

There I was, standing in the destruction of my office, trying to grab the last few shards of my past, and seeing everything I cared about unceremoniously dumped into big trash bins. There were two closets full of stuff that I'd not even gotten to yet, and much of my old writing was hiding in there. Now it's all gone.

I knew the process was going to be bad, but I had no idea just how bad it was going to be. Frankly, I had a plan sketched out for suicide last new years eve, as I really didn't want to be around for what was coming. However, I was “too busy to kill myself” then, but the concept was high on my list, and I made the mistake of discussing it in the wrong room, which got me a trip to the ER for a psych evaluation. They didn't “keep me”, but I lost four weeks or more in assorted intense therapy situations, which would have been much better spent getting they key parts of my past to safety.

On April Fools Day, we officially were out of our home (in a building I'd lived in for 37 years), and into our new place, nearly seven miles north of my neighborhood of four decades.

Needless to say,I'm still in shock. I've lost almost everything that anchored me to my personal history. In addition, it appears that both my reading and writing were in large part connected to the parks and coffee shops where I felt comfortable. There have been no replacements found up here. I have tried to develop a sense that I'd been through some natural disaster, a lava flow, a hurricane, a meteor strike, or what have you, that destroyed my home and forced me to evacuate to some totally unfamiliar location with whatever I was able to drag with me. While this puts the level of loss in some sort of conceptual frame, it doesn't really help with the emotional impact – especially given that the key piece in the “disaster” I suffered was my inability to find paying work over the past nine (soon to be 10) years. The level of rage I have percolating under the surface around this taints everything I experience.

Things has not been helped by my having a real bad year on the physical level (man, that new years' eve plan looks like a real missed opportunity), with much of the summer/fall being taken up with surgeries, radiation therapies, and, for the past couple of months, dealing with a broken ankle/fibula that I still am not supposed to put any weight onto.

Anyway, as to that box of books … I spent a lot of time over the past 8+ months churning over how to deal with not having those available to write the reviews. Of course, every time I started thinking about “getting to it”, the emotional weight of the over-all loss would come in and make me psychologically “run away” into almost anything else. However, since I've not gotten the 2017 collection of reviews done, I figured I'd combine it with 2018, and hence I'm writing this post.

The books that disappeared were:

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Drop the Rock by Bill P., Todd W., & Sara S.

Idiots in Paris by John G. Bennett

Obama Zombies by Jason Mattera

The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects by Alexandra David-Neel & Lama Yongden

The Enlightened Gene by Arri Eisen & Yungdrung Konchok

Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks

My Father at 100: A Memoir by Ron Reagan

Soundscapes by Paul Robertson

Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner

One Question by Ken Coleman

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

Masters of Wisdom by Edward Abdill

That list would have been a bit longer, but I still had two books in my bag that I would take out to go write at the Starbucks at Rush & Oak (where I did most of my reviews), so those are in my now somewhat refreshed to-be-reviewed pile.

What I am going to attempt to do in this (sure to be overly-long) post is to do at least minimal reviews of all of these, on recall alone. As you can imagine, this is going to be a difficult thing, and will be necessarily missing the block quotes that I like to build my reviews around. Honestly, as I put in that list, there were several books which I have only scant recall of, which means that I'm going to either have to “tap dance” extensively, or rely on others' reviews to spark my memory.

One thing that losing that box made clear to me is that I really ought to write down the info on books as they show up in my to-be-read piles, as I know there were several titles that I was quite eager to get into (heck, some I paid retail for!) but are now only hazy memories. Unfortunately, some were books on which I “owed” a review, which is a problem.

The worst par of losing that box was those early poetry collections of mine. Last year I'd put out new editions of my second six chapbooks, and was fully planning on doing the earlier ones once I'd fished them out of whatever nook or cranny of my office they'd gotten to (I knew I had a shoulder bag with copies in one of the closets – that I didn't have time to get into). Losing them has been one of the deepest cuts to my psyche.

OK, not wanting this to be 100% woe-is-me … let's get to the reviewing:

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
(finished 10/30/17)
I'd been aware of this title for quite a while, but ran across something somewhere that was highly recommending it, so picked up a copy. Now, as regular readers of my reviews know, I have very little patience with “parables”, but being one of those sorts of things (it deals with mice in a maze) it's a reasonably painless read, with some fairly worthwhile bits and pieces. Of course, no longer having the book (and my bookmarks pointing out the good parts), I can't reference these, but it struck me as a worthwhile title.

Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects - Steps Six and Seven by Bill P., Todd W., Sara S.
(finished 10/31/17)
This is a book in the wider A.A. Canon (hence the use of last name initials for the authors), and deals with two of the 12 Steps that only get passing mention in “the big book”, Six (“were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”) and Seven (“humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”) … which follow the Step 4 “moral inventory” and Step 5 sharing of same. The title refers to releasing elements in one's psyche that are related to long-maintained “defects”, and it's a helpful expansion of these parts of recovery work.

Idiots in Paris: Diaries of J.G. Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett, 1949 by John G. Bennett
(finished 11/11/17)
If I still had this one, with my notes, this would be a very long review. I had wanted to get a copy of Idiots in Paris for a long time, and only recently (well, in relation to when I read it) scored a used copy. I've read/reviewed a lot of the Gurdjieff material, which has included a number of memoirs of his followers … this is certainly in that niche, but far more intensely so. John G. Bennett was one his main students (and became a famed teacher in his own right), along with his wife Elizabeth Bennett whose notes comprise more than half of this. One of the main differences of this compared to the other memoirs is that it covers a very brief period – the last few months of Gurdjieff's life – and deals with the Bennetts being called to be with G. in Paris at that time. I had a lot of little bookmarks in this, with “juicy” bits highlighted to share with you, as the narrative here is so direct and raw that it throws a whole new light on Gurdjieff's teachings, with many rather remarkable revelations (and re-contextifying framing) on what had been somewhat murky points. It is also a fascinating look at the thoughts of the Bennetts as they dealt with the demands leading up to Gurdjieff's passing.

Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera
(finished 11/17/17)
I hated the previous administration, and so any book casting them in a bad light is likely to be of interest to me. I'm not sue how this one got into my hands (dollar store?), but I looked forward to getting into it. Unfortunately, it primarily served to get me pissed off, with the slimy tentacles of that vile crew getting into every interest area of the younger generation and driving their falsehoods into “common knowledge” territory. I had a lot of notes in this one as well, but it would have just ended up as a rant more than a review.

The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects by Alexandra David-Neel & Lama Yongden
(finished 11/30/17)
Over the past few decades I've read a lot of Buddhist material, and especially Tibetan material, so the broad strokes of this book were not unfamiliar. The author was a mystic seeker and adventurer who sought out “hidden knowledge”, and ended up reporting fairly straight forwardly on what she encountered. The title here is not really representative of what's in the book, which is more of an “explanation of Mahayana Buddhism” (to use Alan Watt's description) than “secrets”, oral or otherwise.

The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence that Explains the World by Arri Eisen & Yungdrung Konchok
(finished 12/15/17)
This was a LibraryThing.com “Early Reviewer” program book, so I really regret losing it and my notes on it. This grew out of the Emory Tibet Science Initiative, with half of it being the science side trying to engage the Tibetan traditions, and half of it being a Tibetan monk learning the Western scientific model. It was a fascinating read, and I was sharing bits from it with friends while I was working my way through it, so I know I had a lot of bookmarks in there highlighting “the good stuff”, which I wish I could be bringing to you at this point.

Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther and Jerry Hicks
(finished 12/31/17)
A friend of mine is deeply into the whole “Law of Attraction” thing, and highly recommended this title to me. While my cynical mind has a hard time with the genre in general, I found that reading this was not the battle that it often is with this sort of book. Frankly, I found a lot of concepts/tools in this appearing quite useful, and am quite miffed not to have it and my notes on it anymore. Because of the nature of this (sort of a self-development workbook), it has a reasonably good chance of being something that I might buy a replacement copy of – which is high praise indeed, coming from me.

My Father at 100: A Memoir by Ron Reagan
(finished 01/12/18)
I was a bit hesitant to get into this, as I'd heard that, unlike other reviews, Ron Jr. had been “not too kind” in addressing his father's legacy. I was pleased to find that, while not wholly glowing about the elder Reagan, the book was in no means an attack piece. In fact, the first part of the book was more of a genealogical survey of how the family found its way from Ireland, and got established in the U.S., before tracing his dad's growing up in various contexts, from sports to early jobs (including pics of R.R. as a teenage lifeguard), to discovering acting. What stood out most to me were tales of his early years, with the younger Reagan doing road trips to experience the places where his father was from.

Soundscapes: A Musician's Journey Through Life and Death by Paul Robertson
(finished 01/22/18)
Another LTER selection, I have to admit that this was one that I was a bit hazy on the recall of. It's not that the book didn't get to me (I actually ordered a CD of a piece mentioned in it), music is something that I have never quite figured out on a conceptual basis, and the author here was a musical prodigy, who basically lived it. The basis of this is his surviving a died-on-the-operating-table experience, including recall of hallucinations he had while in a long-term coma. It has reminiscences of his childhood, his musical training, his career (he was a violinist), and various other flotsam of his life, including other dream/hallucination stories. It's an interesting read, but one of those books that's not satisfactorily in a particular niche (I take it that it was a bit too weird for those looking for a “musician's memoir” title).

Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner
(finished 01/27/18)
This LTER acquisition didn't make much of a lasting impression on me. That's not to say that my now-missing copy didn't have a bunch of little bookmarks pointing me to useful stuff, just that it didn't stick in my head. Obviously, with 52 chapters there must have been the thought that one would work on a chapter a week … not a bad idea ... and some of these deal with major writing issues (snagging from the Amazon “look inside” view of the TOC): “Embrace Constraints”, “Treating Imposter Syndrome”, “Sleep, Sleeplessness, and Creativity”, and “Trusting in The Absurd”. The author is the Executive Director of NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month – and much (as it's coming back to me now) of this is tilted towards fiction writing.

One Question: Life-Changing Answers from Today's Leading Voices by Ken Coleman
(finished 02/09/18)
I seem to recall that I didn't care too much for this dollar store find. The author is a radio interviewer, host of his self-named program, and evidently gets to chat with a lot of interesting and semi-interesting folks. This book covers three dozen of primarily the latter, nearly all noted to be a “New York Times Bestselling Author”, of which I recognized about a third. In the Introduction he notes that “Occasionally, someone asks the right person the right question at the right time in the right way and magic happens ...”, which seems to be the thesis of the book. I guess the “magic” exhibited is a question of personal taste.

The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha
(finished 02/16/18)
OK, I have no memory of reading this book. I just bought it off of Amazon last fall, and evidently read it in the chaos of the early months of this year, but the more I dug into other reviews of it, the less I could place it. How odd. The author has recently been in the news for having funded some really sleazy election shenanigans. Currently, that's the most focused thing I can say about it. Some of the other reviews mention it was about running your career like a start-up, but I guess one might have been able to get that from the title.

Masters of Wisdom: The Mahatmas, Their Letters, and the Path by Edward Abdill
(finished 02/25/18)
An interesting delve into the Theosophical materials … which is likely best taken with the proverbial grain of salt. The “Mahatmas” of the sub-title are the beings who produced missives to Madame Blavatsky in variously colored crayon, as well as notes to other Theosophical Society folks. The first half of the book deals with these entities, and their communications, while the second half is a very lucid outlining of “The Path” as envisioned by the T.S. … which is certainly worth the cost of the book. This is another of the lost titles that I really wish I had back, as I'm pretty sure the stuff that I marked in it was not only info that would make for an interesting review, but material that I'd like to have floating around in my wet storage.

And, so, those are the books that I'd read before the move, put in a box (with other “best of the to-be-read piles” books, and some essential files, that ended up getting into the hands of the junk haulers rather than into mine.

Sorry that I've sort of fallen off the map this year, but things have been so terrible, that I often find myself regretting not throwing myself out the windows of our 46th floor apartment, or going through with my more complicated plans for offing myself a year ago tonight.

I won't promise anything for the new year. I still have no comfortable place to read, no functional place to write (my reviews). I'd love to get back to doing a daily post like I managed for two months earlier this year, but that met a sudden end when the pointlessness overwhelmed me, and the level of baseline depression I live with, the emptiness, feeling adrift, hopeless, makes any plan iffy. We'll see what comes.

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Tuesday, September 11th, 2018
12:06 pm
Here again ...
Remember.pngIt may have been LiveJournal's finest hour(s).

Early in LJ's existence it had some remarkable moments, the 9/11 attack in 2001 being most notable. Firstly, LJ was only two years old at the time ... with only (I'm guessing) tens of thousands of members. But those members coordinated as an information grid to help find folks and get their message out (as the phone service in NYC was spotty at best in the aftermath).

Now, I first heard of the Twin Towers attack early that morning ... I had gotten my coffee and turned on the TV. One of the morning shows was premiering a new rooftop deck set, and they were featuring a story of a plane hitting the WTC. I probably got no more work done (that was when I was still actively running Eschaton Books) for a week.

It was soon after that I switched over to the computer, and jumped in here. It was an amazing time. Oh, and speaking of amazing ... does anybody else recall The Lone Gunmen spin-off series from The X-Files, that ran one season? I was thinking about its pilot episode this morning, and how bizarre that "coincidence" is.

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Sunday, September 9th, 2018
11:13 pm
Too cruel ...
Well, that was ultimately quite unpleasant.

After all these months of watching The Bears move into a new phase (firing Fox, hiring Nagy, etc.), with draft picks, trades, and most amazingly the trade a week or so back for Mack, I was kinda sorta hoping they woudn't suck.

After all, Trubisky looked in his rookie season like he might actually be the "franchise quarterback" The Bears traded up in the draft to get ... and Nagy's new offense seemed like it had promise in preseason.

So, for the first half of tonight's game, it was WTF?! WTF?! WTF?!, etc. The Bears weren't supposed to be as good as they looked in the first couple of quarters. And, hey ... it looked like they managed to break the Packer's QB!

But no. Nooooooooo.

Not only did Rodgers manage to limp his way back on the field, he then proceeds to, on one leg, tear up The Bears' defense, eventually erasing the 20pt lead we'd been (excessively) enjoying.

Take one overthrown ball in the corner of the end zone (resulting in having to settle for a field goal), a gimme interception dropped by one of our defenders, and a coverage scheme that appeared to have nobody at home at all over most of the field, and when the dust settled, The Bears had lost, by one measly point ... 23 - 24.

None of the prognosticators had given The Bears any chance of beating the cheeseheads, so starting out 0-1 is no big surprise ... but the first half of that game teased us with a vision of what things might be like ... only to have the ever-cruel universe right itself with a punch to the collective Chicago gut.

In the old days I'd be lying on the floor in my living room playing dirges on my bass ... no longer have the apartment, no longer have the bass, but still have the emotional vulnerability to be deeply wounded by a loss like this.

Yeah, sucks to be me.

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Tuesday, September 4th, 2018
11:56 pm
OK, that was different ...
Sort of back to some semblance of my "normal" today ... but still feeling "a bit off my feed", so really hadn't eaten all day.

I didn't make it out to the Tuesday afternoon meeting that I sometimes go to up by Loyola (... met her in a club down in North Soho ... oh, wait, that's different), which often includes a run to the Taco Bell that's up there, but one of those five buck boxes was definitely still on my mind. I opted to shoot for the 8:30 down at NTAC with the "grab bag" format that's an interesting variation (rather than the 7:30 at a walking-distance church that I've been to the past couple of weeks). Much contrary to my usual "out at the last minute", I was ready to go two hours before I needed to be down to Belmont, so I had food options. I had contemplated going to Subway and trying to get some reading done around scarfing down a sandwich, either up here or down by NTAC, but that had all sorts of baggage with it (I hate getting pan-handled while trying to eat in a place), and I wasn't much in the mood for that kind of crap. So, I figured I'd take the #147 up to Loyola and get Taco Bell, then hop the El there and get back down to Belmont with plenty of spare time.

However, the transit gods interfered.

A month or so back, we all went out to see Ant-Man at a theater up on Sheridan, where the #147 should go, but we found ourselves on one that terminated at Devon & Sheridan, instead of heading north from there. The movie night was a pain, as I had to drag my gimpy knee a half mile or so from where the bus let us off, and one would think that I'd learn to check the destination display on the bus (like the #151 that in the evenings has some buses that only go to Foster), but nooooo.

I had been kicking around for a month or so a hankering to go back to this amazing Pakistani place, Ghareeb Nawaz, which is up on Devon, a block past Damen. If they weren't "cash only", I'd probably have made it one of my regular places, but tonight I knew I had a ten on me, so this was a possibility. So, there I was, having been dumped out at the bus stop for the #155 Devon bus, with plenty of time, and a rare supply of sufficient cash. Hey, I can take a hint.

I'd forgotten how huge the servings are up there. Pictured are my $5.49 order of Green Chili Chicken Biryani, plus my 75¢ side of Tandoori Nan. Yum! If I hadn't splurged on the Mango Lassi (at a whopping $1.59), this meal, that I could only make it about half-way through, would have come in at under seven bucks! Such a deal!

Anyway, I dragged my extensive leftovers out with me, caught the #155, took it on back to the Red Line stop, and got down to NTAC with about 20 minutes to spare. One advantage also of going to the earlier meeting is that I get in at a kinder hour than some of the late-nite ones.

Now I just need to triangulate having cash on me more often ... would like to make Ghareeb Nawaz a more frequent dining spot!

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Monday, September 3rd, 2018
11:06 pm
Well, that's an interesting way to spend a holiday ...
Just shoot me.

It appears that the fancy-schmancy deli potato salad The Wife picked up at Marianos was "off", as after I had some last evening, I was dealing with pronounced gastric distress. I really wish it had progressed to puking or pooping, but nooooo, it just sat around and made me miserable. And, sitting around and being miserable was pretty much the theme of the day, except that I was asleep for the vast majority of Labor Day.

I don't typically sleep more than 5 hours or so, so it's notable if I'm sacked out for long periods. I tried to get up and functioning about 8am, but ended up dry heaving, so opted to crawl back into bed. Every time I woke up, going back to bed seemed the best option, so I pretty much stayed under for most of the day, eventually feeling good enough to try to do minor stuff on the computer around 8pm. Needless to say, I did not get out for a meeting today, adding to the whole self-loathing load, since what kind of a pointless sack of shit doesn't force himself to press on with scheduled intents despite feeling ill ... what are these feelings doing running my maggot-like existence?!

I guess, however, I did not miss much. I was sufficiently cognizant of the outside world that I registered the fact that we were getting pounded with thunderstorms, and I had at least a glimmer of "gee, it must suck for those planning outside activities" run through my mind. Not that I had anything planned (other than going to a specific meeting).

Still, it was very strange getting that much sleep. I'm in much less discomfort now, but don't have much of a "second wind", so will probably just head back to bed. Mighty exciting post, eh?

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Sunday, September 2nd, 2018
11:50 pm
Nothing much to note ...
Well, was at least able to get myself out of the house for a bit today ... went for lunch up at China Palace (yum!), then ran down to the dollar store, then back home for a bit before making the easy shot back and forth on the #151 down to the Rec Room for a meeting. Pretty much lump-ish otherwise ... sort of like Lady Miss Kier locating the groove, but in my case it's more like "the lump is in the heeeeaaad".

Wish I could locate a groove.

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