Reality check

“Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.”

That’s a mantra that the power-of-positive-thinking folks pushed on us, and I really bought into it. The idea is that if your brain believes something, your body makes it real.

It works just fine when you’re 15, and even when you’re 25 and probably 35. Because every day in every way, you really CAN get better and better. But then one day you wake up and you’re staring your 60th birthday in the face and every day in every way you are getting worse and worse. And that whole positive-thinking thing starts to look like a crock.

Merry Christmas!

Dylan Thomas, whoever he was

A friend of mine has been dying for five years … well, yes, we’re all dying of course … but he has some mechanical thingy that keeps his heart ticking, so while his body and brain fall apart piece by piece, his heart will just beat on and on forever. Please don’t put one of those in me. I think about these things too much because I’ll turn 60 in, oh, approximately something like 47 days.

So, yes, I think about the finish line. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are higher than my doc would like, my prostate gland feels like it’s larger than a walnut (so I’m told), and I knew this rainstorm was coming because my lower back started to ache. And I have a pain in the neck (literally).

But after years of agreeing with Dylan Thomas when he wrote, “Do not go gently into that good night,” I’ve now decided that he was full of booze-soaked crap. Let other people hook up electronics to their organs and pump themselves full of meds as they “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

As for me, I can’t think of a sweeter final scene than to go gently into that good night.

Murderers, Traitors and Underachievers

Turns out, I’m related to Lizzie Borden and Benedict Arnold. A hatchet murderer and a traitor. Allegedly. But I’m also related to Susan B. Anthony (of silver dollar fame) and James Sanborn, who co-founded Chase & Sanborn Coffee (but sold his share before it got really big). And I’m related to several other famous and infamous people whose names I have forgotten because none of it matters. Does it really matter to you what heroes and villains reside in your family tree?

I think I’d rather not know. It’s like your IQ number. I never wanted to know mine because if it’s high, I’d feel like an underachiever, and if it’s low, I’d feel ashamed.

I’m not proud of Susan B. Anthony, and I’m not embarrassed by Lizzie Borden. I didn’t advise  either one of them. One of my forebears sailed to America on the Mayflower, and another was King of England (I’m not sure which one, but I think it was King Arthur, who I’m pretty sure was a fictional character).

Thanks to their mother, our two children are direct descendants of Arthur Flegenheimer, aka Dutch Schultz, the notorious mobster of the 1920s and 30s. This, I have to admit, interests me. After Schultz was gunned down in a New Jersey restaurant in 1935, it was said he left $7 million in cash, buried or hidden somewhere. Seems to me, our children ought to have a rightful claim to part of that … if it ever turns up.

Oh, and I finally found out what my IQ is. I agreed to have it tested for someone else’s master’s degree project in psychology. Turns out, I’m an underachiever after all.


Two Lost Souls Pass in the Night

Yes, that picture atop “The Media Room” website is indeed our own media room. A custom man-cave with eight La-Z-Boy recliners on two tiers, large plasma HD mounted on the wall, 5.1 Surround Sound, Blu-Ray player and a collection of over 550 movies. Oh, and a popcorn machine.

Last night, I felt embarrassed or sad or conflicted about all my comforts and good fortune. I was walking out of a McDonald’s when I locked eyes with a young woman sitting in the dark on the restaurant’s patio (if McDonald’s can be called a restaurant). She looked about 30, clean, well-groomed. She smiled at me and said, “Are you going to ask me to leave?”

No, I was just going to my car.

“Because I was just about to leave. Don’t worry.” Her voice was husky and rough, like a longtime smoker.

“It’s OK.” As I walked away, she continued talking about god knows what, and I instantly realized she was homeless and not completely right in the head. And it made me uncontrollably sad.

This wasn’t a grubby bearded alcoholic old man wearing four sets of tattered clothes pushing a shopping cart. This was a nice-looking young woman who had no place to live, no one to turn to, perhaps a mental issue, and all she wanted to do was sit outside a McDonald’s in the questionable safety of a dim light. And if someone said she had to leave, she would.

And I was driving home to a media room with eight La-Z-Boy recliners and a popcorn machine. What do we do? Bring them all into the warmth of our homes? Hand them a few bucks? What?

I did nothing. I thought about it all the way home and felt sad and almost wept. And I did nothing. Damn me all to hell.


It’s Happiness Happens Month!

I’m David Cunningham with your KPTZ news update, and here’s what’s happening. It’s Wednesday, August First, and that means today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, National Catfish Month, Get Ready for Kindergarten Month and Happiness Happens Month. Seriously. We are not making any of this up.

And do not make fun of Happiness Happens Month. Last week, we here at KPTZ took a light approach to our report on a Port Townsend event in connection with World Breastfeeding Month, which unleashed a flood of angry callers, and both were unhappy with our cavalier attitude.

So it is with the utmost seriousness that we report that in 1998, the Secret Society of Happy People declared August 8th as Happiness Happens Day. In August 2000, the society expanded its celebration to be a month-long event, and we quote from the society’s website, “so that you can celebrate whatever day is convenient.”

August also is Cataract Awareness Month, Peach Month, Motorsports Awareness Month, and What Will Be Your Legacy Month. Seriously.

We report all this in tribute to KPTZ co-founder Ann Katezenbach, who regularly began or ended her newscasts with tidbits like the fact that Monday was National Cheesecake Day. Ann soon will be leaving Port Townsend to spend her golden years under the golden sun-shiny skies of Arizona, and we will miss her. Seriously.


I Get the News I Need on the Weather Report

I record my Friday KPTZ radio newscast on Thursday night so I can sleep in the next morning. What could possibly happen overnight in the sleepy town of Port Townsend to make my news appear pre-recorded?

Here’s what I recorded Thursday night: “It’s another beautiful day in paradise … AccuWeather is predicting sunshine and a high of 74 degrees today.”

Here’s what my radio listeners on Friday morning were experiencing at that very moment: Jagged bolts and flashes of lightning. Grumble rumble thunder blasts and rain … all … day … long. I know! Steve Martin as the weatherman in “L.A. Story,” right? Only this was real life.

Even our cats were scared. I’d never experienced a 16-hour thunderstorm barrage before, but that’s what happened.

I lived a couple years in the Lightning Capital of the World, otherwise known as Tampa Bay, but the wimpy Florida storms blow through in an hour or two (OK, they’re NOT wimpy. One bolt struck a tree less than 20 feet from where I sat. Talk about LOUD). But Friday’s was the Mother of All Lightning Storms.

I found myself counting seconds between flash and blast, then wondered if the story I heard as a kid was true — one second equals one mile away. Turns out to be better than that. According to the Web, FIVE seconds equals one mile. So when I count “a thousand one, a thousand two” … GA-BALOOM! … the lightning is not two miles away. It’s really just a couple thousand feet away.

But perhaps we shouldn’t trust what we read on the Web. That’s where I got my AccuWeather forecast.


Oooh, You’re a Holiday

“I’m the only one in the world who feels this way.”

I guess we all turn that thought over in our heads at some point. And maybe we’re right. For example, I know I’m the only one in the world who doesn’t care for holidays.

I don’t hate them. It’s not like that old psychobabble I’m-depressed-because-it’s-Christmas-and-my-family-is-so-screwed-up kind of thing. Not at all. I just don’t think any day is more special than the one before or after. Every day is a holiday? Yeah, maybe, however sickly sweet that may sound.

Birthdays stopped being special around age 12. Christmas lost its zip sometime earlier. But I think the wholesale change came when I started reading everything Tao. Live in the Now. Every day holds promise and potential. Insert your own cliché here.

Today will be everything I make it and how I take it … I just made that up, but I think it works.

Happy Fourth of July.

Help, My Computer’s Been Hijacked

My Windows software just updated itself a few minutes ago. No, wait! This is really weird! See, I don’t have Windows set to update automatically. I demand that Microsoft ask for permission first. Therefore, according my little libertarian pea brain, that means Microsoft can only upload stuff into my personal computer IF I SAY IT’S OK.

But Microsoft just ran right through my stop sign and uploaded a bunch of crap all by itself. I couldn’t even stop it. Believe me, I tried. When I saw that little logo on the bottom right of my screen (looks like a satellite dish or something), I clicked on it. Until today, that would ALWAYS bring up a screen that told me which “important” and “optional” updates Microsoft thinks I should put on my computer. And then I’d install them, happy in knowing that at least I got a choice.

But this time, clicking on it did nothing .. except reveal a tiny notice that Windows was already 55% done with uploading the updates that I hadn’t approved. They hadn’t even bothered to ask.

Naturally, since Microsoft has always been so polite in the past, I assumed that this had to be the work of a Hacker Virus Trojan Worm Death Star, only pretending to be Microsoft. So I tried to open my Task Manager so I could stop the process of the download. It refused to open. Gulp. This is one crafty hacker nerd.

So I can’t open the Windows screen that confirms what I’m downloading against my will, and I can’t open Task Manger to stop it. Help. I’m being invaded. The download progress is at 66% now. So I click to restart my computer. That’ll fix ‘em.

And then the reboot hangs up on the “shutting down” message for an agonizing 14 minutes. My god, SuperHacker has managed to force the computer to finish downloading all its evil mayhem before it reboots. And I’m powerless to stop it.

Finally, my PC restarts, and all appears normal. No little “update” icon, nothing appears amiss. I Google search for “Windows updates itself without permission” and find that Microsoft did this at least once before, in 2007, and a lot of people were pissed off about it.

So then I click into the Microsoft update web page and read that they indeed do have 9 “important” updates for me. At that instant, I see that the dreaded little satellite dish icon has reappeared — and now it says its upload is 82% complete. I still haven’t given anyone permission to upload anything. Damn.

And now it’s done. As I sit here at this very moment, Windows is asking me to restart my computer “in order to finish installing your important updates.”

If Microsoft had told me I needed these updates because of security issues and junk email filters and the usual blah blah blah, of course I would have obediently installed them. And I know they can tell me any lie they want and I’m going to just trust them and install the stuff.

But the minute they put something into my PC without my permission, I get very suspicious. If this turns out to be the last blog entry you ever see in “The Media Room,” you’ll know it’s because my computer has been hijacked by some Big-Brother, intrusive, self-important, nerd hacker who thinks he can do anything he wan





Discovering a Dust-Covered Gem

I’m wondering today if Millennials and Gen-Xers (like my own “kids”) have the same bias I once did: that “our collective knowledge is doubling every year, so nothing that was written more than a few years ago can possibly be as good or relevant as the latest stuff.”

You might think that here I’m going to mention Shakespeare or Aristotle, but you would be wrong. I’m thinking Ken Keyes, Jr.

I am re-reading his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” for perhaps the third or fourth time. It was written 41 years ago, so it can’t possibly have anything of value to say to humans in The Year of Our Armageddon 2012. Ah, but it does.

But let me first tell you why many would dismiss it, as my younger brother is fond of saying, as “pap, crap and claptrap.” Keyes’ mother was an alcoholic. He worked in naval intelligence as a censor for cablegrams to and from the U.S. He was married four times, two of those wives were clinically depressed, and Keyes admitted his own serial affairs and obsession with sex. He suffered from polio and for years was quadriplegic. He fought with his partner in his “Living Love” center. He was, like all of us, a flawed human being.

But his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness,” written and self-published at the height of the peace-love-hippie movement, has transformed lives ever since. I’m about to clip and paste just a few of the comments by contemporary readers of the book, but I’ll preface it by lowering your expectations yet again: my 1974 copy contains amateurish drawings, the 12 Pathways and Seven Centers of Consciousness might sound corny, and Diagram 2 (“How You Create Happiness in Your Life”) is ridiculously confusing. Like the man who wrote it, this book is not perfect.

But it is the most effective self-help book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read hundreds (and have even written one), and it makes more sense with each reading.

This is what other readers posted about Keyes’ “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” on Amazon:

“Most important book I’ve ever read

“Simply, the best that ever was, or ever shall be

“The one book that really changed my life

“This book is timeless and one to give to all your loved ones

“Better than the Bible, and I read the Bible cover to cover 34 times”

Oh, and check out Shakespeare and Aristotle, too.


When Your Final Credits Roll

I have pneumonia. A major annoyance when you’re young, but a potentially life-threatening crisis when you’re pushing 60. The following is 100% true.

Last night, with the sickness racking my body and brain, I was unable to sleep and literally went into a short delirium. Sitting up in bed, I became disoriented, wasn’t sure where I was, and then everything went black … and I started to see CREDITS slowly rolling up in front of my eyes.

“Uh oh, this can’t be good,” I thought. “I’m over. Hope there’s a sequel.” Then I saw the line, “Directed By …” and it was someone’s name I didn’t recognize. “Damn, I don’t even get credit for directing my own life.” Then up rolled, “Cast.” I figured I’d at least get the lead, but it had a bunch of other names I didn’t recognize.” Then I snapped out of it, the black was gone, and I was gasping for breath because of head and chest congestion. And no, the TV wasn’t on. It was a genuine, lack-of-oxygen hallucination.

So you might like to know that when our number is up, the credits roll, and someone may end up stealing all the glory.