Category Archives: random thoughts

Free-range musings

Residual harm

In our current crisis of pandemic proportion, we hear much about the sacrifices we all need to make — staying home, maintaining distance, vigorous cleaning — to reduce the direct harm that COVID-19 will have, particularly with the most vulnerable of our society.  What isn’t talked about enough is why these hardships are equally important, if not more so, to reducing or mitigating residual harm.

Without the current coronavirus, there is a sub-set of society who rely on the medical community — from mothers giving birth, to those needing urgent surgeries like appendectomy, to accidents, to the thousands of other cases requiring immediate medical care.  From the routine to the urgent, our health care system runs at a given capacity.  With the looming crisis, that capacity is about to be slammed, in some cases crushed, causing serious residual harm.  The sacrifices we are enduring are not just to protect the old and vulnerable from this new virus but also to shield those who would otherwise use the medical system if there were no pandemic.

Those ignoring the guidelines of maintaining distance, either selfishly or stupidly, perhaps don’t understand the impact that the pandemic is having, and will have, on all of us, from newborns to those at end-of-life, and everyone in between.

Now is not the time to dwell on our personal hardship of reducing, to an absolute minimum, unnecessary physical human interaction. Now is the time to focus on what our hardships are contributing to, namely the health of the whole.  The sooner all of us align our focus on the whole, the sooner the whole will start healing.

At the show

I feel like I’m falling apart,
repercussions from life’s incidents
causing constant stress,

My mouth, neck and throat, speaking a language
I don’t understand.

When I’m smacked upside the head.

“Who do you think you are?
You, who can think, and talk, and operate independently.”

Startled I reply,

I am me. I’m supposed to be fully-functioning, in perfect physical health, not subjected to such discomfort.

Who are you?

I am slapped again.

“I am life and you are in the show.
When I let you in there were no guarantees.

Your small discomforts the price of admission.

So don’t fret, your performance will be over soon.
And the show will go on.

Best you enjoy your scenes,
contribute to making them better, if you can.

Focus on me, life as it is.
Sure, try and improve me,
but without but expectations.

And be glad you were given a part.”

Retirement part 2

April 13, 2019

It must have been sometime during the 3rd organic coffee colonic, on the paradise-like island of Koh Pha Gnan in southern Thailand, that the idea of retirement hit me.  Again.

It was my birthday, and I was three days into a nine-day detox retreat. My sister Susan reminded me, by text, of something our mother told us when we were kids: your birthday is not about celebrating your age, but rather your birth. 

Birth, I mused, and the cycle of life was indeed worth celebrating every step of the way.

So why  was the idea of retirement nagging me?  Did it mean to cease being productive?  True, it’s been about a year since I’ve done anything measurably productive. But then again, the last year hasn’t been without appreciable change.

Early this year, GV and I permanently moved out of NYC, our home for 17 years.  We had our household goods packed into a small, 16-foot container awaiting our next destination as we split to Asia for a few months.

We traded cold and noisy NYC for equally crowded and hot Bangkok (as a base) where we scheduled several back-to-back getaways in hopes of perspective widening.

Following a couple of weeks choking on Bangkok’s not-so-pristine air, and a week on a relatively secluded Indonesian beach, we kicked-off our quasi-metaphysical journey by scheduling a 12-day silent meditation retreat at a southern Thailand monastery.  We wanted to see if we could pinprick the murky world of enlightenment. One hundred and twenty-five other foreigners were doing the same thing at the same place and time. And it was damn hard. (The silence wasn’t hard, nor was it hard sleeping on a concrete slab with a wooden pillow. It wasn’t hard waking up daily at 4 am, and it wasn’t hard eating two vegetarian meals within five hours and fasting 19 hours per day.  It wasn’t hard sleeping with giant spiders or the occasional snake. The hard part was indeed trying to meditate 11 hours daily. But I guess that was the point. Time slowed to a standstill as I cheered forward each day.)

After a one-week interlude back in Bangkok, doing everything we dreamed of doing while on the silent retreat, we headed to China for a two-week moving meditation course, located outside Guilin. In a small, but popular local village, we dove into the principles of Tai Chi and Qigong at a traditional Tai Chi school. My head spun, realizing how much of a time investment it would be to (pretend to) master even the basics.

The third two-week stint took us to this resort called The Sanctuary, in southern Thailand, an island accessible only by boat, where we were participating in a nine-day detox fast.

As I lay on the enema table in a blissful, tropical environment with a tube in my ass, the reminder to celebrate birth, and the gift of life, poked me in the abdomen, while the notion of retirement kept pestering me.

If retirement meant being non-productive, i.e., not working, then I wanted no part of it. There was evidence of plenty (westerners) who had retired to this island and many like it. Indeed, we were thinking of making our new home in a retirement mecca known as Palm Springs, CA. On the outside, retired life seemed like a luxury.  But how could I do so little, for any longer than a blip of time?

Sure, retirement may be a relief if it means not having to slog eight hours a day to pay rent.  But there’s got to be more of a productive purpose to our entire arc of life.

I felt profoundly grateful for these rich and rewarding retreats. I was, after all, celebrating birth, wasn’t I?

So as the coffee-filled tube was finishing its job, I vowed that I’d find a new purpose. Retirement, while a worthy and even enviably phase of life, didn’t seem to be calling my name. With that thought, I abruptly yanked out the hose, vowing to soldier into a new realm of productivity — anything except retirement.


Experience of gold

I’ve been so free,
          For years,…just me,
Turning down many invitations,
          Those tempting me into relations.
Unwilling to sacrifice the freedom I selfishly behold.

Suddenly,…who is she?
          What could this feeling be?
I saw something in her eyes,
          Her face, her smile, each time a surprise
Wanting to capture,…to have,…to hold.

For the first time ready to share,
          A part of me I didn’t know was there,
Something kept telling me she was the one,
          A constant urge to give here everything,…the sun,
Willing to be true to her if I could be so bold.

But she always stayed far enough away,
          Confusing the direction, keeping me at bay,
Wondering how to control the passion,
          Caught in the grips of a strong attraction,
Sensing we were both of the same mold.

A compulsion had bloomed which was amply fed,
          Obscuring the path on which I was led,
Melting every time I felt her near,
          Uncertainly sure I could see things clear,
Suppressing the thought that I’d ever fold.

I started to question my lack of discipline,
          Thinking I’m crazy for this situation I’m in,
Was I deliberately not looking at the obvious?
          That she has her own agenda,….not this,
Unwilling to accept that the allure would grow old.

So many times I wanted to quit,
          Succumbing to a weakness I wouldn’t admit,
Blindly bending in any direction,
          Yearning for the next emotional erection,
Feeling the temperature warm-cold, warm-cold.

But it's time I let this dream alone,
          And try to understand what I’ve been shown,
Conceding that the trail is too elusive,
          The entrance too guarded, exclusive,
Hoping I’ll listen to what I’ve been told.

I’ve been captured by my own liberty,
          Unprepared for what the next curve would do to me,
The desire building from my imagination,
          A delusion of its own creation,
Alas, an experience I’ll treasure more than gold.

Freddie Spaghetti 
April 9, 1995

What inspires

What inspires
     fills the soul
makes us who we are.

And the wonderful (aspect)
      of humankind
      is our ability
                     to acquire
          in our mind's eye
   the agility
          the opposite of fragility
                    to decide.

  We only need to recognize
     out of desire
               ......not on a high wire.
Freddie Spaghetti    
Medellin, CO  February 10, 2006


Las semillas

Hay unas semillas creciendo
     Y hay otras muriendo
Hay unas que durarán largo tiempo
     Y otras que vivirán solo para el momento.
Hay unas semillas que serán unas flores
     Y otras que no tendrán colores
Hay unas con buena alimentación
     Y otras clamando atención
Hay unas que saben la dirección hacia arriba
     Y otras completamente perdidas.
Así estamos, en el mismo jardín
     Luchando para existir
Sin saber, cuando vamos a partir.
Freddie Spaghetti, March 11, 2007

Thai coffee worth the taste

There is a new generation of coffee aficionados in Thailand growing and spreading the value of single origin, organic, Arabica coffee.  It’s a transformation and business opportunity in the making.  Only discriminating coffee lovers need apply.

One of many unique drip coffee houses in Bangkok, Gallery Drip Coffee at the BACC (Bangkok Arts & Cultural Center).

Continue reading

A painting party

It was GV’s idea.  Suddenly on our list of things to do one sweltering day last month in Bangkok was finding a paint store.  “Let’s keep it simple,” she said.

I had six rectangular pieces of cardboard I was saving for a practical application.  So we picked up one tube each of three colors and a painting knife.  At the mall where we bought the paint, we sampled a Nespresso and they let us keep the plastic cup.  We were set with all the paraphernalia necessary.

We each had three pieces of blank cardboard. GV’s are on the top.

Continue reading