Kermit found me

*** update Jan 2019 – Kermit’s painting added below

It recently occurred to me that a lot of who I am, I owe to Kermit.  Kermit is a childhood friend, going back a million years.  He is an odd and wonderful man, and he helped me to be the same.  I remember going back to early high school, or maybe middle school.  I was an undeveloped fetus, culturally.  He was a brilliant subversive, and I think he turned me into one, too.  I watched the shows everyone watched.  There was no choice, with 3 channels.  I listened to what everyone listened to… again… you had 3 channels for rock, at best.

Odds are, I was lamenting how much I hated reading.  They gave us the most droll and sanitized shit.  Reading what they fed us was punishment.  Kermit turned me on to everything.  What do I know about comic books?  Still nothing, except barely hetero dudes in tights and sheets.  Kermit found this, and gave it to me.  I still have it in my collection.  It is the story of Gregory, a young boy locked up in an institution and watching his mind go wild.  This was more than a comic book… this was cultural subversion… and I was in!

then, he turned me on to authors.  At this time, I hated reading more than math.  I can not emphasize enough what shitty and boring books they feed kids.  You want me to read Wuthering heights?  Ok, that is like 200 pages of repressed love and emotion in Victorian England?  How the fuck is a 13 year old boy going to connect with that?  All the books were ‘Newbery award winners’.   He turned me on to Hunter Thompson and Henry Miller.  He gave me a copy of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and it rocked my world.  These were dirty American expats living in France.  They did dick all all day long except sit around drunk and talk about how great they were.  They mooched everything they had, including the women, and just lived as they please.  This book was full of very graphic sex scenes.  It was full of people having fun, and adventures.  Think of it like this – Henry Miller is the x rated version of Ernest Hemingway.

take a look at Henry Miller.  This guy has seen some shit.  Scratch that… this guy has caused some shit!

That book opened the world to me.  There are books about sex?  There are people doing noting all day long but getting drunk in cafes and celebrating their own genius?  How do I get that job?  Of course, the book was banned here… which made it all the more sexy.  Most importantly, the writing was GREAT.  Just beautiful and powerful and visual.  I felt I was there.  These guys defined ‘fake it until you make it’.  Henry Miller basically willed his persona into existence through sheer force of will.  I am reminded of Salvador Dali and Hunter Thompson here… same thing.

Then, he turned me on to ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, my second favorite book of all time.  I don’t need to tell you my love and obsession with Hunter, I think you know.  Then it struck me… what these guys write about is what every young black person in America is in jail for.  Raping, drugging, and general malaise.  These were NOT good people, but they were GREAT writers.  What is the difference?  Well, they wrote about it.  Oh, and they were white.  That helps.

And then he turned me on the Beatles.  I knew the poppy happy radio stuff, which I still love.  But he turned me on the White Album.  He was like ‘these guys will fuck you up,  they changed everything, man’.  And he was right.  He was the first person I knew to have a CD Walkman, and we’d hang out at break sharing headphones listening to this stuff.  Then, he got me deep into Zeppelin.  What do I mean by ‘deep’?  It means listening to Zeppelin OTHER than Zepp 4.  He played for my Physical Graffiti.  It is a sweeping and galloping masterpiece of rock and roll.  There are not pithy 3 minute hits on that double disc.  No sir.  It is just 2 hours of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant following their muse.

He gave me a light.  Where the future used to look boring and corporate and soulless and inevitable… Kermit made it this wide open adventure. Shortly after this, I would spend a month in Mexico every summer.  I would just backpack around with no plan, often by myself.  I don’t think I would have had the courage or confidence to do something like that were it not for Kermit.

Kermit, I don’t know where you are.  I don’t even know if you are alive, but I love you and I miss you and I thank you!

Because of Kermit, I went from hating reading to getting a literature degree.  And… you will not find 1 goddamn Newbery award winner in my stacks.

Did I mention this painting he gave to me?  It is AMAZING.  It is an entirely original oil painting he must have given me 30 years ago.  Behold.  Better yet, come over and see it in person.  It is stunning.

These photos don’t do it justice.  Clearly I had a flash on.  I need to take a pic in the day, with no flash.

 

Friday Fives – bookin’ it!

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Can you remember the first book you read?

5 were missing.  It is a kids book about school kids who get kidnapped.  It is a pretty fucked up story, and involves death.  Good job, America, handing this to children.  No wonder why I am so messed up!  It was a very good and compelling story.  The reason I remember it is that it popped into my mind recently, so I bought it and read it as an adult.  It held up pretty well.  Also, I knocked it out in a couple of hours.  This means I have it, somewhere, at home.  Come borrow it. I’ll help you with the big words.

What was the last book (electronic or otherwise) you read?

Currently reading ‘Ruthless’.  It’s a brand new book about Scientology leader David Miscavige.  He is known to be a terrible person.  Everyone who has left Scientology says he is a bully,  a psycho, a misogynist, and a master manipulator.  I say misogynist because he hasn’t let his wife, Shelly, leave the house or be seen in public for so long that concerned friends reported her missing.  TEN YEARS.

I was very excited to read this book.  Bonus, it is written by someone with intimate and legit knowledge of both.  Author is a lifelong Scientologist, and actually raves about Scientology and its positive effects on his life… before the monster took over and ran everything.  Oh, and it’s his dad!  Yeah, David Miscavige’s own father penned it.  I am about halfway through so far.  Very compelling read so far.

Do you read for enjoyment, work or both?

Mostly enjoyment, but I do enjoy reading leadership books.  Well, I did until I read this book.  Hop over to here and go down about four books.  I reviewed it there.

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Autobiographies, first and foremost.  Under that tier, musicians… obviously.  I am always wanting to know the behind the scenes of life.  The minutia, the decision making, the luck and the failures.  What made them great?  Do they know?  The older I get, the more I am into history.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it when I was very young. It seemed unreal, like fiction.

I think there is a better opportunity for kids like to learn history now.  Growing up, there was just books.  So, the stories were incredibly boring.  Now, with film and special effects… stories can be told in a way that will engage the young mind.  Heck, look at Hamilton.  No one knew more than the story about him dying in a duel until recently, and rap music and dance brought that story to life.  That is bad ass!

If you could visit your younger self, what book would you tell yourself to steer clear of?

Just about everything recommended or popular.  I HATED reading when I was a kid.  Everything they gave us was SO boring and sterile and devoid of life and real life experiences.  It wasn’t until high school when a buddy turned me on to Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson that I learned books can be awesome.  These guys wrote about sex and drugs and violence and boredom too.  But… it was honest, and not coached in bullshit metaphors.

I don’t think I would hand Tropic of Cancer or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a ten year old me.  BUT… I would have at least gotten Alice in Wonderland in my hands by then.  To show me literature and reading and history can be awesome… all depending on the storyteller.

 

Friday Fives – he is STILL prattling on about Alice in Wonderland… again

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Yesterday was World Book Day.  What was the first book that had an impact on your life? 

It would be something from Kermit.  In high school, Kermit turned me on to a LOT.  Books, authors, music, and art.  Probably the most impactful was Henry Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’.  I am not gonna spoil it and tell you what it’s about.  BUT… I will tell you it rocked my world.  Everything up to then, in reading, was boring as shit.  I HATED reading, it was punishment.  Why?  Because the schools only turn you on to boring as shit.  Henry Miller was all about sex and drugs and general Bukowskian debauchery.  Oh, and Kermit turned me on to Bukowski, too.  Go watch Barfly with Mickey Rourke NOW if you don’t know about Charles Bukowski.

He (Kermit) showed me reading was cool, and opened up a whole world of counter culture heroes.  I ended up getting a degree in literature… pretty much because Henry Miller showed me there is joy in madness and occasional sin.

 Do you read “hard copy” books and mags or have your turned to digital ebooks and magazines? 

Hardy copy actual books.  It strains my eyes to look at computer screens to read.  Plus, like you, I am a cubicle monkey who stares at computers 9 to 10 hours a day.  Plus, I am often on my phone.  I do not need more screen time.

What is your favorite genre to read? 

Historical biographies and rock and roll autobiographies

Do you consider reading a pastime? Why or why not?

Uh… sure.  I guess.  Weirdly worded question.  I think there is assuredly a very timeless aspect to reading a book.  I love the idea that I have books that are so old that the first person who read it was using candle light… pre-electricity.  Not just that they are reading the same story… but that this very book in my hand has lived a thousand lives.

Do you have a favorite book character who has stayed with you after the book was finished?

Alice, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  She is my hero.  She takes all this insanity around her, and is only curious and polite in return.  At no time does she yell “omg, seriously.  What the fucking fuck is that?”  This is how most of us might handle seeing a caterpillar sitting on a ginormous mushroom smoking a hookah.  That, to me, is a big bag of WTF.

you know I talk about this book a LOT.  Let’s be specific, then, shall we?

I think my favorite scene is (likely) from the second book.  They are all sitting around about to eat.  Alice’s hosts rather politely introduce her to all the food.  Normally, I guess, this would be simply the courteous thing to do.  Problem, though; “everyone knows it is not polite to eat food once you have been introduced to it.”  So, being ever so polite (and ever so hungry)… she never does eat.