Day Nine: Optimism



Photo taken from the window of my flight back to Louisville. The bridges over the Ohio River between Indiana and Louisville.

I flew back home from Phoenix last night, with a connecting flight at O’Hare in Chicago.

It seems I had the usual O’Hare experience everyone complains about.

  1. The plane from Phoenix was late.
  2. I had 15 minutes to go the one mile to my next gate to catch the connecting flight to Louisville.
  3. I ran like hell to get there.
  4. I didn’t really need to run, after all. The Louisville flight was delayed anyway.

I’ve spent most of today finishing my blog posts from notes made during my Phoenix trip. I wanted to experience my trip, rather than spend the whole trip blogging.

Daily Meditation


Cameo appearance with The Earps at Chopper John’s in Phoenix. January 6, 2017.

Clearing blue sky,
A promise in bare branches.
In winter, there are sunny days.
In adulthood, childhood can return.
-Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Key points:

  • There is optimism in doing things in disagreeable weather to prepare for when the weather gets better.
  • Adults often see these responsibilities as obligations.
  • The gratification comes when these efforts bear fruits that can be enjoyed.

Self Mastery work this week:

After returning from vacation, I will now resume Week One of “Self Mastery: Personal Empowerment for Creating the Life You Desire” by Dr. Marcus Chacos.

Goal: Seven straight days of waking up at 5:00AM for breakfast, meditation, and blogging.


Working with The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday:

“Some things are in our control, while others are not.” – Epictetus, The Enchiridion

As I mentioned on Day One, I was taken by the sheriff’s department to a Crisis Stabilization Unit in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where I was absolutely crazy, freaking out, having all kinds of bizarre delusions, which eventually led to being sent to Hardin County Memorial Hospital for 72 hours, and later to the psych ward at Central State Hospital in Louisville.

While I was in the Crisis Stabilization Unit, we had a group exercise, asking the basic question while going through our the problems of our lives: What is in your control and what is not? Mind you, we all lived with some degree of dysfunction, substance abuse, any other problems which made us no longer functional adults.

Although the counselors base this work on The Serenity Prayer, made famous by 12 step programs, its roots are in Stoicism.

Epictetus says we control:

  • Our opinion
  • Choice
  • Desire
  • Aversion
  • Everything of our own doing

Epictetus says we don’t control:

  • Body
  • Property
  • Reputation
  • Position
  • Everything not of our own doing.

Lose your job?- You can’t control the loss of your job. You can control the choice to search for a new job.

Lose everything you own?- You can’t control your property. It can all be lost at any time, whether you like it or not. You can control your attachments and desire for ownership, and make a choice to take the steps to replace the things you once owned.

Someone close to you died and you are devastated?- It is okay to have emotions about the situation, but you cannot control your own body or someone else’s. You can’t control your own death.

Sounds too simple?

“What about when innocent victims such as children are beaten and murdered?” you might ask, for example.

Again, you could have only controlled that situation if you were present to save the child’s life, or least make the attempt. It doesn’t mean you can’t get angry about it happening, or help in some way to get justice.

The idea is very black and white, but it’s a good place to start working when you are suffering from a crisis. It doesn’t mean you will instantly get over everything in one moment after reading some Epictetus.

You only have so much control over the health of your body (You do have some control.) You don’t have control over thieves taking your property and getting away with it. You only have so much control over keeping your job. You have no control over what other people think of you. In fact, Epictetus might even argue that another person’s opinion of you isn’t your business- it’s their business!

Vacation over.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. Special thanks to Brian & Jan Sandwich, Frank & Sharon Labor, The Earps, and everyone who came out to Chopper John’s to visit me during the trip.



Day Five: Sound

Yesterday, I arrived in Phoenix almost 6 years after the last visit to my former home. The weather was sunny, about 60 degrees, a nice escape from the 40 degrees of fog and rain in Kentucky. Some stress from rushing to my connecting flight from Houston to Phoenix, but I made it with time to spare.

  • Lunch at Alice Cooper’stown in downtown Phoenix.  I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan. Buffalo chicken wrap with seasoned fries and Papago Brewing Company IPA.
  • Cruise down in Indian School Road to revisit my 2008-2009 neighborhood where I walked around drunk often, having been recently dumped by my ex girlfriend who looked like Joan Jett at the time. Jeff Dahl Band disbanded. My other band The Earps on the decline, it seemed. Depressed. Lonely.  Disconnected. Having thoughts of moving back to Kentucky. I remember thinking “I don’t want to still be drunk, alone in this backyard, in this tanking band when I’m 40”. That was 7 years ago. I’m 40 now. A rebound relationship produced my daughter, followed by my son two years later.
  • Met my girlfriend’s parents for dinner at the Macaroni Grill in Scottsdale. Ratatouille with tumbler of Chianti. Stories of her mother’s acting career and her father’s loss of his place in the Guiness Book of World Records for longest yo-yo’ing marathon. I believe he said 24 hours of yo-yo’ing. A fun evening.
  • Stopped by Kevin McGregor’s house, the same house where I lived as his roommate 2008-2009: The Dark Year. New furniture. Many improvement projects. New rehearsal studio in the garage. 7 month old baby in the crib. Last time I saw him we were fighting over business with The Earps and it got really nasty. None of that matters anymore. He looks very happy. A great storyteller, as usual.

A Brief Musical History of my Drummer Girlfriend

I hadn’t seen Jessica in 10 years. I met her and her then-husband, when they played in Monstar, sort of a co-ed punk/metal band I wasn’t really into, but they were great people and very friendly, I thought. I was playing for Jeff Dahl back then, when I wasn’t dealing with my then-girlfriend’s freakouts and Jerry Springer chaos. She and Jessica had actually been acquaintances. Jeff Dahl referred the all-girl punk band Hell on Heels to Jessica, after their drummer became pregnant and couldn’t tour. I believe Jeff was also at least partly responsible for getting Hell on Heels signed to legendary punk rock label Bomp! Records. Apparently, some other band had trademarked Hell on Heels, so they changed the name to Les Hell on Heels.

Les Hell on Heels debut. Note: Jessica is not on this album but was on the tour to support the album.

Local Phoenix media was all over Les Hell on Heels. Signed to Bomp!, working in Seattle with famed Nirvana producer Jack Endino, and surely the first Phoenix band to blow up nationally since The Refreshments.
They weren’t.

Bomp! founder Greg Shaw passed away, leaving Les Hell on Heels an orphan band. They were still getting lots of airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage for their Jeff Dahl-written song “You Ain’t So Cool” and touring.

Lineup changes. The second album came out on Dionysus Records. I lost touch with Jessica and all the Hell on Heels girls except for Cheka.

Les Hell on Heels 2nd album on Dionysus Records.

Jessica moved to San Diego. I spoke to her briefly on the phone when she first moved there.

In the meantime, my band The Earps blew up locally in Phoenix. On a trip visiting her parents in Scottsdale, she saw the article about us in 944 Magazine and sent a MySpace message to me: “Hey, I just saw you in a magazine!”

Periodic brief contact via Facebook.

Sometime in 2015, I chatted with her on Facebook and tried to call her.

She said she would call me back later.

She did call back later. A YEAR later.

We talked about Eckhart Tolle, Buddhism, and music stuff. She flew out to Kentucky a month later, and we have been a long distance couple since June.

She is currently playing in Battered Suitcases (featuring members of Labor Party) and gigging semiprofessionally with Mancini the Band.

Meeting Battered Suitcases tomorrow.


Turning off the music: 

“The deepest sound is silence. This may seem paradoxical only if we regard silence as an absence of life and vibration. But for a meditator, silence is sound unified with all of its opposites. It is both sound and soundlessness, and it is in this confluence that the power of meditation emerges.
-Deng Ming-Dao

From my Daily Stoic Workbook: 

To the Stoics, oiêsis (false conceptions) are responsible not just for disturbances in the soul but for chaotic and dysfunctional lives and operations. When your efforts are not directed at a cause or a purpose, how will you know what to do day in and day out? How will you know what to say no to and what to say yes to? How will you know when you’ve had enough, when you’ve reached your goal, when you’ve gotten off track, if you’ve never defined what those things are?
-Ryan Holiday, Clarify Your Intentions, Daily Stoic

Defined goals: 

  • One year of keeping this blog daily.
  • Write a book.
  • Pay off debts and save money.
  • Better health in 2017.

Say ” No” to:

  • Drama and dysfunction.
  • Requests to play in bands.
  • Frivolous spending.
  • Excessive drinking.
  • Facebook addiction.

Say “Yes” to: 

  • Waking up early.
  • Cultivating a regular writing practice.
  • Reading books and learning.
  • Physical challenges and exercises.

See you tomorrow.


Day Four: Reflection

Moon above water. Sit in solitude. 

I started doing meditation for the first time on Monday nights with the Louisville Vipassana Community, led by Glenda Hodges-Cook, at the Clifton Universalist Unitarian Church

Glenda referred me to Joe Zarantonello at Loose Leaf Hollow in Bardstown to avoid the long drive to Louisville. 

“He’s a Catholic Buddhist. A Catholic priest who is also a Buddhist.” 


As I began attending and had a two hour or so 1 on 1 consultation with him, I learned that he has a Catholic background, but isn’t actually a priest at all. In fact, he’s a married, a teacher who retired from a local Catholic school in Bardstown and opened a retreat center at his home. The group meets on Thursday nights at 7pm. 

It took me a few months to figure out that you can’t really put labels on Joe, like Zen, Catholic, Buddhist, etc. 

I’ve only recently learned that there isn’t much need to categorize and label everything, a habit I picked up early on, noting in school that everyone assumes an identity to a group. 

Nerds. Jocks. Stoners. Rockers. Preppies. 

This habit was reinforced by the record stores, where everything is neatly categorized. 

Post-punk/New Wave. Psychedelia. Hard rock/metal. Ska/reggae. Jazz/fusion. 

Labels are useful to a point to find what you are looking for, but creating an identity with a certain label blocks you from experiencing other ideas and causes you to live in a bubble. 

So if I must apply labels and descriptions to Joe and Loose Leaf Hollow, it seems to be very influenced by Trappist monk writer Thomas Merton. Buddhism. Sufism. Zen. Irish poetry. Enneagram. Lapsed Catholicism. Contemplative writing. 

Meditation is just sitting. Or just walking. Or just writing. Or just washing dishes

You don’t have to be a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Zen practitioner, a monk, or a hippie to meditate. 

“If waters are placid, the moon will be mirrored perfectly. If we still ourselves, we can mirror the divine perfectly. But if we engage solely in the frenetic activities of our daily involvements, if we seek to impose our own schemes on the natural order, and if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in self-centered views, the surface of our waters becomes turbulent. Then we cannot be receptive to Tao.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

Today on the flight to Phoenix, I will use mind mapping to brainstorm book ideas.

 On December 6th, I received an email from Chandler Bolt announcing the launch of his latest book “Published. The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author” on Amazon. The new book is available on Kindle Unlimited, so I downloaded it, along with the free audio book version, available from a link on Page 3.  I decided to go ahead and use his system for writing a book this year. 

I have no idea what the book will be about at this time. 

“So many of us out there simply have stories to tell. Whether it’s a biographically-based tale of triumph, a step-by-step guide to solving a problem, or a fictional story crafted to entertain (yes, that includes children’s books)—they are all stories inside you waiting to get out. No matter what your story is, you can use it to make a difference in the lives of the people who read it. You have all these wonderful ideas running wild in your head. It’s not fair for you to keep something so great trapped inside. Why not share it? You never know what impact you are going to have.” 

– Chandler Bolt

The Tao Te Ching

I bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching, the Shambhala Pocket Classics edition,  translated by John C.H. Wu, for 7.99 plus tax in the gift shop at The Abbey of Gethesemani in New Haven, KY. 

Today, I read the first verse. 

Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless:
As “the Mother” of all things, it is nameable.
So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence:
As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.
These two flow from the same source, though differently named;
And both are called mysteries.
The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.

Translated by John C.H. Wu (1939)

And today’s little piece of Stoic wisdom:

“Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control. That’s all we need to do.”
-Ryan Holiday, The Big Three, from Daily Stoic