Chasing Calm
Random lessons in life, love, and transition. — From Los Angeles, California to Stuttgart, Germany — March 2010

Aug
02

Young-Michael-Jackson2

Remembrances and Inspirations

Like so many others all over this world, the death of Michael Jackson grabbed hold me in a way that was suffocating, I could barely breathe for a few moments. Growing up, as far as I was concerned, Michael was basically my older brother. He was like a part of my own family or rather I was a part of his…or something like that.

Needing to sit down as the news on CNN was breaking, first it was a stroke, then a coma, and with heavy finality, he was gone. Gone? Wow.

Searching for photographs online and music videos on YouTube,  like magic I am transported to a time of my youth when life was more simple. My mind alters where no negativity can penetrate. I should remember to do this the next time I’m feeling kinda down.

I suppose my earliest memories were Saturday mornings with a bowl of Trix cereal. The Jackson 5 cartoon would be on in a few minutes. This was the routine. As usual sitting too close to the TV, I was right up front until my mother would inevitably tell me to move back.

If only video cameras were more common back in the day, my family would have some crazy ass videos of me doing my brother’s dance moves. As usual with a makeshift prop, the 45 record adapter was my microphone, with every step, and every spin I was right there.

Wanting to be like my older brother, I tried my best to shape up my ‘fro just like Mike’s. Later I would build a wood guitar so I could take turns going between Jermaine and Michael. Jermaine was actually very talented and doesn’t really get enough love for his skills. You know that “Do What You Do” song was the jam, don’t lie. (I just wish I could convince him to get rid of the flat top). Anyway, it took me the entire weekend, but eventually I was able to make a pretty cool guitar with a square plank of wood, several 2×4’s, and about five long rubber bands were my strings. Lastly, I would nail an old leather belt for my shoulder strap. (That sucka was kinda heavy!)

In the fourth grade, I went to Bellagio Road Elementary School with one of Quincy Jones daughter’s, Tina. We all called her Martina at the time. She was having a birthday party at her house and all I could think about was Quincy Jones helped Michael with his career and maybe, just maybe he’d discover ‘my’ talent so I could be rich and famous too.

Mr. Jones was indeed there and planned a dance contest. The winner would win an autograph copy of “The Wiz,” the urban stage play rendition of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. So the dance contest was on. All of us kids go in Soul Train line formation, one by one we had a chance to do our thing and do it right.

I won’t tell you who won, but let’s just say I still have that autographed album.

“Ben” was truly was one of my favorite songs. For some reason I didn’t even think about the idea I was singing about some dude named Ben and not instead a girl named Brenda. Then, to later find out worse, it was about a damn rat! Well, nevermind, I still love the song to this day

In many ways this next song first inspired me to write poetry and letters and stories about love. Seeing my brother so emotional to the point his voice was crackling as the song closes made me seriously ponder about these strange yet addicting creatures called, “girls” and their potent affect on us!

(…and I’ve learned… that love- won’t- wait — that’s my part!)

I have defended my brother against so many accusations with unwavering faith feeling somehow, someway if anybody knew his soul, it was me. In regards to his skin and the whole issue that he didn’t want to be Black and he was bleaching his skin, it’s all bullshit. Untrue. False. Negative. Perhaps this reminder video will change a few minds or at least open them.

Now granted I prefer my brother’s earlier years, make no mistake about it, I was still rolling with him during the peak of his musical career and really it was Michael that put the music video on the map. I remember there was always so much anticipation for the “New Michael Jackson video.” Always a big production, here a few videos that stand out for me:

Remember the Time (long version, w/ Eddie Murphy, Iman, Magic Johnson)

In The Closet (w/ Naomi Campbell)

You Rock My World (Long version w/Chris Tucker, Michael Madsen)

I believe it gets lost how passionate my brother was about the social issues of the world: racism, poverty, abuse, and so much more. Maybe I am overreacting, but I believe this next video is one of the best music videos ever created. While not one of his more popular works, it is beautifully done and its meaning is golden. Literally gives me chills every time I see it.

Stranger In Moscow / Earth Song

Yes, I’m going to miss my brother, but thank God I have his music, his videos, and my own memories to always keep him near.

Jun
06

Earth boy
I’d like to think I’m fairly smart. Overall, I did well in school, stayed on the right side of a 3.0 GPA most of the time, but for some reason learning a foreign language always intimidated me.

I remember in 7th grade Spanish, on the very first day our teacher, Mr. Pasella flamboyantly strolled into class spouting five long, rambling minutes of intense Spanish without even so much as saying hello – or maybe he did but I didn’t realize it.

My mouth hung open in that “oh shit” kind of look. I checked my class schedule to be sure I wasn’t in the advanced class. I knew I would need to see my guidance counselor immediately to order a class transfer, anything!…cooking, wood shop, Angolan history, anything but there. I’m sure Mr. Pasella had good intentions, but from that moment forward I was shell-shocked. The brain cells that help you learn stuff seems to short out anytime I attempt to learn a new language.

Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be multilingual, but never mentioned it. I mean, ya know, it seems pretty cool – kinda James Bondish, especially being that I like to travel so much. But, I suppose it took meeting my Greek fiancé to finally commit once again to learning her native language as well as German – where she and her daughter currently live and where I will be moving in a few months.

This brings the question which language do I learn first? Greek; because it is her and her daughter’s native language, German because that is the country we will be in, and they both speak German anyway. Or, maybe I’ll really get bold and try to learn them both at the same time?

I think what really made me finally decide to learn these new languages was finding out we were going to have a baby. After the initial sobering shock and then elation, I had a bad vision of not being able to communicate with my own child until SS assured me he (or she!) would learn English from my talking to the baby, and he will learn Greek and German from their talking. Hmm…It already sounds like a pretty brilliant child. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I found out about a great website called, Livemocha. It reminds me a lot of the Rosetta Stone software, add in an interactive online community of people from around the globe who are all learning different languages of choice.

In your lessons you learn everything from basic verbs, nouns, negatives, possession, vocabulary, speaking, and writing by forming basic sentences from whatever you just learned. There are helpful review exercises, and those in the online community (your “friends” – a la Facebook and My Space) can check your exercises with helpful and supportive comments. Likewise, you are encouraged to review their exercises. It’s similar to Rosetta Stone (minus the online community) in that it uses pictures to associate with the words, supposedly this is more of a natural, real world way of learning.

I’m probably not explaining it so well, but if you want to learn a new language, I’d definitely recommend at least checking it out here.

Right now, I’m in my first lesson: German 101, and I’m pretty excited about it. I think ultimately I’ll be fine and sooner than later will be at least good enough to speak conversationally at a beginners level. As long as the average German knows what the hell I’m try to say!

I’ll keep you posted!

May
11

momanddad 009

My mom and dad around 1943 or 1944 on their very first date. (As written on the back of the photo.)

Tonight, Mother’s Day, HBO’s debuted, “The Alzheimer’s Project.” I thought it an odd day to debut the documentary, but then again, maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive.

Until the very last minute I tried to avoid thinking about Mother’s Day because my mom passed away from Alzheimer’s this past December, two days before my birthday. My father also passed away from Alzheimer’s (and Parkinson’s Syndrome) in 1997.

I just finishing watching the program about an hour ago and I’m still worn out. Probably because several times I caught myself holding my breath, my jaws tight, teeth clenched. For 90 minutes the program presented seven stimulating stories of elderly people in varying stages of Alzheimer’s.

In every one of these stories I recognized some of the characteristics that were also present in my mother and father. It may have been the incessant picking or fiddling with something, the anger that comes with losing their independence, the depression that comes with knowing “something is not right,” the hallucinations, a mother not recognizing her son, and without doubt, the story of a gentleman in his final stage of life, and the misery his wife experiences in carrying out his wishes to allow him to die without taking extraordinary measures. The documentary shows this man’s final seconds of life as his wife and family all watch crying knowing his time on earth is over. That scene was very uncomfortable and difficult for me as it hit too close to home as I lost my mother in much the same way was just a few months ago.

Another side of Alzheimer’s I identified with was the caregiver. In the documentary whether it was the wife, the son, the daughter, it took a tremendously heavy toll on them. In my case, I went through it with my dad for about four years moving back home to take care of him his final year of life, then about three years later, my mother was diagnosed with the disease. In her case my role was even greater taking care of her daily needs in ways I never imagined I would do with her.  In many ways the parent child relationship does reverse, although they are not a child, they are an adult. It is your parent. I tried to remember that.

From the TV promotions I assume the documentary will also present a promising future for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. I so wish this to be true, I can hardly focus on it until I know it is real. One of my greatest fears is the worry that I too will soon have it. That perhaps in 15, 20, 25 years I will slowly begin losing pieces of myself and until I there is no more. It becomes a countdown of sorts and creates an unnecessary pressure in my life I am still dealing with.

As difficult as it was to watch, I will keep watching. I wish a few key people past and present who intersected in my life during the last twelve years and just didn’t understand what I was going through could also see this important program.

May
02

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Damn, I can’t get to sleep now.

On most late nights, I usually stop writing when I begin nodding to sleep at the keyboard. Three or four nods and I know it’s time to power down the laptop and call it a night.

Well tonight, just as I was about to roll into bed, I had to first put my dog P.J. in his room for the night. As I turned around in my swivel chair to get him, to my shock his mouth and paws were covered in blood!

He was rather still, and for a moment I froze. Getting closer, I quickly found out it was not blood after all, he was just taking a break from eating one of my tubes of oil paints – Alizirin Crimson. Fuck!

I still consider myself a rookie dog owner so I don’t know what the hell to do for a few moments. Call some sort of doggie 911? I think the vet is closed. Oh wait, there must be some sort of 24 hour emergency care. The computer fiend I am, I Google an answer. (Leave me alone dammit, I Google e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g).

Okay, so first problem…Is he going to die? Aren’t paints poisonous or toxic or something? And why the hell would ‘paint’ be appetizing to this idiot? Those garlic cheese biscuits at Red Lobster, okay, but paint?? – So, to my surprise there are other stupid curious dogs that eat paint also, and they give me tips like have him drink a lot of water, give him chicken broth, or have him drink a little hydrogen peroxide to make him vomit. I decide on a lot of water and little food so he’ll be more inclined to poop and pee this stuff out of his system. Cleaning up red paint AND vomit is bit much for me at the moment. – He actually seems to be fine wanting to run and play, looking like baby Cujo that just ate the neighbor.

Problem #2…How do I get all this paint off him? Summoning Google once again. I learn to try a little vegetable oil (since its oil paint) and wash it out with some pet shampoo…also, try Dawn dishwashing detergent (You can use Dawn for everything – great product). I opt for the Dawn since I have some available. I get another scare however, when several people online say the paint’s toxins can seep into his skin or something. Ugh, fear returns. I’m told to look up the ingredients to the kind of paint he ate. – Very fortunately, of the selection of paints he decided to have a midnight snack with, Alizirin Crimson is not toxic! Yes! – So, I try to washing it out with only a little success. He was in need of a wash and haircut anyway, so I think that will be the best solution.

Problem #3…How do I get this paint out of my NEW carpets?! Google’s on a roll, so I turn to it again. The first thing I read: “Do not use water to clean oil paints out of carpet…” Too late. “Don’t rub or wipe the stain, rather blot it…” Too late. Instead I’m instructed to use paint thinner or turpentine, which I don’t have right now and have no intention of purchasing at 2:38 in the morning. I look at the same bottle of Dawn detergent and go for it. Not perfect, it’s almost all gone, but not bad at all.

Problem #4…Now I’m wide awake!

May
01

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I guess I should do update about my juice fast. I’ve ignored the issue long enough. Well, there’s bad news and good news…It didn’t last two days. Sorry, I gotta be honest. I like my juice drinks. Actually, I LOVE the taste of them. In fact, I loved them so much I had it with a double-cheeseburger. (What? I needed something to wash it down with!).

What happens is I’m fine throughout the entire day, but because of my schedule I tend to stay up very late doing some sort of writing or research. It is during this time – oh around one 1 or 2 a.m., even 3 a.m., I start getting weak, real weak, delirious even. My mind begins to play tricks on me; I begin imagining the taste of a Double Beef Cheesy Burrito. It really is quite sad. I’ve often been thankful it’s just food, not crack.

The good news? I actually lost 10 pounds in the last three weeks!! I think since I was taking in minimal calories with the fruit smoothies during the day (along with a men’s one a day vitamin) that even on a night where I “slipped,” I cheated only that meal, not the entire day. The net result still having a relatively low daily calorie/fat/carb count. I also avoided the extra fat and calories by avoiding the french fries and soda. In addition to this I’ve been working like a demon on the house. – Going up and down the ladder, painting, sanding, etc for an average of ten hours a day. The end result, a ten pound loss!

Now I do realize this is not the long-term recipe for success, but the weight loss, however the hell it happen, does create a certain motivation that I had been looking for. It keeps me going to improve on my food and exercise regimen and protect what I’ve lost so far and aim for more.  I will continue to use the fresh fruit drinks, along with other meal favorites like oatmeal, salads, during the day, and with an early dinner around 7 or 8pm of lean protein, vegetables, and low carbs, (no breads or pasta for me). Since it is no shocker I’ll be staying up late, I need to be proactive and eat a small snack around midnight like a small bowl of raisin bran, some nuts,  or even another fruit shake (half-sized). This way I can avoid getting to “starving” mode and stay sane until I actually go to bed a few hours later. I also would like to add some sports or running even though I’m already working on the house. We’ll see.

It’s not a perfect plan, but I’m trying to find what works best “for me” considering my weaknesses. I’ll keep you posted.double

Apr
28

love-or-hate-red

The other night I was looking over some poems I had written in the last few years and I was somewhat taken aback at the tone of some of my pieces. As usual I touched on the various seasons of love whether it was covered in honey or salt, but I tried to go back in time and revisit my mindset of how love inspired me where at times I was so inspired by its beauty, yet other times completely agitated that love perhaps did not exist or had seemed to have expired. Here are two contrasting pieces:

The Intention of Love and Tears

Love woke me up from a dream
And told me all the beautiful things I wanted to hear.
About how I should never fear the weight of my burdens.
About how She would forever be there to comfort me
Like the soft cotton blankets of my youth.

Love wrapped her wings around me
And sang a sweet melody in my ear.
About a place of peace and tranquility,
Where running blue waters ran clear,
Where white calla lilies grew and butterflies flew near

Love gently touched me on my lips,
And promised me She would soon return.

I believed Her like I always did on nights like this,
I believed Her because I always trusted Her kiss,
I believed Her because She was my angel of promise,
I believed Her because Love is faithful and true,
Very simply I just believed Her wouldn’t you?

But Love never came back, how mysterious could that be?
Or is it me who makes Her a mystery?

A man is not supposed to cry
But how much loneliness can one man survive?
How much heartbreak until I die?
Because no matter how much I slept, no matter how much I wept,
Love would never return.

But a man is not supposed to cry.

© 2008 M.L. Burwell

* * *

Certainty

My hands smooth mixtures
Of foreign oils with hints
Of exotic scents of passion
Across your torso with the earth’s clay
My hands create indentations
And subtle curves that define your textures
Yet, I hesitate to call myself an artist

In my wild imagination
I search for words
Words that are suited just for you
Beautiful words that rain life
And seep into your pours…rejuvenating
I search for words that dance and gyrate
In erotic darkness caressing you late into the night
Yet, I hesitate to call myself a poet

I feel you
I feel you breathing inside my skin
When we make love, in love
Our love is thick and intense
Our passion pours slow and rich
Like southern molasses
The gamut of our love
Is endless with infinite possibilities and outcomes
Yet, I hesitate to call myself a lover

So clear from the very beginning
Realizing we could be the decision was made
Like a mystical spell
Like a divine enlightenment
And so when I fell into your welcoming arms
I could tell we would define everlasting
When I fell in love with you then
But I did not hesitate then
I did not hesitate
I did not hesitate

(c) 2003, 2008 M.L. Burwell

Apr
26

cluttered

Wow, I have so much on my mind these days. Things I need to do.  Things I want to do.  Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.  Beyond working on the house, I just don’t feel like I’m accomplishing enough on a weekly basis and I find myself getting impatient.

The other night I woke up from a dream where I was in a very long line waiting to get into a smooth jazz concert. My plans were to sit in the sun and relax, and you know, enjoy the infectious rhythms with some cool mixed spirits to sip on. However, the longer I waited in this line,  I began to see everyone who was behind me now moving in front of me and into the concert at the approval of the gate guards. I continued to wait, and wait, and wait…and wait.  When I asked the guards what was going on, it was if I were invisible. The guards  completely ignored me. I went to another long line at another gate entrance. I waited and waited, and the same thing. The next thing I know, the mass crowd is exiting the stadium happy and fulfilled as the concert was now over.

When I woke up I immediately grabbed my “Dictionary of Dreams” to find out what this might have meant. Hell, I was still frustrated!  This is what it read:

Waiting

A dream in which you are forced to wait for something or someone exaggerates your feelings of impatience. Perhaps you feel unfairly held back at work or in your career and wish you could remove obstacles that stand in the way of your progress. However, this dream may be drawing your attention to the importance of patience or even suggesting that you need to accept a slower approach to your goals.

Hmm…Interesting. I do agree this may be more an issue of practicing patience rather than my normal remedy of prioritizing better. The truth of the matter is there is no hardcore deadlines of time on me at the moment, it is more so my own anxiousness to move on to the next chapter of life.

Okay, so patience. I’ll close my eyes, take three deep breaths, and imagine myself being very calm and p-a-t-i-e-n-t.  That is right after I get half-way through this list!

1.    Missing SS every day.
2.    Working on the house everyday in preparing it to be sold. (I’ll be posting before and after pictures soon)
3.    Working on the general notes and outline for my screenplay.
4.    Brainstorming for travel article ideas.
5.    Working on copywriting projects when they suddenly come up.
6.    Studying my online German class.
7.    Deal with the final financial/legal issues regarding mom’s estate.
8.    Small claims court? Taking the Miko Inn to court?

9.    Thinking about SS and our new life togethe

10.    Research of potential business opportunities between U.S. and Germany.
11.     Practicing calligraphy so I can begin putting my letters and poetry in SS’s book.
12.    Writing my letter to SS’s mom.
13.    Working out at least five days out of seven.
14.    Return some overdue email responses.
15.    Continuing short stories of erotic romance
16.    Get P.J. (my cockapoo) some “real” obedience lessons.
17.    Preparing for final move to Germany (storage, clothes, personal items, etc…)
18.    Keeping my sister motivated and on schedule with her real estate situation as I’m helping her sell her house as well.
19.    Finish downloading music and making CD’s for SS and K to mail.
20.    Taking a break from it all and work on some painting projects.

21.    Oh…missing SS!

Apr
08

myjuicesOh yeah, before I go to be bed, I wanted to document that this is “Day One” of my new juice fast. After doing quite a bit of reading on the subject, I’m using this tool to hopefully jump start my motivation for healthier eating habits.  Maybe I just need to see those first 10-15 pounds come off and feel a difference to make the transition into an overall healthier lifestyle of eating and exercise.

The last time I lost significant weight and got into pretty good shape, I began with believe it or not, the Lemonade Cleanse.  Yeah, I know, brutal! You know the lemons, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper thing…Beyonce…well I did it, and while very difficult, it seemed to work for me.  After the losing the initial weight, I didn’t have the appetite for my normal fried foods and sweets.  I was eating cleanly with low carbs, lean meats, four to five smaller meals a day, plus I was working out about five days a week which I think is crucial to losing weight.

Anyway, I don’t think I can hang with the lemonade cleanse this time around, so I wanted to try the same principal but maybe a juice fast which would be more tasteful.  So, I’m kind of making my own basic rules, and they are as follows:

-    I will shoot for 10 straight days of drinking nothing but my juice shakes, lots of water, and green tea

-    My juice shakes will be one scoop of Garden Greens Berry Splash drink mix (Acai berry, Green Tea, Raspberry, Gogi Berry, Bilberry, Blueberry, Elderberry, Pomegranate, Cherry, Blackberry, Cranberry) along with a cup of orange juice or water, I may add more frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, or even spinach leaves with ice.

-    I will continue to take my men’s one a day vitamins, and omega 3 fish oil capsules.

-    I will take a herbal laxative tea as/if needed.

-    I will get back to walking/jogging/interval train/basketball/tennis….just get off my ass 4-5 days/week.

So, one day down, nine to go. I know the first few days will be the toughest and yes, honestly I do want a double bacon cheeseburger as I write this I’m not even going to lie, BUT… I’m going to resist and make a cup of hot green tea. It’s late anyway, and that’s actually another horrible habit I have – eating right before going to bed. I really have to stop that, and I will, I have.  Discipline!

Apr
08

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The longer we are apart, I suppose it’s only natural that my desire for SS should only increase. I’m missing her terribly as my best friend and lover. Though a day never passes where we don’t talk by phone, I miss having our cerebral conversations where I can see the movement in her eyes, the unique way she rubs her chin and stares at nothing in particular when in thought, or the way she smiles and seems almost embarrassed when I tell her how beautiful she is.

But, everyday I grow more and more frustrated in wanting to be there beside her, wanting to again hold her in my arms so she feels protected and safe, wanting to massage her stomach and imagine the new movement I may feel in a few short months. Waiting seems to be torture, and  right now, I don’t know patience.

We are approaching a brand new chapter in both of our lives in so many ways, and now I have accepted (albeit temporarily) leaving my beloved sunny Southern California for the  dramatically different landscape and lifestyle of Stuttgart, Germany. It is because of our obvious love and adoration for one another that I feel so enthusiastic for the adventures of tomorrow.

I should admit what I also so desperately miss in not having SS close is our physical love. Unlike any other previous experience without question, our intimacy is on a whole other level and this is so very welcomed. Our love communicates not only with our bodies, lips, and hands, but within our spirit.  Passion envelopes us from the inside out.

Emotionally we are fulfilled and blatantly thankful for the love we’ve finally found in one another just when we both had almost given up. I think I’ll remind her how much I love her… right now.

Mar
24

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Last night I met a friend to discuss some potential business. On his suggestion we ended up at a local restaurant for happy hour where we each completed a mountain of fried calamari, a half mountain of fried shrimp, French fries, and several mixed cocktails…and a chocolate chip cookie.  Sitting back patting our stomachs we then began to discuss the seriousness of our eating choices and its latest affects.

I reconnected with this friend after about ten years, and we both could not help but notice we were not only a little older, but a little wider, and since this blog is somewhat anonymous, in his case he was a lot wider. I told him how putting on the extra weight has affected me and recently has even scared the hell out of me.

Several months ago my girlfriend revealed to me that not only do I snore like an earthquake, but I actually stop breathing for an unusually long amount of time. I was well aware of what this meant as my late father had sleep apnea. When I was a young boy, my sisters and I thought it was so funny how he would do this never realizing how serious it was as it contributes to high blood pressure (which I also have), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease which he would ultimately pass away with.

Lightening the moment, we managed to laugh at those moments when you accidentally drop something to the ground, and for a few beats you just stare at it like, “Damn, do I really have to bend all the way down there?” It’s times like this you wish you had super-hero powers and could make objects move by the very power of your fingertip.

Then there’s the vanity aspect of putting on weight as we compared how it’s changed our physical features and lifestyle; our face, how our clothes fit, even how it affects our lovemaking having less ability to do all those sexual acrobats of yesteryear. My buddy (with a serious face) mentioned not being able to do “the half scissors squat.” Huh? The half scissors squat? I nodded along as if I knew what the hell that painful sounding position was. I made a  mental note to Google it later. But basically, this weight gaining thing really, really sucks.

So, inevitably we had to ask ourselves, if we know this is not healthy, very likely shortening our lives, and we so hate how its changing our appearance and lifestyle, why then are we not doing something about it? Why isn’t motivation taking over?

We sighed, sat there and pondered this very important question…in silence. The six almost clean plates of fried batter crumbs, tartar sauce, and ketchup sat there also staring at us.

For now, the best answer was changing the subject, but I do intend to look further into the dynamics of motivation. Study it a bit. I know what to eat, how to eat, how to work out. After all, I’m a former athlete. But it’s the motivation that has me stumped these days.

I will also be writing about these experiences of my sleep apnea, motivation, losing weight and getting more fit. It is another part of this successful life transition that motivated this blog…and ultimately I will be successful. Wish me luck.

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