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Life is Serious. Life is Feast. And The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

When I was 19 years old my friend Matt Workman committed suicide.

We were best friends since the day we met in kindergarten.

Please keep reading. Because the reason that I wrote those last two sentences was not to bum you out. I wrote them to remind you, me, everyone, that, in a time of great fear and potential upheaval, this life – you know, the thing that ALL of us are doing? This life: that is ALL that it is – and it is only just that.

It’s only life.

This guy lived both seriously, fully and fearlessly

This guy lived seriously, fully & fearlessly

To err is human and MAN am I human! So I try my best not to render judgments, either on people I know, or on the homeless dude asking for change, or on people in positions of power, or celebrities, or people in completely different cultures, because I’ll never know why/how they’re in the position they are in. I’m a 42 year old man now. I know who I am and what I’ve done. One could make an argument that these are the only two things that I do KNOW.

I value my time, I do not suffer fools, I love my friends and family with all my heart, and I try to do the best I can with my art and my career.

Do I have opinions? Damn right. Do I make judgments? Of course. I already told you, I’m human as fuck. Do I sometimes indulge, either in myself, or in the illicit, or in the taboo? Yup – I’m not just human as fuck, I’m a writer! A writer with a chip on his shoulder and an almost animalistic type of determination to confront the reality of experience, to do things before the bell is rung, compelling the great scorekeeper in the sky to make a tally on the sum of the life of Jefferson Rich.

A German friend once told me: “Ernst ist das leben.” Translated: life is serious. Very German, yes? I misunderstood him at first, I’d thought he said, “Ernst ist das laben.” Translated: life is feast. Very American, yes? This launched us into a great philosophical debate on the banks of the Spree in Berlin.

It was at this exact place where I came to a profound realization: it's only life.

It was at this exact place where I came to a realization: it’s only life.

My friend made the case for “leben”, or serious. I think his argument was rooted in the newest German generation’s unbound feeling of remorse, guilt, anger, and sadness about the Holocaust. Life is all about what you are doing, he argued – you must see something for what it is, and if it is wrong, you must stand up against it. You must, because if you just passively observe, if you just live only for yourself, terrible, unthinkable things can happen.

I couldn’t dismiss what he’d just said. I thought on my friend Matt Workman, and how, he’d ascended from 15 year old high school partier in Santa Cruz to 19 year old major promoter in the rave/underground party scene with massive celebrity connections and making constant trips to LA, traveling all around the world. But he was only 19. And I saw my boy slipping. I’d ask, “are you okay?” He’d answer, “Yeah.” And then I’d let it go. I didn’t want to be his dad, or judge him, but inside, I knew he was dying and today, I do wish I’d just called him on out on his shit, and told him that he was lying to himself. But I knew it was his life to live… and, even though he never slept, he was seriously struggling with his drug use (back then, we called it X) and one day, he cracked, I knew deep inside, that there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent it.

So life is “laben”, or feast, I argued. And judgment is the enemy of enlightenment. Here I am, thousands of miles from my home, in a city that is an artist’s lucid dream, having a beer and a conversation that is incredible – a conversation that would not be happening if I didn’t believe life is feast, I said. It’s when people become purist, with their uninformed notions of good and evil, right and wrong, I continued, THIS is when life starts to become devalued. It is the puritanical, very serious people I said, that hold life in very low regard, unless it’s life that they can agree with. Look at our countries, I said.

But you just made my point for me! he countered, because people are so flighty with their sense of morality and are so passive, assholes like the Nazis could slaughter millions in the past. And, he said, ominously, something new will assuredly come in the future, most likely in America, because America’s sense of culture and morality was going into the toilet.

My friend warned me that if our moral center is destroyed, and the American public is passive about it, the vacuum could be filled by something unthinkably evil.

My friend warns that if our moral center is destroyed, and the American public is passive about it, the vacuum could be filled by something unthinkably evil.

WHOA! I said, that’s just plain looney, I countered. In a place where liberty reigns, where everyone’s ideas are considered, where self-determination and freedom of expression are held in high regard, yeah, you get your reality show garbage but you also get stuff like Space X, or Obama, and-

-Yeah that’s all naive bullshit, he interrupted. You really think you have liberty? You really think people in your country know how to think critically? Show self-determination? If you have no control over what you want – if you are unable or unwilling to discern what you value – you are a slave to someone else’s passions and you can’t act freely! You think you have any privacy at all? Even with what you think? (Important contextual note: this conversation took place pre-Snowden.) Wake up man. A war is being waged on the American people, and if you, a person who I consider to be one of the greatest, smartest artists in America, if you of all people can’t see it, then we’re ALL in real trouble. Seriously.

I held tight to the crux of my argument. Look, when people get so damn pure, so damn righteous, THAT is when people start rendering judgments about how other people live. And when that happens, what’s next? I mean, what’s so enlightened about that? For example, the white man came to America, used slaves to build up the country, slaughtered Native Americans, because of Manifest Destiny. America has never even started to deal with our addiction to our idea of our own purity, and you see it as we expand our empire. Hell, American soldiers have been in the Middle East for two decades (it was 2010 when we had our conversation) and will remain for God knows how long, all based on this myth of America knows best because America is right and you Muslims, you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing and we can’t leave you to your own devices, because you’re just going to come kill us. So before talking to you, you ALL must submit, you must bow, and surrender everything you are to us. (Another important contextual note: Isis did not exist when this conversation took place.) America had turned the entire world into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict because of our pure, just, American way.

Why wouldn't the entire world want to be as American as a bikini clad babe at a bbq scarfing down a juicy, thick, long... hot dog?

Why wouldn’t the entire world want to be as American  as a bikini clad babe at a bbq opening wide…for that juicy… thick… long… American dream?

Fuck that, we need to live as if life is feast I said, because we never know when it’s going to end. We need to embrace each other, and each others ideas, and refrain from judgment, because as I said, judgment is the enemy of enlightenment. We need to love each other. We need to talk to each other and we need to listen to each other, no matter who you are and DO NOT JUDGE IT!!

My friend laughed at me. Discernment, judgment, THAT IS THE WAY to enlightenment my friend, he countered. If you don’t have discernment, you know what you get? Velveeta instead of Petit Basque, Night Train instead of Burgundy, Ghost Dad instead of Ghost, Real Housewives of Wherever instead of The Wire, ugly, stupid, brutal porn instead of stimulating, sexy eroticism.

Okay, that’s a provocative point, but the world goes round based on both sides of the coin. And you NEED both, otherwise, you get that damn purist thing I’m talking about.

Check this out – when we were boys, my friend Matt and I, we would steal copies of his dad’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, his Playboy and Penthouse magazines, and we stashed them in the woods, where no one else was around. We would look at the pictures (and NEVER read the articles) and we would talk about how we’d make love to each of the women contained inside. What moves we’d do. Which women looked like they were great lovers, compared with which looked like they were just okay. We both knew that we wanted to be great lovers when we reached manhood, and we knew we’d need practice in order to become great. But we were young and didn’t have girlfriends yet, you know? So we would eventually go home, with the vision of whichever woman we’d either seen in the photographs, or girls at school, or teachers, or whoever, we’d use those old Casio digital wrist watches, and we’d use the timer to find out how long we could masterbate before we’d ejaculate, and how long it would take us (if at all) to regain our erections, and sometimes we’d make a competition of who could ejaculate the most times in a night. Then, the next time we’d meet up, we’d report back our results. We kept pushing each other to go longer, to go more times. I even made a game for myself, to see how close to a certain time I could get, like 20 minutes, because I wanted to have the ability to control EXACTLY when I would ejaculate. And our drive in doing this was all in the name of the dream that when the day came, and we were with a woman, she would remember regard us as the greatest lover she ever had, every time.

Without discernment, artistic eros becomes unsexy porn.

Sans discernment, artistic eros becomes unsexy porn.

So, I said to my friend, was what we did wrong? Was it perverted? Was it evil? Because there are a lot of people who would think that if I told them what we did. Should I have been feeling shame for what we were doing? I didn’t. Why didn’t other people do what we did? Because they judged. And if I’d judged it, I would not have done what I did. Would I have become a great lover? It’s the people who listen to those people who say masturbating is a sin, that say that homosexuality is an abomination, that marriage is only a man and a woman… they’re the ones who are all fucked up, make other people fucked up, and have depraved senses of what’s sexy and erotic… because… why?

Because my friend was right – the big, huge, serious, very serious crimes against humanity keep popping up here, in America, and our moral decay is for real.

AND because I was right – we are more and more convinced of our pure, American ideals.

And it’s this purism that is sweeping the American body politic, our policy decisions, and our voting public that has me so deeply concerned. Whether it’s supporters of Delusional Donald, or Crazy Bernie, or Crooked Hillary, America is forging it’s way into a more pure, extremist, shaky land, ruled by fear, of either the candyass narcissistic billionaire who’d rather live in a gold tower with a Napoleonic complex and authoritarian aspirations, or the well-meaning septuagenarian socialist or a duplicitous, dishonest, equivocating, smart, but entitled pragmatist who shuns accountability and rarely demonstrates empathy.

I am concerned because the noise around our country is sending off vibrations of tumultuous conflict…a great disturbance in The Force…so much fear… so many stories of Mexican people getting shipped away… so many stories of a harsher and harsher American dogma… so much fear… a fear that I’ve not felt….since…

Days after Matt had died. I had a lucid dream, and to this day I think he was responsible. I think he pulled me into Nirvana, or heaven, or whatever. I was Neo before The Matrix existed, flying over greenery as far as the eye could see, being told by angelic types that I would be okay, that the pain of living through the loss of my friend would eventually subside, and the dream ended with a reminder of those old digital Casio wristwatches, and how, when we were little kids, we’d used those watches for a far more innocent use – we’d compete as to who could press the stopwatch buttons the fastest – DEE-DEET… .11 of a second… DE-DEET… .08 of a second…

DE-DEET… That would be my lifetime on Earth compared to the age of my soul. And my fear, ever since, has been pretty easy to check.

Life is serious. But it’s only life. DE-DEET.

Life is feast. But it’s only life. DE-DEET.

And the only thing we have to fear…

is losing our connection to what it means to be alive.

We have one world, and if there is but one way, and one right...

We’ve one world & if there is but one way & one right… is that we must all love each other, despite the spite, with all of our might.

…it is that we all have the right to love each other, despite the fights and the spite… with all of our might.

Presidential Horserace Update: Plantar Fascist Leads Hillarious by 1/2 Length

So the swift, brutal and crushing blow, somehow, has yet to be delivered in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. However, maybe, just maybe, the blow delivered by the Democratic National Committee to Bernie Sanders WILL be what decides this election. By demanding Sanders’ utter capitulation, ignoring their own rule-breaking douchebaggery with nary one real apology (which would’ve indicated their desire to change the culture, which clearly, they don’t think they need to do) they basically flipped off the independent / youth movement that Sanders activated.

And now they very well may have handed the Presidency to Donald J. Trump.

Sanders, to his credit, did pull out the best “I’m cheerleading for Hillary” act that he could muster. It was hard to watch. Not because the man lost, but because of HOW he lost, and what he was then forced to do. We shall see how much surrogacy Bern does, or how many rallies for Hillary he sponsors. No matter what he does, to the Hillarites out there, it will never be enough. And no matter how many rallies or surrogacy appearances Bernie does, I have to think, those aren’t with her will not be swayed from this point forward.

Bernie really deserved better. And when Sarah Silverman twisted the knife in Bernie’s supporters backs by saying they were “being ridiculous,” that, for many, was truly the last line of bullshit they were willing to hear from the Democractic party about unification.

What a shitshow. It’s insane that all of this self-inflicted Democratic Party damage could be fatal. All it will take is a Trump win and for the Democratic Party to subsequently blame Bernie. This would be so twisted and revisionist that it would be nothing less than a national tragedy.

Sanders, for my money, was the obvious better choice to beat Trump. I guess those SuperDelegates really don’t have a purpose except to conspire with each other to install “THEIR nominee.”

Act with impunity. Rules be damned. These are mottos both Trump and The Democrats believe.

The Democrats are All In With Her, and they have been since well before the Iowa caucuses. They’re still exceedingly pleased with their choice of course, even though they’ve alienated millions of younger voters in the process and generally pissed off a bunch of the more independent folks in the Democratic Party. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Just ask any in the Democratic Party and they will tell you that 90% of Sanders’ supporters are voting for Hillary.

They are obviously lying. The question is, are they lying to themselves too?

The horserace is the horserace. At this point, it’s just a matter of who’s got the endurance, the strength, the follow through, and the tactics to seal this deal with the American people.

It many ways, it’s difficult to believe that the general election has JUST started, and that the Convention resets have occurred. It means that the horserace is nearing the 3/4 pole, and by my math & accompanying observations, Donald J. Trump (if he were a horse, I’d name him Plantar Fascist) leads Hillary R. Clinton (if she were a horse, I’d name her Hillarious) by about 1/2 length, still anyone’s race, in horserace terms. Don’t slap me with your polls, or your surveys, or Nate Silver’s increasingly wacky five thirty-eight. No.

I’ve been watching these races for far too long, and, to my dismay, Plantar Fascist is leading. Hillarious has never once, in her racing career, effectively closed a comeback bid. The horse has moxie, but is it game to outduel this inexperienced, volatile but surprisingly strong colt?

A horse’s strengths are a horse’s weaknesses as well. By my calculation, Plantar Fascist has utilized his strengths better than Hillarious. This is a horse that’s all about getting in front of you, making you try to catch up to him, and before you know it, you’re frustrated because he just fends you off, again and again. Any kind of overtaking maneuvers are thwarted because this horse, he almost seems too dumb or too crazy to realize that a horse isn’t supposed to try to win every single gallop, let alone win every single race wire-to-wire. So this is what Plantar Fascist’s strength/weakness is. He’s so reactive that it keeps him in the lead. This can be witnessed by the fact that his acceptance speech drew far bigger ratings than the Hillarious address, which, by any measure, should’ve been considered the historic one and the bigger draw.

Hillarious’ strength/weakness is about heart. Does she truly have it? Not sure. She’s not afraid of work, and that’s a good thing, because she has some work to do to win this race. The ground in front of her is choppy, due to poor track conditions laid for her by the DNC/Bernie fiasco. In addition, this horse who leads her is galloping wildly and swerving all over the track to block her. She should easily be able to surpass him, but at this point, she can’t find the path. She’s a smart horse. But are her smarts and experience going to help her overtake this wild horse? This stupid, talented, schizo horse that is so unpredictable? Hillarious looks hesitant, like she’s trying to calculate the incalculable. If she attempts a pass, will Plantar Fascist just decide to wipe them both out? This is where her heart comes in. If she can reconnect to her own wild horse authenticity, then, this moronic opponent running all over the track, completely untrained, will fall when she shows what she’s truly made of.

She has to play to win. Hillarious can not play “not to lose.”

But right now Team Hillarious is overthinking it all.

They should remember how her stud, The Comeback Kid, won: jobs jobs jobs.

The more I watch of this horserace, the more I see horses that brought a knife to a flame thrower fight. They’ve all fallen to the wayside. Has Hillarious learned from their mistakes?

I’m not sure Team Hillarious realizes just how important it is that they trade in that knife and get a sniper rifle and take this Trumpzilla monster down.

From the beginning, I’ve thought that whoever wins the 2016 Presidential General Election is going to be the jobs horse (hence, why I thought Sanders, horsename: Intrepid Inspiration, was the horse for the DNC to back.)

If the people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, Iowa and Michigan really think that the horse who wins is a horse that’s going to get them a job, then they’ll be on that horse.

Right now, more people are betting on Plantar (because he’s like a wart you can’t get rid of) Fascist (because he represents the first fascist President) for those jobs. And they don’t even care that he IS Plantar Fascist.

Why Mary Loved Los Gigantes! And So Much More…

I’ve been hesitant to post anything to my site for a little while, because it was going to force me to write about something painful, something still new, and something that absolutely HAD to be the very next thing I wrote about.

So here’s goes nothing…

On August 26, 2014, my friend and former roommate Mary Atchison died. Her boyfriend of 10 years was booked on a charge of homicide. I met the guy once, and I didn’t know him. Police say that the cause of Mary’s death was blunt force trauma. The suspect’s bail was recently upped to $2 million dollars as new evidence recently came to light that supposedly shows he was making attempts to cover up the crime. He has pleaded “Not Guilty” and the trial is still in it’s “discovery phase.”

She was allegedly murdered the late night/early morning that I attended a San Francisco Giants game, and, if you knew Mary, then you knew she absolutely loved the San Francisco Giants. Before driving up to Northern California, I sent her a message that I was coming into town, while Hope and I were on vacation driving up the coast. I didn’t hear back. I didn’t think that was too abnormal. I’d not seen Mary in awhile, and we kept in touch sporadically via social media.

On September 7, 2014, there was a memorial for Mary up in San Mateo County, near La Honda, a gorgeous redwood forest amphitheater, where I saw people I’d not seen in quite awhile, including Mary’s close friend and also a former roommate, Dave. Finding closure for such a dramatic and sudden end for someone is difficult. When that someone is Mary, who was so gregarious, so ebullient, so open, so smart, so funny, so much sunshine personified, it’s just a pain that’s never going to go away.

Dave and I know this. We also know we’ll have to move on. And we don’t even really talk about it. We just know. I mean really, what is there to say?

It was really so good to see my friend Dave again.

We reminisced about our time living together, how, when we were in our mid-20’s, living at this awesome flat on Potrero Ave. in the San Francisco Mission District, we were crazy, we were irreverent, we were brilliant, we threw the most epic parties in San Francisco, and it was exactly what we should’ve been doing. Nothing was off the table. No regrets. Great, unforgettable experiences. And a lot of love. We all got along famously. It was a special time in our lives.

Dave and I sharing memories of our fallen friend Mary, at a La Honda landmark, Apple Jack’s.

And as I try to fight through the tears that come on as a result of this situation when I think about it, I can’t feel as if I’m going to get the words out right. I know I won’t get the words out right. Because I want you to know who Mary was. SO MUCH. I want you to see her hilarious fascination with the color purple. I want you to experience the funny word games we’d play – for instance, we were obsessed with how many possible ways a person could write a word differently, but in a “phonetically correct” way. (My favorite was always the word “dude” spelled as “deuxed” — there was no weak ass “cool” subbed with “kewl”, that was stuff for amateurs — how about “scillvur” for the word silver, or “phawcks” for the word “fox”? … and bonus points if you’d substitute an actual “word” for a “word” like “whirred!” as in Whirred Up!) I want you to know that Mary loved to dance, to hike, to bike, to camp, to fucking live like there’s no fucking tomorrow. I want you to know Mary. I want you to know that sometimes she’d go too far. And that it didn’t matter. For her it WAS all about the journey. She HATED tomatoes. She LOVED the Giants and 49ers, especially the Giants. I ALWAYS knew where Mary stood on anything, even if we were in complete disagreement. I loved her for that. Such a rare quality in a person.

Damn. More tears.

It’s the pain of stuff like this that made me a writer though. And a cook. I’ve lost people I loved in sudden and dramatic ways before – this is the first one I’ve lost to a murder, which, I’m still processing – but anyway – I want to write to keep them alive, to keep me alive, to keep the allness of what we are, as people, alive. Cooking, it forces me to be present, to be in the moment. Whereas writing allows me to wander. To remember. It all helps to balance me and yet I teeter every which way. Jeez. I’m such a Libra, so back and forth.

Okay, I’m losing track here, but I’m having fun, and I know that somehow this is organized and will end up well.

Which was the Mary way.

Let me get to the important point I want to make already.

Here’s why, I think, Mary loved the San Francisco Giants. Anyone who knows baseball will agree, Los Gigantes are not the most talented team in baseball. In fact, in the years they won the World Series, 2010 and 2012, exactly ZERO experts picked them to win the World Series when the playoffs started (remarkably, the same thing has happened this year.) Each year their roster is composed of: the unheralded, the rookies, the misfits, the overlooked, the underrated, the enthusiastic, and the weird. Their margin of error for winning games seems so small. And yet, when the pressure is highest, when the chips are on the table, this group will never give in, they will never give up. They know that eke-ing out a win by one run is the same result as winning by ten runs. They know that tomorrow is not guaranteed and so they play like each game is their last. Last night, the Giants won the longest playoff game ever played, 6 hours and 30 minutes, a riveting 18 inning game won by the Giants 2-1, after the Giants, down to their last out, seemed done for. And they found a way.

Stronger Together: Why the Giants win.

Stronger Together: Why the Giants win.

And now they seem to be on a collision course with their arch rival, the LA Dodgers, who are big flash and big attitude and big money stars. I live in LA and I think it’s fair to say, the team fits the city. And it fits that the teams and the fans of the teams hate each other. Of course the Dodgers will have their hands full with the Cardinals. Another team that is about the team and not the stars.

I really REALLY wish that Mary could’ve seen the Giants game yesterday. Longest and most intense baseball game I’ve ever seen. Won by a bunch of grunts.

Can the grunts ever beat the stars? What is a “star”? What is a “grunt”?

And who cares about “star” or “grunt” perception anyway? Who gives a shit about flash for flashes sake? If you’ve got character, real character, it shines through, it signifies your value as a person, even if so many dopes out there can’t pick up on it, because they, sadly, are devoid of it.

Why would the amount of money, the amount of toys, the amount of any shiny thing, signify wealth? Is not wealth, true wealth, the amount of friends you have, the quality of those friends, the quantity of experiences that you have with those friends?

I’ll wrap this up by telling you that when I think about the friendship I had with Mary, I feel wealthier. I feel stronger. I feel valuable. I feel that much more dedicated to seeing just how good of a writer I can be.

I miss my friend, mostly, because I just want to thank her for all that.

Whirred Deuxed!

My holmie Mary Atchison, who loved and lived like the Giants play baseball: on the edge and with character!

My holmie Mary Atchison, who loved and lived like the Giants play baseball: on the edge and with character!

PS – here’s a link to donate to La Casa de Las Madres, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence, in memory of Mary.

My Obsession with iLa Copa Mundial!

It was June 15, 1982.

My brother (then age 4) and I (then age 8) were up early that morning. We turned the dial on our old tv set (which received exactly 2 VHF stations and 3 UHF stations) looking for something interesting. One of those UHF stations broadcast everything in Spanish and on that particular morning we stumbled upon the Cameroon/Peru World Cup Group stage match.

I remember that my brother and I decided we’d root for Cameroon. Maybe we thought their uniforms were cooler. Maybe we just thought it sounded like a cool place. Cameroon. What a name.

In any event, we wanted them to win – bad. What transpired was a thrilling match, filled with loads of scoring chances. When Cameroon’s Roger Miller seemed to find the back of the net, the Spanish speaking announcer lost his mind and screamed from the top of his lungs, “Goooooooool!!!! GOOOOLLLLLL!!!!” only for the score to be disallowed (unjustifiably, we agreed) the match ended in 0-0 tie.

And I was hooked for life. Yes. My child-like obsession with the World Cup began with a nil-nil draw. For some reason, that morning, that match, it made me realize that the world is so diverse, and that I wanted to see as much of it as I could.

Every World Cup brings me back to that realization.

Seven World Cups have passed since then. I think my love for this event grows with each World Cup. And I still have an affinity for watching the games in Spanish. Let’s face it, American announcers are horrible when it comes to soccer. Anyway…


Perhaps my fanaticism is tied to my growing love for geography, that the world is a place filled with different countries, different cultures, different traditions, different foods, different wines. And the come one, come all parties that the World Cup inspires! Be ye religious, atheistic, herbivorous, omnivorous, conservative, liberal, rich or poor, nothing brings people together like watching two nations compete by chasing a ball, on a level playing field, of grass.

My fellow Americans were admittedly late to this party. But now I think it’s established that, while many people here in the US are still indifferent to the World Cup, there are an increasing number of us who love this event every four years. We’ll root for our nation with wild fervor and perhaps an unhealthy dose of delusional optimism. We’ll root for other nations based on our heritage or by some other criteria.

It’s all just fun as hell.

And I think it’s good for increasing numbers of Americans to be thinking more “internationally.” Who cares if it revolves around a sporting event? Considering all the serious global problems we all now face together, I’m glad the World Cup is now back to remind some of us of our common humanity.

Now, if we’d just take the time to learn more about each other, to try to revel in each other’s differences, to face and solve our shared problems together (as us World Cup fans, perhaps in a slightly less-than-sober state, will do every four years) maybe we’d all feel like champions in the end, and not like child-like, gawking observers of a nil-nil draw.