Tag Archives: Motivation

Road Trip:The King was here.

Elvis in real life. Memphis, TN

Authors note: I am on a long distance road trip across America! If you comment and I don’t respond right away please don’t take offense! I will get back to you when I can! Enjoy!

Nashville is a happening city with BBQ joints and live music on every street corner. Proprietors sell memorabilia to eager tourists, bartenders pour shots of whiskey and Elvis could be heard in the air around me. It’s a beautiful little place with southern charm just bursting from its seams. Waiting to be explored by us New Yorkers looking for some respite from the hostile vultures up north.

I am writing to you from the Grand Van in a parking lot of a Super Wal-Mart in Arkansas.  I tell you this because I feel pity for my people back home. There is a cloud of desperation hanging over New York. I’ve been on the road a whole five days and I can already see the difference. I can feel it. Picture a stationary tornado swirling with rage and a ferocious appetite for destruction. This is New York. When you get away from the epicenter, the winds begin to calm, the sky opens, birds chirp.

Down south the sky is clear. The majority of people I have encountered so far have been a pleasure. I’m sure I will run into a few ornery people while traveling the country, but for the most part, so far, so good. I feel like chum sitting here in my van with my out-of-state tags. Just waiting for the sharks to roll in and circle me. I feel like a dopey fish that swam into the wrong end of a lagoon and will now pay the price for his stupidity. But they don’t know I have a spray can full of ArmorAll sitting next to me and I am not afraid to use it.  Who am I kidding? They would pick me off in a minute. Knowing me, I would try talking them down first and when this tactic didn’t work I’d start the van and head for God knows where, all the while throwing free stuff out the window to try and make amends.

I hope this is just another case of my imagination running amok. It tends to make mountains out of mole hills and it usually blows stuff out of proportion. Anyway, let’s get back to the story shall we?

I enjoy the slower pace and the friendly drawl of the locals. The way they tip their hats, the way they are willing to help with directions, the way women call me ‘suga’ and ‘doll’. This morning I was filling up the gas tank and when I was done, I happened to ask the nice young fella behind the counter if he knew of any good churches to attend. This being Sunday and all, I figured I would check out a service. My schedule is rather open at the moment so I took the time to listen. When I mean time, I mean twenty minutes.

I love people. But I am prone to frustration. Yet I generally love spending time with strangers because most of the time people just need an ear to listen, a kind word spoken, maybe even a pat on the back. We are creatures in need of bonding, we want to be understood and recognized. So I took the time and heard him out. I felt bad afterwards because I never actually went to service. I went to Graceland instead.

The King was here in Memphis, TN.

Many, many years ago before my father ran out of our lives, he had an obsession with Elvis, which in turn, led me to enjoy listening too. Over the years, I slowly put the king to rest. When I walked around the outside of his mansion I realized people still loved this dude. Fortunately for me I arrived during “Elvis week”. There were little shops selling souvenirs, tour buses shuttling people back and forth, cops walked up and down the boulevard, people moseyed around with mutton chops and big black glasses. To be honest I thought it all unnecessary and a bit touristy.

Then I walked the around the rock wall which guarded the mansion. Thousands of names and well-wishes were gingerly written in stone by marker, some wrote in paint. It was touching. This man brought joy to millions of people in the form of music. I think I saw someone crying about a hundred yards away. Elvis passed over thirty years ago, yet his legacy lives on. I went back to my van and sorted through my junk and pulled out a Sharpie. I wrote my name on his wall.

When I pulled the cap off my marker, I jumped head first into all the hoopla with everyone else. I felt like I was doing something grand, albeit unoriginal. This will sound corny but the whole experience was rather nice. A part of me lives just outside of Elvis’ doorstep forever. That rocks.

Tennessee is a wonderful state filled with beautiful flowers and arching mountains that appear like ancient gods bursting through the ground. While in Nashville I walked across the Cumberland pedestrian bridge and looked out across the water towards LP Field and realized how blessed I am to be able to experience such things. To be able to get up and move, to be able to read and communicate are a miracle in themselves.

When you leave your comfort zone and drive into unknown territories you will notice subtle changes around you. Landscapes, attitudes, food, weather. Yet one single, absolute truth remains; there are hurting people everywhere, they are hungry and lost and in need of friendship. They are in need of kindness.

Some kid is playing a flute about a hundred yards away from where I’m parked for the night. It’s a melancholy song but I like to think he is content. Reminds me of a guy named Ben I met while in Nashville. I had a chance to sit with this fellow wanderer and listen to him play his banjo. He too found it in his heart to leave home and travel across country. He is looking to be inspired and goes from city to city playing his music, playing his songs for free to bring happiness to others without a price tag. Sometimes we need to do things just because.

Well, my fellow bloggers and readers alike, it is late. It is hot. I am going to try and get comfy and get some shut eye. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Be safe, be blessed and until next time, chow.

Advertisements

Road Trip: My Intensive Care.

Me and the Shenandoah Valley.

On August 1st, 2012 I walked out of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for the last time. It was my home for the past three years. I was sure the outside world had changed drastically since entering the insidious institution of sorrow, that mammoth structure filled with sporadic acts of selfless bravery I have never encountered before. I have seen the sick be made well, watched families unite and grudges forgotten. I look forward to exploring the brave world of the half living.

It’s very serious up there in the I.C.U. When I walked the circular corridors I looked into the eyes of the dying and wondered which dimension beckoned their souls, I pondered the state of their hearts. Nursing staff ran to and fro delivering medications or cleaning any of the three major fluid groups; urine, blood or stool. I am not a morbid person I can assure you. I just try to give you the facts.

You can see death you know. It starts by taking the color from your skin, leaving it grey and pasty. It slithers into the whites of your eyeballs and casts a sickly yellow film over your pupils. Mouths open slightly, breaths come out slower. You can hear death too. The Reaper takes its smoky hand and grabs hold of your esophagus, allowing only whispers to escape your lips, until you slowly fade into the light. In some dimension far beyond the sight of men, your spirit exits and enters some sort of Twilight Zone even Rod Serling would be proud to call his own.

I was tired of it all.

So, I left the madness, the alarms, the codes, the elevators. Have I mentioned the blood and the stool? One cannot stress this point enough. Give a patient a bottle of Jevity and just watch the gastrointestinal system do its job. For those of you not in the know, it’s basically chocolate milk pumped into your stomach by a machine to keep you from starving to death while you are in a medically induced coma.

This past Wednesday morning, I woke up to the sounds of an electronic rooster screaming in my ear and I walked out on my past life. Months of worry, weeks of preparation and hours of anxiety, all came to a head when I started my Grand Van and pulled out of the gravel driveway.

It’s a funny feeling to just get up and leave everything behind. Luckily for me I never procreated or bought land to tend to, so I am able to throw caution to the wind and try something new. Yes, I had a good job for several years. I will eventually find new employment and get back to the grind and all that balderdash, but for now I need to be inspired. I need to dream. I want to explore paths less traveled. Walk where only a few brave men and women have dared. See what this beautiful country has to offer before I go stark raving mad just trying to survive.

After twenty bucks and a pinky finger later, I crossed the threshold into Jersey and headed south on Interstate 95. I screamed and pounded the roof of my van and sang along to whatever song was playing. Freedom is such a beautiful concept and I guess I never really knew what the term meant. I have no home. My money is tight (what else is new). Everything I own in this world I crammed into the van, and to be honest with you, I feel it’s too much. Stuff, stuff, stuff. We accumulate all this crap and for what?

Driving south on I-95 I was filled with both excitement and sorrow. Excitement in knowing I am living out my destiny. This is what I was supposed to do. This is why I was created. Oh, I don’t know, I just have this grandiose idea about writing a novel and inspiring others, and in order for me to accomplish this I have to walk out on life and go across country like Jeremiah Johnson or something. I am sorrowful because I leave a wonderful family behind. I am skipping out on time with good friends, leaving loved ones is a hard thing to do.

Have you ever had a burning in your heart to do something? Ever feel the Spirit leading you into an unknown direction? What did you do with it? Did you let the dream simmer and spoil or did you take hold of the reigns and put courage before your fears? I believe the key to a successful life is not in your wallet, nor your head, but in your heart. Set out to do something wonderful today even if it is terrifying. The harder resistance, the more important it is.

I feel this way about my own journey. I have a destination, Colorado, what will I do when I get there? I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I am walking by faith because I haven’t a leg to stand on.

Anyway, back to my road trip. My first major stop was our beloved capitol Washington D.C, where I spent most of my time worrying about feeding the meters so no one towed my mobile home. I was a bit disappointed for not staying longer, but I had a chance to catch a few sights before tucking tail and heading further away from home.  I stood outside the White House and waited patiently for my invite, when the president came out to greet us he noticed me and graciously invited me in for tea and strumpets. I asked him about gas prices and how we were doing on the whole economy thing. The Secret Service kicked me out once I started a fight over who had a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. I still say Jets. He is obligated to say the Ravens. Whatever, come playoffs, he’s going to owe me a lot of money. I think he cursed at me as I was being shoved out of the Oval Office. I let it go.

Virginia is a beautiful state filled with rolling green hills and sporadic homesteads. The Shenandoah Valley opens up before you like a fairytale. When you drive through Shenandoah National Park, you are greeted with numerous overlooks and friendly faces. I wish you can all see it once before you leave this earth. As you climb in altitude, the scenery intensifies and brings you closer to heaven.

I will end this article now because I don’t want to overload you with too much information. I have driven almost eight hundred and fifty miles in the last two days, so I am about tapped in the energy department.  As I sit here in this small, rundown hotel (one where they don’t give you free toiletries mind you) just outside of Knoxville, I bid you all a goodnight. Tomorrow will bring more mystery and exploration and I can’t wait to share the journey with you. Set out to do something noble today. You may be surprised who you inspire.

P.S- If you are in Knoxville, do yourself a favor and stop by Marlin & Rays seafood joint for some good food and wonderful hospitality. Southern girls make you feel right at home.


Bombs bursting in air.

Long Island New York circa 2012
Photography by Gabriel

Next month I am leaving my home to journey across America. I am packing up my minivan and hitting the proverbial road. Words cannot fully describe the multitude of emotions I feel over this quest of mine. It’s hard to believe I’m finally doing it. With nothing but a few bucks in my pocket and some prayers floating around the stratosphere, I am leaving all which is dear to me. I am leaving all that is familiar. I hate to use the caterpillar analogy because it’s a little girly and I don’t want to mention snakes shedding skin because, well, I don’t want to compare myself to a slithering serpent, but I will come out of this trip a new person. Cloaked with vigor, I will make my mark on history. Like fireworks exploding on a warm Fourth of July night, I will break free from my former self and shine brightly among the stars.

I can give you my itinerary, I can point out the special places I want to visit, I can even give you names of the soup kitchens I plan on dining in, but I can only speculate as to where this uncharted road will lead me and how long it will take to write a book about it all. Unfortunately, life never dances to the beat of our drums. We just skip along to whatever track is being played and learn to deal with it. I will play the role of Columbus for a short while. With a pen behind my ear and a compass beside my stale coffee, I will draw squiggly lines to and fro like I know what I’m doing. I will drive in awe of my beautiful country and appreciate the wonderful freedom I usually take for granted.

I wonder what it will be like to stand in the center of Washington D.C and marvel at the architecture. I try to imagine what it will be like to drive through the bowels of the Shenandoah Valley. I can picture the rolling hills giving birth to mountain ranges, which spew forth hot desert sands. Miles of open road slice through the landscape like a tongue from some ancient beast. The monster opens wide his mouth and reveals a great mystery. One I will have to take on headfirst with all my strength, with all my heart. After checking in on Elvis and his Heartland, I will cruise along the open highway with my hand outstretched to catch the wind. I will sing-along with Fleetwood Mac and the ever lovely Stevie Nicks.  Once blood clots begin to form in my legs, I’ll pull over on some deserted highway to take pictures of cacti and the vultures above me.  They will lick their beaks and watch me closely. The birds will be disappointed. I will not fear because I have a slingshot and I’m not afraid to use it.

I wrote the first draft of this article last night around midnight. Now it is early morning on the Fourth of July. I love waking up at seven o’clock on my day off, nothing like sitting around for a few hours waiting for the rest of the world to arise from deep sleep. So, I make the best of it by consuming two bowls of Lucky Charms while walking around the house in my robe pretending to be some rich lord from Ireland fending off wicked little leprechaun’s from stealing my bowl of sugary goodness. Actually I am sitting here trying to come up with something funny, and engaging to keep you guys from leaving my page in search of something better. I wouldn’t blame you because searching is the fundamental nature of our lives. It’s what drives us to wake up each morning and seize the day with tenacity. I guess this is why I have decided to leave.

As I sit here and watch the rain slowly drip from the iron handrail outside, I contemplate the beauty of the Grand Canyon and everything I will discover along the way. People will laugh and call me foolish, and even now there are people standing beside me who have doubted this trip from the start. But I tell you this, we are not all called to do the same thing.  Some cuckoo birds weren’t meant to be caged. I hope all of you enjoy your Independence Day. Long live Liberty! Long live Freedom!

Long Island New York circa 2012
Photography by Gabriel


Friday Night Follies: With apologies to Steve Buscemi

Long Island New York circa 2012
Photography by Gabriel

June is a fun month filled with frumpy old men mowing lawns, ice cream trucks selling frozen sugar on sticks, children hurling water balloons at unsuspecting victims and sporadic oppressive heat waves which make me want to crawl up in a cool cave somewhere until it blows over. I don’t actually want to sleep in a cave I just thought it went nicely with the rest of the sentence. For the better part of my life I preferred the brisk air of winter but after several weeks of shoveling slush I long for springs resurrecting touch when trees rain down pollen and sprinklers waste drinkable water hosing down sidewalks and everything else except our grass. After summer bumps spring out of the picture for awhile we look forward to fireworks and  and laughter of good friends cracking expensive beer and throwing away perfectly good chicken thighs because one or two managed to hit the ground. I don’t know what the big fuss is about they are perfectly edible. I love how the sun ricochets of the tops of barbecues while hotdogs burn and cheese melts underneath its scorching roof. Dogs barking in the distance. Kids jumping in pools. More ice cream being sold. More water wasted. It is a wonderful time to relax on our loungers and fall asleep while trying to catch some sun before it retreats behind the surface of the earth. Make sure you set an egg timer or something you really don’t want to burn.

After a few weeks of humidity and eating macaroni salad people start complaining about the heat. I am grateful to have lived with all four seasons. Funny how we grumble when the sun scorches us, we moan when frosty sneezes and turns the earth into a frozen wasteland, we can never seem to get our stories straight. June clouds remind me of Florida. At the risk of sounding corny I would say they are happy clouds. Bright and puffy, like someone took a bag of marshmallows and put it in a microwave for thirteen minutes and waited for it to explode in one cataclysmic orgy of white froth. It’s a good time to be young and single with my kick-ass van and a full tank of gas. I don’t know little things make me happy, even if only for a moment. The road before me holds mysteries too great for me to know, and the clouds which I spoke so highly of, hang high above me as if to protect my noggin from unseen pieces of space junk. The Mets game screeches from my radio, I think someone hit a home run but I’m not sure it could have been an advertisement for suntan lotion or a million other trinkets one needs to survive summertime madness. Fly swatters, for instance, can be extremely valuable, especially if you neglect to eat the rest of your rice pudding. American flags to show your patriotism, music to cleanse your soul and pictures to capture memories in the making and remind us of summers long gone and those yet to come. Some of us remember the intimate moments spent under a warm night sky with a girlfriend. Remembering how her eyes glowed, like two emeralds sitting among diamonds. Hair falls softly over her face in one poetic motion.  Yeah, June is a good month with family birthdays and calming breezes.

I had the pleasure to watch a friend of mine play softball yesterday. She executed perfectly on both sides of the ball, even did a little line judging. I sat in the bleachers with sweat dripping from my snoopy-like nose and watched grown adults run around a field of dirt trying to prove something. I rather enjoyed sitting there with Bella hanging off my neck and you can refresh those naughty thoughts because Bella is my camera. Looking at the perfectly manicured lawn and towering spot lights I began to ponder why we all run in circles. Like a bunch of nuts in a Marx Brothers short, we play games to impress other people. We sit in bleachers and watch live competitions to ignite something within ourselves. We watch parades to inspire our sense of community. We ramble on blogs so someone will notice.  We just keep on running around the mountain till someone comes along to make us stop acting like puppets, little puppet people playing with puppets. I want to find the puppeteer, push him aside and cut the strings attached to my own back and make my own kind of music. When you are a part of something bigger than yourself, like these ball players, you gain a sense of belonging in a world so bent on pushing people away. I thought about all this and watched some old guy on the opposing team hit a pop up and run for all he was worth. I think I heard a knee pop before the ump called him out at first. It’s great how we all come together and just run in circles. I am in need of a new track to sprint around because this one has become worn and nonproductive.

Steve Buscemi in Grown Ups
Happy Madison Productions 2010

Other than watching Grown Ups for the first time and finding it extremely comical, I had no real explanation for putting this photo in the article. But if you look closely it really does have the capacity to put a smile on your face so maybe I did it on purpose. I like Buscemi because he’s brilliant plain and simple.  I appreciate talent when I see it and this guy has proven himself multiple times over. Whether playing gangster or jokester, Steve makes watching movies a little less of a burden because you can only expect the best. Only two actors can do this. The other is Nicholson. Anyway, I hope all of you enjoying this heat wave stay calm and cool. Stop trying to run circles around everyone and everything. You will only tire yourself out and if you do, you will never make it to home plate. Cheers.


100 Words: So let it be done

Rise up courageously young wanderer for slumber has fallen upon the people in the land and made men weary and drowsy with selfishness, wicked with unbridled greed the likes of which this world has not seen nor shall ever see again. How long will you allow the blind to lead the sheep before you step forward? The hand which formed the fingers, will it not guide you? The mouth which called forth light, will it not beckon your soul? Be brave and very courageous because slumber is for a moment, awake the people, call forth eternity, light will conquer darkness.

Current Prompt: Slumber

Please click above link for more info pertaining to this delightfully challenging challenge.


Sleepers awake!

When I close my eyes I can see the maestro standing amidst the audience proudly in his penguin suit. The moment is silent. The crowd ready. He sends his arms skyward and pauses just a moment to allow people to edge forward in their seats. He lowers the baton and ushers forth an invisible stream of music which captivates the crowd behind him. Violins make their angelic tunes as waves of bows sway back and forth like reeds alongside a river bank after the tide returns to sea. The orchestra delivers Johann Bach perfectly to the listeners who in turn applaud with enough emotion to raise the dead guy from his eternal nap. But this is why they have gathered en masse tonight. They showed up for a performance never to forget. They came to wine and dine and be enraptured by the entire shebang before hailing down a cab and heading home.

I think of crap like this when listening to classical music. I’ve had several songs looping through my brain for a few days now so I figured if I write something about it maybe the madness will cease. I am currently infatuated with “Wachet Auf!”For those of you who slept through rudimentary German in high school it means “Sleepers Awake!”  And it happens to be one of my favorite pieces. Not that I am a classical music aficionado but I do enjoy it when the mood is right. I wonder what it must be like to compose symphonies and write cantatas that will bring joy to millions of people. Do you think Bach knew the impact he would have on people decades in the future? Sometimes I picture him sitting on his uncomfortable wooden bench with his silly wig in hand contemplating the meaning to his music and wondering if it was all for nothing. I can see him walking around with those goofy stockings and buckle shoes cursing the wind and flinging pencils across his room.

Years ago I read a wonderful book entitled “Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh” which led me to search out this misfit, this vagabond, this sad man stuck in a whirlwind of poverty and mental illness. Just for the record Vinnie never actually wrote an autobiography but composed hundreds of letters to his beloved brother Theo and they were compiled into a book by Irving Stone. In between the pages Van Gogh describes life as a wanderer looking for love, friendship and meaning to things he cannot comprehend. He was labeled an outcast and obsolete by the same society who would come to love his paintings. It’s depressing when I think of him sitting in his seat with his gun loaded and no one around to care for him. I like to think all he wanted to do was inspire someone, to feel wanted. He traveled through London and Paris seeking his place on this globe. Unfortunately, he never found it.

I hope to inspire someone before I walk towards The Light. Once you get passed all the muck, the mire and all the crumby stuff in between most people just want to know if they did life right, if they counted the needs of others more important than their own. I strive to live this way, but I know I don’t always succeed. I just hate knowing (and I am using the word hate here) there are wonderful human beings out there walking around without a friend or uninspired. If I were a king or the President I would make some sort of law that banned unfriendliness…Oh I don’t know, maybe it would go something like this:

         I, Gabriel Papparaci, President of the United States and founder of the Foundation for Friends hereby order all to follow these simple yet powerful rules to live by: Be kind and considerate, include all, greet strangers and buy them coffee, do not judge someone by their clothes, do not argue, do not belittle, show respect, invite everyone to your party or no one at all, never forget to say thank you and please, share your lunch with the poor kid, dance with the unpopular chick, accept the nerds invitation to dinner. When you play a sport don’t set a maximum limit on how many can play at one time even if the teams turn out to be sixty-three verses fifty-two. I understand this may get confusing but so be it, just play with more basketballs. Be aware of the bus driver’s feelings even if he is a grump, remember that we are all equal in God’s eyes and no one is better than anybody else, honor the Golden Rule. If any of these laws and bylaws are broken you will be publicly dunked and/or pied depending on which region you live in. Thank you. Also, I love you.                                

                                                    Respectfully yours, the Prez.


The lion and his den.

             I stood on the Eighteenth floor bridge today and watched a cloak of mist drift in from Connecticut and overtake Long Island Sound. It was subtle, like the tide taking away my footprint one grain of sand at a time. The silhouette of earth bowed down to the gloomy clouds as they filled the heavens with awe and majesty. A rumble of thunder was followed by a flash of electricity somewhere in the near distance. Seagulls soared above the neon green trees dotting the landscape making their way to and fro to who knows where. I assumed they were trying to find protection from the incoming phenomenon. The bridge did precious little to appease my desire for security. I could feel the damp and dreary chill in the air miles away.

              Sometimes I feel honored to be able to go to work and have a view like this. Whenever I find myself stressed out I glance out the window and remind myself to breath because what we go through is not as important as how we go through it. On a sunny day you can see the island zigzagging east to west for miles and if you look really close you can see waves breaking along the rocky shoreline. During the summer months boats cruise along the water splitting blue ocean into white froth behind them. Many would say the view is breathtaking at sunrise; others will speak of romantic sunsets.

              Unfortunately there is another side to this token, another edge to this sword. On my side of the glass patients lay broken and in need of a few good strangers to care enough to show them some love, to take care of them, to remind them kindness is alive and well and not some relic of decades past. It’s not an easy thing to awake each morning knowing you are going into battle, knowing you are going into the proverbial lion’s den. Thankfully there are other nut jobs out there who have volunteered to jump in with me. These chosen few are called nurses.

              I work in the company of the best of the best. It is an honor and a privilege to stand beside them. To call them friends. Not many go to work knowing what we know and manage to get out alive or at the very least sane. To all of the nurses reading this I want to say thank you. Always keep the flame of kindness kindled in your heart and when it starts to dim I implore you to take a moment and watch the sky because storms will eventually retreat and the sun will shine again.