Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Jesus Christ was a peace-loving carpenter’s son, Ani DiFranco was an open mic queen sistah, Joey Ramone took the 7 Train for a Gray’s Papaya...

Meanwhile, more stories… Don Quixote was a jobless madman who brandished whirlwind swords of wisdom and got fed with rainbow’s bread, Karl Marx was a pauper with a proletarian soul that was nourished by a philosopher’s hammer and sickle, Evita Peron was the wounded spirit of the pampas before she declared victory over a fallen icon of political masculinity, Tina Turner ushered the exuberant voice of an angel as her battered heart healed then declared an ethereal triumph over male-induced tribulation, Bono was a plain joe Mr Hewson who grieved then exalted the blues and funk of Irish ghettoes in the name of Christ before he rocked the mansions of gods for spare change for African debt relief…
What is your story? Who are you, where do you belong? What are you doing this Christmastime? What will you be doing in 2006?
Forget about Ms DiFranco’s gazillion of indie spunk, Jack Kerouac’s subversive romanticism hitchhiking between the cracks of a battered Chevy and a persistent resolve, Rosa Parks blurring the blacks and whites of America’s bus lines and color boundaries with a singular declaration of individual might and stubborn nobility… forget about Paul Simon dishwashing down Bleecker Street in between 15-min Bitter End sets and 42nd Ave warmth before he Danced with The Saints of Johannesburg, John Paul George Ringo & Stu throwing up Motown blues and soul behind a Hamburg stripteaser’s incendiary act before immortal beloved’s fame and glory emerged on vinyl, Ray Charles groping in the dark of black isolation before he saw splendor wide and clear via a soulman’s grit and integrity.
Forget about the tales of woes, tears of tribulations—bold stories of beautiful conquests, visions of victory, inspirations and motivations. Let’s break it down to pieces. Let’s fall on our knees and feel the cold, grimy, gruff textures of reality’s mud. Don Quixote’s “Impossible Dream” becomes Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” becomes Elvis Presley’s weekend truck route from Memphis to Jacksonville – becomes $6.5 an hour at an Office Depot for $15 per 50 CD-R packs for burned copies of a DIY demo.
We are all the same molecules of biological imperfection and un-navigated, oft-ignored spiritual charm. One day soon, that Dream will be there, right on our couch, warm and cool. Meantime, we just have to boogie with our angels and play possum with our devils—and survive a day and night, more blessed than cursed. As Janis Joplin once rambled, “Tomorrow never happens, it’s all the same f——in’ day.” So let’s kick the funk and blues out the door and rock Christmas day, just like it’s one of the many beautiful gifts of humanity that may or may not be there tomorrow… Enjoy the moment, y’all!

Imagine this—what if Jesus Christ is right here, right now—flesh and blood, alive and well? How many hours you think would he render towards traveling up-north to spread good words and peaceful vibes for free, against time served an employer to earn money to support his physical existence and tour budget? Would he even consider hopping in a Greyhound from Asheville to Baltimore when the current round-trip fare already costs $159, and that he might probably be earning $6 an hour as stockroom clerk at Earth Fare or slightly higher as night manager for Waffle House down Tunnel Rd? I presume he doesn’t pay rent, and just shuttles from couch to couch among his twelve other disciples’ (or homeys) dilapidated apartments.
Moreover, I also assume that he didn’t go to UNCA or Warren Wilson because his father Joseph’s carpenter’s take-home salary wasn’t enough to make both ends meet. With all those insane tax deductions and stuff—man, Joe must have been busking around Battery Park with Aaron Gunn, Michael Farr, and the accordion dude to augment income.
His dear Mom Mary might be knitting mufflers and scarves or beading up jewelries and stuff to help Joe pay the rent and a couple of credit card bills that they maxed out in the first six months of their matrimonial bliss. I also assume that Mary had to constantly visit Social Services for food stamp and the Mission for Campbell Soups, Brownstone bagel crisps, and Wabash Heritage dry milk. Like my friends Jason and Cam, and Donald and Daisy—they might have spent hours arguing whether they’d maintain organic food diet or simply compromise on inexpensive ramen noodles, once in a while.
But Jesus Christ, Joe and Mary’s very cool son, had a Dream. JC had a Vision. I reckon, he’s a pretty intense and deeply focused individual who had a plan to be happier in the future while infecting that good vibe with the people out there. I’m sure he’s a pretty nice young man who sincerely believes in The Blue Sky God/dess, prays either in the heart of the forest or on a hilltop among the clouds and wildflowers (not inside a grandiose infrastructure), shares his bread and wine (must be inexpensive like Boone’s Farm Sangria, or if it’s beer, it’s gotta be PBR) with his friends.
He always wore hand-me-down Wal-Mart sandals because he hardly could afford even pairs of Pay Less dress shoes. I don’t think he has extra dollars either to avail himself of Blockbuster DVDs, Best Buy CDs, or Barnes&Noble books, so he frequently makes use of Pack Library privileges—burns CDs and photocopies selected pages in a borrowed book with whatever he could scrimp from busking downtown with his Dad Joe. Of course, he makes it a point to visit open mics – because being at an open mic gives him somehow the spontaneous right to be inside a coffeeshop for three or four hours or more while purchasing only a cup of coffee, with one refill.
More than anything else, JC digs open mics--because he’s able to share his words and music, raw and all, to many friends and strangers without too much effort. Well, just like his other homeys (John, Paul, Matthew, Jude, and the rest of the dudes), they find it hard to compete with acts with awesome Stratocasters and Zildjan drum kits, and more significantly, they don’t usually do KC & The Sunshine Band covers to entertain beer-guzzling tourists who just gotten out of the leash of their over-protective parents or super-clingy spouses. JC & The Disciples opt to keep it low volume and stripped-down acoustic, not because they don’t like electric stuff... it’s just purely economic. No extra dough for those gears.
Yes, Jesus Christ was pretty much an ordinary person.
He didn’t need a lecture about women empowerment for him to stop “decent” people from throwing another stone at Mary Magdalene, the alleged sinner. It’s as simple as this – you don’t throw stones or hurt a human being who’s pretty much like you and me. Or he doesn’t have to be homeless himself for him to invite homeless souls to join his journey to wherever he and his twelve buddies venture to share some cool vibe again… More than anything else, JC didn’t like to fight. Cuss or bitch-slap him ten times a-la Zak Wyde or degrade him like Howard Stern and Sarah Silverman do – he’ll just look you in the eyes, and will probably whisper, “Be cool, man! Peace!” then give you a hug or handshake.
But despite all these perpetual shortage of cash and sheepish demeanor, nothing stopped Jesus Christ from hitting the road – actually he walked – to share the spirit and wisdom of The Blue Sky God/dess in communities that refused to pay attention at an individual’s skin color or wallet situation. I don’t think, he once said, “I can’t go to Jerusalem and do two sets there – right now, I only do paying gigs, man!”
Every time there was a need to hit the road and be closer to people, he simply headed out the door of his employer’s office and didn’t whine, like, “I can’t afford to lose this job, man, how am I suppose to pay the rent? My girlfriend will kick me out!” But, of course, he wasn’t dating, or was he? No, he wasn’t. Otherwise, he should’ve chosen to be a responsible Dad and got himself a more stable job at Wachovia or Clear Channel, thereby cutting the wanderlust trip and refrained from talking, lecturing, sermonizing all day about the good word, for free. Yes, he must’ve received honorarium and transportation allowance, or free lodging and dinners, in those gigs – but he knew he’s not gonna support a family with that quixotic vocation.
But, someone’s gotta do the job, you know—someone’s gotta sacrifice, do nonpaying gigs, and give almost 100 percent of time and energy to do beautiful stuff like what Christ did and accomplished in his mortal lifetime. Passion and sacrament are two noble deeds that Christ pushed to the limit—to wake humanity up.

So you might think that Jesus Christ — the everyday man, the commoner, the ordinary citizen -- was a crazy man, right? I don’t think he was. He knew what he was doing and he was happy, I’m sure, with what he was doing – until the government bigot, the religious fanatic, and the confused mass got pissed with him so they put him away.
Even so, JC was one charismatic, good-natured, peaceful individual who’s more into Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience than to Che Guevara’s armed revolution. But unlike Gandhi, Christ didn’t watch in utter helplessness thousands of human bodies falling down, wasted by British guns. He didn’t choose to wield an armed insurrection or guerrilla warfare, either--like Che. Instead, JC sacrificed himself so there’ll be no bloodshed anymore—Gandhi had to count body bags first before he could prove a point.
Clearly, Christ had a plan, he knew what he’s doing. I mean, how’d he suppose to convince twelve other dudes to follow his vision/mission? He didn’t offer them anything, he simply kept on talking and talking and talking—all day, all night. And then he designated writers in the group to document his life and journey. I mean, these people knew what they’re doing—they weren’t just hitting the road, for the romantic trip of it all, they wanted to change the world and offer humanity a better alternative. All these writers, all these disciples—rendered time and talent, effort and energy, pro bono, I’d like to repeat that.
So how did they survive? I mean, you might get 5 mini beef burgers for $5 at Arby’s or free potato salad for a purchase of two pork chop meals at a Huddle House but we’re talking about twelve mouths here, and not to forget, they also got Mary M with them. Maybe they didn’t drink as much or maybe they started cooking in campfires somewhere in the Shenandoahs or Ozarks so they could maximize whatever they could get at a Mission or whatever they could buy at a Dollar Store (like $1 corned beef and $2 beef stew) from playing in New York’s subways, Boston’s South Side, Frisco’s North Beach, or Asheville’s downtown. They might’ve also washed dishes and bussed tables at Denny’s or Olive Gardens on layovers in exchange for food.
In other words, they suffered and they scrimped and they starved and they mustered the cold, the ridicule, the isolation, the alienation. They knew they had a Mission and that Mission will be attained and achieved, and The Blue Sky God/dess will always provide. They had resolve, they had faith, they had persistence, they had the spirit. In turn, the God/dess’s graces came via the community’s selfless hearts, open doors, and generous dinner tables.
Jesus Christ didn’t choose to be an accountant at First Union, or be a Marine soldier hoping for a pension after losing a leg in war, or a hotshot legal staff to Johnny Cochran, or be the Southeast Asian purchasing manager for Nike. He didn’t even choose to be a family man and thereby struggled to buy a house by the Outer Banks. He chose to be a traveling man of wisdom—like Don Quixote and all the other young men and women who followed the same journey.
Well, Jesus Christ was a bright young man, allright—he could have applied for a Fullbright scholarship and went to Harvard or Oxford and then worked for Donald Trump or some Wall Street outfit. But this man was a simple man of simple deeds and simple dreams. He thought small, did small, but aimed big.
JC knew he’s not going to earn enough money to buy himself an SUV or a knockout PA/sound system for his band – by simply talking and talking and talking and talking endlessly to all kinds of people that they come across on their journey. There’s no money there, in fact, there’s a lot of heartaches and frustrations out there—rowdy coffee patrons chatted boisterously as he read his poetry in an open mic, pro-war advocates cussed at him as they distributed peace flyers in neighborhoods like DuPont Circle in DC or Madison Avenue in NY, and a whole lot of hassles. But all the guy did was respond with a smile and a peace sign. He always restrained his drummer, Jude E, because the dude always wanted to fight. Yup, Jude bro needed anger management, and JC was always there to pacify the hothead’s rage.
The point is, if people like JC and his cool dozen wanted to earn money, why did they choose to do the things that they did? Why did a promising medical student like Mr Ernesto Guevara opted to leave a privileged middle-class comfort in Buenos Aires to take to the mountains of the Sierras in Cuba to be a revolutionary? Why did Mr Kerouac shun permanent relationships, stationary living in Lowell MA, and then periodically traversed the road? It’s because they wanted to do things that they deeply believe in—no chasers in between. And in the case they indeed allowed material/financial glory blur their convictions – and slow down their journey -- I believe they wouldn’t even make it to the first layover.
What was in JC’s mind and spirit? It was the Word of the Christian God. It was pretty much like what Siddhartha or Gandhi pursued. The Spirit of the Almighty. Their calling, day job, persuasion, profession, madness was exactly what their spirits were saying. Go and head out the door. Go get it!
What was in Che Guevara’s resolve, Bob Dylan’s backpack as he headed out of Minnesotta to seek his dream, The Temptations’ hearts as they sought out Berry Gordy in Detroit, Ani DiFranco to turn down all major labels in favor of her indie Righteous Babe Records? It was the Dream that fueled their journey. That individual Dream that manifests into a collective Mission to make the World a better place to live in.

The major frustration of most people or “dream-seekers”– in the present time around current realities – comes from the fact that they expect that this thing about sharing a song to make hearts lighter, spreading out poetry that moves humanity, ushering revolutionary ideas that seek to change existing social discrepancies should be equaled with time spent and dollars paid--right here, right now.
We mouth the ideals and nobilities of Gods and heroes and great souls and famous individuals – deeds and dedications that we vow to emulate and follow – but through time, we have lost the patience to wait, wasted the desire to pursue, forgot the resilience to suffer. Just because we have to earn a few bucks to maintain/sustain a decent, comfortable living? And what is “comfortable” living these days? A cozier sofa bed, a Hummer, Platinum credit cards, 76-channel cable TVs, iPOds, dishwashers, endless supplies of Tylenols, iMacs, fendis and louis vuittons, microwaves, fully-furnished condo units, well-endowed lawns and porches – we even have electric toothbrushes, can openers, woks, grills, blankets, socks, vibrators. If we don’t have most of these, we consider ourselves poor and deprived.
Then we protest and ask why does our government go to war—and subsequently, usher and foment death and injury, misery and pain to humankind? Don’t we know why superpowers invade countries--dating back to Queen Isabella and Alexander The Great’s days? It’s because we need more power, additional resources, fast remedy to our material frivolities and physical whims. And power is oil – the almighty liquid that supply and sustain our unmitigated hunger for comfort and “security.”
What would happen if 6 out of 10 individuals decide not to rely on anything gas/power-induced? What if, say, 75% of America don’t drive a vehicle and opted to cook dinners through firewood three times a week, at least? Imagine, twelve Christ homeboys trekking the Appalachians on foot, or seven hundred joe hills and guthries hitchhiking to glory – imagine the sacrifice? So in the case we follow those leads, then voila! There’s not much energy to sell anymore, not much gasoline to consume, not much oil to grab, no war to wage, no country to invade.
And so we will have a community to enjoy and savor—people will be walking side by side on the streets, people will be smiling at each other on buses and other public transports, people will be smelling each other’s beef stew and mushroom broth from across the fence hence they’d be trading dinners and stuff, people will be seeing each other more frequently than sending emails and cellphone messages.
But do we think these DREAMS will ever happen?
Moreover, what would happen if money doesn’t always play up in the human equation? Then maybe there’ll be no more words like “business” or “commerce” – no market research, distribution contracts, copyrights/royalties/commissions, downloads. Because we allowed all these to govern our everyday lives, even supposedly instinctive human reflex as immediate rescue to those who most need them has to go through tedious paperwork.
For instance – multi-millionaire rock stars and sport luminaries seem so holy and honorable for performing for the benefit of New Orleans calamity victims, when the truth is, they don’t even have to go out and perform for benefit shows at all to be able to extend help to the needy. I mean, can’t they just sign a check for $5 M or so, that’s it—quick, fast, sure—and order their accountants to go implement and execute that material assistance? Why do they have to, again, entice already-burdened ordinary citizens to pay concert tickets—thus, also promote their CDs and DVDs—so that they’d be able to donate their earnings to the poor? Weird.
Oh yes, whenever we sink deep down funk and misery, we heap blame on just about anything. We blame the Mexicans for “stealing” our jobs, we blame the Chinese and the Bangladeshis because they’re already cool with $2/12hrs day work in their own country around their own realities but we’re not, we blame presidents for continually ushering us to the fires of hell as though the next presidents will do better to save us, we blame our parents for not being responsible enough, we blame our kids for being insensitive with our efforts to keep the family, we blame TV and Marilyn Manson whenever kiddo starts acting weird, we blame McDonald’s for our obesity as though we don’t gobble up on baked taters and breaded chickens whenever we get stressed out for being fat, we blame Wal-Mart for selling us cheap goods and paying third world souls a dime a day as though those simple-living natives care as much as we do, we blame credit card companies for our immense credit woes after we maxed them out. Blahblahblah.
In turn, because we are so darn busy stressing ourselves out and throwing blames at every conceivable, existing element on earth – we forget to enjoy and savor the beauty and glory of life and living. We get scared of a bonfire because it might burn the entire city and cut all the power lines, we get scared of a kiss because it might mean unwanted pregnancy that equals health insurances and stuff, we get scared of the sunshine because it might ruin our immaculate skin thereby another budget for dermatologist visit, we get scared of rendering free concerts because the people might get used to freebies and that’s not good—they gotta pay, we get scared to write more poetry and songs because that’s taking too much of our hours-spent/dollars-paid priority, we get scared about having a kid and so we simply dress up our pet dogs and save them doctor and nanny’s budget because that is cheaper. Yup, we constantly get scared -- so much so that the shrink becomes god and prozac becomes soul food.

Bottomline is, we just gotta start working ways to be happy. We may never pass this way again, you know. Whenever I’m asked why me and Marta The Nicer Osbourne always/stubbornly organize a Bonfires show or two and not getting paid for it, I just say, “It’s fun.” But the “fun” is relegated to the background when people start counting hours rendered, dollars paid—and we start measuring efforts donated with material/financial returns.
I mean, we choose to pursue things that make us happy. People marry, people travel, people climb Mt Everest, people buy thousands of shoes, people convert to Islam, people preach The Holy Bible. People choose to be happy, around any given circumstance and situation. Pacific islanders are happy that they have the ocean to catch fish for food, Eskimos are happy with the warmth of the fire inside an igloo where a family shares dinner, some village tribal souls are cool with fancy dances under a full moon—they don’t need DVDs or iPods. Despite them not having what we have, I don’t think they’re oppressed or deprived—we only say that because we measure their joy and injustice via our own, valued comfort zones. These people in “uncivilized” cultures don’t have any idea about how expensive and valuable a jade stone or a diamond pebble until Kings and Queens used them to highlight and articulate their power and might over the lowly and the poor. For them, these stones were just as beautiful as a kid’s grin or a sunflower.
This Christmas, let us try to see within than without. We all say we are good-natured, peace-loving Christians. So let Jesus Christ, the everyday citizen, reside in our souls and inspire us. This man chose to hit the road and spread the Word of Wisdom—in his human lifetime. He was ridiculed, ostracized, beaten up, crucified. He didn’t stock up hidden profits in Luxembourg or Switzerland, but he left us something to think about and anchor our humanity with. Let’s be cool and not waste his example. Wherever he is at this very moment – in your church, in your basement studio, in your bedroom, in your backyard, at Waffle House or in your favorite cafe reading AGR, at Malaprop’s or Old Europe, or out in the highway whistling “Freebird” – he’s always around watching over us. He’s cool enough to watch over us, mortal whiners and insatiable complainers. We bug JC (who has become The Blue Sky God/dess) with lots of free gifts but we fail to appreciate the simple life and quiet living handed to us the very moment we were born.
Indeed, The God/dess rocked and still rockin’. HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO Y’ALL!