A Decade without Jeffrey; the Weight Is A Gift.

A lot can happen in a decade. Time passes and a great many things happen, but yet at times it seems as though no time has passed, it was like yesterday. I’ve thought much about this over the years as I coped with my grief. How could I hold onto every single detail of Jeffrey without succumbing to the deep sadness it brings; the loss of my brother. The coarseness of his short black hair, the slenderness of his feet, his voice as he encouraged me; characteristics of him that haunted me as I longed for him to come back to life.

I won’t deny that Jeffrey Lee Ben’s death was an unusual circumstance, nor will I reveal any major developments in his case. The story hasn’t changed; he was missing for five years until 2006 when we retrieved bits and pieces of his remains from a mountain in Clayton, Oklahoma. Jeffrey wasn’t given a proper burial and all we ‘laid to rest’ fit in a shoe box; my brother’s beautiful growing body deduced to something so small. However, the focus of this piece is not to discuss his exceptionally painful death, rather to share the mindfulness his life has brought into the world.

Over the years I have been led by the lightness of my brother’s being. The weight of his death pales in comparison to his bright light. His life was an inspiration for which I grew. When hatred and anger soil my soul, it’s Jeffrey’s extraordinary smile that cleanses it. When there is sadness or grief, his long arms tuck me into the shiniest of places. Where there is disappointment or insecurity, his voice echoes sentiments of comfort through my hollowed soul. When life gets the best of me, Jeffrey writes encouraging notes in everything. After a decade I learned that when I’m mindful of everything, the easier it is to see this weight as a gift.

Jeffrey Lee Ben

(8/23/1982 – 1/29/2001)

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Global economic approaches through cows

COMMUNISM

You have 2 cows.

You give one to your neighbour.

SOCIALISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both and gives you some milk.

BUREAUCRATISM

You have 2 cows.

The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the

milk away…

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM

You have 2 cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.

LEHMAN BROTHERS VENTURE CAPITALISM

You have 2 cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters

of credit opened by your brother-in-law at Bear-Sterns, then execute a

debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all

four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of

the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island

Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the

rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on

one more.

You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving

you with nine cows. The public then buys your bull.

A FRENCH CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you

want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow

and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create a clever cow cartoon image called ‘Cowkimon’ and

market it worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and

milk themselves.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows, but you don’t know where they are.

You decide to have lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You count them and learn you have 5 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.

You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.

You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

You worship them..

A BRITISH CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.

You tell them that you have none.

No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your

country.

You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy….

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

Business seems pretty good.

You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

The one on the left looks very attractive.

A TURKISH CORPORATION

You have 2 cows.

Both look very attractive.

Monkey Minds were not harmed in this blog post.

My therapist tries so hard to get me to admit that something…anything, really…hurts. I, of course, opt for closed-off buzz words like ‘annoyed’ and ‘disappointed.’ Those words that seem to ring with strength over weakness. She prods for my recognition of hurt as a feeling week-after-week, as I squirm in the uncomfortable lobby-like chair. Humanity’s friend, avoidance, kicks in but instead riddles me with trivial obsessive thoughts which is what brought me there in the first place. There, the sterile room with the only identifying element being the faux Van Gogh’s hanging on the wall. Her chair, the one I sit in, is uncomfortable and entirely impersonal…am I like her chair?

This monkey mind of mine has stuck around much longer than usual, and my true self stands outside the atrium knocking on the glass. I see you, I do, but I’m busy swinging from branch-to-branch. After all, it’s much more fun to climb trees than to fall to the ground.

The two women that know me best – my mom and wife – tell me frequently that I put more energy into those that don’t deserve it versus those that do. I wish I could say this wasn’t true, but it is and I know it. I suppose there are those times in life when you know exactly who you are, and insight and intuition are shining lights. Then there are times when you have to really work to see any light, and that’s when you change the batteries in the flashlight. It is then when words like ‘hurt’ lurk like a monster in the dark. I’ve never been scared of the dark, but after standing too close to monsters I do search for that flashlight.

It’s like REM sings, “Everybody Hurts Sometimes” and if I think about it…’hurt’ does sound more impactful, doesn’t it?

The Best Of the Greatest Hits…

Elvis Presley and Costello, Hank Williams Sr., Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Van Morrison, The Who, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Ramones, The Clash, Jefferson Airplane, The Mama’s and The Papa’s, CCR, Fleetwod Mac, Joni Mitchell, Bowie, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Bob Marley, Al Green, Funkadelic, The Carpenters, Aerosmith, Meat Loaf, U2, The New York Dolls, Peter Frampton, Blondie, Cat Stevens, Boston, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Marvin Gaye, Elton, Dylan, Clapton, Springsteen, Floyd, Cher, Nick Drake, Curtis Mayfield, Jackson Browne, Carole King, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Cheap Trick, The Eagles, Bad Company, Patti Smith, The Steve Miller Band, Airsupply, Kiss, Supertramp, Van Halen, Dolly Parton, and John Cougar Mellencamp before he lost the Cougar.  These were the ‘Best Of’ my childhood in the mid-to-late seventies.  They were the stories, tunes, expressions, and concepts that defined my parent’s generation and shaped a musical melody within my soul. 

I just got my promo order from work – Warner Music Group – and there is no denying that while my mother’s generation, neatly filed in the form of vinyl under my vintage record player, has passed its lighter on to my generation.  The music, stories, experiences, and tunes that compiled the growing pains of my generation have graduated into yet another dying format of music – the compact disc – in the form of a greatest hits album.  The Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Michael Jackson, R.E.M., Metallica, the Beastie Boys, Soundgarden, Counting Crows, Oasis, Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls, Alice in Chains, LL Cool J, Weezer, the Cranberries, Notorious BIG, Live, The Pixies, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Prince, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Pavement, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Guns ‘n Roses, Def Leppard, Run DMC, AC/DC, Whitney Houston, INXS, The Bangles, Cyndi Lauper, The Cure, the Go Go’s, Wham!, the Talking Heads, Poison, the B-52’s, Motley Crue, Janet Jackson, Eurythmics, Billy Idol, Salt-n-Pepa, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, Boy George, Paula Abdul, Joan Jett, Rick James, Lionel Ritchie, Tone-Loc, The Pretenders, NKOTB, and good lord Bobby Brown.  These are the musical melodies that are supposed to strike a chord in my child (the one I do not have) and perhaps the last physical form of a musical collection (known as an album) that will exist in the world. 

One-offs in a unarchived format with messages of a generation of self-entitled tones.  A greatest hits of the best of digital delusion living on some type of portable drive somewhere that merely pays my salary….that’s the download on a new generation’s legacy. 

I think I’ll lay on my shag rug, beside the records I love, listening to a CD of my youth, under the photographs developed from real film that hang above the Royal typewriter, while I read a book.

Diffident Diary/DigiSphere/I Call Bullshit/Life Times/Media Marvels/On A Serious Note/The Prop Arsenal

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My misadventures at Jackson Diner (Which is actually Indian food)

Manhattan snob dodges Salmonella in Queens by moving back to Manhattan…

A friend and I decided to try out Jackson Diner in the Little India section of Jackson Heights (Queens, NY) after much prodding from my then roommate, Liz. She, among the many others, relentlessly commented on the best part of living in Jackson Heights was the Indian food. I scoffed at these comments due to my Manhattan snobbery, and knew – despite their efforts to make me feel less like a loser for moving out of the city – that Jackson Diner could have shattered my taste buds but it was not in the East Village’s Indian Row.

After a couple of weeks of misery of living in Queens, I caved and went to eat at Indian Row’s Jackson Diner. The comedic relief of the night went to our waitress for the below dialog.

Me: I’ll take the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Waitress: Okay, how would you like your chicken?

Me (confused): Um, cooked, please.

Enraptured in The Rapture

My parents had this postcard in their leather-bound Bible back when I was a doe-eyed Pentecostal kid.  I gawked at this thing during the entire service placing myself in any one of these modes of death to rise up all zombie-like and fly into the heaven with Jesus.  While most children were worried with such trivial matters of who to play with at Sunday School, I was secretly shitting in my pants at the thought of my plane flying into the side of a building.

To this day I am afraid of large trucks and many years ago when my little Honda got slammed around by one all I could scream out was, “For the love of God, please don’t put me in that postcard.”

Jacktress of all trades.

My mom has only had two jobs her entire life and she’s retiring in April at the young age of 40 (we accidentally forgot to keep counting after 40).  Seriously though, I’m 32 and I’ve had 31 jobs.  At one point I was actually juggling four jobs while attending college full-time.  That is one less job than my actual age, but let’s face it there is the likelihood that I had the exact number of jobs as my age as I’m sure I’ve displaced one somewhere along the insanity.  Here is a list of the ones I remember:

1. Babysitter (Antlers, OK)

2. Joe’s Handy Stop (video clerk, cashier, stocking/cleaning slave @ $4.25 an hour – age 14 in Antlers, OK)

3. Mike’s Grocery (cashier and an extraordinary bagger in Antlers, OK)

4. United States Army Reservist (aka ‘Weekend Warrior’ with the advanced individual training of 75Charlie – Personnel Management Specialist – bootcamp at Ft. Jackson, SC)

5. Pizza Hut dishwasher (Stillwater, OK)

6. Pizza Hut delivery girl (I got promoted in Stillwater, OK)

7. Concert Promoter (Dropped out of college and headed to Buffalo, NY during the winter – I WAS REAL DUMB)

8. Camelot Music (Plano, TX)

9. CD Warehouse (Plano, TX)

10. USA Storage Unit (Plano, TX – most boring job in the world but at least I rode a golf cart around and peeked into storage units)

11. CD Corner (cool indie record store girl in Stillwater, OK – yes, went back to college)

12. KSPI Radio (alter ego DJ Jane Does – the gateway into management)

13. Artist Management (Jenny Labow)

14. Payne County Health Dept. (Thanks for getting me this job mom)

15. Artist Management (The All-American Rejects)

16. Bartender (Willie’s Saloon)

17. Tour Manager (The All-American Rejects)

18. Front desk of Truckee Hotel (Truckee, CA – good times)

19. Substitute teacher (Moyers and Antlers, OK after the first time in my life I ever got fired but in my defense AAR fired me for Green Day’s manager)

20. Continuity girl (NYC – The Breakup Artist – low-budget and I worked for peanuts…no really I volunteered but quit after ).

21. Telephone Operator for Doctor’s call service (Midtown East)

22. Temp (various record labels)

23. Sales Assistant (Elektra – finally got a break)

24. Director of A&R for Hautlab Records (finally, a pick me up)

25. Artist Management (The Effects)

26. Sales Coordinator at SOME Records (freelance sucks)

27. AOL Music (introduction into Corporate + Digital)

28. Artist Management (The Ropes)

29. MTV Networks (I had arrived – but now I realize arriving is only half the battle that you won’t win)

30. Artist Management (BETTY)

31. Writer (where I should have been instead of 30 other things).

I do suppose had I not had the 30+ jobs above I wouldn’t have much to write about now would I?  Besides, the 31st time is a charm.

How many and what fascinating types of jobs have you had?

The Bullshit of Growth, grab your boots.

Part of me thought the term ‘growing pains’ was bullshit – good TV show though.  Part of being an adult is being able to suspend your thinking and change your mind, and I have changed mine.

It all started around the age of eight or nine when my calf muscles ached something fierce at nighttime, and my Granny Ben would rub Absorbine Jr. on it.  I was in the 40% of children that physically felt their growing pains.  In my bodily defense, I took full advantage of my physical superiority probably more so than most little girls that played with Barbies all day.  Not me, I climbed trees with my boy cousins, ran faster than them, and rode my bike faster than the wind.  Too bad my parents bought me a girlie bike with a banana seat because what I really wanted was a rugged BMX with pegs.

Circa 1988ish – the pinnacle of divorce –  I was struck with the emotional growing pains of…you guessed it…divorce.  I sure wish they made an Absorbine Jr. for that!  Those growing pains were brutal.

When the nineties hit it yet another type of growing pain – physiological ones.  It was an awkward time that I prefer not to delve into again because it fits in like a pair of MC Hammer pants.

College was a time for experimenting of all genres and with this expanded my pant size.  The ego expanded and deflated as appropriate.  Often times reckless abandon for organized anything was merely a gateway to debauchery, and throwing caution to the wind defied everything we learned from our parents.  Didn’t you want them to be so dead wrong (your parents)?  I know I did and this rebellion was a growing pain that was the hardest to realize, but thankfully I eventually did, fixed my credit, and had enough failures to write a book.

Career growth, what can I say about that?  Sometimes you work for ten years to get what the intern that ‘knows’ the president of the company gets in less than a year going from intern to Director, but she hasn’t yet learned what you did in college (not to fall victim to compromising positions).  I’m just saying…she didn’t get there from paying her dues… like you, but then again maybe you’ll wise up and realize you’re now in debt with your soul.  Sometimes you soar, but most of the times what you dream of doing isn’t what pays the bills and growing to be okay with that is a big miserable lesson to learn.  This usually makes you fall victim to lottery tickets and a reintroduction to your college friend, alcohol. I’d take the muscle aches of growing pains any day over this because at least you’re inflicted and unaffected.  If you’re not a pessimist by this point of growth in life you will be, and if you aren’t we’ll who the hell do you think you are (steer clear of the rest of us)?!

I struggled greatly to break away from what was hammered into my head called religion in spirituality’s clothing, and I formed my own private spirituality to which contributes to my happiness.  I’ve learned not to talk about it with my mother, and since she’s my superfan on this  I will skip this too (along with the political section).  Love you mom.

Learning to not argue at impasses was a hard growing pain to get through, but it sure does make life less acrimonious.

Growing pains happen at every beat until your very last one, so you might as well grab the boots and wade through the bullshit.

Underage Thinking

There are people that don’t drink – ever. I’m sure I know someone like that if I think hard enough, but I’m far too exhausted for hard thinking of this sort.  As a matter of fact, hard thinking is what makes me want to drink in the first place.  I used to be a non-drinker, but then again those were the days when the only way to steal music was to press record and play simultaneously on your tape deck and record songs off the radio.  This was no easy feat I assure you.  It took great precision and timing to get it just right as to cut out the DJ chatter but yet still record the front-end of the song.  I could probably count on my fingers (and yours) the number of times I’ve listened to really bad music just to record one damn song from Mike +  The Mechanics, but then again this would lead me to drink.  I will not drink tonight.

The people that don’t drink probably go to church in lieu of drinking.  If I replaced Christianity for every drink I assure you I would do just the same amount of stupid shit except it would affect many more people than my own drunk ass.  Typically, drunk stupidity would end in an unfortunate tattoo or waking up in the middle of nowhere on a train.  If I were church drunk I would probably never associate with drunk people and if I came across one I would damn them to hell.  Then again, if I were church drunk and wondered into a bar I would probably be the only person there not drinking. 

I won’t even waste my time mentioning the underage because we can fool our parents but let’s not fool each other – they drink.  If I had a penny for every liquor label or Boone’s Wine twist-off- cap I touched underage I would have enough penny loafers for every person in the United States (and Canada, but not all of North America because I was a late bloomer in the underage drinking scene).   

Speaking of scene, I have to go drink….er…I mean write.  I am writing, damn it, and not drinking.

These people vote for my rights.

75 Percent of Oklahoma High School Students Can’t Name the First President of the U.S.

Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.

The survey was commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in observance of Constitution Day on Thursday. (READ FULL ARTICLE)

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