Waiting for a Train II

Part II

 

When it went up on the board that my train would be delayed even longer, I began to become more anxious. I spent several minutes following the flow of my breath and repeating my mantra and thankfully it gradually started to calm me down.

I was new to all of this and after several weeks of mindfulness training I was having mixed results. I was taking the training because my doctor sent me to talk to a psycho therapist to see if they could help me overcome my new invisible companions; anxiety and worry. He didn’t think it was a good idea to continue prescribing anti-anxiety medication. It was giving me headaches and making me sleepy not to mention that I was averse to taking any kind of pills.

I never had a moment of anxiety or worry in my life and now at the grand old age of fifty four I couldn’t shake it. Seemingly, I had gone through my years ignorant of the panoply of subjects to worry about. This all changed one winter night when I was lying in bed and for the first time ever could not fall asleep. First it was too hot, and then I worried about the heater, and then wondered if I paid the bill. Changed the oil in my car? What if I die, how will my family get along? What if my wife dies? What if my kids die? This thought shot me out of bed and onto my feet. What the hell was I thinking this kind of shit for? I walked around the house for a few minutes trying to shake the feeling and at the same time not wake anybody up.

Everyone woke up anyway and I made a lame excuse about needing a glass of water even though they all knew that I always kept a glass of water on the nightstand next to the bed. The next morning they questioned me again and I just said that I had a disturbing dream. In fact it kind of made me wonder if it had really been a nightmare after all.

The train arrivals and departures started flashing and scrolling on the screen behind the main desk like a video game gone berserk. When the letters and numbers settled there was another fifteen minutes delay added to my train. I approached the reception desk and walked up to a short stubby man in an Amtrak uniform who was trying his best to ignore me. “Excuse me sir, why are so many trains delayed this morning?” I tried to hide my aggravation as I politely asked. “There’s an issue just north of Wilmington”, he grumbled. “What kind of issue”, I asked “do you expect it to be straightened out anytime soon?” “I’m really not at liberty to say sir and I have limited information, seems to be a mechanical problem. Everything should be getting back to normal soon”. Looking at me like I was a great annoyance he turned away again.  He was acting like I wanted to extract one of his teeth rather than a little information about my train.

I shrugged resignedly, walked back to my bench and sat down heavily. Breathing in and breathing out, paying close attention to my breath, trying to concentrate only on my mantra and following the ebb and flow of my breathing. Noticing my thoughts but letting go of them as I refocused my attention to my mantra. It sounded so easy but my mind kept going back to the train being delayed and how this job interview was really important to me. My brother told me that I should go up to New York City the night before the interview so I didn’t have to worry about being late. I reminded him that the interview was at 1:00pm and that I planned to catch the 9:00AM Amtrak. I would have plenty of time. He thought I was being cheap and even offered to pay for my hotel room. Of course I got mad and told him to shove his hotel room. No doubt, if this train doesn’t roll in soon, as usual, he might be proven right. With less than $5,000.00 left in my bank account and a family counting on me I calculated I was approximately three months from financial collapse. I didn’t think it was a luxury I could afford. I will have plenty of time. I insisted that easily, by 11:30, I will be comfortably seated at a Starbucks a few short blocks from my interview. At 12:45 I will pack up my laptop and head to the site and do my best to impress my prospective employer. I had already sent samples of my work and they liked them, otherwise, I would not even be invited. It didn’t hurt that I had several good references from top people in the industry. The company I worked in was moving to Austin, Texas and closing its Philly location. They were consolidating their territories and mine was being swallowed up by a southeast tech rep from Atlanta who had more clout than me. Being the son of a company big shot was all the clout he needed. I didn’t like Jason much, his knowledge of locking hardware and master keying systems couldn’t fill a small teacup and his ego and braggadocios personality couldn’t be contained by Madison Square Garden. I burned some bridges pretty well with his father when I found out that his son was getting my territory in the shakeup.  I would be out of a job in two weeks because I refused to uproot my family and become a tech rep in the Midwest. It would have been a lateral move and my wife would never leave the area because of her tight knit family and our kids were in school, well established and thriving. It would be too traumatic for all of us and the battle would just not be worth it. Telling a VP to go “fuck himself” is never a good idea, especially when it would create a gaping hole in my resume.  Fortunately I had some others inside the company who would quietly give me high recommendations. There weren’t many openings for master keying specialists and there was intense competition for any that opened up anywhere in the country. There had been so much upheaval and so many traditional jobs lost in the hardware industry as a result of the digital age. Computers have become center pieces everywhere and lock technology was no different. Technicians who were losing their jobs to attrition and worse were older guys like myself and the people coming into the field were more computer hardware and software specialists. People like me, who understand how hardware actually works and can communicate with end users about high security key systems, card access, retina and fingerprint readers were still invaluable to the manufacturers.

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Catch As Catch Can

It’s been a long time since I last saw you                                                                                              but I still can recall how you took my heart and you tore it in two                                             You left me high and dry for another man                                                                                        Now you are back casting a shadow on my life again

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

You left me high and dry for another man                                                                                        Now you are back casting a shadow on my life again

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

Now you say you’ve changed and I can see that it’s true                                                            What you don’t see baby is I, well, I’ve changed too                                                                         The lines cut deeper across your face                                                                                                   That old magic is slip slidding away

For you love is Catch As Catch Can but you won’t catch me being your fool again

 

Written by   Gene Halloran                           Catch As Catch Can©

Recorded at Foss4UsMusic

Gene Halloran  Guitar/Lead Vocals                                                                                                       Gary Gerace Lead Guitars/Backing Vocals/ Recording Mastering/etc                                                 Rob Hermans Bass/Backing Vocals/ Sound Engineering/etc                                                               Alan Schwartz  Drums/ Backing Vocals/etc

Waiting For A Train

On my way to the train station the long Uber ride was lulling me into a trance. The driver was talking but I’m not exactly sure what he was saying and he eventually stopped.  I let go of my mantra and against my better judgement I began to think.

 

What is it that keeps me ticking? What makes me strong? What makes me weak? What makes me right? What makes me wrong? What gets me stuck? What gets me going, putting one foot in front of the other until I find my way? What makes me worry and run for cover? What makes me close my heart to discovery instead of opening up my mind to whatever is waiting?

 

My true self is still a true mystery, shocking after all these years. It’s hard to believe that it always comes back to the same basic questions. I know my name and what I like and don’t like. I know what brings me joy and what brings me sadness, but who am I? Who am I? Why am I here? I hadn’t had these kinds of thoughts parading through my brain since high school. Here they are again, after all these years, mocking me, laughing at me for thinking they were settled questions when all along they lay dormant.

 

After finding out my train was going to be late I tried to get comfortable on the wooden benches at 30th Street Station. A homeless man approached me and asked for money. I didn’t have much but I gave him a dollar anyway. I guess that wasn’t enough because he then proceeded to ask for a cigarette. I told him I didn’t smoke. He went away grumbling something about me being cheap. Laughing to myself, I half surrender, because my brother always tells me I’m cheap. I don’t necessarily agree with him, it’s not that I’m cheap, I just never have much money. I tried turning my attention to my breath and began repeating my mantra but it just wasn’t working for me today. My incessant thinking continued and continued and continued. Mantra be damned.

 

I want to be happy-go-lucky, care free instead of stressing about one thing or another. I yearn to feel good about myself, embracing my life, appreciating my world and all that I experience. No matter how out-of-whack life can get every breath is a fleeting luxury.

 

Knowing that I’m not a saint, not a genius, but still feeling there is something inside that wants to be, needs to be, expressed. Something worthwhile to be spoken or written, painted or composed. It would be amazing to compose a symphony! It would be a glorious piece starting with low bass drums rumbling through half then quarter notes and joined by a brooding group of contra basses finally the tension being relieved by a swelling chorus of cellos, violas, and violins answered by French horns and trumpets into a rousing crescendo telling the trials and tribulations of a minor Greek god, named something like Titaneous. Yes! Titaneous, seeking to capture his rightful place among the stars. I can hear it but I can’t write it so it goes unwritten and forever Titaneous is forgotten to history.

 

Trying to bring myself back to my mantra but realizing, right now, I need to pay attention to the announcements to see if my train is to arrive soon or will be delayed even longer.

 

My life has been good, even fulfilling in the grand scheme, yet somehow I still feel incomplete and no matter what I do, what I accomplish, this void remains unfilled. I read some philosophy books in my younger days that made it quite clear that part of the human condition is feeling incomplete and insecure. That no matter how good things are, there can be a deep feeling that something awful is about to happen or that something is missing. I think some try to fill the void with work, play, god, money, drugs, booze, books, music, art, a crusade for or against something. Insert your own void filling pursuit, but all are in vain because of the way we are wired. We are wired among other things, for self-preservation. Swimming along, consciously or unconsciously consuming the little fish, hiding from the big fish. The strongest caveman gets the most food, the most desirable mate, and so on and so forth. Is this all true? If so, how have things changed? Powerful armies stood ready when democracy was born in ancient Greece. I have it so good that my pressing questions are “who am I”, “why am I” instead of “who is going to eat me”, “what can I eat”, “where can I sleep”. As advanced as we think we are these primeval instincts lurk and can never be discarded.

 

But…”Who am I”, “Why am I here”? Maybe what I do defines who I am. Maybe what I do determines “why I am here”. Maybe these questions are existentially fruitless. Maybe we are just here because, and for no damn reason other than some mysterious or random accidental big bang and inevitable Darwinist evolution. All of which lead to the highest life form and its ultimate and unstoppable path to self-destruction. One genius unravels a scientific marvel and splits the atom, another sells it to the highest bidders to hold the planet ransom. The big fish consumes the little fish until there is nothing remaining for the big fish to consume but itself.

 

I begin to slip into an intense state of sadness and wonder if any mantra or pill for that matter has the power needed to pull me out of this sinking ship. I need a glimmer of hope. Seize a moment of joy and drench myself in its promise. Smell the intoxicating rose and stand defiant against fate and against inevitability. What do I have to lose?  I have my life to gain and this wonderful unending moment of eternity.

 

Maybe the only truly noble pursuit is in helping our fellow humans in whatever way that we can. I am much too selfish and self-centered to devote my life to others, but deep down I feel that is the right thing to do. Maybe there is something I can do or pursue.  Sadly, like many people, I am fighting for my own survival and just a couple of paychecks away from a cardboard box home on a city sidewalk. So I work, and work making sure the money keeps coming and I keep the city steam vents at bay.

 

Work may be our lone salvation. Finding something to do that you love and doing it well will hopefully provide a sufficient income to keep a roof over your head, the pantry stocked, the bills paid and if you are very lucky a little left over for retirement and some fun. Maybe and just maybe this work might make the world a better place. Sounds simple but it is not always as easy as seems at least not for some of us mortals.

How Lucky We Are

When daylight fades

Darkness falls so sweet

Curtains are drawn

And our dinner is done

 

The children all bathed

Softly tucked into bed

Prayers have been prayed

Favorite books have been read

 

How lucky we are

to have all of this

Thank God I’m alive

And that I’ve been blessed

On this peaceful eve

Just you and me

 

When the lunches are packed

And the schoolbooks are stacked

All your candles are lit

In our comfy chairs we sit

 

You read for awhile

I fuss with the fire

Eyes meet and we smile

You’re my hearts desire

 

How lucky we are

To have each other

Thank God I’m alive and that I’ve discovered

My only you, my only you

How Lucky We Are ©      Gene Halloran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Writer’s Soul

A Writer’s Soul

You’ve got a writer’s soul
So many stories aching to be told
You’ve got a painter’s eye
And colors on the palette to express
just how the ocean meets the sky

You’ve got a poet’s heart
And when the damn bursts
The dizzying motion of emotion
meeting mind
Merging, crafting,
shaping thought, feelings into words
Burning image after image to scraps of paper, torn brown shopping bag, napkin, smartphone, laptop, desktop,
Seashell scraping wet sand
Of what’s been brewing
Stewing inside
You’ve got a writer’s soul

My Attention

She demands
every ounce of my attention
Truth is
I wouldn’t offer any less
At times
Just sitting back and watching her                                                                                   Has a way of bringing out my best

Often I wonder how I got here
It just doesn’t matter anymore
Was it luck or was it fate I fell upon
The road that leads to you

Some people
have a way with money
With that
I’ve had no luck
Some seem
to have a way with love
With what you’ve given me
Feels like
I’m worth ten million bucks

I give her
every ounce of my attention
She won’t
accept any less
At times
I just stare in awe and watch her
She takes care of all the rest

Often I wonder
How this path led me to you
It’s the one road I’ve ever travelled
Not tinged by some regret

If she didn’t stop me
cold in my tracks
When our stars aligned
Who knows where you’d find me
Wasting precious time
Looking for the road that leads to you

How’s the weather?

Hoping the weather’s finally getting better
It takes a lot of tears moving past what you’ve been through
Maybe the sun is shining brightly on you today
Maybe the clouds have parted and blown away

How’s the weather where you are?
Maybe the storms have passed by now
For you at last
Stargazing last night I had this funny feeling
how very small we are in the scheme of things
And dreamed that I could wish away the things that left you reeling.
Let your troubles slip away like the falling stars
Let your troubles slip away like the falling stars

You could sure use a lucky break
Sometimes the luck you make
Is found among the chances you take
Open up the door and take a step
outside
Start up the car and take yourself for a ride
Go ahead and grab the bull by the horn
Our days are numbered don’t waste another morn

How’s the weather where you are?
Maybe the storms have past now
and you can relax
Meditating last night I had the strangest feeling
How very small we are in the scheme of things
I dreamed that we can wish away the things that leave us reeling
Let your troubles drip away like candle wax
Let your troubles drip away like candle wax.