A little of something for everyone – this ends on a positive note but there is no ending in sight.

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Freddy as an infant

 

Fifty

We all have fears or regrets that can overwhelm us; slow down our impulses, speed up our breathing and cause our heart to beat wildly; sounding like a horse galloping through the silent midnight streets.

We each have our “quicksand” which can quickly envelop us in an embrace that can suck the life out of us. A tornado within us that keeps us from turning around and doing what it takes to keep on moving ahead one step at a time.

Although the events of our past is what keeps us running, we cannot hold on to those events with too much intensity lest it break us rather than teach us.

I look at my children and I cannot come to terms with the fact that they are grown up and no longer feel the need to snuggle beside me to feel secure. No longer want to sit on my lap and throw their arms around me as they slowly fall asleep. Or jump into my arms when I come home at the end of a day. Those jumps, those smiles and that unconditional belief that I was superman – offset the reality that underneath the costume I felt more like Willy Loman or Howard Beale.

The clock swears it hasn’t sped up the pace; but it lies. The proof is in the clarity of our memories from 30, 40 years earlier. The games, the songs, the loves and the friendships – just as if they happened a week go or just yesterday.
The marks on the steps where I would play stoop ball or the way a wiffle ball would roll down from the roof jumping up from the drains or the feeling I felt when it never did come down and we needed to scrounge around for 35 cents or miss out on playing again that day.

When I hear Sgt Pepper I always anticipate the skip right when they sing “It was 20 years ago today, today, today, today…or on Elton John’s greatest hits album, “Bennie and the Jet’s” kept repeating “Bennie, Bennie, Bennie” with no “Jets” forthcoming unless I would stomp on the floor.

I look in the mirror and I still see the 18-year-old staring back at me. Maybe instead of acne there are some wrinkles and in place of dried Tenax, there is some gray hair I see.I still see some good looks there.  It’s when I see a photograph of myself that I am traumatized by the image. Who is that old man and when did he get so big?

I have become a cliché – lost maps and compasses which once led me to places I had never seen or been, now frighten me and inspire me to want to go home and hide. My life is made up of metaphors which I use to try and encapsulate life’s impossible questions which have no tangible answers.

Love is all we need, OK I get it and it’s fine, but love can also fog up our vision and force us to do things, in hindsight, we can never truly justify. Or was that lust? How many times have those two amazing, exhilarating emotions betrayed us by causing us to change courses in our lives?

Friends scatter but you are OK with it because you need to find your own way.  Feelings of being lost and wanting to be found – fade away when the sun is shining. Empty bedrooms in cold apartments leave you with an impulse to run. But you find yourself caught in a war within  – a struggle between your own visions and the visions that reality thrusts at you. All you ever needed was the one…but who is that?

The reflection in the mirror will reveal itself when you are ready and able to see that it is not her, him or them that can define you – it is you, you are the only one. It’s alright Ma, I can make it.

We are all in this carnival, musicians playing accordions and drummers walking upright with pretend aplomb.
We are all in this Circus walking a high wire act for the world to see while pushing away the impulse to look down.
We are all up on the screen, a member of the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges, using our zaniness to get through the craziness of the scene. Mirroring ourselves and questioning whether the image is really you or some impostor?

You were so sure you would change the world, make Atlas Shrug, but we all know about the best laid plans of Mice and Men. We all know the other side of paradise is just a blinking light and nothing is as sweet as the moment right before you realize your dreams. Just as the Old man and his Marlin dealing with the sharks – we all try to avoid the bridges that are falling down but sometimes we have no choice but to walk on the burning coals.

The Hotel New Hampshire, the beauty of the south through the eyes of the son of Santini. Painted visions of beauty, the words echoed the joy of life with smatterings of darkness and the pain that life can bestow upon even a man in full.

The girls at the social masquerades they misled you into dark and mysterious hallways and rooms – “Please let me hold your hand,” hypnotized by their arousing raspy tone, You follow, you have no choice. You once swore no surrender somewhere in the night, but you give in as you are lead to where the streets have no name.

She breaks you, over and over again, killing you softly with her song – yet with each word she sings to you there is a sense of healing; just as a scab grows upon your chest to cover up an open wound so it can heal inside. Then there is silence and you cannot find your way.

You hear the song at the most unexpected moment; just when you thought you were over her Sam plays the song. But you cannot shoot the piano man, you cannot outlaw the song – you see her from across the lake…Judy Jones…in a winter dream…There was a fish jumping and a star shining and the lights around the lake were gleaming…

The piano man plays in the garden, singing songs while we sing along, always in the mood for a melody and the need to feel alright. Songs from summers past…

Time is on my side, you croon “Why try and change me now?” You find yourself searching for the answers but Dylan said those answers are blowin’ in the wind and with each floating leaf, each discarded paper you find yourself grasping for to no avail.

Unshaven and in need of a haircut you apply for a review of the past year for hopes you can start again or at least get some explanation for the call out at home  – but the folks in Chelsea don’t answer the phone when it comes in from the field. Is there anyone even in that bunker?

You are handed the script and you read the lines, your heart just isn’t in it. You recite the lines and you play the part; you want to ad-lib and put some of yourself into it but it’s not to be.

You spend the nights practicing the night moves, alone you see a pretty girl with kaleidoscope eyes and two brave strangers find some kind of comfort while hiding out in the cornfields or in the back seat of a 60 Chevy.

You throw the cabbie 20 dollars and he stashes the bill in his shirt, the radio plays a song about burning down the mission and you wonder, is the mission what you were supposed to carry out? Or is the mission the place you were supposed to protect? Like a madman across the water you stand upon the diving board and search for a beacon in the night.

Stars in their multitude light up the sky, just like a sentinel or a parent keeping watch in the night.

“I’ll always love you,” is sung but you know that on the surface, this much is true, but where is the power behind those words? Those words can always comfort a lonely soul, can always get you to third base – it’s home plate that eludes you while she tells you she needs to know right now if “I’ll always love you” are sincere or is it just being used as a key to the locked entrance way to Paradise.

Still the singer asks, “when I want sincerity, tell me, where else can I turn?”

You sing the words to imagine, but you know it’s just a dream sung by a dreamer and that dream is over. It was always a tug of war between the reality of evil against the reality of the good – in this world we rationalize that the evil never win, but once they kill they have created a void that no freedom towers or amount of money can ever fill.

We are writers, artists, creators of universes trying to describe emotions in words, pictures or tunes. We are the red-headed step-child sleeping late always giving in at night to the seductiveness of sleep and dreams. Trying to succeed in a world where you are confined, forced to conform and to blend into the background is like trying to fit an elephant into a mole’s burrow.

After a while we begin to implode; first comes the sadness, then the restlessness, the loneliness, the anxiety of wanting to run while chained to a fence. As we try to adapt to the burrows in which we live – like the scarecrow in an abandoned farm – we slowly succumb to the bites, the sun and the rain. We wither away eventually becoming one with the wind and scattered across the fields.

We were created for something more and the fact that at 50 you find yourself lost, at a loss and losing – can be a debilitating feeling. You have the girl of your dreams and your children by your side – but you want to have so that you can give. The burrow has no hidden treasure, no answers in the sky beyond the rainbow or below it.

The pain of betrayal will never fully disappear, but it’s the pain of being mislabeled that hurts the most. Doubting yourself in the middle of the night, “Am I who they think I am or am I who I have always envisioned myself to be?” In the clarity of the morning light you know exactly who you are and you smile for even doubting yourself.

Twenty seven years, almost, of being a father has taught you the truth about the role – you can never be right or wrong; all you can do is love them and let them know it. The pride I feel when I see each one of them individually is overwhelming. Yet the images of them as younger children remains etched in my mind and the reality that they are now older and independent hatches a sense of time out of mind.

It’s the Story of a life; a man’s dreams have all come true in shiny bright colors. Could I have imagined the way she looks at me or the love that they pour o’er me? The scar runs down my chest it’s proof of survival of maybe not the fittest.

God has given me the answers to some questions; but there are so many more yet to be revealed. Why the fire? Why the rains? Why the sicknesses and why the pains? Why do the evil survive while the good mostly die young? Why do you sustain the ones who kill in Your name?

Baseball, rock n roll, a good Italian meal, Friday nights and holiday gatherings. Thanksgiving, egg nog and pumpkin pie. Lighting the candles, wearing a mask and eating the unleavened bread – all to commemorate our survival. We thank Him. But we ask for more because life can be difficult especially for the ones who care the most.

There are many conflicts inside of us black sheep – a feeling of wanting more out of this world while wanting to just graze in the field. There are voices inside of us screaming for equality and respect.
Voices inside of us wanting to describe the sun setting over the lake in late July with the temperature still in the 90’s.
Voices inside of us wanting to describe with only a whisper the shouting voices which surround you and guide you.
Voices inside of us wanting to express the love you feel for the ones who have stood by you.
Voices inside of you screaming, standing on a table and asking “What is my purpose?”

Fifty years of love, family, the crews of the USS Enterprise, New York Met’s and Rock n Roll, movies and television, popcorn and couch potatoes, rotary dial and smarter phones with live streams from Mars.

Fifty years of typewriters. Computers and laptops.

Fifty years of conflicting emotions of loneliness and claustrophobic episodes.

Fifty years of faith in God, twenty years of Emunah.

Fifty years with my parents, crazy brothers and sisters.

Fifty years surrounded by the love we have shared.

Here is a toast to another fifty years filled with the best of celebrations for all of us to share, dreams to come to life and to finally exhale. Two chairs on the sand facing the ocean, holding hands and laughing while forever surrounded by love.

By Freddy S. Zalta

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Freddy at 49 and 363 days
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