My Friend Mike The Rocket Once Said . . .

No one knows what tomorrow brings. And no one knows the hour or the day. Nobody knows what will come and who will go. Nothing is ever guaranteed. And I know what we are supposed to say. I know what people tell us. I know all about the power of positive thinking. I understand visualization and the need to create a picture for ourselves; otherwise, if you can’t see what you want then how can you get it?
I understand the laws of nature. I understand what happens when we step out of line and the unfortunate lessons which follow. I also know how the lessons become increasingly worse when we don’t learn the first time.

There are times when I find myself walking in the streets of New York City. I see all the changes. I’ve seen new stores open and close and then open again. I’ve seen new buildings go up. I’ve watched demolition crews tear the old buildings down and then construction comes in. Next is the taller building in its place; a skyscraper to point like a finger in the palm of the sky.

I have seen the uptown scene and the downtown places. I remember the clubs and the night spots and the places like Polyesters or Webster Hall, Limelight, Emerald City, The Red Zone, The Tunnel and the list goes on. I remember the people I used to see and the so-called pretty. It’s amazing to me to see how they’ve aged. Their glory days are behind them now and no one pays them attention anymore.
I remember a place on Broome Street called Elixir. As a matter of fact, I remember when a new sitcom aired and one of the actors walked in.
He positioned himself at the bar. He stood there, very proudly in fact. Unfortunately, he chose to stand near some of my friends who to others would be categorized as unfriendly. I remember how proud the actor stood. Then he was reminded that this was no studio set and perhaps there would be a safer spot for him someplace else. Aside from that, no one took notice of him. At least not at first, which could have been fine until the actor fluffed his chest a little too much. This was a mistake. He was around the wrong crowd is all I can say.

I remember there was a young actress in New York City. She was on her way up. She was just discovered and breaking into the fame life. It was all glory coming her way, she was about to make it. Unfortunately, she forgot that life is not set like a stage. There is no one that is going to stand in the way of danger just because the little princess was angry. She was robbed at gunpoint. She was perhaps a little too bold and believed in her popularity a bit too strongly.
“Do you know who I am?!?”
Guns are real in real life. So are bullets. And so was the one that killed her. And you may be asking yourself, why? What’s the point of the story?

Okay, here it goes . . .
All too often, I find myself around egos and bullies. I find myself swimming with sharks. Only, sharks feed blindly and who they bite is of no concern to them. It’s all about the meat.
I find myself surrounded by overgrown children sometimes, as if their job title or position is somehow an extension of their manhood.
I used to take this personally. I used to internalize this. I would personalize this and let this eat away at my spirit. It would be dishonest of me to say this doesn’t happen anymore but I have learned to improve.

I remember when I was much younger, I was told to get honest because I was about to enter the working world. I was supposed to get honest and get ready for Corporate America.
Of all things I’ve seen, the last thing I have seen would never have me call Corporate America honest. Not at all.
First, a crook is a crook. A jerk is a jerk, and a criminal is a criminal.

I have seen more honesty in crack houses and dope-dens than I have in boardrooms and in corporate structures. I have stood by to see white collared workers find themselves escorted out by feds.
I’ve visited friends in prisons to see them with the so-called sharks that now swim lonely with the so-called bottom feeders. I’ve heard stories about them crying with fear of shower room rapes or beatings. There are stories about putting money in cellmate commissaries for protection.
I have heard all the stories like this. I have seen the mighty fall and I have seen what pride can do. I know how pride comes before the fall. I have seen this in my own life.
I’ve experienced this with my own mistakes. I have eaten my share of humble pie. This is the truth. In my need to be recognized and validated, to be cool, popular, powerful, or otherwise; I have found myself plummeting from the so-called heights of the ego and slammed to the ground without mercy. 

We live in a “me first” world. I see this on the subways. I see this as I walk the streets. I see this when I drive and the person next to me speeds up, just so I don’t get in front of them.
We live in a world where everyone wants to be validated. No one has the right to agree to disagree anymore. If you disagree, then it’s all-out war.

I hear talks about celebrating inclusion, which is supposed to be all-inclusive until of course, you have a differing opinion. Then you’re excluded. Follow or perish seems to be the way. But I can’t follow where my heart doesn’t go and I won’t perish because my passion has too much to say.
It’s a strange place we live in.
Social media has become the editors of opinion. People literally argue about how many different genders there are. But not me. I don’t argue. I have no issue with anyone’s opinion or choice. I’d rather listen and learn.
I’d rather listen than argue because arguing makes this about “ME” and it’s not about me or you.
We’re all just a bunch of crazy folks out here, just trying to make a go of it.
I have no skin in the game nor a dog in the fight. I accept other people as they are, which means I would like the same respect in return. But hey, this is a different world now. Either you’re on my side or you have to be my sworn enemy.
Is this right? Is this the way we want to live?

There was a man who rightfully fired me a long time ago. I listened to him talk about himself and the way he conducts business. Meanwhile, I knew all about him. I knew he was on the take.
I knew about his kickbacks. I knew what he did. I saw this man punish people. I saw him intimidate and bully people.
I wasn’t there when he was fired and exposed. And yes, there is a piece of me that would have liked to see it.
But more, I am reminded to be humble.
Be careful and be ready because there is always someone looking to shake the tree you’re sitting in. There is always someone looking to blow the whistle and there is always going to be someone looking to cut you off in traffic. There’s always someone looking to be first and for no other reason than to get where they want by any means necessary.

Humility is everything. The lack thereof can knock one down where the so-called bottom feeders hunt for food. Be careful here because there is a difference between someone that hunts for sport and the other that hunts for food.

By the way, ever see a guy in the holding cells after being caught for an unspeakable act with a minor? He knows where he’s going. And he knows what waits for him too.
I have seen the high and mighty.
I have seen the meek who have inherited more than just the earth. 
I used to want to be high and mighty.
I used to think I had to be meek to get it.
Now, I just want to be happy.

Decades ago on a farm way Upstate where I was learning to get out of my own way, my old friend Mike the Rocket once told me, “You want to be happy? Then don’t be a dick. Trust me. It helps!”

Good one Mike.
I think I understand now.
(wherever you are)

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