How did you get to be where you are today?
As a General Semanticist, I would say your first question is ambiguous, at best. Do you mean, how did I get where I am today, geographically? Do you mean, spiritually? Do you mean, professionally? So, how bout I answer all three in my own peculiar way. Spiritually I am an agnostic, who was raised by two devout atheists; they literally preached atheism. I choose to let the mysteries be, and accept what science has proven, with the understanding that there is much left unproven.
Geographically, I now live in Rockland, Maine. For those that are unfamiliar with the Mid-Coast of Maine, Rockland is about nine miles South of Camden, ME. Camden is upper-class, while Rockland has a more working-class flavor, for now. There used to be an expression here, before my time, that went, “Camden by the sea. Rockland by the smell.” Lobster traps and fishing boats are still very visible, but not as visible, as they were just four years-ago, when I moved here. The sardine processing plant closed over 20 years-ago, and so went the smell.
Now we have the Farnsworth Museum, a contemporary art museum, an artists’ in residents’ facility called, The Lincoln Street Center, and many other art studios. This suits me well, as I relate to artists and tradespeople with many mutual understandings. And, we have been named the art capital of Maine, by some group? You can Google it, if those things impress you; they don’t impress me.
What does impress me, is the interesting phenomenon that has been happening, in my 99% white, mostly moderate to low income, working-class neighborhood, here in these, not always so united, United States of America. It started with just one sign, one message to us all. A few days later, as I walked to the supermarket, down some of the side streets, I noticed another lawn sign, and then in a window, another sign still. During the last week, in the three adjacent blocks, there are now 15 signs saying, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” And again, as a semanticist I read nothing exclusionary in the phrase. Only one household with a sign has anyone of color living there. Another sign I like reads, “HATE HAS NO HOME HERE”. It is written in five different languages.
Professionally, I was, and still am in a limited capacity, a carpenter. I ran a business, called The Village House Surgeon, for about forty-years, down in Massachusetts. However, I now consider myself an author, a dog whisperer, and a poet. Working with dogs, and writing poetry feeds my soul. Working with wood helps pay the bills and feed my stomach. Storytelling feeds my brain.
Have you ever been fired?
I was laid off once. I have left several jobs, at my own volition, to try new ones. After I started my business, I was never laid off again, but I did file for bankruptcy; twice.
What are your real passions?
Art, books, carpentry, dogs, empathy, friends, glue, humanism, introspection, jazz, kindness, love, meditation, neighbors, opera, poetry, quotes, rock-and-roll, sleeping, theater, unity, vitality, words, xenon, and yes you can zaniness.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I did win the lottery. My Lottery Dream Home—Season 3—episode 12—The Maine Attraction. Still available in reruns I believe. But I warn you it is, “Reality TV” and television is never really, reality. But to more directly answer the question, I bought a house and finished writing a book I had been working on for 24 years.
What do you do to help others be their best?
I listen, ask questions and try not to judge. Most recently I sent a box of art supplies to a talented, struggling, part American Indian, painter, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After serving five years in prison, not long after his release, he was shot inside his home, by a mentally disturbed person outside in the street. It’s a tougher neighborhood than mine. We talk often, and send each other our paintings electronically. I am happy to announce he had his first art showing today, August 1, 2020.
How do you help yourself be the best you can be?
I planted an herb garden right outside of my kitchen door. I love to cook, and even though I live alone, I’m not afraid to make elaborate meals that are also nutritiously healthy; complete with a cloth napkin, and flowers on the table. During most days, I try to walk to the ocean at least once; only about a five-minute walk. Most nights I meditate for half an hour before going to sleep. I almost never look at this computer screen, or a television screen within an hour of sleeping. In bed by nine and up at five; a circadian rhythm thing.
In the morning, I remind myself how grateful I am to be the me—I am becoming each day. I write until about ten. After that I call friends to keep in touch. Then it is time for some movement, to maintain physical strength and flexibility.
What do you like to do in your personal life?
That’s personal. Kind of sounds like a dating site platform question. Just saying. And yes, I’ve been there too. Apparently, I was too wordy for the site; I’d be typing away and eventually notice nothing was showing up. Whoops, used up the 3, 500 characters maximum. Sorry, but I’ve got more on my mind than Pina Coladas and walks on the beach. Never was a big fan of Barry Manilow.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I am plaining to start a non-profit to help promote creative outlets for people suffering from all forms of addiction. This would not be a treatment program per-say, as I am not a doctor. The goal is to help support sobriety, after formal medical treatments have been completed, by encouraging involvement in the arts; all forms of art. And involvement with dogs. A dogs’ wagging tail makes for a very encouraged paint brush or key stroke.
What is a book or two that you recommend?
To Kill a Mocking Bird and Stranger in a Strange Land. I really grok both of those books.
Please give us one or two shameless plugs.
Ah, now that is not a question. So, my question is, who are the shameless plugs for, me, or for Best Ever You? I will assume you mean me. We all know that; Best Ever You is already the best, at what you do!
My first published book, is called Saving Papa’s Tales, but it is actually the second book I have written. And in the title, there is a hidden, double-entendre. Papa and me are saving the stories of his life, or his tales. However, we are also trying to save his tail, or his ass. At 88, Papa was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s and placed in a low-level nursing home against his will. We wrote the book together to help keep him sharp, as we fought for a separate cognitive evaluation. And I suppose there is actually a third tail involved; that of the Great Dane named Baby that graces the cover of the book. Since I am being shameless here, I will tell you that the dogs image is a watercolor painting, painted by me. Baby has a big role in our story.
The first book I wrote is called Staying Stoned. It is about my personal struggles with drug use. When I was 26, some forty-one-years-ago, I went to the White Mountains of NH to deal with my issues. On Christmas Day, in 1979, I arrived during a snow storm for my three months of human isolation; of course, I had a dog with me, and of course it was a Great Dane. You can find out her name soon, when Staying Stoned is published.
During my drug free stay, in an uninsulated summer cabin, I talked into a tape recorder about my daily survival efforts; felling trees, cutting and splitting firewood, tending two woodstoves, clearing snow and dealing with the local wildlife. At night, I talked into the recorder about my past drug use. I plan to coordinate the launch of Staying Stoned, with the non-profit’s launch that I mentioned to you earlier.
What are some of your favorites? (books, websites, etc.)
Any book by Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain, take your pick (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, for one). A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (a movie). The website richardebner.com (I call it, a living book). Yusuf Islam’s songs (Cat Stevens). Joni Mitchell (Blue, the whole album), Matt Damon and Robin Williams (the actors), Dead Poets’ Society (the movie), the Diary of Anne Frank (the book, the play and the two movies so far). I could go on for another 350,000 characters, but I’ll spare you.
Why do you do what you do?
To pay it forward; that’s the altruism. To gain financially, and to receive affirmation for my talents’. The two are not mutually exclusive reasons.
What are a few of your goals?
To produce enough income to satisfy my basic needs for survival, so that I am free to become a more self-actualized human being. I don’t need a big house or a fancy car.
What do the words "Best Ever You" mean to you?
To try and always live in the “now.” My Papa often said, “The past you can’t change, the future you can’t know, so always live in the moment.” If I can be my best-self today, that is the best-ever-me, so far.