Risen from the Dead in Denver

11 09 2015

It’s been 2 months to the day since my last post on this blog. Today is 9/11. Not the best day to rise from the dead but that’s the “afterlife advice” I received from Andy Garcia. If you seen the film you’ll understand.

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After a harrowing 4 hour plane ride from Cancun clutching a nitro inhaler to prevent another heart attack like the one I had in Merida I arrived in Denver 2 months ago. A triple bypass and aortic valve replacement was performed 5 days later by Dr. Jason Shofnos of St. Joseph’s Hospital (one of the top hospitals in the US for cardiac disease treatment). I owe my life to Dr. Shofnos, my 2 sons Bill and Mike, and Virginia Carrasco Silva. There are many others who helped me recuperate physically and psychically. Thanks to all of you for your energy and prayers.

I didn’t choose Denver, it chose me. My grandmother always said I had “the luck of the Irish.” She was right. Here I sit today in my top floor apartment with a view of Benedict Park. I can be in downtown Denver without a car in less than 15 minutes. There’s a gym in the apartment complex where I work out regularly. If you know me you might wonder but it’s not the Jack Kerouac Building (there is an apartment complex in Denver named after him). Growing up in Philly I used to hang in RIttenhouse Square drinking tea and cinnamon-sprinkled cider at the Gilded Cage and the Proscenium with my beatnik friends during high school. Later on in college it was Dirty Frank’s and McGillin’s Pub drinking adult beverages that took me back to my lost adolescence and that lost Beat Generation.

In the 50’s in Denver it was the Beat Generation….http://www.denver.org/things-to-do/itineraries/beat-legacy/ . Now it’s Hipsters…http://www.westword.com/arts/ten-best-denver-hipster-shops-5804964.

So where do I fit in? As usual I don’t. What I am doing though is emphasizing what I think is my best work since I’m still alive and well in the Mile High City. Julie’s Book Review http://juliesbookreview.blogspot.com/ will be featuring my novel “Songs of Icarus” http://booklocker.com/books/7143.html beginning September 20.

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Eavesdropping Cowboy

26 03 2015

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If you were in Merida’s Zocalo yesterday you may have seen 2 old men sitting in a cafe over morning coffee. As a young man I wondered what those ‘old guys’ had to talk about. These 2 seemed pretty engaged in their conversation. So I listened in.

They were proud of the women in their lives. Both of them hard-working Mexicanas.

They were writers – one non-fiction, the other fiction. They had both been in the US Army. One had spent the better part of his 2 years in Special Services playing basketball, the other spent more than 2 years ‘touring’ Vietnam. Such is the roll of the dice for a soldier.

They talked about movies – Platoon (the real deal when it came to depicting soldiers), Full-metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now. They had different views on American Sniper. One had seen the latest Liam Neeson flick and liked it. What’s become of the ‘Cowboy’ movie? One’s favorite was Tombstone with Val Kilmer – the dialog was how they really talked in the Old West. The other Shane. How could anything be better than Alan Ladd and Brandon De Wilde as seen through the eyes of a 12 year-old(his age when he saw it)? “Come back Shane, come back!”

Books – their own and others. The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini. Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif. Those Afghans and Arabs wrote stories with a lotta heart. Sure do miss American novels written with that kind of truth.

How much and how fast the world is changing. One remembered talking to an old, old native American who saw the ‘white man’s wagon trains.’ So much info, so little time to absorb it all. The difference in what it takes to get a PH. D. Used to be you had to know everything in your field and find a hole in the research. Now it’s find a hole and fill it.

Finally, concern for future generations especially their kids and grandkids. Human DNA hasn’t changed but human perception has. Can we comprehend it all? The Conquistadores and the tribes of Mexico and Latin America did some awful things in their time. Same thing is happening today. Most of it is done now as it was done then – in the name of God.

As they parted one of them said, “Congratulations on the book!”

I looked him in the eye and knew our late-in-life friendship would last until the end.

Go here for more of my work…

https://williamsnyderjrpubs.wordpress.com/





The Golden Oldies Are Alive Inside

11 12 2014

We’ve always known that music speaks to the heart. This winner of the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award shows us how.

If you don’t laugh or cry watching this check your vital signs.

I’ve watched Alive Inside 2x in the last 2 days. The second time I watched it with my girlfriend (novia is the word here in Merida). She sells cheese on the street and delivers it to her customers’ homes or restaurants. Recently she bought a Smartphone and listens to Spotify music on it as she works from the back of her car. As she watched the movie she started to laugh seeing how music affected the Golden Oldies in the movie. “It does the same to me as it does to them!” “Yo tambien!” (Me too!), I replied referring to how I feel listening to whatever music du jour I stream on my computer.

I don’t know where I’d be by now if it weren’t for ITunes and now Spotify. I connect to the outside world for the most part by computer, except when it comes to mi novia y mi amigos en Merida. Right now it’s Mercedes Sosa in Buenos Aires in 1982 when the Argentine military dictatorship was crumbling. Great music with such feeling – Gracias a La Vida.

Let’s take a minute to talk about streaming music. I’ve read 2 recent articles – one in the NYT, the other in The New Yorker. Both articles point out that musicians are being hurt by the lack of money when we stream their music. I pay Spotify a monthly fee but that money doesn’t find its way to the artist very much. A musician I recently listened to on Spotify told me how little she gets. In her case nothing. I don’t play CD’s so I gave her something on Paypal and she sent me some music to download.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/24/revenue-streams

Make sure you help the musicians who help the Golden Oldies stay ALIVE INSIDE.





Yo Adrian!! What Price Glory in the NFL?

17 09 2014

adrian-peterson-wheaties

From the first time I saw him in the NFL Adrian Peterson was my kind of guy. I remember a TV discussion. It was about AP’s practice of not stepping out-of-bounds but instead ramming his shoulder into a defender for a couple of extra yards that would eventually cost him a couple of years in his career. No way he would change that, he said. It was his style…the way he ran the football. As a rugby player I admired him for his strength and speed. Over the last few years I’ve stopped watching the NFL the way I did “back in the day” when both my sons played high school football. The owners’/players’ money and behavior, the concussion issue, the 3 1/2 hour almost nightly games, and the hyperbole of media coverage became too much for me along with the wisdom of my 70’s telling me it didn’t make a damn bit of difference if the Eagles ever won a Super Bowl.

AP claims that being beaten by a switch has played a part in making him the man he is. I understand that because I too came from a home of violence and abuse. But it was something I left behind. After that the worst moment of my life as a father was when I hit my 4-year-old son for not fighting someone who took advantage of him on the street. I thought I was teaching him to be a man at that moment. It was something I apologized to him for when he became an adult.

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Are violence and football intrinsically related? Of course they are. See Chuck Bednarik standing over Frank Gifford. I remember violence as an option of my behavior when I was playing rugby that was much closer to the surface than when I wasn’t. It’s the psychology of the sport. We teach our kids to be tough, hit hard, stand up for the team, never give up. We can also teach them that football is not everyday life when it comes to woman and children. Call it sensitivity training. Teach them it is a privilege to play the game physical but there are no similar privileges when it comes to being a father, husband or boyfriend.

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What Price Glory? is a play written by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings. It was written in 1924 by men with 2 different opinions about war. Anderson was a pacifist, Stallings was a veteran who lost his leg in WWI. They were friends who worked together as journalists. Their play became a legendary silent film and then a movie made by John Ford in the 50’s. The play’s POV, as expected when written by one man who didn’t believe in war and another who did, did not have a single focus. It showed soldiers for what they were – a mixed bag of brave and vulgar men. The same is true of football players. Can they change? Sure, it’s a choice.

Poster - What Price Glory (1952)_01

Maxwell-Anderson-Quotes-1

It’s difficult to switch back and forth from being physically competitive to being kind, considerate and loving. I assure you that anybody who makes the switch over and over is a special person. An example is Devin Still, the Cincinnati Bengal father of a child with cancer. When that switch happens we open our hearts like the people of Cincinnati have.

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Sport is business now – an integral part of the infrastructure of the 21st century.

Silver Football and NFL Logo On Top of a Green Field

It wasn’t always the way it is now. In my lifetime sport seems to have gone from a way to learn how to live honorably to a way to earn money. Football’s best lessons are still there but don’t leave it up to the businessmen of sport – read NFL – to teach them. That’s still up to the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

Come on, Adrian, be better than what you were taught.





Frozen Assets – Image of the Day

8 11 2013

“I’ve never believed in God but I believe in Picasso.” – Diego Rivera

Frozen-Assets-by-Diego-Rivera

As strong as statement of religion as you’ll get from the man shown in the self-portrait and photograph below. The mural shown above is my image of the day. I’ll tell you why…

Self-Portrait-Dedicated-to-Irene-Rich-1941-Oil-on-canvasdiego-rivera

Frozen Assets was one of the murals painted in 1931 when Diego was in New York. It is now in Mexico City at the Dolores Olmedo Museum. If you’ve seen Selma Hayek in Frida you might remember there was some controversy stirred up by Diego’s refusal to tone down the communist/socialist spirit of his work. In the mural’s bottom panel he depicts John D. Rockefeller sitting in spats waiting for his money to come from the vault. In the middle is a homeless shelter for the unemployed near the East or Hudson River. At the top a view of the skyscrapers that were built in many cases by the cheap labor of the Great Depression. No wonder Rivera’s work has been adopted by the Occupy Movement. Eighty years ago in an economic time much like our own Rivera saw how wide the gaps were in society. Today numbers like the “Other 99%” tell the story but being a man of few words and believing that a picture is worth a thousand I prefer Diego’s visual story.
I “heart” NYC and believe it or not so did Diego, but like so much of life it has an underbelly or in this case an underground of the “rich and famous.” We all have our dreams and at my advanced age I still have mine. One of them is that the metaphor of the American Dream gets renewed, recalibrated and renamed so that the financial, racial and social distances among us all are reduced all around the world.


Viva Diego! You truly were Mexican art’s Gift from God.





Who’s Winning…

24 10 2013

The War on Drugs ?

Click on the above and watch the John Legend music video in the upper right corner. If you live in Mexico like I do everything will work but you won’t be able to watch the film the website references unless you have VPN software.

Yesterday I posted about my addiction to sport. In many ways it’s similar to drug addiction. Watch this short video…

The Science of Drug Addiction

What are the alternatives that work best to combat addiction (another word for compulsive behavior that has a negative effect on the quality of life)? The answer is not incarceration. The War on Drugs has been waged for 40 years by a country with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population. 1/4 of those in prison in the USA (600,000) are there for non-violent drug offenses. The numbers also tell us that the % of blacks in prison for drug offenses is inordinately skewed when compared to the % of blacks who make up the drug user population. Dr. Carl Hart tells us in “The Science of Drug Addiction” that when given positive alternatives crack cocaine addicts disprove the theory that once a crack cocaine user always a crack user.

I’ve had enough war in my life. My country tis of thee sweet land of liberty? I think not. The wars we’ve fought have been losing propositions for everyone but the military, defense industry and now the prison industry. In war someone wins and someone loses. It’s the same in sport. The best lesson coming from sport for me was…it’s not all about winning and losing it’s about how you play the game. Somehow I think that lesson has been forgotten by many of my brothers and sisters in the USA.

40-years-of-the-war-on-drugs_51fe10028e876

Seamus Heaney, you are missed.
Rest in Peace

notsoyoungseamus





Bein’ Green

20 03 2013

Sure and begorrah you’ve had enough “Slainte” and “Erin go bragh” by now but I’ve been up to other mischief so I couldn’t post this on Sunday when everybody was Irish.
One of my favorite poet’s early poems follows. Note his pen rests snug as gun. The meaning is clear to an Irishman where he stands relative to the “troubles.”

fuseamus

notsoyoungseamus

youngseamus

Digging
BY SEAMUS HEANEY
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

So what is it that makes me heart pump a little faster when I think of myself as Irish. You’re sitting there thinking. What the fuck? This guy’s name is Snyder. Well ¾’s of my family are from Donegal in Ireland. The Snyder’s were from the Alsace.
It’s not easy being green or Irish, but it was easier on the East Coast in the middle of the 20th century in the Irish neighborhoods of Philadelphia than it is here in Merida. Back then the Fighting Irish were in the hunt for the college football championship year after year.

John Wayne was “The Quiet Man” and Maureen O’Hara was his bride-to-be provided he could knock out Victor McLaglen. BTW the Irish had a problem with John Ford’s idyllic depiction of the Irish countryside back then. Their opinion has changed since. It’s a beautiful film in many ways although a little over-the-top with Irish blarney, more commonly known as bullshit.

The_Quiet_Man_Wallpaper

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Bishop Fulton Sheen had a weekly TV show and Bing Crosby was the #1 singer in the land. Old Blue Eyes changed that and I have to say I was glad then and I’m glad now. And what happened next was remarkable and who knows how dishonest? An Irish Catholic became president. I didn’t know back then how unpredictable and complex the world was but I do know now. Most if not all of those Irishmen have had a fall from grace.
I had no idea as a boy that the Irish writers I loved came from a tradition that had been born a millennium and a half before. There were these little Irish monks writing in monasteries that were sanctuaries for the written word. Without them the modern world would be struggling even harder to understand how the human race thought about things in the beginning when the word came into being. When I finally got to Dublin 50 years later it all made sense. That Irish sense of humor was evident even then. A monk illustrating the Bible, drew a cat in the margin of one of the pages. It’s thought to be that he was sitting there in his cell bored by the day after day task of creating one of the most revered books in the western world and there was a cat on the windowsill; so what the hell he just made a drawing of it for the Book of Kells.

Folio-27v-Four-Evangelists

My grandmother believed in the “little people.” If you saw her you’d know why. She had the look and the spirit of the leprechaun. Her eyes twinkled when she laughed and she never missed a chance to laugh. My grandfather made lemonade from lemons when he lost his job during the Great Depression. He went in the basement and fed the family by making whisky not to drink but to sell. Thank you, Carrie Nation, and the 18th Amendment.

carrie

We came from a land ruled by an oppressor and many of us aren’t forgiving the English when it comes to that. When asked to be included in an anthology of great British poetry since he was born and raised in Northern Ireland Seamus Heaney said :
“Be advised my passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen.”
My heroes as a boy were Irish freedom fighters. I didn’t know the differences among Free Staters, IRA men, and the Sinn Fein as a boy and I still don’t get it all. But what the history of Ireland did for me was make it easy and natural to be a rebel. I raised my middle finger to all those in authority at the hint of any disregard for my right to be free. No need to tell you it got me into some trouble in high school and the military.
Now about the water of life – uisce beatha – phonetically (ish’-ka ba-ha), the Gaelic words that became the English word “whisky.” The 1st mention of whisky in the written history of the modern world comes from the Annals of Clanmacnoise where an Irish Chieftain in the 13th century died from an alcohol overdose. I’ve been to Ireland and I understand how it might have happened. Fighting naked in the cold and the rain by the river Shannon just forced the man to take to drink. The more he drank the warmer he felt until….

AWIcon_Ireland

Dying_gaul

Finally to my point. The cliffs of Slieve League in Donegal stand 2000 feet above the Atlantic – higher than Ireland’s most famous cliffs the Cliffs of Doher. The wind blew a gale of rain stitches in my face as I stood there 5 or 6 years ago. The photo below was taken from the spot. It was the land of my ancestors I’d heard about but like many Irish-Americans it was the land of a family I’ll never know. I have never seen a picture of any of those who lived in this land from across the sea. They’d left this land to forget the sorrows, the troubles and save themselves from a potato famine that was made by politics and business as much it was by Mother Nature. It was a fucking challenge just to stand still in that blowing wind and stinging rain. That’s when it came to me. What it means to be green and Irish is to be standing as a tree rooted in the earth bending in the wind and the rain with a smile on my face to be home at last. The irony is that my home now is in Merida, Mexico where it’s not so easy being green but it’s great to be livin’ Irish with my middle finger raised to anyone who wants to fuck with my Social Security.

Slieve_League-cliffs-2

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