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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

If It Isn’t Broke Don’t Change It

Change, change, change: all I hear about these days is changing the way we live, act, and think. What was wrong with the old you, or me for that matter? Don’t we have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of? Isn’t our Country something to be proud of? Isn’t our democracy something to be proud of? Why do we have to change everything? What was wrong with the old us?

I know a lot of people are dissatisfied with the way the Country has been run lately including me, but that doesn’t mean we have to change everything. All we need to do is to change our leadership. We don’t have to give up the basic principals of freedom and democracy that this Country was built on.

Let’s not give up so quickly on the basic principals our forefathers fought for. Let’s not effect change for change’s sake. Let’s not throw out all the good things about our economy and our political system for the sake of getting rid of a few bad ones.

It’s time for a new reality of the possible, and the practical. Let’s remember that we are a people of virtue who have done good works in the name of preserving liberty, freedom, and equality for all.

Yes, we are not perfect, but then I believe that only God is perfect. Yes, we have done things wrong, but I believe to be human is to be fallible. Yes, we could do more, but we don’t have to change our basic personalities, we just have to be ourselves and try harder.

Don’t allow yourself to forget who you are. Don’t allow yourself to change your basic sense of decency. Don’t allow yourself to become entranced by the concept of change for change’s sake.

You have spent a lifetime becoming who you are: don’t change now. You can always seek to be a better person, and to do more good works, but you should not try and change your basic instincts to conform to someone else’s concept of a new American reality.

You don’t need to change who you are, what you do, or who your friends and loved ones are. All you really need to do is to be yourself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Prophet Returns To Do Battle

Johnny Oops returned to lead the battle for the hearts and minds of the non-believers in our midst. He had heard enough of the false claims against him that he wasn’t real; that he was merely a fiction in peoples minds.

Whose reality is it he asked? Is it the reality of people who do not care for their neighbors? Is it the reality of those whose greed makes them take advantage of people of lesser means? Are these the righteous thoughts of real people or a fiction perpetrated on our souls?

What has happened to our humanity? Has it become hostage to the logic of the Computer? Are we allowing our basic values to become subjugated to our quest for wealth? When will we remember the lessons our forefathers fought for that provide us with freedom and equality?

It is not enough to pay lip service to the protection of the moral fabric of our Society. We have to show by our actions that we mean what we say, and we will do what is necessary to protect our freedom, to share the bounty of our land, and to honor the intentions of the framers of our constitution.

Let’s not split legal hairs. Our Nation is in peril. It is being attacked from outside and from within. Our economic dominance is in question. Our leadership of the free world is being mocked by Countries whose own defense we have had to come to more than once.

If we wish to protect our moral superiority, we will have to be willing to do battle with the forces of evil that surround us on almost every side. To do that we have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge what is fact and what is fiction and what is real.

It is not enough to be men and women of good will. We must become activists for the protection of our society. We must become all that we can be. We must provide the platform for a new era of living: for a renewed American dream. We must be willing to do battle to preserve all that is good about our society and to change that which is not. Are you ready to join hands and do battle?

Hi, this is Arthur Levine, the author of the novel Johnny Oops. To read more about Johnny please access

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Oops, I Did It Again

I can’t believe I have broken all of my New Years resolutions already, but to tell the truth I have. It’s not that I don’t want to be good and keep my roaming eyes to myself; it’s just that I have what I call a renegade gene. I can’t seem to help myself. I am totally and completely addicted to life. Not just any average boring life, but life in the fast lane.

I guess it all started the day after New Years when I went to my yoga class hoping to lose the terrible hang over I had inadvertently acquired the night before. That’s when it happened.

I was standing on my head meditating and trying to mind my own business when this girl in a tight pink leotard crashed into me. Evidently she was standing on her head too, and lost her concentration, and fell down bumping into me as she collapsed in the most beautiful jumble of limbs I have ever seen.

It must be fate, but these things keep happening to me. I wonder if it is my subconscious mind willing me to participate in these situations. I don’t know, but my instincts tell me it must be so. Just because I am a fictional character in a novel, doesn’t mean I don’t have instincts or feelings. I do. I am constantly bombarded by a flood of emotions, which even yoga can’t stop me from thinking about.

It turns out that Amy, the name of the young lady who crashed into me is very real. She has startling green eyes and wavy blonde hair. Her waist is so thin that I could hold it in my two hands, which I did as I gently lifted her off of me. I was determined to keep my distance and my New Years resolutions, but it didn’t work. Amy and I seem destined to be emotionally intertwined for a long time.

I guess the moral of my story is that some of us can divorce ourselves from reality, but we can’t separate ourselves from who we really are. Maybe the answer as we enter this New Year is to stop trying to change ourselves and be happy with who we are.

Stop trying to stand on your head to change things. Learn to be happy with who you are, and what you have accomplished. Let the real you come through. Don’t try and change yourself in order to feel better. There was nothing wrong with the old you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

CHAPTER 12 – A NEW BEGINNING - Excerpt Johnny Oops

Seventeen isn’t too old to start over, is it? I decided not to go back to school for another year. My folks got me on this great International Exchange Student Program in France. I get to live with a French Family and learn how their lives are. They have a sixteen-year-old daughter. Next year she gets to come and live with us in the states. Her name is Danielle. I hope she isn’t big and fat and ugly. I’m searching for some beauty in my life now. I’ve been spending the last few months studying how to speak French non-stop. I’m so fluent in the language I can even philosophize in French. Isn’t life wonderful? I’m beginning to feel good about myself again. I’m still a genius. Geniuses have especially tough lives, but I can take it. This is the way things were meant to be. I have my faith back. I feel almost invincible again. To tell the truth I have had such a full recovery it’s almost scary. Life is great don’t you think?

Danielle’s family, the Gellets, live in a really ancient two-story stone house with a thatched roof in the tiny village of Ez in the south of France. It was a former artist’s colony and the operative description would be quaint. The house sits on a hillside overlooking the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. This is what true beauty is all about. The house itself has maize of small bedrooms on the second floor and one bathroom (This is going to be a problem, it has no lock on the door). The main floor could best be described as one huge family room opening onto a big kitchen with a huge wood-burning fireplace that’s sometimes used for cooking. There is no central air conditioning or heating, none is needed in this moderate climate. It’s charming.

The Gellet’s have a large family. Danielle is the oldest of four siblings. There are twin eleven-year-old girls and a thirteen-year-old boy (This might be a problem, I am to share a room with Peter). Peter it turns out is no problem. He is always off playing with his friends. The family seems to operate in a happy communal fashion: sharing meals, family outings, and above all laughter. Everyone seems to be laughing all the time. They are having fun. So this is what happiness is all about. Oh, I forgot to mention that Danielle’s grandmother lives with them. She is a small frail woman with a mole on her chin. She uses a cane, mostly to shoo people like me who annoy her away, sits in the kitchen near the fire all the time, and never smiles. At least she never smiles at me. I think the old witch sees right through me. I don’t like her, but I am careful to always be polite and respectful. To tell the truth I’m scared of her.

I was welcomed with great warmth and treated just like one of the family. They laugh at my French. I laugh at their English. We get along famously. Danielle takes me all over. It’s summertime and she is out of school. It seems like the whole country is on vacation. Most days we spend at the beach, and then meeting with Danielle’s friends at a local village café for endless espressos, much talk about America, and endless jabbering about what they are going to do with there lives once they grow up. It occurs to me that they have a better handle on things than I do. No one is out to change the world. No one has any deep thoughts. No one has the worries of the world on their minds. It’s delightful. It’s refreshing. It’s a whole new world to me and I like it. I decided to relax and treat the whole thing as one big happy learning experience. By now my eyes are wide open.

Lest I forget to tell you Danielle is really cute. She’s not beautiful, but she has a great smile, a good figure, and big boobs. She is a very happy go lucky kind of kid, never taking anything too seriously. We sort of fell into sex as something you do to pass the time. It’s obvious to me that Danielle is a woman of the world. She taught me about oral sex -- Alice didn’t have a clue. My first blowjob was a hum dinger. I had no idea what I was missing. Danielle taught me how to please a woman. Alice had no idea. The give and take of it really turns me on. I absolutely enjoy giving pleasure. I had no idea. It’s fun. It’s nothing serious. There is no love. It’s painless enjoyment for it’s own sake. It’s just what I needed. It allows me to put my experience with Alice in perspective. It allows me to put Alice behind me. It’s wonderful.

Naturally I told Danielle all about Alice, but not about my breakdown at Harvard.

She just laughed. “Puppy love,” she said. “Pssst, it is yesterdays news, it is over.”

With those few little words of wisdom, all the worries of the world seem to lift from my heart.

“You have got to learn to relax and enjoy yourself Johnny,” she said.”

And so I did. It was wonderful. Life is wonderful again. My eyes are full of the beauty and the joy of life. Doctor O’Hara would be proud of me.

Mr. Gellet is a simple yet profound man. In certain ways he reminds me of my Dad. He is a poet of some local repute, and makes a living serving as the village postman. He is 49 and only six years away from his pension. Then he will retire and write poetry full time and become a national hero he told me. But he said he would never leave his beloved village of Ez. It must be nice to know where you belong. Danielle’s mother, Mariana Gellet is a big fat jolly woman who is constantly laughing and trying to get me to eat more and more. Her cooking is great. I must have gained 10 pounds. If this is the stuff of life I could feed on it forever. I’m still a philosopher in training.

On Saturday nights the whole family goes dancing at a place near the beach that is strung with multi colored paper lanterns. The live band plays everything from French Country music to La Vie En Rose. It’s great fun. Afterwards we go to a café for huge vanilla ice cream sundaes mounded with fresh whipped cream and surrounded by melting bittersweet chocolate sauce. Let me tell you, until you have tasted real French ice cream, you haven’t lived. It is marvelous. I think the Gellets have guessed that Danielle and I are fooling around. They don’t seem upset. They know it is nothing serious, just two kids having fun and enjoying life. This is the way things are supposed to be. I really like the Gellets. They are wonderful enlightened people considering they are totally provincial. Danielle says they are all right. She calls them the ‘rents’. I wondered what she meant by that? I asked her.

She said, ”It indicates I am just passing through on my way to my own life and my own family. It is like I am renting emotional space and time from them until I grow up.”

I never fully understood what she meant, but then for a ditz Danielle is a very complicated woman. You notice I say woman not girl. Danielle taught me the distinction.

We drifted down the tepid, tranquil stream of summer as we languished in our own feckless ritual of youth. Time seems to have no meaning. How irritating it must be to older people not to have the opportunity to do nothing but enjoy themselves. For the first time I’m really glad I’m young. For the first time I think I am truly happy. I love the nothingness of it all. My only obligation is to enjoy myself. I think I’m doing a good job.

I was sitting alone on the beach feeling a little melancholy. The summer was coming to a close. Danielle was shopping with her mother for dinner. We are going to have Langoustine. They are a cross between big shrimp and small lobsters. I love the way they taste. Danielle’s mother serves them with a saffron butter sauce. Believe me that’s heaven. Where has the time gone I wondered? I will miss all this. Why does this have to end? Suddenly appearing from nowhere Danielle jumped on my stomach and rubbed sand on my chest.

“Why so sad,” she asked?

“The summer is almost over. I go home in less than a week.”

“A week can be like a lifetime if you know what to do with it. Be happy, I have a surprise for you.” With that she grabbed my hand and half dragged me across the crescent shaped beach up a sharp promontory to the top of a rocky hill.

“What’s this,” I said.

“Look down,” she replied.

And I did. What I saw about forty feet below was a frothing pool of dark water interspersed with jagged rocks: formed I guess by centuries of waves pounding against the granite rock cliffs that surround a good part of this area of beach to form a forbidding inlet.

“What’s so special about this Danielle?”

“Jump,” she said. “You have to jump”

I hesitated, looked again, those rocks looked frightening. “I can’t. I’m scared I shouted. I value my life too much to risk it on a whim. I’m having too much fun.”

Danielle embraced me, squeezed me hard, and kissed me on both checks. “Now you understand. Your life is too valuable to waste it being sad. This is my going away present to you Johnny. I give it to you from my heart. Live a long and worthwhile life and be happy. You owe it to yourself.”

The summer ended 4 days later. We enjoyed every moment of it. I cannot promise you that I don’t still have my dark moments. But when I do I think back to that dark foaming inlet of despair with the jagged rocks, I remember Danielle’s words and how much I have to live for. I cannot promise you that my version of life is perfect. I cannot promise you that struggle will bring me redemption or joy. But confronted with the alternative of death and despair, there has always got to be a better way. I search for it constantly. I have hope I will find it. I have faith that one day I will. My summer of fleeting euphoria has brought me the possibility of a lifetime of freedom and contentment. I intent to enjoy it thoroughly. I plan to live life to the fullest. I’m on a roll. Nothing can stop me now.

“Oops Stewardess, I’m sorry, I didn’t plan to spill the orange juice all over your blouse. I must have been day- dreaming. I do that a lot lately. Here, let me help you clean that up.”

“Okay, I’ll just stay in my seat and let you handle the mess I’ve made. I’m used to having other people clean up my messes, but all that is going to change.”

“Yes, it’s a good thing no one was sitting next to me. You might have had to clean up their mess too. One clumsy joker on the plane is enough.”

“Okay, I will try and relax and enjoy the flight back to Connecticut, but I wish I was still in France.”