Alex Maskara


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Sunday Thoughts and Book Review



Today is Sunday. A new life is beginning. I will have more free days starting this week and for the rest of my retirement years.

It is 5 AM and I just spent an hour checking out facebook which is not a bad way to start my day, especially when I see pictures of beautiful locations, beautiful lifestyles and great ideas. I still get trapped in some sordid videos and skits that aren’t worth watching because of their irrelevance to my life. These posts are mostly meant for the new generation and they are outside my interest.

I am more prone to check the quiet and meaningful posts; I also like posts that inspire me. Gone are my days of pulpit bullying on the Internet, trying desperately to convince readers to adopt my point of view in life. It is hard convincing people, especially those who already have settled with their own beliefs. That doesn’t mean I’d stop engaging with a potential kindred spirit. Somewhere along the way, there is one or maybe two who agree with me. But that is not because of my power of influence. There is a likelihood that those who read my tedious writing have preconceived notions that happened to agree with mine.

I love reading and writing, that is the main issue. To indulge in a task you love is already a reward by itself. But I need to be grounded. To love something doesn't mean I am the best at it. A professional who retires and starts painting in watercolor doesn’t mean he is the best in watercolor. Or another retiree who starts an ice cream parlor doesn’t mean he’s an expert in that specific business. There is a chance of failure in whatever ventures we attempt. But to be a smart retiree, you need to mitigate risks, you learn to accept the limits, you prepare yourself to indulge in another hobby once you lose interest (or fail) in the current one. The point is to keep trying in the spirit of Ikigai.

Do I love doing what I am doing?
Is it useful for me and the others and the community?
Can I monetize it someday?

If none of these apply to your venture, it might not be worth it. In the first place, one can only indulge in his free interest if he has sufficient passive income or retirement savings to allow him to indulge in an enterprise that may or may not make money. If one thinks he needs to make money from his new venture to support his retirement, then that venture is work. It is still possible to succeed but also to fail. The final question is -

Is it ok to fail without affecting the stability of my retirement?

It is no longer feasible for me to take risks at my age. I could not afford to fail because it would be a disaster to start all over again when you are over 60 years old. It is more dangerous for someone like me who lived alone most of his life and my family support, though available in theory, may not be reliable when push comes to shove. Wisdom however is on my side. I have spent my entire life doing what the society expected of me. But I have drawn some lines though. The world told me to get rich, obtain power and be famous. I detested all that. I only wanted to have enough to live by, be unknown to allow me freedom, and heck, having power means dealing with people and politics, the most toxic and anathema to me. My personality isn’t people oriented and despite all my scientific inclination when it comes to learning, I keep my personal belief in God so that makes me different. I remain grounded. I prefer to be unknown. I don’t want to have anything to do with power.

I am blessed with simple desires. I do not like spending on what others consider as normal expenses. I don’t go to restaurants or movies or cafes or vacations. I have a few friends that are just as unsociable as I am. I have a large extended family although my separation from them throughout my life have rendered me estranged, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. You see, if you meet a nephew or a niece who was still in the belly of your sister or sister-in-law when you went away and now he is a father himself, or a mother herself, you’d probably be tentative and a little shy in dealing with them. There is politeness, respect, and careful conversations but being familiar and open-book doesn’t come naturally when you meet them the first time. We will eventually get closer in time but not today.

So what piques my interest as I am entering the door of retirement? I have worked physically all my life, in healthcare to be exact. My working life is nothing but serving sick people, patients who needed to be assured, moved, walked, rehabbed; my job was all talk and action that left me exhausted at the end of the day. It is quite odd, given my tendency to be solitary, to have developed a specialized skill of dealing with patients for 34 years. And the patients were of variable personalities. I dealt with some of the most difficult people in my lifetime. Patients who hated being in a hospital, or those who have psychological defects, manipulative, dramatic, aloof, a few racists, yet I stood my ground and got out intact and stable.

As I am about to retire, I am excited to have all the free time in the world to read books and blog about anything that interests me. Perhaps this is my last attempt to pursue the real profession I wanted before I went to healthcare (for financial survival). I always wanted to be a writer. I don’t really care anymore if I am good at it or not, if I have readers or not, if I am published or not. There is always a desire in me to share my thoughts, and as I said previously, writing is hard to do. It’s goal is to convince and influence whoever reads you. And that is the hardest job one could have. You create characters, settings, situations, conflicts, resolutions with the aim of convincing a reader about the point you are trying to make. It is purely mental.

And one cannot be a writer without reading books first.

(to continue)
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Book Review


I finished reading my current book and later received the book by Marcel Proust. I am beginning to love works by men using the stream of consciousness method of expressing themselves. It is a method I prefer in writing.

These writers - Kerouac, Jim Harrison, McCormick, Richard Ford, Peter Matthiassen - (are only a few) possess the writing style among authors using few words to complete a story replete with emotions and complicated plots. Take Jim Harrison for example, after reading his three novellas The Revenge, The Man Who Gave Up His Name , Legends of the Fall, I just knew he was a gifted storyteller.

REVENGE is about men fighting over a woman; she is married to a rich Mexican who dealt with drugs and real estate who was ruthless to his perceived enemies. The wife would fall in love with an American named Cochran. Cochran and the woman would suffer tragically once their affair was discovered. The woman was physically disfigured , forced into prostitution while she was drugged as men, who knew her before as a beautiful woman beyond their reach, passed her from one to another. Cochran was left for dead on a desert road. She died when the lovers met one last time. He buried her.

THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS NAME followed the same pattern of Revenge. An ordinary kid who was smitten by a classmate’s beauty and her unreachable class managed to marry her eventually. They had a daughter. He built an affluent life only to give it all up after his marriage was shattered. He found his ex-wife thriving while he started losing his via mid-life crisis. He ended up dealing with low-lives, or at least lives not at par with his status. Violence ensued. He survived. Made a deal with enemies and ended up living a far low-level life in Florida but it certainly was his choice.

Finally, LEGENDS OF THE FALL is the novella that established Jim Harrison as one great author. At least to me. In less than 100 pages he covered a multi-generational saga, epic in proportions. There is scarcity of dialogues. There was no grand transition from one era to the next, from one generation to the next. The sentences are lines that rely on the reader to string together. But the story is there - three brothers (Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel) were sent to WW1, these brothers were of diverging personalities but the violence of war turned them all upside down including the parents and the Montana ranch hired hands. One, Tristan got so traumatized he ended moving from place to place, leaving his wife Susannah to fend for herself. With Tristan’s prolonged absence, Alfred, who was the more ‘socially acceptable’ , married Susannah. Upon Tristan’s return, he just accepted the new arrangements. But he fell for the much younger Isabel Two (to differentiate her from his mother Isabel) whom he left as child when he went to war. Isabel Two and Tristan produced two children. But their joy would be short lived as Isabel Two died in an ambush while transiting whiskey supplies during Prohibition Days.

Tristan devoted his time to his remaining children but Susannah who was now married to Alfred who got elected as Senator (through the machinations of Susannah’s father Arthur), did not lose sight of her possibility of returning back to Tristan. She seduced him.

Given her unstable psychosis (madness), she was only prevented from killing herself with the hope that Tristan and herself will be together again someday. But Alfred was in the way. Eventually Alfred found out about their secret meetings and it led to hatred over his younger brother. Which led to the increased madness of Susannah. One day Alfred sent Susannah back to Tirstan. She was in a coffin. I don’t think it was murder. I think she finally ended her suffering through suicide.

The most poignant part of this novella was the Epilogue, especially that part where at the present day the tombs and burial grounds of all these characters were located in accordance to their preferences and connections in Montana where most of the drama occurred, while that of Tristan’s was in Alberta.

What touched me most is the unique way of Harrison telling me a truth without actually telling me. That human drama of which we feel playing a big part will conclude nowhere except in the ground where our body is buried. We may have fought wars, got crazy after trauma, killed, fell in and out of love, loved our children, protected them to the end, accumulated a lot of money and power, even fame. The end point of it all was that tiny space on the ground where our souls have flown like birds leaving only bones that, now if gathered together, would be contained in a small bundle, unknown and uncared for except by those who still remember us.
2024-06-23 15:47:53
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Brother, My Brother (Ben Santos)

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Friday Night Thoughts

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