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Coming Around Again: When You Got Nothing You Got Nothing to Lose

You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel 
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?  

There have been many circles in my life,  but I did not expect this particular boomer anthem to ever again become as personal as it was when I was 25. And yet, here I am again half a century later at 75. But “changed, changed utterly.”

And now I am here.


What, today is here? Where is Here in this Now?

Here is not a house but a warm and comfortable apartment that is not spacious but neither is it confining. It’s a far cry from the house in Paradise that is now just plowed under and terraformed. It’s not the small bungalow in Seattle with the playground across the street. The view from the apartment is some redwood branches that screen my small terrace from the neighbor’s terrace some five yards opposite. It is not at all the view from the split level house on the hill above Laguna Beach where I could glance out the wall of windows to the sea and Catalina Island some twenty miles out.

I did not intend to be here. Here was never part of the plan. At least not my plan.

Then again I am not at all sure there was a plan and, even if there had been a plan, I’m not at all sure I was following it. That’s likely the case since, looking back, all the important events in my life seemed to just happen, seemed as if I was walking backward in a dark tunnel that every so often had an opening that looked out on the world; on the world as that it is now — as it always seemed to be — just another day in Plato’s cave. Days we somehow just… 

…. letting the daze go by.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Walt Gottesman November 11, 2018, 4:25 AM

    The plight of your town, and its name, brought to mind another Bob Dylan lyric: “Don’t go mistakin’ Paradise for that home across the road.”

    May you and all who have lost their houses to the fires, find comfort and solace in “the peace that passeth all understanding.”

  • Walt Gottesman November 11, 2018, 5:20 AM

    Sorry. Forgot this part of the half-remembered Dylan lyric:
    “If you see your neigbor carryin’ something’
    Help him with his load…”

    You’ve been helping a lot people for a long time through your writing. May help return to you in abundance at this time of need.

  • Vanderleun November 20, 2018, 10:08 PM

    It has returned. In more ways than I could have possibly imagined.

  • nunnya bidnez, jr November 20, 2021, 9:09 PM

    Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose..

    and BTW, who would be more dangerous…
    someone with nothing to lose,
    or someone with everything to lose?

  • julie November 20, 2021, 10:10 PM

    Nunya, most Americans until recently had plenty left to lose, which is why they have been willing to put up with so much for so long. TPTB are doing their level best to make sure we have nothing left; they must fancy that when we have nothing left, we’ll willingly sell ourselves into slavery just for the relief of a few crumbs to get us through the next day.

    No doubt many will.

    But, this is still America, and as they have proven again and again, they don’t understand us at all.

    Gerard, I know that feeling. I don’t know where I expected to be at this stage of my life, but it certainly wasn’t where I am now. Even so, God gives us each day, full of grace. We may yet reach a point of no thing left, but we will never be without Him. It is enough.

    • Kevin in PA November 21, 2021, 4:24 AM

      “I know that feeling. I don’t know where I expected to be at this stage of my life, but it certainly wasn’t where I am now. ” I echo that very sentiment.
      And I’ve asked myself, “How did I get here?” and the only thing that comes back is – life is a long and winding road and no one’s plans ever turn out the way they had expected. In the exercise human agency we carry on down that long road, but the things we planned often times don’t turn out the way we planned them…..because we are not in charge. But always remember- We Are Not Alone, as so beautifully sung in a video you shared recently from the Mennonite Choir.

      Having said that, Gerard, I certainly don’t put you in the “letting the daze go by” category. You are a doer. You are a giver. You have, through your writing and sharing of the beauty that you have found/experienced, opened windows in many reader’s minds. You have given many of us pause to think. You have reminded me that in spite of all the heartache and drudgery the world is a beautiful place…and that God is watching.
      Thank you.

  • gwbnyc November 21, 2021, 12:58 AM

    (I think) biggest hit.
    An “I Told You So” song.

  • Mike Austin November 21, 2021, 3:47 AM

    Several times over the course of my life I found myself among a few male friends drinking too many beers and trying to predict the future. Playing Nostradamus is tough enough, but playing an inebriated Nostradamus is tougher still. A common theme at these cut-rate Bacchanalias was this question, “So, where do we see ourselves in five years?” We never got it right.

    Lance said he would be living in Thailand. Five years after making his prediction he was protecting the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, emptying mag after mag of an M-16 at hordes of Muslims trying to seize it. Tim said he would be a practicing lawyer. He ended up dropping out of law school and living in his parents’ basement, unemployed and, by that point, probably unemployable. Mike S. saw himself living and working for Nike in Brazil. He ended up in Nebraska, working as a representative for an auto parts distributor. Dan saw himself living in Europe, learning several languages and sleeping with as many women as he could. Five years later he was working as a minor porn star in homoerotic films. Tom saw himself working as a high school teacher. Five years later he was a millionaire selling stocks and bonds. Thadd wanted to go into his family’s business. Before five years were out, he was dead. Steve’s plan had not varied since his time in the USAF. He would become a doctor. He did indeed become a doctor, and ended up the most unhappy and self-centered man I have ever known.

    And I? I wanted to get an MBA specializing in Latin American business. Five years later I was teaching school in Costa Rica and married to a fetching Costa Rican lass.

    ““The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley”.” Burns had this one right. So did Jagger and Richards:

    “No, you can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime you find. You get what you need.”

    Since those halcyon days in Costa Rica—my last year there with my Costa Rican bride was the happiest year of my life—things sputtered forward, then turned sideways, then went upside down and backwards. It has been 25 years since I have seen my now ex-wife. I brought her back to the US—another plan of mine that went awry—and she became an American girl. As soon as she got a better offer, she was gone. I moped around a bit—actually, quite a lot—but then fate sent me 5000 miles away for 11 years. Who could have guessed? I didn’t. But it happened.

    Now at 68 and thankfully retired, I can truly say that I am done with “Five Year Plans”. These worked as well for me as they did for the USSR. So no more predictions. But if asked if I would change anything in my life, my answer is a resounding “No!” As in, “Hell no!”

    They say that after you die, that Jesus will show you the entire tapestry of your life. He will point out to you where He had stepped in to straighten things up and repair the damage you had done. I don’t imagine I will say much when that moment arrives for me. I doubt that “I’m sorry!” will cut it.

    I expect surprises. I hope I like them.

    • Jake November 21, 2021, 5:26 AM

      Of mice and men.


    • mmack November 21, 2021, 6:54 AM

      “Man plans and God laughs.”

  • ghostsniper November 21, 2021, 4:51 AM

    Mike sed: “But if asked if I would change anything in my life…”
    I would not have entered the army in June 1974 for 4 years.
    A horrible waste of time in my prime years and I wouldn’t be a disabled veteran horribly jaded against all things gov’t.

    I should have done what my dad wanted, for me to go to college and get a degree in architecture/engineering/construction management.

    But I was me, not him, and I had to do what Old Blue Eyes said, I had to do it my way. Right or wrong, my choice. Those choices formed the steel in my backbone, something you have to earn on your own. Your dad can’t grow your backbone for you. I have some regrets, anyone saying otherwise is lying, and sometimes, usually after having one too many, I wonder “What if…?”

  • PGT Beauregard November 21, 2021, 5:21 AM

    Like you Gerard I lived in a rented condo in Laguna Beach overlooking the sea. Mid 90s. We probably crossed paths walking to or fro our favorite haunts. It was a nice time and a nice place.
    And while I share your thoughts on not understanding God’s plan, the following quote from Julius Ceasar, has guided my journey through life:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men,
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows, and in miseries:
    On such a full sea are we now afloat;
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    • Mike Austin November 21, 2021, 5:28 AM

      More and more I think of Antony’s, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war!” The Ides of March came and went, but those war dogs, once loosed, have yet to return to their kennels. I can hear them at night, somewhere over the horizon, howling in their madness. Every night they are closer and closer.

  • biff November 21, 2021, 7:32 AM

    Well, you might have “changed” (that is, you became a reactionary and a tedious, old Hannity crank, mainly because your brain melted after 9/11, when your constitution simply couldn’t handle it). But one thing has remained constant: you have always believed yourself to be utterly fascinating, as evinced yet again here. Your litany of places you lived, as if moving, or just being alive, were some sort of accomplishment, is really something. I guess a career-based litany would have just come off as tragic. On the other hand, so does this one, if perhaps less obviously so.

    • Mike Austin November 21, 2021, 8:35 AM

      Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

      • Biff November 21, 2021, 8:53 AM

        Envy of what, exactly?

        • Vanderleun November 22, 2021, 11:02 AM

          Whatta ya got?

          • Mike Austin November 23, 2021, 9:21 AM

            Brando, “The Wild One.”

    • Reader November 22, 2021, 7:01 PM

      It is evening, and I could be watching one of the true crime programs I have recorded, but I am skimming the various websites which I try to check daily. Some are “true news and opinion”; some are a varied collection of facts and links. Some, like this one, have varied content, not all of which I can relate to. But I am almost always interested in the life experiences, thoughts, and feelings of people who have lived full lives, because I have always tried to make sense of my sometimes-seemingly-senseless life. Others’ experiences help with that. I have grown “too soon old, and too late smart”, but I feel less alone for knowing that all of us struggle. I am curious as to why you (1) read content you find distasteful, and (2) feel better about yourself for spending time publicly criticizing it. Surely you can find better uses for your time…. (?)

  • DAN November 21, 2021, 8:33 AM

    KINDA dusts off the old way back machine RE. the statler bros. & THE CLASS OF 57. they pretty well nailed it back then. & here we are with all our thoughts & dreams.

  • James ONeil November 21, 2021, 9:34 AM

    Plan? I decided long ago to just go with the flow.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t take a couple of long pulls on the sweep oar on occasion to assure I’m riding the right current or aimed at the right channel.

    Rapids or a fake pandemic or a government of the people, by the government for the government? Ride it out, or, if it’s really really, hop on the bank and line your float through with ropes.

    Keep on going. The river gets broader. Current gentles down. Things get easier.

    No matter what, everything leads to now, & no matter if now is in an apartment in Chico or self built two story in North Pole with a wood fire burning and -33° outside , or you’re now is wherever, I think we agree, now, right now, this now’s good.

  • SteveS. November 21, 2021, 10:39 AM

    Ahhh, love the familiar, recurring theme of the eternal now,…full circle… Home.

    Along those lines:

  • Dirk November 21, 2021, 10:59 AM

    Talking Heads!
    At some point in every life these questions are asked of oneself.


  • Dave J November 21, 2021, 6:31 PM

    Nothing will make you question your existence like the burial of a young friend. Laid him to rest today at the foot of the Blue Ridge in a pine box. He was a hard-working farm boy in his early twenties, born with lyme and Rhabdomyolysis. He never complained or avoided hard labor. He has grease and dirt on his new wings now but will soar higher in God’s glory because of it. Fare thee well Tommy.

    • Dirk November 22, 2021, 7:04 AM

      Prayers your way. Parents should never have to bury their children, there friends children.


  • Casey Klahn November 21, 2021, 7:17 PM

    Fuck! forest fires. Goddamn it, anyway. Fuck!

    I’m here daily, reading what you put out, GvD. Through these little wires and over radio waves via ground transmission, come a few minutes of sanity. Come a centering and a calming. Without this little bit of solace, my life would be much, much meaner.

  • Jeff Brokaw November 24, 2021, 8:09 AM

    I too have found that getting older sharpens my appreciation for being alive and fully present in the moment, for the random events that shape us and present opportunities for growth, and delineating between what is time well spent and what is not. All to the good.

    Time just “feels different” at 62 or 75 than at 45 or 52 — more urgency and also more relaxed at the same time, somehow. Trying to explain this to younger (but not “young”) people works as well as you would expect it to.

    Happy Thanksgiving Gerard! And many more!