Monday, December 19, 2011


We are living in revolutionary times. This is certainly reflected in the presidential campaigning going on. Sudden surges in popularity for Republican contenders are often based on provocative ideas advocated by the candidates. These include 999, abolishing several cabinet positions, getting rid of the Federal Reserve, ending all foreign aid, forcing poor kids to take jobs as janitors, etc. Obviously, each of these make sense to some voters, at least for a while. I think most of us being fed up with the dysfunctional status quo makes it easy to sell new ideas, even if they are outrageous or ridiculous. And who knows? Some of them might actually have good results.

So I decided to come up with my own 10-step revolutionary program of major change in the ways things are done. You may not agree with all of my ideas, but I think you would have to admit that they would produce a dramatically different world that just might be better than the one we now inhabit. Hold your breath, here we go:

1. Give mandatory polygraph tests to all political candidates with all results published.

2. Allow politicians to continue to raise billions of dollars, but instead of giving it to TV stations for political ads and other campaigning efforts, give it to citizens in exchange for their votes. This would reinvigorate our electoral system and guarantee much larger turnouts than we've had up to now.

3. Have all medical practitioners work on a tips-only basis. You would be paying them based on how healthy you got or stayed after their efforts.

4. Have anyone who intentionally tells lies about any member of government or any legislation or court decision, shot by firing squad.

5. Make annoying behavior a major crime. The harshest sentences, up to life in prison, would be reserved for telemarketers, people who use social media to try to sell you stuff, and any Internet marketers who bombard you with repetitious non-stop emails.

6. End all censorship of the arts, but institute large fines for anyone in any creative field who is boring to a majority of his or her audience.

7. Eliminate all nightly newscasts and replace them with the opening monologues of all the major talk shows, plus The Daily Show.

8. Ban any religion that teaches or preaches violence or intolerance against any other religion.

9. Instruct all potential suicide bombers that there is nothing so tedious, less fun, and more maddening than ending up with 72 virgins.

10. Give Jews and Muslims in the Middle East a one year deadline to resolve their differences. If they fail to do so, force them all to convert to the Quaker religion.

I call this The Jerry Plan, and if you agree, please distribute it wherever possible. Let's change the world together!

Happy Holidays,


Check out my other blog on prosperity at:

Saturday, December 3, 2011


As we grow older, we become more aware and susceptible to all sorts of illnesses--arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer's. But for me there is one I really dread, and has inspired me to come up with a philosophy I call ABP, which stands for Anything But Psoriasis. Yes, psoriasis, that skin condition that produces scaly red and white rashes. But it's not the condition itself that scares me, it's the treatment.

The most successful treatment for moderate to severe psoriasis is Stelara. There are a lot of commercials for this pharmaceutical product, and I am convinced just watching those ads can be harmful to our health. Remember, this is a treatment for a skin condition, an inconvenient and ugly skin condition, but we're not talking about Muscular Dystrophy or leukemia here. And every commercial, by law, has to contain a litany of side effects--those things you can get if you actually take the medication advertised. In the case of Stelara, it doesn't seem like a great trade-off to me. Stelara does work, 75% of the psoriasis patients taking it notice a major improvement.

The side effects could, however, do you in even before your skin clears up. First of all, they tell you that Stelara will lower your ability to fight infection, including some serious infections that may require hospitalization. The drug may also increase the risk for cancer. And you could have headaches, seizures, confusion, vision problems--all of which may be signs of a rare, potentially fatal brain condition. That condition is known as RPLS, or Reversible Posterior Leukoencephalopathy syndrome, and no one knows what causes it, except Stelara sometimes seems to.

And then there are allergic reactions to the drug, like feeling faint, swelling of your face, eyelids, tongue, or throat, and trouble breathing.

So I picture myself have developed psoriasis, and a possible dialogue like this:

FRIEND: "Hi Jerry, how's that little skin problem you were having?"
ME: "You mean that moderate case of plaque psoriasis? It's doing great, my arms and neck are all cleared up."
FRIEND: Great! Everything else O.K.?"
ME: "Not really. My skin looks and feels fantastic. But I keep getting infections, have gotten cancer, and headaches, seizures, confusion, vision problems--and this may be the sign of RPLS, a rare but potentially fatal brain condition. I also feel faint, my face is all swollen, so are my eyelids, tongue and throat, plus
I have trouble breathing."
FRIEND: "Wow! That's terrible--do you regret ever taking Stelara?"
ME: "Don't be silly. I just concentrate how good my skin will look when I'm lying in that coffin."
I have another blog, not nearly as personal and sometimes silly as this one is, and it focuses on prosperity consciousness at:

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It's Thanksgiving, a time to be grateful for all the good things happening in our lives. But even now, there are literally tens of thousands of blogs, media outlets, and politicians spouting a constant stream of negative predictions and horrific expectations. In many of my seminars over thirty years, I have talked about the little negative voice we all have inside our heads--I call him Stanley--the voice Buddhists call "Monkey Mind." The voice that chatters away, telling us why we can't, shouldn't, and mustn't be hopeful and optimistic. The only way I have found to take away Stanley's power to hold us back: drown out his voice in a crowd of positive voices. This has to be a positive decision followed by positive action.

For example,there are many websites to be found that focus on good things. One of these is:

another is:

and of course there is this blog, and my other blog,
focused on prosperity consciousness and positive self-programming:

So let's get something straight:

If you believe life is a mess, with little hope for the human species, it has more to do with the crap you are paying attention to than reality.

And if you complain about the glass being half empty after drinking half the water and enjoying every drop, you're an idiot.

Feel free to share the above two sentences. I know they don't apply to any of my spiritually evolved, brilliant, and inspired regular readers.


Monday, November 14, 2011


I recently came upon a journal essay I wrote in 1998 while I was an inmate at FCI Tucson. It was about the uncertainty of not knowing what is coming in the future. I wrote:

"Perhaps it is an illusion to ever think that we know what is coming up in our lives, but there is solace and comfort in thinking we know what the next year holds for us. In most lives it is not unreasonable to suppose that life will go on pretty much as it has, or that some short-term goal we are aiming toward will be fulfilled. But here I sit in federal prison on this Arizona summer day that is bound to reach over a hundred degrees, and I just don't have a clue. That is disquieting and forms a small undercurrent of discomposure over my normally placid persona."

At that time, I had no idea whether I would win my appeal and be able to avoid a twelve year prison term and had not really come to terms with the possibility of losing the appeal, which I subsequently did. As a learning experience, an adventure in personal growth, however, that uncertain few months was extremely valuable. It taught me the necessity of going within to create a stable internal consciousness no matter what was going on outside myself. I had no control over the external, but could determine my immediate experience in real time:

"At this juncture, it seems to be that the most effective way I can prepare for any possibilities is to keep on writing, keep on walking, keep on focusing on staying calm and centered and productive."

We hear a lot nowadays about businesses worrying about economic uncertainty to the extent of hoarding cash that otherwise could be invested in job-creating activities. It is always a myth to think we know what the future holds, so we may as well act as a current event based on current reality. The inner strength I build in that period of what could have been a fear-ridden, anxiety-producing time for me allowed me to triumph over my incarceration, emerging on the other end with more creative energy, optimism, and inner peace than I had going in. This wasn't brilliant or heroic on my part, just the most sensible path to take considering my realistic options. I ended my short essay by writing:

"I will accept that there are going to be moments of fear and sadness, but this will be the ultimate test of my ability to create my own internal environment despite whatever is going on around me."

You might also enjoy my prosperity blog at:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Wall Street and the major financial institutions that populate it have been coming under increasing attacks by political figures and observers in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. But this, in my opinion, is a bit misfocused in that the disparity of wealth is not the major danger to our system posed by Wall Streets. Yes, it's good that so much attention has been placed on how vast the gap has become between the lowest income groups and the wealthiest Americans, while middle income earners have seen their purchasing power go down and stagnate. But Wall Street, and its big banks, brokerage firms, hedge fund managers and all the other manipulators in the international financial markets are not even the only factors in creating this disparity. Many of the free trade policies since the Ronald Reagan administration have sent thousands of jobs overseas, so that more and more Americans are shuffling paper rather than inventing, engineering, building things, and providing physical services.

The most disturbing trend I've heard about in recent weeks is the fact that such prestigious universities as M.I.T. have seen their most promising graduates take jobs on Wall Street rather than go into science and engineering as had been usual in the past. The reason is simple, there are more jobs on Wall Street in which a young, clever graduate can start making big bucks almost immediately. This involves moving financial instruments around, and contributes almost nothing to the public welfare.

For two years back in the 1980s, I earned my living mostly by playing poker. It was a very good living, and it was fun and exciting to do. I stopped doing it as a full time activity when I realized that I wasn't contributing anything real to the world. It's a sort of soulless existence, just moving money around rather than producing anything of practical use or beauty in the world. This is what these smart college graduates going to Wall Street to make their fortunes have chosen to do for themselves, to become soulless money-changers. And it takes something out of you, some important and vital part of what it means to be a fulfilled human being.

I think we'll figure out some ways of dealing with the disparity issue, but it might be a lot harder to figure out how to inspire bright young students that earning a lot of money easily and quickly is not the greatest aspiration one can have. Some years ago, I was hired as a consultant for a group of twenty women who either were or had been successful call girls. I worked with them on developing entrepreneurial skills, as their big issue was transitioning back into a normal lifestyle when they had been making an average of $100,000 a year by having sex with strangers. There were hardly any jobs available for women that paid near that amount, and most of them weren't educated for high-paying jobs. Six of them ended up starting a house cleaning business, and it did quite well. This, of course, was the same issue facing these college graduates who might be looking at some more creative and productive career than shuffling money on Wall St.


Thursday, October 27, 2011


I recently took a musical time machine back to the late 1960s by attending the Tony-winning revival of the ultimate sixties musical, HAIR. I first saw the show with its original Broadway cast, including co-creator Gerome Ragni in the lead role of Burger, in LA in 1968. It was fun to hear the title song, plus Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let The Sun Shine In and other familiar melodies. They handed out fresh flowers to audience members, and at the end of the show, the audience was invited up to dance on stage with the cast. It definitely had the flavor of a counter culture be-in--almost.

In 1968, I imagine I wore a jacket and tie to the show. I was a broadcast journalist at the time, and definitely not even a pseudo-hippie. That came later for me, in the 1970s in Miami, where I wore my tie dye, and loincloths and dashikis, and had hair longer than most of those cast members in the new version of the show.

Several things occurred to me during this performance. One is that we seem to be less a nation of open-minded risk takers now than forty-three years ago. I think that this was epitomized by the fact that they eliminated the famous scene in the original production where the entire cast strips down completely.

But perhaps it's just that California is more uptight than its reputation. I remember being shocked when I came out here in the early 1980s from Florida and was invited to climb into a hot tub with several friends and they all wore bathing suits. This had never happened in hot tub experiences in Miami, or New York, or anywhere that I could recall. (Now I wonder if the New York production of this revival had the nude segment.)

Later that same year in which I saw the original HAIR, I also covered the Democratic National Convention in Chicago for the all-news radio station I worked for in Philadelphia, and for our sister stations in LA, New York and several other cities. I was brought in at the last minute because of the riots triggered by Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and other members of the Chicago Seven. There were now two sites to cover, but I got to work the less interesting one at the convention itself, so never got to see or meet Jerry Rubin.

Oddly enough, he and I became friends in the 1970s, when he went out of his way to look me up and praise my book on relationships. We even did a few lectures together in the 1980s about future trends and prosperity, titled The Two Jerrys (I'm embarrassed to admit I came up with that title.) Jerry became a very successful entrepreneur and human potential guru George Leonard's son-in-law. He was killed when a car hit him as he was jaywalking across Wilshire Boulevard in LA in 1994 at the age of fifty-six.

So while I thoroughly enjoyed HAIR, I also felt a sense of sadness that we have lost a lot of that sense of innocence, and that feeling that we could actually change the world. Maybe this is what the Occupy Wall St. movement will eventual evolve into.

When HAIR was originally created, it actually was depicting very real events that were happening in the news every day. It would be hard to duplicate that authenticity today--we are so much more jaded and cynical. You could sense that in the shy embarrassment with which most of the audience members accepted their flowers as they entered the theatre. My fantasy is that back in 1968, the people would have immediately and spontaneously responded to this gift by making a peace sign with their fingers, or maybe even hugging the cast members handing out the flowers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I only decided a few minutes ago that I would write this and post it. I haven't often shared the major disappointments and painful experiences even with good friends, and my eagerness to do it now demonstrates as much as anything that I really came out of prison a changed person--or maybe it's more correct to say a more awake or evolved person.

On Tuesday, I was exuberant, filled with my favorite robust expectations, as I sent a 70 page book proposal off to Bob, my agent in New York. It's for my long-planned prison memoir. I had visions of his saying it was a masterpiece and he already had six publishers who wanted to get into a bidding war over who got to bring it to the world. But, alas, his email yesterday started with:
Jerry - I don't feel much of a commercial pulse here. There's no narrative arc, no storyline that could evolve into a movie.
It went on a bit, but that's the gist. I had started off on the wrong foot. My immediate reaction was numbness, the feeling that a truck had just fallen on me. I couldn't imagine starting all over, even though I could see his point. I think I was actually depressed, for about 23 minutes, which is pretty significant for me. What prison affirmed and confirmed for me is that it's not that I avoid or don't feel pain, upset, fear, anxiety, but rather than I have developed a very rapid recovery time.

I decided to call Julia Coopersmith, whom I had also sent my proposal. She was the editor at Doubleday who bought my first book, and when she switched careers, became the agent who sold Moneylove. Now she has switched again and is successfully writing her own books. But she's remained a stalwart friend, and while I was still in prison, six years ago, she was urging me to write a prison memoir. I just wasn't ready to do it before last month, when I officially got off my three year parole period.

Julia said almost exactly the same thing as Bob, that it needed to be more about who I was and how I ended up in prison. I had thought to make it more interesting by jumping back and forth over my 12 years of incarceration, throwing in funny, then serious, then uplifting episodes. She said no, it needed to start from my first day in prison and move forward through the experience, in other words, as Bob put it, a "narrative arc." Less depressed as we hung up, I was thinking that I would avoid the project for a week or two, and then begin again.

But then I opened up my daily Nightingale-Conant motivational quote. I confess, I usually don't even open them. Though, about two years ago, I spontaneously opened one and it turned out to be one of my own quotes.
But, again, for some reason I thought this time whatever the quote was, it would speak to me. It turned out to be from a man I knew and admired from our acquaintanceship at National Speakers Association conventions, Dr. Denis Waitley:

"Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try
another approach is the secret of winning."

Talk about serendipity. Exactly what Bob and Julia said my proposal needed: another effort, another approach. I immediately opened up my Pages file on my Macbook Pro and started writing, ending up with a new opening paragraph. Bob had said I should call him if I wanted to discuss his email, and I had left a message for him. Almost immediately after writing the new paragraph, my phone rang and it was Bob. We talked at length about the direction I might take, and I read the new paragraph to him. He loved it. It was the reaction I had been hoping for when I had sent him the 70 pages. It was a new start, and I'm already typing away with renewed robust expectations.

I suppose one secret of surviving and thriving in these increasingly fast-paced times is to speed up one's own process, and my prison-enhanced rapid recovery time skills have certainly helped. As a result of this experience yesterday, I will focus even more on how I used this and developed it during my 12 years in prison, and hopefully pass on the skill to many others in my book.


A lot of my creative activities go into my other blog, focused on prosperity, so check it out:

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I couldn't resist passing on this piece by Monty Python alumni John Cleese--a brilliant modern take on national quirks and attributes.


The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to"Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is cancelled." So far, no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person.

And while I have a ways to go before I'm in Cleese's class as a satirist, this did make me wonder
what he might have said if the U.S. were included in this list. Perhaps, something like:

Recent Al Qaeda chatter has caused the United States to raise it's threat assessment level from "Go Shopping," to "Go Shopping More." Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress have introduced legislation that would give major tax credits to any millionaires who build elaborate underground terror-proof bunkers for their friends and family.


I couldn't resist passing on this piece by Monty Python alumni John Cleese--a brilliant modern take on national quirks and attributes.


The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats
and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon,
though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A
Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when
tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from
"Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a
"Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the
Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have
been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror
alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are
"Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that
destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's
military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to
"Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat
Operations" and "Change Sides."
The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to
"Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher
levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat
they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy.
These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get
a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to
"She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I
think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is
cancelled." So far, no situation has ever warranted use of the final
escalation level.

John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person.

And while I have a ways to go before I'm in Cleese's class as a satirist, this did make me wonder
what he might have said if the U.S. were included in this list. Perhaps, something like:

Recent Al Qaeda chatter has caused the United States to raise it's threat assessment level
from "Go Shopping," to "Go Shopping More." Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress have
introduced legislation that would give major tax credits to any millionaires who build elaborate
underground terror-proof bunkers for their friends and family.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Of course, the myth is that a really good and loving and substantial friend will be a Best Friend Forever. But reality is quite a different matter. When I wrote my book on the subject of friendship and the importance of supportive interpersonal environments, FRIENDS: The Power and Potential of the Company You Keep, I used several examples of what seemed to certainly be everlasting friendships. None of them survived. This is not to say it's impossible to keep a close friend for a generation or longer, but in our increasingly changing world, filled with transient living and short term attention spans, it gets more difficult to hold onto the same values and interests that tend to glue us together.
I am still in touch with five friends from the 1970s in Miami, where I wrote that book. That seems amazing to me. Two of them are very close, even though we are separated by substantial geography. But emails, phone calls, and Skype video chats keep a sense of intimacy alive. Both are former lovers, but I'm not sure that has anything to do with the longevity of the relationships. Both were faithful correspondents during my entire twelve year term of incarceration. Since my release, several people have reached out to me in friendship and then fallen by the wayside--I suspect they thought I could do something for them that it turned out I couldn't. A couple of others seem like they are in it for the long haul. We may not be in frequent touch, but I have no doubt they would be there if I needed something they could provide, as I would be for them.
In prison, one learns to let go of friendship. There are kind, smart, supportive friends to be found and made behind those stone walls, but you never know when a friendship will suddenly end because one of the other of you will be suddenly transferred to another prison, or another yard at the same institution--and communication in that event is almost impossible. So you put yourself forward just a little bit, knowing it cannot possibly last. I've kept up with just one friend I made in prison, Keith, with whom I shared a cell for over two years. I joined he and his family for several holidays since my release.
Several of my friends going way back in the Human Potential Movement have become superstars and multi-millionaires. They're still cordial, but I wouldn't call them friends.
General speaking, I am proud and pleased at the quality of the friends I've attracted over the years, even the ones who are no longer part of my life. I think what constitutes success in the realm of friendship, isn't how long someone stays your best friend, but how organic the flow is from friendship to acquaintanceship and back again.
Time to go, I just got an email from one of my newest best friends, a lovely and successful movie actress in Europe. I'm not sure I'll ever tell the story of how we made contact, but that too is what gives some friendships their juice. As I look back, a lot of my friends came into my life in strange and wonderful ways. And the more strange and wonderful that beginning, the longer the friendship seems to have lasted. Maybe I'm onto something here. Are you open to a new friend arriving in a strange and wonderful way?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Everyone talks about the decline of American education, but very few innovative ideas have emerged and been implemented in recent decades. Much of what is taught today is pap--material lacking real value or substance. Sure there are some great teachers still out there, and some kids who are moved to greatness by what those teachers do. But the numbers are seriously declining. When I was a schoolchild, almost any student could name one teacher they really admired, looked up to, and learned a lot from. Today that isn't easily found.

When prison guards in California make an average of over $100,000 a year with no skills or education beyond high school, and teachers make about $60,000, the trend is clear in what our current society values. Of course, with more good teachers, the prisons would not be filled to overflowing. More Americans are in prison today, 1 in 100, than in any other country. China is a distant second with 1 in 1000 Chinese in prison.

When you listen to some of the stuff coming out of political candidates' mouths today, you can clearly see that they are less well-educated and well-read than those of a generation or two ago. Of course, they are speaking to an equally dumbed-down electorate, so perhaps it all works to their advantage.

I don't think it's going to be very easy for government, local or national, to change the status of teachers. But there was a time when it was considered a prestigious, honorable profession.
This can happen again with the help of the private sector, which would be the beneficiary of an upgrade in teachers, schools, and students. My suggestion is a merit award for teachers beyond any yet tried. If some of the billionaires who are now so committed to help cure Malaria and other diseases overseas, would put some of that same energy and capital into the U.S. education system, I think we could see dramatic changes. We could start with a series of grants to exceptional teachers, perhaps styled after the MacArthur Foundation genius grants.

The criteria would be that the person had to be selected by students as being a wonderful, inspiring influence. And referees would sit in that teacher's class for some hours to determine if this was truly a fantastic teacher. I think a $200,000 figure split between the teacher and the school would have a big impact. And not just a handful of these grants, but dozens in every state. This would be a strong incentive for truly gifted students to consider teaching as a career choice once again. Expensive? Yes, but well worth it. And it could be financed just by Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner and perhaps a few other big and very rich givers.

Would it solve all the problems? No, not by a long shot. But it would get the conversation going, and definitely inspire some new, creative ways to make the great leap forward our entire education system needs.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011


As a theatre-lover, I've been privileged to see a few earth-shattering, stunning performances in my time. In 1962, at an out-of-town tryout of a Broadway-bound musical, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, I saw a nineteen year old Barbra Streisand in a minor role stop the show with her featured song, Miss Marmelstein. It is hard to believe the performance I saw last night at the Berkeley Rep was done by a woman exactly sixty years older, Rita Moreno.

It almost does her a disservice to mention she will be eighty on December 11th, because by any standards she deserved her standing ovation in the first public performance of her new one woman show,
Rita Moreno--Life Without Makeup.
She held the stage with zest and majesty for two-and-a-half hours, with the assistance of some brilliant staging and two male dancers probably one third her age. Rita calls the energetic dancing she herself does, SKD, "sorta kinda dancing." This is certainly true of many aging dancers who sorta go through the motions, but what this Puerto Rican beauty did was way beyond that, despite recent knee replacement surgery.

As I launch my own solo performance career, I am inspired and intimidated by this Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy winner's virtuoso display. Of course, it doesn't help build my confidence that I don't sing or dance, act, or have as still gorgeous legs as Rita Moreno--nor as colorful a life as this woman with 74 years in show business and still counting. She recently took on the role of Fran Drescher's mother in the new sitcom, Happily Divorced--and there's no doubt in my mind, or in the mind of any other audience member last night, that her first solo performance will eventually sellout on Broadway. Brilliantly piecing together segments from the tapestry of her life is her co-creator, the Berkeley Rep artistic director, Tony Taccone, whom she credits with talking her into the project two years ago, after she originally turned him down five years ago. He convinced her that, at 77 then, she had better get on with it.

The mark of success in any performance art is to leave the audience wanting more. Afterwards, I was Googling like crazy, trying to fill in some of the rest of the story. But I guess I'll have to wait for Rita Moreno's promised memoir. Though I admire her classiness and grace in refusing to dish very much dirt, I really would like to know exactly how she went about trying and succeeding in making Marlon Brando jealous by dating Elvis Presley. I never knew she was in a tumultuous five year relationship with Brando while still in her twenties. She eventually had a forty-five year marriage with Leonard Gordon, who died last year at the age of ninety.

The most astonishing thing about this one woman show isn't that a woman who will be eighty in three months is starring in it, but rather than for most of her commanding, adorable presence on stage, you can't even remember how long she's been around. There's a newness, a childlike sense of wonder, the energy and charisma of someone who is immensely talented and just starting out in a fantastic career that will lead to inevitable stardom. I'd be willing to bet that in the next few years, many performers half her age, seeing this show will be saying to themselves, "I wish I could walk out on a stage and do that."

And Rita Moreno also gets off some great one liners. At one point, she talks about Betty Wand, who dubbed one of her songs in West Side Story because Rita couldn't hit the lowest notes, but then went on to claim she did all of the other songs, too. With an arch of her eyebrow and ironic shrug of her still beautiful shoulders, Rita Moreno says, "May she rest in peace.." hold for a sweet pause, then, "Of course she's still alive."
Since she has already won the four top entertainment awards, they really have to invent a new one for this.

I'm not even sure I'm going to try to explain, or even could if I wanted to, my rather contradictory reaction to this amazing performance: It has made me feel older than I really am, and at the same time, a lot younger.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Well, yesterday was a marvelous trifecta for me. First off, after being released from Folsom on August 22, 2008, I officially was released from parole status after three years. Serendipitously and symbolically, I received my new passport ahead of schedule, and I debuted the short works-in-progress version of my one man show about my prison experience, to a rousing reception at The Marsh theatre, the nation's premier showcase for one man and one woman shows. It was the culmination of a longtime aspiration and a wonderful class by superstar solo performer and artist-in-residence Charlie Varon.
A description of my segment of the five solo performances:

The Great Escape. The most outrageous, moving, inspiriting, and hilarious description of a bestselling self-help author’s 7 years at Folsom State Prison.

One piece of my work-in-progress involved the audience, as I told them that one of the greatest blows to my emotional equilibrium in prison was the periodic arrival of a new cellmate. A stranger entering your cell to spend hour after hour, sometimes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, locked in this tiny space with you. You have no idea how long you will be cellmates, or even what his crime was, and prison protocol dictates you don't ask, unless they volunteer the information. I suggested audience members look around and find their own stranger nearby and imagine that this person just arrived as their cellmate and had some of the characteristics of a few of my real life cellies, like:

"Charlie, who has an obsession...his fancy breed pet chicken back home. Something i still remember was called a feather-footed, bearded and muffed black-breasted red Cubalaya chicken..and he even brought a stack of photographs of the chicken...and he constantly talks about the chicken and how much he loves it....and now considers you his best friend because you foolishly reveal that you don’t like eating chicken in any form."

I have considered myself free since long before I left Folsom, thanks to the rich internal world I created for myself, but it is nice to now have the physical reality of freedom from all parole restrictions, like not being able to travel more than 50 miles from San Bruno, California. But since I was released, I've enjoyed an even greater freedom, to choose the company I keep. Back in 1976, I had a book published, FRIENDS: The Power And Potential of The Company You Keep. At that time, I couldn't have imagined not being in charge of the company I kept. And now I count that blessing every day. The ultimate freedom is to be doing what you love to do and want to do, when and where you want to do it, and with whom you want to do it. Without that, anyone is a prisoner.


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Monday, August 8, 2011


So there is more and more evidence that the old saw, "I'm not getting older, but better." is based on fact. Several recent reports have come out that talk about how creativity increases with advancing years. One in Psychology Today was especially insightful on the subject in an article by Shelley H. Carson, Ph.D., which said:
The aging brain resembles the creative brain in several ways. For instance, the aging brain is more distractible and somewhat more disinhibited than the younger brain (so is the creative brain). Aging brains score better on tests of crystallized IQ (and creative brains use crystallized knowledge to make novel and original associations). These changes in the aging brain may make it ideally suited to accomplish work in a number of creative domains. So instead of promoting retirement at age 65, perhaps we as a society should be promoting transition at age 65: transition into a creative field where our growing resource of individuals with aging brains can preserve their wisdom in culturally-valued works of art, music, or writing.

Since I've long suggested that retirement is a bad concept, I was pleased at the idea that since we get more creative in certain ways, (being less inhibited in our thinking as well as more easily distracted), we transition instead of retire. Move into some more creative field of endeavor at age 65. A lot of seniors have been doing that in recent decades, but since it is not considered the societal norm, they often get criticized, "What was he thinking at his age?"

I am very grateful that I came out of 12 years in prison with a more open and disciplined and uninhibited and creatively productive mind. I have so many creative projects lined up on my back burner, that I will have to live to at least the 150 year mark I predicted in my book, Psychological Immortality. Right now, I am writing this blog and my prosperity blog as well, plus twenty or thirty cartoon gags for several successful magazine cartoonists, and material for a one man show about prison life that I hope to take to off-Broadway in 2012, and bits and pieces for a stand-up comedy act, and notes for a prison memoir that will probably be published next year, and coming up with innovative, new ideas and strategies for my Moneylove Club monthly audio series on prosperity consciousness.

And I am definitely not doing this in any frenzied way, but living a rather leisurely lifestyle, and doing a lot of catching up on the twelve years' worth of good films I missed while in prison via Netflix, plus getting somewhat addicted to some great British series like Monarch of the Glen, Coupling, and New Street Law, plus great cable series like Saving Grace and several shows on TNT, as well as some of the best has to offer.

And I don't even have a TV! I watch it all online on my 24 inch high definition LED monitor, so that I can easily switch back and forth between engrossing entertainment and exciting creative efforts, which my mind does seem able to do with increasing ease and alacrity. And as just an example of my always exploring new things, the preceding sentence is the first time in my life I've ever used the word "alacrity," which I just looked up after writing it to find it means, "cheerful readiness." Don't you love that phrase? Imagine everyone you meet for business or pleasure greets you with cheerful readiness.
I'm walking a lovely woman to her door after a delightful date and ask if I may come in, and she says, "I welcome you with alacrity." Oh well, maybe that's a bit much. Then again, as I am now older and more "disinhibited," why not expand my expectations?

Speaking of gratitude, and my cartoon gags, I'm going to close by sharing a favorite from the newest batch I sent out just this weekend.
CAPTION: "I'd invite you in for my nightly Gratitude Ritual, but tonight it's about being grateful I don't have to ever see you again."

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


A friend was really complaining about how miserable she was since her daughter went away to college. She said that being a single mother so absorbed her that she was able to bury some of her doubts and fears and anger, which were now coming up as she no longer had her daughter nearby to draw her attention and energy. I realized that this woman had been using her daughter as a human bandaid to cover up the symptoms of inner despair. And I began to wonder how many of us do the same thing--use our devotion or obsession or infatuation toward another person to escape confronting our inner demons and pain.

Of course, the big difference is that when you remove a bandaid, healing has often occurred. This is not true with a human bandaid. When someone you have been using in this way disappears from your daily life, by moving or dying or even going away to college and leaving that empty nest behind, instead of healing, the festering wound is reopened--worse than ever. Some people use a sequential set of relationships to keep covering up those symptoms, and this is done in many different forms. Some years ago, I did this by getting involved with a very beautiful, very sexy, and very happy, nurturing woman. The only problem was she was extremely high maintenance. She required constant attention day and night. I thought it was a pretty good trade-off at the time, as she provided a lot of pleasure. But it gave me a great excuse for not dealing with some major issues I should have been dealing with, and probably indirectly led to my ending up broke and in prison.

Sometimes even work acts as this kind of temporary bandaid--men particularly sometimes use intense focus and commitment to work as a way of avoiding commitment and responsibility in other areas of their lives.

One of the oddest manifestations of this bandaid effect is when someone uses personal growth programs and workshops to avoid dealing with the pain deep within them. I remember some years ago there being a very popular series of weekend workshops that required total absorption of participants with a very rigid structure. So much so, that someone attending would have no time or emotional energy left to deal with any depression or issues buried deep within their core.

It almost sounds like a joke, but my friend attends a grief group to deal with the absence of her daughter, now happily attending college in another state. All the other members of the grief group are dealing with the death of a loved one. But my friend says her pain is just as real, and the counselor has told her it may even be a deeper sense of grief because the person she is mourning is still alive. I suppose it is harder to let go of someone who still exists but is no longer in close proximity.

Sometimes it hurts to quickly tear off a bandaid, but that is a small price to pay for the healing impact if we take the opportunity to seek a more permanent solution.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It suddenly came to me as I prepare material for my solo performance class at the famed Marsh theatre in San Francisco with teacher/director/solo performer Charlie Varon. The focus of this piece is a humorous/serious look at my 12 year prison experience. I mentioned that one of the events that really upset and depressed and angered me, and was the biggest challenge to my ability to go within and ignore external adversity and deprivation, were the regular book raids.

This is something that happened every several months, when a functionally illiterate corrections officer (what a laughable title!) would bang on my cell door loudly, unlock the door and barge into the small 6 X 8 foot space, announcing, "Gillies, you have too many books--you have two minutes to get it down to the maximum of ten books allowed!" Since I often had 30 or more books, thanks to the account provided by my old friend Mark Victor Hansen, this was an almost impossible task.

I could send some of the books to a friend, but this would cost exorbitant postage (no book rates available) and the friend couldn't send them back to me at a later date. All books had to come from publishers or recognized retail entities like Amazon or a major bookstore chain. Or I could donate them to the prison library, but from experience, I knew that the officer rarely took the time to do this and just threw them away or gave them to some of his pet inmates. All of this was running through my head as I frantically tried to decide what I couldn't do without. I had to keep at least a few mystery novels and the dictionary. It was the rest of the keepers that I had trouble picking.

I usually took more than two minutes and the guard would stand there muttering obscenities, saying he was too busy for this, that if I didn't hurry up, he would just take all the books. I had to make quick choices, and sometimes regretted them as soon as he left with his bagful of loot. I remember one time when I couldn't decide between Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life; Allen D. Bragden's Building Mental Muscle and James Jay Masters' Finding Freedom: Writings From Death Row. I kept the Quindlen book and still haven't read the other two.

After an hour or two, longer than it usually took me to recover from negative events, I calmed down and realized that any book was eventually replaceable, and it didn't have to affect my usual upbeat mood and optimistic outlook. And I immediately wrote to Mark's assistant with a new order, including at least a few replacements in the ten maximum books we could have sent in. This taking of action got rid of any residual bad feelings. But on a couple of occasions, a special visualization exercise I created for myself also helped. I pictured myself at a 12-step program for book addicts, standing up and saying, "Hello, I'm Jerry and I'm a bookaholic, and have been one since my mother taught me to read at the age of three. Today I realized I only need one book at a time, and don't have to pile them up to feel secure."

I've never been "book sober" a day in my life, and except during certain brief periods when I was in a holding cell after transfer from one prison to another, I have never lived a day without a book in my hand. My stockpile in prison made me feel a sense of abundance. The fact that I read some 1000 books in those 12 years gave me a strong sense of accomplishment.

I still am a voracious reader, but limited space in my current living environment prevents me from having hundreds of comfort-providing volumes surrounding me. So I suppose I am partially rehabilitated from my obsession/addiction. The ultimate test will be when I get a much larger budget and living space. One major sign of progress: I no longer think or feel, "So many books, so little time."

P.S. I think being the insatiable reader I am had to inevitably lead to my being an author. I still find it amazing that two million people bought Moneylove. My new audio club and prosperity blog are both inspired by that work, and you can check out both at

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I was just thinking about one of my favorite comic book characters, Captain Marvel, and how Billy Batson would go into the secret cave and say the word "Shazam!" to be transformed into the red costumed superhero. Shazam was the name of a wizard, and Captain Marvel, launched at the same time as Superman, was far more popular in the 1940s. Through the years, as the franchise moved from Fawcett to DC Comics, which had claimed the character infringed on their Superman image, litigation has prevented Captain Marvel from being portrayed in a major movie, just some television shows and a movie serial in 1941. Because of all the copyright disagreements, DC can't even promote the character under the name Captain Marvel, which is why the comic book was renamed Shazam, also the name of a music website now.

I miss the word as a magical incantation. I used to, as a kid, like to imagine that I could give myself super powers by just saying, "Shazam." All of which got me to thinking we can all use a magic word. And it doesn't matter whether you believe in magic or not. If you made up your own magic word, merely by saying it you would remind yourself of what you would like to have appear if you did have magical powers. All of us have had wonderful things happen as if by magic, but these are often accidental or serendipitous events. Wouldn't it be better to at least make the effort to conjure them up intentionally?

In any event, I am working on a few words for myself to explore this concept. Right now, I'm looking at "Serendigenous." I seem to have a lot of the kind of happy, accidental good luck that is described as serendipity in my life, so that it feels native and natural to me, or I could say "indigenous" to my lifestyle and experience. Thus, serendigenous. But the magic word any of us chooses doesn't have to refer to any actual definition, it can be as nonsensical and make-believe as Shazam or Abracadabra. You might want to check out the book on Magic Words listed in the link below for some creative stimulation to trigger your imagination in this regard.

So whether you believe in magic or miracles or even serendipity, or not, what would you want to add to your life if just saying one word could produce any result you desired?
Happy Conjuring!

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Monday, June 27, 2011


So the word is usually modified with "old", and a codger is defined as usually an elderly man, somewhat eccentric or curmudgeonly. Well, since I was just as eccentric and curmudgeonly when I was a young man, I'm not sure I really mind the title. Curmudgeon is interesting in that it's official definition is "bad-tempered," but in modern times is has usuallly been used in reference to cynical or sarcastic commentators on life's absurdities, like H. L. Mencken, one of my personal heroes.
The film, Grumpy Old Men, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau has been called a documentary on codgerhood and curmudgeonhood.

The film, Elegy, by Spanish director Isobel Coixet, whom I recently discovered and whose films as masterful epics of human behavior from a passionate perspective, is somewhat a celebration of old codgers. In this case played by Ben Kingsley as a sharp-tongued critic and Dennis Hopper as an outspoken poet. Kingsley's love interest is played by Penelope Cruz--and who wouldn't want to be labeled an "old codger" if she were part of the mix?

At the beginning of the film, Kingsley's character is looking out a window and we hear his inner soliloquy on growing older:

"I think it was Betty Davis who said 'Old age is not for sissies,' but it was Tolstoy who said, 'The biggest surprise in a man's life is old age.' Old age sneaks up on you and the next thing you know you're asking yourself, I'm asking myself, 'Why can't an old man act his real age?' How is it possible for me to still be involved in the carnal aspects of the human comedy? Because, in my head, nothing has changed."

And this pretty well sums up the aging experience for me--in my head, I'm still in my thirties. Maybe if I were a triathlete or involved in any other strenuous physical pursuit, I would notice more of a change. But as a reader, writer, and speaker, I seem to be able to do as much as I could thirty years ago. And I'm actually more disciplined and creatively productive now than I was then. So codger it is, and I'm kind of fond of that title, though instead of "old," I think I'd prefer it prefaced with the adjective, "creative."
Your friendly Creative Codger,

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It's sort of sad that so many of the specialty foods created in my hometown of Philadelphia are so diluted and tasteless when attempts are made to duplicate them elsewhere. The ubiquitous cheesesteak is a prime example. For thirty years, I have tried to find one as delicious as Pat's or Geno's or any of dozens of Philly snack emporiums to little avail. Finally, I accidentally discovered Phat Philly on 24th Street near Valencia in San Francisco, as it is on the way to The Marsh Theatre, where I am currently attending a class on solo performance. The rolls and meat are authentic, and they even have my favorite hot cherry pepper slices, very rare on the West Coast where the jalapeno reigns.

But the cheesesteak is just one of the foods originated in Philadelphia--there are four of them altogether. The soft pretzel was invented in Philly, but quickly showed up at New York street vendors. Elsewhere in the nation, not nearly so tasty. In South Philly, the vendors always seemed to have several layers of raggedy clothing and very black palms. To this day, I don't know if this was dirt or some by-product of pretzel baking. But their product seemed to be the most delicious, the small ones selling for 5 cents, the jumbo size a quarter, and always with a splash of mustard.

Next, a sweet treat I've never seen anywhere else except the South Jersey shore, which is practically a suburb of Philly anyway. It's the Italian water ice. This is not a snow cone or shaved ice, it's more liquid, and the authentic version came in two flavors, lemon or cherry, with pieces of the fruit permeating the soft, smooth dessert. It was made in a churning vat quite often standing in the open doorway of corner candy stores throughout South Philadelphia, and served in soft paper cups--2 cents for the smallest. Almost all other versions involve pouring artificial flavors over ice.

And, last but not least, the famed Tastykake snack cakes. My favorites of many varieties were and still are the plain chocolate cupcake (as opposed to the cream-filled) and the chocolate Kandy Kake (which used to be called Tandy Kake). They used to be available more widely, but are largely limited to Philly, New York, and New Jersey.. A few cheesesteak shops have them shopped in, but at exorbitant prices. They have no preservatives, so just a two or three week shelf life, unless frozen. I now have a freezer full of the chocolate Kandy Kakes, as you have to order them by the case from the company, but they're pretty reasonable at $68 for the case of 18 boxes, each containing six packages with two cookie-sized cakes in each. So that's 216 actual Kandy Kakes.
Many online reviews compared Tastykake products to other snack foods, and I like one typical review that says Tastykake is to Hostess products as a premium prime rib is to McDonald's McRib.

Of course, we're all attached to the favorite snacks of our childhood years, and if still available, this is often our first choice for comfort food. Even though the four food items above make Philadelphia probably the leader in specialty treats that originated in any city in the world, there are still more. I've never tasted an Italian hoagie more delicious than at almost any Philly hoagie shop, and Nick's roast beef sandwiches put Arby's to shame, and the old Horn & Hardart retail shops had a chocolate chip loaf cake to die for. H&H also invented the automat in 1902 in Philadelphia, and it also quickly spread to New York. As a kid in Philly, I fondly remember getting a table full of food for a dollar's worth of nickels popped into the slots and then pulling out the dishes like fantastic beef pot pie when the little door flipped open. And chocolate covered frozen bananas were a favorite at many candy stores. They actually have traveled the best, as it is pretty hard to screw them up. Trader Joe's has them sliced in their Gone Bananas version.

On the way to class tonight, I'm stopping at Phat Philly's. And here's a guilty confession--all my life, I have ordered my cheesesteaks without the cheese, just steak and onions and perhaps a few hot cherry pepper slices. So while an ardent addict for this hometown treat, I am far from a purist.

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