Monday, September 26, 2011

Sad September, by John Rullo

On Friday, September 9th 2011, I just so happened to be driving on Route 287 in New Jersey, heading towards the Turnpike, on route to the Holland Tunnel, to ultimately end up in Manhattan to make what I presumed would be a couple of “quick” deliveries. Along 287 I couldn’t help but take notice of two large construction vehicles facing each other with their cranes fully extended, draping a huge American flag between them. Initially, I thought it was odd and monetarily wasteful, but after removing my dunce cap, I had realized it was the 10th anniversary weekend of 9/11 and only then did the big, bold display of the flag start to make any sense to me.

Traffic was unusually heavy as I approached the Holland Tunnel when my cell phone rang. Knowing I was on my way into the city, it was my dad inquiring about my day.

“Hey, how’s your morning going?” he asked seeming more concerned than usual.

“Tunnel looks a little backed up,” I answered, “Why do you ask?”

“Don’t you listen to the news?”

“No dad, in fact I try my very best not to,” I told him.

“The city is on terror alert,” he informed me, “Please be careful!”

“Great!” I thought to myself, “Just what I need to know!”

As I neared the toll booths, I saw armed police officers randomly stop trucks and ask the drivers to step out and open the doors so they could inspect their freight. I suddenly got the sinking feeling that it was going to be a long day. As I slowly entered the tunnel, my imagination kicked into hyper-drive, sending images of chaos, mayhem and destruction through my already angst-ridden brain. It couldn’t be soon enough until I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

In all my days of driving through the streets of Manhattan, this was without a doubt one of the worst I’d ever experienced. From Hudson Street to Lincoln Center, from Delancey Street to the Robert F Kennedy Bridge, traffic was at a standstill as police cars positioned themselves to funnel all traffic into one lane in order to inspect every vehicle on every avenue. A task that should have taken me all but twenty-five minutes took hours as thousands upon thousands of cars, trucks, taxis and buses (including the double-decker sightseeing ones) impatiently inched their way across the Big Apple. Red lights changed to green and no one could advance. The meters were running in motionless taxis and gasoline wastefully burned as carbon monoxide flowed from the hot steel tailpipes of countless idling engines and I could see the frustration, the anger and the stress aging people’s faces as they sat helplessly in their vehicles. My patience was wearing thin knowing my last stop was less than two blocks away and knowing I had no choice but to crawl at a snail’s pace in order to get there. It took a little less than an hour to advance one city block and finally accomplish my mission, only to wedge my way back into the bumper to bumper nightmare and hopefully make it over the 59th Street Bridge to return to the security of Long Island. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard the chilling screams of numerous sirens. Traffic cops were motioning vehicles to clear the intersection as a parade of brand-spanking new squad cars jerked their way down a cross street, sirens blaring, lights flashing. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I beheld the law enforcement vehicles each displaying unique highly detailed, lavishly painted designs rendering scenes related to the 9/11 tragedy.  It was as if the cars were manufactured and designed just for the occasion. What made it even a little more nauseating for me was seeing the large UPS corporate logo proudly displayed on the rear of every car as a not-so-humble announcement as to who the sponsor was. The cars weren’t responding to a call; they were simply strutting their stuff, adding to the confusion of what was already a very trying day for motorists.

In order to terrorize a city, or a nation for that matter, all terrorists have to do is simply announce that something tragic will occur on any given day and they’ve succeeded without lifting a finger. It’s sad to say, but the horrific events of 9/11/2001 greatly changed our lives here in the good old USA. Fear has seeped into the American atmosphere and as predicted in George Orwell’s’ 1984, Big Brother is truly watching every move we make. As to why 9/11 occurred in the first place is a topic, like the JFK assassination, that will be debated for centuries to come. My relationship with my country has soured greatly since my naïve younger days. I compare it to discovering that the woman I’d been madly in love with all my life never really loved me and all the while, thinking I could trust her, she was engaged in multiple love affairs. All the years I believed America could do no wrong, I learn that she’s been wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, creating enemies, endangering her citizens and the welfare of the earth because of her insatiable greed. What occurred on 9/11 was a Karmic result of America’s irresponsible behavior.

My heart truly goes out to anyone who lost a loved one or had to witness firsthand the atrocities of that dark day, yet at the same time I am finding it extremely difficult to get behind the flag wavers and all the false patriotism that saturates the media every September eleventh. I guess it’s not a bad thing to be proud of one’s country but I can’t help but tend to view patriotism as small-minded. I’d much prefer if every earthling practiced “Globalism’ or “Universalism.” Don’t get me wrong! I would never want to see the day when we drop our defenses to find ourselves taken over by some maniacal dictator who gives us the choice to either conform to his ways or lose our heads. In my Utopian idea of a world that could never happen, but alas, my dream world is not the physical world we inhabit. As far as the proud to be American mindset is concerned, I have to ask, what is left to be proud of? Our country’s leadership is a farce. It’s nothing but a song and dance routine between two competing political parties who would sell their souls to remain in power, each of them with agendas that serve themselves and not the citizens who blindly elected them. America has abandoned all of its industry resulting in the highest percentage of unemployment it has ever seen. American government has been paying farmers not to farm. At one time we were the richest agricultural country on the earth and today most of our food supply is being genetically modified!  Wheat fields have been turned into corn fields to produce ethanol and corn sweeteners. How ironic is it that we are trillions of dollars in debt to a Communist country? The threat continually looms over our heads that there may not be any social security funds available for our future senior citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their life savings and retirement accounts because of corporate greed and careless mismanagement. Projects involving alternative energy are continually getting squashed due to the stronghold the oil companies have on America’s politicians. Our education system has been compromised and our young people have been scammed into borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend college in pursuit of jobs that no longer exist. Need I continue?

What’s the answer? As naïve and crazy as it sounds, love is the answer. When I say “love,” I’m not referring to the word that rolls off our tongues in the heat of passion or the admiration we may have for the newest Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor. When I use the word love I’m talking about the powerful, most influential force in the Universe; the ingredient that initiated life, holds the stars in place, commands the sun to shine and cosmically connects all living matter. Until we learn to squash our egos, come to the realization that none of us knows squat and that the Earth can easily carry on without us, nothing will change. Until we face the fact that all of humanity originates from the same spark, shares the same desires and fears, nothing will change. Until we take the leap to finally raise our level of consciousness, we will forever be caught up in the illusions of right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, waving our flags and aiming our missiles toward one another. We will be eternally fooled by the delusion one is better than the next and that there is a game to be won. Love is yearning for humanity to recognize her power. Until then, she waits patiently.          
- John Rullo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Round Earth, Open Sky: Available on the Autumnal Equinox

Available to peruse or to purchase for $14.95 at and at, Round Earth, Open Sky is a psychological suspense thriller and Native American sci-fi road novel that doubles as an inquiry into the nature of human identity.

During a mid-summer observance, Sky Man, an immortal, tricked by human sorcery, falls out of the sky and accidentally into a dead human out in the Sonoran desert. Seeking the location of the hole-in-the-sky ceremony so he can return to his sky people, he stumbles upon a boxcar family and more of the dead human he inhabits comes to light. When he finds a road, a car pulls up, and everywhere the driver takes him, more clues are revealed.

Stops in the Hopi and Navaho Nations, Oak Creek Canyon, Detroit, Ontario and the Ojibwe Nation unfold different threads of the dead man’s identity, but the evidence contradicts, requiring Sky Man to call his host back from the dead before he can make his ascent to his sky people.

- > Order Round Earth, Open Sky on

- > Order Round Earth, Open Sky on

"Part mystical vision, part cosmic joke, Round Earth, Open Sky is Kirpal Gordon at the top of his game, by turns lyrical and ironic, magical and subversive, moving past the vanishing point where Jack Kerouac meets Carlos Castaneda. Gordon is a consummate postmodern trickster, wanting nothing more than “to stir a little gray into the either/or, black-and-white world,” leading us to laugh at what we think we know, and to humble ourselves to a world that will always be much larger than we can imagine."
--- Stephen-Paul Martin, author, Changing the Subject 

"In Round Earth, Open Sky, Kirpal Gordon flirts with the borders of fantasy and science fiction to create a novel whose heightened reality entertains and illuminates simultaneously. When Sky Man, its protagonist, literally falls to earth from a plane of existence beyond it, Moses becomes the first of many colorful and complex characters to try to determine what he is and whether his true nature lies in the heavens, the earth, or both. The path to the answer untangles many tangled relationships, past and present, in a highly entertaining journey that will keep your eyes glued to the page and your fingers eager to turn it."
---Vernon Frazer, author, Improvisations 

"In the middle of nowhere, a photographer gives a lift to a mysterious stranger and finds himself the passenger on a surprising, and sometimes sinister, journey toward discovery and self-revelation that carries them both through the perils of obscure Native American tribal rites to the portals of metempsychosis and the magical reality behind “reality” which erases past and present and, at the same time, recreates them. In Round Earth, Open Sky Kirpal Gordon unrolls a map that irresistibly lures its characters, and the reader, toward a spectacular life- and death-transforming climax."
---Eric Basso, author, The Golem Triptych

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Press Is Born

John Rullo
How ironic it is that Kirpal Gordon and I first met in a classroom of a Catholic high school! His first name was Paul back then, and he was a lot shorter, too. Through the course of our four year prison sentence, under the watchful eye of a psychotic dean of discipline, we had a mutual respect for one another. Although he and I didn’t share the same circle of friends or appear to have common interests, we passed comments in the cafeteria or along the corridors, and I had the gut feeling he was one of the good guys.

I wasn’t a big fan of high school, a bit rebellious in spirit, doing whatever I had to do to get by with respectable grades. Paul, on the other hand, always appeared to be intellectually in a league of his own. His thoughts seemed a bit out of reach from some of us. He was one of the smart kids, but I’m not talking just book smart, I’m talking contemplator, questioner, thinker---a trying to figure it out kind of guy. Writer, poet and journalist, Paul had a pretty good command of the English language for a high school kid. All I wanted to do was to play in a rock ‘n roll band!

Several years had gone by since graduating high school and as far as I knew, Gordon was history. One afternoon while walking through downtown Flushing with a close friend from high school, we noticed a bearded fellow donned in white and beads standing on a busy corner waiting for a bus. “Isn’t that Paul Gordon?” my friend asked. “It sure does look like him,” I answered in a perplexed reply. I was a middle class Catholic white boy from the suburbs of Queens who immediately assumed that my old high school acquaintance had been brainwashed into joining a dangerous cult!

Segue forty years after graduating high school. Technology makes it easier to locate fellow classmates through the miracle of social networking sites like Facebook. A forty year high school reunion was planned and suddenly names from my past started popping up on my Facebook screen faster than weeds on my front lawn, each asking me to “Friend” them. I noticed a comment posted by Kirpal Gordon. Later I would find out his meditation teacher Yogi Bhajan had given him the Sikh first name (which means compassionate in Punjabi) upon his initiation into kundalini and tantric yoga, but all I knew at the time was that he was announcing his upcoming performance at a café in Greenwich Village just around the corner from my daughter’s apartment. I saw he was still at the writing game so I thought I’d surprise him by showing up at the gig.

Kirpal Gordon
KP’s performance was brilliant as he read from his book Eros in Sanskrit to the accompaniment of jazz pianist Steve Elmer. During a break, Kirpal and I got a chance to get reacquainted and were pleasantly surprised to discover we had much more in common than we had ever realized. I mentioned to him that I had written a book about my physical and spiritual journey entitled, Blind Spots: The Memoirs of a Baby Boomer on the Rocky Road to Spiritual Awakening which he was very eager to read. Initially intimidated about sharing my work with him because of his word prowess, I finally agreed to send him my manuscript. When I immediately heard back from him, I was delighted and relieved at how much he admired my work. At his suggestion, we did a couple of readings together and discovered we had good chemistry.

We continued to stay in touch and within a year we had both completed new novels, my Planet Love: The End of the World as We Knew It and his thriller, Round Earth, Open Sky. When we shared manuscripts, we were blown away by the similarities in our stories and decided to launch Giant Steps Press.

Who would have thought?

- John Rullo

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Origin of Giant Steps Press

I met John Rullo during the intermission of a show I was playing at the Cornelia Street Café. It had been forty years since we graduated from high school together, but he was instantly recognizable to me as he sat with his wife and his daughter at a table in the back of the club.

He introduced me to his family and said, “I like how you wrap your lyrics around American songbook standards, especially your tale of Orpheus as a jazz musician with a Jesus-Dionysus shadow spoken over ‘Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most.’ I gotta get you a copy of my new book, Blind Spots. It’s the rock version of your Orpheus story.”

It turned out to be all of that---and more. For one thing, it’s a laugh-out-loud coming of age in the Sixties story (its sub-title is The Memoir of a Baby Boomer on the Rocky Road toward Spiritual Awakening): hilarious and insightful, provocative and evocative, a look back with his sense of humor in tact. For another thing, it charts the progress of a seeker who outdistances the hypocrisy, denial, propaganda and self-righteousness of an authoritarian religious education at war with both the spirit of Jesus as well as the spirit of the times, rock music, where he finds a home as a composer, drummer, guitarist, singer and bandleader.

Forget the old code of lontano as practiced by the Sicilians. Rather than play his cards that close to his vest, this Italian-American hipster-pilgrim wears his emotions on his sleeve. In high school he didn’t even need words to advance his point of view; his sudden smirk of surprise, his scowl of incredulity and his drop-jaw smile at the hustle enveloping us let us know that nothing fake or unexamined would get past his all-seeing eye. The best thing about Blind Spots is its articulate voice of candor, humor and irreverence; the guy is a natural story teller in which each detail connects. Every riff and vamp, every by-the-way aside and memory lane twist is a spoke on a wheel sending a reader to the hub of his thesis. It’s there, at the unmovable and still center, that his real story of spiritual transformation takes place.

When I called him to thank him for the book, I learned that all was not well. “My publisher is taking me to the cleaners,” he said, “I seem to lose money on every book I sell.” We compared notes. Thanks to services like print-on-demand, CreateSpace, Amazon and Kindle, the industry had reached the point where the old publish-distribute-tour-royalty paradigm had fallen out of the hands of the suits and into the laps of the authors. I had been fortunate to work with an artistic indie publisher of both my recent books and a CD, but I saw the value of owning and marketing my own work in this new technology.

We did a couple of readings together and found that my audience responded to his work and his audience responded to my work. Convinced that we could do more together than we could on our own, we created Giant Steps Press and reached out to the under-thirty cadre of folks who have mastered the social networking tools as well as the formatting and cover design of our new books. On the recommendation of everyone we consulted, we decided to start a blog with the purpose of drawing together like-minded readers and writers, bookstore owners and venue-meisters, critics and thinkers, pilgrims and seekers, viewers and reviewers.

Unlike book writing in which one author does all the “talking,” blog writing is not only many-authored, it allows the reader to become a peer participant in an ongoing conversation and inquiry that stops only when everyone has no more to say---and that could be never. I hope the blog does for others what Rullo’s books do for me: open my heart and mind through humor, invite me to question everything and to be a part of a community of seekers of truth and tellers of tales.

- Kirpal Gordon