"...the greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain."

Richard M. Nixon

Nixon's tragedy was very public. But don't you think that the pain in the heart of one who has lost a lover is no less or no more tragic, to that person, than Nixon's embarassing loss of the job he loved so much?

Tragedy strikes in love and war. Tragedy sells more newspapers and earns more air-time than "good news."

Show me a lonely person who's drinking alone and I'll show you $50.00 in quarters spent playing sad songs on the jukebox — is it so they can feel better 'cause there are folks out there more miserable than they?

The opposite is the sad person surrounded by well-meaning (but often annoying) individuals expending vast amounts of time and energy trying to "cheer him/her up." This has happened to yours truly and dammit, sometimes I need to feel miserable for awhile and work through it on my own.

Tragedy that's ironic is even more enticing: e.g., that Crocodile Hunter guy meets his end not by getting eaten by a crocodile. It makes some people laugh, some people say "how sad," and others say "God visited this on him for playing around with all of those dangerous critters."

I'd hazard a guess we've all witnessed real-life stories of love gone bad. They aren't truly tragic (unless, of course, there's a murder involved, or worse, a murder/suicide). To the lovers, however, more times than not one or both view their breakup as a tragedy.

Isn't the greatest tragic love story the story of one person who loves another and hasn't the sense to get out of a relationship they continue hoping will get better; and lets the agony go on and on and on? Alcoholics Anonymous defines "insanity" as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I knew no fewer than four men who died protracted, painful deaths from colon cancer. All of these men were true to their vows and would not leave the women who nagged, chided, insulted, belittled and wore them down until their demise. There is preliminary research demonstrating that chronic stress caused by an abusive partner is a major cause of colon cancer. These women killed their husbands.

Sadly, I also knew at least six women who chose to stay with men who psychologically and/or physically abused them, to the point of causing their deaths directly or indirectly; some from illness, others, regrettably, via murder or suicide.

So why is it that the soap opera-watchers wait with bated breath for Trevor to break up with Jessica? And why is it so much more rewarding when the break up is between two married people and there's the issue of "who will get the children?" There are six or eight mouth-breathers who sit in my bar in the afternoon glued to the boob-tube watching and chatting about these things.

Is the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet and the story's re-tellings cathartic for the viewer/reader? I don't know. Why did so many people go out to see movies like Philadelphia and Titanic and and and... Is there some sort of thrill enduring an emotional roller-coaster (which oft times crashes and burns)?

As an aside, in the opinion of this hopelessly materialistic writer, the real tragedy in Titanic was watching that nice old lady throw the 20-carat diamond into the drink...

There are times when I put on a piece of music that moves me to tears. Much more often than not, the tears are tears of joy; but tears nonetheless. Those tears make me feel. They make me feel alive.

M. Scott Peck begins his book "The Road Less Traveled" with the words "Life is hard." No shit, Sherlock! Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, said (and I paraphrase) that a man is as happy as he chooses to be. Easier said than done; but I'll take Abe's attitude over M. Scott's anyday. Oh, and by the way, they all lived happily ever after (until Peck died and Lincoln was assasinated).

Are we all leading lives of quiet desperation (or at least melancholy)? I think not. Are we all alive? If you're reading this, the answer's a resounding yes.