13 August, 2012

Southern Jaunt: At The Risk Of Being Instructive

I cannot keep from talking, even at the risk of being instructive. - Mark Twain

The Prince of Peace
No less a personage than Jesus -- upon whom a whole mess of a religion was hoisted in spite of anything he might have preferred (Not that he was ever asked, as far as anyone knows, whether it would be fine to rape, pillage, maim, and kill in his name; and it probably is the more expedient and judicious thing to hedge our bets and guess that it might be alright.) -- is supposed to have complained about going home. You'd think that a guy who spent 40 days in the desert, came back to town with a dozen other guys who think he's smarter than anyone around, and -- so says the book -- was responsible for a few miracles might actually manage to garner some respect.

It was apparently not the case. All anyone saw that funny acting kid who never really looked like his dad and who's mom, according to the old biddies at the temple, gave it up before the rabbi said "Shalom."

Not that I'm comparing myself with the foundation of anyone's religious beliefs; I'm merely pointing out that even in our mostly deeply ingrained myths and beliefs, that returning to a place you once thought of as home can be both a blessing and a pain in the ass.

One of the things I looked forward to as I made my way back through Mount Carroll, in the State of IL(L) was visiting again the monthly 5 Minutes of Fame Open Mic ... which I helped start ... at The Kraft Building. In my absence, I am happy to say that it has grown and taken on a feel all it's own under the expert leadership of Heather Houzenga: friend, local artist, and all around cool chick. As I suspected, my absence drew out folks that had previously avoided the open mic, maybe out of some personal aversion to me or (more likely) some aversion to my occasional use of so-called "colorful metaphors" that my Dear Sweet Ma has objected to in my work more than once over the years.

"You're an educated person," she would say. "Why do you have to write like that?"

Well, hell. Educated though I may be, I try not to act in a way that will cause people to hold it against me. I certainly try not to hold it against myself.

And although most everyone I've run into since being back has been happy to see me -- people generally greet with that subtle and stoic combination of  "Why'd you leave?" and "Why'd you come back?" that every road worn traveler likes to hear -- there are a few, though they haven't said so directly, who are wishing that I had lost my memory in that Minneapolis casino instead of merely losing my official photo proof that I am, in fact, a citizen of Pax Americana. One such person was sitting near the front row when I took the stage last Thursday to tell the story of Cletus the Dog Man, his too skinny not to be a drug addict girlfriend, and indeed, the most adult of the trio. (That would be the dog.)

The woman in question is a particularly pious member of the county board. Her job it seems, other than to scrupulously avoid the use of a computer or even a typewriter when making notes for the press board packet, is to read the prayer into record prior to the Pledge of Allegiance. A member of one of the many churches here in town, she reads from the carefully scripted officious prayer that is supposed to indicate that Carroll County's elected leaders -- most of whom twiddle their fingers or stare at the ceiling during said prayer -- are religious and divinely (one would hope) inspired.

It may indeed be a stretch to presume that the county board --mostly populated by agri-business people, the spouses of people who work for those same agri-businesses, and a few tired local officials who didn't want join a club or group that might require more of them than their occasional physical presence and an even more rare need to take a definitive stand on some issue or another -- would be divinely inspired. It is worth noting, however, that County Board Chairman Rodney Fritz behaves as if he believes his election to the big chair and gavel lends him divine strength and guidance, not to mention the right to ensure that his trucks have clean roads to run on while simultaneously trying to gut the budgets for employee wages and benefits, the Health Department, the Veteran's Assistance Commission, and The Department of Animal Control.

So as I got up and did my bit, recounting Cletus, his woman, his dog, and the fact that he is just one sample of a larger group of people wandering the country on the buses looking for work in this great recovering economy that's built on schemes by corporations and banks to line the pockets of their executives, as well as consumer credit and the accumulation of shit made in China and Mexico.

The pious reader from the county board was not amused.  I suppose the mention of methamphetamine and micturition had something to do with it, or the fact that I went as far to talk briefly about the fact that there are people in the world who have no home, who might not have a sane girlfriend, but who can have a well behaved dog -- and indeed, even individuals who might seem a bit shady... which Cletus was in many ways... can have enough heart to make sure the dog eats even if they don't.

Or maybe she didn't like the reference to pit bulls, which, everyone knows are dangerous dogs... when they're trained to be.

But there are some audiences that would rather be entertained and placated than have an informative and useful experience. There's no way to please everyone.

And in case you missed it, I'm attaching the audio of Cletus, and another bit from an open mic at Charlie's Bar and Grill... an open mic that runs every Sunday from 4-pm, by the way.