17 January, 2017

In walked the dog-headed baboon, carrying a notebook


from The Nuremberg Chronicles. Note: how I feel most days.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Christopher (the patron saint of travelers) is sometimes portrayed as a dog-headed man. Having done a fair amount of traveling myself, I can testify to the once being mistaken for a Mexican in the Dallas Greyhound station, and in grad school I was famous for (among other things) expounding in great detail, while I was drunk, about how men are dogs -- which means, among other things, that I owe the whole canine species a deep and heart felt apology.

I pair those two instances together only to point out two things. First, living on the road it challenging to bathe frequently enough for so-called "civilized" people.   I did note that as soon as I identified as a plain old dirty white boy, the older white man who approached me in the bus station to inquire about my racial and ethnic background quickly darted off in search of others who might look vaguely not Anglo on whatever quest he was on. The tone of his voice when he asked wasn't exactly aggressive, but it wasn't friendly or concerned, either. I didn't think he was packing, but to be honest I wasn't paying attention, either. And, having been approached over the years by all kinds of people, from panhandlers to Mormon missionaries, I feel like I have a pretty idea when someone talks to me out of concern for my welfare.

The second thing I'd like to point out is that only an idiot would confuse a pasty, German Irish mutt like me for a Mexican. 

I woke up this morning thinking of  Mr. Ibis from Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, American Gods. Mr. Ibis was, in fact, Thoth, the Egyptian god of the moon and writing. In addition to running the best funeral home in the country -- though no one but him and his partner Jackal -- Ibis also wrote stories. Not stories anyone ever read, of course. Just stories for himself.

In other incarnations and traditions, Thoth is also depicted as a dog-headed baboon, because not only were they nocturnal, but they were considered very intelligent.

I bring all of this up because, well... regardless of whatever incarnation I happen to be in at any given moment ... teacher, journalist, podcaster, activist/agitator, dishwasher, bum... I always end up writing stuff down. I either scribble it down in my field notebook* or I make a mental note and write it down later.  Two ex-wives and multiple ex-girlfriends have told me over the years that my "fiction" is thinly veiled auto-biography. I neither confirm nor deny this because fiction is just a filter that reality pours through. In this sense, it's perfectly reasonable for there to be dog-headed men, or baboons taking notes. Shakespeare could still be a room full of monkeys who also wrote under the pseudonym Christopher Marlowe.  What is real is sometimes less important than how it's described, remembered, or written down. Truth, I maintain, is in the way a story is told, not in the details.


from WDRB. Note: not a smart baboon
I recently sat in a room with a bunch of people who are hoping to be able to create a coalition of labor and community organizations to mount a defense against Kentucky's little fascista, Matt Bevin,  and his full frontal attack on working people. I remember trying to go to the Central Labor Council right after the election, hoping to convince them that we all need to get together to mount an organized defense/offense against what Bevin said he would do. I went to artists who were worried about Bevin gutting the Kentucky Arts Council. I spoke with adjunct instructors about the need to organize when he started going after university budgets. Each group pretty much told me the same thing:

"We need to be reasonable. There's no way the GOP will take control of the Kentucky Legislature. We need to vote, not organize."

Well, these very same people have spent the last few months since the election mourning. Liberals act like they're shell-shocked. The Democratic Party is trying to figure out how to grow a spine. Hard core unionists and those who generally ignored me when the Democratic Party hoisted a piece of cardboard to be governor and lost are NOW calling for unity. NOW they call for a coalition.   I find myself going to a lot of meetings. I will go to more. I'm going to listen, and I am listening for a very specific set of words.  I have high hopes.

For those of you inclined to prayer, I offer this image of Saint Christopher, the dog-headed saint. Pin ye, therefore, your hopes upon the love of travelers and dogs. Because we don't have time to wait for the sweet by and by.


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*Writers are all anthropologists at heart.

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