Showing posts with label Bluegrass Slingshot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bluegrass Slingshot. Show all posts

03 May, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expansion); Louisville Intermezzo: Karmic Kool-Aid

To go from mortal to Buddha, you have to put an end to karma, nurture your awareness, and accept what life brings. - 

The weather was uncooperative and lent itself to not going outside. The mild winter has let loose into a humid early Spring in the Ohio River Valley; after a mild start to the my time here, Louisville was then hit with golf ball sized hail.

I wouldn't wear the pink bow, though. No. Really.
Did I mention that lousy weather follows me whenever I'm out and about? If I wasn't so content, I'd compare myself to Eeyore.

After two thin ribbons of inclement weather rolled through west to east,  the sky cleared and the humidity that rolls in off the Ohio River settled in and took hold. The day time highs over the past few days have been just on the other side of 90 degrees.

And humidity is never pleasant. NEVER.

Now, I don't mind the heat... actually, I'd rather be warm than cold (though I do enjoy a nice fuzzy sweater when the weather starts to cool off. I know, I know. Don't judge.) But I also don't want to drag my fine and honorable hosts out just to keep me entertained. Although Louisville is a cool city and there is certainly plenty to see, both as a traveler and (if you must) as a tourist, I am, to be honest, less interested in seeing the city than I am in re-establishing an old friendship. I've known Amanda  a long time... going back to when I had long hair, actually... which is a long time ago. Well, it seems a long time ago.

Old School Cousin It. 
And NO, I don't have any digital photos handy. There IS photographic evidence, but, it predates digital photography and I pretty much refuse to scan every single photograph into little 1's and 0's. So deal with it. Use your imagination. I'll help. At it's longest, I looked a lot like Cousin It.

Except that I have dark hair.

I had sunglasses that looked a lot like that, too.

And in that, the trip to Louisville has been successful. It's nice to catch up with old friends who are in the process of living new lives; it's a nice reminder that the world moves on whether we stand still or not.  Catching up with and re-establishing old friendships is also a way to remind yourself of just what a jackass you can be... because when people know you long enough... and know you at JUST THE RIGHT (or WRONG, as the case may be) time in your life....

chances are really good... better than average, really... that jackassery, like the weather follows me and Eeyore, will follow you around. And when you're given the rare chance to take a Do Over and apologize for said jackassery, it's a good idea to do it. 

The nice thing about good friends... and good people... is that unless you've REALLY fucked up -- or fucked up one too many times -- chances are they will forgive you. And if they don't, at least you tried.

My particular form of jackassery was tied to the fact that I was... especially in graduate school... something of an arrogant prick. It was also tied to the fact that, even in the recent past, I deal with  interpersonal strife in one of two ways: 

I avoid it or I get drunk in an attempt to avoid it.

Neither of these, by the way, is very productive in the long run. 

Of the two, I recommend the latter -- getting drunk. I know. It doesn't solve anything, and people can sometimes get stupid when they drink... because either they haven't eaten or because they're rank amateurs who should stick to virgin PiƱa Coladas. Sorry. Just being honest. Drinking is an endurance activity.

And I while I won't go into the exact nature of my jackassery here (this is a rumination on karma and renewal, not a redemption sermon) please be assured it will come out in writing at some point. Let's just say I earned my dumb-ass degree and leave it at that.


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I'll be leaving Louisville Sunday night for a stop off in Hannibal, Missouri. After that, south to the Ozarks, and then, points west. Maybe towards you. Maybe not.]

29 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Louisville, KY

On The Bus. Smiling. Be afraid.
The Louisville, Kentucky Greyhound Station is located downtown on Muhammad Ali and Seventh Streets. For those of you who may not remember, or don't know, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was born in Louisville.  Other than the Derby... which is debauched and insane... and the other aforementioned people and things... being the birthplace of one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport... counts pretty high among the highlights for which the city ought to be more proud.

Not that the bus station isn't nice. I have seen worse. No. Really. Mobile, Alabama's Greyhound Depot, Amarillo, Texas at 1 in the morning. Oh, there are worse. When I arrived in Louisville, I was sure I'd been there before. Just not sure when. On that Homeric journey from Cincinnati to Phoenix in 2006? Maybe. But I was horribly drunk on that trip and don't remember much until I woke up in St. Louis having lost my voice.

Let's back track a little.

My plan for getting from Morehead to Lexington was simple. Mor'Trans, the Morehead "city bus" has two shuttle runs each each to Lexington and Ashland on Saturdays. A one way trip costs you $10... which is still a really good deal, considering the price of gas and the ordeal of trying to park in Lexington.  It's a brilliant, idea, actually, given that Morehead State University still is -- thanks to the various forms of discouragement by the Board of Regents, the area churches, and Morehead City Council  -- a suitcase college*, having a shuttle that will take you to The Bluegrass International Airport, the city bus terminal, and the Greyhound Station on West New Circle Road is pretty convenient. And though the Eklunds would have been willing to drive me to the bus station direct, I didn't want to push them into a two and half hour round trip for no good reason.

When I left Morehead, it was cold and overcast; but by the time I got to the Greyhound Station... which is conveniently located next to a Sir Pizza and a strip club... the sun had come out and the weather was warmer. I arrived with a few hours before my 4pm bus.  I have several friends who live in and around Lexington, and I was hoping to get to see one of them. Last trip through I saw my good friend Stephanie Stobaugh. This time, I was able to see Bobby Harris...musician, poet, friend, and former housemate from the 122 W. Second Street days.

Of course, I was a little tired and a bit strung from the grand time the previous night... among friends, sharing good energy, good company, and a respectable amount of beer and gin... and hadn't yet had any coffee. By the time Bobby was able to get there, I was also on the hungry side, since I hadn't eaten much and my overall condition would have been dramatically improved by putting something in my stomach to soak of the remains of the previous night's exuberances.

Ok. Fine. So I was a little hung over. I'm allowed, and besides... the ol' liver doesn't bounce back the way it used. to. 

Bobby showed up in good time, however, and drove me to Lynagh's on Woodland Avenue. One of the things that really excited me, though, was a sign posted next to the front door informing me that Fall City Beer was on tap.

A word on Fall City Beer. It's not great beer. But it is beer made in Louisville. I used to be friend with a guy -- who I met because he was dating my friend Amanda (nee' Hay) Connor at the time -- who was obsessed with it.And I really do understand a local boy's need to attach to all things local... I am, after all, both a Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals fan for more or less that reason.

I also thought it would be symbolic to say that, before arriving in Louisville for the first time in over a decade, that I commemorated the event with a local beer before I even got on the bus... good luck and hair of the dog and that sort of thing. Bobby, being the good friend I knew him to be, kindly offered to buy me a burger and a beer, which I happily accepted... especially since I am running a bit low on day to day funds.

The burger was good. The beer was... well... it was.  

It was also proof that putting skunk beer in a keg doesn't change the fact that it's skunk beer.

Bobby had me back in plenty of time to catch my bus, and I made it to Louisville a little ahead of schedule, actually, which almost never happens. The bus ride itself was pretty nice, too, because the bus only had five passengers, which gave me plenty of room to stretch out.

Amanda and her husband Shawn both had to work that evening, so I was being met by someone I didn't know who would drive me to their house... where I would be met by Amanda and Shawn's housemate, Heather, who lives the basement.

I waited around outside, sitting on a cement ledge at the edge of the off street parking lot. There were a few cabs and cars parked on Muhammad Ali. One guy in a 1990's blue Honda tried to entice a woman sitting on  the same ledge I was but was facing the street instead of the parking lot into getting in his car with what was clearly a fake gold-plated necklace. She gave him the finger and he drove off. The same girl... who had probably just gotten off a bus herself... was approached by a grandfatherly looking Spanish man who asked what her rates were. She told him off, quite loudly. He apologized and shuffled on his way to whatever streetwalker would most remind him of his granddaughter, and the girl, probably sick of being taken for a hooker, went back inside.

I had time to smoke a bit of Half and Half before Amanda's friend Adam arrived, and he shuffled me, quite politely, over to to Amanda and Shawn's, where I met Heather and their big black dog, Merlot.

Merlot: Hound of the Baskervilles or giant softy?


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*suitcase college: all the kids leave on weekends. Boring as shit.  Waste of an entire experience on the part of students.

27 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot: 2 Short Poems

104 E. Main Revisit

The pet mouse in the cupboard we lacked the heart to kill is long gone.
So is the ageless onion skin wallpaper, with it's hint of a print
and stain from old glue, mold, years of cigarette smoke,
and what was probably several lard-based kitchen fires.
Gone are the buckling boards, the crumbling dry wall, the scent of soup beans, books.

                                There is no more cheap wine.

Gone is the couch no sheet could redeem that we searched through for loose change
to walk across town to buy cheap cigarettes with the hope the free beer girl was working.
No more the door of revolving women who cooked and cleaned for us
who looked to domesticate and mother us, love us and smother us.
No more nights sitting up sharing the community jug and talking about poetry, art, and life.
Gone is the small plaque of the torah on the door frame that bid us,
whenever we left, to remember there is a vengeful god.

All Too

O, hills with clouds rolling over like a drunken lover,
this rain will not wash away the stigma
brought on from years of profane neglect
at the hands of cosmic middle managers.

Each and every Sunday, self-proclaimed preachers
spew sloppily prepared fire and brimstone sonatas 
to pious congregations of empty pews,
cursing comfortable beds, mini shirts, the NFL.

There is no dogma that will combat this American ennui,
born out of forgotten troglodyte urges:
latent lizard brain impulses like the one that insists
the sun and the storms clouds have nothing in common.

26 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Willow Drive, KY

Drink all of your passion,
and be a disgrace. - Rumi, "A Community of the Spirit"

Some may never live. But the crazy never die. -HST

I'm heading to Lexington, KY on Saturday so that I can catch a Greyhound to Louisville, where I'll be visiting with college chum Amanda (nee Hay) Connor and her husband... who I haven't met, and is, as far as I can tell totally unaffiliated with Morehead State University in anyway. I have  decided that rather than hold this against him, however, that I will embrace the ever changing universe and give the ol' boy a chance.

After all, Louisville DID manage to birth some pretty interesting stuff:

Hunter S. Thompson.

To say Hunter S. Thompson has been an influence on my life might sound crazy, but his writing -- all of it, including his non-literary w stuff -- have provided me with more How To moments -- particularly as a freelance journalist -- than any journalism class... for the possible exception of Ken Sexton's Intro to Photojournalism class, during which he pointed out that there's absolutely nothing abnormal about a bottle of whiskey in your bottom desk drawer.

RIP Hunter. Hope the next ride's a good one.

Johnny Depp

I provide a picture of Johnny Depp for my one or two readers who might actually be women. Not sure of the attraction. And while I could've gone with any number of images, including one of him dressed as a Disney ride pirate, I didn't. Thought I'd give one to the the Emo Kids... poor, misguided bastards.

The Louisville Slugger
A favorite for bar brawlers and leg breakers everywhere, the all-wood construction of The Louisville Slugger makes even a kid who couldn't hit a slow pitch to save his life feel like spitting in the dirt.

The Kentucky Derby Chicken Run
Then there's The Kentucky Derby. It is of this last one that I intend to write.

Let me begin by saying that if you believe it's only a horse race, you are mistaken. If you think it's simply an excuse for women to wear ridiculously large drag queen style hats without being accused of taping up a third leg, and for men to drag out those ties they got for Christmas, you're DEAD wrong.  I'm saying this not only because I KNOW BETTER (Accept this now. It's just easier that way.)

Believe it or not, I tried to find a pic without a blonde. No.  Really.

Sadly, I won't be able to afford to actually get into the Derby. Nosebleed, standing room only spots on the green start at around $40 a pop. At this point, I don't think I'll be able afford to even put some money on any of the races... which, if you know me at all, you know is absolutely tragic.

And no, it's not that I'm particularly good at gambling on horses. It's just that I like it. A lot. No really. The Daily Racing Form is pure poetry to me. Pure. Poetry.

Let's move on. I'm salivating.

But since most of you out there reading this... and yes, I believe you're there... haven't had the experience of hanging with me at the OTB, just let me say that there's something primal about the experience. Spending time at an OTB... not to mention a track... gives you a kind of pristine perspective of the true heart of America. Think vivisection. Every folly of man plays out between the first bell and the final run, from the brave to the downright stupid. Every kind of gambler, from the mathematician (If I weigh carefully all variables I can't lose!) to the mystics (Never bet on a gray horse!) and non-gamblers (What's a Superfecta? Is it like getting crabs?) are there. Some even bring their kids. The daring and the desperate, the lucky and the leg-breakers all come out to the OTB. And they're from all walks of life:  the shiftless, the unemployed, business professionals, retirees, teachers, preachers, hookers, construction workers, government employee, hopers, dreamers, misguided snake charmers. And I'm leaving some out. And I won't tell which one I am, either.

Have to leave something for the imagination. (A stripper taught me that.)

(Can I just point out that auto-correct wanted to change "hopers" to "hoers"? I love technology.)

And I will write more when I'm there. I'm actually pretty excited about the prospect of seeing an old friend, about visiting Louisville while it's in the throws of total debauchery, and about my westward expanse.

Oh yes, dear readers. It's coming. 

23 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Cont. (Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY)

and it is possible a great energy / is moving near me. - Rainer Maria Rilke 

The wind that blows /  Is all that any body knows. - Henry David Thoreau

Bunker School, Beartown, Elliot County, KY
Kentucky is a state best understood in terms of gradients and degrees. From east to west, ignoring the more or less arbitrary lines drawn on a map, it's possible to separate Kentucky into several parts, each with a unique sense of culture and self. The eastern range -- part of the Appalachia (that also includes the far eastern part of Ohio, some of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and all of West Virginia) -- is in many ways as culturally isolated from the far western part of the state as Spain is from the Ukraine.

And when I think about Kentucky -- in reality or in the abstract -- I always think about the mountains. No doubt this is because I spent some formative years going to school at Morehead State University. (I have spend many years since working to undo the damage done to me in the halls of academia, without destroying the little bit of important work that actually went on.)  I think about living in the cabin in Menifee County. I think about climbing Lockegee Rock. I think about the many friends I have here, and about how much I've lived and learned (and unlearned) here. There's so much here that informs the internal geography; but it always comes back to the mountains and the life that hides within and around them.

The life that people rarely see and rarely pay attention to.

And when I get the chance to return, I always take it. Not because it's my home, or because this clay earth is the same clay earth in my bones... but because of the mountains and because of the life and death and history and myth etched into the dust, cut into the hollers, into the back roads, and into the long memory --

the memory of everything, and of everyone of no one.

The Zen Master Bodhidharma is reported to have said in The Bloodstream Sermon that "Life and Death are important. Do not suffer them in vain."  My week back in Ashland with Mike and Liz bring this idea into sharp focus.

When I first arrived, Mike -- greeted me in the parking lot next to their apartment with the news that he and Liz were going to have a kid. Even though I have expressed opinions about whether I ought to have more children -- that opinion being that I ought not -- I think it's a good thing when another life is going to be brought into the world.  Each new life is a potential for something good; and while chances are better than average that the fetus --  if it is carried to term, is born, lives, and grows up -- will become one more cog in an ever growing and self-digesting and excreting machina mori, I choose to hold on to some hope.
Though the machinations that seem to control our lives have, in the process, engineered their own sense of inevitability... that lingering concept of Manifest Destiny*, that all this muckity muck was foreordained and therefore unconquerable... what faith I have left is in the possibility that people will choose, at some point, to ignore the myths they've let themselves believe in.

And as is common with the news of pregnancy -- especially first pregnancies -- the talk focused around baby names. Mostly rejections of names that would mostly serve to amuse adults and torture the child.

One of the best came from friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, who suggested -- and then proclaimed that she would never call Baby Frazier anything else but -- Festus.

It became quickly obvious, though, that something was wrong. When Mike and Liz woke up early that Tuesday morning to go to the hospital, it wasn't hard to figure. Mike called me with an update later that day, after the doctor decided to admit her for the night for observation, telling me Liz had miscarriage. He came home eventually --  long enough to shower, change clothes, and have a few stiff drinks -- and then went back to spend the night at the hospital with his wife.

The doctor later informed them that she suffered from pseudocyesis -- a false or what is sometimes referred to as a hysterical pregnancy. According to the doctor... who was too busy trying to get to surgery to explain it well, or to even fake a kind bedside manner... Liz's body lied and TOLD her she was pregnant... which was confirmed by two at home tests and the self same doctor who had no advice for her or Mike other than to use condoms.

If you ever need a reason why I DESPISE the medical profession... count this as one more. 

She went home the day after, and both her and Mike slept for a solid 15 hours. The day after, we ended up spending some quality time in Elliot County with friend, poet, and awesome homemade strawberry pie maker, Misty Skaggs.

Driving out to visit Misty is is like driving into some primordial free space that has existed since the beginning of deep time. The road narrows quickly and it doesn't take long before the cement breaks up altogether and your tires are rolling over gravel. The roads take on familial names. Houses and trailers sprout out of the overgrown foliage. There are small family graveyards where Misty can recount the generations.

This dust is her dust, and she has it in her bones.

Our other option was to sit around Mike and Liz's place, where Liz would have deservedly and rightfully moped. Instead we ended up taking a 12 pack to a quiet cemetery, spreading out a blanket, sitting under tall shade tree, and talking. Not necessarily about what happened, but that came up some too. Mostly we sat, enjoyed simple conversation, and waited as the rain rolled in. When the rain clouds DID roll in, we knew, because the scent in the air changed.

There are those that might not appreciate the peace of mind that comes from sitting on some secluded hill in a forgotten hollar where WiFi and cell service are next to non-existent. It's one of those deep pockets of the world that, as the world moves on, moves on its own time, its own rhythm, and with it's own purpose. The marks of the modern world are still there, of course. And the evidence of poverty, survival, and economic disparity are there too. It's the sort of place you can go and leave a memory and pick up something that will help you down the road on your travels.

It's the sort of place you envy because it's not your home. Because it's not your dust.

It's the sort of place that has healing powers which, in the wrong hands, would cease to exist.

16 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY: Disappearing Geography

 Brutal! Savage! Beyond Perversion!  - Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. -Daniel Boone

Kentucky is one of those places I have a deep and abiding affection for in spite of  not having any real roots here. As I've mentioned before, my daughter, who was born here and hasn't lived here since she was 5 has more of a claim on the place than I do according to conventional wisdom. Stella could return to Morehead, Kentucky at any point in her life and call herself a local because she was born there. On the other hand, I've actually lived in Kentucky and spent more time here than she has; but because I was born on the OTHER side of the Ohio River I will never be counted among the Kentucky's sons.

But, as I've also noted in the past, people from Kentucky -- particularly Eastern Kentucky -- have such a strong connection to the geography that even if I tried to claim Kentucky as a home, I lack a fundamental oneness with the dirt... the mountains, the clay, the rocks.

My dirt, apparently, is elsewhere.

But even the dirt that I can claim is not dirt that I feel any connection to. That, maybe more than the change in my living situation, may explain more why I'm compulsed to go go go. How did Kerouac say it? 

"I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."

Not that my traveling has much in common with Kerouac, though people have made mention of On The Road more than several times. I can only assume that because I'm a writer, that I claim the Beats as a literary influence, and that I'm traveling, that they assume I got the idea from reading the book. (In case anyone's wondering, I didn't. And actually, I think Desolation Angels is a better book.)

You can't be a writer at this time and NOT claim the Beats... even if you're writing against the influence of writers like dear Jean-Louis, Ginsberg, Corso, and di Prima. I can't stand anything written by Dreiser. But to say he hasn't had in impact on what I do would be naive and short-sighted. As a matter of fact, I wonder sometimes if writers aren't more influenced by the writing they hate rather than the writing they love.

In spite my lack of connectedness with the geography here, though, it's always nice to be back. And it's always nice to revisit friends. I stayed with Mike and Elizabeth on my last trip through a few months back, and it's always a kick to see them. I was also able to spend some time with friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, whose blog is here, and who's worth checking out.

Got in around 5pm Friday after a 9 hour drive from the coast... the idea being that My Dear Sweet Ma would drop me off in Ashland on the way back to Porkopolis. I suspect, however, that we would have gotten to my end destination much more quickly without the help of the on-board GPS giving me directions in an oh so polite slightly British woman's vernacular.

It was actually worse on the trip out to Virginia Beach... tried to take us as far out of the way as possible, but somehow still had no idea where we were when we were on Highway 35 in Eastern Ohio.

When I had a car I always kept a road atlas somewhere handy.  I may not be able to stand in a wide open field on a cloudy day and tell you what direction I'm facing, but I know how to read a map... which is one of those things that I suspect is being lost in the age of digital travel and permanent GPS tracking. One of the things I noticed -- especially on the way out to Virginia Beach -- is that even when you program your travel preferences in... longest route, shortest route, avoid toll roads, etc.. it still sticks primarily to interstate routes whenever possible. If, while driving, you ignore the dumb bitch (because computers are DUMB. They don't KNOW things. They're programmed. You know. Like members of the Tea Party) the voice will either harangue you into making a u-turn or... if you wait it out... it will eventually "recalculate." Even then, though, there are large pockets of the country that are being lost. And since people rarely travel for its own sake, and have lost a lot of that natural curiosity Daniel Boone seems to have credited us with (maybe it's The Travel Channel's fault?) in addition to not being able to read a map, people are learning to live their lives  corralled by the interstate system,  hyperbarically and hermetically sealed within electronically connected bubbles of their own design.

I have learned, however, that when it comes to travel, I would rather get lost on my own terms than depend on some umbilical connection to a global positioning satellite.