Showing posts with label Cincinnati. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cincinnati. Show all posts

20 September, 2019

from Field Notes from 26 Aug 2019: Squeeze me home, Ohio Valley heat






Ride the Cardinal east
to the mountains, watch
the first Autumn wings
brush the trees

Losantiville – The train rolled in more or less on time. Actually, a few minutes early (!). Got out to Mom’s from The Halls of Justice* in an Uber. The Uber driver got turned around because, he said, he didn’t know the train still ran out of the Union Station. Yes,  I said. It still does. For now.




Land of the Seven Hills, a ravaged and rewritten map
overnight and early morning hills dotted with lights
illuminating dreams, erasing stars.

It’s been raining here. It’s been raining at home. I have to remember there’s no point in worrying. It rains whether I worry about it or not.

Yesterday’s rain rivulets
Hug the elephant ear leaves
Grieving the storm’s absence.

Visiting George and Laura and Mike and Liz was good. It had been more than a while since I saw Mike and Liz and it always does my heart good to see them. I think if I wasn’t worried that they would get tired of me, and if I could have Amanda with me,  I could travel and visit friends all year. What other real wealth could there be?  Maybe this is why both freedom of movement and connections with others are what fascists attack first.

I’m a man blessed with itchy feet and many friends. In every way that matters, I am the wealthiest of men, the king of infinite space.

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* The Union Station in Cincinnati was the model for the Hall of Justice for the old Super Friends cartoon from the 1980's.

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31 July, 2019

[re: lines on the day I remembered my father's birthday]

"Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick"  - Iggy Pop/David Bowie


For years I drove out by the old house to see what the new occupants had done to wreck the place. The time I drove out and saw the buried wagon wheels at the end of the driveway, like some broken redneck gate straight out of HGTV and the western-chic issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I knew my father's imprint was worn off. Finally, indescribably, gone.

And even as I write this, I don't know that I ever made peace with that -- until now, as I come to terms with how I feel about being at my mom's, and how my own wounded vision has impacted not only how I feel about this place, but about my Losantiville as a whole. 

Only now do I understand that I must see this place like any other place -- and that this vision must extend to all places. Even the ones I allow myself to be attached to.


Summer ends just as it begins.
Places abide in a mourner's memory,
an early morning dew. No house
holds out against the wind. No island
holds out against the current.


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15 February, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots: Be Safe Out There [a brief ethnography]


The middle-aged black man was wearing a blue suit coat that was too big for him, worn around the cuffs, and missing a couple of buttons. It was October, and after dark, which meant it was a little chilly. His clothes under the blue coat were rattier than the coat. Tired flipflops left his feet exposed. In his hands, he held an empty baby bottle. He approached me after I finished pumping gas. Debit cards weren't a thing in those days, and neither were card readers on gas pumps. But in that part of the city, near the university and Short Vine -- another area I ended up spending a lot of time -- you walked in and paid before you pumped. And I've always preferred cash transactions, anyway --chalk that up to my small towniness. 

The town where I'm from isn't remote or isolated in a geographic sense, but I learned early there are other kinds of distance, other types of geography that are difficult to cross -- especially when it's crossed under duress. And truthfully, crossing the distance between where I'm from and where I have ended up wasn't so much a problem for me. But it took me a long time to figure out that there's no going back. Not really.

Cincinnati was the first place I escaped to when I got my driver's license. It was the closest city, and the nearest place of any size. And though I didn't mean to end up there, necessarily, I ended up in a part of town that I would, and do, return to: Over the Rhine. In those days, Vine Street was still an open market for pretty much any illicit thing you could want. Not that I tried any of it; I still had a healthy dose of small town naivete that, for good or bad, managed to save me. But I did witness my first drug deal and accidentally walk up on a sex trade transaction. All the parties involved were amused by my small town whiteness -- amused and too busy to punish me for it. Because while Cincinnati was a dangerous place, and while OTR was probably the place furthest from where I lived -- for a whole host of reasons -- it never once occurred to me that I might have been in danger. I explored it with an anthropologist's curiosity -- and detachment -- that has served me well over the years, no matter how deep I dived or how close to the bottom I got.

He started in by telling me he wasn't just panhandling. He was passing through, he said, pointing directionlessly towards the interstate. His car broke down and his wife and baby daughter stayed with the car because it was chilly out. He waved the baby bottle at me as proof that his story was true. In the moment it didn't occur to me that he might just be hustling for drug money; it did occur to me that he sounded too practiced to be in moment. Growing up as I did around a few truly ineffective liars, I had started to pick up an ear for that sort of thing.  But also, in that moment, I didn't care. I don't know if it was the dedication to his story, or the flip flops. But I gave him a few dollars, wished him luck.

- Be safe out there, I said. And then I got in my car and left, traversing the various geographies back to my hometown, where panhandlers were prime time television extras, where the poverty was just as palpable, but somehow different. A place I would not be able to look at in the same way, or ever really be able to stay -- though at the time I wasn't aware that anything in me had shifted.

I think about him often and wonder whatever happened to him. I see him in every face I've met doing outreach. I've revisited that moment hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the years. And while I don't know if that was when it all changed or when it first occured to me that something had, I'm forever grateful that he crossed my path.


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11 May, 2016

Etiquette and indignity: riding the Grey Dog


[From pocket journal, 9 May 2016]

At the. Louisville Greyhound Station, waiting for the bus to Cincinnati. I know this isn't a proper jaunt, but I feel a certain mental and spiritual release just sitting here on the floor with my rucksack and the blue guitar*. [They've taken out even more seats since the last time I was here.]

The post-Derby exit crowd is still here -- the proles that no one looks for in the expensive boxes or theexclusive parties where the rich, the famous, and the rich and famous wear ugly hats, ugly ties, and take pride in urinating on the city in a most non-metaphoric fashion while making fun of the accents, the politics, AND while the city's most glamorous whores -- the mayor, the city council, and the Chamber of Commerce** -- open wide and swallow whatever the out-of-town rubes have to offer. In addition to the obvious hangovers and economic losses being nursed***, space on the buses at a premium. This means, among other things, that that Greyhound drags out the broken down cans to accommodate the crowd.

My bus is number 6222. I always look at the number. It's a habit born out of complaining. Yes, I realize it often does no good to complain when, after riding in a mostly air conditioned sardine can for 25.5 hours from Louisville Kentucky to Norfolk, that your bus driver is lost in rural Virginia. It does no good, but I do feel a little better afterwards -- especially  after listening for 2 hours as other passengers, none of whom have ever been in the state of Virginia, try and give the bus driver directions to get back on the interstate.

I know what you're thinking, Dear Friends and Readers -- GPS makes this sort of foolishness impossible.

Oh, if only that t'were true. If only.

Traveling by the Grey Dog is one of those things I often swear I'll never do again. By its very nature, it is undignified and uncomfortable. Many people lack the basic etiquette to minimize the absence of dignity and comfort. I have even written about how I will never travel by the rolling sardine can again.

But I end up doing it anyway. And this is why they always win.

This particular bus is one I'm sure I've ridden before. It used to be a nice one, too. One of the late 90's models -- seats still wide enough for a non-stick figure person (though certainly not big enough for a man of large appetites to stretch out). Plenty of room in the above head storage bins. Unlike the new buses they advertise, there is no free wifi, and there are a few electric outlets every 3 or 4 rows. It's true that the newer buses have shiny, all faux leather seats, free wifi, and plenty of electric outlets. But the seats are more narrow, there's less leg room, and the above head storage compartments are smaller and shorter.

The seat I'm sitting in is stuck in a reclined position that I have always found uncomfortable on buses. It's more slouchy than relaxed and I've slept better on the bus sitting straight up. I know this seat will not be fixed. Mine is not the only broken seat, as the seat ahead of me is also stuck in a reclined position. The young woman sitting in it, trying to master English as a Second Language with an adult ESL reader, is apparently unconcerned that her head is almost in my lap and that a jolt or a speed bump could make us far friendlier with one another than either of us wants.

These seats will not be fixed or replaced. At some point, after the engine has been taped together from all the miles and abuse, it will finish out its service somewhere in the Great Empty -- a large, square state like Iowa, Wyoming, or Montana. They send all the broken up cans out there to rust, rattle, fall apart and die like an underfed racing hound.

Yes, the buses are made to be driven into the dirt. But the inevitable entropy is driven -- pun intended -- by riders who think a bus seat is a recliner, who don't know how to use earphones, and by those who don't seem to grasp that no amount of lounging, seat hogging, and a total lack of spacial awareness makes rolling along at 55 mph in a rolling sardine can more dignified.

And moreover, the basic business model -- as far as I can tell from my vast experience riding the Grey Dog and its various geographically locked clones -- is built on a mutual acceptance of an undignified humanity. They tend to put the nicer, newer (and smaller) buses in larger markets in the northeastern seaboard and southern California. Then, once the buses get a little too used in service, they're moved to more populated markets in the midwest, south, and west until they make the death roll even further west, into the mountain time zone far, far away from the shiny, made for TV background coasts.

I wish there was a train between Cincinnati and Louisville. There used to be. But CSX won't pay to update and repair the tracks for commuter trains. So on the bus I go.

There is, I suppose, always this:

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*The blue guitar is a Washburn Rover, a travel guitar. Sounds a little tinny, but holds a tune and can fit in the above seat storage. Someday I'm going to put in an electric pick up so I can plug it into an amp.
** The Chamber of Commerce has rebranded itself as Greater Louisville, Inc. You know. Because that changes the nature of what they are, which are parasitic savages.
***No one who wins big at the Derby takes the bus home. It's a universal truth.
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05 February, 2014

Along The Dirty, Sacred River: Introductions

The Ohio River has been a physical and psychic boundary marker for as long as I can remember. Growing up in southeastern Ohio in the shadow of the seven hills, the river was the demarcation point for everything that was wrong with everything.  It's difficult to explain sometimes just why folks from southern Ohio have had such a historical loathing of anything to do with Kentucky. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that most of southern Ohio's original settlers came, not from the east, but from Kentucky, searching for work in those grand and unsavory cities like Cincinnati that grew up along the river as cesspools and harbingers of commerce. 

As an adult -- or, more appropriately, a child who has reached middle age -- Kentucky and the river have taken on different meanings. The river is transfixed in my mind as a place of magic and of history. Before people developed symbols to represent the sounds they made, before people developed language to pass on stories and songs and other kinds of important life knowledge, the river and the rocks and trees recorded history for us. We can look at the water, dig in the dirt, and if we have the know how and if we pay attention, we can see not only the short history of humanity, but the history of this giant storybook Earth.

The river soothes and keeps me. Piscean as I am, I've always had an odd -- and sometimes contentious -- relationship with water. I'm hoping to develop a better relationship with it, and learn from it in the same way I hope to learn from everything around me.

Those of you who know me or have followed my writing for a while may be more familiar with me under a different header, americanrevisionary.com.  That blog is the story of a man travelling and trying to put himself back together. I am not done travelling, and I am not done with the core idea that those months taught me -- live to avoid an avoidance culture; but it would be disingenuous of me to try and keep writing under that banner. In a hyper-sensitized, logo-branded culture, the tendency is to find a niche and keep it up. All the smart marketing books tell us that -- that people are swayed by brand loyalty. That we are who our Google/Facebook profiles say we are. That we have one life, one trajectory, and one destiny.

That, Dear Readers (I hope you're there!), is a pile of bullshit.

I've been away from blog world for a bit, focusing on life here at the new home base on the south side of River City, otherwise known as Louisville, Kentucky.  I've also been struggling a bit with how to best proceed with this next to unknown and unread existence I think of as my public life. People who know me well enough to be my friend on Facebook, the most technofascist of all the social media sites, may have a handle on what I've been doing.  I've been teaching, and writing some poetry. I've been working on storytelling at monthly Moth Story Slam at Headliners. I've playing music in the basement, trying to teach myself the banjo and mandolin. I've also been putting together a show of sorts.  As if that doesn't sound busy enough, I'm also working on another small press endeavor ... for those of you out there who may still remember One-Legged Cow Press... that will publish and distribute limited editions of handmade chapbooks mostly written by yours truly with some other good folks thrown in for good measure. 

That I'm launching a new blog doesn't suggest that I've abandoned the notion of avoiding an avoidance culture. It's quite the opposite. I will wander about when the mood and circumstance takes me; but there's plenty here to keep me occupied that is worthwhile and worth not avoiding.  In addition to written blogs, there will be audio clips and pictures, and maybe even some viddy for your viewing pleasure.  This non-existent space will be filled with stories and songs and poems -- a lot be my, but hopefully a lot by others, too -- and with news and updates of new travels, travails, adventures, and (most certainly) misadventures. 

Welcome.