Showing posts with label Field Notes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Field Notes. Show all posts

06 September, 2019

from Field Notes: millionaire whore's bath/ bad dreams

K√≤ng  (Nothingness)
I don't know if I've ever been so relieved to hear the sound of a toilet tank refill.

They turned off the water this past Tuesday for nonpayment. I've been without water before -- on the road and living out. I know how to ration and prioritize. I've learned to survive on very little. That doesn't scare me. And even with no water, we still had a roof over our heads. We still had a comfortable bed. We even had a supply of clean water for coffee and cooking, and two rain barrels of water we could use for gray water for non-potable purposes.  There was plenty of food and the ability to cook it. I knew we'd be ok until the snafu got fixed.

But I didn't like the idea of having to think like that... at home.

Most of the time when I'm off the road and at home I bounce between embracing everything I love about being home and feeling like a fraud. Over the years I've grown more accustomed to the domestic sphere; but I can't ever escape the sensation of being a baboon, lumbering around and trying really hard NOT to wreck the place. When they turned the water off --

I found myself wondering about the fleeting nature of high concepts like home and comfort.

It wasn't a question of panic. It was a question of being pissed off.  Pissed that I'd let it happen. Pissed that I wasn't being mindful. Pissed because, even when I was drinking, I made sure utility bills were paid... or at least, paid down. Pissed.

But sometimes being pissed doesn't help. Anger can be a powerful, but dangerous motivator. Being pissed... that's a paralytic.  And we didn't have time for that.

So, we rationed our clean water for us and for the dogs and cat. We had 6 gallons of clean water, which meant if we were careful, we could make it last more than long enough to get the bill paid.
 ____

Dream from the first night:

In the dream I was sitting around a fire in the middle of a dark, expansive wilderness. I've dreamed of this wilderness before, but not of this particular fire. Sitting around the fire with me were my dad, my grandfathers, Steve (my first ex-father-in-law). The other elders are there, too, but there are a lot of them and I can't make out their faces in the darkness. I'm holding my red Bybee coffee mug. It's warm and full of coffee. Dad, my grandfathers, and Steve were holding cups, too. The smell of coffee hugs the air, which is cool. Late autumn. I can't see any trees, but I know their limbs are almost stripped bare.

Looking down, I'm dressed in long sleeves for the weather. I'm wrapped in a blanket but can feel the chill of the night air on my fingers. My hands are covered with tattoos. The firelight makes it look like they are moving: the snake writhes under my sleeve and back down, a crow flies, fish swim. I think I can feel the tattoos moving up around my shoulders, up the back of my neck, and into my ears. No one is surprised by this. I'm not surprised by this either.

All at once there is a great wind and a stagecoach drawn by six white stallions rushes by. The horses eyes are lit with a fire that breaks the darkness ahead of them. I catch a hint of trees, the outline of houses, a trail I didn't know was there. None of my companions moved away from the road as the coach passed. Neither did I.

As it passed, I caught her scent and heard her laughter. I jumped up to follow her, but the darkness closed around the coach just as easily as it opened.

A voice -- not my dad's my grandfathers', or Steve's -- said YOU HAVE TO STAY. SHE HAS GONE AHEAD, AND YOU MAY NEVER BE READY TO FOLLOW.

___

I've taken more than my share of baths out of a sink. It's all about hitting the high -- and low spots.  I have to admit, though, that even I took pause when I used bottled water for a whore's bath. I doubt that Paris Hilton felt as fancy as I felt with my daily ration of wash water.


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16 April, 2019

From Field Notes: Excerpts, 7th-9th April 2019 - Orange Poppy, Long Gone

7 April


view of the Wakarusa River
Spent the early afternoon downtown. Had lunch with the Market Street Irregulars and then had the opportunity to visit my friend, local artist Heather Houzenga, at her shop at the base of Market Street. We mostly hung out in front of her shop, which lends itself to the opportunity of running into other people. At one point there were maybe 5 of us including Heather, Ray, Dave Cuckler, and Jeff Creath, who split time between Carroll County, Waukegan, and parts unknown with his wife and fellow globetrotter, Kat. There were also two dogs, including Heather's new pooch, Handsome, a boxer mix that is still very much a puppy... but a happy one, and Ray's lovely dog Lady.

It felt good just to be able to hang out on the street without anyone wondering whether something illegal is happening -- one of the graces that is still afforded in a place like Mount Carroll, Illinois.

At one point, later in the day, Dave was downstairs playing guitar and singing, and I was listening through the floorboards. There are moments we experience that resonant, repeat, and carry us backwards and forwards in time, embodying all of our sense memories into a distilled, rich, existential bliss. Listening to Dave Cuckler sing through the floorboards is one such moment, and it let me know that I was, if only briefly, at a place where I still have a home.

Music through the floorboards
that long remembered smile.
A congregation of old friends,
dogs, and peaceful passersby.

8 April

The river is high here, like everywhere else. Parts of Savanna are flooding. The power and prestige of the Old River 1 never ceases to amaze me.

The river lays siege to the flood plain
reminding people (again)
these ancient arteries
will wash away
what passes for Empire.

9 April

I was able to take some time yesterday and walk around town a bit. On my way back to where I'm staying, I walked up the Washington Street hill and over to S. West Street, by the house I lived in here with my ex. Inexplicably, the place is still standing and there's a family living there.

I know it seems strange to some people that I like coming back here. One local musician, a friend of a friend, upon figuring out that I was actually me and discovering that I showed up intentionally to visit, asked what I was visiting for. There's a basic assumption among some folks about this place... an assumption I hear more from people who are born and raised from here -- that there is nothing here. Or, at any rate, there's nothing here that would be of any interest to anyone not from here.

But the truth is that I learned a lot here. Mount Carroll is the place I learned to embrace a place and find beauty, poetry, and music -- even when there is a (very) thin veneer of stasis, greed, and ugliness. It was here I learned to live more in the moment and to seek out community rather than expect it to come find me. It was here that I learned what the word home means -- with all those fraught implications.

It was here that I learned what it means to dive deep and follow the currents. What I didn't learn here was not to dive TOO deep. I had to learn that later.

Some things persist
in spite of soft memory.
What is not erased
is a reminder that 
what we carry in the present
we picked up in the past.

Orange Poppy, Long Gone



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08 April, 2019

From Field Notes, 1 April 2019: Out of The Abiding Place

Somewhere east of Libby, Montana. Woke up to first light in my mountains. Rocks stretch out and up, lifting the sky like I cup Amanda's breasts sometimes when we sleep. -- like holding a jacket open for the sun to wear, with a pattern of clouds and rain drops crystalized in suspended animation.

Thinking about Portland and about the way ahead. All of it. There are two states in which I feel most myself -- like I am living the life I was born to live -- when I am in motion, writing; and when I am still, in Amanda's arms. Every other state of being is the space between that I traverse. Geography is a myth we've believed into reality. States of Being are the only states that matter. And if I had to nail down what to call this, I'd call it a perma-state of transition. Moving between motion and rest. Between travel and her arms. Roads and rail road tracks are the paths we make, all treading in the same direction. 

Montana is an ocean of green -- endless waves of evergreens and white oak, slowly waking grass. The mist and snow offer it a supernatural aura. The place has always been magic to me. Like Menifee. Like the river. All sacred. All dirty. All beauty. All savage.

Lift up old mountain.
The sun needs a coat.
The clouds portend
of beautiful things.

Roll on train, through
this sacred place.
I will wander amongst the mist
some other day.



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03 April, 2019

Field Notes, from March 29 2019: Oh, The Humanities


Air palpable with earnest outcries
read to the appropriate audience
words spent on prayers to gods
too busy to grant wishes

(From my last day at AWP:)

The folks I saw yesterday (Friday) were not out today. I want to believe that the old guy flying a sign on the corner of Halliday and MLK -- who, up close, doesn't look much older than me -- got what he needed and was able to sleep in doors last night. I want to believe that Tanya J. McDonald -- who told me her name 5 times and who was clearly released from a hospital with no sense of where she might end up -- was able to find peace and safety and some comfort in mourning her mother's death.

I saw them. I looked them in the eye and took their hands and helped in some small, temporary way. I want to believe it made a difference.

But I don't feel that optimistic today.

There's something about all the appropriate mourning and moaning here that's just so far-sighted in all the wrong ways. People see injustice at a distance and want to engage it. But when it's up close, they overlook. Or worse, they look through it like it's air.

Of course there's talk about Trump and  the peril to democracy -- mostly by white academics. When I hear work by writers of color, or by immigrant writers, or by people recounting stories of assault and the abuse of power, there is no presumption that democracy is in peril.

There is no presumption that democracy exists at all.


Beauty is abandoned
in the course of natural process --
the fragrance lingers,
a memory seized
right in the moment breath freezes.








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27 March, 2019

Field Notes, 26 March 2019: Savage Bones, Savage Beauty

Nice, if chilly, walk to a neighborhood coffeeshop. True, there was a Starbucks closer, but I wanted to find something local, something of the neighborhood, before I head downtown. Breakfast, along with a triple shot cappuccino, was a plank of avocado toast -- lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Delicious.

Spent a significant amount of time yesterday afternoon learning about the terroristic activities of the Portland area Proud Boys and the long tradition of racism, Sundown Laws, bigotry, and violent exclusion in Portland. 

Sadly, it echoes of home.


Apparently they are rolling around in groups looking for people to attack... specifically people who don't prescribe to the Proud Boy (read: fascist) ideology of gender normative dress and behavior. At least one member of the Trans Community here  has already been put in the hospital.

All the camps here are arming themselves, and all it will take it one dumb scared kid from either side to mishandle a firearm. It was pointed out to me that the Proud Boys are out numbered. It was pointed out to me at least three times. But the cops never fall on the side with Antifa. They tend to call this neutrality, or adherence to ensuring the law applies to everyone... but that falls as flat on an intelligent ear as the late night station guards insistence he is ticket checking everyone "regardless of what they look like."

America's savage and tribal underpinnings are being exposed like old tree root systems are exposed by heavy rain and flash floods.

But the water isn't going down any time soon.

Flowers blooming in South Portland
while workaday folks carry on.
Wind off the Willamette and Columbia
lay bare rusty bones
leaving us all standing on sand.


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26 March, 2019

Field Notes, 24 March 2019: Beautifully Savage

[Indianapolis:]

Part of me wanted to miss the bus, or for something to go wrong in Louisville just so I could have one more minute with her. It's always like this. Even when I'm compelled to go, there is such a desire to stay, to damn the consequences. And indeed, there would be consequences. I've seen that before, too.

Some aspects of every trip are the same. Indy and the buzzing lights. Chicago Union Station and the great, depressive and beautiful vacuum of that city. Longing and loneliness. And the obligation to write it all down, to somehow make it all make sense, if only for myself, but maybe -- just maybe -- for some other poor asshole out there who is equally torn apart by a need to Go and to See. Someone else who is tortured by the desire to stay, to leave the road for someone else.

At the 2:45AM ticket check I was again asked about a confirmation number. I'm starting to feel punked.

Buzzing overhead lights
and a four hour layover.
Thoughts of you make me wonder
why it feels so necessary
to be anywhere you're not.

[Near Chicago Union Station]

Of course the ridiculous worries about the "confirmation number" were unfounded. The desk worker in Louisville was clearly mistaken/misinformed/harried. The security guard at the Indy station was probably just being a dick because he picked up on my displeasure about the ticket check. They always state the same legal caveat "I am not biased and will check anyone regardless of what they look like." This gives them the blankt authority to racially and economically profile anyone they want without fear of the guard or the company being sued. And naturally, there are any number of ways to abuse tacit authority at 3AM in a Midwestern bus station.

Power is so predictable.
Give authority to a beaten man
and he will beat anyone down
with savage impunity --
in particular, whoever he blames.


Canal Street Entrance, Chicago Union Station
[In the Great Hall, Union Station, Chicago]

The Great Hall is gorgeous. The lights, the statues, the columns and marble staircases. A mish-mash of Greco-Roman with Digital Age minimalism forced into the crevices. Ornately wrought columns and digital screens. Nothing is so American as our nostalgia for the past that never was -- the carefully and assiduously reconstructed one we write ourselves into as the denouement.

Beautiful as they are
all our grand monuments
harken back to a past
reconstructed from afar
so it necessarily includes
us, whether we belong or not.




[Harmonee Ave/Glenview, IL]

Loaded for bear
more people than seats
our steel horse barrels westward
breaching the ragged edge
in search of soul, Big Sky and light.

[Flooded plains outside Columbus, Wisconsin]

Downed and drought
are the only cycles
anyone can really count on.
Everything else is Faith.

[All that's left is the thaw]

Snow lingers west of the Wisconsin Dells. Dirty, tired looking stuff. Knee high piles along the outside
St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN - Union Depot (MSP)
edges and corners of muddy unplanted cornfields. Tiny blankets wrapped around the base of young sycamores and trimming along creek beds. It's all over but the melting here. 


The sun broke out for setting
just east of La Crosse --
piles of dirty snow like shrugged off clothes
lay around the edges
of soon-to-be plowed fields.

[Black River, WI]

Broken up ice islands
The waters are high.
We're coming upon the Mississippi
to breach the great boundary
into Minnesota.

Every time I travel I'm awe struck by how beautiful and how beautifully savage the landscape is.


[First 'Air Break'/ Flood Fight]

Chatted with a woman name Kristy and a man named Dean, both from Fargo. They were strangers to each other but both going home. When they found out they were both from the same place, they started talking about the 'Flood Fight.' Every year when the snow melts, people volunteer to make sandbags to stave off the inevitable flooding of the North River. Dean is volunteering for the first time in several years. Kristy volunteers every year, but her job allows her to volunteer and get paid for it. Dean said they are calling for 1 million sand bags this year. Kristy said they are expecting floods about 41 feet, worse than 1997.

All I said was that water always runs down river eventually. All I thought about was how much we don't need the water to rise anymore at home. But that's life -- it's all connected and everything runs downstream eventually.

-MKP
~

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11 February, 2019

From Field Notes: I don't like Mondays (Tell me why)

Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe 
The Telex machine is kept so clean /As it types to a waiting world - Bob Geldof

There isn't an American alive who doesn't contend with clocks. They organize our lives: tell us when to wake up, when to eat lunch, what time we need to start our workouts, what time we have to make that meeting that would suffice as a well written email. My wife sets no fewer than 3 alarms to wake up in the morning. In addition to giving her  a sense of very much needed control over what is essentially beyond our control --she has to wake up, get moving, and be out the door to her place of work by 6:30 -- it also imbues the whole thing with a sense of ceremony. When she is on vacation and is  able to shut all three of them off, we do so with revelry and relief. When it's time to turn them back on, we do so solemnly and with as much stoicism as we can dig out of our unwilling amygdalas. 

I have a wind up alarm clock by my side of the bed that  I keep mainly for the sound. There's something in the tick tock of a clock that makes me feel like I'm closer to the mystical machinations of the universe -- a notion born out of the thoroughly Newtonian core of my brain that sometimes allows me to see the connections and tendrils and crystalline cogs that keep everything going. 

One of the blessings of my life is that I've been able to excise myself from the gravitational center of the time clock. I work project to project, which has deadlines. But those are more or less self-prescribed, or at least agreed upon. I'm bound to a clock when I travel, but that's really only dipping in to a world that is far more interested in schedules than I am. I tend to think of my life more in terms of rhythm than time. Time moves in whatever fashion it does and there's very little I can do about that, other than acknowledge it, imbue it with a certain amount of ceremony, and keep onward. But rhythm... that's something different all together. 

I like to think I live my life in Common Time. For those of you out there who don't catch the musical reference, Common Time is 4/4 or four beats per measure of music. (A measure is a marking of musical phrasing... but let's not get bound up here.) Most music you hear is in 4/4. It's the easiest and most commonly used... hence why it is called Common Time. You can play it fast (allegro). You can play it slow (andante).  All that matters is that the music goes on. 

Mondays are like time clocks. They tend to monopolize our lives because we've allowed them to. We obsess over Mondays ( and Fridays) like alcoholics obsess over booze and we've decided it normal because that's the song we were handed to play. We obsess over time to the point that our entire civilization has become a tug-of-war between trying to turn back time and trying to figure out how to spend it meaningfully -- or at least, giving ourselves plenty of time to binge Netflix. We're never really alone thanks to social media, but somehow people still manage to feel more lonely. We obsess. We mark time. We dread Monday. We pray for Friday... or maybe more specifically payday. We live for the weekends. Instead of rapture as the untenable and impossible to gauge end, we have retirement, which is just as untenable. But then Monday. And then Friday. And again. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Maybe it's time to smash the clock and get a new one. Maybe it's time to find rhythm and put away our Mondays and Fridays and all our somedays and retirement fantasies. 

But like anyone in the program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.



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22 January, 2019

from Field Notes, 22 Jan 2019: Dreaming of Thora Birch

Nobody becomes depraved overnight. - Juvenal

After a long movie dream involving a caravan trapped in a collapsed cavern, an insane amount of stolen money, a sacred pool, an ancient evil, and Thora Birch, I woke up with this thought echoing in my head:

Things happen to people all the time that defy empirical explanation, and whether people believe the thing happened or not, it passes into our Collective Memory, our Collective Consciousness, and lives there.

To explain, a little: Miracles and horrors happen every day that resist empirical understanding. Not all things can be replicated in a laboratory and studied. Not every truth is extrapolated by being placed under a microscope. Some things are understood only by faith.  A tree falling in a forest does make a sound whether a pair of ready ears is there to hear it or not. The fact of the tree falling doesn't change, just our understanding of what that event means. 

Going Further:

I've read a great deal of discussion about the Covington Catholic incident from various sides of the issue ... and by sides I mean people or organizations with an emotional or personal stake in the outcome of how this event is interpreted, understood, and remembered. As a Catholic, I am saddened by the choice the boys made to wear MAGA hats, but that is their right. Throughout history, Catholics have, collectively and individually, both helped to support and helped to supplant tyrants. As a Catholic, I distance myself from the "Pro-Life" movement, especially the Northern Kentucky faction (which is so problematic that the national "Pro-Lifers" distance themselves from it). The politics of the issue are so divisive and so rhetorically charged on both sides that I find myself unable to have a reasonable discussion with anyone on any side. And for the record, so no one is confused -- I believe in the sanctity of all life. But I also believe the so-called "Pro-Life" movement is more politically than spiritually motivated. The same is true of the "Pro-Choice" movement. No political action will solve the heart of the problem. The problem is a spiritual one and so is the solution. I've seen enough in homeless outreach to tell you that our culture, in general, does not respect life. Only humanism, love, and compassion with a deep spiritual underpinning will solve any of this. 

Please note, I did not say "Christianity." I don't have the need to make everyone believe like me. But I also believe it's possible to come together on basic spiritual precepts that view humanity as fundamentally tied together in spiritual sense. It's got to do with that Collective Memory. It's got to do with the commonness of our experience that makes us all human. We are all born. We all breathe. We all die. What we do with and between those markers defines everything else about us individually and collectively.

Of course, the thing we're fighting ultimately is the nature we're born with. Evolutionarily speaking, we are monkeys with bigger brains. We're tribal critters by nature, clannish by inclination, and provincial by habit. The more religious among you might call this sin. The more empirically minded might simply call it nature. I tend towards thinking of it as nature, but in the presence of a supernatural possibility -- the possibility to transcend and be an inheritor of God's love -- I believe that nothing in our nature is necessarily written in stone. And even if it is, there is no stone that can stand unchanged against time, the wind, and the river. 

Now, back to this Covington Catholic issue, briefly. Regardless of what really happened... and please, spare me your interpretations because I've seen and read every possible permutation and believe me, there is nothing new under sun... the forces at work on all sides of this have a vested interest in keeping us fighting. I don't believe Nathan Phillips went to start a fight. I believe the fight was already there.  I don't believe the Catholic students went to start a fight, either, though they were probably riled up emotionally because of the "Pro-Life" march. That fight, too, was already there. The lines were already drawn. And in the end, there are only two people who really know what happened and the everyone else will believe what they want.

I read an interesting response to the Covington Catholic situation that addressed another truth about evolution: we do a lot of what we do because of social acceptance. And people on Facebook, isolated as most people are because of digital ideological segmentation, tend to post what they because it's accepted by their social in-group, which causes the brain to release dopamine.  The blackmarket marketeers have keyed into this and use it to sell us everything from political saviors to suppositories. Dopamine elects tyrants and lifts up heroes. This is buried in our nature and we are obliged by, if nothing else, the transcendence of the Collective Memory, to try and grow beyond it.

At the end of my movie dream, I'm standing in front of this monument to all those who have died in unknown tragedies, and so is Thora Birch. She turns to me and tells me that sometimes things happen to people, and whether everyone else believes it or not, the thing that happened is still a part of our Collective Memory whether we want it to be or not. Then I woke up.


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04 January, 2019

from Field Notes: 3 Jan 2019 - Those Isaiah Moments

I did it to myself. I should know better than to not ask more questions. When a last minute metro council meeting to talk about the city's half million dollar PR band aid came up, I should have known better. No one tossed me under a bus. No one tried to surprise me. No one but me, anyway. Me and my Isaiah moments. Me and my  "Here am I - send me" arrogance that put me on a dais with the mayor, two councilpeople and the usual suspects for a grand public circle jerk featuring Mayor Greg Fischer and Wayside Mission's Dominatrix-in-Chief, Nina Moseley
.
Though to be fair, it may be not appropriate to call it a circle jerk. The Victorians had a name for it. The medical cure was  "Hysterical Paroxysm" - or, an orgasm achieved when a (male) doctor administered a "pelvic massage" to a female patient suffering from "hysteria" (being human.)

It was my Isaiah moment, my urge to Do Something that did this to me.

I was mentally prepared for a committee meeting. This is a scenario in which I am very comfortable speaking. Public meetings, metro council, committee, open mics, performances -- I'm very comfortable. The easiest place to hide is in front and up on a stage, because no one actually looks at you when you're in the spotlight. People see all the things they carry with them, all the things they expect. The most invisible spot in any room is in the spotlight.

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is where I thrive, most of the time. In the land of ghosts.

But it was my vanity, my ego, and --more importantly -- my sense of Rightitude that suffered when, at the behest of a councilwoman who is acting like she wants to be mayor, I took to the dais in a show of "solidarity" for the city's new half-million dollar band aid to the homeless situation here in River City.

I was planning for a committee meeting.  What I walked into was one of the mayor's political dog and pony shows.  He spent a good deal of time talking about what great mayor he is and all the good he's done and to make some unnamed (well-deserved, I have to add) digs at Bevin and Trump. Then one well-meaning bureaucrat got up and laid out the details of where the cash is going and two more politicians talked about how much this is going to help. 

There were two of us on the dais who were not, in some way or another, directly employed by the city. The other guy was the head of another small homeless outreach organization. When the press asked for one of us to speak to some of the issues, I stepped up... I guess, because, you know. Ego. Vanity. Urge to Do. Whatever. And all of my Isaiah moments came crashing down because I spent the whole time, listening to everyone pat themselves and Nina Moseley, whose homeless shelter is as overrun with abuse of power as it is bedbugs. And when I was done stuttering through an answer to some question about there's absolutely no way the city or any outreach organization can convince people to go inside when they're more afraid of the mold and bedbugs and questionable administration practices than they are the cold.

I said it more diplomatically. Which is to say, stilted. And I was ushered off by the mayor who always knows he knows me but isn't sure how so that Nina Moseley could do her best humble brag because Wayside, (not) inexplicably, is getting the lion's share of the money.

So I there I was, on the dais, trying to be diplomatic, trying to show "solidarity", when, in fact, all I was there for was window dressing so the mayor could try (again) to seal his political legacy, so a councilwoman could gain a little political capital, and so the Queen of Bedbugs could be hand massaged by the Mayor of Louisville.

And yes, it will, as a by-product, help some of the city's homeless community. And what will we have to show for it? Some good programming, a bit more outreach, and a big PR band aid for a boondoggle of what is supposed to be a homeless shelter. 

And what will I have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing but the difficulty I'm having forgiving myself for standing on the dais in some bullshit "show of solidarity" when the offense against my sense of Rightitude was so palpable that at least two different people on the dais noticed. 

What I will I have? My inability to forgive myself because when I did have the opportunity to speak, I did not call for oversight and accountability.

May God forgive me, because I don't know that I can.

All the words in the world
matter nothing if they echo,
fade and forget their own meaning.


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01 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots - On (Not) Finding Los Angeles

[16 December 2018: Eastbound, somewhere home side of Winslow]

The train passed into mountain time overnight. Now we're in the high desert part of Arizona, rolling towards New Mexico, closer to home. 

People are starting to wake up and file into the observation car. The view is gorgeous; the sun started to just peak out, a little west of Winslow. I've been awake off and on since about 3:30, which means I slept pretty well for train travel. I travel coach because while the idea of a sleeper car appeals, the cost ends up being the same as flying and is more difficult to justify. The cheapskate in my skull gets in my way more and more as I age, but it's really only for large amounts. He's perfectly willing to nickel and dime all day, especially when it involves books. And since I stopped drinking, the cheap bastard in my skull is willing to embrace the odd and more than occasional cappuccino. But I can't seem to get the idea of a sleeper car, even though my primary argument for train travel is that it's more civilized than air and more genteel than the grey dog over long distances.

I qualify that, of course.  I take the bus from Louisville to Cincinnati on the regular. But if there was a train, I'd probably take that, even if it costs a bit more and tell the cheap bastard in my head to go to hell.

Although I made my goal of being more open and social during my time in LA, I did not really get to find the bones of Los Angeles. I understand that this ontological distinction probably marks me as a rube, or, at the very least, an provincial hack. But it does seem to be a city where there is so much of everything that finding the real Los Angeles is a bit challenging. 

All great cities operate on a philosophy like 3 Card Monte. It's not about finding what's real; it's about never really finding it. Louisville isn't any different. The basic idea of a Tourist Economy is a simple one: distract them with glitter so no one sees the gloom. GPS makes this easier, as entire neighborhoods can be erased without having to start one bulldozer. After all, the powers-that-be don't want total strangers to go and see where the old bones show through.

But that's not what I want to see when I'm out in LA. I want to see the old bones of Los Angeles. I think I catch glimpses of it, in the same way you catch glimpses of nipple during a burlesque show. It's difficult to tell, though, if what I see are the bones or the statistically acceptable brutality of a city that is so expensive to live in that it's losing 100 people a week.

I stopped trying to count the number of homeless folks and camps I saw, just riding around between class and my motel in Culver City. In most cases, they are tucked away, or on public land that has no other use -- which is a good thing, because if it did have use, those people would be pushed off. The camps one block from the train station right on the sidewalk, are probably the most brazen. An entire litle corner just on Alameda had a small community of three tents, and a man was flying nearby. Just far enough away from Union Station not to make it in any of the brochures or website or prime time television show. The homeless in LA are like the palm trees. They're like the excessive number of cars on the 405. They're like random movie star sightings at restaurants that are all ambience and with no street parking.  They're like these small towns rolling outside the windows of the observation car -- a passing curiosity quickly forgotten when the next scene is pulled in our vision.

Barreling through the sunrise
desert dust perma-frost in all directions
like the rolling empty corn fields
stretched ahead on the other side of the river.





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