Showing posts with label Intermezzo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Intermezzo. Show all posts

26 November, 2012

Intermezzo: Seen and Unseen


Ain't no privacy in a digital birdcage. - me, in a facebook comment



What is human life? The first third a good time, and rest remembering about it. - Mark Twain

A slow and thoughtful Monday morning here in Louisville. I had the chance this weekend to see Ron Whitehead perform, along with some other amazing poets and musicians, at the Haymarket Whiskey Bar. Having followed his work for several years, it was a pleasure to see him live, particularly as he was celebrating his birthday. Before that, I was up in Cincinnati enjoying the holiday with Amanda and My Dear Sweet Ma, waiting through the procession of commericals and commercialization that is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to see my niece perform as one of entirely to many dancers inspired by Lady Gaga. (She was the most talented one. I'm sure you saw her if you were watching.)

If you weren't watching, don't worry. I'm sure it will be a FB meme before too too long.


Memes, of course, are what passes for information transfer in the Cyber Age. There is no promise of objectivity, no guarantee of veracity. It's simply information that is thrown at the consumer/product

... because that's what we are, if'n you haven't taken a break from Cyber Monday to notice. We're the consumer and we are consumed. There's a certain symmetry to it, don't you think...


at which time it is then left to the target/consumer/product to determine whether it's reliable, whether it's a rumor made fact by repetition, or just one more Cat Playing the Keyboard or 2 Girls One Cup.

If this sounds like freedom to you, you might want to take a big whiff. It sure smells like something else.

The meme that hit this morning, of course... at least, the one I noticed... was another run of the reaction against Facebook's longstanding policy of mining member data to the blackmarketeers of the apocalypse that sell us everything from thong underwear to survivalist dry rations.

Given that a significant amount of my life is posted for the reading pleasure of the deus machina (for which Facebook is only the intermediary) and the half a baker's dozen of you Dear and Faithful Readers who kindly keep track of exploits and insploits*, I do take notice and am aware that social media -- and Facebook in particular -- is nothing more than a method for the corporamatons* that dictate much of what we have decided is reality to mine us for consumer preferences in everything from dental floss to politicians, from light bulbs to religious and ideological beliefs.

If you still believe that the internet is freespace and anything goes just because you can find your personal preference for porn and corn chips with the click of a mouse or a tap on the tablet, you're not paying attention.

The good news is that it's probably only folks my age or older who still have a notion of what privacy is that aren't aware of this. The bad news is that those who are aware of it run the risk of getting used to it so much that it doesn't bother them.
_______________________________________
* from The Parsons Dictionary of Oft Used Words and Phrases, Desk Edition.
insploits, noun. Events that occur when not in physical motion that nonethless exist. Including but not limited to: dreams, visions, meditations, thoughts, outer body experieneces, astral travel, and drunken epiphanies.
corporamatons, noun. a profiteering and parasitic conglomerate that has neither brain nor soul but is not aware of the former's or concerned about the latter's absence.



19 November, 2012

Intermezzo: Don't Mourn (Joe Hill and the Slow Enlightenment)

Now the boss the law is stretching /Bulls and pimps he's fetching/And they are a fine collection/ As only Jesus knows. -- Joe Hill, Where the Fraser River Flows



97 years ago today the state of Utah assassinated Joe Hill by firing squad after a kangaroo conviction for the murder of Salt Lake City grocer John Morrison and his son. According to legend, his final word was "Fire!"

I use the term assassinate deliberately. The evidence against Hill was flimsy, and the only reason they bothered with the firing squad was because the first bullet intended to silence him without the bother of a public trial didn't do its job.

After, according to the legend, Joe's ashes were sent to every state in the union-- except for the state of Utah, at Joe's request; he didn't want his remains to ever exist in the same state that murdered him.

Those of you familiar with his legacy know that his final exhortation to
his fellow Wobblies was not to waste time mourning for him, but to organize. Joe Hill believed that an organized and honest union was the only thing keeping working people from being exploited by organized capital -- those who get rich by mooching off the sweat of others than by their own work.

Today isn't the only day Joe Hill crosses my mind, of course. I enjoy the music he left behind -- those old Wobbly standards, many of them written to parody religious hymns -- and I thought about him quite a bit when I was Out and About earlier this year. I wrote earlier in the year about Cletus the Dog Man, who I met in Rapid City South Dakota; he was one of many I ran into or saw or overheard who were simply out looking for work. Most of them had no interest in leaving the place they thought of as home. But they felt like they had no choice.

That's part of the impossible situation created by those who have political power and influence in order to keep those of us who really have the power from ever being able to exercise it. If there's no work where you live, you're supposed to have the guts to pack and go find it -- as long as you have the gas money or ability to travel, of course. And if you can't do that, well, you're shit out of luck. The Michelle Bachmans and the Rand Pauls of the world would say that maybe God doesn't want you to have a job.

And don't forget the other caveat: if you DO travel around looking for work, don't travel by bus, because that means you're white and/ or ghetto trash and automatically a homicidal maniac and rapist.

Or, as I was mistaken for twice, Mexican.

In other words: work and pray,live on hay, you'll eat pie in the sweet by an by.

I do appreciate Joe's sense of humor. Though fewer people know the hymns, the parody is still a good one, and the satire is apt. The 21st Century is shaping up to be a repeat of history we've already lived but seemed to have learned nothing from.

Good thing I'm learning to play guitar again. There are plenty of songs that still need to be sung, and plenty of stories and poems,too. We're not done yet.

25 October, 2012

O Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me- Intermezzo: By Way Of An Introduction

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears. - Mumford and Sons, The Cave

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. -Lucretius


Even in my moments of deep solitude, I am keenly aware of the fact that I am not alone. Maybe the only way to understand the difference between alone and lonely is to have experienced both and until you have the discussion is purely theoretical. Being Out there have been times when I felt absolutely lonely; but I have never really felt alone. I'm lucky in this regard, because I am fortunate enough to have friends who tolerate me and loved ones who tolerate me even more.

I rarely write about the angels who have taken it upon themselves to look in on me from time to time, who worry for my well-being but who understand that I will do what I will regardless of how little common sense it seems to have. As a matter of fact, I've been accused, more than once, of not having a lick of common sense at all.  If anything, I am occasionally plagued by a certain blindness which looks an awful lot like naivete or an over-abundant faith in my own ability. Mostly though, I recognize that even the most assiduously laid plans are flawed.

When I set out in January and took to carrying my home on my back like any good turtle does, I did it in part with the realization that while I maintained the same obligation of CHOICE that I also was letting go of a lot of a priori notions, ideas people take for granted, in order to follow what I can only describe as THE WHIM OF THE UNIVERSE -- because I have long rejected the metaphor of the white bearded Almighty sitting on a cloud and because I realize that no matter how much good a person tries to do in the world, shit falls on the just and the unjust alike. Which is to say: while I believe that some of the good we do in the world may come back to us, and I do think any negative energy we put out into the world attracts negative people and negative events,

I reject the notion of "visualization" a la The Secret which has somehow managed to be labeled as self-help. 

Yes, we are responsible for our actions and their impacts.

Yes, it's important to be active and to be aware of our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. (Half of this begins with language... not only the words we use to communicate, but those words we use when we are thinking to ourselves.)

But if you decide to "visualize" yourself driving a Mercedes Benz, you will not necessarily end up driving said high end automobile. If you haven't figured that out yet, go listen to Janis Joplin. Even she knew better.

Sorry. 

And since we're on the subject of metaphors -- and with the understanding that all lines that are drawn in the sand are arbitrary -- let offer the one that, for now, offers some explanation of how I go about things.

Probably of no surprise to anyone who knows me, I tend to think in musical terms.

For more time than I cared to admit, life felt out of rhythm. I felt it. I think my now ex-wife felt it, too. When I set out in January, in as much as I was leaving a life that had ceased to work towards the growth of either me or my then wife, I was also searching for an appropriate rhythm.

Not someone else's that sounded good. Not one that was unnatural for me or ran contrary to my soul. I went in search of rhythm that was mine, my own, and no one else's. You can insert here the metaphor of "the path" as well. And as Joseph Campbell pointed out, if you can see the path in front of you it isn't of your making. The same goes with finding an appropriate rhythm. If you take on someone else's just because you like it or even because it makes sense, that doesn't mean it's the one you ought to be humming.

Ah... but back to the angels. And no. I don't mean the winged messengers of Gawd Almighty. I mean those folks who do the good work of the world, who care about others, and who find ways to show it. In my case, I have been visited/helped by more angels than I can possibly justify deserving. \

People I meet along the way, who have made a permanent impression on my mind, and on my heart.

People who have helped me without having a good reason, other than being simply good folk.

People who love me in spite of maybe not understanding me.

One of those angels, for example -- one I have not written about much -- gave me a heads up about the taxi service that saved me a long rainy walk from Litchfield to Carlinville.


View Larger Map


Sometimes, in spite of my (albeit humble) confidence in my ability when I'm out, the universe gives me a hand. In this case, is was in the form of someone who ... not wanting me to sleep out in the rain because it would have taken me much longer than the estimated 5.5 hours to walk 15 miles and I would have had to seek shelter somewhere in between... pointed me in the direction of a questionable but effective cab company that, for the cost of $24 and a lingering sensation that I was about to be become the victim of a team of sadistic rural serial killers, would drive me there.

Along the same route I would have probably walked.

You know who you are, angel. Thank you. You are proof that the universe can, indeed, be kind.

26 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt Intermezzo: The Disposition of Emily F_____


Don't judge me. You wanna judge me, put on a black gown and get a gavel. - Lil' Wayne

Marriage is the chief cause of divorce. - Groucho Marx


True to neurotic form, I got myself to the courthouse on time. Actually, I got there early. The Carroll County Courthouse opens to the public at 8:30 in the morning. Court proceedings begin promptly at 9. For those of you have never, in any capacity, dealt with the legal system -- there must be two or three of you out there somewhere -- it's important to note that just because court BEGINS at 9, that doesn't mean you actually get in front of a judge at 9. Carroll County is a small court system, though, in comparison to others and I felt like I had a pretty good chance of getting the divorce expedited.

(Divorce: AKA "The Big D" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" [mouthed silently so as to avoid shaming either the person getting a divorce or making the person talking about it feel indelicate. Also, if you say it three times in a row, a Johnny Cochran-style divorce lawyer magically appears and rips out your genitalia.)


Of course, I had to take off my hat and my red sweater, and I had to leave my cell phone and my blue ruck sack -- full of littrature I'm trying to hock -- outside. I took my copy of the paper work in and found a seat in the empty gallery. I didn't like the idea of leaving my hat; I've grown fond of the oil cloth hat. It's traveled with me since January, is smashable so it can fit easily in my pack, and is perfectly worn in. I was sure if I left it on the coat rack, that someone would walk by and take it -- because it's a cool hat. More than one person has offered to buy it off me. It's a hat with a lot of personality... though not too much*, at least for me. And while it may sound vain to say so, I don't think most people have sufficient character to wear it. Which is to say, most people are not enough of a character to wear it. Nez Pa?

I sat and waited. The docket was posted out in the hall, and Parsons v Parsons was listed pretty high on the list.  So I don't know if it's fair to say I felt optimistic -- one doesn't typically feel optimistic about divorce proceedings, even he is the one who filed and even though there is nothing left to contest. 

The State's Attorney, Scott Brinkmeier, walked in and up to the prosecutor's table. He took notice of me and remembered my face from the many times that he's dodged making any comments regarding some article or another I'm working on. He smiled his political poster smile and, after getting my name wrong, asked why I was there.

"Divorce."

"Ah." He pursed his lipless lips and lowered his tone. "Sorry to hear that."

"It happens."

This has become my response whenever someone expresses sympathy, empathy, shock, or judgement. It's easier than saying anything else, and people expect you to say something as a way to acknowledge their concern or to feed their need to butt into your private life. For me, it's an all purpose response:

Someone: Sorry to hear about your divorce.
Me: It happens.

Someone: Sorry to hear about your dog getting run over.
Me: It happens.

Someone: My condolences on the passing of your father.
Me: It happens.**

Someone: Sorry, the bar it closed.
Me: The hell you say.  (I mean: It happens.)

Brinkmeier's semi-uncomfortable silence was broken by the Bailiff, who called court into session, bid us all rise. The Robe walked in and waived us  back into our seats, and then another bailiff escorted in a stringy redheaded girl wearing orange jail scrubs.

This is Emily F___. According to what followed, she was supposed to show up for a court date on September 12th and did. She was picked up on the bench warrant and given a bail of $15,000. There was no mention of the charges, since it was a bench warrant hearing. In other words, she was brought in so the Robe could chastise her.

"Why didn't you make it to your court date?" asked the Robe.

"I was... uh... asleep," stammered Emily, probably in an attempt not to incriminate herself further.

"You slept for 3 days?"

"Uh, no," she replied. "I was going to turn myself in and then... I just didn't."

The Robe set a new court date, asked if she could pay 10% of the bail, and moved her on out. Then he called me up.

Approximately 10 minutes later -- after going over the paperwork, answering questions for the record such as  "Did you attempt to reconcile and find this useless?" the Robe ruled. I still had to pay $30 for the transcript, and once that was paid, he would sign the order thusly.

And that was it.

I walked outside after, and down the metal steps leading directly from the 2nd floor where the court rooms are located. The first thing I did was call Melissa. My call went straight voice mail. She had wanted me to text her when it was done; but I thought it too casual a communication method for something as serious as a civil divorce. I left her a brief message, and then sent her a text as well.

After that, I lit a cigar and sat down on the millstones in front of the court house. Set in concrete and looking like squat bench, the two millstones were from the old mill that used to operate along the bend of the Wakarusa River at the bottom the hill on Market Street. I'm unsure of how old the millstones are, but I know they are older than me, and probably older than my Dad was. They lasted longer than him. They lasted longer than the people who worked at the mill. They lasted longer than either of my marriages. And unless something happens, they will be there after I am worm food. Some things are meant to last. Others just aren't.

The cigar was nice, for a cheap gas station cigar. It helped me remember to breathe, which I had been trouble having most of the morning. Although I have been waiting for it, ready for it to not be hanging over my head for months, the weight of it... of the finality... was hitting me square in the chest. And even though I am quite happy with the direction my life is taking, it's difficult to know where to put it all, even still. The memories. The good and the bad of the years with her washed through me. Part of me wanted to cry, I won't lie. But I still have that old school admonition about men crying rolling around in my head. I'll save that for a more appropriate time, for a story or a poem.

Because really, that's where it all goes. Not catharsis. I don't believe in catharsis. For me, it's always about the story, the poem, the song. That was one of the things, I think, that maybe Melissa loved and hated the most about me. At some point, even the most intimate aspects of our lives became fodder for the work. I'm not enough of a hypocrite to apologize for it; but I am smart enough to recognize the part my need to play with words has in ordering -- or disordering -- the rest of my life.

___________

*"Never wear a hat that has more character than you." - Utah Phillips

** Part of the reason I have adopted the sometimes sardonic "It happens" response is because, when my father died 22 years ago, I became keenly aware of just how incompetent people are in the face of death and tragedy. Canned advice, promises of prayer, and admonishments not to question "the will of God." Meh.



20 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Intermezzo - Useful

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. - Jiddu Krishnamurti

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. - Abraham Lincoln


The Parsons family are all about working hard and doing what is needed to get ahead in life and be the best we can, and making a good life for our children, and serving our Country. what in any of that have you done or are doing? - Screechy Mary, Gun-running Cousin


The autumnal tinge in the air is telling me it's getting time to move on, and so is the calender. This time next week, the local magistrate will have backwards genuflected and any reverse broom-hopping will have been done. My return tenure at the paper will be more or less done --much to the glee of the grumps who are content to strangle the town into the nitrate poisoned dust. As the song goes


The chilly wind will soon begin and I'll be on my way....



As much as I've enjoyed seeing my friends here, listening to some great music, and getting the chance to tell a story or two, I'm ready to shake some the dirt off, stretch my legs, and get back out on the road. I plan on staying in the Midwest for a bit before jumping down to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Mothpocalypse and The Happy F%$^^in' Endings  on November 2nd-4th.  After that, back up to the Ohio Valley, for some Turkey Day celebrating with My Dear Sweet Ma, and then, another run through Kentucky, hopefully to visit friends, to the East Coast, where I'm hoping to see The Kid in between her school and work and generally impatient insistence on trying to be a GROWN-UP. And then, down the coast, to Florida, down to Port Charlotte -- where the beaches are warm, the water is beautiful, and there will be no snow.

At least, that's the plan. For now.

Because I'm still pondering flying against common sense and my own inclinations and going NORTH, to the Bakken Oil Fields in the Northwest corner of North Dakota to see what a boom town looks like... particularly in far off off OFF chance that Mitt Romney wins the election, since he would have us drilling even more than we are (even though Obama has allowed more drilling than GW Bush and we're taking so much coal out of the mountains that we've graduated from mine shafts to strip mining to mountain top removal ... that's TAKING THE TOPS OFF MOUNTAINS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND LONGER THAN WE HAVE.) 

To be fair, it probably doesn't matter who's sleeping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- they're both backed by  big banks, big business, and big pocketbooks. 

Please don't take this an opportunity to flood me with the virtues of Ron Paul. You want to see his virtue, look at his son, Rand -- named after Ayn "Fuck the Poor" Rand -- and listen to him after he's finished telling you he would abolish every government agency that you think is making your life miserable. He's a mook of the highest order -- a Libertarian who's too scared to use the label, his idea of America would effectively take us back to the dark ages.

But... North Dakota is still on my mind, yes. And so is the fact that I hate cold weather. But I am (re)learning -- constantly -- that the universe will blow me where ever it damn well pleases, and not always to my preference.

A motif that has been coming up... well...  since January ... is What I Plan on "Really" Doing. And even though I have, at various times, stated pretty clearly what I intend NOT to do... and even what I intend to do --which is travel, write, not buy into the dead myth of Pax Americana, love my country, question the government, meet good people, find stories worth re-telling, and (re)learn to play the guitar --  the question keeps cropping up, though in different words.

Mostly, people want to know what I'm going To DO... as in, what respectable job will I get. I feel I've been perfectly clear on this one as well.  But if anyone is confused, I plan to avoid anything that might cause me to be respected. To be respected in this society is to acquiesce to the rules and machinations of said society... regardless of how screwed up it is.

Fuck all that.

My hope is to be useful, though. And in spite of one recent Letter to the Editor which referred to what I do as "spinning lies for pocket change" (thanks, Nina for that. Sorry that you're such a lousy writer yourself and a miserable, bitter hag to boot.) I do think there is merit in paying attention. Because, if I'm being honest, that's pretty much what I do. I pay attention. To people. To stories. To poems. To songs. To events. To history. To you. 

I was also called out recently for shaming my father's memory and for not following one particularly bitchy relative's notion of what my family tradition is. Then again -- it seems like the Parsons family tradition has more to it than money grubbing and exploiting misinformation to make more money selling bullets to people who believe Obama is going to take away their guns. My dad didn't keep guns around. He didn't need them. One tongue lashing / lecture from him and you'd rather be shot. Believe me. My Dad DID tell me some stories, try and get me to think right about some things, and tried to keep me out of jail (Which would have been preferable to any of his punishments.)  He did things his own way more or less. He told me about my grandfather -- who did things his own way. From what I can tell, the only thing anyone on the Old Man's side of the family has in common is that we have nothing in common except that we do things our own way.

In this, then, I am not far off the mark, at least.

With any luck, I will find ways to be useful -- and not in some way defined by someone else. Generally I find that most problems, personal and otherwise, arise from language barriers. Useful is one of those words that people tend to define narrowly and with very little imagination.  When you begin defining language for yourself, when you begin defining the elements that impact your life in your own way, you cease being useful to a lot of people. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

What can be a bad thing is when you stop short of redefining for yourself what it means to be useful. Or, in the process of defining what it means, you forget that humanity is more important the terms people often use to define it.

  

26 June, 2012

Eastward-ish - Intermezzo: Call Me Noman (Erasure of Old Self)

Bismillah* your old self
to find your real name. - Rumi


I felt like a dying clown
But with a streak of Rin Tin Tin - The Who


My name is Ozymandias, king of kings!
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! - Percy Bysshe Shelley


It's not completely unheard of to lose your ass at a casino. I mean, it happens all the time. In any movie or television show set in Vegas, if there's a scene in a casino, you've seen someone acting like they've lost their ass. For every story you hear of someone winning at a casino -- it does happen because too much losing is bad for business -- there are countless people who lost their ass ... or more... because the house always wins.

What is, perhaps, a bit more unusual is to completely lose your identity.

Lost. Stolen. Some cosmic message in the form of a pickpocket. Whatever.

The day began on a simple premise. My friend Jamie is, apparently, something of a card sharpie at the blackjack tables and can turn a little bit of money into a slightly larger amount of money in a matter of hours. She wanted to go, partially to have something to do, but also so she could win some money to add to my travel fund.  A dear heart, really. She even offered to stake me some money so I could play myself.

Now, all lines being arbitrary... because, let's be honest, they mostly are... I told her I didn't like the idea of gambling with someone else's money. This, she thought, was completely ridiculous. It was no big deal, she maintained. If I lost my stake, she would be able to make it back. And if I happened to win, I count it as a contribution to the travel fund. And since all lines are, really, for the most part, arbitrary...

I thought, what the hell.

Now, I should also mention that while I am no expert at the game of Blackjack. I have some experience at it.  Actually, other than the horses, the game of 21 is my preferred method of itching the gambling urge. And while the money is nice, it's the adrenaline rush that tends to drive me in these situations. I like blackjack because not only is it an easy game to learn, but it also satisfies a certain egalitarian impulse: you always play against the house, not against your fellow players.

In theory. Apparently there's all sorts of things you can do to put the squeeze on your fellow players and press your own advantage. I will admit a certain ignorance regarding this sort of table etiquette. There are a a few often thought of "hard and fast" rules in how you play the came, like Hit on 16 and Stay on 17. But what they don't tell you is that those rules are as much to the houses's advantage as the odds on a Roulette Wheel. Yes, there are times when it's goo to hit on 16. There are also times when it's good to stay on 14. Because in spite of the seeming simplicity of the rules, the cars are still fickle, they're still shuffled, and they still behave in a random way.

I was doing okay for a while, and managed to a but more than double the stake Jamie had given me. Jamie was doing pretty well herself, for the most part, but she kept giving me advice... which was distracting her from her game. The table was pretty calm, a nice flow was going and the winning was spreading itself around... which is what, in the best of all situations, you can hope for. Then a high rolling Ethiopian, who played loud and nervous and talked smack to distract the order of the game, came and sat in the chair to my right, putting him on the dealer's left and in the first position for cards. I managed to win a few more deals, even getting a Blackjack (a face card and an ace) or two. The more I won, the more smack he talked. He was betting heavy, and had clearly had a number in mind he needed to hit in order to confirm his manhood.

I was up, and the Ethiopian started winning as well. Then he finally hit his number and left. A few more hands were dealt, Jamie was up, so was the other player at the table, and things were going pretty well.

And came The Cooler.

We cycled through two different dealers, both of whom did a good job of spreading the wealth around whenever possible. The third dealer, however -- a cold skinny bitch with fake eyelashes and a pre-teen's love of blue eye shadow -- killed the table almost immediately. And between here and other pre-teen who felt like he'd gained some experience at the $1 buy in tables (There's a 25 cent table fee with each hand. This means that in order to win $1, you have to pay $1.25. To win at all, you have to bet in $5 increments... which means you might as well find a $5 table. But it's good for the kiddies that don't want to feel like they're losing a lot and who never paid attention in math class.)

I lost my buffer and my stake pretty quickly. It was clear that Jamie wasn't finished, though so I told her I'd get some air and wait. 

I went outside and smoked. I could've smoked inside the casino, but it was nice day outside, and I wanted to sit outside and get away from the sound of the slot machines. One of the reasons casinos can afford to let people win at cards is because their money is in slot machines. And spare me the amazing stories of people who have won masses of cash sitting for hours sipping a mojito, smoking a carton of Virginia Slims, and squinting aggressively at the machine in front of them. The odds are always in the house's favor. Yes, they have to let people win so people will walk through the doors to lose and still feel like they had a reasonable chance. But if playing Blackjack is an egalitarian activity, owning a casino is akin to being a successful drug dealer. They ALWAYS come back.

So I smoked, I engaged in some constructive people watching, and felt pretty good. 

Then I noticed my journal was not in my back pocket where I had thought it was.

My first thought was: "I can't find my journal!"

Then I remembered: both my driver's license -- my only form of picture ID -- and my bus pass were in my journal as well.

Did I drop it? I thought about the last time I'd seen it. That was lunch.Sometimes I take it out and set it the table, along with my cell phone, when I eat. I went back to all the placed I'd been. I went to the casino restaurant were we ate lunch. They told me anything left at the table would have been turned into lost and found. I asked where that was located, and was told that I could talk to any white-shirted security officer and they would help me.

So I found the nearest rent-a-cop and described my journal, it's important contents, and asked if he could check. He did. There was nothing in lost and found matching the description. I back tracked every step I could remember. Nothing anywhere. Then I went to the parts of the casino I didn't even go to, around the slots where the wrinkled old ladies say smoking near tobacco-less cigarettes and sipping Diet Coke. Nothing. I found a second security guard. He checked over the radio. Nada. I went to find Jamie and found her at another table, doing very well. Between hands I asked if she had it... maybe, I thought, it slid out of my pocket when I left the table. She didn't have it, and gave the key to the car just in case it slipped out of my pocket there, which I was sure it hadn't.  It wasn't in the car.

At this point I asked another security guard and after the third check, I was sent to a house phone. Maybe some luck?

No. Zack, who was very apologetic, took down my contact information and said they'd call me if it turned up.

I ended up having to get Jamie to take me back to hers and Dave's place to see if maybe, just maybe I had forgotten it there. I knew I didn't because I don't forget my journal. Any one who knows me knows this about me.

Jamie said she had a good feeling, but I didn't share the sentiment. She felt bad because the casino had been her idea, but she didn't need to. Either I lost it because I wasn't paying attention, or it was stolen by someone who mistook it for a wallet or pocket book.

All they'd find is my nearly indistinguishable scrawls and scribbles, my bus pass, my Illinois Driver's License, and my IWW Red Card... which is behind on stamps because I haven't paid dues since hitting the road. Then it occurred to me that if it HAD been stolen, the most they could hope for was to steal my identity.

Let them try, I thought. My credit rating is so bad at this point they'll lose money trying to make it work. If some undocumented worker tried to steal my name for employment, even that record is spotty. Shit. Let 'em have the collectors and parasites that have my name on some list somewhere. Let 'em have my student loan debt.

I drank a beer, ate two cookies, and began to breathe. Yes, breathe. When people panic, usually the first thing they stop paying attention to is the one thing that, without it, they will not be alive. Air. There's a reason that every form of meditation there is begins with a breathing exercise of some kind. Breathing is fundamental. You can have water and food, but without air, it's meaningless. It's something I've fallen back on when I've been on the road and have to change my travel plans at the last minute. Like leaving St. Louis and going to Nashville. Like going to Colorado instead of Salt Lake City. Breathe. Adapt.

Losing my license and bus pass -- which only had a week left on it -- is not fundamentally different from any other change in plans. People place more importance on having photo ID because society is constantly insisting that we prove who we are, that we defend our right to belong, that we identify as one of the group and take our place among them, happy in our very specific anonymity.

I was annoyed at the loss of the journal, my notes since San Francisco, the various bits of poems I hadn't gotten a chance to type out. But I've been writing long enough to know there will always be more words, and the poems... well, they sometimes return of their own volition. As if they will themselves into being.

The universe has a funny way of sometimes giving you what you need when you don't know you need it. People sometimes enter and leave your life at just the right time. Relationships end so that new ones can begin. Although I love my family dearly, I have, over the years wondered what it might be like to have a different name. I have had different names over the years: Mickey, Mic, Michael, Mick, Quill, Papa. I have sought a way to bring the self within myself closer to the surface... to be who I am rather than what the culture dictates I ought to be.

And now, I am divested of my official identification... and in a way, my identity. I can call on a dozen people or more who could attest to my existence, and know me and who I am. There are people who love me, people who see me... truly see me. So, other than the inconvenience of occasionally being carded in a bar... usually by someone who looks 12 ... do I really need more proof of my own existence other than myself?

A name is a marker, nothing more. It separates us from others. Some believe our naming impacts who we become. But really, all a name does is tell others who are.... and who we are not. We attribute more to some names than others. Historical names. Rich names. Famous names. Infamous names. In the end, though, a name is nothing more than an utterance we have been trained since birth to respond to. Sons (many times) carry the last name of their father. Daughters (many times) carry that name unless they decide to get married and exchange it for another person's name. A name has been connected to notions of dependence and independence, to slave ownership, to heritage, to tradition, to the passing on of wealth and affluence, or -- at times -- the passing on of guilt, spite, hatred, and judgement.

What's the line by Shakespeare? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet?

Granted, in context, Mercutio is trying to convince Romeo to girl he's infatuated with and move on to some other more willing conquest. And then, of course, Romeo meets Juliet and turns into a dumbass.

Sorry. It's not a romantic play. It's farce. It's about how stupid young people can be, and how pointless family feuds are. It's not romantic to kill yourself because you didn't check to see if your girl is still breathing.

My point, though? I am no less who I am just because I can't prove it. In fact, it's possible that  I am more me now than at any time in my life. Ever.

____

*Bismillah: "In the name of god," spoken prior to a sacrificial slaughtering of an animal in the Sufi / Middle Eastern tradition.








12 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Intermezzo: Answer To The Most Asked Question

"I'm a spoiled bitch" resonates in any language. - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)


Why do one-eyed Nazis always have the coolest eye patches? - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)

It's early June, and except for a few extended visits with friends and family, I've been Out and About for almost half a year. When I started re:visionary, it was meant to be part travel blog, part poetry journal, part political and culture commentary. There are elements, early on, that describe the disintegration of my marriage, and I am loathe to go back and read over them even though I know at some point I'll have to. I'm not loathe to read them because the memories cause me pain or discomfort or embarrassment. But I think at some point I'll have to combine what I've put in the blog with what I haven't had room for. And there's more. Much, much more, to be done.

Besides, while I can have bouts of what are best described as rampant sentimentality, I am not generally struck with nostalgia.  I do not long for the past -- not mine, not someone else's, and not any sort of revised and misrepresented point in history. I want to learn from the past, and carry those lessons with me into the present and future in the same way I carry my rucksack.

When I started out at the beginning of the year, it was with the intention of writing it all down, of staying out and living on the cheap as much as possible, and depending on the little bit of money I had when I left, plus any donations to the Travel Fund. (Graciously accepted, thank ye gawd bless ye).

Living this way is a feast or famine proposition; but, if I'm being honest ... and I'm ALWAYS honest, Dear Readers... so it goes for most people, indigent or no.  If you're one paycheck away from living out of your car or out of a backpack, then it's feast or famine for you, too. 

One of the nice things about being back in Tempe is that my friends here -- bar friends all -- remember me as a writer. More than one of them have asked if I'm working on another book, since they liked the other one so much. I've tried explaining americanrevisionary.com to them, and in spite of myself, it always comes off slightly more like an adventure story than an attempt to understand the country I call home, the American Dream that never was, and my life which in constant flux. This trip is is as much about the poetry I'm writing as it is the poetry I'm finding.

Maybe it comes off like an adventure because I still look at it that way... because I choose to live my life as the way it suits me rather than the way it suits the governmental and social  institutions that have let us all down. 

A few people -- some of them friends, some familial -- have asked What I Intend To Do Next. It's a question I often dodge, mostly because I don't feel like having the whole long discussion. But it has also occurred to me that in order for the blog to really be honest... and I strive to be honest, I do, Dear Readers... that I need to go ahead and say it as directly and as clearly as possible.

I don't intend to stop. I will take a break from time to time. But I like being Out and About too much. I need it too much. And I don't have any interest in having another job that will require me to sacrifice or compromise those elements of myself that are good and noble.  I'd rather live a real life than watch a reality TV show. I'd rather hear the stories of people I meet on the road than read about them on the internet. I'd rather be myself than other people's idea of me.

And I have found that the people who love me... who truly love me... know this about me even before I say it. One or two hold out hope... like My Dear Sweet Ma, I think... that I'll settle down again. She told me once,though, that it's possible she simply has her own ideas on what it means to be happy... and that mine don't have to be same.

I'm heading east for some rest, some respite, and some much needed warmth. But then I'm going to be off again... to the South, I think. Port Charlotte, Florida in the winter sounds wonderful.

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. - 
Bodhidharma






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.

FOR NOW.

[Thanks again for reading. Remember to SHARE the link and to consider DONATING to the travel fund (the link in the right sidebar, or, you can log into PayPal and email it to mickp@gmx.com... you don't have to have PayPal account.)

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.]




15 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness: The Arkansas Men's Social Club, 2.2

[Continued from 2.1]


It is one of those fables which out of an unknown antiquity convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


A word or two on the remaining principal characters:


Donner is a contractor who is used to working hard and independently. And like most men who are either from a rural region or who end up there by predilection, grew up something of a natural problem solver. Dion is generally thought well of by the other members of the Arkansas Men's Social Club. And he is actually fairly well thought of by Donner; but also like men who are either from a rural region or who end up there by predilection, Donner would hardly every say so... unless he was drunk or unless it was some holiday like Christmas, New Years Eve, or Lincoln's Birthday. Tweed (who has not arrived on the scene yet) -- is a retired man whose actual former occupation is unknown by me; but he continues to piddle and work -- as men who are raised to work are wont to do in order to avoid death and boredom. Al -- or Alfonse, which he prefers not to be called -- is an artist, an avid reader of arcane literature,a drinker, and something of a storyteller. Though he is not from these parts, he ended up here as the result of a dozen or so questionable decisions, one of them being a short sighted desire for sobriety. Though he is what he would call an Old Fart, he has an artist's interest life and a much younger man's zeal for women.


Sven was doing a reasonably good job of not showing his concern. One of the things that makes him a good proprietor is his attention to detail, and his need to control as much of the world around him as humanly possible. But he's also lived enough to know that there's really very little anyone can control except those things a man creates for himself... and that even that, sometimes, is difficult. The other advantage Sven has is that he grew up in the restaurant business and so has learned to curb his need to control and maintain against the understanding that one way or the other, sometimes a square peg really does fit in a round hole.

Every once in a while, if you learn to loaf and invite your soul, as the American Bard* once wrote, you will see history in action. Thus, if you want to understand the true genius behind the Constitutional Convention, The Treaty at Versailles, The League of Nations, and every family cook out since the invention of the gas grill, you need to watch  a group of men try and decide on how to do something that could be easier than any of the parties involved are making it.

Harry, who's truck would see the most immediate damage, wasn't concerned.

"Are you sure the tailgate can handle the weight?" Slim asked. "I don't think it will."

Harry shrugged. "Eh. All I know is if we can't get this thing out of my truck, I got a new refrigerator."

Everyone laughed -- Sven with a tad more discomfort (Not because he thought Harry would actually drive off the new appliance, but because the thought itself secretly terrified him.) -- and the group of them proceeded toss out ideas and considerations and provisos.

The  group agreed to the proposition that Harry back his truck up to the Kraft Building door, though the precise distance was briefly and bitterly debated. One line of thought -- suggested by who I don't remember -- was that Harry could simply back up as close as he could get that would allow head room for the box to be tipped backwards, and that we could all, with the number of back involved, carefully lift the appliance out and down out of the truck bed and onto ground. This was rejected almost immediately because no one wanted to be the person responsible for dropping the thing after so much had gone into getting it out of the semi. (No one mentioned, rightly since it was immediately understood, the likelihood that one more backs would be injured, with potentially permanent implications.)

At this point, Tweed showed up, bringing with him his own brand of wisdom, drive and an easy going temperament.

"WHY CAN'T WE JUST LIFT IT OUT?"

The group then tried to explain -- all at once -- why that would be a bad idea.

"WHY DON'T WE JUST TILT IT BACK AND CARRY IT ON IT'S SIDE?"

Sven and several others then answered that it wasn't generally a good idea to put a commercial grade refrigerator on its side. To be perfectly honest, I had the same thought, since it looked like maybe trying to tip the behemoth appliance combined with the height of the truck made it too tall to simply tip into the coffee shop -- ramps or no ramps.

When I'm faced with these situations -- that is, where I have the option to either assert myself as an Expert In All Things**, or to sit back and wait it out -- I often play it safe and wait for the dust to settle. This isn't due so much to a lack of confidence in my ideas as it is a realization I arrived at long ago:

I'm essentially a one trick pony.

Emerson warned us about what would happen in a society where the division of labor is reduced to giving one person training in one specific area in The American Scholar (1837). According to Emerson, only a society of well-rounded citizens can truly be free and democratic. Additionally, Henry David Thoreau pointed out in Walden (1854)  that the division of labor removed people from a sense of connectedness with the world and results in the concentration of wealth in the very few.

I'm a writer. Part of being a writer means that I've held plenty of other jobs at various times. I won't run down the entire list now. But I haven't exactly spent all of the last 20 years cloistered away in libraries and academic halls.  But that's part of it... and part of trying to be a better all around person. And while I may not be useful or handy -- I don't build, plumb, or repair with any aptitude (Though I can follow directions. That's what you learn in college, kids!) Being a writer also means that, in addition to loafing and inviting my soul, I also observe, and sometimes eavesdrop on conversations. (My daughter refers to this as being a "creeper." To me it's just plain ol' People Watching, which I learned from my Dad... who, while he wasn't a writer, was a grand talker and student of the human condition.***)

So I remained silent, prepared to offer my help in whatever form might have been needed.^  And I waited. And I watched.

Tweed offered to run and get roller casters that could be used to roll the box once it was ground level. He made this offer three or four times, and finally took the silence of the others as an affirmation. Before he left, though, he did make one more suggestion.

"WHY DON'T WE CUT IT OUT OF THE BOX? IT MIGHT GIVE US MORE HEADROOM TO GET IT THROUGH THE DOOR."

Sven reacted to that suggestion with silent panic and well-contained terror, hidden more or less efficiently by a rapid shaking of his head. Slim and Harry also shook their heads, and Donner pointed out that while cutting it out of the box might allow for more space, it would also increase the risk of hurting the stainless steel.

"WE COULD JUST BE CAREFUL," Tweed pointed out. His attempt to explain and qualify his idea was ignored.

By this time, Dion had left to go get the ramps that Donner insisted wouldn't work. And in the meantime, the members of the Arkansas Men's Social Club considered the possibility of using a different door.

The other door is just as heavy; but it's at the top of 5 or 6 concrete steps and was actually closer to the kitchen.

"I can just pull up on the sidewalk," Harry said.

"Won't that hurt your truck?" Slim asked.

"Why?" Harry answered. "It's a truck."

"Yes," Sven said. "But it's a truck with an additional 500 pounds in the back."

"He's also worried that the fridge might tip over," Donner added.

Sven agreed.

The new door idea was quickly discarded and the men went about trying to figure out how to get the appliance down without hurting the appliance, the tail gate, or the hardwood floor.

Dion soon arrived with the ramps. When Donner saw them he said, "Oh, you meant those. Those might work."

About that time Tweed returned with the coasters, which, upon seeing them, the other men agreed might be useful as well. It was then decided that the men could use the lifting straps to edge the appliance off the truck bed, over the tailgate, and onto the ramps, which were designed to hold the weight of a car.

Also around this time, Al showed up for his mid-day constitutional. He arrived about the same time each afternoon, carrying some book or another -- almost always a different book from the previous day, and almost always with a title like The Secret, Sacred Wisdom of Conifers Planted By the Knight's Templar. Al is a painter. A long time ago graduate of the Chicago Institute of Art, he is, he admits, not one of those  painters whose work is "the next thing" in the development of  art. But he's also a natural talker, a copious and respectable drinker, and a reader of esoteric and unknown books -- all three of which make him fine company for me, most of the time. Like me, he stood back and watched. He made some small talk, and had an amused smile on his face. (Like most artists and semi-barbarous old coots, Al understands the absurd when he sees it. Also, his status as an older gentleman and mind as a useless scribbler necessarily excluded us from being drafted for hard labor.)

Donner and Dion eyeballed the ramp and the appliance to make sure it would sit on the ramps correctly; Harry, Slim, Sven, and Fred -- who up to this point played a purely supervisory role -- each grabbed an end of a lifting strap... two of which had been snaked through the pallet from one side to the other. Fred picked up his end, shouldering the strap with an resigned expression befitting Sisyphus.



After a brief count, a silent prayer, and a hope for backs stronger than their combined years, the men carefully lifted the appliance and moved it in line with the ramps. This meant putting the weight of the appliance on the tailgate... but like the marvel of modern Mexican manufacture, it held.

From there, Sven, Harry, Slim, Donner, and Dion managed to slide the appliance down the ramps and through the door -- there was still plenty of headroom left between the top of the box and the bottom of the upper door frame -- and in. At that point, they again lifted it just enough to get Tweed's coasters underneath... which made it easier to roll across the hardwood floor.

Getting the appliance into the refrigerator was a simpler process but had much more fanfare. Initially there was some concern that it wouldn't fit through the door -- either horizontally or vertically. So after some eyeballing and some tape measuring, it was decided that:

  1. it had to come out of the box, and
  2. it had to come off the pallet.

Upon hearing that, Tweed snapped out his box cutter and went to work with the same glee that a child has when attacking wrapped presents under a Christmas tree. Sven looked mildly concerned that Tweed would scratch the stainless steel; but the cardboard and Styrofoam fell quickly. Fred picked up the cardboard, joking that he would use it to make a new fortress of solitude. No one, as I recall, tried to claim the packing material.

Donner and Slim then got down on their hands and knees to see how difficult it would be to lift the appliance off the pallet. The commercial refrigerator had wheels of its own, and they weren't bolted or tied into the pallet at all -- which was good news.

The only real bad news was Slim's plumber ass... which all of us agreed was a crime against nature.

Eventually, though, they manged to get the appliance off the pallet -- while managing NOT to swish anyone's fingers -- and into the kitchen.

Dion, who stood back to watch at this point -- which was really the only reasonable thing to do -- said to me "Seems like they made this harder than it needed to be."

I agreed. "Yep. But it's that way with most things."

Al was standing with us as well. I told him I had been working on a whole different blog, but that I now felt compelled to throw it out and write a different one.

He only gave me one piece of advice. "When you do," he said, "say it happened in Arkansas. After all no one would believe this could happen HERE."



*Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892). The poem referred to above can be found here...and in a thing once called a book entitled Leaves of Grass.
** To proclaim oneself an Expert In All Things is the natural-born right of every man... just as it is the natural inclination of everyone else to demand proof on an uncomfortably regular basis, and the natural right of women to assume we're full of shit.
*** The latter is virtually a prerequisite for being a writer. The former, while not a necessary for being a writer, helps in getting free drinks.
^It wasn't.


[Thanks for reading. My road plans are laid out for the next month or so. I'm headed back out of Mount Carroll on 3/24 and going to Cincinnati to stow my home goods away. 


  • Then, a brief road trip with my Mom back out to Virginia to visit the Kid.  
  • Then, I'll be doing another run through Kentucky, via Greyhound, stopping over on Willow Drive for a promised return,
  • and through Louisville to visit with another college chum and to catch some pre-Derby races at Churchill Downs.


From Louisville (pronounced Lu'vlle) my tentative plans are to visit Hannibal, Missouri, childhood home to one of my literary heroes, Mark Twain. After that, points west.


And if you REALLY like what you're reading, remember:

  • You can share the link. (Go ahead. I don't mind.)
  • You can click the donate button and contribute to the travel fund, use mickp@gmx.com to contribute via paypal, or click use the tip function on Open Salon.  (Please? What if I promise to visit? What if I promise NOT to visit??)

And if you HAVE contributed... Thank you.  If I was there, I'd kiss you. Ok, maybe not a kiss. Maybe a hug. Or, if you prefer, a strong handshake. 


Seriously... thanks.]







13 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness Mount Carroll Reprisal, Intermezzo 2.1: The Arkansas Men's Social Club

Maybe you can suggest something. As a matter of fact, you do suggest something. To me you suggest a baboon. - Rufus T. Firefly (Grouch Marx) - Duck Soup (1933)


How many men does it take to make popcorn? Four, one to hold the pot, and three to act macho and shake the stove. - joke


So I had this whole other blog post planned for today... something about the sheer stupidity  of Daylight Savings Time, insomnia, packing books, performing at the open mic I helped start, and planning to go southbound and (after May 1st) go west

because that's what all men without permanent employment, home or social function do. Right?


But as I was sitting down at Brick Street Coffee -- the monosyncratic infidibulum** of Mount Carroll, particularly with the impending closure of Charlie's II on the corner of Main and Carroll Streets, which has been in more or less continuous operation for 50 years or better on various names, with maybe a year (but not more) of being closed in between proprietors -- a grand event occurred. I say grand not so much because it was supposed to be a big event with much falderal, pomp, hubbub, and hullabaloo -- the things that make for grand events in other parts of the world. No; I call it grand because of the Herculean effort, on the part of the Arkansas Men's Social Club*, to move a 500 pound commercial refrigerator from the back end of a semi-trailer parked in the middle of Market Street through the door and back to the recently enlarged kitchen of Brick Street Coffee, located in Main Street Commons -- or, as it is commonly referred to by  nearly everyone, The Kraft Building.

The Kraft Building, a cornerstone of the Historic Downtown, is called such because it housed a clothing store under that moniker, and several other things over the the years. A fire left it burned out for years before it was salvaged -- though the project itself ... not described here... proves that  no goo deed goes unpunished in a small town where some people have nothing keeping them alive but the care and maintenance of old grudges.

Now, there are often delivery trucks in the center of town -- usually liquor distributors -- but most of them don't stay parked in the middle of the street for approximately 10 minutes while a group of six men... well 5 men and boy... well, to be precise, one interloper (me) one boy and four men... decide how to unload a 500 pound commercial refrigerator from the back of a 18 wheel trailer and getting into the building without hurting the fridge ... which Brick Street Coffee owner/proprietor Sven procured at no small expense, and very quickly at that, since it arrived on a Monday after being ordered on a Friday, all the way from Madisonville, Kentucky... and without doing damage to either the door or the floor of the Kraft Building itself.  The door is a heavy, wooden framed door that was designed and built with the building in mind. On some days, when the wind is just right, opening the door feels like opening a heavy bank vault door. It stands approximately 36 hands high and 15 hands wide. More than once little old ladies have struggled against it and nearly lost, having only been saved by either an able-bodied son, another customer who has practiced, or Sven -- who, not wanting anyone to have a bad experience ever, would open the door for or close the door behind anyone he noticed struggling with it. That he did this with remarkable speed impressed everyone, leading some to suspect him a practitioner of magic or half of a set of twins named Sven who would simply appear to open and close the heavy door.

Because Mount Carroll is a small town, the first thing on anyone's mind is to help a friend in need. (The second is power tools. The third is stock car racing. After this comes family. God ranks somewhere around beer and beef jerky.) So naturally, when Sven announced to those of us huddling in the back corner of the coffee shop with nothing to do, everyone present jumped up to help. Or at least, to watch. And it just so happened that the other present were members of the Arkansas Men's Social Club... a cadre of men ranging from late middle to retirement age who alternately drank coffee, played pinochle, told lies, expanded on half truths, and, on rare occasion, Did Something.

Harry, a retired Wisconsin cop, offered the use of his truck. The idea was rather than try and build a ramp and slide the thing down to brick street level... which it was generally agreed upon would be a disaster for the appliance, potentially the street, and whoever would end up underneath it.

First, however the semi truck would have to be facing the other direction so the back of the trailer could be at least facing the general direction of the Kraft Building. To accomplish the, the driver -- who probably was starting to wish he hadn't gotten up that morning and had never heard of Mount Carroll, Brick Street Coffee, and that he had never been so unfortunate as to choose driving a truck for a vocation -- stepped wearily into the cab, put it into gear and... after several local cars squeaked by rather than bother to spend an extra 10 seconds and find a side street... whipped the entire semi into a tight-cricled u-turn in the intersection where Market and Main Streets meet.

This feat was done so easily and without effort that I'm almost ashamed to admit that I expected at least three different cars to be taken out in the process of loading the appliance in; luckily, no demolition was involved and the truck was soon facing outbound... which, I'm sure, was the direction the driver was prepared to barrel off into as soon as the cargo is unloaded and the appropriate paperwork signed.

Harry then backed his truck up to the back end of the trailer. At this point, however, the story begins to diverge as Slim, Donner, and Dion all began, along with Harry, to offer up suggestions as to what the best way to get the appliance from the back of the delivery semi to the bed of the truck was, since the new concern was to not damage the tailgate of harry's truck by dropping a 500 pound cardboard box on it -- unless, of course, there was no other option.

I was there to lend a hand if necessary, and so was my good friend Fred, a local entrepreneur who had found himself, quite accidentally, at the top of reasonably successful homemade fudge business. The fudge shop was originally intended to be less of a job and more of a time waster; enough to justify the space but not enough to turn into real work... which Fred, like all blessed creatures under the sun, abhors down deep.

Slim, another retired cop and Harry's pinochle partner, suggested getting straps and carefully guiding the behemoth appliance down. After some discussion as to the precise dimensions of the pallet and some trading of weaker straps for stronger ones -- and after Donner yelled at Dion at least four times for prematurely suggesting (in slightly different language) what the gray haired majority ended up doing anyway -- the group of them, as I stood there watching, to record it all faithfully and without bias, managed to finagle the 500 pound cardboard box that stood as tall as a normal man and as wide as an average man from Carroll County Illinois down and out of the back of the semi and onto Harry's lined truck bed without damaging the tailgate.

Once that step was complete the semi truck driver closed up the trailer, at which time both he and the entire truck disappeared without so much as a puff of smoke... no doubt heading back to the wilds of Madisonville Kentucky, where he would probably punch the warehouse supervisor in the face.

But that still left us with the problem of getting the fridge off the back of Harry's truck, through the large door, across the hardwood floor, and back snuggly into the space in the newly expanded kitchen -- without damage to any of the aforementioned elementals or the people involved.

*The reason for calling it the Arkansas Men's Social Club will become clear. In any event, names herein have been changed to protect the innocent, the weak, and the lazy. I leave it up to the reader to decide who is what.
**monosyncratic infidibulum, n. Epicenter. 

07 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, Intermezzo: Regarding The Peripatetic Peregrination

The problem with traveling is that it's addictive. At least it is for me. My time back in Mount Carroll is nice, and it's good to see friends. But the itch has kicked into hyper-drive. Again. The full body sensation is a disconcerting experience I liken to an asthma attack. 


(And yes, I know of what I speak. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 5 and dealt with it until I was 18, when I finally outgrew it.)

One of the things I realized on this last 6 weeks out is that I am my most content when I'm mobile. Please note, I did not use the term happy. There's a  large gulf of difference between happiness and contentedness.The former is a term describing a temporary state of being based on short term emotions and the release of certain chemicals in the brain -- which can be physiological or imbibed, snorted, or injected. The latter describes a deeper, more fundamental state of being that remains after the chemical/hormonal rush of happiness fades. (And it always fades.)

And while I'm still getting things lined up, planned, and taken care of, some evidence of future forward momentum has occurred...

which, while it doesn't completely still the itch, does help. Enormously.

For one thing, my new rucksack arrived today. 

Easier to carry, and will hold a bit more. BOO-YAH! And yes. It's blue. Deal with it.


For another, I've made part of my travel plans... which, as of yet, do not include me breaking the Mississippi River Barrier. 

First things first: I'm working on getting my stuff out of the house on Pumpkin Hill and down to Cincinnati. This way, all of my books can be in the same place for the first time in 7 years. 

After that, I've decided to take a road trip  (driving) with my dear sweet Ma back to Virginia to visit my singular progeny and bona filia, Stella. This time, the busy child will be on Spring Break. This time, too, dear sweet Ma is springing for better accommodations in Virginia Beach... which is on the more attractive side of Chesapeake Bay. 

Once mi Madre is back, ensconced safe and sound in the Queen City, I will be heading down to Kentucky for a promised return visit to Willow Drive and my friends, George and Laura. 

And after that, I'm planning a short trip through Louisville to visit college chum Amanda -- where I'll meet her hubby, enjoy her amazing culinary skills, maybe take in a horse race or two, and fine tune my plan to break through on the Great Mississippi River Barrier and head on into the Western Lands.

(Thanks to Amanda Connor (nee Hay) for her gracious donation to the travel fund.)


[Thanks for reading... I'll be hitting the road again soon... VERY soon. Not soon enough for some, I'm sure... likely those here who saw my leaving as some grand sign of things to come... like blind local media and a return to the usual graft and nepotism that makes county politics here so great.

If you're enjoying this at all... or if you have... please contribute to the travel fund. You can also use the Tip feature on open.salon.com, or go here to buy a dirt cheap copy of my short story collection, Living Broke

And don't be afraid to pass the link on... really. Your friends will thank you for it. Or disown you. Either way, you win.]