Showing posts with label KY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KY. Show all posts

26 December, 2018

On meditating with your demons

Learn to meditate with the monsters.
Sit down and sup with the demons.
But don't let them feed you.  - from Field Notes: 26 December 2018

Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller
One of the things you hear in the rooms is that holidays create resentments, which end up leading alcoholics back to the bottle. My family is pretty supportive and not as dysfunctional as other family situations I've heard about in the rooms and on the streets. But there are times when life jams up and somewhere between the anxiety of trying to be a good guy, a decent husband, and an empathetic listener, it's only with the grace of God, a loving wife, and a good sponsor that I managed to stay sober.

Coming home from my latest trip west, on another failed trip to find the real Los Angeles in the glitter that is LA, I threw myself into the list of Things That Needed Doing. It fell sometime while I was traveling eastbound through Missouri that the wife and I were going to host Christmas dinner with my family. Now, this isn't exactly a stressful thing, in and of itself. My immediate family is smaller than some and none of them are particularly taxing. But it falls at a time when there is a lot going on.

Specifically, my father-in-law is dying. 

This spreads out in several different ways. Everything is being done to keep him comfortable and right now, he's doing as well as can be expected with Stage 4 Large Cell Carcinoma. In other words, lung cancer -- the kind not brought on by smoking, but as a side effect of the anti-rejection drugs he takes so his body doesn't reject the kidney transplant he received 6 years ago. My mother-in-law is approaching the whole thing with as much stoicism as she can, which is in her nature, and my wife is trying to follow suit, though stoicism is not in her nature at all. 

For me, Christmas is mostly about keeping things moving -- 10,000 wheels all in motion going in different directions -- through the season. I'm trying not to focus on my own issues wrapped up in all this, or the feelings it brings up about my own father's death and my general anxieties about people I love dying. 

Yes, I know it's natural for people to die. I can intellectualize that all I want, but that doesn't change how I feel about any of it at the moment.

But I am learning how to sup with my demons. There really isn't any choice. And one of the people teaching me how to do is, oddly enough, my father-in-law. I don't want to dismiss his experience -- an experience I know nothing about, really -- but I do think of all the people I have seen in the process of dying, he is probably the strongest person I've seen. He doesn't always bear up well. He gets tired and cranky and I think he's probably as tired of being fussed over as he is of the cancer. But he doesn't just give up, either. He's resigned, I supposed as much as anyone can be. But there's a resilience to it all, too. He's waiting. He's tired, but he's waiting. He carries it all because that's where he is right now.

 I was asked as recently as today if the holidays made me want to drink. I can honestly say they don't. I don't miss drinking as much as I miss not feeling. But I know what happens when I try to manage my feelings with artificial means. So I pick them up, my little demons, my little monsters.  The ones that used to hound me minute by minute of the day. That's where I am right now. I pick them up, and take them with me and hope we all learn, them and me, how to get through this world that seems so much more appealing in the absence of feeling.

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13 July, 2012

Daugerrotype: Old Nazareth Road (Rock Wall and House)

The house down Old Nazareth Road is at the end of a hair pin curve, near the bottom of a hill, next to what was, once upon a time,  not a dry creek bed. The remains of a crumbling stone wall made from rocks from the creek bed and surrounding ground – dug up in an attempt to make the ground more agriculture friendly, even just enough to plant a simple garden – starts at the western corner of the small plot of land, reaching almost to the front porch before it begins to fall apart, rocks sitting on the ground with the grass and weeds growing wild around and over them. It had been a grander project once, one that had been scaled back over the years out of a growing apathy on the part of the original planner or because someone did not pick up for the planner left off.

Turn of the last century farm houses are rare in these parts, where progress and the suburban influence has a strong, albeit tenuous, foothold. They are even rarer still because even the heartiest of hands sometimes has to build out of expediency rather than a sense of permanence. The house near the dry creek bed was originally a one room house with a half story upstairs for sleeping in the winter. The porch was an enclosed summer porch, probably used as an extra room in warmer spring and summer months, back when you could sleep with the shutters open and the windows up, when people were not worried about death carried by mosquitoes the size of DC-7s or about whether one of their neighbors was going to break in for some unspoken and nefarious purpose.

From a distance, it looks sturdy. The roof shingles look almost new. Upon a little closer inspection, the outhouse – which still manages to smell like it's been recently used – is the sturdier of the two structures. The right front end of the summer porch sags like a load bearing part of the structure simply evaporated; the wooden siding – that's showing through the concourse of vines, growing up, around, and over the house in all directions – is more of a dirty gray than the shiny white it had probably once been when it was loved and cared for. Upon even closer inspection, the back end of the house – a much later addition, from the looks of it – is collapsed. The back wall is partially burned out from a long forgotten fire. The interior of the house has been overrun by the nature it was supposed to keep out. Except for two broken stools, the remains of an old rocking chair, a rusted coal bucket and dead leaves, twigs, and animal droppings cover everything. The whole other side of the house is leaning towards the creek bed, and looks like it will someday simply fall into the line of trees between the house and the parched artery of dirt and rock, erode and rot quickly like the diseased crab apple trees in front of the house.

It appears that the only thing keeping the house upright is the tangled interstate of vines. At any moment, it looks as if a strong breeze could knock over the remaining structure, and the vines would remain intact in the shape of a house, the way fossils form in old stone.

03 May, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

And humidity is never pleasant. NEVER.

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

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

Except that I have dark hair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[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 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.]

29 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Louisville, KY

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

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

Let's back track a little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merlot: Hound of the Baskervilles or giant softy?


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

02 February, 2012

Baboon in the Bluegrass, Part 3: Morehead, Kentucky

NO. It's not a sexual request.

It's a city... well, more like a town... a town that will, undoubtedly, be swallowed by the monolithic beast that is Morehead State University (Curse it's name!) and become a plaza shopping and living pavilion... with oodles and oodles of parking, of course. (They really did bulldoze a park once, and put in a parking lot. Well, it was more like a grassy knoll. Ok... more like an abandoned field by the side of the road. But it WAS green space.)

The nice thing about being gone for so long (George and Laura and I decided that my last visit to the area was maybe 8 years ago.) is that there's hardly anyone around who might remember me. At least, no one hanging around on the street or in the coffee shop. This is to my advantage; I wanted to walk around, see what changed, and take things in without people asking How I Am or What am I Up To. I could walk around, be perceived as slightly creepy, take pictures with my cell phone, and slip back out of town again without raising too many eyebrows.

But where to begin? 

One of the problems I have in coming back here -- other than a the fairly good chance of running into some ghost of my old self -- is that when I think about the place, image in my mental map of the place is a bit dated... circa 1995 or 96. When I think about Morehead, I think about driving into town on KY-32 and seeing the mountains on fire the year there wasn't much rain, black smoke blocking out the sun for what seemed like an entire summer. I think about the year there was too much rain and the whole North end of town flooded -- including a house of Melissa's Theater Department friends who were too stoned to realize they needed to leave. That happened when I was in graduate school, around 2001... but it's still part of the elemental 1995 map.

There are houses gone that I expect to be gone, and houses gone that I expect to be there. Every single structure I lived in with my daughter's mother, Anna, is gone. It is as if our marriage -- brief and ridiculously dramatic as it was -- has been erased from the landscape. To be honest, I find it oddly comforting. The number of people who have any memory of that botched disaster of a relationship is shrinking. Even my daughter -- the only good to come out of my first marriage -- has no memory of her mother and I ever being together. For this, I am eternally grateful. Anna's parents are dead. Her grandparents are dead. My mother isn't, thank god.

But she has the courtesy not to bring up my early marriage as one in a catalog of mistakes I made In Spite Of Her Telling Me So.

Morehead has more parking lots than I remember. The Fuzzy Duck Coffee Shop, once located in what was once the back store room of Coffee Tree Books, which was located in a nominally interesting shopping center, is not located -- along with Coffee Tree Books -- in the building that was once the movie theater downtown.

(This was replaced by a six screen multi-plex out on the by-pass. More screens for more lousy movies. And really expensive popcorn. But the bubble gum under the seats is more fresh, at least.)

 It's theoretically more space. The coffee shop takes up what was once the concessions and lobby. The problem is, that it still looks like a movie theater, only with no popcorn, Ike&Mike's, or stale Reese's Pieces and over priced watered down pop. They do the whole coffee, soup and sandwiches thing, along with all the usual coffee boutique items... coffee mugs (though not ByBee Pottery... a travesty, as far as I'm concerned.) froo-froo coffee contraptions, French coffee presses, ground and whole bean coffee, and a plethora of teas.

"Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has NO IDEA what it means to have a plethora."

But if ever there was a town that needed a bar... it would be THIS one.

The problem, however -- at least according to conventional wisdom -- is that no bar in downtown has ever succeeded for very long.

Scratch that. No downtown bar has ever been ALLOWED to succeed for very long.

At least, that's the assertion of an old friend, Clark. Back in the day, Clark was one of those Those Guys. He played guitar. Girls liked him. Generally people thought he was something of a pretentious ass... but he was still likable too. Clark has been living in Morehead almost exclusively for the past 20 years. One of the things we sat and talked about -- in the newish location of the Fuzzy Duck/Coffee Tree Books was how much town had changed since the last time I was here. The new Wal-Mart. The new Public Library, which, while it's not in the middle of town anymore ... which is decidedly inconvienent if you don't have a car... is a much nicer, much bigger space.

The old library is being adapted into the new home of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, which now occupies a Main Street storefront location.

The new space will have class rooms, recording studios, and will generally be a  nicer space. 

The other advantage of the new space is that it won't be owned by this guy... the biggest, sleaziest slum lord in town.

The Dixie Grill... one of the downtown townie restaurants knowns as much for the oderiferious air as the cheap food, is now a hair salon. Main Street Records is now a bakery. One of the bars where I used to go for dime drafts on Thirsty Thursdays is now a church children's youth center. (I blame the Bapists.)  The other bar -- the one with multiple names and multiple owners -- is now a Thursday night Karaoke /Dance Club. (Not sure if the Soot Scootin' Boogie or the Macarena is still in vogue.

When I told Clark that I didn't know how I felt about the coffee shop residing in the lobby of the old movie theater he nodded, but said "It grows on you."

As we continued our conversation, he admitted to a certain ambivalence regarding his life in town. "I don't know," he said," whether I'm really stuck here or whether I stay out of a sense of obligation."

The obligation he meant was his the obligation he felt to his children. He has a son, who is 13, and a younger daughter. Both of his children are with different mothers. Both mothers still live in the area, and he has to see them on a regular basis. But he also seems to understand that a parent is more than provider, protector, soundboard, bank, and bed and board landlord. He also knows that maybe the best function a parent serves is an object lesson.

Clark told me a story about taking his son, at the time 12, with him on a road trip to a city. Clark, who's early drinking experience was made up of house parties and music gigs (with him on stage); he admitted that to not really ever having a bar experience until the Buffalo Wings and Things, took his son around to different bars in the city they were in. Clark sipped on drinks while his son took in the general atmosphere.

This is BW3's. It's too bright, too plastic, and costs too much.
Oh yeah, and the bartender, who looked 10, didn't know how to make a proper Bloody Mary.
This sorority girl and others like her,. who will probably be praying  for forgiveness on Sunday when they go to church, is one of the things that makes BW3's entirely too loud to be a place worth drinking in.

"He was loving it," Clark said. "And that was the point. I told him..." he paused briefly, as if he were gathering the words, or maybe thinking about his own life for split second. "I told him if he ever wanted to DO anything, that he needed to get out of here."

That pesky left foot is always late.

Morehead is the kind of place people go, stay for a specific but undetermined period of time, and then leave. It's like most college towns in that way. For that matter, it has always been a suitcase campus -- students would pack up and go back home for the weekend, and I saw nothing that made me think that had changed. It's easy to think it's almost planned out... that the university Board of Regents, the Chamber of Commerce, and the town council all got together with the cops and decided to make the town as unappealing to college age people as possible without being too overt about it.

There are other, less subtle but nonetheless accepted forms of creeping fascism. Yes, I call it fascism. When the corporate institutions intermingle interests with the political and financial life a community, the prevailing system becomes something like a a slightly more benevolent form of fascism. It may not be too intrusive, and certainly not enough to upset the too young to be paranoid college age kids who, by their silence, accept the rule of the regime.

Don't even get me started on what's wrong with this... I would like to point out, however, that tobacco money built the fucking campus. It's the #1 legal cash crop of the state. I'd also like to point out that there's a Taco Bell in the student center.

This is the entrance to what used to be  the English  Dept. Building. Now  it's the College of Business, which is kind enough to allow the English Department to say. See the sign? English Majors are people too!

This is one of the places we used to stand and smoke... before the  fast food financed fascists took over.

And this, dear readers, is where all the money really goes.

The new and updated Adrian Doran University  Center (ADUC) Your tuition and tax dollars at work.

There are still a few remnants of my past here, though. And some aren't even all that depressing.

The front door to 122 W. Second Street. The house I shared with  Jared, Bobby, Dave,and  sometimes, Eric. My primary function was to screw over the landlord, who charged per student rather than a lump sum of rent.

Douchebag apartments next door. They weren't there when I was  a student. Merely  pointing out that they're a blight. And Douchey.

I did more drinking than I can remember here. Really.  Pictures would  be appreciated. Really. Or... you know, forget it.

When I started here as a Sophmore, these two urinals was  a single long narrow trough. Keep your eyes on your own winkie, dammit.! God is watching.

I just think this is cute. Like those poor dumb kids are really going to find JOBS.

Oh, and see that diminutive bell tower behind the signs? Once upon a time, there was a tall, healthy, beautiful pine tree there, that had stood for as long as anyone remembered. It was cut down because someone with money wanted to put up a bell tower with her name on it.

 Did I mention diminutive? It's more like a vibrator for a hollowed out porn star. It plays show tunes sometimes, too.

[I need to extend my thanks to Paul V. Christensen, Mike Frazier, Brian Parsons, and Dixie Parsons for some welcome donations. Thanks to you, I've bought my train ticket from Ashland and expect to be in Norfolk on THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9th.

If you like what you read here, you can help by:
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Thanks for reading.]

31 January, 2012

An Expert Destruction

Main Street is crooked, runs right past
City Hall, the police station, empties
right in front of the University
Administration building.

All things tend southward here... the slopes,
the hollers, the crosses. Life has moved
out to the by-pass: movies, libraries,

The school is a warehouse
of long dead ideas, stored up
for future kindling.

Boxes of unread books provide warmth
and nourishment the nests of rats
and legions of insects pouring over
our mistakes.

Outside, the street signs are picture perfect,
and the old buildings are either
scrubbed down or destroyed;

an expert destruction
of all evidence to the contrary
that once upon a time
there was something else here.

Bars converted to youth centers;
cigarette stores to ice cream stands.
The future is piling down upon us
barreling 80 miles an hour down

the new wider highway
past the mega store where
all hope is lost and sold
at discount rates.

But the banks,
at least, are solid
and are open for business. New restaurants,
same old food.

The movie theatre converted
into a mausoleum for ancient idealism.

Everything is fine. Everything is dandy.
Self help books sell well. No one reads
the classics anymore. Too many big words.
Too many big ideas.

Poetry is for little girls and for fags.
Rumi was a terrorist. Poe liked little girls.
Whitman needed a shave
and real job.

No one remembers the year the mountain burned.
No one remembers the year the north end of town flooded.
The people who carry the memories
have fled east, into the mountains
or west, into the desert –

searching for moonshine or for messiahs
that will give them answers
to nagging questions that have not
formed the words to articulate properly.