Showing posts with label Kentucky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kentucky. Show all posts

15 January, 2018

Every day is a title fight, Part 3: A Winter's Tale

 The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. - e.e. cummings

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.  
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love. - Kenneth Patchen
Since we hit black ice a few weeks back and totaled (effectively) my car, I'm finding myself more reticent than usual to go out into the weather. It's nothing near the random anxiety attack I experienced before crawling up into the eaves spaces of our house to fix a hole in the roof. No lights spots, heart palpitations and sweating, or vertigo. Nothing like that. Something like that might be acceptable ... at least more acceptable, anyway. An anxiety attack feels more like a condition -- and therefore not my fault --  than just having to admit that I'm scared.
It's not like I haven't slid on black ice before. I once spun a car 360 degrees on black ice in in the middle of a major intersection (if there is one that can be called that) in Mount Carroll, Illinois. My only saving grace then was that  
  1. it was a small car
  2. it was late and so there was no traffic, and
  3. I didn't hit anything.
I was in the car with my second ex-wife. We were driving home from having dinner out (I think) and when we hit the ice, I did what I always do in that situation: I took my foot off the gas, avoided the break pedal and tried to steer out of it.

Luckily, we did. But we did rethink going out in weather after that... if for no other reason than that Chevy Aveo was not built for northern winters.

I remember that one being more fun than frightening, though. It's not that there wasn't an element of danger. We were close to houses and electric lines and things that make little plastic cars crumble when hit head on.  I suppose I could blame bravado on my part, or the fact that my second ex-wife never really knew how to handle any displays of fear or sadness -- probably because I used to police those kinds of reactions religiously and when I didn't, she was taken so aback that she thought I was a pod person. It could also be that the only thing the men in her family cry about is when the University of Kentucky loses, and I've never been much on college basketball.

This wreck, in some ways, not much different. We were in what is normally a high-traffic area (I-71 southbound near the Kentucky River) , when we hit a spot of black ice and the rear end of the car spun out in front of me. Luckily, there were no other cars around, but there was a guardrail that stopped us before I could manage to spin out of it entirely and straighten the car.

Amanda and Stella were both in the car with me, and other than a few bruises, we all walked away from it without injury. And for that, I am eternally grateful,

But I find myself more than a little hesitant to go out when there's even a little snow or ice. Not having a vehicle with 4WD is part of the reason. Mostly, I worry about other people's driving to the point that my stomach turns into a rock and I have to avert my eyes from road just to stay mostly calm.

I've had nightmares since in which the incident did not have such a positive outcome. And I find it difficult to block them from my mind when the topic of going out into the weather, even for the best of reasons, comes up.

The part of me that wishes I were wired a little differently tells me I should just be grateful and embrace the fact that we are all still alive. And I am grateful. I'm even more grateful that Amanda and Stella weren't hurt.

Perhaps the oddest thing about sorting through my emotional reaction to the incident is the fact that the only thing I'm afraid of is losing them. Politicians and powermongers don't impress or scare me, in spite of their reach and in spite of how difficult my indifference to their perceived authority sometimes makes my life and the lives of people I love.  What scares me the most is losing them. That's not the same as being alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being without my family -- or even the thought of it -- scares me more than I can articulate. I'm scared of losing them, and scared of the rage that loss would unleash. A rage that, like love, is all consuming and would burn the heart and soul right out of me.

Which is why, when pedantic, small-minded people like Vicki Aubrey Welch try -- badly -- to wield political power like a Tammany Hall gangster, my initial reaction is incredulity.

That's also why it doesn't surprise me that the local Democratic Caucus, now bound to support the incumbent that was not groomed for the position like a puppy farm poodle, is working on every back door plan it can to make sure they don't have to support him.
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11 August, 2017

Save me from philanthropy: cultural preservationists versus the martyrs

'...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing' ~ Michel Foucault


When I was growing up, I was told all I needed to succeed was a pair of bootstraps and the sheer determination to pull my feet up over and behind my shoulders.

You know. Like a double-jointed hooker.

And although no one said it, the fact has always been understood that success in America means being able to face the system that's screwing you rather than taking it face down in a stinky foam pillow.

We put so much store on success -- and by success I mean not having the misfortune of being considered a blight or inconvenience to someone else.

Working in homeless outreach, I've heard it all. A lot of people -- so many that it sometimes causes me to despair when I ponder the future of the human race -- view the homeless as a blight, like aggressive red ants or the ever-increasing clouds of Africanized bees. People on my neighborhood association page regularly put the homeless in the same category as car thieves and drug dealers. Stigmatized as violent criminals, they're treated like a scourge that needs to be gotten rid of.

It doesn't do any good to explain to these preservers of a homogeneous and non-existing (not to mention never-existing) culture who say these things that homelessness is not moral judgement; people have been treating homelessness, poverty, as well as mental and physical disabilities, as a moral judgement for centuries.  The rampant spread of literacy and access to the most recent research in economics, mental illness, addiction, and disease doesn't seem to have any impact on these self-appointed pillars of culture and society.

Then there are the martyrs. They see the homeless and equate them with the sad-eyed animals they see in PETA commercials. It's not that they're any less repulsed. They see a problem that needs to be fixed. They see something broken that needs to be healed. The actual story, the actual reasons, the actual complex details behind someone's homelessness, don't really matter. The complex ball of issues -- economic, psychological, physiological -- don't matter. They read articles about how other cities here and abroad take the homeless and put them in the empty houses. They see this as a solution. Or they want to build more homeless shelters -- having never seen the inside of one themselves.They see themselves as the saving crusaders of the homeless. All they need is a job. All they need is a place to live. All they need is to see their doctor, or their shrink.

The world is full of well-intended and soft-hearted little fascists that would save the homeless-- whether they want to be saved or not-- just to save themselves from the awful inconvenience of having to be reminded, daily, of their existence.

Outreach only works when you embrace the belief that you can't save anyone. If, in the process of serving them, they decide to take it upon themselves to pick themselves up, you are there to lend a hand and help. They are not broken toys that need a little glue and dusty shelf to sit on.

Compassion is a PR word here in Louisville... at least among the elected leaders. The drive is economic and the homeless are treated with derision and apathy as people seek to "solve" the problem of homelessness without increasing funding or improving access to the institutions that over-burdened and underfunded while other organizations (one in particular) get the lion's share of public money to lock the homeless out of the one place most "regular" citizens say they belong -- in a shelter -- while managing to exploit them for profit in the name of "saving them."

At least there are good people here who counter-balance all this cynicism. I meet them all the time, work with them on outreach, hear about them from the folks on the street when I serve. I know they're out there and it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to do right by our brothers and sisters without the burden of ego and the paternal tendency to believe they can't speak for themselves.

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17 January, 2017

In walked the dog-headed baboon, carrying a notebook


from The Nuremberg Chronicles. Note: how I feel most days.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Christopher (the patron saint of travelers) is sometimes portrayed as a dog-headed man. Having done a fair amount of traveling myself, I can testify to the once being mistaken for a Mexican in the Dallas Greyhound station, and in grad school I was famous for (among other things) expounding in great detail, while I was drunk, about how men are dogs -- which means, among other things, that I owe the whole canine species a deep and heart felt apology.

I pair those two instances together only to point out two things. First, living on the road it challenging to bathe frequently enough for so-called "civilized" people.   I did note that as soon as I identified as a plain old dirty white boy, the older white man who approached me in the bus station to inquire about my racial and ethnic background quickly darted off in search of others who might look vaguely not Anglo on whatever quest he was on. The tone of his voice when he asked wasn't exactly aggressive, but it wasn't friendly or concerned, either. I didn't think he was packing, but to be honest I wasn't paying attention, either. And, having been approached over the years by all kinds of people, from panhandlers to Mormon missionaries, I feel like I have a pretty idea when someone talks to me out of concern for my welfare.

The second thing I'd like to point out is that only an idiot would confuse a pasty, German Irish mutt like me for a Mexican. 

I woke up this morning thinking of  Mr. Ibis from Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, American Gods. Mr. Ibis was, in fact, Thoth, the Egyptian god of the moon and writing. In addition to running the best funeral home in the country -- though no one but him and his partner Jackal -- Ibis also wrote stories. Not stories anyone ever read, of course. Just stories for himself.

In other incarnations and traditions, Thoth is also depicted as a dog-headed baboon, because not only were they nocturnal, but they were considered very intelligent.

I bring all of this up because, well... regardless of whatever incarnation I happen to be in at any given moment ... teacher, journalist, podcaster, activist/agitator, dishwasher, bum... I always end up writing stuff down. I either scribble it down in my field notebook* or I make a mental note and write it down later.  Two ex-wives and multiple ex-girlfriends have told me over the years that my "fiction" is thinly veiled auto-biography. I neither confirm nor deny this because fiction is just a filter that reality pours through. In this sense, it's perfectly reasonable for there to be dog-headed men, or baboons taking notes. Shakespeare could still be a room full of monkeys who also wrote under the pseudonym Christopher Marlowe.  What is real is sometimes less important than how it's described, remembered, or written down. Truth, I maintain, is in the way a story is told, not in the details.


from WDRB. Note: not a smart baboon
I recently sat in a room with a bunch of people who are hoping to be able to create a coalition of labor and community organizations to mount a defense against Kentucky's little fascista, Matt Bevin,  and his full frontal attack on working people. I remember trying to go to the Central Labor Council right after the election, hoping to convince them that we all need to get together to mount an organized defense/offense against what Bevin said he would do. I went to artists who were worried about Bevin gutting the Kentucky Arts Council. I spoke with adjunct instructors about the need to organize when he started going after university budgets. Each group pretty much told me the same thing:

"We need to be reasonable. There's no way the GOP will take control of the Kentucky Legislature. We need to vote, not organize."

Well, these very same people have spent the last few months since the election mourning. Liberals act like they're shell-shocked. The Democratic Party is trying to figure out how to grow a spine. Hard core unionists and those who generally ignored me when the Democratic Party hoisted a piece of cardboard to be governor and lost are NOW calling for unity. NOW they call for a coalition.   I find myself going to a lot of meetings. I will go to more. I'm going to listen, and I am listening for a very specific set of words.  I have high hopes.

For those of you inclined to prayer, I offer this image of Saint Christopher, the dog-headed saint. Pin ye, therefore, your hopes upon the love of travelers and dogs. Because we don't have time to wait for the sweet by and by.


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*Writers are all anthropologists at heart.

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04 March, 2016

Trump Bumpin': Uncivil Rest Along the Dirty Sacred River

Stella and the Chairless Ones. She's making notes for her own blog post
The air was palpable, thick with anticipation and the muttering of all the mantras that make the rise of a fascist important to notice. Of course people were excited. Many of them were there to listen to a man who they hope will be the next President of the United States. Many of them would never be that close to him again. Those who were there to protest were equally excited. It's rare to see the personification of the New Old American Fascism in person, to bear witness to what may very well be the beginning of the end of the Democratic Spirit in America.

Slogans and signage gives you a clear indication of what to expect. The "Hillary for Prison 2016" swag was enormously popular... and I have to admit I thought it was pretty funny, too since I'm not fan of the DNC's Goldwater Gal.  There were plenty of trucker hats (made in Bangladesh) emblazoned with MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. I saw a few with the slogan "border, culture, language [commas added for grammatical correctness], a mantra often sang by no less than far right wing nut jobs like radio personality Michael Savage and multi-media troglodyte* Glenn Beck when they rant about "taking America back."

3rd set of protesters being led out, the Love Trumps Hate folks.
The police were there, too, of course, to help the Secret Service detail roust out protesters and protect the crowd of Trump supporters from the consequences of free speech and free thought. Stella and I hung back. I wanted to have a clear line to the door after the very presence of their demagogue would give the adrenalized crowd permission to act out all of their pent up aggression... which, unless you're not on social media, happened.**

Me and my shadow. 
In spite of being what I thought was relatively inconspicuous, we still managed to get a buddy of our very own. He was a little too chunky for a Secret Service detail. He spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder and looking down to type on his phone. He wasn't obviously armed, but he did have a radio... probably to call for reinforcements if the fuzzy guy and his daughter got out of hand. He was private security, maybe. Maybe an off duty cop doing a little double-dipping. I felt honored, really. After all, I left my THE BEST FASCIST IS A DEAD FASCIST t-shirt at home.

We took part in a small protest outside before the rally. I wanted to make my opinion known before going inside and trying to get a closer look at the personification of our country's evil underbelly.

One of the forms of non-protest... I wrote about it in my last blog post... was The Empty Seat Coalition's idea of buying tickets and not going. I posted picture on my Facebook page to let those folks know how that strategy worked out. I'll share it here as well:
Seats? What seats?
A Democrat Hears a Who. A Republican Doesn't Hear At All.
After The Don's 7 state sweep on Super Tuesday, all of those people who insisted that America would never, could never actually elect a Reality TV star*** who spouts such venom are now trying to salve themselves with the idea that America would never, could never let The Donald beat Our Ol' Goldwater Gal.

If he pulls off the nomination (likely) and goes up against Hillary Clinton -- who has been re-coronated by the mainstream media as the presumptive Democratic nominee after a decent showing  on Super Tuesday -- he will have a good chance of winning it all.

And if you're sitting there reading this and insisting that America could never, should never, would never elect a fascist, stop trying to compare him to Hitler and think straight. He's not Hitler. Hitler was a failure who ended up dead in a bunker with his girlfriend. Think about Franco, in Spain. His fascist movement unified Spain and he ruled standing atop the bones of nameless martyrs he sent to still undiscovered graves for 40 years. People there still celebrate him.

Trump did not create this wave of fascism. He stood up in front of the tide. He's an opportunist, not a zealot. It doesn't make him less dangerous; it just makes him a different sort of the same amount of dangerous.


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*Dear actual troglodytes. Please accept my apology for using you as a negative metaphor.
** Please note that LMPD, that bastion of lawlessness and inhumanity, did nothing. And they're still insisting on doing nothing even though they were there and witnessed it.
*** Because we've never elected an entertainer to public office before. Right? 

04 December, 2015

Dirty River Media: An Argument For Muckraking

You can't buy a bag of peanuts in this town without someone writing a song about you. -- Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane, 1941)

There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong." - Hunter S. Thompson


 
Julius Chambers, maybe the first muckraker

The first reported use of the term "muckraker"* was by no less than President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. During a speech, he used it in reference to William Randolph Hearst and Hearst's brand of yellow journalism**. Usage of the term grew and came into include Julius Chambers -- maybe the first real muckraker -- Nelly Bly, Upton Sinclair, and Ambrose Bierce, among others.***

Muckraking is part of the grand tradition in journalism that's dying at the hands of corporate owned media. Keep in mind, Dear Friends and Readers, that no less than 6 corporations own most of the large market media in this country... and that's just TV and radio. Newspapers are corporate owned as well, split between Gannett, The McClatchy Co., Hearst, Cox Media, Media News Co., and Village Voice Media (which has eaten up most of what used to be the alternative weeklies.

Part of the problem is people sometimes confuse muckraking -- which sometimes rears its head under the more polite hat of "investigative journalism" -- with yellow journalism^ -- which is alive and well, as well as well funded.

Another problem is people -- including some who claim to be journalists -- buy into the idea, often espoused by anyone who doesn't agree with the particular brand of facts^^ posited by a reporter or talking head^^^, that journalism ought to strive to be "objective."

That, Dear Friends and Readers, is complete rhetorical bollix.

Journalism can't be objective because its first allegiance ought to be to the truth. The role of the 4th Estate is to drag stories out into the light and hold our elected officials' feet to the proverbial fire. It should not ever be Public Relations for any political party or politician, and should look at everything through a critical lens. And regardless of what anyone tells you, being critical means having an agenda. 

My recent split with LEO Weekly (one of the few alt weeklies not owned by Village Voice Media) occurred over a disagreement on how a particular story ought to have been portrayed.  Another aspect -- which I will call coincidental because it's more of a feeling than something I can document -- is that from their perspective, I got greedy. My work was considered exemplary by the managing editor until I had the temerity to ask if I could be more than a freelancer. After that, all of a sudden, I was breaching journalistic standards.

I'm a contrarian. I'll admit that. But having a natural tendency to disagree is not the same thing as a breach of "the basic tenets of journalism"+ On the contrary, it makes me a good muckraker. You have to have a contrary personality and a solid sense of self to be willing to rub academic department chairs, deans, editors, and politicians the wrong way. A good friend of mine once called this my tendency to "poke the bear." 

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is what I intend to continue doing.

That's why I'm going to be finding my own press credentials and starting my own endeavor, called Dirty River Media. This will include a few projects, including publishing and podcasting, and other enterprises will hopefully add to the already existing push back against monopolized media and milquetoast reporting.  One project, The Kentucky Muck Podcast, will be a weekly show about local, regional, and state issues, as well as arts and culture, that need to see some light. That's what muckraking is, and that's what I do better than most anyone around. 

I promise my reporting will be honest, authentic, and researched; and I hope it will be entertaining. Stay tuned.
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*Defined as - raking through the muck and finding the real story.
**Hearst more or less invented large scale yellow journalism, the tradition of which is carried on by Fox News, HLN, and MSNBC most effectively.
***People like this are my heroes. So are Ida B Wells, Walt Whitman, Utah Phillips, Hunter S. Thompson, and Pete Rose. Not necessarily in that order. Look 'em up.
^ I just felt like using a bold yellow font. That's one kind of editorial decision that even schooled journalists are comfortable making.
^^ Facts are difficult to find and almost always difficult to use in any critical sense... and generally get confused with "opinion" which everyone has according to one smelly metaphor.
^^^ Talking head -- no, not the band. talking heads read you a news script that they may or may not have had any part of putting together. Probably not, more than likely.
 + The same editor who accused me of breaking faith with "the basic tenets of journalism" is the very same one who quoted HST to me by saying "objective journalism is bullshit."  You can't have it both ways. Either you write something honest and authentic and true, or you write shit. 

08 July, 2015

Respite Along the Dirty, Sacred River

During one of the recent torrential downpours, we discovered a leak in the dining room ceiling.  Like all things built by men, houses eventually spring leaks. We've narrowed it down to specific area on the roof -- which, if the rain breaks long enough, I'll crawl up there and see what needs to be done.

I generally like my more domesticated mode, though the life I've lived up to this point has left me woefully ill-prepared in the "How-Tos" of house repair. Words are my wheelhouse and most everything else is something else I've learned.  I'm part of a generation that either unwisely chose or was given no choice but to develop an expertise... the result that Ralph Waldo Emerson warned against in The American Scholar. I was schooled, but my education has taken a path outside of formal education.  I am always on the look out for teachers, for elders.  And this is a good thing, because while I can put words together in an effective way, I'll have to learn how to make structural home repairs.

Lately I've been preoccupied with my (still-ongoing) war against Versailles, with the political cycle, and with finding paying work. Lately my life feels like the psychological equivalent to being drawn and quartered -- being pulled in all directions tied to forces I can neither control nor really see. Poetry pulls. Work pulls. Family pulls. My need to improve my little corner of the world pulls. Other people pull.  I should be used to this by now. I'm a Pisces, after all, and forever swimming simultaneously in two directions... but my skin has worn thin of late.  I look in the mirror and see more a fool than a knight errant.  But I've learned that these mirages are temporary.  I stay in the moment and move forward because there is nothing else to do and I'm too stubborn to let the bastards win by stopping.

So, I get to learn how to fix a leaky roof. I get to learn how to shore up a badly built foundation (that would be the kitchen.) I get to learn how to do all kinds of things that I was not really prepared for by any of the education I've had. I see that as part of the journey, and I am lucky that on this journey I am not alone.



15 July, 2014

Steady the Course Along the Dirty Sacred River: Sometimes the Universe Throws a Straight Pitch

This summer has not exactly gone as expected. I'd planned on heading west again, back to the big sky territory out in South Dakota and Montana. For a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly blog worth, I've not made it and probably won't. I am getting ready for another eastbound slingshot to attend The Kid's wedding to Plus 1... I mean Will... I mean The Soon-to-Be Son-in-Law.

the axis mundi
Mostly, I've stayed closer to the axis mundi here along the dirty, sacred river, tried not to kill the garden, and struggled with a few of those "all growed up" decisions that occasionally sneak into what I generally consider to be an idyllic life. I recently applied for a full time teaching gig that I didn't get*, which set up a whole series of stress-ridden mental labyrinths for me to navigate.** I've been trying to get some new projects up and going, which is surprisingly complicated when you're unemployed.

I was also turned down for unemployment benefits because, in the nomenclature of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I have "reasonable assurance" of future employment. Basically, I was denied benefits because I will probably have a job soon... though no steady paycheck until the end of August. I guess I'm supposed live on hay until then.  But, given the intolerance and general lack of human empathy demonstrated by Top Cop Commander Kim and by some of the folks I call neighbors*** I guess it's a good thing I haven't had to resort to panhandling.

But I'm feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the trip. I love my daughter, even if I have trouble reconciling myself with the fact that I was once stupid enough to marry her mother.  Stella's been going through some "all growed up" stuff of her own lately that I will not list at the moment. One of those things, though, has to do with the fact that conventional wisdoms -- in spite of being conventional -- are wrong.  She's a good person and has a smart head on her shoulders that she sometimes uses. She just wants to live her life, be happy, all that. But she is having to learn that doing the right thing doesn't always mean that you get the reward you deserve.

In fact, it's increasingly the opposite... and not just for Stella.

One of the nice things about children is that they have all the potential in the world to grow beyond the limitations of their parents... if they can dodge hard luck and if they can reject conventional wisdoms that worn paths of other people's success is the path to happiness.

As for me, I am reminded of Krishnamurti's insistence that the truth is a pathless land. And I'm also encouraged by the fact that even though I am still not "gainfully employed" ... ie, I apparently don't deserve health insurance or retirement benefits, but I am good enough to teach college freshmen how to write and think critically .... that I still have plenty to keep me busy. There's plenty to do.

I'm including a link to my latest story posted at my reverbnation page. Check it out. Hope you enjoy.

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* My last full time teaching gig was out at ASU... an experience which drove me out of the classroom. And no, it wasn't the students. My usual beef with Upper Education is that the people who administrate it are morons. And by administrate I mean the ones who do not or have not ever step foot into a classroom since they flunked Intro to Literature... back when they still TAUGHT basic literature courses as a general ed requirement. Out at ASU in particular, I was enraged by an especially incompetent department chair who was more interested in sucking his way into a Dean's Office than he was in actually taking the concerns of his writing faculty seriously.
** My position as an adjunct, while financially insecure, is probably more appropriate. I suck at committee obligations and they suck on me. Also, the minute you sign on for full time employment, people immediately assume you have growed up, quit dreaming, and are working assiduously for a docile retirement during which you will actually allow yourself to live. If I have to wait until I'm 70 to live, I might as well crawl into a bourbon bottle now.
*** These folks run the gamut from comfy democrats to stalwart republicans to pissy tea bagger bigots. And all of them have one thing in common - for the most part they reject the notion that hard luck can hit anyone at any time.

14 April, 2014

Brief Meditation on the Metaphysical Politics of Place and The Good Friday Assault (A Story)

I've often told my friend Jared Salyers that I am jealous of his sense of place.  With very few exceptions, he has never wandered far from the place he knows is his home -- Olive Hill, Kentucky. With very few exceptions, I have more or less avoided my childhood home -- Bethel, Ohio. His reasons for staying are startlingly similar to my reasons for staying away. His sense of connection to the area where he was born and raised -- and where he is now married and raising his son -- runs deep. 

This will seem like an unremarkable statement if you are a native Kentuckian. Since I am an implant from the dirtier side of the dirty, sacred river, I often meditate on it with a sense of wonder. Native Kentuckians fall more or less into two distinct categories:
  1. those who love it, identify with it, and feel in their bones (whether they stay or go); and
  2. those who leave, and once they leave, rarely feel the need to return.
There is a pull to ground in Kentucky that is unlike any other place I've been. And even though it took me a long time to get here -- and even though I will need to scratch my itchy foot from time to time -- this is the place I call home.  I don't have the same connection with the place that others have -- a connection that in my mind gets wrapped up in my notions of grace, as a gift bestowed by the universe for reasons beyond our reckoning that are probably not worth the energy to try and understand.  And because I do identify that sensation of knowing home in your bones for your entire life as a kind of grace, like any good Protestant Reject I recognize the other path to paradise comes in the form of works.

Love and impossible gravity* drew me here. Love and impossible gravity keeps me centered. And it is because of love because of impossible gravity that I am embracing every facet of my life.

Lately, this has meant learning. Learning how to garden. Learning how plumbing works. Learning how to repair things, make things, how to plan for years instead of days and months -- and learning that plans are only good plans if they are fluid and if they are grounded in love and in impossible gravity.

Places, like people, wilt and rot if they fall into neglect. Places, like people, will rise out of the fog someone is willing to put the work in.

And there is beauty in wilting and rotting. And there is beauty in rising out of the fog, washing
everything in sunlight and in water, and in pulling out what arguably should have never been there... like the carpet upstairs. Except for where a very old, very sick, very incontinent cat destroyed the pine floorboards, the floors are sturdy and in good condition. In spite of some the fantastically disastrous "improvements" (people who don't know how to do wiring should not do wiring. People who don't understand gravity should not install plumbing.)  done to this house by the people Amanda bought it from and in spite of some age and wear and tear, the bones of it are good. We're putting a lot of energy and thought into the place. We're going to be planting an expanded garden soon, and we are planning to expand it further next season using terrace gardens.

This clay did not birth me and I will never be able to say that. But I will be able to say I put in the work to justify calling this place "home."






The Good Friday Assault 

09 February, 2014

During "Kimball's Rachael" and On Through "The Most Dangerous Woman"

The cubby
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has been kind enough to like the new Facebook Page. Just over 100 likes in less than a week! If you like what you read, and what you will eventually hear and see on the blog, please pass it around. I can, do, and have absolutely no problem talking to myself. Some would even suggest that I'm talking to myself most of the time, anyway.

But it always helps to have some company.

This week, after my third run at the windmill that is the Jefferson County DMV, I managed to get my driver's license switched and get my truck tagged in the Commonwealth. The last time I had a Kentucky license and a Kentucky tag was in 2001, when I landed back in the state after a year or so of living in New Orleans. It was significantly less complicated to get my license in 2001, because I was living in Menifee County. That meant I could go to the courthouse in Frenchburg, where I met a wizened old woman in a back room whose sole job was to give out marriage and drivers' licenses. In any other Office of the Clerk of Courts, she would have been kindly but firmly retired. In a place like Frenchburg, in a county like Menifee -- which once held the distinction of being the county where escaped criminals could go to hide and not have to worry much about the constable from any of the surrounding counties trying to come in and find them. Menifee is mountainous country, and like all mountainous country, it depends -- even to this day, I believe -- on the anonymity provided by the mountains and on the walking memory of those who live there.

The old woman in that small, dark wood-paneled room in the back of a courthouse that probably hadn't seen any updates since electric lights and indoor toilets looked me up and down, squinted at my Louisiana driver's license and squinted at me. For those of you who have grown up with the crutch of personal technologies, when an old woman or old man squints at you like that, it means that a complex series of computations is taking place. Not only are you being sized up, but if there's any connection between you and some folk or family in the region, that connection be ferreted out.*

Once she determined that I was neither related to troublemakers, sinners (that she knew personally) and that I was probably not on the run from anything, she went about transferring my license. The only time she hesitated when she looked at my weight a listed on my Louisiana license. I had lost a lot of weight down there with all the clean living and sweat lodge summer heat, and the number listed was clearly more than I weighed at the time. She only rolled her ancient eyes, shook her head, and finished the transfer.

For those of you not acquainted with the Dixie Highway Branch of the Jefferson County Clerk's Office, I invite you to watch the 1985 cult classic movie  Brasil.**

There is no walking memory in a place like this, only the technological crutch of the Commonwealth's Department of Motor Vehicle's computer system, which is never wrong -- according to people who work there -- and simultaneously never correct -- if you ask at least 75% of the people waiting for their number to get called.

Now, while it might seem a bit unfair to expect a metropolitan city like Louisville to depend on the subjective nature of the walking memory via some lifelong resident rather than the imperfect nature of technological appendages, I submit that not doing so will do more long term damage than any computer virus. With our increasing dependence on these pieces of molded plastic and silicon, we are missing out on that grand opportunity to stand before someone who, in a single prolonged squint, will know more about you than the last person who saw you naked.

That singular experience, more than any, is a humbling and humanizing force. When we are dressed down, not only for our potential sins, but for any sins by potential familial connection, something of our true nature breaks out. I am convinced that somewhere out there, walks some living memory who will someday squint at me, and see my father, and his father, and his father. And to be honest, I shudder to think about meeting those wizened eyes, though the world is small enough that I will end up meeting them sooner or later.

With any luck, (and Dad, I think you'd agree if you were alive to say so) whoever it is will judge me by my mother's people. The outcome will be more favorable.
_________________

*This is not always to your advantage.
** The movie offers no sound advice for dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare; but it will prepare you for the varying levels of confusion, the flurry of paperwork required to requisition an ink pen to sign the receipt and pay the taxes on your vehicle.