Showing posts with label Mick Parsons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mick Parsons. Show all posts

15 December, 2017

Every day is a title fight, Part 1: the applicants

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.~ Pericles

Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit. ~P. J. O'Rourke
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight part 1
The day of the interview, we sat in the 3rd floor conference room at city hall along with the other distinguished candidates.   Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- was friendly and polite. Chase Gardner had his game face on, and John Witt ... a notorious Beechmont crank -- sat in the corner as if he was worried about something rubbing off on him. But the presumed front runner, Nicole George, brought a box of chocolates, which showed not only a certain amount of class but also that potential political appointees and recovering addicts have something in common; namely, both groups rely on chocolate as a way to curtail the cravings. And apparently chocolate works both for booze and for blood cravings. 
I mean, who could have guessed? It does give a kind heart hope.
The pleasantries dissipated quickly after initial greetings and meetings the hopefuls broke off into their subsets: the political movers, the local activists, one crank, one cop's wife, and the rash outsiders. George and former horseman Bret Schultz, the lone Republican, commiserated over the ineffective advocacy of $500 per plate political fundraisers. The activists banded together to talk about everything but politics and the unspoken competition for a metro council appointment that might, if levied correctly, help any number of causes. Witt sat in the corner and spoke very little, except on points of procedure. At one point the topic of South End economic development came up and Witt said only that he was opposed to more traffic and liked being able to get to the grocery store without dealing much with it.
The rash outsiders -- Amanda , me, and Nikki Boyd  sat over at the end of the table, having very little to say about $500 plate dinners or the various and noble projects and organizations we should be involved with that the three don't know about because we're ensconced in our own projects and organizations.
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight, part 1I knew I didn't have a shot. Not really. The odds were so far out there that only a gambling addict would put a borrowed quarter on me. Amanda didn't think much of her chances either, though I thought that between the two of us, she would have the better chance for a whole host of reasons. Nikki Boyd just seemed genuinely happy to be there and was, from what I could tell, a very nice person who also questioned her chances simply because of the number of politicos in the room.

Then the interviews started. We were sequestered until our turns so no one would know the questions asked by the metro council members who came out to see potential appointees kick at the clouds as they hanged.
I was nervous when it was my turn. I don't get nervous speaking in front of politicians. I've spoken before Metro Council twice before as a concerned citizen, most recently in response to the city's treatment of the homeless population. But I wanted to put a more conciliatory foot forward. After all, I wasn't there to try and admonish or cajole them. In spite of the long odds, I felt like there was a real opportunity to be in a position to help not only the neighborhood I live in, but the homeless population I serve.

Of course, this would be no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But what really is, after all? Life isn't a Frank Capra movie.


When it was my turn, I introduced myself and answered a couple of thoughtful and useful questions. I was nervous, but I was doing ok.

And then spake the Wicked Witch of District 13, Vicki Aubry Welch, who had already come out for the presumed, chocolate-toting front runner.




Now, did she attack my lack of political experience, my past and current activism, or some perceived questionable moral fiber?

No.

Instead, she decided to focus on the fact that both my wife and I were applying for the same political appointment.


I'm still not quite sure why she would find it difficult to understand that each person in a married couple might be interested in applying for the same political appointment. I can only assume that such thing would never happen in her marriage -- which would make me feel sorry for her if it wasn't clear from the rest of the video that she found some way to go after almost every other applicant ... except her pick.


 
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07 November, 2017

Just yesterday morning, Part 3

All things are made bitter, words even / are made to taste like paper, wars gets tossed up / like soldiers used to be/ (in a child's attic) lined up / to be knocked down, as I am... ~ Charles Olson
The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, whereas in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. ~ Sherwood Anderson 
Daylight Savings Time, Marriage, Art
Give it about 30 years and no one will even talk about Daylight Savings Time anymore.

Seriously. As annoying as it is, as pointless as it is, and as completely illogical as it is, it will cease to be the topic any real discussion.  
This won't happen because the powers-that-be will suddenly come to their senses and realize that moving the hour hand backwards or forwards doesn't actually extend or shorten the day. As a matter of fact, if anyone talks about hour hands, it will be in the sense of a quaint curiosity. Like jewelry made out of the hair of a dead loved one or the concept of privacy. All things fall into the dust of quaint curiosity shops of the mind -- including curiosity shops -- so seriously, don't put too much stock in the illusion that you're getting an extra hour sleep when we  FALL BACK IN THE FALL.

Don't worry about it. The Internet of Things will do it for us. We won't have to think about Daylight Savings Time because the ability to think about anything -- like the ability to read a clock or have a private thought that can't be described by a meme -- will have disappeared and we will have the IOT (Internet of Things, or, as we'll maybe call it NetStuf) heft the apparent burden of consciousness for us.

But if this Internet of Things... I mean, NetStuf... is so damn dandy, why can't it fix the hole in my ceiling? It can, apparently, predict what kind of advertising I'll respond to based on (really, very) random keyword searches. It can tell me who I was in a past life. It can tell me how I'm probably going to die and -- based just on my Facebook profile picture -- tell me where my ancestors came from. This Internet of Things assures that I'm instantly and permanently connected to countless facts, factoids, fake news, friend updates, new business connections, and scores for everything from the little league game (in languid immobile Summer, anyway) to World Cup Soccer.

But it can't crawl up into the very small and sort of claustrophobic space under the ceiling awning off the attic and repair a hole. It can't climb up on the roof and make any necessary repairs. It's 2017 and there are robots that can vacuum your house while you're gone... not that we can afford one or could even make use of one with three dogs and two cats to either hunt it, stalk it, or asphyxiate it with the endless trails of shed fur.

Ok, I know. I signed up for this life on the margin, right? Making Art out your life isn't easy, nor, I suppose, should it be. Though I'm still unsure of why. And I feel like I've been asking that question a really, really long time.




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17 October, 2017

Perpetual pilgrim, Part 2: exile amor fati

 I am an exile's book. He sent me. ~Ovid

Exile is more than a geographical concept. You can be an exile in your homeland, in your own house, in a room. ~ Mahmoud Darwish 


home and exile
Although I haven't lived in my hometown for better than several years and I rarely go back, I do follow some of the comings and goings there. There's an insatiable fascination about the place for me, in spite of the fact that there's nothing there for me but cemetery stones and geographically bound nostalgia. Think of it as something akin to voyeurism.

Recently on the Facebook page for my hometown's historical society I noticed an event. Five local authors were going to converge on the historical society... the old Grant Building where the library was housed when I was a kid ... to talk about how they became writers.

Each of them, I suppose, had written and published books. I only knew one of the names because other than random and terrible violence and the odd billboard paid for by a local church  proclaiming that Satan had taken over the school board, the only thing my hometown ever made the news for was the fame of the The World Walker. No one remembered him leaving on his trip, but everyone was there for the return, including a parade, a key to the village, and an invitation to speak to high school students about his experience.

Now, although I've made my home a few hours south and on the other side of the dirty, sacred river, the fact is that as much as I have no place or purpose in the place I'm from, I'm a transplant everywhere else. I guess it's fair to say that I haven't made The Big Time. There are no parades or keys to the town with ubiquitous invites to talk to ungrateful high school kids about my accomplishments.

Probably one of the most challenging parts of being a writer isn't actually the writing. That's always been the easier part. I don't believe in writer's block and I reject the idea that creative energy fizzles. It changes channel and sometimes doesn't march with popular tastes and trends, but generally the writers who chase trends end up burning themselves out -- not because their creativity fizzles but because they cut themselves off from it a long time ago and decided to sustain themselves on praise and marketability.

The biggest challenge for me has always been the subject of tradition... literary or otherwise. Although I don't remember much from when my thesis defense*, I do remember Dr. Glenn Colburn asking me where I would place myself in the canon of American Literary Tradition. I don't even remember exactly what I said because I was a bit taken aback by the question. I managed to write a collection of integrated (hopefully) poems and short stories. It was probably incredibly abstract and most likely total failure. My graduate advisor asked me once if I thought it would end up being publishable. My answer was that it probably was not at all publishable, because there was no way to categorize it in any way that literary agents and the publishing world would or could understand, or in such a way that agents and publishers could excise their percentages from sales.

I'm still pretty good with that. And I'm still pretty good with probably being a little too left of center for poets and a little to right of center for fiction writers. But it does sometimes nag at me that I grew up in  place that so assiduously tried to erase its history that I've been running all over the place for 30 years or more trying to find one, only to keep running into one inescapable fact: there is no such thing as adopting a literary root. Either you're born with one, or you cobble your own from the flotsam and jetsam of experience. It's that or it's creative death.

I guess it's OK that they didn't invite me, being as I'm not as news worthy as a guy who tried to rob a bank with a pocket knife (in my graduating class.) I suppose it's OK that I still can't answer the question of where I am in the scope of American letters because I'm not a Louisville writer or a Kentucky writer or, really, an Ohio writer... or even a Bethel, Ohio writer.

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06 January, 2017

A word about Patreon -- thanks for your support!



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05 August, 2016

Old Habits, New Projects

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. - Seneca

The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it. - Omar Khayyam


New paths are born out of old roads.
I liked being a journalist. There's something in my nature, the desire to be the one who pokes the sleeping bear with a stick, that naturally lended itself to  professional muckraking*. My love of a good story and the firm belief that truth is always stranger than fiction** helped me to frame the facts and rumors people already knew*** into articles with larger contexts and larger meaning beyond the column inch/ page content filler that mainstream journalism has become in this age of content over substance.
Besides that, I was good at it. And I was getting better.

But I am coming to terms with the fact that my stint in journalism, like my stint in higher education, is probably finished.  This story, and my refusal to write something like this that lets the Metro government, Mayor Fischer, and the LMPD off the hook and avoids any real journalistic critique of Metro's absence of actual compassion -- beyond platitudes and photo ops -- pretty much saw to that. It probably didn't help that I accused the then Managing Editor, now Publisher, of wanting seasonal homeless porn. It also probably didn't help that I had the temerity to ask for something more regular than freelance grunt wages while she was working her way into a higher paying position.^

When I'm being honest, though, I know it's probably not a bad thing that I'm not a paid journalist anymore. It took energy away from my poetry. It made me grouchy, and brought out some of the more negative aspects of my personality. I don't mind being an asshole^^, but it's damn exhausting being one all the time. It's exhausting for me and for the people closest to me.

I've been channeling that through my podcast, The Kentucky Muck Podcast. And it's fun. But I'm also struck with how there is no art to any of it. All I've really been doing to chasing other news sources for content because I have neither the money nor the resources to muckrake the way I want to. Besides that, the stories just bore the hell out of me. How many instances of Matt Bevin being a power hungry zealot can I really talk about before it turns into more of the same white noise? How many critiques of Trump and the rise of Fascism in America can I post before it's ignored like street corner preaching?

My obsession with narratives -- and with words --  are really the only thing that journalism, teaching, and the Muck Podcast have in common.  But none of them feed my spirit in the way poetry does. None of them fill my heart the way a good narrative can. Where there is no food for the spirit or the heart, there is no Art. Where there is no Art, there is no Craft, no Style, and no Process. Where none of those things exist, there is no chance for Beauty or for Truth.

So I'm moving into other projects. I'm in pre-production on a new podcast that focuses on the stories of other people's lives.
Between this, my other writing, this blog, my various other interests and obligations, and the perpetual search for paying work, I'm going to be busy. But I'm also going to hitting the road soon to record for the new podcast and hopefully a gig or two. Sometimes new paths grow out of old roads. Maybe it was necessary for me to go back to teaching, go back to print journalism because I needed the leg to stand on moving into my new life. Maybe I needed to go back to things I knew in order to convince myself that I needed to push in a new direction. Maybe I'm just a slow learner.  Maybe I'm 43 and finally getting over the model of manhood/husbandry I was programmed to accept. Maybe I was so nervous about starting my new life on strong footing that I fell back into things I know in order to put my energy elsewhere.

Maybe I'm just making excuses.

But even if I am, excuses are done with. Teaching is done with. Journalism is done with.  Now is the time for Art. And Life. And Beauty. And Truth.

_________________________________________________________________
* Think Upton Sinclair, Ida B. Wells, and Ambrose Bierce. Good muckrakers that terrified people in positions off power. That's what journalism should be. Anything else is Public Relations. (George Orwell, paraphrased.)
** Mark Twain, paraphrased.
*** People don't read, listen, or watch news sources for facts. People generally have a grip on facts as they see it. What people look for is context, and a proper narrative.
^There's no profit in journalism, you see. Advertising based publications only thrive when they expand their advertising, and LEO can't grow into a larger market share without ceasing to be a Louisville-centric publication. 
^^Again, I'm pretty good at it.

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04 April, 2016

Poem Draft: Baptism in the Nose Bleeds


Hope rises expectant on Opening Day.
Last season’s transgressions are forgiven.
For a moment, we are wide-eyed.
For a moment, we are in love with the scent of a well-oiled leather mitt.
For a moment we are eager to knock off old dirt
and silence everything
except the welcome canticles of beer and hotdog vendors.
For a moment we shut out the prognostications of cynical game announcers.
For a moment unbelievers pray the Yankees don’t buy another pennant
and the faithful prepare to have their faith justified
or risk persecution by the All-Star Break.
For a moment all our digital distractions disappear –
politicians and their polished shit soliloquys are shushed
and all the noble rivalries rise to the surface.
You judge your friends by whether they watch the Cubs or the White Sox
and if they know Tom Seaver’s number
and if they embrace the dream of seeing Pete Rose in Cooperstown.
For a moment
the day, the hour, the minute, and the weight of all the ages past
rest upon whether that first pitch and the sound of the ball hitting the bat.


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06 January, 2016

Don't get no respect: back to school, wobbly-style

 I'm heading back to campus today to line up the last bit of what I need to do in order to teach on Thursday. Between the usual decline in course offerings and my separation from the local alternative dining and concert guide*, this winter, like most every, will be a tight one. I'm always on the look for more work, and I'm going to be diving into some projects and working on my poetry and fiction. I'm uncharacteristically prepared for the semester to begin, actually... primarily because I'm simplifying my teaching methods and focusing on what's really important in a writing class.

Practice.

People ask me all the time what I teach. When they're kind, or when they know I write poetry, they immediately ask if I teach creative writing**. I have to, for the sake of conversation, clarify that I teach academic writing***, tossing in some scholarly research methods and some interesting stories and little known history. I've been using Labor History the last few years as the subject matter for my Intermediate classes; I think it's important try and highlight little known facts of history that get overlooked in the narrative of manifest destiny.

This semester, I'm trying something a bit different because what I find in teaching labor history is that many of my students are incredibly disconnected from the events I wanted to talk about and the stories I wanted to tell.  I also found that in my attempts to ensure I was doing my job that I lost some the fundamental elements of my teaching style that made it fun and interesting.

One of the things I'm doing is simply changing research topics, for a while. My classes are going to be examining some events from local history: the 1855 Bloody Monday Election Riots, The 1937 Ohio River Flood, and river stories and myths. We're going to talk about how these narratives -- and the narratives of more current events -- impact ourselves as individuals, as a city, and as a larger culture.

So basically -- I'm going to tell stories, read and talk about essay drafts, and focus the important stuff.

And, you know, take attendance. Can't escape the all the tedium.

But I am grateful to have some kind of work
 _________________________
*The latest article of important was about how Louisvillians in their 20's move to Germantown, where the rent is cheap. You know... like they have for the past 20 years.
**I have written before about how the term "creative writing" annoys me because it implies that some kinds of writing isn't creative or part of a creative process.
*** Academic writing, apparently, has no creative process. Don't get me started.


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02 January, 2016

Hitting On Mother Mary: Kentucky Wandering Storytellers, 12/28/15


I told this story  at the Kentucky Storytelling Association's Monthly Wandering Storytellers Event.

Amanda and were asked to be December's featured tellers and we couldn't have been happier to participate. An old friend of ours from college, Jerry Williams of Goatboy Films, recorded this telling on his phone and sent it on.

So not only did I get to tell a fun story that I never told before, but I got to headline an event with my favorite storyteller, see an old friend, and hear a few other really good stories, too.





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03 December, 2015

Overheard Communique / Ellis Island Internment Update No. 5 -- 2 poetry drafts



Overheard Communique

We speak of grand historical tragedies
as if they were the salad days
and imagine ourselves heroes of the Reich.
North America is sliding into the sea;
that new coat of paint does not repair
or replace the rusty underpinning.

Ticket sales to passively participate
in the last, great gargling death rattle are reportedly high—
more this quarter than last. Reports come in by the hour,
intoned by the three-headed beast we trust best for news
about civil unrest in cities we have forgotten how to find on maps.

Plans are coming together
but we must leave out crucial details
for security’s sake.

You never know
which acronym is listening.


Ellis Island Internment Update No. 5

Rapture is only a few days away –
or so the penitent pray.
They fill the streets with tears
and with impolitic prostrations.

They pack haphazardly,
like tenants three months past due on the rent
preparing for a midnight retreat.

They hope they’ll be picked up before dawn.
Predictably, all these plans fall apart
when the sky does not fall
and the grid does not collapse.

A dictator’s flag is still something
in need of a salute

and the tortured confessions still sound pious
in spite of the absence of an amen.