Showing posts with label Part 1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Part 1. Show all posts

10 October, 2017

Perpetual pilgrim, Part 1: introduction to the off-the-road edition

God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk.~ Meister Eckhart

Home life is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Lately my goal has been to try and apply the basic rules of the road to my everyday life.

It's not that I'm going to be out and about anytime soon... work and other responsibilities make this impossible... but it occurs to me that I've been living like the things I did out on the road had no relation to how I was living my life now. The problem is that in my most natural state, my mindset is that of a permanent traveler. It's not that I don't love the home I have with Amanda and Stella and Will; but I also know that as much as I love home... home as family, home as a place I'm comfortable... I'm not, in my natural state, much of a homebody. Yes, I like to maintain my space a certain way. When I travel I'm a tediously organized packer, too. So really, it's less about being domesticated and more about the aforementioned particularness ... whether home is on my back or four walls and a roof that needs to be re-shingled.

But I think part of my problem has been that I've still been trying to tackle this domestic bliss stuff the way I was socialized to by small town culture, by television, by mentors and heroes -- none of whom ever suggested, even remotely, that I orta do things the way they do things.**

In trying to figure out how to do this stuff  My Way, the only conclusion I've come to is that I have to live at home the way I live out on the road. Certainly there are some modifications. But overall, it's more about spacial awareness than a shift in awareness. Or, that's what I'm going with now.

My road rules went through multiple drafts and notions, but they boil down to something like this:

  1. Read and write everyday.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings.
  3. Leave things as nice or nicer than you found them.
  4. Etiquette makes society, not the other way around.
  5. Be grateful when things are good. They won't always be.
  6. Keep your head up when things are bad. They will be more often than not.Show appreciation and articulate love. Daily.
This isn't always easy, though I often think it should be. With four adults, three dogs, and two cats living under one roof, sometimes it feels like it's a little hard breathe. And I LOVE these people. But generally, if I keep my art at the center*** and tether myself to being essentially humane and focus on trying to be the best husband, father, and father-in-law that I can be, I believe I'm doing my part in helping maintain our conglomerated family unit.

Even if it's not altogether natural feeling sometimes.


___________________________________________________________________________
* No less than every girlfriend I've ever had and two ex-wives have pointed out/accused that I have an antagonistic relationship with the world. But clearly, the world started it.
**All of them actually said the contrary, on multiple times. A wise mentor will never tell you to do what they do, exactly how they do it. That's how you tell the difference between a mentor who has your best interests at heart and a megalomaniac who's interested in feeding his ego.
*** There's a reason why "Read and write everyday" is the first rule.


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26 July, 2017

Near where that barn burned, where all those people died, Part 1

You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile.. - Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

I mostly refused to talk myself out of going out of pure, bull-headed stubbornness.

Anyone who knows me moderately well, and a few who don't, are not at all surprised by this statement.

There aren't a lot of things that draw me back to Bethel, Ohio. Other than living there again very briefly in the late 1990's I haven't lived there since I left for college at age 18.  Nostalgia isn't something that creeps in about my old hometown. My childhood wasn't a bad one. My parents loved me. I had a few close friends. I wasn't a wildly popular kid. Quiet. Not a jock. Not an academic star. I excelled at band, but I stayed well below the radar of the guidance counselor, the principal, the majority of girls my age, and any non-familial adult who wanted shape and facilitate my future.

It would be easy to say I feel antagonistic towards my old hometown. But the truth is, I don't. However, it would also be disingenuous to say I have some lingering nostalgia, or some desire to go back.

That's not to say I wasn't nervous. I was. I wasn't worried about former classmates I might see or might not see. I was worried about running into an older self.

This happens from time to time when you embrace change and live your life based on the idea that once you brush a coat of shellac on your life, it's done. I've seen this time and time again. People find the place in their life where they feel the most powerful, the most beautiful, the most THEMSELVES, and they stop. They stop growing. They stop changing. They stop learning. They stop adapting.

When you embrace stagnation as a point of pride, you are in terrible trouble. And so is everyone around you.

I've tried not to stagnate. I've embraced change. When you're a writer, you don't really have a choice. Sharks swim or die. Art adapts or dies. It's as simple as that.

But it's hard to face who you used to be -- or who you perceived yourself to be.

18 year-old me was broken. Broken by a youth spent hiding behind rampant insecurity and social awkwardness. I learned how to hide because hiding was easier. 18 year-old me was devastated by my father's death. It shook my whole world. Before my dad died, it never occurred to me that I would live anywhere else but near where I grew up. After he died, I didn't feel like I could ever live there again. The short time that I did live there again -- renting a bed in someone's laundry room for $80 a month -- reconfirmed it.

That was the first time I ever ran into an older version of myself. Aside from a couple of close friends, people who knew me in high school could not reconcile who I was with who I had become. Still broken -- this time from a blood-letting divorce from my daughter's mother. I dropped out of college and retreated to a laundry room on a back street in a town I knew I didn't belong in anymore.

Me and my shadow. DC, circa 1986ish


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20 July, 2015

Gig Life Along the Dirty, Sacred River: Part 1 of ?

This is the gig.

The absolute deadline is Tuesday 9am. Friday afternoon is golden. Monday 5pm is the preferred latest, as this gives them time to stay flexible in determining whether the article meets their needs.

This is the gig.

Mornings have become a version of controlled chaos. The different accommodations and deals we made with ourselves to extend Sunday, to hold onto the last bit of the weekend, have come full circle.  Amanda gets ready to go her job. She's almost always the first up these days, so she lets the dogs out and tries to mentally prepare for what she has called "the cube life." I've fallen out of the discipline I had in my 30's, so I let myself lounge some. This is a habit I need break, because discipline is at the heart of everything I do. Discipline is the center. Discipline is the golden spike holding it all together.

This is the gig.

News isn't the sexiest writing, but it has meaning. It has purpose. In these, the latter days of Empire, writing the news isn't about informing the public so much as it is providing the larger narrative people need to understand the world around them. It's about making connections, ferreting out details, and slinging truth with as much detail and style as possible.

This is the gig.

There are those who claim to simply want the media to report "the facts." But the facts are rarely simple; and when they are, all that means is there's another story underneath that needs to crawl out in the air and light. Also I find that people are lying, mostly to themselves, when they say they just want the facts. What people want is a narrative that doesn't counter the narrative they've already told themselves over their lifetime. "Truth" is often a story we tell ourselves to explain how the world works, so we can stop paying attention and focus on other things.

This is the gig.

Amanda has been at work a half hour. The house is quiet for the moment. I'm drinking coffee and remembering that I didn't eat breakfast. I'm at my desk in the basement writing this, and as I am, the articles I have to knock out today are percolating in the back of my head, just they have been for the last few days. Sometimes the hardest part of this gig is finding the story -- not spin, as the cynics call it, but focus. A good news writer provides a lens, just like a movie director provides a lens. Not knowing the focus of an article before I sit down to write it frustrates me. Think of an article's focus like the closing of a giant sack. In order to find that focus, the sack has to be open to all things, to everything. In this, writing news is not unlike writing poetry, since writing poetry means being open to all things. But at some point, the sack is full. At some point, it must be tied off, or it will overflow and everything I've been trying to explain will be lost in the miasma.

This is the gig.

When I'm being honest, I tell people this gig is really about muckraking. The gig is about wading into the shit and public relations spin. The gig is about finding half rotten molars and turning them into pearls. The gig is about the same old ontological argument as poetry -- trying to find what a literature professor of mine once called Big "T" truth as opposed to Little "t" truth. The gig is an exercise in semantics -- finding the meaning of meaning.

This is the gig.

I read recently that I have more opportunity than ever in this "recovered" economy. Our house was built in 1946. It has old house problems. There are leaks that needs to be repaired that the recent rains have brought to our attention. The kitchen floor needs to be leveled from underneath. We have project plans for the dining room and the kitchen. The backyard is a jungle that could be an Eden. There are two more adult eaters and another dog living here for awhile. I remind myself, almost daily, that there is more outside of my control than in it. I have begun an almost perpetual form of meditation and prayer.  What I want most is a peaceful household, but I am constantly having to negotiate terms with myself. I was watching a show on stream recently and one of the characters said Being a father means being responsible for other other people. At least once a day I wonder how my father handled it -- truly handled it, as opposed to my memory of him handling it. And then I think about how I'm supposed to be able to rake in all this cash because it's the "gig economy" and I want to scream and unleash the demon in my heart.

This is the gig.

Everything reduces to poetry. Writing news has its own rhythm and resonance. It  has it's own alliteration and assonance. The focus is often born out of the form the article takes. I love it like I love teaching and poetry. They each takes a significant toll. They each simultaneously feed and emaciate the fabric of my soul. I meditate and pray on process. I look for the light in my daughter's eyes and hope it never fades. I dream of Montana and perpetual motion. I wait for Amanda to get home so I can find resolve and focus in her arms.

29 November, 2014

The Puritans Never Did This, Part 1: Under an Overload, Loading in, and The Dirty River Press

1. Under and Overload, Loading In, and The Dirty River Press

It's been a while since I sat down to write about life here along the dirty, sacred river. This past academic semester has been doing a number on your humble narrator -- teaching 7 first year college writing classes is more than this fuzzy fella has done a while. I was (and am) grateful to have the work. After a long and interminable summer of not working, I took on what I knew was going to be entirely too much for two very important reasons:
  1. to catch up on the bills that had piled up over the summer, and
  2. because that nagging, annoying remainder of my socialized male ego told me I needed to in order to hold my head up.
The first of these is self-evident. Even in these, the crumbling days of Babylon, the utilities must be paid and the money My Own True Love brings in will only stretch so far... in spite of us being pretty good at rubbing pennies together.

The second of the above listed reasons for teaching entirely too much for too little pay is the one that has made this semester physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining.

While I know that I have perfected the Art of Loafing into... well, an Art... I have never minded working when I know what it is I'm working for. Even in the life of a matriculated conscientious malingerer,  sweat equity is a necessary component. It's impossible to be an anarchist and not recognize that life is a DIY process. Where I start to begrudge work is when I feel like it is NOT for me, or for things, people, and institutions I that I reject as having any place in my life. And while I love teaching -- and I expect that I always will, in some way, be teaching -- one of the couple of things this semester has reminded me of is that in order to actually ensure some future stability as well as my sanity, it's a bad idea to depend on teaching in the crumbling institution of higher yearning for anything more than a temporary stop gap between feast and famine.

And so, Dear Readers, Friends, and Fellow Travellers, I am set to announce The Dirty River Press:





I had been tossing around an old idea... that one being Iron Belly Press. I'd been carrying that idea around since the demise of The One-Legged Cow Press more than a few years ago. You'd think I would have learned my lesson then.

Well, I didn't. I also decided that if this was to be a new venture... Amanda, brave woman that she is, is undertaking this with me in full partnership and commiseration... and that if this was going to be emblematically, symbolically, and in actuality tied to my present and our future, then it must tied spiritually and ritualistically. It must be embodied of new myths and new stories. And here, Dear Readers, is where I find myself: sitting along the dirty sacred river, home of the Gator Men, dead sharks, polluted waters, abandoned pirate ships, and water buried towns.

We don't have a website yet, but we have a space That's right, an actual space, located in The Mammoth an old paper warehouse located on S. 13th Street here in River City. Dirty River Press is sharing the space with fellow worker John Paul Wright and railroadmusic.org, as well as the Kentucky IWW. This is a collaborative space. A raw canvas if you will, full of artist studios and good ideas and powerful world creating energies.  I'm in the process of pricing used off-set printers and will be acquiring one soon. Our first run will hopefully happen around my 42nd birthday, February 20th, 2015. Dirty River Press will specialize in limited editions of hand made chapbooks, broadsides, and pamphlets. We'll publish a small catalog of work, including my own -- because being an anarchist means owning the means of production, even when you are producing art. We will also be setting up shop as a union printer in order to support the literary purpose of the press.

We also have a Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/dirtyriverpress

I'm pretty excited about this. You don't need to wait for a new life. Make a new life.

I have to sign off for now. But expect the forthcoming:

  1.  Part 2: Black Friday Protesting Along The Dirty Sacred, River
  2. An audio recording. Very Very Soon.
Thanks for reading, and for hanging around.