Showing posts with label Part 1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Part 1. 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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24 October, 2017

Just yesterday morning, Part 1

You can't fix the weather - you just have to get on with it. - Douglas Adams

home repair fail
Buster Keaton & Virginia Fox. The Electric House (1922)
Sometimes I think I'm cursed by crumbling ceilings. I wake up early in the morning to write and read, to meditate and pray, while the house is silent. At that time of day, before the time-tracking part of my brain, before the you've-got-too-much-shit-to-get-done-today part of my brain, before the mark-my-obligations-off-the-never-ending-list part of my brain kicks in, I swim outside of the clockwork world. Even in the technological age I find there are mechanical underpinnings. This touch and go techno gratification stuff is just a thin skin for Descartes' bastard son -- a wholly mechanical model universe created by monkeys with bigger brains who also think God is monkey but with a machine heart.

And in this swim of mental time space, before the machines clang and the digital clock face on my cell phone reminds me that I'm simply not allowed to exist outside the artificial time loop, I take in the whole of my surroundings. The silence. The sound the dog's paws make on the linoleum floor. The sound of the cat jumping on top of the garbage can by the backdoor to be let out. The feel of the ceiling fan blades cutting the air. The sound of rain outside as the sun starts to come into view.

The leaking roof in the corner of the dining room.

I used to love the sound of the rain. Especially early in the morning or at night when it was time to (finally) sleep. When I was living in a friend's cabin out in Eastern Kentucky, I loved the sound of rain on the tin A-frame roof. The sound was hypnotic. The cadence was meditative. 

Now when I hear the sound of rain, my first thought is: "FUCK! Where will the house leak today?"

I once heard a man wiser than me say that it was a mistake to own anything you have to paint or feed. Most of the time I take that statement with a grain of salt. It's not that I'm all about ownership. Actually, I'm pretty certain my dog only tolerates me because I feed her most of the time, and as such I've never really thought of myself as a "dog owner" as much as I have a "dog person."

The same goes with home ownership. I tend not to think of myself as a homeowner as much as the
dog man
person helping pay the mortgage on a house that will, by and by,be someone else's responsibility. It's better than paying rent, in theory, because someday -- if Amanda and I are very very lucky -- we'll only have to pay property taxes to a municipality that has done nothing in regards to the care or upkeep of this house we call a home.  The bank doesn't help out either, come to think of it. All I do is live here and I'm bound and obligated to keep the yard mowed, see to basic repairs, try not to let it be too much of an eyesore, and take care of the place until the "mort*" part of the "mortgage" kicks in.

That's the deal. And most of the time -- like 88-90 percent of the time -- I'm perfectly fine with this. Life is about impermanence after all, and all we're doing is trying to figure out our purpose and find meaning in what mostly seems like a futile attempt to avoid being the target of rush hour road rage -- someone else's or, God help us, our own.

And I was still ok... until I heard the not so subtle drip of water from the corner of where, when it rains a little too much, water leaks in. We're prepared, of course. We have a bucket there, and towel.  But it is only a short-term fix. The leak is sufficiently bad that I will probably have to find the wherewithal to climb up on the roof -- something I don't excel at. OK, I'm pretty decent at the up part. It's the down part that almost always gives me trouble. It's not that I'm scared of heights. It's that I'm far too aware that Murphy's Law kicks in to triple time whenever I'm doing anything like, say, climbing a ladder, or working under a car, crawling into the creepy space under the ceiling to repair a hole (causing me my first and heretofore only panic attack.)

When Amanda got up a couple of hours later, I was annoyed at the ceiling, annoyed at my inability to either repair it or pay someone on better terms with Murphy to repair it. I'm not entirely sure I've tried to ever explain to her why I feel haunted by leaky roofs.

And I wasn't entirely sure I felt like explaining it then, either.
__________________________________________________________________
* In trying to find the etymological root of the word mortgage, I made the mistake of just typing the word  "mort" into Google. Apparently "mort" does not mean death, but instead is "the note sounded on a horn when the quarry is killed." Now, I know I'm not much of an expert on the sound that horns make while hunters are hunting, but I'm not entirely sure I trust Google Dictionary. 

The good news is that after I went to the trouble of typing in, Boolean style, the words "etymological" and "mortgage", I finally found the proper definition... just in case some of you good looking and clearly intelligent folks didn't know it already.

mortgage (n.)
late 14c., morgage, "conveyance of property as security for a loan or agreement," from Old French morgage (13c.), mort gaige, literally "dead pledge" (replaced in modern French by hypothèque), from mort "dead" (see mortal (adj.)) + gage "pledge" (see wage (n.)). So called because the deal dies either when the debt is paid or when payment fails. Old French mort is from Vulgar Latin *mortus "dead," from Latin mortuus, past participle of mori "to die" (from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm," also "to die" and forming words referring to death and to beings subject to death). The -t- restored in English based on Latin.


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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.