Showing posts with label Wayward Sacredness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wayward Sacredness. Show all posts

29 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, 2.2: Out There - The Mount Carroll Reprisal (Coda)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. - Groucho Marx

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop... - The 

(Continued from here.)

My brother's visit was One Night Only, which meant that I had to limit his cultural exposure to things going on in town. Normally, I would have taken him to Poopy's in Savanna. The food there is good, and with the unseasonably warm weather there would be plenty of bikes and biker chicks to check out.

And if there wasn't maybe there would at least be some midget wrestling.

No. Really.

And for the record... they're not LITTLE PEOPLE. They're midgets. "Little People Wrestling" sounds like some daycare center  program. Midget wrestlers are  a tad mean and tend to walk around daring people to step on them. Really. One glared at my dear old mother on one of her visits.

Nope. Too close to tell...
Is that Professor Chaos?


He arrived a little after four and I waited for him outside the Kraft Building. I was standing there talking to my friend Kendra and her 6 year old son, Michael. Michael is a smart, sensitive, gentle boy who happens to be built  like a mini tank. (He is, in many respects, the newer model year of his father Kerry, who is also a friend of mine. And when you see either of them in your periphery, charging towards you with the intent to give you a hug, there's still that natural instinct to flinch....) I watched Brian walk purposefully down the sidewalk to the corner, cross at the cross walk and then cross again to meet me in front of the building. There was little to no traffic, only a few cars parked along Main Street.

"I could've diamonded* that, couldn't I?" was the first thing he said to me.

Yes, I told him. Then we shook hands and I introduced him to Kendra and Michael. And after a few minutes of chit chat, I decided to take him down to the bowling alley in order to check out a bit of local flavor.

In Mount Carroll, I could generally be found in one of  two places when I wasn't striking terror in the hearts of petty small town and county officials: 

  1. The Kraft Building (the cultural monosyncratic infidibulum)
  2. The Bowling Alley (the delubrum discordia** of Mount Carroll, Illinois)
  3. The House on Pumpkin Hill, formerly known as Home.^

I could, on occasion, be found at Bella's enjoying their respectable selection of bottled beer, or at Stone House Fudge Shop talking to John (The Diabetic Blues Playing Fudge Man. After all, if you made delicious fudge and couldn't eat it, wouldn't you play the blues??). I could sometimes be found at Charlie's catching up on the gossip (because all the news is known two days before the paper comes out) as well as finding out who's got the cancer, who's died, and whether they died from the cancer or some other god awful thing. In the rural hinterlands of corn and gawd country, the only sure thing is death. Some welcome it, some avoid it as long as they can; but in the end, everyone ends up under a marker on Boot Hill with a brief and restrainedly written obituary in the local papers. Unless, of course, you were in your later years one of those who joined a group... like The Rotary or the Friends of the Library or some church committee or another...  that merited having your named embossed on a bench, lamp post, or dusty plaque in some dark corner of City Hall as an emolument to all the hard work you managed to avoid doing by joining a club and going to meetings to play Committee of the Mountain^^.

 But since I've learned that most of the time, the best way to hide is to hide out in the open -- because when everyone knows where you are, they generally don't make their business to seek you out, all the way to the ends of the Earth (gas prices permitting) -- I tended to stick to same couple of places.

And since returning, I found myself sticking to more or less the same pattern -- the only things that changed being where I slept and that I was no longer a thorn in the side of various big fish in that itty bitty puddle. I was at the coffee shop, aping their free WiFi, drinking coffee, and trying to get some writing done... managing to get two out of the three accomplished.

The bowling alley was all but deserted; Dave and Billy were there, and Ashley the bartender would be in around 5. My plans -- in as much as I had them -- was to have a few drinks at the bowling alley and then wander down to Bella's to listen to Bruce Kort play. But I thought it might be fun -- or at least interesting -- for my older brother to see some something of what my life in Mount Carroll was like, especially since he was there to help me cart off the few material possessions that remained from it.

I, of course, ordered my usual -- beer and a shot of bourbon. In this case... and in general when drinking economically ... beer meant Bud Lite which, anyone knows, isn't really beer. But it was cheap, and it was draft, and when you drink it cold, you can almost forget that Budweiser has done more to kill the production of beer in this country than all the bottles and cans of bee it has sold since the end of Prohibition.

I offered to buy Brian a shot, too ...solid Kentucky bourbon... but he declined, saying he never mixed. Well, I understand. I used to not mix too. It's the smart way to drink, even if it's not the most expedient.

He ordered Smithwick's... a good bottle ale, manufactured by Guinness , the bowling alley had only recently started carrying. I drink it when I can afford it or when it's on draft. (The latter is too much to hope for.) I introduced him around, and we chit chatted and I let him take in the atmosphere. 

Around 4:30, Dave wife Julia walked in and sat down. Dave served her one of her usuals -- a Corona with lime. After she finished, she and Dave left, but said they would meet Brian and I down at Bella's. We had a few more drinks, I traded smart ass comments with Ashley, and then we walked up Market street and around the corner to Bella's on Main Street.

With the warmer weather, Friday nights at Bella's were generally a little crowded -- much to the annoyance of some prominent members of the Chamber of Commerce who wanted to keep any business out of town that might take some of their malingering trade. I wasn't too worried, though, because I knew Bob was working and Bob would make sure there was SOMEPLACE for us to sit.

Bob is one of those people who's character is weaved into the fabric of the town -- whether he likes it or not. Lucky for him that he's been around enough and done enough and been enough that he's mostly comfortable with that fact. He's a local boy who left, went West, won, lost, came back, lost some more, and is coasting into being One of Those Guys that people will long associate with the town. The restaurant that bears his last name -- Sieverts -- is still open, though under different ownership than his parents, who he actually came back to take care of and ended up burying. Like Jim Warfield, the owner/proprietor/tour guide/resident of Raven's Grin Haunted House, Bob is one of those guys who knows you, and if you're from Mount Carroll, he knew your parents, and maybe your grandparents. And if he didn't know them, he knew enough people that he heard about them. Bob is one of those people that are a natural and positive  byproduct of a small, isolated place.

The only problem he has right now is that whenever people walk into Bella's, where he's a waiter, and don't know any better, they think he owns the place. 

True to form, even though all of the booths were books, one table was open, and it ended up being the perfect size.

Brian and I sat down, and waited on Dave and Julie. We still had about an hour before Bruce was going to play. After Dave and Julie arrived, we ordered the first bottle of wine. Eventually, my friend Kerry -- father of the aforementioned smart, sensitive mini tank Michael -- showed up. We drank, ordered dinner, waited for Bruce to begin. Eventually he hauled his equipment in and set up in the small corner stage facing one of the street windows.

We ate, we drank, we listened to some great picking. At one point, Dave got up and played a few songs. As I've mentioned before, the sound of his playing and singing is one of those sounds that I associate with Mount Carroll. It's a good association. And, it's damn fine music.

At one point -- in my honor -- played "Way Out There." Anyone who's ever seen the movie Raising Arizona is familiar with this song. Actually, the song is much older than that: 

The night ended well. Three bottles of wine, a well prepared meal, some amazing music, and the company of  friends and family. There's very little else in the world that a person needs; because while I may be (and probably always will be) money poor, I am rich in friends.

I was also very rich in the hang over department the following morning, which delayed our departure by a few hours. But, one of the advantages of being a Man of Leisure is that I can generally allow myself to sleep until the worst of it's over.

This leaving was odd, because although it definitely had a more definite feel to it... how could it not, with the Batmobile loaded to bear with my shit... I also felt like I'd be back and the circumstances would be different.  It may be that Mount Carroll isn't what the universe has in mind for me right now... if in fact there is some mind at work behind all of this. But it is the sort of the place that's nice to return to when solace, quietude, and good friends are called for.

[Thanks for reading. And remember, if you like it,

  1. Pass the link on. Copy and Paste. Go ahead. 
  2. Click the donate button and help keep me traveling. I'm headed out again in a weeks... Greyhound ticket bought to get as far as Louisville, KY, at the tail end of a slingshot back through the Bluegrass (I promised) before heading west.
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. I'd like to get enough money in my travel fund or convince them to give me a 60 Day DISCOVERY PASS

Thanks again for reading and for your generous support. I love you guys and gals. I really mean it. Ok. I might love the gals a little more... but in a different way. Promise.]

*diamonded: the ability to cross a four way intersection from one opposing corner to the other opposing corner. This petty much only exists in small towns that don't have stop lights, and is otherwise a horrible idea to attempt.

**delubrum discordia: Shrine to Discordianism. Discordianism is a religion and school of thought founded in a bowling alley, and may have involved the ingesting of hallucinogenic drugs. Read up on it though. It's not quite as laid back as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, but it's worth a gander.

^Home: for a proper understanding of this term, please consult Bill Monroe's version of The Wayfaring Stranger

^^ Committee of the Mountain: For those unfamiliar with the reference, consult your local ordinances, state constitution and coded statues, and U.S. Law in conjunction with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Go one. I'll wait..... You back? Ok. All that wordy bullshit? That's the unhappy result of playing Committee of the Mountain. If you're still unclear, go to any town or city council meeting anywhere. I recommend a minimum of two beers and two shots of good Kentucky Bourbon before the meeting to steel your nerves. If you sit through the entire meeting without leaving or ranting like a pissed off banshee, go out and good and drunk after. You deserve it.

27 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, Part 2.1 : More Peripatetic Ruminations

This don't look like no expressway to me! - Joliet Jake Blues

Not my brother's car. But I think he sees it this way. In his head.
The fundamental problem with returning is leaving.

After three weeks of trying to put off packing and trying to decide what to do with my stuff, I managed to get my older brother to drive up to corn and gawd country to pack up the few possessions I have then take me and them back to Porkopolis, where all of my books could be stored in the same place for the first time since 2006.

Which, of course, makes me wonder, again, why I KEEP all the books, since I haven't seen most of them except in passing for a while. 

I mean, I carry some reading material with me when I travel... I'll be taking a few different ones when I head back through Kentucky and westward... but I'm going through this process -- yet of again -- of debating my attachment to things I may not see for a while. 

After all... shouldn't someone get something out of them? All they do now is sit in boxes in the rafters of my mom's garage.

But I'm not sure I'm ready to give them up, really. Or maybe I am, if I thought they would be read and enjoyed and not be collecting dust somewhere.

Even for books, though, I didn't have that many to take down to Cincinnati. Three medium-sized boxes, an apple box, and a milk crate. Then there were two other boxes of random stuff, a duffle bag for my clothes, a fishing pole, two portable typewriters, and my cast iron pots.

Don't get me started on the typewriters. It's another one of those things I like. The old manual kind, that make noise and don't forgive mistakes with a damned delete button. You had white out. Later, a correction ribbon. But mostly, you had to get your fingers to do the right goddamned thing. Or you typed the page over. And over. And over.

Yes. I did a lot of that. At first.

Attachment to things in general is one of those issues I don't have. Yes, I like my books. I like to collect rocks and typewriters. Certain objects have certain meaning for me. But I've also let go of a hell of a lot over the years -- books and furniture and appliances and utensils of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. You have to be a bit cut throat when you're moving and have limited money, time, and space. I've found, though, that most things can be replaced.

Because, as some sage or another said, nothing lasts. 

And if I've learned any lessons lately, it's that one.

Which, of course, leads us back to the story wherein my brother drives 7 hours in his Infiniti (aka The Batmobile) from Northern Kentucky (it's still basically Cincinnati, let's be honest; but don't tell his wife. She's convinced otherwise.) to the Northwestern corner of Illinois (that, except for an arbitrary boundary and the will of some very opinionated Western Illinois University fans, would be Iowa.) to pick me and my few remaining possessions up. 

After I approached him about the prospect (aka sent him a polite but younger brotherly text) his first response was

"How much stuff? Will it all fit in my car?"

Fair question. I had sort of hoped he would bring the family SUV. It's not as cool as the Batmobile, but it is more spacious. On the other hand, my sister-in-law has a life, too (she coaches something called Forensics*, which has absolutely nothing to do with corpses) and probably needs the SUV to cart around kids and the bloodless and dismembered bodies of anyone who suggests:
  1. That Harry Potter is lame.
  2. That Twilight is even more lame.
  3. That Johnny Depp is not really a pirate.

I assured him -- because I was almost 99% certain myself -- that everything would fit. After it was all packed and hauled downstairs from the space that had been my Cubby (aka, my writing space) to the summer porch so that it would be easier to load the car, the pile wasn't as big as I thought it might be. 

(For those not in the know, that's an enclosed porch that could double as a room in the summer. You know... before central air. Before air conditioning. Before the electric fan.) 

A few days later he got back to me (via text) asking if there was a hotel in town. I pondered. The two times my mom visited, she stayed at a Super 8 in Savanna, 10 miles away. I mentioned that to him, but I also suspected that he wouldn't want to drive 10 miles after hanging out and doing a bit of drinking. For one, there's nothing else to do in Mount Carroll on a Friday night. For another, I wanted my friends to meet Brian. In the scenario in which I am Sherlock Holmes, he's Mycroft. Not only because he's OLDER but because he's probably one of the smartest people I know. And I say that knowing full well that I have some pretty smart friends. 

Also, in most social situations, people are generally surprised to discover we're related. I often refer to him as "The Clean Shaven, More Successful Parsons."

My mother hates that particular description. Not because he's not both clean shaven (he managed to dodge the gorilla gene) or successful; because he's certainly both. She doesn't like when I describe my brother like that because the implication is that I'm neither clean shaven (I'm not) or nor successful (this depends entirely on your notion of success. I think I'm enormously successful. My old high school guidance counselor might have other ideas.)

I also mentioned that there was a Bed and Breakfast up on the hill near the cemetery, and an older hotel in town, The Hotel Glenview, which some people I know have been refurbishing. The downstairs is a combination of Dabluz, a shop for mostly handmade stuff (my friend Heather Houzenga sells some of her wares there) and The Driftless Area Stillroom Wine and Cheese Shop... which is one of those nice little places no one thought had a chance in a place like Mount Carroll, where cheese is individually wrapped and wine is served in with communion wafers.

After mentioning the Glenview, he asked if there was a bar. (After all, he IS my brother.) I told him no, he would be walking distance to both the bowling alley, and Bella's... as well as two other bars with plenty of local color, if he was so inclined. So he checked it out. Then he texted me back that he reserved a room.

"They know you there," he told me.

"Yes." I replied. "That may not work in your favor though."

* Forensics actually refers to a form of rhetorical argument. It's a combination of theater and classical discourse, most often associated with the legal profession. My sister-in-law, Jonna, is no slouch at an argument... proof positive that she belongs in the family... and her kids won this trophy


which... and this is one of those ways in which the area she lives is VERY MUCH like Kentucky.... will not be displayed at the school because they're too cheap and too focused on boy's athletics to build a proper trophy case. Bozos. Congrats, by the way to her and her kids... one of whom is my niece, Brianna.

25 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, Intermezzo 3: The Last Supper (A Poem)

You cooked dinner and I tried not to notice the small differences
since I'd been gone. Mexican Night: simple taquitos.
Corn. Black beans. Tomatoes. Over lean beef that will inevitably
over cook. We joke that food is never spicy enough since leaving Arizona.

The cat is acting needy, you tell me. We talk about our days,
the current and those that have past in between the last time
we sat down together and supped. There is no blood here,
and no body either, and no more salvation.

Keep the conversation light. Polite and pleasant.
Your voice echoes in my mind, back when you said
we were both rational... that we were both reasonable.
It didn't have to be difficult, you said.

I find myself faking chit chat and laughter
as I pile on the red pepper. The burn
always makes it better, keeps me present
in these moments I want to fall into my emotions

like one more failed baptism. It'll be okay, I tell myself
if I avoid your eyes – eyes that have been the only ones
that ever really saw me. I wish the water were bourbon
and then I could be a demon

and it would all be so much easier
and you could remember
and I could forget, just for a moment
that this is something we both need.

The disbursement of things has been easy, at least.
Packing at the end of a relationship (I'd forgotten)
always brings out my unsentimental side,
makes me want to burn all the memories out of my brain,

start fresh. But that only works in the mythology of crash and burn.
This is the one about 40 years of wandering the desert,
being led by columns of smoke and fire and praying for manna.
So there's no point in squabbling over DVD's and kitchenware.

Sitting on the porch after dinner smoking, you ask me
if I feel better. I confess I've stayed too long, that Out There
is calling me. My discomfort shows. We speak casually
of divorce, like butchers dismember carcasses for steak.

I can hide behind the pipe smoke
so long as I avoid looking in your eyes,
where I might be tempted to say
Save me. Take, eat, this is my heart. 

[I normally post poetry here. But since the poetry is tied to the traveling and experiences of the travel log, I'll be posting more of it here... especially as it relates.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you like what you read:
  1. Pass the link.
  2. Hit the donate button on the right and contribute to the Travel Fund. 

Every little bit helps, especially as I gather steam to push westward.]

20 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness: The Plenteous Nature of Obligation (A Pocket Journal Transcription/Explication)

You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you get what you need. - The Rolling Stone

Sunday, 18th March, 2012

On some level, life ends up being about who you owe.

Sense of obligation leads around, determines where we go, how we live ... or how we don't ... what kind of jobs we take or don't take. No matter how independent we are, so much of our lives come back to our relationships with others, our obligations to one another.

Started out the day yesterday  at the bowling alley. Drank a few Guinness and had 2 shots of bourbon. I've been staying away from the costlier stuff as a general rule... even bourbon. Which, being back in Mount Carroll, isn't easy.

I've been drinking of course. Dave has been kind in regards to covering quite a bit of my bar tab and Billy's always good for a few in reciprocation. I've paid for some, too; but what I've paid doesn't nearly cover what I've been drinking.

Wanted to splurge a little, though, it being St. Patrick's Day and all. But I was going to take it easy, too.... or, at the very least, PACE myself. (In this, I was largely successful, believe it or not. Penny pinching and making sure I'll be be able to travel are far more effective motivators than worries about my health and welfare.

[I know I'm not a martyr; I never died for anyone but me. - Over the Rhine]

Hung around the bar even after Dave and Julie disappeared into the basement with Billy, Jeanine (Billy's wife), and J.R.

[The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all undimmed. -Fortune Cookie]

After a bit Doug and Laurel come in for the corned beef and cabbage*. (NOTE: Doug is on city council and a die hard historical preservationist. His wife Laurel's business has something to do with some facet of community and economic  development -- not here as much as other places. She and her partner Ernst are essentially hired guns. They dig up and apply for grants, put together project proposals, look at the viability of business projects based on the area the business is thinking of building in. And that's only the stuff I've overheard them talking about At Brick Street Coffee.)  So I moved from the bar to the back table where they sat down, chit-chatted with them while they ate. Doug ordered the salad bar and made a respectable looking salad loaded down with ham and bacon. Laurel ordered the corned beef and cabbage, though she pretty much only ate the cabbage, potatoes and carrots.

We talked a little about my leaving out (again), and Doug tried once again to talk me into staying. Laurel seems much more at ease with people coming and going than Doug... which I find interesting since he prides himself on being  progressive and forward thinking. You'd think he would be more transition-minded of the two.

But then again, he is a die hard preservationist... which is sort of ironic on the surface.

"You're a local fixture," he told me. This was maybe the 2nd or 3rd time he talked to me about staying on since I came back from my Eastbound jaunt. The times before he tried to appeal to my sense of community and obligation -- which are legitimate tactics to use, since I do feel like I'm a part of the community here... which  in part means I have incurred a certain sense of obligation to the place.

[I carry my home on my back. But the cops only frown every time I put it down. - Utah Phillips]

It's difficult to explain the exegesis of why I have to go to people who aren't similarly afflicted. Doug and Laurel did their share of bumping around early in their marriage, but they have been settled here in Mount Carroll, undertaking the renovation and preservation of their historic house on Main Street for 15 years. They understand what Melissa sometimes calls "being a gypsy." But this itch is an entirely different thing. And generally, the only people I have found who really understand it are those who feel it, too.

[I don't know if I'll ever find the way back home. -Utah Phillips]

And it's not just the fact that Melissa is here. It would be relatively easy to avoid her, if that was what I really wanted... even in a town as small as this one. It's still an emotional mind fuck when I see her and talk to her, and I have put off going over the house to finish packing just because my natural impulse is to avoid the emotional pain of visiting A Place That Used To Be Home.  But I knew I'd have to deal with that before I came back here. And really, it's a problem that's all about me -- which leads back, of course, to onfree of the factors that contributed to the end of the marriage.  That I make most things about me and only me... whether they really are or not. 

I have not always been mindful of my obligations. And though I do try, sometimes that underlying selfishness bubbles up to the surface. It's something I work on, something I am trying to be ever present and thoughtful of these days. And it is primarily because I've been traveling and writing and being reminded of just how lucky I am to have a multitude of friends and of how good-hearted people can be if they're given the chance that I can come back here and be aware -- sometimes awkwardly -- that I carry the weight of certain obligations. 

One of those being that I have to be honest about my part of the blame in the breakdown of my marriage to Melissa. This was brought back, clear as the sky is today, when I woke up with a hang over and the residue of a feeling that I had felt a lot over the last year and a half or so. That feeling of being an asshole. Primarily because, while I was certainly drunk enough prevail upon the men's toilet at the bowling alley to vomit in, I wasn't drunk enough to pass out. The drink rarely makes me sleepy. Actually, it usually does the exact opposite. I was sitting up, by myself, trying to get myself to sleep. And then I started to think about things. About being here. About needing to get away. About how what we want and what we need isn't always the same thing. Oh, I'm a fucking genius when I drink. And what do you think this genius did at 1 in the morning?

You know it. I texted Melissa to see if she was awake, knowing there was a better than average chance that she would be.

You awake?
whats up
Nothin. Me.
What did u want? U asked if I was up?
Sorry. I'm just awake. Ignore me.
Stop treating me like i chose this.
That's fair. But stop treating me like I wanted it.
You did.
Are u drunk?
 Been drinking, yes. Don't wanna fight.
I didn't choose either.
I dont either. Why did u text me?
Sorry. I have moments. It'll pass, I guess.

If nothing else, my temporary return has been effective at reminding us both what it is about me that pushed her away. Clarity isn't always kind. 

The conversation goes on a bit after this, but the gist of it was: Don't be an asshole. And I can't say I blame her... because... well ... I am. Often. I am and have always been my worst enemy. Sure I have good qualities... I'm well-read, a snappy dresser, a decent writer, a polite guest. My mom likes me. My friends like me. Women occasionally enjoy my company for brief amounts of time.

But I was, in all honesty, a shitty husband in many respects. That I really did try is only a testament to the fact that I was horrible. Not violent. Not mean spirited. But an asshole, nonetheless. Because I wasn't as mindful about my obligations as I should have been.

Of course, that my obligations to my marriage often ran contradictory to my obligations to myself were the real problem.

And when I was talking to Doug and Laurel, trying to explain why it is I have to go... because I'm really only truly happy when I'm Out There, and being Out There is the only place where I can live and not turn into a total asshole because the work I need to do is Out There. And there's a lot of it to do.

There's a lot of it to do because of the obligations I feel. Because my friends have been more than generous, and so has the universe. Because I left the bowling alley without paying ... intending to come back later and pay at the end of the day... and when I did return I found that Doug and Laurel had paid my morning bar tab.  Because Dave and Julie have put up with me for almost 3 weeks. Because John Briscoe sometimes buys me a bowl of soup. Because a homeless guy in Norfolk gave me a dollar and a cigarette. Because I don't want anyone to regret the love and goodwill they show me, and because I want to find someway to share that back with the universe. 

[This post is dedicated to everyone who's been gracious enough to let me sleep on their couches, share their food, and listen to my stories. There's too many of you to list all at once. I hope you know who you are.

And thanks to all the people who read and who, I hope, will keep reading once I get back Out There. Which will be soon. Very soon.]