Showing posts with label Zen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zen. Show all posts

10 January, 2020

"Give me things that don't get lost*" (Why retirement is a myth)

I never really noticed Dad's age, even when he got sick. He still went to work. He still attended Cincinnati Bengals home games. He was still both deeply loving and sometimes deeply intractable. There were lines that should not, could not, would not (not on his watch) be crossed. My brother and I both knew what those lines were without being told. But he loved my mother with a tenderness that could sometimes be embarrassing for little boys and he was never afraid to tell us he loved us to demonstrate his love, sometimes in generous and sometimes in terrifying proportions.

As far as I was concerned my old man was God's Hammer, and just as immortal. He wasn't afraid of anyone and didn't kowtow to anybody.  I watched him stand resolute against church elders who questioned his faith and against family members who disagreed with my mom going to college instead of staying home. He wasn't progressive, but he was pragmatic... almost to a fault.

When he and my mom talked about him retiring early after my brother and I were both out of high school, I didn't question it. Dad had always love Florida and them talking about moving there made sense. Mom would retire from teaching early and they'd go spend their days on the white sand beaches around St. Petersburg.

He'd already taken up cooking. He was learning photography. He was endlessly curious, endlessly forward thinking in his unsentimental and pragmatic way. He was an early adopter of most things technological and never once expressed nostalgia for "the good old days." My old man was a man of his time and his place and he always seemed just fine with that. He wasn't what you might think of when conjuring up an image of someone living in Zen…. as a matter of fact, he would have vociferously argued why he wasn't -- but he was the only person I knew who seemed to know his place and know what he wanted. He'd traveled enough to know.

He wanted the Florida sun and my mom and to see his sons make their way in the world -- which made him endlessly critical of both of us, though in very different ways. He wanted for us what he didn't have and hadn't achieved, though it took me a long time to understand that.

Experiencing my father's death taught me that certain "facts" I'd taken for granted during the whole of my very inexperienced 17 years were wrong, because my dad did everything right. He worked. He made plans. He had his somedays all lined up.  Seeing God's Hammer dead nearly killed God for me and it made me question the point of having somedays. By the time I graduated high school, I'd already stopped planning anything. There wasn't a someday. There was now. And now. And now.

I'm turning 47 next month and whatever anger I've wielded against God and the universe has become something else.  No matter what anyone tells you, that demon in the belly never really goes away. But it has taught me how to counter the fear I was raised embrace. Dad would maybe put it different. I don't think he wanted his sons to be afraid of the world, but maybe to be wiser walking through it. 

But I'm a slow learner. 

The one thing I know, and know for sure, is that somedays don't mean anything. I want to live now, in this moment. It took me more than 20 years to find the love of my life and while I could wait to live fully when we're retired, the fact is I don't want to waste time. When the hour glass runs out on this life, it runs out. And yes, I have faith that something passes on after we ditch this skin suit, but I refuse to let anyone use that against me by telling me it's a someday. My most fervent hope is that whatever of me survives after death will melt into everything else. 

And when that happens, I want to take the fullness of a life lived with me to share.... much in the same way I share it now.

*Neil Young


31 July, 2019

[re: lines on the day I remembered my father's birthday]

"Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick"  - Iggy Pop/David Bowie


For years I drove out by the old house to see what the new occupants had done to wreck the place. The time I drove out and saw the buried wagon wheels at the end of the driveway, like some broken redneck gate straight out of HGTV and the western-chic issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I knew my father's imprint was worn off. Finally, indescribably, gone.

And even as I write this, I don't know that I ever made peace with that -- until now, as I come to terms with how I feel about being at my mom's, and how my own wounded vision has impacted not only how I feel about this place, but about my Losantiville as a whole. 

Only now do I understand that I must see this place like any other place -- and that this vision must extend to all places. Even the ones I allow myself to be attached to.


Summer ends just as it begins.
Places abide in a mourner's memory,
an early morning dew. No house
holds out against the wind. No island
holds out against the current.


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24 May, 2019

Things My Dog Teaches Me, the New Podcast (SUBSCRIBE!) and IGTV (FOLLOW!)


Gypsi… Dog and sometimes Yogi
While I am taking on some freelance work hither and thither, the bulk of my creative energy is being used on … well... being creative. It occurred to me that all the stuff I poured into working towards other people's visions could have been poured into my work, my vision.

It also occurred to me that this is a more natural process... feeding my energy back into my talents, and my gifts is a self-sustaining cycle. Feeding all of that into other people's projects... even projects I like … may feed my stomach, but it draws too close to the bottom of the spiritual well.

And so, here I am. If you missed last week's post about my mostly daily poetry posts on Instagram, check that out here... and jump over to IG and check out my posts. I'm also playing around with IGTV over there. Stop in and give some love, some comments, and pass along.

I've also started a new podcast project: A Record of a Well Worn Pair of Boots: The Podcast, hosted on Podbean. If you look up in the tabs, you can see a new page here with an embedded player. Please give it a listen, subscribe, and share. It's a short format, no frills kind of podcast.... perfect for a bus or train ride, something to listen to in the car, or just to help you get through the office grind.

I know at this point you're feeling punked. What about the fucking dog? you're saying. Well, here she  is:

the thing is that while I get a lot of benefit from my meditation and workout routine, the fact is I learn the most from the world around me... in this case, my dog, Gypsi. She was a rescue when we got her and is 5 years old. Part Catahoula, part Blue Heeler, with a dab of Lab thrown in, she's a wonderful bunch of sometimes over active fun. Unless Amanda' home, Gypsi is always with me when I work out or meditate. And unless she's grouchy (usually about an hour before bedtime), she's always ready to play. And here's what she taught me today while kicking my ass with her downward facing dog:

  • Live in hope (because you just never know) and gratitude (because sometimes you do!);
  • Always be happy to see the people you love and who love you;
  • Try and have at least one really good, squeaky toy.

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30 March, 2018

Darkness as the absence, not the opposite of light (For Smiley) - A Draft

Mick Parsons Poetry

 My father, I think,
wanted to be a deliberate man.

On days when the boil in my blood near overflows
I imagine what the sensation must feel like.

These ill-humors do no one any good.

Do I blame the rain? Should I pray for the sun?
Would Heaven part for the prayers
of yet another more sinner?

Ghosts of a stern religious past
cast my lot in with theirs –
resigned, at last, to darkness.

At least there is no rain.

I think of my father.
I hope for the sun.

The floor is dirty
and dishes to be done
and obligations to fulfill
between now and moonrise

when all our dead fathers rattle their chains
and bade us revenge
this murder most foul.

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27 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot: 2 Short Poems


















104 E. Main Revisit

The pet mouse in the cupboard we lacked the heart to kill is long gone.
So is the ageless onion skin wallpaper, with it's hint of a print
and stain from old glue, mold, years of cigarette smoke,
and what was probably several lard-based kitchen fires.
Gone are the buckling boards, the crumbling dry wall, the scent of soup beans, books.

                                There is no more cheap wine.

Gone is the couch no sheet could redeem that we searched through for loose change
to walk across town to buy cheap cigarettes with the hope the free beer girl was working.
No more the door of revolving women who cooked and cleaned for us
who looked to domesticate and mother us, love us and smother us.
No more nights sitting up sharing the community jug and talking about poetry, art, and life.
Gone is the small plaque of the torah on the door frame that bid us,
whenever we left, to remember there is a vengeful god.


All Too

O, hills with clouds rolling over like a drunken lover,
this rain will not wash away the stigma
brought on from years of profane neglect
at the hands of cosmic middle managers.

Each and every Sunday, self-proclaimed preachers
spew sloppily prepared fire and brimstone sonatas 
to pious congregations of empty pews,
cursing comfortable beds, mini shirts, the NFL.

There is no dogma that will combat this American ennui,
born out of forgotten troglodyte urges:
latent lizard brain impulses like the one that insists
the sun and the storms clouds have nothing in common.


26 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expedition): Willow Drive, KY

Drink all of your passion,
and be a disgrace. - Rumi, "A Community of the Spirit"


Some may never live. But the crazy never die. -HST

I'm heading to Lexington, KY on Saturday so that I can catch a Greyhound to Louisville, where I'll be visiting with college chum Amanda (nee Hay) Connor and her husband... who I haven't met, and is, as far as I can tell totally unaffiliated with Morehead State University in anyway. I have  decided that rather than hold this against him, however, that I will embrace the ever changing universe and give the ol' boy a chance.

After all, Louisville DID manage to birth some pretty interesting stuff:


Hunter S. Thompson.

To say Hunter S. Thompson has been an influence on my life might sound crazy, but his writing -- all of it, including his non-literary w stuff -- have provided me with more How To moments -- particularly as a freelance journalist -- than any journalism class... for the possible exception of Ken Sexton's Intro to Photojournalism class, during which he pointed out that there's absolutely nothing abnormal about a bottle of whiskey in your bottom desk drawer.

RIP Hunter. Hope the next ride's a good one.



Johnny Depp

I provide a picture of Johnny Depp for my one or two readers who might actually be women. Not sure of the attraction. And while I could've gone with any number of images, including one of him dressed as a Disney ride pirate, I didn't. Thought I'd give one to the the Emo Kids... poor, misguided bastards.








The Louisville Slugger
A favorite for bar brawlers and leg breakers everywhere, the all-wood construction of The Louisville Slugger makes even a kid who couldn't hit a slow pitch to save his life feel like spitting in the dirt.










The Kentucky Derby Chicken Run
Then there's The Kentucky Derby. It is of this last one that I intend to write.

Let me begin by saying that if you believe it's only a horse race, you are mistaken. If you think it's simply an excuse for women to wear ridiculously large drag queen style hats without being accused of taping up a third leg, and for men to drag out those ties they got for Christmas, you're DEAD wrong.  I'm saying this not only because I KNOW BETTER (Accept this now. It's just easier that way.)

Believe it or not, I tried to find a pic without a blonde. No.  Really.








Sadly, I won't be able to afford to actually get into the Derby. Nosebleed, standing room only spots on the green start at around $40 a pop. At this point, I don't think I'll be able afford to even put some money on any of the races... which, if you know me at all, you know is absolutely tragic.

And no, it's not that I'm particularly good at gambling on horses. It's just that I like it. A lot. No really. The Daily Racing Form is pure poetry to me. Pure. Poetry.

Let's move on. I'm salivating.

But since most of you out there reading this... and yes, I believe you're there... haven't had the experience of hanging with me at the OTB, just let me say that there's something primal about the experience. Spending time at an OTB... not to mention a track... gives you a kind of pristine perspective of the true heart of America. Think vivisection. Every folly of man plays out between the first bell and the final run, from the brave to the downright stupid. Every kind of gambler, from the mathematician (If I weigh carefully all variables I can't lose!) to the mystics (Never bet on a gray horse!) and non-gamblers (What's a Superfecta? Is it like getting crabs?) are there. Some even bring their kids. The daring and the desperate, the lucky and the leg-breakers all come out to the OTB. And they're from all walks of life:  the shiftless, the unemployed, business professionals, retirees, teachers, preachers, hookers, construction workers, government employee, hopers, dreamers, misguided snake charmers. And I'm leaving some out. And I won't tell which one I am, either.

Have to leave something for the imagination. (A stripper taught me that.)

(Can I just point out that auto-correct wanted to change "hopers" to "hoers"? I love technology.)

And I will write more when I'm there. I'm actually pretty excited about the prospect of seeing an old friend, about visiting Louisville while it's in the throws of total debauchery, and about my westward expanse.

Oh yes, dear readers. It's coming. 

23 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Cont. (Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY)

and it is possible a great energy / is moving near me. - Rainer Maria Rilke 



The wind that blows /  Is all that any body knows. - Henry David Thoreau


Bunker School, Beartown, Elliot County, KY
Kentucky is a state best understood in terms of gradients and degrees. From east to west, ignoring the more or less arbitrary lines drawn on a map, it's possible to separate Kentucky into several parts, each with a unique sense of culture and self. The eastern range -- part of the Appalachia (that also includes the far eastern part of Ohio, some of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and all of West Virginia) -- is in many ways as culturally isolated from the far western part of the state as Spain is from the Ukraine.

And when I think about Kentucky -- in reality or in the abstract -- I always think about the mountains. No doubt this is because I spent some formative years going to school at Morehead State University. (I have spend many years since working to undo the damage done to me in the halls of academia, without destroying the little bit of important work that actually went on.)  I think about living in the cabin in Menifee County. I think about climbing Lockegee Rock. I think about the many friends I have here, and about how much I've lived and learned (and unlearned) here. There's so much here that informs the internal geography; but it always comes back to the mountains and the life that hides within and around them.

The life that people rarely see and rarely pay attention to.

And when I get the chance to return, I always take it. Not because it's my home, or because this clay earth is the same clay earth in my bones... but because of the mountains and because of the life and death and history and myth etched into the dust, cut into the hollers, into the back roads, and into the long memory --

the memory of everything, and of everyone of no one.


The Zen Master Bodhidharma is reported to have said in The Bloodstream Sermon that "Life and Death are important. Do not suffer them in vain."  My week back in Ashland with Mike and Liz bring this idea into sharp focus.

When I first arrived, Mike -- greeted me in the parking lot next to their apartment with the news that he and Liz were going to have a kid. Even though I have expressed opinions about whether I ought to have more children -- that opinion being that I ought not -- I think it's a good thing when another life is going to be brought into the world.  Each new life is a potential for something good; and while chances are better than average that the fetus --  if it is carried to term, is born, lives, and grows up -- will become one more cog in an ever growing and self-digesting and excreting machina mori, I choose to hold on to some hope.
Though the machinations that seem to control our lives have, in the process, engineered their own sense of inevitability... that lingering concept of Manifest Destiny*, that all this muckity muck was foreordained and therefore unconquerable... what faith I have left is in the possibility that people will choose, at some point, to ignore the myths they've let themselves believe in.

And as is common with the news of pregnancy -- especially first pregnancies -- the talk focused around baby names. Mostly rejections of names that would mostly serve to amuse adults and torture the child.

One of the best came from friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, who suggested -- and then proclaimed that she would never call Baby Frazier anything else but -- Festus.


It became quickly obvious, though, that something was wrong. When Mike and Liz woke up early that Tuesday morning to go to the hospital, it wasn't hard to figure. Mike called me with an update later that day, after the doctor decided to admit her for the night for observation, telling me Liz had miscarriage. He came home eventually --  long enough to shower, change clothes, and have a few stiff drinks -- and then went back to spend the night at the hospital with his wife.

The doctor later informed them that she suffered from pseudocyesis -- a false or what is sometimes referred to as a hysterical pregnancy. According to the doctor... who was too busy trying to get to surgery to explain it well, or to even fake a kind bedside manner... Liz's body lied and TOLD her she was pregnant... which was confirmed by two at home tests and the self same doctor who had no advice for her or Mike other than to use condoms.

If you ever need a reason why I DESPISE the medical profession... count this as one more. 

She went home the day after, and both her and Mike slept for a solid 15 hours. The day after, we ended up spending some quality time in Elliot County with friend, poet, and awesome homemade strawberry pie maker, Misty Skaggs.

Driving out to visit Misty is is like driving into some primordial free space that has existed since the beginning of deep time. The road narrows quickly and it doesn't take long before the cement breaks up altogether and your tires are rolling over gravel. The roads take on familial names. Houses and trailers sprout out of the overgrown foliage. There are small family graveyards where Misty can recount the generations.

This dust is her dust, and she has it in her bones.

Our other option was to sit around Mike and Liz's place, where Liz would have deservedly and rightfully moped. Instead we ended up taking a 12 pack to a quiet cemetery, spreading out a blanket, sitting under tall shade tree, and talking. Not necessarily about what happened, but that came up some too. Mostly we sat, enjoyed simple conversation, and waited as the rain rolled in. When the rain clouds DID roll in, we knew, because the scent in the air changed.

There are those that might not appreciate the peace of mind that comes from sitting on some secluded hill in a forgotten hollar where WiFi and cell service are next to non-existent. It's one of those deep pockets of the world that, as the world moves on, moves on its own time, its own rhythm, and with it's own purpose. The marks of the modern world are still there, of course. And the evidence of poverty, survival, and economic disparity are there too. It's the sort of place you can go and leave a memory and pick up something that will help you down the road on your travels.

It's the sort of place you envy because it's not your home. Because it's not your dust.

It's the sort of place that has healing powers which, in the wrong hands, would cease to exist.