Showing posts with label axis mundi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label axis mundi. Show all posts

15 July, 2014

Steady the Course Along the Dirty Sacred River: Sometimes the Universe Throws a Straight Pitch

This summer has not exactly gone as expected. I'd planned on heading west again, back to the big sky territory out in South Dakota and Montana. For a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly blog worth, I've not made it and probably won't. I am getting ready for another eastbound slingshot to attend The Kid's wedding to Plus 1... I mean Will... I mean The Soon-to-Be Son-in-Law.

the axis mundi
Mostly, I've stayed closer to the axis mundi here along the dirty, sacred river, tried not to kill the garden, and struggled with a few of those "all growed up" decisions that occasionally sneak into what I generally consider to be an idyllic life. I recently applied for a full time teaching gig that I didn't get*, which set up a whole series of stress-ridden mental labyrinths for me to navigate.** I've been trying to get some new projects up and going, which is surprisingly complicated when you're unemployed.

I was also turned down for unemployment benefits because, in the nomenclature of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I have "reasonable assurance" of future employment. Basically, I was denied benefits because I will probably have a job soon... though no steady paycheck until the end of August. I guess I'm supposed live on hay until then.  But, given the intolerance and general lack of human empathy demonstrated by Top Cop Commander Kim and by some of the folks I call neighbors*** I guess it's a good thing I haven't had to resort to panhandling.

But I'm feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the trip. I love my daughter, even if I have trouble reconciling myself with the fact that I was once stupid enough to marry her mother.  Stella's been going through some "all growed up" stuff of her own lately that I will not list at the moment. One of those things, though, has to do with the fact that conventional wisdoms -- in spite of being conventional -- are wrong.  She's a good person and has a smart head on her shoulders that she sometimes uses. She just wants to live her life, be happy, all that. But she is having to learn that doing the right thing doesn't always mean that you get the reward you deserve.

In fact, it's increasingly the opposite... and not just for Stella.

One of the nice things about children is that they have all the potential in the world to grow beyond the limitations of their parents... if they can dodge hard luck and if they can reject conventional wisdoms that worn paths of other people's success is the path to happiness.

As for me, I am reminded of Krishnamurti's insistence that the truth is a pathless land. And I'm also encouraged by the fact that even though I am still not "gainfully employed" ... ie, I apparently don't deserve health insurance or retirement benefits, but I am good enough to teach college freshmen how to write and think critically .... that I still have plenty to keep me busy. There's plenty to do.

I'm including a link to my latest story posted at my reverbnation page. Check it out. Hope you enjoy.

* My last full time teaching gig was out at ASU... an experience which drove me out of the classroom. And no, it wasn't the students. My usual beef with Upper Education is that the people who administrate it are morons. And by administrate I mean the ones who do not or have not ever step foot into a classroom since they flunked Intro to Literature... back when they still TAUGHT basic literature courses as a general ed requirement. Out at ASU in particular, I was enraged by an especially incompetent department chair who was more interested in sucking his way into a Dean's Office than he was in actually taking the concerns of his writing faculty seriously.
** My position as an adjunct, while financially insecure, is probably more appropriate. I suck at committee obligations and they suck on me. Also, the minute you sign on for full time employment, people immediately assume you have growed up, quit dreaming, and are working assiduously for a docile retirement during which you will actually allow yourself to live. If I have to wait until I'm 70 to live, I might as well crawl into a bourbon bottle now.
*** These folks run the gamut from comfy democrats to stalwart republicans to pissy tea bagger bigots. And all of them have one thing in common - for the most part they reject the notion that hard luck can hit anyone at any time.

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.

19 February, 2012

A Baboon in New York, Part 1.1: The Chaotic Columna Ceruluia

"It couldn't have happened anywhere but in little old New York." - O. Henry

City of prose and fantasy, of capitalist automatism, its streets a triumph of cubism, its moral philosophy that of the dollar. New York impressed me tremendously because, more than any other city, it is the fullest expression of our modern age. -- Leon Trotsky   

[This blog is dedicated to Ashley Vedder and Stephanie Stobaugh. To Ashley because I'm visiting her home turf while she slings beer back in corn and god country, and whose hugs I miss ; and to Stephanie because listening to her talk about New York is almost as exciting as experiencing it for the first time.]

Riding through the Lincoln Tunnel on a bus stuffed to the shell with people is probably as close to remembering the experience of being born as I will ever achieve, and as close to that buried memory as I want to get on this side of mortality.

Almost my entire context for the City of New York rests entirely on unreliable sources; mainly television and movies. I can think of countless fictive versions of the city, from Law and Order and Seinfeld  to When Harry Met Sally and The Devi's Advocate.  Of course, each of these versions is rooted entirely in someone else's vision... the camera, and behind that, a director. The city then becomes at ones a set and an actor at the same time; sets tone, mood, and contributes in the way an unnamed but unmistakable extra contributes to the frame. Cinema and television, boiled down, really is a frame by frame proposition; much in the same way that a poem is always about the single word. One bad frame can throw off an entire scene, and a bad scene can destroy an otherwise good movie. One misplaced word in a poem can do the same thing.

Thank the gods for prose -- at least here, we have a little slop room. Though not much.

The bus was expelled at a traffic snail's pace from the tunnel and into the underground garage of The Port Authority. Then, after squeezing myself out of the confines of the bus -- which, at this point, makes me consider the train a far superior and gentile form of mass transportation -- I found myself in a massive underground garage that led into the bottom level of station. 

[NOTE: Having at least a casual understanding of Dante's Inferno is helpful understanding the City of New York. And I mean this not as a negative, merely as map key.]

My first thought was to look for my friends, Susan and Steve, who had graciously agreed to put me up for a week at their place in Queens. Unfortunately, that was washed away by two other immediately prevailing impulses. For one, I had the strong desire to piss. (As I have explained... most eloquently, I believe, in The Greyhound Quarto, I try to avoid a lot of food intake while in the process of traveling, but do work at staying hydrated. The body is, after all, 70% water. (For me, maybe a quarter of that is beer, and other quarter bourbon and gin, and another quarter is coffee... but still, all liquid.)

The other impulse was far less of an impulse as it was the immediate sensation that, if I stood still too long, I might get run over by one or all of the hundreds of people around me who seemed to know exactly where they were going.

Luckily, the people who run the Port Authority realized that unless there was clear signage pointing out where people could piss that they would, in all likelihood, piss anywhere; I spied the restroom sign and made for it immediately.

With that weight off my mind, I looked around for my friends; not knowing whether one or both of them were going to meet me and not being sure where, I decided to take the escalator I noticed to my left to the next level; my thought was that maybe there was an actual waiting space up there, or that there was some restriction on non-ticketed people by the gates. 

There isn't. Traveling by bus, and by train, lacks a fundamental paranoia that has been embraced by the air travel industry. And maybe with good reason. As the bus rolled towards the city and I got my first glimpse of the skyline, I was struck by two things: that New York is far more immense than ever portrayed in any movie or television show; and that something is missing.  I thought about a conversation I had with my friend George, who grew up in Long Island, about New York after 9/11. He said one of the things that was difficult for him to grasp was having to look at the skyline and have it look so different. There was sorrow, he said, in knowing it will never be same. 

Riding up the escalator and into another artificially lit level, I paid heed to the repetitive recorded feminine voice, telling me not to stop at the top and to keep walking. I found a column to stand near, in front of the Greyhound ticket office. Still no sign of Susan or Steve. I checked my cell phone -- the battery was near dead -- but realized I didn't have a corresponding cell phone number for either of them. I decided to message Susan -- who I talked to most frequently over Facebook -- and see if maybe she was online, or maybe had a way to access those messages over the phone.

She messaged back, thankfully. Steve was there to meet me, and she recommended that I stay put and she would try to reach him on his cell. Of course, I had trouble imaging Steve with a cell phone... much in the same way I had trouble imaging my friend George with a cell phone. They're symbolic of a sort of frenetic narcissism that runs contrary to both their natures. 

Waiting there, near the column in the front of the Greyhound Ticket office, I was nearly run over by two little girls, no more than 8 years old, playing tag; they were using the column as a defensive/offensive structure to catch each other. Twice the same man came up and asked if I had any change. 

You know I'm good for a little if I have it; but when I KNOW it's just a hustle... which I knew it was from the fact that 1) he looked a bit too appropriately dirty and 2) he kept going back and talking to another person, who was clearly his friend and who didn't look appropriately dirty at all... and when I have to watch my pennies ... which I do at this point because the cost of laying out my travel plans back through the Midwest has left me nearly broke, and I knew I'd need money for mass transit... I do hesitate, just a bit. I hope the universe forgives my still present worry for self-preservation.)

I hadn't seen Steve since leaving Cincinnati, but I remembered him as a quiet and gentle soul who was much engaged with his own thoughts, his own teaching and writing process.  But I also thought that maybe he had one -- maybe at Susan's insistence -- just to be able to keep track of one another in a place as large as New York. (The only reason I ever got a cell phone was at Melissa's insistence, because our schedules were so at odds and because she wanted to be able to find me in Cincinnati without having to run down a list of phone numbers of various coffee shops, bars, libraries, and friends.)

After having no luck and after Susan suggested maybe having him paged (I wondered at the horror of that... not only the process of trying to find an actual PERSON to do that and the terror of hearing one's name over the loudspeaker, like being beckoned from the depths of Hell.), I decided to go back down to the lower level in case I had walked past him in my rush to not get squashed and to empty my bladder.

The buses were more or less empty and the throng of people that had pushed me, spermatozoa like, through the doorway. And there, standing as if he has always been standing there primordial, separate from the passage of time, as if the Earth and the whole of  The Port Authority had risen up around and engulfed him without his even noticing -- was Steve.

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen, or by going to and donating to THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. At this rate, they really ARE losing my love to Amtrak. But I'm no easy whore. No. Really.