Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts

10 October, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if it's not altogether natural feeling sometimes.


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


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29 September, 2017

Junktique Memory Palace: The solace of certain things / Essay on the Eight of Swords (Draft)

It is not down in any map; true places never are. ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Is it possible to become ecstatic amid destruction, rejuvenate oneself through cruelty?” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations


My memory palace is one, giant flea market.

Which is to say, it's entirely possible that one of the reasons why I tend towards a certain precision -- what my daughter sometimes calls "picky" and my wife lovingly refers to as "being particular" -- about certain things:  like where I leave my keys, how I organize the house, where I'd prefer things are stored and how, and how clean I try to be, is because a large portion of my mental landscape is an odd mix of old stuff, bric-a-brac, used books, dated movies, music, oddly random and seemingly pointed connections between disparate things, several rabbit holes of useless information, and picture memories... a long with a massive card catalog in which I file every useless piece of datum ranging from historical dates to my chili recipe.

NOTE: the greenscape has long since been ruined by cement.
If it helps you imagine, once upon a time I conjured my memory palace as a large library, not unlike the interior of the Camden-Carroll library at Morehead State University.

Which is to say, my memory palace probably resembles the library in that episode of The Twilight Zone in which the poor bastard that just wanted more time to read after the apocalypse ended up breaking his reading glasses.




But, it's my mess, dammit, and I like it that way. Besides, no one rummages around there besides me.

This mess does bleed out into my life in certain ways. While I am, admittedly, particular about the condition of my living space, that's not to say that I'm much of minimalist. It's true, I've whittled down things to what I think I need. But this includes a lot books, random rocks, various mementos and, yes, bric-a-brac, that helps make our house a home.

Every once in a while The Kid will ask if I've actually read all the books in the house, to which I usually replay something to the effect of " Most of them." Truthfully, I never want to run out of books on hand that I haven't read. That way if I owe the public library too much in late fees (which is as inevitable as the sunrise), I can lean on a few books on our shelves until the drought passes.

So why, you may ask, do I keep the books I've already read?

Well let me ask you: Do you never talk to old friends just because you've already talked to them and only make new friends?

The books I've read are old friends and fine company. And I like being able to go back and read them, revisit, 

My writing area in the basement -- that I affectionately refer to as The Bunker -- is similarly organized. I have hard and digital files and old journals dating back to the early 90's, when I started journaling. I have records -- the kind that go on record players -- cassettes, CD's books, a shiny brass compass that was a gift from my brother, a skull shaped candle I got for Christmas from my niece. There's a little silver bell with no ringer. A pink magic wand that is the only thing left from my teaching -- a prop from a teacher in-service. A beech wood candle stick I turned on a lathe in Menifee County, Kentucky.

All of these things -- and the others I haven't listed here -- I keep because they, in some way, embody an important memory. It's true I can live without most of them. It's true that I still have the memories even if everything is lost, locked up in my cluttered but somehow manageable by me memory flea market.

The solace of certain things helps when the world leaves me feeling daunted. It's important for me to be able to get lost sometimes, maybe even hide. I don't get out and about like I used to -- which is usually what I'd do if I need to get some mental breathing space. Now I either retreat to The Bunker and write or find some other way to tilt at windmills using the weapon I've been granted -- words

And lately, there's a lot that leaves me daunted. If I draw any comfort from these, the days of Trumplandia, the days of the yoke and the bit, the days of democracy's death rattle, it is in the fact that it will go on whether I take notice or not, that change is perpetual and inevitable. I also draw comfort and strength from the faith I have that even if all I'm doing is taking care of my house full of people, books, and animals and writing like a madman in basement, that maybe it does help bring some measure of grace to the world. If that's all I ever do, then at least it's time well-spent. Art is created in such ways. If I'm lucky.

Essay on the Eight of Swords (Draft)

Transitional dreams portend a seasonal shift:
like the tarot, not all is as they appear.
There is wisdom in The Hanged Man.
Escalators and hotel employees suggest
it will be a long autumn.
Train stations do not suggest travel,
but it’s better to be prepared anyway.
There are signs, and rumors of signs.
You will meet a beautiful hitchhiker.
Do not trust her.
The raggedy man will bring you a message.
Offer him beanie weenies and bottled water.
He will ask for wine, but it’s only a test.
There are no wrong answers,
only more appropriate ones.
But they do offer varying degrees of detail.
Do not be afraid to drink beer with the devil.
He wants your soul, but does not know
you have been spoken for.
The Eight of Swords is still your card.
But you are not bound to that narrative.


 











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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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01 March, 2017

Water Gears

For an artist, a good place to be is you have some kind of influence and power to get things done, but in your essence you remain a nomad or a soldier facing a difficulty to be overcome. - Cai Guo-Qiang

This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.- Jack Kerouac


The night before last, my wife asked me if I missed being out on the road more. It's sort of a complicated question to answer because, well, I do miss being out on the road, but when I am out I miss my life here.

Leave it to a Piscean to muddy up the answer to a seemingly simple question.

But, no. Really. Most of the time, I feel like I'm out of my depth as a reasonably domesticated male. I realize that most take to the sedentary life easily. As a matter of fact, I understand that most people are, by nature sedentary. The whole of modern culture has been the result of people moving to a geographic region and staying there. I get it. I really do. And it is for that reason that, most of the time, I feel completely incompetent in the face of what it is I ought to do when my natural inclinations get in the way.

It's entirely possible that the Puritan drive towards self-immolation somehow just broke down in me. I'm not discounting the possibility that some part or another in my brain wore out sometime between the age of 10 and 18. It's entirely possible that somewhere in the multi-verse ... or hell, in multiple multi-verses... there are other variations of Mick Parsons' who have settled down, gotten that regular job, settled into being a more or less content tax-payer and registered Republican (as many of the kids from my little hometown grew up to be, just like their parents before them.) But I can't seem to get the knack of living and walking through this world without feeling like I'm doing it wrong but that to try and do it the way everyone else does would be an absolute fucking disaster.

That's not to say I'm not happy. I am very happy. And on top of that, I'm very aware that of how lucky I am in that Maslow's Hierarchy sort of way.  Amanda knows this. But when she asked me whether I miss being out more, it did give me a little pause.

I do. In some ways I think I'm better when I follow the current. The universe has a funny way of depositing me somewhere that I will see or experience something worth seeing and experiencing. I felt very much at home in my own skin out on the road. That life isn't without peril, and I don't think it's for everyone. Living out isn't like going on vacation. You may have a general direction or destination in mind, but the routes are often circuitous and longer than intended. There are very few straight lines.

That is, I think, part of the appeal. That absence of straight lines.

The thing that makes it such a complicated question is that while I recognize my natural inclination to wander, the fact is I made a conscious decision to ramble less and stay home more. That's a powerful four letter word, there. Home.

And I don't mean Louisville, though I very much like living here. And I don't mean Kentucky, though I have long thought of it as a sort of sacred geography.

Home is people. Home is a person, as a matter of fact. And when she asks me if I miss being out more, I know she asks, not because she's worried about my happiness but because she knows me well enough to know that some part of me in this and undoubtedly many other multi-verses is meant to wander a pathless land.

When I'm very lucky, I get to take her with me. But even when I she isn't with me in person, she is with me, always.

This reminds me of a little of a story I wrote years ago, called, "The Ballad of Itchy Feet." As far as I know, it's never been published anywhere of note, so I might as well publish it here. Enjoy

[More of "Letters from Trumplandia" coming. Don't worry.]

The Ballad of Itchy Feet

Once there was a man without a name.  This didn’t particularly bother him.  He never needed one.  No one ever asked him who he was or what he was called; besides, he never remained in any one place long enough for it to become and issue.  His feet did his thinking for him; he traveled or stayed at their whim. When the urge to move struck him, it came as a small itch on the underside of his heels.  A man can get along in the world without a name, so long as he never lingers anywhere so long that somebody might ask for it.

Around five in the afternoon on a day in early September, he came upon a town.  The sky over the town was filled with smothering clouds that had long drowned the sun out of local memory.  Children in the town forgot what the world looked like beneath a sky full of stars.  Day and night had become topics for uninspired Sunday sermons.  The streets were filled with rusty, useless machines—as if people drove them there, forgot their purpose, then abandoned them to the elements.  The men of the town wore gray suits and stared at the sidewalk; the women struggled with chains around their ankles attached to fifty pound weights.  They only had their hands to cover themselves, and stared at the ground out of shame and the fear of being noticed.
   
The street running through town was walled in with boarded up store fronts and withering trees.  The only open shops were the apothecary and the grocer.  The former was a squinty eyed hawker of cold corn mush, old bananas, and brown bottled water that tore up everyone’s insides.  His brother, the apothecary, pandered bitter remedies that soured the townspeople’s stomachs and rotted out their teeth.
   
The man intended to continue walking through the town and away, just as he had always done.  His feet pushed him forward, and he was content in allowing them to carry him away from the men and their suits, the women and their weights, as well as the street of rusted machines.  He has walked through many such places, and one more would simply be one more.
   
Then he saw her.
   
She wasn’t bound by chains.  Her eyes shine ahead of her like forgotten stars.  She held her head up, unashamed, and was followed by a train of long, red hair.  She was in no particular hurry. As she walked down the street, she hummed a soft lullaby.  The apothecary and grocer squinted, eyed her hungrily, and growled.  They were restless, bored, and tired of being ignored.
   
For the first time, he forced his feet to stop.  She walked toward him on the street, smiling through him, her face full of forgotten sunshine.  Before meeting her on the street, he chose a name.
   
One he would tell only to her.



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