Showing posts with label itchy foot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label itchy foot. Show all posts

03 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: 22 Years and Counting (Memoriam) /

But the love of adventure was in father's blood. -- Buffalo Bill

I wore his name like armor. - Elena Bell

22 years gone and I still remember
that though some are set above 
given higher rank, higher status, more prestige,
they are not better people --
just blowhards with brains of butter. (partial poem draft from Travel Journal)

I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. I've felt it coming on for several days, like the onset of a flu. Like standing in the tracks in the path of an oncoming train. The last time I remember hearing the sound of my father's voice was in a dream, maybe 5 years ago. I was so unused to the sound of it, so accustomed to the idea that he's dead, that it frightened me awake.

My first real bout of insomnia happened not long after his death. My senior year of high school is blur, primarily because I was a shell-shock zombie. What I do remember involved my daughter's mother ... which, being candid, I would rather forget ... and very little else. My reaction to my father's death was to run. I ran from the hospital room because I couldn't look at his fresh corpse in the ICU. I ran from sleep because I couldn't escape dreams that condemned me for being  weak son. I stayed away from home because I couldn't stand to watch my mother mourn, take the emptiness of the house in my father's absence ... though the house itself started to take a shrine-like place in my mind. When my mother sold the house and moved, I felt (at the time) like something was being taken from me, even though I didn't live there anymore. Now I understand that shrines are only useful when they help us live better, not when they enable us to envy the dead. Now I know it's possible to remember without worship. Now I know the voices of the Elders are not dreams that frighten us awake in the middle of the night. We are the voice of the Elders; their words and ours  combine into the stories, the songs, the poems that record our personal and our collective histories into the consciousness I like to think of as The Long Memory.

And in spite of everything the GOP'ers tell you about the evils of the estate tax, the only thing we can pass on to the future generations that any real value or any real meaning is The Long Memory... because it is ours to continue and pass on, and it is theirs too -- whether they know it or not -- from the moment they are born.

My bouts of insomnia are infrequent these days. When I have a night or two when I can't sleep these days, it's usually tied to the fact that I'm in one place too long... a built in alarm clock tied to my itchy foot. According to My Dear Sweet Ma, I get the itchy foot from The Old Man. He was able to soothe his in his relative youth, and settled down in his middle age.

As you might have noticed, Dear Reader, my trajectory has been a bit different.

Today I am mindful of The Old Man and of the many other Old Men -- and Old Women --  who ought to be remembered this day. Of the lessons my dad tried to teach me that actually stuck, the one I always seem to come back to is embodied in the phrase

Every man's a VIP.

I thought about that quite a bit when I was out on the road these last 7 or 8 months.  And while I'm not entirely sure that he would agree with my interpretation/assessment of what that phrase means, I do know that he was less interested in how much people had squirreled away than he was in how they behaved.  For his part, he treated people decently until, in his opinion, they did something to deserve harsher treatment. He could be temperamental, and knew how to hold a grudge. His reaction to his own physical decline colored most of his reactions to everything else -- anger and determination. He would be the first person to point out that life is almost always unfair; but he never seemed to stop expecting that fairness would win out.

There is no greater example of this than his love of football; specifically, the Bengals. Any Bengals fan -- any real fan, at any rate -- will tell you that being a fan is about more than painting your face and screaming like a banshee when they're playing good. It's about holding your head in your hands when they're playing really, really BAD... and then watching them again the following week, find hope where the talking heads, pundits, and spineless, gutless bandwagoneers insist there is none.

One overly concerned individual, in regards to my name changing/identity politicking in my online life, made mention of the fact that in changing my name -- or in expressing a desire to change my name -- that I am, in essence, spitting on my father's memory.

I thanked him kindly, not pointing out the only thing I spit on are flags, sacred cows, and -- whenever possible -- in the coffee of certain local political figures.

Regardless of my nom de route, (that's s pronounced 'root' from the French meaning path, and sounds like the English term for the underground  inner workings that make trees grow tall.) I could never erase The Old Man. And the only way I could ever disrespect his memory is to live in such a way as to abdicate my ability to think and to live to anyone or anything that does not deserve my fealty. And although my dad was, in the traditional sense, very much a patriot, I like to think he would understand that I am, in my own way, a patriot. I love my country, because a country is made up of people, not institutions. I despise the institutions and machinations that are undermining it. He might disagree with every belief I have come to hold as true based on my life experience; but he would absolutely prefer me to reach my own conclusions than to trust something so important to mediocre machinations. He would prefer that I retain my right and my ability to determine for myself who my enemy is, rather than listen to people who value their opinion over my experiences.

And for the record, the only union strike I ever heard my dad be critical of was the 1984 MLB strike. And he was a Republican most of the time.

12 July, 2012

The Three R's (Rest, Relaxation, Reflection)

Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more -- restful. - Mark Twain

There's something about being back in the Ohio Valley makes me comfortable and jittery all at the same time. I'm relatively comfortable here, know my way around. Although I don't quite remember all the back roads -- I haven't actually lived in the area since 2006 -- I can get around pretty well in Cincinnati, and if I wander back out towards Bethel, Mt. Orab, and Georgetown, I find that I know more roads intuitively than I can recall and describe very well.

Not that I do wander out there that much. Although I do have an affinity for small town life and for being as far off the map as possible, visiting my old hometown has never been something I've felt an overwhelming urge to do. And while I can no more deny my small town roots anymore than I can deny that my eyes are blue or that I'm left-handed, there's never been much of an urge in my to return. It's not that it's small. Or that there's nothing to do. It could be that Tate Township, where Bethel is located, was -- and still is, as far as I know -- dry.  

To be honest, I haven't checked. And to be further honest, even if I could walk down Plain Street (The street that runs through the center of town) wearing nothing but my oilcloth hat carrying an open jug of cheap blackberry wine -- from which I would take liberal chugs and offer to anyone I met on the street... being sure to tip my hat and smile, of course -- I probably would not be induced to visit unless I had a really good reason. Hiding from the law comes to mind; but then again, half the people I went to high school with would turn me in (They never liked me much anyway.) and the other half is in some stage of past, current, or future incarceration. (They were never all that fond of me, either.)

Cincinnati is a city I have a love-hate /hate-love relationship with. Downtown was the first place I ran to when I was able to indulge my itchy foot. I love the Cincinnati Bengals (in spite of and probably because they are steeped in an inferiority complex so deep that it rivals Greek Tragedy in it's epic scale) and I love The Cincinnati Reds. (INDUCT PETE ROSE INTO THE HALL OF FAME,  YOU GRUBBY BASTARDS. You let in that roid taking balloon head, Barry Bonds.) I have an affinity for Skyline Chili. I love walking around downtown and around Over-the Rhine -- in spite of the gentrified ruination being wrought upon it. I'm annoyed by the casino being built downtown, but only because I know it's Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis's retirement plan. I hate the corporate nature of the city, and that between the multitude of corporate headquarters and the pull of the ruling class in Indian Hills, the cold and hard corporate heart of the city will never change. This city's only saving grace is that it's soul is far more beautiful (Ah, Losantaville, here my song!) and it probably has something to do with the inherent kinetic nature of things here. The cold h heart bristles up against the beaming beautiful soul of the place and creates a space in which Art might happen. I love talking about this place. I love complaining about this place. Once upon a time I tried to lend to hand... in as much as I could, given my limited skill set... to improve the place.

But what all of that really means is this: I can (probably) never live here again.

My plan, in as much as I had one, was to come back here, get off the road for a bit (no more than a month), and plan my next leg -- which will take me back up into Northwest Illinois for a visit and to file for divorce; then back out to Colorado for another visit with Cousin Mary and to hopefully interview and record my 95 year old Uncle Dan; then back through Kentucky for a visit, and then down south, to Port Charlotte, where it will be warm, and the sun will shine, and there will be NO SNOW. After that, maybe bump over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and to celebrate my 40th turn around the sun, and maybe even to Austin to visit friends there. 

Part of the the plan (such as it is) was to go back over my notes, transcribe poems, and start putting together the ideas for what turn out to be a much longer writing project... an outgrowth of traveling and this blog. Another part of the plan is to finish the EFL  (teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification as part of the preparation for THE EUROPEAN JAUNT.

But, after a few days in -- even though I am planning on staying in the area for at least a month -- I was itchy to get on the move again. It's a terrible thing sometimes, realizing that for all the comfort to be found in a comfortable place among people who care about you, that you'd rather be out, enduring whatever the road has to offer; and considering the fact that what is offered isn't always kind, or comfortable, or friendly, that's saying something. It's the sort of realization that stands on the border between profundity and absurdity.

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