Showing posts with label labor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labor. Show all posts

17 October, 2016

Notes from the Bunket #6: the grand experiment resumes

Lord give me a job of work to do. - Tom Paxton


Back to the work force for me. After nearly 6 months of drawing unemployment and trying to find work in a field for which I have ample training and massive experience, I have, at the tender age of 43, entered an industry where I have hardly any expertise at all.

Getting a job in catering means signing yourself into an insane asylum, regardless of how sane you actually are.* It moves fast and for the most part -- even in a good shop, like where I work -- what you don't know you pretty much have to pick up on yourself. It means asking a lot of questions, sometimes to the point of annoying people who would rather work around you to get the job done instead of trying to teach a newbie how things work. While I have tended bar and worked around food, there is a mountain's worth of difference between serving in a sports bar or bowling alley working in fine dining. There are expectations. There are particular ways of doing things so customers feel like they got their money's worth out of the thousands of dollars they spent in hiring us.**

Catering is the kind of work with long and irregular work schedules. 12 hour days are not only common, they are pretty much the norm. With the holiday season fast approaching, I know there are long days and even longer weeks ahead.  It's the nature of the thing and you have to be willing to embrace the tidal wave even attempt it. People at the shop have been asking me if I've gotten used to the long days. To be honest, it's not been the schedule that bothers me. I could tell them about teaching at 3 or 4 different universities at once, sometimes leaving home at 6 am and not getting back until after 10 or 11, depending on where and how many classes I was teaching.  Most everyone at the shop knows I used to teach, but I like to think I approach work with enough tenacity and fearlessness that they are also figuring out that I don't think my past career has any bearing on my position in the shop. I'm a grunt. I like being a grunt. When I'm done with my work, I clock out and leave, and I leave work at work. When you teach, you can never leave work at work. You carry it with you, even when you're supposed to be relaxing.

I plan on working in catering for the next couple of years as move onto some other new possibilities, and I plan on learning as much about it as I can.

Being back in the work force also means that the grand experiment resumes: the quest to balance my creative life and my family life with the world of work. This is a challenge with any job, but I have too many things in the works to pull up my creative stakes and shrink away from all my projects.

The Kentucky Muck Podcast will resume on an irregular schedule, and Alidade: an audio map, will launch later this week. I also have other writing projects to work on, and I'm really looking forward to what being back in the work force will do for my writing.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed the link to a Pantheon page. This gives you the opportunity to help support the writing. Yes, I'm back in the work force, but your monthly patronage, at one of several levels (with accompanying perks!) will maybe someday enable me to return to writing and podcasting full time.

I'm pleased to announce that the blog has it's first patron, Ernest Gordon Taulbee. Thanks, Ernest! Look for your patron-only post later this week as well!

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*I commented to my wife how strange it is that I would end up in a field that attracts so many quirky personalities. She simply patted my arm and said "Well, you did enter it on your own."
**It's crazy how much people spend on food. But then again, it's why I have a job, so...

If you like what you're reading here, I have work for sale on my amazon author page:
www.amazon.com/author/mickparsons

02 February, 2016

Working out: faith, floundering, and the limitations of mixaphors

 If any man make a vow to the Lord, or bind himself by an oath: he shall not make his word void but shall fulfill all that he promised. -- Numbers 30:3 (DR)

I want to live the real life/ I want to live my life close to the bone. - John Mellencamp, "The Real Life"

 When I was 14 I gave my life to God. It's important, for what comes next, to understand what I mean by that. I don't mean that I was baptized. Actually, I was dunked, by choice, at the age of 9. Church leadership was so skeptical of my sincerity and earnestness that I was required to participate in a series of tutorials with our minister, Dan Pence.

This experience isn't unusual; many protestant denominations require some kind of confirmation classes prior to being baptized. Though this process was never really explained to me, I've come to see it as one of those few, formalized echoes of a rite of passage -- something else I was never really told about and had to learn about through the books I read as a kid, through literature, and through my own study as a teenager and adult.*

The decision to go and be baptized, to make the confession of faith, was something I did with as much honesty and sincerity as I could -- though I later came to the conclusion that it was as much about finding a level of acceptance in some community or another rather than religious inspiration.**

When I was 14 I attended a Christ in Youth Conference in Tennessee with other kids in my church youth group. The experience was designed to be intense, focused, and, I think, intended to manipulate those attending to embrace a conservative style Christianity that has borne dangerous and distinctly unChristlike fruit.

The night I walked forward and committed my life to God, the sermon focused on Ephesians 6. They focused mostly on verse 13:

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (KJV)

Even then, I wasn't entirely sure that my reading and understanding of this man Jesus had any similarity to the medieval reflection I was being presented. Jesus the man I found in my own readings hung out with the botched and the despised*** -- with lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors -- with the same sort equanimity as he had with religious leaders and the powerful. The only sin he raised his hand to was greed, when he forced the money changers^ out of the Temple.

For me, the part of Ephesians 6 that stood out to me was not all the sword and armor metaphors -- but the previous verse:

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places (DR)

This made sense to me, and it seemed more like this man Jesus I was trying to emulate and learn about. He did not covet power. He did not want power. He questioned power. Central to his teachings was a code of behavior that included not only being kind to one another, but questioning those who claim to have a better idea of what's right and wrong than you do.

When I felt compelled to walk forward and commit my life to God, I was not entirely sure what it meant. But again, it was honest. And while I have rejected the formal religion of my childhood, I am finding myself more and more comfortable with calling myself a christian -- i.e., a follower of Christ. I'm increasingly less interested in worrying about the state of my soul than I am the state of the life I'm living and whether I'm doing anything of use to others, although I have had my own journeys and made my own mistakes and done more out of selfishness than any of the few little bits of hopefully good work I try to do.

That's not to say I'm embracing all the notions that often get attached to the label "christian." I disagree -- sometimes vehemently and with a lot of passion, cussing, and carousing -- with nearly all of the positions taken by mainstream conservative churches.  What resonates for me on this journey is this:  I am far more interested in the actions of the man Jesus than I am in praying for the salvation of my soul. My soul probably has too much demon in it^^ to bother, and anyway, I'm not interested in embracing a life of faith out of the same fear-based need for acceptance that, in part, drove me to baptism before I was ready for it.

 I am far more interested in trying to do good and have a positive impact on my world. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. But I suspect that's the point.



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* Other than every Marvel/DC hero movie/TV show I watched as a kid, I was first really keyed into the notion of the hero's journey and other rites of passage by Stephen King's The Dark Tower books. After that I started seeing it everywhere and even recognized it in the imaginative play I engaged in when I was younger. Then I And then I found Joseph Campbell and was introduced to epic poetry like Gilgamesh and The Odyssey. And other than in narrative theory books, and in the occasional fiction workshop, it was not much discussed during my formal education.
**This proved to be a problem later when I found my own faith lacking in the absence of how I had come to think -- in very reflective ways -- about the nature of grace. It eventually led to my separating myself from formal religion entirely.
***The church I grew up in worried less about this man Jesus's humanity than whether the Methodists or Baptists were going stealing away future congregants. Yes, Blair Pride. I remember ye.
^Think credit cards -- where you borrow money and then pay it back at a high rate of return to the lender. Sometimes called usuary.  
^^One of the things I've learned is that I have to embrace that, too. If we really are made in the image of God, I suspect the likeness is more about the soul than God looking like Gandalf, the White Wizard. And if that's true, then God wrestles demons, too.

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06 January, 2016

Don't get no respect: back to school, wobbly-style

 I'm heading back to campus today to line up the last bit of what I need to do in order to teach on Thursday. Between the usual decline in course offerings and my separation from the local alternative dining and concert guide*, this winter, like most every, will be a tight one. I'm always on the look for more work, and I'm going to be diving into some projects and working on my poetry and fiction. I'm uncharacteristically prepared for the semester to begin, actually... primarily because I'm simplifying my teaching methods and focusing on what's really important in a writing class.

Practice.

People ask me all the time what I teach. When they're kind, or when they know I write poetry, they immediately ask if I teach creative writing**. I have to, for the sake of conversation, clarify that I teach academic writing***, tossing in some scholarly research methods and some interesting stories and little known history. I've been using Labor History the last few years as the subject matter for my Intermediate classes; I think it's important try and highlight little known facts of history that get overlooked in the narrative of manifest destiny.

This semester, I'm trying something a bit different because what I find in teaching labor history is that many of my students are incredibly disconnected from the events I wanted to talk about and the stories I wanted to tell.  I also found that in my attempts to ensure I was doing my job that I lost some the fundamental elements of my teaching style that made it fun and interesting.

One of the things I'm doing is simply changing research topics, for a while. My classes are going to be examining some events from local history: the 1855 Bloody Monday Election Riots, The 1937 Ohio River Flood, and river stories and myths. We're going to talk about how these narratives -- and the narratives of more current events -- impact ourselves as individuals, as a city, and as a larger culture.

So basically -- I'm going to tell stories, read and talk about essay drafts, and focus the important stuff.

And, you know, take attendance. Can't escape the all the tedium.

But I am grateful to have some kind of work
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*The latest article of important was about how Louisvillians in their 20's move to Germantown, where the rent is cheap. You know... like they have for the past 20 years.
**I have written before about how the term "creative writing" annoys me because it implies that some kinds of writing isn't creative or part of a creative process.
*** Academic writing, apparently, has no creative process. Don't get me started.


If you like what you read, please consider helping support the author. Thanks for reading!



19 November, 2015

"The Four-Year War"; or the Whimpering Acquiescence of Organized Trade Labor *

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. -- Camus

Signs at every entrance to the UAW Local Hall instructed anyone driving a foreign car to park in the side lot, away from street view. Luckily,The Blue Burrito is a 95 Dodge Ram -- older than any other car in the parking lot and made, I was assured by the previous owner, my uncle, of American steel.**

I found a parking spot, finished my cigarillo, and focused on my purpose to quiet my nerves. I had fought the urge to take a drink all evening in order to quell the frenetic firing of every piston and synapses in my head.

It was a long shot, and I knew it.

My plan was to try and convince the Central Labor Council to work with me and organize a massive state-wide protest against Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin's campaign promise to push through Right-to-Work legislation, basically removing the one or two teeth labor unions have in the Commonwealth. As I see it, the windmills really are dragons, and need tilting.

Organized Trade Labor in the state had cast its lot with a milquetoast candidate in Jack Conway. Conway lost the election to a guy who campaigned at a cock fight, who threw temper tantrums at the state Democratic Headquarters, and who has consistently used a lot of flag waving and hyperbolic religiosity to avoid criticisms of his murky past. The Democratic Candidate barely ran a campaign, and relied on others -- like members of AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the SEIU, and ASFCME -- to do the heavy lifting for him.***

I walked into the hall, preparing myself. I'd looked up the Constitution of the CLC, saw how the meetings were ran. I've been in enough meetings to know there's always the busy-ness part of  the meeting.

I wasn't sure what my contact there looked like, and things were about ready to begin, so I found a seat at one of the long tables-- strategically by the door.

The meeting commenced with a prayer and the pledge^, then rolled right into the wound licking. They'd made progress, real progress, in terms of their door knocking and phone calling -- though I don't recall anyone knocking on my door in the South End. People were thanked and comments were made about the Governor-Elect. People hide powerlessness with humor sometimes, and this meeting was no different.

A Democratic candidate who wants the District 46 seat -- the current seat warmer is retiring -- stood up and talked briefly about his pro-labor vita. He's going to fight the good fight and protect the interests of organized labor, by God, if they are kind enough to allow him the honor of being the Democratic candidate without a costly runoff campaign.

There I sat with what I expected to be the backbone of labor. There were Teamsters there, for fuck's sake. The leadership is as corrupt as hell, but still -- TEAMSTERS. They don't do much marching themselves, but they have resources to move literal mountains.

And yet there I sat, listening to the backbone of American labor bend. There were talks of elections. Of gearing up. Of golf scrambles. Of successes in getting TARC bus drivers reinstated through due process -- even as every person in there had to know their due process was on life support and an egg timer.

Then I was introduced and had my turn. My action plan, I decided, would simply scare them off. It required them to step up to the line -- to honestly step up to the goddamn line and put their boots into a direct action. No due process. No mealy-mouthing. No pandering. Direct Action. Instead, I changed my approach and offered something of a structure they could engage. I called it The Louisville Pushback. I said there was a website in the works, and the plan included both a candle light vigil the night of Bevin's closed inauguration and peaceful protests the day of. We need people, I reiterated. Lots of people. I pointed out that when Wisconsin tried to protest Scott Walker's Right-to-Work laws, it failed because there was no threat behind it. I told them protest without the threat and promise of a state-wide strike will not accomplish anything.

The audience was polite, but no one met my eye as I stepped down. The CLC president asked what the website address was, so I repeated what I planned for it to be.

As I was going back to my seat by the door, an older man stood up. He sat near the middle of the room. He pointed out that Andy Beshear had won the Attorney General race. Andy Beshear would was their guy, he said. Andy Beshear was going to stop Matt Bevin from hurting working people. Beshear would do the heavy lifting.

You know... because that sort of third party strategy worked so well for "their guy" Conway.

Subtext: he had no intention of putting his boots anywhere, and didn't think anyone else should either. "This is a four year war," he said. The phrase stuck with me. I wondered if he is thinking about how much damage an ambitious little fascist demagogue like Bevin can do in four years. I wondered then, and I wonder now, if it has occurred to any of those in attendance that simply based on attitude, the war is already lost.

I waited until the meeting adjourned to leave. I walked out alone, lit a cigarillo, and drove The Blue Burrito straight to the bar.

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*Whenever I use a semi-colon and over-explanatory title, I think of my former American Lit professor, Layne Neeper --who appreciated the arcane style of my essay titles if only out irony and a wry sense of humor.
** "Parts made in America ... and assembled in Mexico." - My Uncle. Hence half the reason my truck is named The Blue Burrito. You can guess the other half.
*** Good thing they're used to heavy loads. The loads will probably get heavier very soon.
^ I will not say the Pledge of Allegiance until people decide to actually make it happen. But do take my hat off out of respect for my father and other veterans I have known.

01 May, 2014

Up The Dirty, Sacred River May Day and Mulch

First of all, Fellow Workers of the World, let me wish you a happy May Day! For  those of you who may be unaware, May 1st is when people around the world with a sense of history celebrate the contributions that labor -- both organized and oppressed -- have made to the world. May Day resonates with members of different unions in jobs both industrial and office around the world. May Day resonates with those who keep a careful eye on history and another on current events beyond the catapulted propoganda we are assaulted with from memeworld*.  

The above image is of an 1886 flyer. Working people in this country were fighting for an 8 hour work day -- which at that time, was labled dirty and dastardly socialism.  May Day was an attempt to organize previously unorganized and already unionized (aka:  harrassed) behind the single idea that people who work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of the work they do... and that the people who actually do the work deserve to see the most benefit and the most reward from that labor. 

Friends of mine and Fellow Wobs are gathering all over  the world to celebrate today. They will sing songs -- new and old -- and put out the call yet again that the only people who can fix the problems of the world is EVERYBODY. Today, if all goes well, the Kentucky General Membership Branch of the IWW (the Industrial Workers of the World... The ONE BIG UNION) should be officially chartered. Some fellow workers are gathering in Indianapolis to celebrate and remember today - and I am with them in spirit.

I am here, on the outskirts of Losantiville, planting flowers.

Digging in the dirt, and laying down fresh mulch in front of My Dear Sweet Ma's place is how am choosing to celebrate May Day. It is a small thing. Certaily it is not the sort of thing I need to assume is going to be willfully ignored by the news media, as I am sure that any May Day celebration here or abroad will probably be. Planting some forget-me-nots and a few bushes may not seem like an appropriate way to celebrate what I consider to to be a historic and important day.

On the other hand, I can think of no better metaphor for making the world a better place for everyone than to plant living things in the hope that they will grow.  The actual work of the world is like this: small and deliberate and full of care. The actual work of the world that will ultimately change the world does not include bombs or bullets; bombs and bullets fail in the long scope of history.  The actual work of the world is some people singing while others plant quiet flowers.