Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. 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


06 December, 2019

Spontaneous Nothing/ Done getting kicked

Jean Baptiste Rochambeau: traitor but not bad game designer
The aftermath of every major life decision is that my brain, my  old enemy, kicks out every single reason that I might have read the road signs wrong. Like as I might, blaming this on alcoholism doesn't feel like it fits the bill. Yes, our brains are our enemies most of the time... the brain as controlled by ego, at any rate.

To wit: faced with an unexpected 40% tuition increase from last semester to this semester, I decided it wasn't right to put that kind of strain on my family's already thin finances. The financial aid office, in all it's wisdom, offered me the opportunity to apply for yet another loan that I probably wouldn't get. If I had gone out to LA to deal with the issue in person, I'd have had no money to pay for lodging and no sure way home ... unless my wife and I didn't pay the mortgage.

See what I mean? Untenable.  Add to that the fact that the additional loan I was "qualified to apply for" was a PLUS loan... which is essentially a bank loan.  They check your credit score for that one.
So I didn't go. I was able to get a Leave of Absence for financial reasons, but that means I'll graduate a semester later than I originally planned... December instead of June 2020.

Meh. That part I'm not all that bothered by. A little bummed that I won't get to graduate with my friends in the same cohort. But it's that ol' brain... my Ego... that's been kicking my ass over the last few days.

Well, fuck you Ego. And move over.

This self-questioning has been a paralytic in the past. My joints lock up. My brain turns into an old rabbit-eared idiot box permanently stuck on white noise.  Generally this happens while I'm mid-stride into some half plan or another. Except that this time I had a plan, even if I'd forgotten that my old enemy, ego mine, would try and get in between.

My plan? Nothing.

That's right. Nothing.

I'm pretty sure my wife doesn't want to know this, and I'm damn sure certain that every productive member of the Machina Trumplandia doesn't want to know, either. Nothing flies in the face of that Engrained Something we were taught from the moment our parents started trying to socialize us.  My mother will worry. My mother-in-law, too. Pretty sure my daughter, who is preparing to have a daughter of her own, will have some concerns. If my father's ghost is hanging around, he'll have some choice words on the matter.

But yeah. Nothing. One Big Spontaneous Nothing.

That Engrained Something... that's ego. That's all my previous lives and decisions trying to run on repeat.  But like a religious has to die to their old life, a poet ... to truly be one... has to die to his or her old life, too.  While I have a deep respect for The Grand Experiment*, I've (finally) learned that there is no such thing as finding an accommodation between poetry and "life."

Poetry IS life. And there is no accommodating life. Either you live or you don't.

I know what you're thinking. What about money? What about bills? Yes, I will need to  make money. My decision to try and go back for my MFA was predicated on the notion that I had to find another track to be a good husband. My decision put off going this residency because of the financial hardship it would drop on my household was based entirely on needing to do what's best for my family. Not my ego, which would have had me going out to LA and putting our domestic security at risk.

No thank you, Ego. Fuck off.

Now, it's true that I've done a lot of things to earn money. Nearly all of them were awful. I attribute this to the fact that I've always hated money.  Even when I thought I was engaged in my own little capitalistic experiment ... and doing pretty well at it, actually... the thing I was sacrificing kept kicking me in the nuts. Poetry. Poetry kicked me in the nuts. Life. Poetry ignored is one big game of Roshambo, South Park Style.



I'm done getting kicked in the nuts for you, Ego.

Nothing. Live it. 

________________________

*The working idea that a poet can balance poetry, professional, and domestic life. I'm not saying it can't work. I'm saying it doesn't work for me. I was born with rambling feet, but I'm a lousy dancer.



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13 June, 2019

Baboon Lumbering

Compiled in the early 12th century, Konjaku monogatarishñ, or the "Tales of Times Now Past" is an anthology consisting of more than one thousand tales form India, China, and Japan. This print illustrates a scene from the story of a turtle who tried to kill a monkey because he heard that monkeys' livers are effective medicine. The turtle invited a monkey to his place telling him that there would be lots of delicious food. Anticipating the feast, the monkey climbed on the turtle's back to cross the ocean. When they were far out to sea, the turtle revealed his true intentions. The clever monkey then confided that he had accidentally left his liver hanging on a tree branch on the shore. Tricked by the monkey's claim, the turtle returned to land, where the monkey quickly scurried to safety high in the tree. Despite their adversarial roles in the story, the turtle and monkey in this print look to be friendly, thus giving the image an overall bucolic ambience.

I offer this image from a 12th Century manuscript and short explanation from the archive notes just to add a bit of context. Hopefully it will make sense by the time I'm finished with this post.

During my morning meditations a while back, it struck me that I am a baboon riding a turtle. I'm still unwrapping what all this metaphor means, but if I'm being honest this particular revelation didn't come as a great surprise. A few years back I started a long series of poems, many of them unread except by me and most of them probably not all that good, in which I wrote myself as a baboon. The phrase BABOON LUMBERING, or at the very least the image of it, was a central theme of those poems. It best described how I felt in the world.

Although my formal education is relatively extensive, my self education really began while I was still traversing  high school. I'm sure I went to classes my senior year, but I don't remember much of that year ... the year my dad died. What I do remember is spending a  lot of time in the very small high school library, obsessed with these dusty old books on the reference wall that no one ever paid any attention to. There was a huge series... maybe two or three encyclopedia sets long... of THE GREAT BOOKS. The first volume covered the major writings of Aristotle. Of course I didn't start there. I started with Descartes and The Scientific Method. I don't know why I started there, except that in the early time of mourning Dad's death, I found the religion I'd grown up with to be little or no salve. So maybe, I figured, maybe science will offer something else.

It didn't. Not really. But it did start to give me framework with which to view the world. There are two major element to the Scientific Method that matter here and now: evidence and observation. Although I'd done ok in school (I was a lazy student) I don't know that I ever learned anything about oberserving. And it was through the process of reading Descartes, Bacon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and as many other of The Great Books as I could read, that I began to understand the difference between just SEEING and actually OBSERVING.

That lesson has been instrumental, and has shaped me into the writer, the thinker, and the spritutal and metaphysical person I am. That lesson continues to shape my journey because at the core of it is the belief that I am not just here to SEE. I am here to OBSERVE and to write it all down as honestly as I can.

Monkeys and baboons in various mythologies are storytellers, messengers, and tricksters. And while my choice of BABOON LUMBERING had more to do with my general discomfort in the world at that time, I am starting to see that my brain keeps kicking this image back at me for a reason.


And so, here I am. Still lumbering, but more at ease. Experience and observation. Detachment (a kind of empiricism) also comes into play. But I'll save that for another time.


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03 June, 2019

A Tip for Traveling Well (Back in the Tall Grass)


Top of Iroquois Park, Louisville, KY: an Olmsted Designed Park
The top level of Iroquois Park in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's only open to motor traffic one day a week, and most of the time it looks like the city has all but forgotten about it: tall grass, hidden brambles, vines, and flowers. The path through the tall grass eventually disappears and even though the earnest saunterer isn't that far from the road or from civilization, the wildness of the place takes hold and for a moment, it's possible to forget the nearness of  what has come to pass as civilization.


One of the blessings of my life is that such a place, and others like it, are so close to where I live. I've taken this for granted in the past because, well, my head wasn't quite turned right. I'd allowed myself -- with all the best intentions in the world -- to get distracted by work, by the demands of building a business that I built for what may have not been the best reasons, and by the trappings of a civilization and system that I'd spent years avoiding and actively fighting against.

But as I find myself back in the tall grass, having wandered off the marked path in favor one that I
have no choice to have faith in rather than the sure thing I can see, dictate, and, to a limited degree, control, I feel more free than I have in a long, long time. I was so busy trying to make up some kind of professional life after the one I loved (education) seemed to have left me behind... or, to be more accurate, filtered me out... that I missed the opportunity to really step off the path. Yes, I tried a few creative things until I put together some sort of business plan. But the business took all the energy and left me little room to breathe. And you may point out, Isn't that just the way it is?

No. It's the way I decided it was. That doesn't mean it was true. And no one had any control over it but me. I'd trapped myself in a maze of my own creation, with a monster of my own creation to whom I ceded all control of my life.

When I was finally able to see... or I was blessed with the chance to be able to see... what I was doing to myself, I knew that I had to get back to something basic:

PACK LIGHT.

On any journey, the things you carry are the things that can both help sustain you and make your life miserable. In some cases, the thing you're lugging around will kill you if you let it. So let go of what you don't need. Hang onto what sustains you.

The real bitch of it is that only you can figure out what those things are. But once you do, the tall grass is calling.





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16 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots -- Anticipation

I was traveling when my wife and got together. Our courtship was one of distance and of patience: letters, emails, phone calls when a charged battery and available cell towers permitted. The pattern of my leavings started even before that, though, back when we were still just friends, still in our 20's, both of us, I think, still searching, though for very different things. I remember going to tell her I was going to drop out of college. It was a deliberate trip out to see her. I went alone because anything I said I only wanted to say to her. She greeted me in a gorgeous sun dress and when I told her I was leaving, the light left her face like the sun disappears behind a storm cloud.  

But because our courtship probably would not have existed without my leavings, they have been a part of our relationship from the start. 

She knows I have to go from time to time because the ticky-tock thing in my gut won't stop long enough for me to stay home like normal people do. I call that behavior normal because it is the most common, and for those who choose it I say have at it. I love my wife and I love my home -- Louisville, Kentucky breaks my heart like no other place I have ever lived. But still, when the wind kicks up, the current shifts, and urge to go sweeps up upon me, it's bad business to ignore it. And though I've written about it before, I feel like I need to reiterate: traveling as I do is not the same as a vacation. It's true that I often visits friends when I travel. But a vacation is, by definition and practice a respite from normal living to go and do something outside of the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine for the purposes of being able to reintegrate back into that same routine with renewed vigor.

I decided that was bullshit 20 years ago, and life has done nothing to change my mind.

And while it's true that I love being home when I am home, I always feel like I'm in between trips. No matter how present I try to be, no matter the fact that I love my life, my wife, our home, and the grand art we are creating in building our life together, the fact is I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to better perfect my pack so that when I go, I'm as streamlined and prepared as possible. I buy clothes based on durability and utility (pockets).  It's not even an active thing on my part. It's just how my brain is wired.

So when the wind kicks up... I go.

But I always know the way home, even if it's the long way.
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26 December, 2018

On meditating with your demons

Learn to meditate with the monsters.
Sit down and sup with the demons.
But don't let them feed you.  - from Field Notes: 26 December 2018


Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller
One of the things you hear in the rooms is that holidays create resentments, which end up leading alcoholics back to the bottle. My family is pretty supportive and not as dysfunctional as other family situations I've heard about in the rooms and on the streets. But there are times when life jams up and somewhere between the anxiety of trying to be a good guy, a decent husband, and an empathetic listener, it's only with the grace of God, a loving wife, and a good sponsor that I managed to stay sober.

Coming home from my latest trip west, on another failed trip to find the real Los Angeles in the glitter that is LA, I threw myself into the list of Things That Needed Doing. It fell sometime while I was traveling eastbound through Missouri that the wife and I were going to host Christmas dinner with my family. Now, this isn't exactly a stressful thing, in and of itself. My immediate family is smaller than some and none of them are particularly taxing. But it falls at a time when there is a lot going on.

Specifically, my father-in-law is dying. 

This spreads out in several different ways. Everything is being done to keep him comfortable and right now, he's doing as well as can be expected with Stage 4 Large Cell Carcinoma. In other words, lung cancer -- the kind not brought on by smoking, but as a side effect of the anti-rejection drugs he takes so his body doesn't reject the kidney transplant he received 6 years ago. My mother-in-law is approaching the whole thing with as much stoicism as she can, which is in her nature, and my wife is trying to follow suit, though stoicism is not in her nature at all. 

For me, Christmas is mostly about keeping things moving -- 10,000 wheels all in motion going in different directions -- through the season. I'm trying not to focus on my own issues wrapped up in all this, or the feelings it brings up about my own father's death and my general anxieties about people I love dying. 

Yes, I know it's natural for people to die. I can intellectualize that all I want, but that doesn't change how I feel about any of it at the moment.

But I am learning how to sup with my demons. There really isn't any choice. And one of the people teaching me how to do is, oddly enough, my father-in-law. I don't want to dismiss his experience -- an experience I know nothing about, really -- but I do think of all the people I have seen in the process of dying, he is probably the strongest person I've seen. He doesn't always bear up well. He gets tired and cranky and I think he's probably as tired of being fussed over as he is of the cancer. But he doesn't just give up, either. He's resigned, I supposed as much as anyone can be. But there's a resilience to it all, too. He's waiting. He's tired, but he's waiting. He carries it all because that's where he is right now.

 I was asked as recently as today if the holidays made me want to drink. I can honestly say they don't. I don't miss drinking as much as I miss not feeling. But I know what happens when I try to manage my feelings with artificial means. So I pick them up, my little demons, my little monsters.  The ones that used to hound me minute by minute of the day. That's where I am right now. I pick them up, and take them with me and hope we all learn, them and me, how to get through this world that seems so much more appealing in the absence of feeling.




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07 November, 2017

Just yesterday morning, Part 3

All things are made bitter, words even / are made to taste like paper, wars gets tossed up / like soldiers used to be/ (in a child's attic) lined up / to be knocked down, as I am... ~ Charles Olson
The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, whereas in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. ~ Sherwood Anderson 
Daylight Savings Time, Marriage, Art
Give it about 30 years and no one will even talk about Daylight Savings Time anymore.

Seriously. As annoying as it is, as pointless as it is, and as completely illogical as it is, it will cease to be the topic any real discussion.  
This won't happen because the powers-that-be will suddenly come to their senses and realize that moving the hour hand backwards or forwards doesn't actually extend or shorten the day. As a matter of fact, if anyone talks about hour hands, it will be in the sense of a quaint curiosity. Like jewelry made out of the hair of a dead loved one or the concept of privacy. All things fall into the dust of quaint curiosity shops of the mind -- including curiosity shops -- so seriously, don't put too much stock in the illusion that you're getting an extra hour sleep when we  FALL BACK IN THE FALL.

Don't worry about it. The Internet of Things will do it for us. We won't have to think about Daylight Savings Time because the ability to think about anything -- like the ability to read a clock or have a private thought that can't be described by a meme -- will have disappeared and we will have the IOT (Internet of Things, or, as we'll maybe call it NetStuf) heft the apparent burden of consciousness for us.

But if this Internet of Things... I mean, NetStuf... is so damn dandy, why can't it fix the hole in my ceiling? It can, apparently, predict what kind of advertising I'll respond to based on (really, very) random keyword searches. It can tell me who I was in a past life. It can tell me how I'm probably going to die and -- based just on my Facebook profile picture -- tell me where my ancestors came from. This Internet of Things assures that I'm instantly and permanently connected to countless facts, factoids, fake news, friend updates, new business connections, and scores for everything from the little league game (in languid immobile Summer, anyway) to World Cup Soccer.

But it can't crawl up into the very small and sort of claustrophobic space under the ceiling awning off the attic and repair a hole. It can't climb up on the roof and make any necessary repairs. It's 2017 and there are robots that can vacuum your house while you're gone... not that we can afford one or could even make use of one with three dogs and two cats to either hunt it, stalk it, or asphyxiate it with the endless trails of shed fur.

Ok, I know. I signed up for this life on the margin, right? Making Art out your life isn't easy, nor, I suppose, should it be. Though I'm still unsure of why. And I feel like I've been asking that question a really, really long time.




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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!

________________________________________________________________________________
*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...

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19 April, 2016

Old friends, new soil, and starting over

Lay this unto your breast: Old friends, like old swords, still are trusted best. -- John Webster

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.  -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Many demolitions are actually renovations. - Rumi

You're not the same as you were before. You were much more... muchier. You've lost your muchness. -- The Mad Hatter


What I'm worth here: one stale donut, probably left by grad
students who don't know how to clean.
Eden is built one shovel full  at a time. 

Yesterday I was out in my front yard, digging up the grass layer in a 4x5* plot of ground for a garden expansion. We've talked about this expansion for about two and a half years but, for one reason or another, hadn't gotten around to it.**

It's really unfair to call what now grows in our front yard grass. It's more like a picker's pack of weeds: three-leaf clover, crab grass, and the remnant of what used to be, I think, a flower bed. In characteristic fashion, the previous owners, The Beamus's*** chose to fill everything in with the cheapest fill they could find. Underneath the picker's pack of green weeds there's a lot of clay (not surprising for the region) with a mixture of plastic bits, pieces of walkway brick, and other debris I'm not sure I want to identify.

I haven't cleared a space of ground like that in more than a couple of years. This time last year, between my foot problems and the stabbing leg muscle cramps woke me up out of a dead sleep or would strike after any kind of physical exertion, I wouldn't have been able to tackle the project and hope to finish it. But this year, I did it -- because of some smart medical advice, some more attention to my own health, and the fact that I'm too damn stubborn to let the machinations of darkness win that easily.

Yes, the previous statement is dramatic. But I'm probably in a dramatic mood because today is my last at the University of Louisville, home to the corrupt as hell but still as of yet untouchable Dr. James Ramsey, in Kentucky, where our tiny tin pot fascist governor is going after higher ed ^ like  Richard "The Iceman" Kulinski.

My end of the semester exodus from this campus will most likely mark an end to my time in higher
The All-Seeing Eye above my cubicle. I'm leaving it for the
next inhabitant. I rarely feel lonely with it watching me.
Always. Always watching me. Like a tender,
patronizing, fascist
education. And while I'd like to claim I am marching out by choice and kicking the dirt off my work boots for its repudiation of me, the fact is these Institutional and Harrowed Halls have spit me out.

There's no room here for a guy like me. I make all the wrong kinds of noise and annoy all the wrong kind of people, in spite of the fact that I consistently do my job.  I've worked to improve my lot and the lot of other part-time cogs^^ like me, but all that's happened around here is nothing. A large swell of a wave, lots of potential energy biting to go kinetic, and then...

NOTHING.


Nada.
Nunca.
A pile of old dog shit in a KFC bucket.

After my retaliatory bum's rush from KCTCS, the drive to make any improvements dried up and disappeared because there was no one willing to step up be the next standard bearer.^^^

Part of my mistake has been, I think, my desire to behave like a far more diplomatic person than I actually am. When I try to act in a way incongruous with my basic nature, things always, naturally, go askew.

I am not a diplomat. I am not the person to go in and reach a compromise that satisfies no one and placates everyone. I am a contrarian. I come from a long line of contrarians. I'm a wrecking ball. I'm an embodiment of the whirlwind. Time and experience haven't dulled this about me, nor do I expect them to any time soon.

I was reminded of this recently, when a friend from my graduate school days, Stephanie, came in to River City for a conference. We met for drinks at one of my favorite downtown dives and talked for several hours. I've always had a soft spot for Stephanie. We're cut from a similar contrarian cloth. That's not to say we see the world in precisely the same way. But she reminded me that there's a necessity to calling out injustice, to standing up to bullies, to aiming for a higher moral and ethical standard. Old friends are good precisely because they can

  1. keep us honest, and 
  2. they have a longer view of our lives than we do sometimes, as we are stuck living day to day.

So, yes. I'm starting over. Again. I've gotten pretty good at it, actually. I'm armed with the same weapons that have gotten me here. Eden is built one shovel full at a time. Sometimes I shovel cheap fill. Sometimes I shovel shit. It all turns to fertile soil eventually. And as I move forward, I know I'm not working towards some Sunday morning Meet the Press commercial retirement fantasy. Poets and contrarians never retire.

I'm not investing in my retirement. I'm training for the next fight.
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* Not precise. Yes, I eye-balled it. And it's a little crooked. That's what second growing seasons are for.
** Last year was a busy year. The year before that, we were broke, or damn near. Some plans have to wait for the situation to present themselves.
***May their names be struck from the book of careful homeowners.
^Yes, I'm aware of the lawsuit being organized by Andy "Don't call me Baby" Beshear. Keep in mind that under his Daddy, former governor Steven "At least I'm not Ernie Fletcher"  Beshear, the state budget cut higher education 10 times in a dozen years. Truth: Democrats like an uneducated population, too.
^^Because from an institutional view, that's all any of us are. Cogs that can be replaced. Usually with a less expensive one that's made out of plastic and manufactured in a sweatshop.
^^^ In classic military strategies, standard bearers marched ahead with the drummers to embolden the foot soldiers. NOTE: Standard bearers usually died first. It's a strategy of demoralization that still mostly works.


If you like what you're reading here, I have work for sale on my amazon author page:
www.amazon.com/author/mickparsons
You can also leave a tip if you'd like. Thanks for reading!

23 July, 2015

Superstition and Tradition

Pictured left is my second round of drinks as a paid freelance journalist in Louisville.

Nothing fancy. Just my usual round of Miller Lite and Maker's Mark. This combination has been my bar drink of choice for longer than my second marriage lasted. My older brother, whose tastes are far more refined but who can drink with the best of them when the mood strikes him, is always a little sickened by my choice of combinations.

I was feeling a little squirrelly last night after a days of spending my days in the basement, sitting at the desk, working. I love the solitude, love the pace of the work I do -- gig based and sporadic as it feels at the moment -- but sometimes I need to get out. As Amanda understands and is extraordinarily patient about, it's not even about being social. Unless I'm meeting friends, I don't even socialize all that much.

The best way I know how to explain it is that sometimes I just need to swim around in a reasonable crowd of normal people who are not me, my books, my stringed instruments, the dog, or the cat. And sometimes I need a good bar with an uncomplicated air to find the ground. I need a place where I can be quiet and still feel like I've socialized.


I've established myself in a neighborhood watering hole that meets all the requirements set forth my pre-established Rules For Not At Home Drinking*.  And although I don't see the inside of a bar as much these days thanks to "the gig life" and the general financial burden that is summer (Thanks engrained academic schedule!), I felt it was important to go and have a  round or three out of the first check I earned as freelance journalist here in River City.

This was as much about wanting to see the inside of a familiar bar as it was superstition. In my last gig as a freelance muckraker -- with the The Prairie-Advocate out of Lanark, Illinois -- the first thing I did when I got paid was walk up to the local watering hole (there were two at the time and I was strongly discouraged by my  now ex-wife from walking in to one...  she called it, not incorrectly, "the redneck meat market") and have a beer and a shot. Bourbon is hard to find that far north, so I made do with a shot of Jack** and stuck to beer after that.

Drinking to inaugurate a new gig is something I see as crucial to the success of that gig. I did the same with first checks from teaching gigs in my 30's and still do in my 40's. I did the same from checks from day labor and factory/warehouse gigs in my 20's.  I will admit to a certain superstitious bent, but that's only because once money rolls in on the regular or semi-regular, it is immediately gobbled up in that bottomless pit called Bills and Other Unsavory Obligations.***

I had more reason to celebrate this gig check, though. When Amanda and I were first talking about me moving to River City and setting down some roots, I wasn't planning on going back to teaching. My Plan was to try and wow some of the local media with my portfolio of news writing. My Plan was that maybe I'd wiggle my way into some freelance work, and start building a fresh portfolio upon which I could build a livelihood out of writing. I don't really consider myself hampered by the fact that I don't have a degree in journalism (I did minor in it once upon a time). But I did find, on first pass, that not having a journalism degree in a medium-sized market as problematic as not having an MFA when you're applying for creative grants.

Sometimes editors, publishers take the absence of a specific degree personally. So my foray into the Louisville journalism scene didn't pan out. Initially.

But, as I am often reminded, everything is about timing.

Talking with Amanda about moving here and writing for LEO was the beginning of  this new and happier chapter in my life. In case you didn't know this about me, in addition to being somewhat superstitious, I'm also a touch sentimental about certain important things. Although I know that this gig is only prelude to something else and life moves forward, it reminds that 1) I really do like writing about news and think good, researched journalism matters, and 2) the Universe is sometimes very kind to me... and even looks out for me from time to time.

So, SlĂĄinte ^ , Dear Friends and Readers.

________________________________________________________________
* Rules For Not At Home Drinking, codified and approved 2004, Cincinnati, OH. 1) Do not drink more than stumbling distance or not more than a 30 minute bus ride (no transfers) from home without having a ride. 2) Do not drink more than 5 shots of bourbon in a two hour period, regardless of how good or how empty the mood. 3.) Hydrate regularly. 4.) Eat properly 5.) Be safe.
** Any drinking rules I have get altered when Jack Daniels gets involved. Say what you will, but different liquors hit me differently... and the last time I went on a Jack induced bender I ended up getting hit... and hitting other people. Something in that Tennessee swill raises the temperature of my blood to an unpleasant degree. I take this as proof that I am, at least physiologically, in the right state now.
*Or, THE DEVIL INCARNATE
^ Gaelic for 'Good Health' or 'Last one to drink is a Protestant Tory.'

22 August, 2012

Mick's Rules for Living: The Road Revision

[It occurred to me that I haven't done a revision of this list since hitting the road. You can find the previous version of these rules at my hardly ever used but sometimes, occasionally resurrected blog, The Ohio Expatriate. Feel free to check out the site, as well as the links to the previous Expatriate site on Wordpress. It's fun stuff, I promise, and nothing less than you might expect from me.

And in case it's not evident, I'm still revising these, so they are not set in stone. Also, while I think individuals might benefit from heeding these in the spirit that they are intended, I have no intention of trying to force them on anyone. I have been accused of this. But, as I am a Wobbly, and a pacifist, I don't believe in forcing people into anything. People have to change of their own accord. 

Also, you will notice that the list has gone from 10 to 9. Most noticeably absent is former #4. If you're sedentary/settled, by all means... live close to your watering hole. But this is THE ROAD REVISION.

Cheers, Dear Readers.]

1. DO NO HARM. Violence begats violence, every single time. Being a pacifist doesn't mean you're afraid; it means you decide to have control over how you respond, not let other people or events determine your reaction. It's PROACTIVE not REACTIVE. Get it?

2. BE KIND TO ALL CRITTERS.  A slight revision. Kindness is crucial and necessary and entirely too rare. The size of the critter doesn't matter. Be kind. This also includes previous rule #5.

3. READ SOMETHING EVERYDAY. In the previous version of this list, I used the word "non-essential." However, reading, in any form, is essential. The life of your mind matters. Just make it something besides news memes and Twitter feeds. Pick up a book. Read a blog by someone you disagree with. Read poetry.

4.  WEAR CLEAN SOCKS. I have no intention of wavering on this point. And I can tell you, with a certainty, that if you end up spending 3 days and nights in a bus station, a clean pair of socks makes a whole world of a difference. Take from someone who is residentially challenged. Clean Socks.

5. HAVING PRINCIPLES MEANS YOU LIVE THEM. Sometimes you'll end up offending people when you live your principles. But if you're not living them, they're not principles. They're abstractions.

5. APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU'RE WRONG; BUT ONLY APOLOGIZE IF YOU ARE SINCERE.

6. NEVER SUBJUGATE YOUR WILL TO WHIMS OF OTHERS.  This not only includes those who presume to have power over you, but also the institutions that presume the ability to grant that power.

7. BE HONEST.  Even when it hurts.

8. YOU KNOW YOU HAD A GOOD DAY WHEN YOU SLEEP WELL THAT NIGHT. Any other qualification is false advertising.

9. THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO DO IN LIFE IS DIE. EVERYTHING ELSE IS AN OPTION.


02 January, 2012

Scratching the Itchy Foot

The first part of the trip will be to go visit my daughter, Stella. It's been a couple of years since I've seen her and I want to make sure she's not taller than me. Stella is 17, focused on getting out of high school alive as well as intellectually and psychologically intact. She's also starting to look at colleges and is looking for a job.


That used to be an easier thing: finding a job. When I was a kid, all you had to do was go fill out a McDonald's application and you could have a job. There was poverty, there was unemployment -- but a kid who wanted to earn money and begin that lifelong love and hate relationship with the IRS had a reasonable shot at finding some sort of demeaning, dignity impugning, soul killing job that paid very little and left none of  the feelings of satisfaction often talked about in pre-employment literature.


Right now in America, there's 4 people for every available job. And that doesn't include the 15% unemployment rate for veterans returning from the wars they fought to keep Halliburton in business. Unemployment benefits are stretched, and there are those -- we call those sons of bitches REPUBLICANS -- who would cut off unemployment insurance and let people starve. We also have some folks -- we call those assholes DEMOCRATS -- that are going along because their mommies keep their balls in a silk bag in the back of an armoire. Right now we're living in a country where we have The Haves and The Have-Nots. Right now we're living in a country run by politicians who are signing away our freedoms. Right now, the banks and corporations have taken over.


Right now, it's only getting started.


And right now, there are stories to be told. Someday, we'll have historians explaining to our grandchildren what all this recession bullshit was really about and what the long term impact of shrinking civil rights and banks on the national tit was. Or maybe we won't. Maybe we'll have talking heads and history memes on social networks, lost in the shuffle between the Two Girls, One Cup video and the latest free social networking game that eats up computer speed and distracts people from seeing the world for what it is.


Re:visionary is my way of trying to tell the real story in real time. There are stories to be told, songs to be sung, poetry to be written. Re:visionary means,  for one, revision. Life, like a poem draft, often  requires revision.


For another, it means Re(garding) Vision. How I envision my self, the country, other people, the world. 


And I'm hoping you like what you read.

19 December, 2011

Ain't It Grand, These Culture Wars?


There's no subtlety to any of it.
Grand circle jerk symmetry
internet artists (not) extraordinaire.

It's all too easy.

Buy into the myth wholesale.
Pretend, for moment, maybe two,
maybe thirty, that you're running
a pirate radio, pushing out
incendiary prose the way they used to
“back in the day” when
all our giants were still alive.

There are no more 3 AM saints,
standing over mimeograph machines,
living in the basement with
an abandoned AB Dick printing press
typesetting and publishing words
sacred enough to offend your grandmother.

But please. buy into the myth.
It helps pass the days. Days spent
whiling away in some institution
or another... proprietary pretense
awkward hipster princesses
read a few lines of Kerouac
and learn to drink like
(you think) Bukowski did
and a few young girls
will think you're a true original
because they've never seen
anything like you on Jersey Shore.

It's all too easy. / Scratch that.

It's all too hard. And you make it harder.
And not in that good way
you think Bukowski meant
when he wrote about whores.

It's too damn hard.
And you make it harder.
Because you think
drinking the right cheap beer
and wearing the right retro clothes
have anything to do
with anything. Schtick will
get you laid. But it won't
make you into the giant
you tell yourself you are
in your day job
where the boss
never seems to call you
by your real name.


18 May, 2011

Open Letter to the Alumni Association


Dear Sanctimonious Leeches and Intellectual Parasites:

I would very much like to thank you for the glossy quarterly publication in which you highlight the accomplishments of those past, present, and future graduates who you feel distinguish the grand Alma Mater in this age of for-profit degree mills and economic and educational disparity. I have always felt especially grateful to have attended because of the people I met there, student and faculty alike, who encouraged me to grow and to think and have helped me to become the fully realized human being I am in the process of becoming.

Among them, one teacher stands out more than most. And I would mention his name, but since you have never mentioned him in the aforementioned glossy publication you insist on mailing me every three months, I can only conclude that he continues to toil in the shadow of an institution that neither notices nor cares that he has set upon the world more artists and free thinkers than your College of Business has loosed successful entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, I'm fairly certain that your College of Business – which, allowed by your President and Board of Regents, and in a premeditated and unholy fashion, swallowed whole the English Department from which I managed to graduate … twice … – has done little more for the world than set upon it an army of mediocre middle managers, all of whom were made to retrain their replacements when the companies they worked for sent all the jobs overseas.

Now, this teacher I speak of is a great poet and an amazing human being – and though that statement is a bit repetitive, I feel, nonetheless, obliged to mention both since you may not have yet made the connection. He had done none of the things that merit attention from the College of Business graduates who have risen to offices of institutional power and affluence... the poetry haters who used to pass out ruffies to sorority girls at parties the way priests hand out wafers of bread on Sunday. As a related aside, consider this: people who claim to hate poetry or to not understand it have clearly missed the point. Granted, the Modernists – Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and the like – sort screwed over those of who came after because they removed poetry from the trust of the people and deposited it in the sorry Savings and Loan otherwise known as the modern college and university system. And because of those dead sorry bastards there's a lot of even sorrier living ones who have never known that poetry is a more potent aphrodisiac than chocolate.

But this does not excuse you, leeches and parasites, from the guilt you share in the whole sale theft of the American Dream. Whole generations have come up believing they need you to succeed, and if they can't afford you that they aren't worthy. And if by success they mean living the half life of a cubicle caught middle manager, techie toiler, tax payer, and amasser of debt, then your Ponzi scheme has succeeded. You rotten sons of bitches.

Along with the glossy magazine you send me every three months with the pictures of the unknowing poster children of the apocalypse, you often send me letters asking for money... a tithe, no doubt from the income you feel like you have helped me to earn. And while I would gladly spend that $25 on beer for the teacher to whom I owe so much, or for any one of the people– poets and artists all – who have graced me with their friendship, there is very little you can do, either in your form letters or in your glossy magazine to convince me that I ought to contribute to your war coffers.

If, after receiving this letter, you still feel the need to send me the glossy magazine every three months, it's your postage, not mine; the same goes for the letters you send that have gone unanswered until now and will again after I finish. But if you have any respect – scratch that – you are at all concerned about the time wasted by the poor dumb kids you put on the phone to call and try and talk me out of the little bit of money I manage to gather up, remove my phone number from your rolls; because not only will I try and convince them they need to drop out and go find themselves, I will also try and talk them into setting the the Administration building on fire before they leave under cover of night.

You are weasels of the lowest order, the spoilers of healthy minds and rapists of good solid souls. You will get no more of me.

Regards,

Mick Parsons
Mount Carroll, IL

18 September, 2009

Art and the Yahoos

Everybody’s got a flag to plant. When

I was a kid, it was the churches:

pews stuffed with people full

of faux piety in need of soothing

salvation in form of a large number

of people who look and talk and act

just like them— so that,

when they wake up early on Sunday,

they know they’re not the only ones

feeling like a dumbass.

Later on,

it was the blue collar workers

and their ethic of time clocks,

self-destruction and company loyalty.

Then complacent angry bikers looking for new blood

and fresh bitches. Then other struggling writers

seeking disciples. Then academes locked

in dilapidated office buildings,

and street and library cloistered

philosophers who liken themselves

to Socrates. They all wanted me. But

not really.

Like a lonely man

at closing time, all any of them wanted

was a warm body – which is (we all

know) the best form of justification. That

need for group think and the comfort

of the collective mind in tune and honed

for a singular purpose to be determined

at the next meeting.

They are still

coming after me – pseudo-intellectual

colleauges and administrators of the tedious-minded

(The exchange of ideas is a screaming match in which

everyone is hoarse but no one will rest.) spitting

theories and rhetorically constructed insults,

demanding and commanding me to defend my existence.

They scoff at poetry not in the tradition of Shakespeare.

They spit on stories that aren’t copies of Hawthorne.

They critique paintings that deny the style of dead old masters.

Then they look at me with shock and surprise

when I laugh at them and refuse to answer.