Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories. Show all posts

08 July, 2013

Williston Update: Heading Out

Dew is water to see,
Not water to drink:
We have forgotten water to drink.         
Yet I am content
Just to see sunrise again.
                                      -- Wallace Stevens, "Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise"
Image from The History Channel

The difference between traveling and going on vacation is the level of planning. The difference between being a tourist and being a traveller is the ability to roll with last minute changes and to think on your feet.

The bus to Chi-town pulls out of Louisville at 11:50pm tonight -- if the schedule holds. I'm in the process of completing last minute preparations.

A load of laundry.

Packing minimal provisions like trail mix and a few fresh apples.

Getting a new journal ready. Tying up the Cincinnati Day Book.

Trying to get some paperwork for a new gig tied up.

Keeping myself present, but remembering that life happens in all three tenses simultaneously: past, present, future.

There are still poems in the Cincinnati Day book that need to be typed. Some of them made into this blog. I'm planning on turning them into a chapbook once I get back from Williston. There are also plans for a limited, hand-made archival quality volume combining The Crossing of St. Frank, Whitman By Moonlight, and End Notes to the Deep Atlas of Time.

I'm looking for some freelance work and hoping to get some classes. I'm even looking at going back to school.

Right now, though, I have this trip. I'm looking forward to being on the move, and I'm hopeful that this trip to Williston will be fruitful.

And thanks to fellow writer, blogger, and highbrow/lowbrow culture devotee Misty Skaggs, I have learned that Larry the Cable Guy has decided to descend on Williston with his television crew, some brew, and truckloads of pork rinds to work on his latest project. In short, I'm now competing with a guy who got rich wearing sleeveless flannel and making jokes about the merits of incest.

It's a crazy, cruel world, Dear Readers.

I suspect we have divergent enough focuses that we probably won't cross paths. I also suspect that The Travel Channel security team and his entourage of faux-rednecks will create enough of a barrier that he won't interfere with my plans to find the kind of stories that don't make it onto NPR or The Travel Channel, or the pro-business scribblings Bloomberg.com

But we will see, Dear Readers. We will see. Stay tuned. Consider a small donation to the travel fund, and I'll mention you by name in the blog. Also, I'll send you a signed copy of Excerpts From The Cincinnati Daybook when it's ready.  

And I'll love you forever.

If that's not too creepy.

Gawd Bless!




19 November, 2012

Intermezzo: Don't Mourn (Joe Hill and the Slow Enlightenment)

Now the boss the law is stretching /Bulls and pimps he's fetching/And they are a fine collection/ As only Jesus knows. -- Joe Hill, Where the Fraser River Flows



97 years ago today the state of Utah assassinated Joe Hill by firing squad after a kangaroo conviction for the murder of Salt Lake City grocer John Morrison and his son. According to legend, his final word was "Fire!"

I use the term assassinate deliberately. The evidence against Hill was flimsy, and the only reason they bothered with the firing squad was because the first bullet intended to silence him without the bother of a public trial didn't do its job.

After, according to the legend, Joe's ashes were sent to every state in the union-- except for the state of Utah, at Joe's request; he didn't want his remains to ever exist in the same state that murdered him.

Those of you familiar with his legacy know that his final exhortation to
his fellow Wobblies was not to waste time mourning for him, but to organize. Joe Hill believed that an organized and honest union was the only thing keeping working people from being exploited by organized capital -- those who get rich by mooching off the sweat of others than by their own work.

Today isn't the only day Joe Hill crosses my mind, of course. I enjoy the music he left behind -- those old Wobbly standards, many of them written to parody religious hymns -- and I thought about him quite a bit when I was Out and About earlier this year. I wrote earlier in the year about Cletus the Dog Man, who I met in Rapid City South Dakota; he was one of many I ran into or saw or overheard who were simply out looking for work. Most of them had no interest in leaving the place they thought of as home. But they felt like they had no choice.

That's part of the impossible situation created by those who have political power and influence in order to keep those of us who really have the power from ever being able to exercise it. If there's no work where you live, you're supposed to have the guts to pack and go find it -- as long as you have the gas money or ability to travel, of course. And if you can't do that, well, you're shit out of luck. The Michelle Bachmans and the Rand Pauls of the world would say that maybe God doesn't want you to have a job.

And don't forget the other caveat: if you DO travel around looking for work, don't travel by bus, because that means you're white and/ or ghetto trash and automatically a homicidal maniac and rapist.

Or, as I was mistaken for twice, Mexican.

In other words: work and pray,live on hay, you'll eat pie in the sweet by an by.

I do appreciate Joe's sense of humor. Though fewer people know the hymns, the parody is still a good one, and the satire is apt. The 21st Century is shaping up to be a repeat of history we've already lived but seemed to have learned nothing from.

Good thing I'm learning to play guitar again. There are plenty of songs that still need to be sung, and plenty of stories and poems,too. We're not done yet.

23 April, 2012

Brief Introduction to The Atlas of Deep Time


Roads cut into mountain rock like long memories,
though the names and dates and reasons
have all been forgotten. One fresh grave
among the long lauded and appropriated dead
give us something to tell stories about,
each with a hint of mysticism and rebirth.
What is this place? Known and unknown,
traveled and unconquered, mapped and mysterious?

There are stories to be told, wood nymphs to chase,
crones filing ageless knowledge away in dusty bone husks.
Worries about the garden. Beware the killer mosquitoes
and the wrath of left turns.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
filled to his gills with the knowledge of good and evil
and leave feeling new born. Conspirators and coal barons
and tornadoes come and go, the sound of them
simply become rhythms to the songs
that have been sung for generations
and will be sung for generations more.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
broken and find his messiah
sitting beneath a tree in a lone cemetery
blessing the fresh grave of an infant
lucky enough to avoid the curse of naming
knowing love and turning back into dust.

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.

22 February, 2010

Excerpt from New Manuscript

Since I had the cash, I went against my better judgment and decided to pay rent. The next day I woke up in the late afternoon and walked up to the gas station on the corner and bought a money order, two corn dogs, and a 40 of Miller High Life. On the way back I stopped by the manager’s office, the money order through the mail slot near the bottom of the locked door, and went back home to burrow in and avoid the day light. When I got back, there were two more messages on my phone. One was another message from Lynda, wanting to talk to me. The other was from my mother, asking if I’d talked to Rhea lately.


The corn dogs were hard from sitting under the heat lamp too long, but I added enough ketchup that it didn’t matter, and the beer washed it all down nicely. I tried watching TV for a while, but I couldn’t talk myself into sitting through any of the shit on any of the channels. They’d be doing me a favor, I thought, if they just shut the fucking cable off. How many years had I wasted watching television? Over my lifetime? It’s enough to stupefy the imagination. The time people waste never occurs until it’s well past reclamation; I spent my life doing what I thought was living. I worked – sometimes. I married. I had a child. I divorced. I worked – sometimes. I remarried. I got a career. I paid taxes, amassed debt, missed car payments and rent payments and utility payments. When I had the money I always tried to tip at least 15 percent when I went to bars and restaurants. I spent recklessly. I survived hangovers, evictions, break ups, break downs, deaths, funerals, births. In my mid-30’s I was able to look back and see a life not unlike the lives of other men my age. I wasn’t so different.

So why did most all of it feel like malingering death?

There were only two things I did right in my life, as far as I could tell: having Rhea and marrying Lynda. But Rhea was getting too old to visit and Lynda took a job out of town for a few months. She told me when she left it wasn’t me; but I knew it was.

“You never do anything. You don’t go anywhere except that bar. You don’t have any hobbies. You don’t even write anymore; and it used to be so important.”


“It still is.”


She shook her head. “But you’re not doing anything about it. You’ve been moping around the apartment for a year, Nick. A YEAR. I can’t take it.”


“So you’re leaving me because I’m a little depressed.”


She shook her head. “I’m not leaving you. I’m working out of town for a few months. I need to get out of here. I need to do this for ME, ok? Besides, the time apart might be good for us.”


“Whatever.” I didn’t believe for a second that she planned on coming back. She’d go off with her gypsy theatre friends and send me postcards that read Wish You Were Here (Not!).


A car honked outside. “That’s my taxi.”


“I could have taken you to the airport.”


“It’s not a big deal.”


It would have been, I thought. Once.


“I’ll call you when I land.”


“Ok.”


She sighed. “I still love you, Nick.”


“Yeah.”

She walked out of the apartment and got into the taxi. I stood there watching her leave. It felt like my entire life was riding off in a yellow taxi.

That I wasn’t working wasn’t the issue, although that played a role. Lynda, unlike most of the women I’d had dealings with in my life, wasn’t obsessed with money. She worried over it sometimes, but not out of some shallow social-status issue. Her fears of poverty had deeper roots than even I understood when we first got married, and I had come to take them seriously – even if my own nature got in the way of doing anything about it.

I walked downstairs because I was tired of standing in the middle of the bedroom. Of course, once I reached the bottom of the stairs, I hit the wall of smell that encased the entire first floor. What had Randall called it? Dead fish and dirty ass? He was often an intolerable human being, but he could be (entirely too often) astute in his observations.

“I really need to clean,” I said. My voice echoed. It was a wonder that Marie Rubio didn’t say anything about it when she dropped off the delinquent rent notice. For all I knew, the odor was starting to creep out under the door and out the edges of the window. Hell, it could’ve been seeping through the walls; the walls were painted concrete blocks, which gave the place a cave-like quality. It also dated the construction of the complex to the late 1960’s to early 70’s. Before advances in central air and energy efficient building materials, the best way to build houses in the desert was out of cement blocks; they kept the cool air longer. It made for shitty insulation of course… but the winters were mild except for the nighttime temperature and the cold always burned off by ten the following morning. That was one of the things about living in the desert Lynda and I didn’t realize; I suspect that most people don’t realize it, either. The winter nights get cold – sometimes below freezing. It’s not the same kind of cold; it’s not that mid-western cold that gets into your bones the way it gets into the ground and freezes solid to stay until the spring thaw. The desert ground doesn’t hold onto the cold in the winter. There’s not enough water or soil or clay for that to happen. The temperature simply drops, and maybe there’s a micro-thin layer of dew the following morning; but that, along with the cold, disappears quickly and leaves no trace of its existence.

The cave-like atmosphere of the apartment held the smell in like it held the cold; sometimes I had to hold my breathe from the time I walked in the door to the time I made it up the stairs to the bedroom, which was the only sacred place left. When Lynda first left, I couldn’t sleep upstairs; trying to sleep alone in our bed was simply too much for me. And no matter how much I drank, I couldn’t sleep in our bed without missing her – the feel of her next to me, her radiating warmth, the little snoring sounds she always made (and always denied making). I missed the way she talked in her sleep and didn’t remember it the next day, and the way she used to cling to me in the night when she had a nightmare. I missed the weight of her when she’d lay on my chest, listen to my heart, and play with my chest hair, always pulling out the gray hairs and accusing me of turning into a monkey. So for the first month or so, I passed out on the couch downstairs and slept with the lights on to erase the memories that lingered in the darkness and kept me awake.

Eventually, though, the smell downstairs and the uncomfortable couch pushed me upstairs; and I made sure to drink enough that I wouldn’t wake up, and I kept the television on to block out the sound of all those memories whispering at me from the shadows in every corner of the room.

Coffee, I thought. I need a little coffee and then I’ll scour the place clean. I steeled myself and waded into the kitchen. Dirty dishes stacked in high in the sink and spreading onto the counter top when the space ran out. Old, dried out food encrusted on the plates, the bowls, the silverware. Empty, crushed beer cans and drained bottles that once held wine, bourbon, and scotch. The floor was sticky. The stove was covered in layers of crud and stained with meals I didn’t remember trying to cook and the burners were riddled with acne-like little circles from Randall lighting his cigarettes on the burner. Old pizza boxes. Rancid delivery and take-out containers. I had to clean the place; if Lynda walked through the door at that moment, the sheer horror of it all would have pushed her right back out again. It was not evidence of a Man Debauched – which she probably expected – or even of Dedomesticated Man – which might have been forgivable. There was some other evil at work there altogether; it was something older and more rotten. In the light of the morning – and why that morning I didn’t (and still don’t) know – I began to understand that it was more than my laziness or depression or drunkenness. The thing I faced in my kitchen was not months of neglect, but that ageless decay that all civilizations succumb to in the end. It was the thing that took down the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Roman Empire. It was that impulse that lived on in the stories of the Christ’s crucifixion, the murder of Osiris, the death of Mohammed, the execution of Patrick Henry, and the railroading of Sacco and Vanzetti.

I found the coffee pot much in the same condition it had been in when I abandoned it the previous morning. How bad do I want this cup of coffee? I told myself I could walk back up to the gas station and buy a cup of their burned, yet still amazingly weak java. Then I could come back reinvigorated with something resembling caffeine and the fresh air, and take on the filth of the centuries that had taken root in my kitchen. The beer and the shitty corndogs were brewing in my stomach, churned by the deadly cornucopia of smells I had no choice but to breathe in.

Lynda would have a fit if she walked into this. She wasn’t a clean freak or anything; if anything, she was as absent minded as I was when it came to the daily futile chores of eradicating the dust, grime, and filth of living. But she would know what it was before I had a chance to try and explain it.

My stomach was in knots and I knew I was going to throw up if I didn’t do something. So I went back upstairs and took a fast shower; I made sure to turn the water up as hot as I could take it so I could burn the filth off my skin. Then I dressed, held my breath as I went down the stairs, and retreated from the apartment.

Instead of stopping at the gas station, I kept walking until I got to the bar.