05 February, 2014

Along The Dirty, Sacred River: Introductions

The Ohio River has been a physical and psychic boundary marker for as long as I can remember. Growing up in southeastern Ohio in the shadow of the seven hills, the river was the demarcation point for everything that was wrong with everything.  It's difficult to explain sometimes just why folks from southern Ohio have had such a historical loathing of anything to do with Kentucky. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that most of southern Ohio's original settlers came, not from the east, but from Kentucky, searching for work in those grand and unsavory cities like Cincinnati that grew up along the river as cesspools and harbingers of commerce. 

As an adult -- or, more appropriately, a child who has reached middle age -- Kentucky and the river have taken on different meanings. The river is transfixed in my mind as a place of magic and of history. Before people developed symbols to represent the sounds they made, before people developed language to pass on stories and songs and other kinds of important life knowledge, the river and the rocks and trees recorded history for us. We can look at the water, dig in the dirt, and if we have the know how and if we pay attention, we can see not only the short history of humanity, but the history of this giant storybook Earth.

The river soothes and keeps me. Piscean as I am, I've always had an odd -- and sometimes contentious -- relationship with water. I'm hoping to develop a better relationship with it, and learn from it in the same way I hope to learn from everything around me.

Those of you who know me or have followed my writing for a while may be more familiar with me under a different header, americanrevisionary.com.  That blog is the story of a man travelling and trying to put himself back together. I am not done travelling, and I am not done with the core idea that those months taught me -- live to avoid an avoidance culture; but it would be disingenuous of me to try and keep writing under that banner. In a hyper-sensitized, logo-branded culture, the tendency is to find a niche and keep it up. All the smart marketing books tell us that -- that people are swayed by brand loyalty. That we are who our Google/Facebook profiles say we are. That we have one life, one trajectory, and one destiny.

That, Dear Readers (I hope you're there!), is a pile of bullshit.

I've been away from blog world for a bit, focusing on life here at the new home base on the south side of River City, otherwise known as Louisville, Kentucky.  I've also been struggling a bit with how to best proceed with this next to unknown and unread existence I think of as my public life. People who know me well enough to be my friend on Facebook, the most technofascist of all the social media sites, may have a handle on what I've been doing.  I've been teaching, and writing some poetry. I've been working on storytelling at monthly Moth Story Slam at Headliners. I've playing music in the basement, trying to teach myself the banjo and mandolin. I've also been putting together a show of sorts.  As if that doesn't sound busy enough, I'm also working on another small press endeavor ... for those of you out there who may still remember One-Legged Cow Press... that will publish and distribute limited editions of handmade chapbooks mostly written by yours truly with some other good folks thrown in for good measure. 

That I'm launching a new blog doesn't suggest that I've abandoned the notion of avoiding an avoidance culture. It's quite the opposite. I will wander about when the mood and circumstance takes me; but there's plenty here to keep me occupied that is worthwhile and worth not avoiding.  In addition to written blogs, there will be audio clips and pictures, and maybe even some viddy for your viewing pleasure.  This non-existent space will be filled with stories and songs and poems -- a lot be my, but hopefully a lot by others, too -- and with news and updates of new travels, travails, adventures, and (most certainly) misadventures. 

Welcome.






02 November, 2011

Truck Day Blues


Yesterday morning, I was waiting for my wife to get ready so she could drop me off at the newspaper office, one town over. Tuesday is Truck Day. That means I drive the company panel truck to Sterling, where they're printed, load most of the bundles in the box and deliver them to the post offices and news stands. It's not a bad gig 80% of the time. One day a week, I get $10 an hour to drive around and haul newspapers. And for some reason, as annoying as being up early is, one of the moments I enjoy in the day is walking into the warehouse and getting that first whiff of newsprint.

I have no idea why.

But while I was waiting, I decided to turn on the TV. Most of the time, I watch ESPN. Just because. A lot of times I regret having cable... mostly when the bill comes due … but I do like ESPN. There's something about it that just makes me feel … I don't know... connected to the universe in some ball scratching, Al Bundy sort of way. This particular morning, though, they were talking about the World Series, and I could seriously give a shit less since I wasn't invested in either team. I'm against Texas on principle, but I have no geographic love or hate for St. Louis, though I do vaguely remember their bus station. (Please see The Greyhound Quarto for further explanation.) Flipping around trying to find something else, I ran across MSNBC and Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough.

Keep in mind that not only do I not watch Morning Joe, I tend not to watch or listen to news first thing in the morning. And no, it's not because I don't care about what goes on in the world – I do. I find my news from a variety of sources and a variety of perspectives. But I have learned – maybe because I'm in the news business – that watching, listening, or reading news first thing in the morning does nothing but sour my day and my mood. Early morning news is a combination of current event memes for the memory impaired that is often mistaken for hard news (Kim Kardashian's divorce, for example... not only is it fluff, but it shouldn't count as news. After all, does Good Morning America report every time the sun rises?) When I tuned in, though, I found former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw on talking about his new book, and spouting, as Brokaw often does, his thoughts on how things are going in America.

One of the things I like about Brokaw is that he's one of the few left from his business who understands the importance of context. For some reason, the American people have gotten in their heads that the news ought to be objective, without context. And naturally, which ever news outlet most reflects their views (this is true all philosophical and ideological bents) is the one given the prestigious label of “objective.” One of the things about Brokaw is that he spent so much time in the corporate media machine that the context for all of his criticism is a Post World War II 20th Century America. Rather than looking at the whole, trying to wrap his brain around history as more than Manifest Destiny, he ignores the fact that most of what we're dealing with in the Post American Century is the bullshit byproduct that's been left behind to fester since the original 13 signed off on the U.S. Constitution.

The gist of the conversation as I tuned in – as described by the caption at the bottom of the screen – was that Americans need to “re-enlist as citizens.” He went on to explain that real leaders – the people he writes about in his new tome, I guess – are people who led through action, who came up from among the people. He bemoaned the absence of “larger than life” leaders who could capture the minds and imaginations of his fellow Americans.

And I had a few thoughts, which I'll list here:

  1. “Re-enlist”... a militaristic term. Maybe we ought to consider the possibility that being in some army or another is the problem.
  2. People DO need to be directly engaged in and with their community and their country... as individuals coming together for the common good. (This, kids, is the root of all civilization.)
  3. Brokaw's critique regarding the absence or need of “larger than life” leaders is incorrect. The issue is that corporate media empires like NBC and MSNBC (wholly owned subsidiaries of General Electric) ignore them in favor of spouting non-controversial public relations reports they claim are true news reports.
  4. Underlying every argument Brokaw has made since he wrote about World War II is “These kids today... what pussies!” Maybe if he were talking to them instead of a table of talking bobble heads, he might get more of the reaction he's looking for. Or if he was paying any attention at all to current events.

That was before the coffee kicked in... which it did somewhere on Benson Road between Lanark and IL-40 headed towards Milledgeville.

19 October, 2011

“What a world you must live in.”


Here's the thing: people are like cats. I suspect that's why people hate them so much. People that tend not to like cats say it's because they're dog people (I always imagine McGruff The Crime Dog and some Planet of the Apes scenario.) Some people think cats are just too sneaky. Some think cats are to feminine and flighty – including some newly minted feminists who haven't read or thought about what feminism actually is. But As critters go, human beings are incredibly predictable in at least one way: we tend to like things that mirror the attitudes and attributes we'd rather have, instead of those we actually have. And because there is no yin without a yang, no Starsky without a Hutch, no Cagney without a Lacy, it is also true that if we like the people and places and things that represent what we aspire to, then we hate the people and places and things that remind of who (and what) we really are.






Which is why most people don't like cats. They're too much like we are.

Now, don't get me wrong. We should always aspire to be more, to be better. Of course, we're short of heroic icons in these modern times. Two of my heroes, Utah Phillips and J.L. “Red” Rountree – are both dead and have been for some time. I was introduced to the stories and songs of Utah Phillips in my early 20's, and it was through him that I began to learn about the long memory he sang and talked about – the memory of workers, organizers, unions, anarchists, pacifists, agents of change... and those those who believed in and harnessed the positive power of chaos... such as Albert Parsons, Big Bill Heywood, Joe Hill, and Ammon Hennacy. I chose as my heroes those who embody those ideals I believe are important and that I hope to better exemplify and live by in my own life. Red Rountree was maybe the last of the philosophical bank robbers. He didn't hurt people, and believed in having fun. He also had a deep grudge against banks.


But it's difficult to get around that fact that most people are like cats. Cats are moody, territorial, and dislike having their routine interrupted. I have two cats, and if their daily ritual is maligned in anyway, they simply don't know what to do. And people are the same way. We like our rituals, our patterns, our hegemonic convergence that defines each and every day of our lives. We like it so much that even if we become unhappy, we live with it.

And if we're forced to face the idea that something has to change, we look for a way to change as little as possible, lest we upset our all so sacred routine.

Which is, of course, the problem people have with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. At it's core, it represents the idea that something has be done to change the inequities that most of us life under. This means not just adding new rules. It may mean throwing the old rules out and starting from scratch. Because the problem isn't just that the rules aren't fair. The problem is that in America, the Golden Rule – “He who has the Gold makes the Rules” is the only rule that matters. It is upon that rule that Capitalism is built, and it is for that very reason that Capitalism is a wholesale failure as a social, political, and economic model. We have lived under it so long that people have forgotten that Democracy – the idea that all people are equal and deserve and equal voice – has been consumed by Plutarchy and Capitalism.

Keep in mind, not all #occupywallst folks are anti-capitalists. But they do recognize that something's fucked up. And they're willing to do something about it. It's not a revolution, that's true. But maybe... just maybe... it is a kind of evolution.