29 November, 2014

The Puritans Never Did This, Part 1: Under an Overload, Loading in, and The Dirty River Press

1. Under and Overload, Loading In, and The Dirty River Press

It's been a while since I sat down to write about life here along the dirty, sacred river. This past academic semester has been doing a number on your humble narrator -- teaching 7 first year college writing classes is more than this fuzzy fella has done a while. I was (and am) grateful to have the work. After a long and interminable summer of not working, I took on what I knew was going to be entirely too much for two very important reasons:
  1. to catch up on the bills that had piled up over the summer, and
  2. because that nagging, annoying remainder of my socialized male ego told me I needed to in order to hold my head up.
The first of these is self-evident. Even in these, the crumbling days of Babylon, the utilities must be paid and the money My Own True Love brings in will only stretch so far... in spite of us being pretty good at rubbing pennies together.

The second of the above listed reasons for teaching entirely too much for too little pay is the one that has made this semester physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining.

While I know that I have perfected the Art of Loafing into... well, an Art... I have never minded working when I know what it is I'm working for. Even in the life of a matriculated conscientious malingerer,  sweat equity is a necessary component. It's impossible to be an anarchist and not recognize that life is a DIY process. Where I start to begrudge work is when I feel like it is NOT for me, or for things, people, and institutions I that I reject as having any place in my life. And while I love teaching -- and I expect that I always will, in some way, be teaching -- one of the couple of things this semester has reminded me of is that in order to actually ensure some future stability as well as my sanity, it's a bad idea to depend on teaching in the crumbling institution of higher yearning for anything more than a temporary stop gap between feast and famine.

And so, Dear Readers, Friends, and Fellow Travellers, I am set to announce The Dirty River Press:





I had been tossing around an old idea... that one being Iron Belly Press. I'd been carrying that idea around since the demise of The One-Legged Cow Press more than a few years ago. You'd think I would have learned my lesson then.

Well, I didn't. I also decided that if this was to be a new venture... Amanda, brave woman that she is, is undertaking this with me in full partnership and commiseration... and that if this was going to be emblematically, symbolically, and in actuality tied to my present and our future, then it must tied spiritually and ritualistically. It must be embodied of new myths and new stories. And here, Dear Readers, is where I find myself: sitting along the dirty sacred river, home of the Gator Men, dead sharks, polluted waters, abandoned pirate ships, and water buried towns.

We don't have a website yet, but we have a space That's right, an actual space, located in The Mammoth an old paper warehouse located on S. 13th Street here in River City. Dirty River Press is sharing the space with fellow worker John Paul Wright and railroadmusic.org, as well as the Kentucky IWW. This is a collaborative space. A raw canvas if you will, full of artist studios and good ideas and powerful world creating energies.  I'm in the process of pricing used off-set printers and will be acquiring one soon. Our first run will hopefully happen around my 42nd birthday, February 20th, 2015. Dirty River Press will specialize in limited editions of hand made chapbooks, broadsides, and pamphlets. We'll publish a small catalog of work, including my own -- because being an anarchist means owning the means of production, even when you are producing art. We will also be setting up shop as a union printer in order to support the literary purpose of the press.

We also have a Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/dirtyriverpress

I'm pretty excited about this. You don't need to wait for a new life. Make a new life.

I have to sign off for now. But expect the forthcoming:

  1.  Part 2: Black Friday Protesting Along The Dirty Sacred, River
  2. An audio recording. Very Very Soon.
Thanks for reading, and for hanging around.

26 September, 2014

Fall Along the Dirty, Sacred River: After High Water Mark

After a long a quixotic summer, I find myself feeling more than a little drained, more than a bit tense, and more than a tad exhilarated.

I am I

I'm back in the classroom after a summer of not travelling like I'd planned. The good (and bad) news is that all the same old windmills that I've spent the better part of a decade tilting at are still there, hiding in the harrowed halls of higher ed. I hope they feel well rested. They are going to need it.

Someone recently told me -- by way of a compliment, I think, or maybe just a statement of facts in evidence -- that I teaching is something I "was born to do." Having a sense of vocation is important for a teacher. There is virtually no other equitable pay back for the time and energy spent trying to figure out how to be a better teacher.  And, particularly in the world of part-time* teaching -- without a sense of vocation you are shark bait.

This semester is complicated by the fact that I'm scheduled to teach 7 classes. I did this to myself, fully knowing
  1. it is too much, and
  2. that I would feel overwhelmed quickly.
Not working over the summer though -- a decision I made based on the assumption that I would be on the road more -- was a drain on finances at the homestead. My usual other semi-part-time gig as tutor did not offer much in the way of hours or pay.  So, I'm working a bit more to catch up, and to try and do what I can avoid another summer like this last, long summer.

Not working and falling into the inevitable and entirely avoidable struggle that created made me realize that while I am not driven by money or by the pursuit of wealth, that I need to be more attentive to such matters. My generally cavalier attitude towards money aside, the fact is that by not contributing to the financial well-being of the homestead I was doing more than causing a back balance on the electric bill.  I was -- even without meaning to -- inflicting damage on the people around me.

This isn't to say that I will cut my hair and get a real job. Chasing money is still a fruitless and soulless pursuit. I will not play by the rules established to reward greed (READ IN: CAPITALISM) simply because it's easier. 

But I will have to push forward some delayed projects and ideas. There are different ways of walking through the world. I am lucky to be loved and love a woman who sees this and who embraces my desire to live more fully by the definitions and parameters we establish than by living within the confines set by others.

And Speaking of Walking...

Yesterday, the brakes failed in my truck and I nearly rolled into busy early morning traffic. I was lucky that no one got hurt, and that I didn't get hurt and that the truck didn't get even a scratch on it. This means that at least for a week ... until I get the master cylinder fixed ... that I'm back on public transit.

The financial drain of older vehicle issues aside, I don't mind being back on the bus. It's important to know the place you live in your feet. I've missed experiencing the world this way. It feels... oddly... more normal.

And as Amanda pointed out last night, "You've never really liked driving in the city."

You Are My Sunshine

The Kid -- AKA Stella -- and Will -- once upon a time Plus 1, but now Son-in-Law -- have taken up refuge/temporary residence here at the homestead. They are hoping to find more work opportunities here in River City. Moving from Norfolk (STILL the MOST UNFRIENDLY CITY IN THE COUNTRY) took two vehicles (one of them a small moving truck) two days, and an Enola Gay sized amount of bug and roach killer.

Trying to learn how to live together is always a challenge. Amanda and I have a certain quiet and natural rhythm. Stella and Will... well... their rhythm is more like a Saturday night mosh pit at Bogart's. Every couple has a different rhythm, and it makes for some interesting times here at the homestead. Will and I are learning how to grunt at one another appropriately. Amanda and Stella are figuring out their relationship to one another. Amanda has been absolutely amazing... and I can never say that enough.

On my part, I'm happy to have Stella around. (And Will. No really. YES, dammit.) I've always been better when Stella is around. I worry about her less when I see her more often... and though I've always tried to make sure I was a presence in her life, it wasn't until she moved here that I realized just how much of a pressure it is off my mind to have her near and just how much pressure was exerted on the other side to keep me away from her.

And while I could be -- and I have been and on some days I still feel -- angry about how I was badmouthed and my name dragged through other people's dysfunctional mud -- I also recognize that part of what has driven me to write was knowing that it was my best shot at communicating with Stella. 

When I teach, I always talk about audience issues. I tell my students that they need to know who they are talking to when they write. This may or may not be true; but I do know that every word I've written for the last 20 years has had one primary audience in mind.

And I'm glad she's home.


15 July, 2014

Steady the Course Along the Dirty Sacred River: Sometimes the Universe Throws a Straight Pitch

This summer has not exactly gone as expected. I'd planned on heading west again, back to the big sky territory out in South Dakota and Montana. For a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly blog worth, I've not made it and probably won't. I am getting ready for another eastbound slingshot to attend The Kid's wedding to Plus 1... I mean Will... I mean The Soon-to-Be Son-in-Law.

the axis mundi
Mostly, I've stayed closer to the axis mundi here along the dirty, sacred river, tried not to kill the garden, and struggled with a few of those "all growed up" decisions that occasionally sneak into what I generally consider to be an idyllic life. I recently applied for a full time teaching gig that I didn't get*, which set up a whole series of stress-ridden mental labyrinths for me to navigate.** I've been trying to get some new projects up and going, which is surprisingly complicated when you're unemployed.

I was also turned down for unemployment benefits because, in the nomenclature of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I have "reasonable assurance" of future employment. Basically, I was denied benefits because I will probably have a job soon... though no steady paycheck until the end of August. I guess I'm supposed live on hay until then.  But, given the intolerance and general lack of human empathy demonstrated by Top Cop Commander Kim and by some of the folks I call neighbors*** I guess it's a good thing I haven't had to resort to panhandling.

But I'm feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the trip. I love my daughter, even if I have trouble reconciling myself with the fact that I was once stupid enough to marry her mother.  Stella's been going through some "all growed up" stuff of her own lately that I will not list at the moment. One of those things, though, has to do with the fact that conventional wisdoms -- in spite of being conventional -- are wrong.  She's a good person and has a smart head on her shoulders that she sometimes uses. She just wants to live her life, be happy, all that. But she is having to learn that doing the right thing doesn't always mean that you get the reward you deserve.

In fact, it's increasingly the opposite... and not just for Stella.

One of the nice things about children is that they have all the potential in the world to grow beyond the limitations of their parents... if they can dodge hard luck and if they can reject conventional wisdoms that worn paths of other people's success is the path to happiness.

As for me, I am reminded of Krishnamurti's insistence that the truth is a pathless land. And I'm also encouraged by the fact that even though I am still not "gainfully employed" ... ie, I apparently don't deserve health insurance or retirement benefits, but I am good enough to teach college freshmen how to write and think critically .... that I still have plenty to keep me busy. There's plenty to do.

I'm including a link to my latest story posted at my reverbnation page. Check it out. Hope you enjoy.

__________________________________
* My last full time teaching gig was out at ASU... an experience which drove me out of the classroom. And no, it wasn't the students. My usual beef with Upper Education is that the people who administrate it are morons. And by administrate I mean the ones who do not or have not ever step foot into a classroom since they flunked Intro to Literature... back when they still TAUGHT basic literature courses as a general ed requirement. Out at ASU in particular, I was enraged by an especially incompetent department chair who was more interested in sucking his way into a Dean's Office than he was in actually taking the concerns of his writing faculty seriously.
** My position as an adjunct, while financially insecure, is probably more appropriate. I suck at committee obligations and they suck on me. Also, the minute you sign on for full time employment, people immediately assume you have growed up, quit dreaming, and are working assiduously for a docile retirement during which you will actually allow yourself to live. If I have to wait until I'm 70 to live, I might as well crawl into a bourbon bottle now.
*** These folks run the gamut from comfy democrats to stalwart republicans to pissy tea bagger bigots. And all of them have one thing in common - for the most part they reject the notion that hard luck can hit anyone at any time.