19 January, 2021
30 October, 2020
Back to the desk. Yes, I still have my workstudy. And school to finish. And I have no clue how I'm going to make any money after the first of the year.
But I need to be here. I almost avoid it when I'm in the midst of a job cycle. I mean yes, I still write. I'm always writing, eeking out some words here and there. But the desk is as much about reflection as it is the act of writing and on the job -- where it's important that I stay in the moment in order to stay on task -- it's difficult to find time to reflect. Meditate, yes. But not reflect.
And so here I am. Nina Simone on the speakers. Coffee nearby. Dogs Lounging around my chair (for now.) Yesterday's rain is gone, but everything outside is cold and damp to the bone. We're heading out for Chicago early Monday morning to catch Amtrak's The City of New Orleans down to that city.
I left New Orleans in November, almost 20 years ago, running for Kentucky. I loved the city and was starting to make a pretty good home there. Had a job I didn't hate, friends, and I was about to find an apartment somewhere that wasn't the roach infested rooming house I'd been living in on the corner of Palmyra and N. Jefferson Davis that had been a trap house before the city shut it down, sold it to a fly-by-night management company that didn't even bother to slap some new paint on it before renting it out. I felt at home there in a way I'd never felt at home before. It's one of those cities that gives you the space to reinvent yourself or takes you as you come; it doesn't tolerate fools, but it will, generally, try and embrace them anyway.
Home has always struck me as an odd word with an odd weight. It's an Old Germanic word, at the root (heim, pronounced hām) that describes a spaces where souls are gathered. Contemporaneously, people associate with four walls (at a minimum), a roof, a door, and a window (at a minimum.) The gathering of souls is not required by the strictest definition, and this is best described by the term used to describe an opposite state of being: homeless.
A person described as homeless is someone without secure shelter; the legal definitions vary based on who wrote the statute and whether HUD money is attached to a particular housing program. For example, sleeping in your car is generally defined as being homeless, and so is sleeping on a friend's couch for more than a month. But cities tend to define homelessness based on the proximity of people sleeping outside to the centers of business and tourism. That's in practice, anyway, even if it isn't how they describe it in legalese. In practice, the operational definition of being homeless is applied in direct proportion to the person or people in question's distance to commerce. If that bothers you or strikes you as wrong, that's the correct response for a human. If your reaction is "Yeah, but..." you might be a politician, or genetically related to one. If you have no reaction, you're either a cop or a member of your local Chamber of Commerce.
When I moved to New Orleans, it was the first place I ever went that I didn't have a plan, didn't really know anyone I'd call a friend. I slept on my ex-wife's couch for a week in Lacombe before I found the rooming house. Interestingly enough, my first ever Greyhound trip was from New Orleans, back up to Lexington, only to return to that city of dreams on the bus. Before that I'd slept in my car before, slept on friends' couches. I didn't think of myself as homeless because I always had a sense of where I was and the periods of solitude were always punctuated with the company of friends. Living in New Orleans transformed me in a lot of ways; it taught me that I could survive and that I had a definite survival instinct in spite of my sometimes unhealthy behavior and deep swings of depression. It also taught me that I had find a different mode of self-definition besides the usual economic markers that had convinced me I was a failure.
I'm lucky now to have a home -- that is, the company of a soul. There are people who live much better, economically speaking, who can't say that. And I'm looking forward to revisiting my city of dreams with her on the train I used to watch from my car in the parking lot before work.
14 August, 2020
Rain today and tomorrow. Some wind now. I don't mind rain or the raggedy yard. I'm making peace with the hole in the roof until the rain ends and the roof is repaired. My ankle is healing, though my hip still aches from stepping in the sump pit, especially during the wetter winds.
Was a time I'd make myself see
the positive – that maybe
our capacity to learn will overtake
our need to make the world burn –
that we can rebuild out of these ashes
some ( ) thing.
Looks more like a rerun than a reboot
I'm still a fugitive from too many apocalypses. Burning oil fields and floods and mountains on fire. Swine Flu. SARS. MERSA. West Nile carrying mosquitoes.
The first End Times galloped after me when I was four, tried to choke me in the night. The world was burning then, too. And it has been trying to kill me ever since.
It's difficult to tell whether the marketing campaign failed because the consuming public never accepted the death of the Kennedy Brothers. Or something deeper. Something more congenital. Something bred in the bones that, as the Bard says, must will out in the flesh.
Pale fuzzy globs born to be men but too fragile and sugar-based schlep and schmooze through the streets, dinosaur death reenactors, trying to conjure that hobble into being yet again, with new cheap packaging wrapped around the the same necrotic flesh.
Blame Nixon Blame LBJ
Blame Hoover Blame the bomb
The true accounting won't make the final report
and what remains will be illegible
until unborn readers learn
the language scribbled
on bone dust.
Now's no time to retreat
to some fabricated notion of civility –
some Eisenhower inspired dream carried
forward by forgetful bureaucrats
who still copy Nixon on rain-soaked memos
and send them to the capitol of Arkansas.
03 August, 2020
15 November, 2019
2. there and back again
3. Word as cartography
07 October, 2019
The 6:15 AM bus leaving Louisville and going to Frankfort drops off at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Leonardwood Drive. We rolled in on time, a little after 7 in the morning, just as the sun was breaking the horizon. I end up being in Frankfort, for one reason or another, two or three times a year. And when I go, I take the bus. It's a holdover commuter route between Louisville and Lexington with a stop in Frankfort. The early bus isn't heavily populated. I've ridden it at different times and it's rarely a full bus, which is just fine with me. I just hope the line stays open.
According to Google, it was only a 3.6 mile walk from there to the Kentucky CoffeeTree Café. Not an unreasonable distance, and the morning was still cool with a light breeze. I'd gone through the trouble the night before to look it up and to even print maps out; I wanted to go more lo-fi and not depend on the step-by-step of GPS, which I credit for a share of civilization's downfall.
LO-FI. I've felt increasingly tethered by technology -- annoyed by its reach, unraveled by how central it and it's non-stop market-researching/spying is shaping the reality I share with an increasingly large amount of humanity. So I decided to take this opportunity, this trip -- a relatively low-stakes scenario as travel risks go -- to assert my quasi-independence from The Matrix. *
I started off without difficulty. Between studying it the night before and somewhat from memory. I felt pretty confident, pretty comfortable. And the directions weren't complicated:
After that, a bit more of a walk, crossing the lovely little bridge . over the Kentucky River that cuts through the middle of town, a few blocks and one easy turn to West Broadway.
As Google flies, the walk should have taken me a little over an hour. I know from experience that I can't trust Google Time; I walk a bit faster than I used to, but I don't walk anywhere near as fast as Google Man can. I had plenty of time to get there at my own pace, so I wasn't worried about that, either.
I wasn't especially worried until I'd been walking for a while and I didn't seem to be getting any closer to town. I passed one guy waiting for the circulating local bus, but it didn't register that I was walking the opposite direction that the bus was going to go.
By the time I figured it out, I was almost a mile out of town.
carrying me on, away
from where I'm supposed meet
my friend, from where the map says
I need to be where I'm pointing
Thanks for reading! Listen for "Lo-Fi, Part 2 in Episode 11 of A Record of a Pair of Well Worn Travel Boots on iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, Stitcher, and TuneIn.
20 September, 2019
to the mountains, watch
the first Autumn wings
brush the trees
Losantiville – The train rolled in more or less on time. Actually, a few minutes early (!). Got out to Mom’s from The Halls of Justice* in an Uber. The Uber driver got turned around because, he said, he didn’t know the train still ran out of the Union Station. Yes, I said. It still does. For now.
illuminating dreams, erasing stars.
It’s been raining here. It’s been raining at home. I have to remember there’s no point in worrying. It rains whether I worry about it or not.
Hug the elephant ear leaves
Grieving the storm’s absence.
Visiting George and Laura and Mike and Liz was good. It had been more than a while since I saw Mike and Liz and it always does my heart good to see them. I think if I wasn’t worried that they would get tired of me, and if I could have Amanda with me, I could travel and visit friends all year. What other real wealth could there be? Maybe this is why both freedom of movement and connections with others are what fascists attack first.
I’m a man blessed with itchy feet and many friends. In every way that matters, I am the wealthiest of men, the king of infinite space.
* The Union Station in Cincinnati was the model for the Hall of Justice for the old Super Friends cartoon from the 1980's.
06 September, 2019
They turned off the water this past Tuesday for nonpayment. I've been without water before -- on the road and living out. I know how to ration and prioritize. I've learned to survive on very little. That doesn't scare me. And even with no water, we still had a roof over our heads. We still had a comfortable bed. We even had a supply of clean water for coffee and cooking, and two rain barrels of water we could use for gray water for non-potable purposes. There was plenty of food and the ability to cook it. I knew we'd be ok until the snafu got fixed.
But I didn't like the idea of having to think like that... at home.
Most of the time when I'm off the road and at home I bounce between embracing everything I love about being home and feeling like a fraud. Over the years I've grown more accustomed to the domestic sphere; but I can't ever escape the sensation of being a baboon, lumbering around and trying really hard NOT to wreck the place. When they turned the water off --
I found myself wondering about the fleeting nature of high concepts like home and comfort.
It wasn't a question of panic. It was a question of being pissed off. Pissed that I'd let it happen. Pissed that I wasn't being mindful. Pissed because, even when I was drinking, I made sure utility bills were paid... or at least, paid down. Pissed.
But sometimes being pissed doesn't help. Anger can be a powerful, but dangerous motivator. Being pissed... that's a paralytic. And we didn't have time for that.
So, we rationed our clean water for us and for the dogs and cat. We had 6 gallons of clean water, which meant if we were careful, we could make it last more than long enough to get the bill paid.
Dream from the first night:
In the dream I was sitting around a fire in the middle of a dark, expansive wilderness. I've dreamed of this wilderness before, but not of this particular fire. Sitting around the fire with me were my dad, my grandfathers, Steve (my first ex-father-in-law). The other elders are there, too, but there are a lot of them and I can't make out their faces in the darkness. I'm holding my red Bybee coffee mug. It's warm and full of coffee. Dad, my grandfathers, and Steve were holding cups, too. The smell of coffee hugs the air, which is cool. Late autumn. I can't see any trees, but I know their limbs are almost stripped bare.
I've taken more than my share of baths out of a sink. It's all about hitting the high -- and low spots. I have to admit, though, that even I took pause when I used bottled water for a whore's bath. I doubt that Paris Hilton felt as fancy as I felt with my daily ration of wash water.
16 April, 2019
|view of the Wakarusa River|
It felt good just to be able to hang out on the street without anyone wondering whether something illegal is happening -- one of the graces that is still afforded in a place like Mount Carroll, Illinois.
At one point, later in the day, Dave was downstairs playing guitar and singing, and I was listening through the floorboards. There are moments we experience that resonant, repeat, and carry us backwards and forwards in time, embodying all of our sense memories into a distilled, rich, existential bliss. Listening to Dave Cuckler sing through the floorboards is one such moment, and it let me know that I was, if only briefly, at a place where I still have a home.
Music through the floorboards
that long remembered smile.
A congregation of old friends,
dogs, and peaceful passersby.
The river is high here, like everywhere else. Parts of Savanna are flooding. The power and prestige of the Old River 1 never ceases to amaze me.
The river lays siege to the flood plain
reminding people (again)
these ancient arteries
will wash away
what passes for Empire.
I was able to take some time yesterday and walk around town a bit. On my way back to where I'm staying, I walked up the Washington Street hill and over to S. West Street, by the house I lived in here with my ex. Inexplicably, the place is still standing and there's a family living there.
I know it seems strange to some people that I like coming back here. One local musician, a friend of a friend, upon figuring out that I was actually me and discovering that I showed up intentionally to visit, asked what I was visiting for. There's a basic assumption among some folks about this place... an assumption I hear more from people who are born and raised from here -- that there is nothing here. Or, at any rate, there's nothing here that would be of any interest to anyone not from here.
But the truth is that I learned a lot here. Mount Carroll is the place I learned to embrace a place and find beauty, poetry, and music -- even when there is a (very) thin veneer of stasis, greed, and ugliness. It was here I learned to live more in the moment and to seek out community rather than expect it to come find me. It was here that I learned what the word home means -- with all those fraught implications.
It was here that I learned what it means to dive deep and follow the currents. What I didn't learn here was not to dive TOO deep. I had to learn that later.
Some things persist
in spite of soft memory.
What is not erased
is a reminder that
what we carry in the present
we picked up in the past.
|Orange Poppy, Long Gone|
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08 April, 2019
The sun needs a coat.
The clouds portend
of beautiful things.
this sacred place.
I will wander amongst the mist
some other day.
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03 April, 2019
Air palpable with earnest outcries
read to the appropriate audience
words spent on prayers to gods
too busy to grant wishes
(From my last day at AWP:)
The folks I saw yesterday (Friday) were not out today. I want to believe that the old guy flying a sign on the corner of Halliday and MLK -- who, up close, doesn't look much older than me -- got what he needed and was able to sleep in doors last night. I want to believe that Tanya J. McDonald -- who told me her name 5 times and who was clearly released from a hospital with no sense of where she might end up -- was able to find peace and safety and some comfort in mourning her mother's death.
I saw them. I looked them in the eye and took their hands and helped in some small, temporary way. I want to believe it made a difference.
There's something about all the appropriate mourning and moaning here that's just so far-sighted in all the wrong ways. People see injustice at a distance and want to engage it. But when it's up close, they overlook. Or worse, they look through it like it's air.
Of course there's talk about Trump and the peril to democracy -- mostly by white academics. When I hear work by writers of color, or by immigrant writers, or by people recounting stories of assault and the abuse of power, there is no presumption that democracy is in peril.
There is no presumption that democracy exists at all.
in the course of natural process --
the fragrance lingers,
a memory seized
right in the moment breath freezes.
27 March, 2019
Apparently they are rolling around in groups looking for people to attack... specifically people who don't prescribe to the Proud Boy (read: fascist) ideology of gender normative dress and behavior. At least one member of the Trans Community here has already been put in the hospital.
while workaday folks carry on.
Wind off the Willamette and Columbia
lay bare rusty bones
leaving us all standing on sand.
26 March, 2019
and a four hour layover.
Thoughts of you make me wonder
why it feels so necessary
to be anywhere you're not.
Power is so predictable.
Give authority to a beaten man
and he will beat anyone down
with savage impunity --
in particular, whoever he blames.
|Canal Street Entrance, Chicago Union Station|
all our grand monuments
harken back to a past
reconstructed from afar
so it necessarily includes
us, whether we belong or not.
more people than seats
our steel horse barrels westward
breaching the ragged edge
in search of soul, Big Sky and light.
are the only cycles
anyone can really count on.
Everything else is Faith.
|St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN - Union Depot (MSP)|
just east of La Crosse --
piles of dirty snow like shrugged off clothes
lay around the edges
of soon-to-be plowed fields.
The waters are high.
We're coming upon the Mississippi
to breach the great boundary
Every time I travel I'm awe struck by how beautiful and how beautifully savage the landscape is.
11 February, 2019
|Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe|
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22 January, 2019
To explain, a little: Miracles and horrors happen every day that resist empirical understanding. Not all things can be replicated in a laboratory and studied. Not every truth is extrapolated by being placed under a microscope. Some things are understood only by faith. A tree falling in a forest does make a sound whether a pair of ready ears is there to hear it or not. The fact of the tree falling doesn't change, just our understanding of what that event means.
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04 January, 2019
May God forgive me, because I don't know that I can.
matter nothing if they echo,
fade and forget their own meaning.
01 January, 2019
I stopped trying to count the number of homeless folks and camps I saw, just riding around between class and my motel in Culver City. In most cases, they are tucked away, or on public land that has no other use -- which is a good thing, because if it did have use, those people would be pushed off. The camps one block from the train station right on the sidewalk, are probably the most brazen. An entire litle corner just on Alameda had a small community of three tents, and a man was flying nearby. Just far enough away from Union Station not to make it in any of the brochures or website or prime time television show. The homeless in LA are like the palm trees. They're like the excessive number of cars on the 405. They're like random movie star sightings at restaurants that are all ambience and with no street parking. They're like these small towns rolling outside the windows of the observation car -- a passing curiosity quickly forgotten when the next scene is pulled in our vision.
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