Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts

31 July, 2019

[re: lines on the day I remembered my father's birthday]

"Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick"  - Iggy Pop/David Bowie

For years I drove out by the old house to see what the new occupants had done to wreck the place. The time I drove out and saw the buried wagon wheels at the end of the driveway, like some broken redneck gate straight out of HGTV and the western-chic issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I knew my father's imprint was worn off. Finally, indescribably, gone.

And even as I write this, I don't know that I ever made peace with that -- until now, as I come to terms with how I feel about being at my mom's, and how my own wounded vision has impacted not only how I feel about this place, but about my Losantiville as a whole. 

Only now do I understand that I must see this place like any other place -- and that this vision must extend to all places. Even the ones I allow myself to be attached to.

Summer ends just as it begins.
Places abide in a mourner's memory,
an early morning dew. No house
holds out against the wind. No island
holds out against the current.

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29 January, 2013

Losantiville Lines: The Keys To The Kingdom

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. - Arthur Carlson, WKRP IN CINCINNATI

Probably the most succinct explanation I've ever heard or read of what's wrong with this place. Me, in relation to the quote above.

Being caught here as I was, over the weekend -- between illness, the weather, and the spinelessness of the Tennessee Division of Greyhound Buslines, I was left to cough up a lung and ponder the universe in the shadow of Porkopolis. This gave me a chance to try and get through a smallish pile of student writing that must be returned tomorrow when I exchange it for a fresh pile -- the unending cycle that is the educational machine.

Thank Crikey I'm not interested in being hired full time. This sentiment is not a reflection of how I feel about the students in my classes, as much as a recognition that other than a few new bells and whistles, the institution of higher education is no different than it was when I left (translate: ran screaming) from ASU in December 2009.

Perfect example: I received a circulating email in response to concerns raised by part-time Lit and Language faculty to the current chair in meetings scheduled for the purpose of airing such concerns and offering suggestions to improve the plight/make more comfortable those who do most of the work for little pay and no real recognition... since other than teaching classes that tenured faculty refuse to teach, part-timers do nothing to make the institution look good.

We are not a marketable bunch. Though a few of us are, I dare say, reasonably attractive.

I should note that I did not attend either Open Door session, which were scheduled on a Tuesday and Thursday... days I am not on campus. (They are, coincidentally, days that most part-timers are not on campus either. Draw your own conclusions, Dear Readers.)

The primary issue raised, according the email, was office space. Part-timers share the same corral on the 5th floor we shared when I taught at NKU in '04-'05. And apparently, those who went to the open door talks mentioned space as a priority.

It was not mentioned in the email, but I do wonder if anyone brought up access to health insurance. NKU DOES allow part-timers access to the institution's health insurance plan -- after 3 years of consecutive employment. Which means, if you're actually interested in having a full-time job, that you're pretty enough to screw but not to take to a family reunion. (Keep in mind that it is damn difficult to stay consecutively employed as a part-time instructor. That means you have at least a class every term... including summer, when enrollments are low, and spring, when a large number of First Year students run screaming from college campuses.)

Of course, the Chair has no say over what the Bean Counters in the administration bunker do. And a potential for access is better than no access at all, right? Carrot by any other name....

The solution to the aforementioned space issue? Give every part-timer his or her own key. This way, I suppose, it will feel like we really have an office and are taken seriously as professionals. Which, of course, is utter bullshit.

I should mention again, however, that I am less interested in being afforded the label of "professional" than I am in being treated like a human being and not a cog.

I got a set of keys instead.

I should also mention that every part-timer was going to be issued a set of keys anyway.

The solution, as I see it, is to have armed guards on campus.

Because lately that's the solution to all educational problems, and a blog is no place to think outside the box.

On a tangentially related note, Mount Carroll crank and all around lousy person Nina Cooper is running for City Clerk. She has built a very patriotic looking website to assert her candidacy, which ten people in town will see. (Five of them might actually vote for her; but she is one of them, and the other two are her co-hort cranks, Alderpersons Bob "The Amoral Pontificator" Sisler and Doris "I'm Not Dead I'm Just Plotting" Bork. The other two I'm giving her for kindness and statistical accuracy.)

29 July, 2012

Playing the Name Game, Leaving Porkopolis (Again)

I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how long... -- Walt Whitman

Here, have another cup and forget about the dime
Keep it as a souvenir, from Big Joe and Phantom 309. - Red Sovine

After a nice visit with My Dear Sweet Ma, I'm on my way to Chicago, having caught a ride with my friend Paul H. He makes a weekly run up to Bloomingdale, which is about 27 miles from the Ogilvie Transportation Center

View Larger Map

-- where I'm meeting someone else who will help get me to Mount Carroll late Monday night.

Once I'm back in Mount Carroll, I plan on visiting some friends, finding some way to build up the Travel Fund*, and get my Southbound excursion planned. By the time I get there, or soon thereafter, a copy of birth certificate will arrive at my as of yet un-relinquished P.O. Box address there, and I will be able to trade in my recently arrived OFFICIAL TEMPORARY DRIVER'S LICENSE (that, according to the large type double bold capitalized notification at the top of the page... just below the Official State of Illinois page header... IS NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES) for an actual photo identification.

I can drive right now... but I don't have a car, having signed (somewhat happily, somewhat sadly) the blue station wagon... the appearance of which, I believe, foretold my soon to be divorce. So I will have an ID with the moniker My Dear Sweet Ma bestowed upon me during that blizzard in the Year of Our Lord 1973.

Several people -- friends, family -- have asked me about my name changes on various social networking sites. I have tried explaining. I have had to explain the reference to Ozymandias. And here... for you all, Dear Readers, to see... it is:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.' 
Percy Bysshe Shelley (published 1818)
There. Now you know. It's one of my favorite poems. It's always made me smile, just a little.
My reasons for getting another state sanctioned official (for the purposes of Identification) ID are two fold: I want to be able drink when some child working in a bar or restaurant would otherwise deny me booze without some proof that I'm nearly twice his or her age; and I want to be able get a passport for next year's anticipated European Jaunt. 
I'm still not sure what's in a name. Echoes of the father, the grandfather. The obligations of a son. The identity attached to that name by The State, by marketeers, by the various institutions that have been digging into us from the moment we're even let out of the house to get on a school bus. Once you start unraveling and tearing off the cultural appliques, you begin to realize that most of the reductive nouns people use to self-identify ... cultural, ethnic, political, religious, spiritual, philosophical... and all the ontological delusions begin to crumble and you begin a journey through the world without the apparatus that binds you to those self same rotting institutions that nothing more than the crumbling visage of some megalomaniac with a bank roll and a need for psychotherapy.

28 July, 2012

Notes On Reading Lorca While Riding The Metro (a poem

This is no city for gypsies.

The man sitting three rows ahead of me offered assurances
that the downtown food pantry was helping more people
than ever in economic hard times.

The bus driver is silent and unaware
of the stories he ignores.

People who have known down and out tend to be nicer
because they understand the true currency of kindness.

Late middle age white woman talking about her
knee replacement, about the diet she's on (pre-surgery),
and how she really wants a milkshake and still writes letters.

Menopausal black woman, no tiny bird herself
talks about her recent vacation to Atlantic City
with her sister, and the varying and different degrees of orange lipstick.

Down Salem, transitioning from a fading center of commerce
to an old working class neighborhood – single family houses converted
into multi-unit apartments. (Good for college students.
Right on the bus line.)

Down Martin Luther King and Prospect Hill,
Liberty Hill, past the 5 and Diner on Sycamore
and into Government Square.

Sidewalks littered with workaday folks
shirt and tie crowd, bottle shaped blonde
in a short tight skirt crowd painted on
sculpted hips.

Street Vibes vendor, someone's grandmother maybe,
smoking s cigarette in the shadow of the courthouse
corporate tagged Fountain Square, bank skyscrapers,
and the Mercantile Center, with a beautiful library
hidden carefully from plebeian view.

I behave as I always do
and wait for my connection.

06 April, 2012

Porkopolis Unbound: Opening Day 2012

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power, /And my own will....  - Percy Bysshe Shelley Prometheus Unbound

I want to play music when I want, write a song if I want or watch a baseball game if I want.
-- John Lee Hooker

Although I have lived in and around Cincinnati off and on for years I have never before been downtown for Opening Day. I'd heard there was always a parade and that it had long been something of an unofficial holiday for the city; so naturally, this intrigued me.  The last time I'd been near downtown when the city was actually letting it's tightly curled hair down was the last time I went to RiverFest (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Proctor and Gamble) ... which was probably the last year they sold beer. The year after, the city went "family friendly" and restricted the sale and consumption of booze... which of course, meant all the people who drink and who also have kids stayed home, watched the fireworks on television, and drank for a lot less money. Keep in mind, however, that Cincinnati has a history of hammering down on anything that isn't WASPY enough to pass... unless they figure they can make a buck off it.*

Baseball has long been thought of as America's game... though to some people it does look an awful lot like the English sport Cricket.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings/

Early Cricket Batter. I sort of like the hats.

And in spite of its history of problems -- from racism in the early days to the more recent steroid abuse problems and everything in between... not to mention the evil wrought on the game by the New York Yankees (Curse their Name!) --  people -- baseball fans, at any rate -- still think of it that way.

I remember when my Dad stopped watching baseball. He never forgave them for the 1985 strike. It lasted 7 weeks, between June and August; the 25 games that weren't played ended up being made up later in the season.  From his perspective, professional athletes had no excuse to squawk about how much money they made. (The strike actually had more to do with the sixteenth player problem tied to free agency and the reserve clause.**)

I suspect that the disruption pissed him off more than anything, though, and like a lot of kids who grew up playing baseball, he couldn't understand why people bitched when they got paid to do something a lot people dream about doing.

As for myself, I was never particularly good at baseball. I was never particularly good at any sport, really... which I suspect was something of a disappointment for the old man, who, of his two sons, ended up with not a one who exhibited more than a glancing interest in playing a sport.

But over the years I've grown into a sports fan. And while the sun rises and sets on football season for me, the love of baseball has grown on me. And in Cincinnati, home to one of the oldest teams in baseball, Opening Day is more than the first day of the season. It's a celebration for a city that would rather do anything but celebrate.

My plan was to check out the parade. Affording a ticket to the game was out of the question; and while I still had friends in the city, the ones who might possibly have tickets wouldn't have any spares, and the ones who didn't couldn't afford them anyway. But I figured I could go downtown, take in the insanity, and then retreat back to the burbs where I'm crashing in relative obscurity at my Madre's condominium home.

It was a plan. 

I took the 24 bus downtown, which, because the burbs is considered Zone 2, cost me $2.65 instead of the Zone 1 fare of $1.70. (Both had gone up since I last lived here in 03-05. Consequently, the buses themselves have not improved all that much.) The bus started out relatively empty... just me and three other people, all of whom were going down to see the parade, and one of whom was actually going to stay for the game. The closer it got to downtown, though, the more packed the bus became until I was a wash in a sea of red and white.

I was not decked out in team colors. I had no particular reason for not, other than the fact that I didn't put anything with those colors on when I rolled out of bed.

When I disembarked at Government Square, people were already milling about. Some had come early to lay claim to the best seats along 5th Street for the parade and were sitting at the gutters in lawn chairs and on blankets. On any other day, someone doing that would be taken for a vagrant and summarily punished-- if not by the cops... who continue in a long tradition of harassment, rudeness, and a general apathy towards anyone who doesn't "look" right ... then by the amorally indignant downtown business elite... most of whom flee to the burbs at quitting time; on Opening Day, however, such social rules are overlooked, as in the carnival days of medieval Europe. 

At that time, Carnival was an even when, among other things, lepers and retards, and the mentally ill were elected Kings of the Carnival (which is one of the early roots of our semi-Democratic process and with amazingly similar results) and people could be found copulating in the streets like pagans before the interference of Catholic missionaries.  

Alas, it was too cold downtown for public fucking. And since it was a brisk 55 degrees, there would be next to no chance in the forecast for a storm of drunken topless women. 

Not downtown. And if it was, I'd never point out which is me.
On the upside, the cops seemed to ignore the open container law as long as people put their beer in a brown paper bag -- yet another action that would normally be a sign that you are homeless, shiftless, unemployed, or all three, and therefore not worth being treated with human dignity. 

I tried going to the beer and food bins set up along the edge of Fountain Square, but the lines were never less than 20 or 30 people long and I had no intention of waiting that long in line for warm $5 beer in a plastic cup. Also, I had no desire to be any closer than I had to be to the live band playing; they were OK for a bar cover band. But the mixture of Beach Boys and Soundgarden covers made me slightly nauseous. So I wandered around, bought a hot dog with kraut and mustard from a street vendor, and thought about where might be a good place to stand and see the parade.

[And by the way... and this goes out to all hot dog vendors in downtown Cincy... if you're going to offer sour kraut as a free condiment, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY will you please be more liberal with your dashing of kraut? Pretty please? A few strands of cooked cabbage on top of  a hot dog does not make for a true dog with kraut. Just a suggestion...]

Since I was downtown, though, and I had some time to kill, I decided to visit Strauss and Company Tobacconist, on Walnut about a third of a block away from 5th Street. Strauss's  was one of those places I used to frequent when I lived in the Nati, and it was a place I missed after I moved. You don't really appreciate what it means to have access to an honest to jeebus tobacconist^ until you don't have it. And YES, I managed to find one in AZ.... but it required me driving to Scottsdale once a week instead of hopping a bus. 

Plus, I just liked Strauss's store blends better.

While I was there I bought an ounce of their Losantiville^^ blend and splurged on some cigarillos^^^ from Holland. After I lit one up, I stepped back out onto the sidewalk and took note of the crowd. It had grown significantly, and there was still 45 minutes until the start of the parade. People were walking up from the river, probably having parked at the Great American Ball Park+. All of the gutter spots were full, and in some places people were standing two or three deep. The cops were beginning to block off the street, and the buses were already being diverted. There was no getting out until after 3:30pm, just in time for the commuter express bus that I planned on taking back to the burbs.

I stood around on the corner of 5th and Walnut, allowing the growing tide of baseball fans and families of fans engulf me. People gathered and crowds on all sides went from 2 or 3 people deep to sometimes 5 or 6 people deep; the crowd eventually seeped out into the intersection. Children sat down in the middle of the street like they were sitting under a tree in the park. I had to keep moving around because I was technically standing at the cross walk. Pretty soon the sidewalks themselves became impassable; the few homeless who were out got pushed into the doorways to make way for out of town fans and people who probably rarely spent more time downtown than it took to drive off of I-75 or 471, take an off ramp, and park at the stadium. 20 minutes until the parade procession was supposed to leave Findaly Market at 1 pm, and people were walking down the middle of 5th Street just to get from one place to another. I could tell from the ebb and flow of red and white around Fountain Square that people were getting set for the parade. 

Then I thought about how long it might take the parade to make the 1.2 mile stretch (that number doesn't take into account any turns or stops in the parade route. And then I decided that I might have a better chance seeing the parade from the television at bar than having to look through the people standing in front of me, nearly all of whom were somehow magically taller than I am.

At that, I broke through, crossed 5th Street, broke through the blockage of people standing there, and made my way up Walnut. At 7th Street I turned right, and then left at Main. When I reached 8th Street, I crossed the street, walked a third of the way down the block to Arnold's... a bar that I used to spend a lot time at when I lived here before.

It was crowded, but not too much. People were milling around, and I figured the back patio was full. I managed to find a seat at the bar. After waiting what seemed like entirely too much time, I was finally served. They changed the taps since I was last there and were now serving 3 brews from the newly re-opened Christian Moerlein Brewery. I tried two of the three: The Northern Liberties IPA and the The OTR Pale Ale. I passed on the Friend of the Irishman Stout for pragmatic purposes -- stout beer isn't something you switch back and forth from. I did, however, try the Roebling Porter, brewed by the Rivertown Brewery, a new (to me) microbrewery and the lager from Listermann Brewing Company -- also a local brewery (and also the Brewmasters Store where I used to go, along with my friend Bret, to buy home brew supplies.)

I also had a shot of Maker's Mark... couldn't be helped.

And though I did watch some of the parade on the very small television in the corner, mostly I thought about how different the crowd at Arnold's was and how I didn't know anyone who worked there and how no one knew me anymore. 

On the upside, the beers were all amazing. Those German roots serve you well, Cincinnati.++

[Thanks for reading. And remember, if you like it,
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  2. Click the donate button and help keep me traveling. 
  3. Thanks to the generous support of readers and other sympathetic folk, I was able to purchase a Greyhound Discovery Pass, which will allow me to bump around out west unfettered. And thanks (again) to all those whose continued support makes my travel and writing possible.
  4. Also: A brief note on Operation Europe: This plan entails me making it across the pond for an indeterminate amount of time. My plan is to continue traveling around here, growing the blog and including more individual stories along with my travelog and general observations. I plan on doing more of the same in Europe... but it's nice to have an excuse... the gods know I rarely need one, but sometimes customs officials of foreign countries do... I've signed up for an online course that will certify me to teach English as a foreign language. Given my background in education, this should come as a no-brainer.  The next steps include a) obtaining a passport, and b)the cost of a one way ticket. But I have a year or so to work on those things. More on this as it happens and as it approaches.

Thanks again for reading and for your generous support.


*WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Around the time of WW1, the city fathers decided, as point of blind patriotism and out of fear that people would assume all Cincinnatians were German sympathizers, to erase any hint of the deeply ingrained German Heritage that defines so much of the city's past. Names were changed. Festivals cancelled. Around the late 1980's, it occurred to some that immigrant heritage might be a selling point and that money might be made off remembering the Germanic roots of the city. 

**Reserve Clause: Contractual slavery. Read about it here

^Tobacconist: a purveyor of fine tobaccos, cigars, and accessories. Not to be confused with the corner gas station.

^^Losantiville was the name originally given to the settle that later became Cincinnati. The term is a mash of four terms from four different languages that translates roughly to "the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River."

^^^cigarillos: literally tiny cigars... which means they're hand rolled, the way cigars were meant to be smoked. No filter, no tobacco paper (the shit they make regular cigarettes and mislabeled "little cigars" out of.)

+The Great American Ballpark: After Riverfront Stadium was demolished the new ballpark was named after it's corporate sponsor, The Great American Insurance Company. Not that the Capitalist overthrow of baseball is anything new... because nothing in this country could become "America's Game" unless some fat bastard was making a greasy buck off of it... but something still strikes me ill when I think about it. The new stadium has better seats and makes for a better game experience... though it also meant the city is stuck with Paul Brown Stadium, a wholesale rip off of tax payers by Bengals owner Mike Brown.

++Cincinnati: Comes from Cincinnatus, the name of a Roman Dictator who, surrendered his power back to the people when he felt it was time and returned to be a simple farmer. This is something that no one with political or corporate power in Cincinnati has ever thought to do. Nor will they. Ever.

31 March, 2012

The Long Haul: Paul H.

 For the money, for the glory, and for the fun. Mostly for the money. - The Bandit. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

If you think this country is bad off now, just wait till I get through with it. - Rufus T. Firefly, Duck Soup (1933)

"I think I'm going to do it," he said as soon as we stepped up into the orange truck cab. I'd never been in one before. The closet I'd ever come to being a truck driver was when I delivered newspaper stacks for The Prairie Advocate News; and that truck was only a small box truck that didn't require a CDL. Paul* has been driving big rigs on and off for 20 years. And event though he has driven for other companies in the past, now he's basically working for himself.

"You're going to do what?"

"I know it's too late THIS time," he said. "But I think... with the ideas I have... that I'm going to run for President."

He said this with all earnestness, and I took him as seriously as I could. He and I had talked politics, culture, writing, and other miscellanea over the years. We've disagreed on some pretty large issues over the years; but he is at least thinking about things, and he is willing to articulate his views and discuss them.

I mentioned that the problem with running for President is that even if he ever got elected -- which, unless he finds a billionaire angel benefactor, would be improbable.

Which, to be honest, a little sad. I wish we lived in a country where every kid could grow up to be President; but the money changers have their spindly fingers tied around everything. (And if you think about it, they have more or less since the beginning.)

I did recommend that he consider running for Senator instead.

At one point, somewhere between Columbus and Cincinnati, we talked about the gold standard. He realizes that going back on gold would be a disaster; but he also pointed out that if that were to happen, and the economy collapsed and we had to go back to a barter system, that guys like him would be okay.

"I can do things with my hands," he said. "I can repair engines. I can build things. I'll be okay."

It's others... "college graduates that don't know how to DO anything" who would be in trouble.

It's argument I've heard before, and one that hits a bit close, since I'm pretty much a scribbler. Guess I could barter with bad poetry for all occasions. But given my disenchantment with higher education, and the fact that somebody somewhere has to be hording all that gold people sell to those places that promise "top dollar", I do find myself wondering how all the chips will fall... if, indeed they do.

But down deep, Paul -- like everyone I know and consider a good friend -- is a shameless romantic. And while he may not admit it, he's something of an idealist, too. (This is a conversation I've had often with many people. You don't need to be an optimist to be an idealist. As a matter of fact, part of being an idealist is understanding that the world is not as it could be... which, if you think about it long enough, will piss you off.)

Where we differ, maybe, is that he, like many people, still thinks the institution is salvageable and that people are an increasingly annoyance.

And when I say he's a shameless romantic, I mean it in the best sense of the term. Part of the reason I know this because he could be making more money doing something else; but instead he's an independent contractor, trying to work his way up to buying his own truck. He likes not having to listen to anyone else... most of the time. And like me, he's always had that odd little itch.

And like me, he soothes his itch with the romance of the open road... that long lost American Mythos which dictates thus:

If where you are isn't working, go somewhere else.  Be someone else. Do something else.

The difference is that he still tries to have a home to go home to, and I think most  every place is as good (and as bad) as every place else. He and his wife Cathy live in the Cincinnati area, and because he likes being home on weekends -- and because his wife would prefer to see him every once in a while -- Paul sticks to local delivery routes.

On this particular day, the route would take us to Dayton, up to to Columbus, and back down to Cincinnati -- loading up for a Sunday run up to Chicago where he'll empty it out and pick up something else. He hauls what's referred to as "Special Goods."  This time, he picked up 4 hospital beds, some medical equipment that I thought looked like the machines used to separate plasma from blood (having been hooked to them in the past, selling my vital fluids, they looked familiar), two busted up motorcycles (a Police Edition Harley and a Ducati, neither of which deserved the rough treatment they received prior to being shipped), an ice cream machine, and 5 office copiers. I feel like I'm forgetting something. The point is, what Paul hauls stuff that isn't easy to pack and doesn't always fit into the trailer very well.

I've never asked him, but I suspect that Paul first thought about being a truck driver the around the same time I did... the first time I watched B.J. and the Bear. The 1979-1981 television show, staring Greg Evigan, was a cultural bubble in reaction (probably) to the Burt Reynolds/Sally Field/Jerry Reed/Jackie Gleason iconic movie Smokey and the Bandit.. which also spawned another cultural bubble, the popularity of the CB or Citizens' Band, radio. 

Which, I think, has gotten a bad wrap in the from some factions of the cultural elite. The most you can say about it is that it's been surpassed by cell phones as a common form of communication. But as any trucker or Ham Radio operator will tell you... a cell phone tower can go down. Radio waves are just floating around, and all you need is the right receiver to pick them up. No 4G required, I guess is my point.

The world is a different thing when you're sitting in a big rig. You have to keep your distance (You're supposed to, anyway.) and you have to be aware at all times of how big you are and how small everything else is. On the other hand... other drivers sometimes take this for granted and don't always pay attention.

One of the reasons-- other than getting to see an old friend -- that I jumped at the chance to ride with Paul on his Friday route was that while I long ago figured out that my wanderlust is a different sort of thing than can be fixed behind the wheel of a behemoth, there's still a 10 year old boy inside me that wants to ride in big trucks, be a train conductor in a stripey hat, and ride in the fire truck just to turn on the siren. 

I did, actually, once ask a Lexington Police officer if he could turn on the siren. Of course, I was riding in the back. And I was handcuffed. But that's another story. He rejected my request, by the way.

Part of was also curious about how a guy like Paul -- engaged in a job that, some have argued, does more harm than good to the environment -- is getting along and moving forward. Especially given that diesel prices are keeping pace with gas prices and there's no sign that it will get better any time soon. He defends what he does by pointing out that over the road is still the fastest way to get stuff from Point A to Point B. He also makes other dubious claims, like big rig engines actually clean the air in more polluted cities like Chicago and L.A. 

He's also enough of a car guy to keep track of some of the work being done to run trucks cleaner while keeping it affordable. We talked some about natural gas and propane run trucks on the west coast. (an idea that seems too dangerous to take hold). 

Underlying his defense of his livelihood, though, is an understanding that it's not just a paycheck he's defending. It's a way of life that could be disappearing...or, at any rate, could be changing to such a degree that it may not ever be the thing he wants it to be. It's already more expensive, more complicated, and dealing with increased scrutiny and oversight than at any time in the past.

 And those are things that make independent people nervous. Maybe with good reason. Maybe enough to believe that being President of the United States will actually help.

[Thanks for reading. And remember, if you like it,
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Thanks again for reading and for your generous support.


*I should also mention that I've known him for nearly all of that 20 years.

09 March, 2011

EXCERPT from News Boy: A Fabricated Memoir [Meet Jarvis Boone]

The job only had three requirements: a driver's license, the ability to read, and a strong back.

I figured that two out of three wasn't bad and reminded myself that the trick to heavy lifting is to bend at the knees.

Killing time a Waffle House off the turnpike – one of the few places that would let me get away with sitting and drinking the same cup of coffee for several hours at a time – I found the job listing in the classifieds section of one of the free weekly advertising papers from the news stand machines in front of the library. Someone had left behind at the table. None of the jobs were circled and it didn't look like any of the pages were missing; I guess they didn't find what they were looking for amongst the listings for day labor, temporary light industrial work, and advertisements trying to sell the financial freedom of truck driving.

To be honest, I was in no position to be particular. I was living in a friend's laundry room and I hadn't paid rent in more than three months. Paul was only charging me $80 a month; it was a pity price, and really I was there to supplement his preference for expensive beer. He'd had people living in his backroom ever since he moved into the small house on the back of Linn Street. It was one of those streets that, if you didn't know it was already there, you probably wouldn't find it. And Blighton, Ohio, is not that big of a town. It bragged 35 varieties of churches (one Catholic), a brand new high school that was still not quite paid for, and a geographical proximity to the birthplace of a United States President. There were no bars in town, or in the entire township, since it had been dry since ten years before Prohibition and the Baptists made sure it stayed that way.

Blighton was my hometown. Once I graduated high school, the first thing I did was get the fuck out, swearing that I would never return; but of course, whenever you qualify any statement with “never” you exponentially increase the chances that you will return. I hated it. How could I not hate it? The default position, right? When life kicks you in the balls one too many times, that's the thing you do. Go home. My family didn't live there anymore. Mom sold the house two years after the old man died and moved into a Condo closer to civilization, where she was five minutes from a mega-grocery store and closer to the church she switched to in order to get away from being Blighton's new Poor Grieving Widow. Blighton is That Kind of Town. The Kind that Never Forgets. The Kind That Never Lets You Forget. The day after I showed up back in town I ran into twenty people I went to high school with. Half of them recognized me. I'd been gone for six years – a hard six. College a failure, marriage a failure. I was living in my car and in the downtown Cincinnati library until I was arrested for vagrancy and booted. Bunch of unsympathetic bastards. There is no mercy – or damned little of it. Plenty of judgment. The arresting officer, who was a rookie probably not much older than me, kept giving me these disgusted looks. They put me in the drunk tank for good measure, even though I wasn't really drunk. The judge asked why I didn't have a job; I told her I'd be happy to take hers if she was offering.

Once it became clear that I didn't have any money for bail or fines – and because it was my first offense – the judge let me go. I couldn't afford to get my car out of the impound lot, and pretty much everything I owned – what little I owned, was in the trunk. They know how to take everything and somehow make you feel like it's your fault.

The decision to go back to Blighton was mostly strategic. I needed to get out of the city for a while, and I figured that newbie cop would be looking for me in all my regular hangouts. I was standing outside the downtown courthouse, trying to figure out exactly how I was going to get somewhere safe, when I ran into Paul. He was downtown that day fighting a ticket. He lost, but that didn't matter so much. The act of fighting the speeding ticket was more important to him than the outcome. He had even bragged to me that he acted as his own attorney. I told him the situation, and he offered to rent his laundry room to me – as long as I got a job soon. Fine by me, I said. It beat calling my mom and trying to explain the situation to her.

Paul didn't exactly get on me finding work, but he did occasionally highlight his growing concern in various ways. Sometimes he would complain about the fridge being empty or the coffee being almost gone. Once he bitched about the hot water being gone, so I started showering after he did. Sometimes I scrounged the couch cushions for change so I could go buy a cup of coffee – though that meant walking almost a mile.

And then Paul's phone rang. I didn't even know he had phone. It was my mom.

“Jarvis, how long have you been living there?”

“How did you KNOW I was living here?”

“I ran into Steven Caldwell's mom; she said she saw you walking down Main Street.”


“So how long have you been living there?”

“Not long.”

“Why is your car in the impound lot downtown?”

“How'd you know about that?”

“They sent a letter. Apparently you still use me as your home address.”

Fuck.”Oh. Sorry.”

“Why is your car in the impound lot?”

“Haven't been able to get it out.”

“Aren't you working?”

“It's difficult at the moment; they have my only means of transportation.”

“How long have you been back?”

“Not long.”

“And you didn't feel the need to call your mother?”

“I only call when I have important updates.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone for a few seconds. She was getting upset. Shit. No surprise there. I was the son that made her cry. My younger brother was in college in Illinois and quickly becoming an academic start. My older sister was married and living in Florida. My older brother was also married and living across the river in a new money section of Northern Kentucky. Everyone was settled. Except me. She offered to drive out to Blighton and take me downtown to get my car out. I wanted to say no; but if they sent a letter, chances were they would auction it or scrap it otherwise. And I wasn't earning money sleeping on the cot in Paul's laundry room to get it out. I agreed and suffered the hour and forty minute drive downtown. She kept prodding for information, but I gave her very little. If she had known everything she thought she wanted to know, she would have been horrified on top of being worried. I let her strong arm me into going to her place for dinner, but only with the stipulation that she not call my brother or invite the family... I was trying to keep my exposure to a minimum. I let her cook me liver and onions – I was the only other person in the family besides her who liked it – and slept in her guest bed that night. The following morning we went out to breakfast (she paid, gave me $200 and made me promise to call. She also cornered me into coming over for dinner with my brother Ed and his family. I promised, but I didn't tell her when. Then I drove back to Blighton, where Paul was ecstatic that I had my car because it meant I might actually have a job.

I didn't even ask her how she'd gotten Paul's number.

So I paid him a little rent money, which lightened his mood for a few weeks, and I spent my days trying to figure something out. At least I had my clothes and books again.

08 October, 2009

Dad’s Car -- Part 1 of 2

My first job was at a car wash. My job title was ‘Detailer’. When the cars came out of the automatic wash, I dried it by hand using a towel, used blue window cleaner on the front and back windshields and passenger windows, vacuumed it out, and put a polish on the rims. Sometimes the customer would try to give me a tip; but the manager Russ told me on my first day that we weren’t allowed to accept tips, so I never did. I was supposed to work every day after school until closing and four hours on Saturday. The job wasn’t time or physically intensive, and as long as my grades didn’t go down any lower my Mom didn’t care.

I got that job during my Senior year of high school, right after my Dad died and I inherited his car. I’d driven it a lot since I turned 16 and got my license; I even took the driving test in it. But up to that point, it had always been HIS car. After he died, Mom gave me the keys and told me it was mine as long as I paid for my own gas and kicked in on repairs. Her expectations were low, but she had other things on her mind. She was mourning Dad’s death. He had been much older than her, and I wasn’t sure if it was just the fact that he was dead or the thought of living alone, or both. But, honestly, both her and my Dad had stopped expecting anything out of me. So I figured it was a pretty good deal.

The car wasn’t a classic or anything; it wasn’t sporty or cool. But then, my Dad wasn’t a sporty or cool kind of guy. He wasn’t one of those guys who turned 40 and had to drive a little red sports car or have an affair. He was a stand-up guy who had married late in life and who bought stand-up cars that he didn’t trade in until he had to. It was a metallic green 1989 Pontiac Grand Am with two doors, cloth bucket seats, faux wood interior, a pokey V6 engine, and a factory Delco AM/FM stereo. It was most definitely NOT a cool car. But it was a car. And it was paid off. And, if I didn’t take it Mom said she was just going to let it sit in the driveway and rust.

“Nicky,” she said with an intense and earnest tone. “You need to take care of this car.”

“No worries, Mom. I will.”


“I know, okay? I’ll take care of it.”

At that point I almost tossed the keys back at her; but she didn’t mean it the way it sounded. The next day I found an ad in the paper looking for car wash attendants, so after school I drove the car there to apply for the job. That morning Mom gave me 20 bucks for gas, on top of the two bucks she usually gave me to buy lunch (which I usually pocketed anyway. The cafeteria food was a god damn gastric nightmare.) I topped the tank off with 5 and pocketed the rest. It wasn’t the good ol days Dad used to talk about when gas was a quarter a gallon; but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it is now. At least gas was still hovering under a dollar.

The drive to the car wash was a half hour if traffic was good and if I hauled ass – and I usually did. It was near the new mall at Eastgate, spitting distance to the county line and the Cincinnati city limits. My friends and I had been driving downtown since the first one of us had his license; as far as I was concerned, it was the Promised Land. We used to sneak into some of the bars and clubs and check out the hookers that walked the sidewalks on 4th and Vine. The four or five block section of Vine Street between Columbia Parkway and Washington Street was an open-air market for anything you wanted. As long as you had cash and as long you didn’t look like a cop, nobody cared and nobody messed with you too much. I figured since I was getting a job – and one so close to the city – that I’d have even more excuses to go downtown. And while I would still pocket the lunch money Mom gave me, I’d have a little more money to blow on bootleg 40’s and weed.

Russ, the car wash manager, was extra nice to me when I applied. After he hired me and started showing me around, I figured out why. I was the youngest one there. Everyone else on my shift was an out of work carpenter. All of them but one was at least 40 and had families to support. They were beaten up, scraggly, tired looking men who didn’t really do a good job on the cars and who openly disrespected Russ and ogled the attractive female customers like horny stalkers. They’d all been union carpenters and when the economy was good they’d put down payments on houses and started families; but another recession hit and construction tanked. So their bosses laid them off to hire non-union workers who would work for much less money – usually kids or Mexicans who didn’t leave after tobacco harvest. Naturally they didn’t like me and didn’t bother to talk to me on breaks or try to include me in any of their banter. I wasn’t One Of Them. Even the youngest one – he couldn’t have been older than 25 – ignored me. They liked him because he was One Of Them, even if he didn’t have kids and a wife to worry about.

I found out later that they all took tips when the customers offered. I never told Russ about it, even though they didn’t like me.

They did notice the car, though. Vance – who lived way the hell out at the edge of Brown County and drove an hour and half one way to work at the car wash – did say something to me about it on break once.

“That’s a nice car.” He had this look on his face like he knew what I was going to say and was planning to use it later to make fun of me behind my back.


“Where’d YOU get it?”

“I inherited it.”

That stopped him. “Huh?”

“It was my Dad’s,” I explained. “He died and I inherited it.”

I learned to talk about his death from watching late night TV. I wasn’t sleeping very much. I hadn’t been since he went into the hospital for the last time. And so I read or wrote or watched TV. There was always an old movie on at 3 in the morning. Sometimes it was a black and white one. My favorite was this early Cagney flick where all he did all day was sit in this bar wearing a nice suit and drinking gin and tonic, and people would come in to ask his advice. Sometimes it was a more recent movie – a Lee Marvin or a John Wayne or a Charles Bronson. They each handled death in a very specific way. They didn’t break down and cry the way Mom did all the time; they bore it up, sucked it in, and never showed that it bothered them. When they talked about it, they spoke very matter-of-factly. If it was an unjust death, they had a few drinks and took care of the people responsible. Dad’s death wasn’t unjust; he just wore out the way people do, so I didn’t feel obligated to go out seeking justice.

Vance must’ve felt bad; he mumbled his condolences and stopped talking to me.

Not sleeping much made it difficult to go to school and go to work; I drank a lot of coffee, took up smoking, and took those pep pills you used to be able to buy at gas stations until the FDA made them illegal. Once, just to see what it was like, I bought some speed on Vine Street; but it gave me the shakes and kept me up for two days straight and made my heart beat so fast I thought I was going to die. After that I stuck to coffee, nicotine, and ephedrine. What little sleep I did get was usually in Dad’s recliner. It wasn’t a nice one – he’d had it for years and refused to get rid of it even after Mom talked him into new living room furniture; but it was comfortable. I usually managed to get a half hour or so of sleep before I had to get ready to go to school. Mom never said anything to about it. She had her own stuff to deal with.

When I wasn’t working or at school, I stayed away from home as much as possible. Saturdays after work I drove into the city and let myself disappear. Sometimes I met up with friends; mostly I went alone. Sometimes I went to the library and listened to records or found books nobody had read in years and read them. Sometimes I hung out in coffee shops or I sneaked into bars; a lot of times I just walked around and took in the city. Downtown Cincinnati after the 5pm Friday was a ghost town. The people who worked all week in the office buildings commuted from safer places like Milford, Glen Este, Mariemont, or Anderson; when the weekend came, they deserted the city until Monday morning, leaving it in the control of the people who still lived downtown and kids like me who drove in trying to escape small town suffocation. When I was downtown, I never really worried about the car. Of course I rolled up the windows and locked the doors; but there wasn’t anything about the car that would inspire any would-be car thieves or joy-riders.