Showing posts with label anarchy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anarchy. Show all posts

22 August, 2012

Mick's Rules for Living: The Road Revision

[It occurred to me that I haven't done a revision of this list since hitting the road. You can find the previous version of these rules at my hardly ever used but sometimes, occasionally resurrected blog, The Ohio Expatriate. Feel free to check out the site, as well as the links to the previous Expatriate site on Wordpress. It's fun stuff, I promise, and nothing less than you might expect from me.

And in case it's not evident, I'm still revising these, so they are not set in stone. Also, while I think individuals might benefit from heeding these in the spirit that they are intended, I have no intention of trying to force them on anyone. I have been accused of this. But, as I am a Wobbly, and a pacifist, I don't believe in forcing people into anything. People have to change of their own accord. 

Also, you will notice that the list has gone from 10 to 9. Most noticeably absent is former #4. If you're sedentary/settled, by all means... live close to your watering hole. But this is THE ROAD REVISION.

Cheers, Dear Readers.]

1. DO NO HARM. Violence begats violence, every single time. Being a pacifist doesn't mean you're afraid; it means you decide to have control over how you respond, not let other people or events determine your reaction. It's PROACTIVE not REACTIVE. Get it?

2. BE KIND TO ALL CRITTERS.  A slight revision. Kindness is crucial and necessary and entirely too rare. The size of the critter doesn't matter. Be kind. This also includes previous rule #5.

3. READ SOMETHING EVERYDAY. In the previous version of this list, I used the word "non-essential." However, reading, in any form, is essential. The life of your mind matters. Just make it something besides news memes and Twitter feeds. Pick up a book. Read a blog by someone you disagree with. Read poetry.

4.  WEAR CLEAN SOCKS. I have no intention of wavering on this point. And I can tell you, with a certainty, that if you end up spending 3 days and nights in a bus station, a clean pair of socks makes a whole world of a difference. Take from someone who is residentially challenged. Clean Socks.

5. HAVING PRINCIPLES MEANS YOU LIVE THEM. Sometimes you'll end up offending people when you live your principles. But if you're not living them, they're not principles. They're abstractions.


6. NEVER SUBJUGATE YOUR WILL TO WHIMS OF OTHERS.  This not only includes those who presume to have power over you, but also the institutions that presume the ability to grant that power.

7. BE HONEST.  Even when it hurts.

8. YOU KNOW YOU HAD A GOOD DAY WHEN YOU SLEEP WELL THAT NIGHT. Any other qualification is false advertising.


04 July, 2012

Eastward-ish: (Another) Whim of the Great Magnet

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. -- Lewis Carroll

Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly. -- Edward Albee

As you might recall, I walked into the Little Six Casino Mick Parsons and walked out divested of him. Nice enough guy, I suppose; but on the upside, I figure his identity is being used by some undocumented worker to stay in the country. On about the same level of an upside, part of my psyche hopes that some poor stupid bastard is, at this very moment, trying to acquire a hefty bank loan for an extravagant house, car, boat, or some other overpriced tinker toy, based on my credit history.

The peels of laughter from the loan department will be audible in a five state area. Really.

Beyond losing my ID, I lost my journal and my mode of travel. The loss of my notes and the bits of poetry hurt. The loss of my mode of travel -- the Discovery Pass that allowed me to travel from Ashland, Kentucky all the way to San Francisco, California, and had enough time on it to get to Cincinnati, Ohio before it expires on July 5th -- was more that problematic. Not only was I worried that I might be stuck, indefinitely, in Minneapolis, but I was pondering what that meant for the end of this particular jaunt. If it meant anything at all.

I was trying to figure out a way to get moving again, worried that I would overstay my welcome with my dear friends here, worried that future traveling might be complicated by my new minted non-person status, and worried that I would have to depend on my friends in a way I did not want to. I depend on them enough for a soft landing shelter, and food, and a ride to and from the bus station; they seem willing enough to help in these regards, seem to enjoy my company, and most of them even want me to visit again. In no way did I want to mess any of that up.

But it turns out, I stressed out all last week for nothing. I finally called Greyhound's Customer Assistance line to see if there was anything I could do short of waiting for a new picture ID to come in the mail or hitchhike.


I found out that all I needed to do was set up a password when I purchase my ticket online. When I pick it up at the ticket counter, that password will work as an ID.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Add to that a kind donation or two to the travel fund, and I was able to purchase a ticket. I'm headed out of Minneapolis at 1 AM July 5th and arriving in Cincinnati at 8:40 PM that same day. All in all, just shy of a 19 hour burn to get from here to there.

And I have enough money for a bottle of water and even (gasp!) a cup of coffee.

Gawd Bless America. And Gawd bless those of you who contributed. May your children grow up smart and good-looking and not at all resembling the mail carrier.

The universe smiles on me yet again. A little crack of a smile, to be sure. But a smile nonetheless. And I'm grateful for it. As last minute changes in plans, go, it could have gone a lot worse. For example, I could've had the experience of the Roving Northern Englander and been mugged In Omaha, Nebraska.

I'm still unclear as to how that happened. I'm not blaming the victim, but I do suspect, based on talking to him for several hours, that he said something to someone and got unwelcome attention. Maybe he was talking loudly about how thieves should have their hands cut off, and how Americans don't know how to spell color. (He prefers "colour" even though I pointed out it was a French influence after the Norman Invasion. I thought he was going to spit at me. Talk about a grudge.)

There have been more than a few last minute changes. For example, the shift in Louisville that led me to St. Louis, then to Hannibal, Missouri and inevitably to Minneapolis on my way west... and though South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking landscapes I have ever seen.

Truthfully, I could have done without the bedridden wildlife in Billings. But otherwise

I was planning a quick stop through San Fran and onto Oroville; but lingered in on the wharf a day longer and saw a wonderful city that I very much want to spend more time in.

Then there was the ill-fated trip to Salt Lake City, which led me to Colorado, meeting Cousin Mary and my Uncle Dan for the first time, and getting a glimpse into a side of the family that know next to nothing about. And I am planning on going back in October, Dear Readers, to learn more. I also got to see Cripple Creek, drive through Victor, and see the beginning of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

At every turn where I turned control over to the universe, I was not led astray. The trip became more interesting, took on additional dimensions.

A significant part of traveling -- of truly traveling -- is being prepared to adjust, being open to new roads, new possibilities. To be prepared for the unexpected. This most recent bit of the unexpected has not only freed me in some very important ways, but it reminded me that instead of moping and going into panic mode, that I need to follow my own advice. It showed me that instead of trying to re-establish control over event I may not have any control over to begin with, I need to breathe.

Simply breathe. And let the universe do the work. It may not always turn out so neatly. But a wise man -- which is what I hope to be one of these days many, many, many years from now -- will be steady,  live in the present, keep on walking, and be consistent whether his fortunes are good or bad.

I have so much to learn.

But I'm working on it.

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03 July, 2012

Eastward-ish: Farsickness

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - J.R.R Tolkien

I used to have a friend. Well, I believe he's still my friend, so there's no reason, I suppose, speak in the past tense. It's just that I haven't seen him in going on 8 years or so, and even then it was accidental. I don't remember the context of the conversation, only him laughing, the way he did at everything, and saying

"You're exactly like Bilbo Baggins!"

"In what way?" (I hadn't read The Hobbit  yet.)

He just laughed and shook his head. "You just are. Trust me."

This was long before I even aware of the itch that has since taken hold. My Dear Sweet Ma, and others, often refer to my itchy-footedness as wanderlust, which is loosely defined as "a predilection or desire to travel." The word itself is from the German, a turn of the (20th) century term that means "to enjoy hiking." There's another word... another German word, Fernweh -- which means "farsickness" or, more directly translated, "an ache for distant places" -- that might seem more appropriate. Maybe. 

Though to be honest, it's not so much far off places I am sick for as much as I am sick for traveling for it's own sake.

This is often a difficult concept to explain to people, and one that, even when they grasp it, few people really understand. And to be fair, I'm not sure I completely understand it myself. There's a certain amount of fluidity in the way I live, that's true. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly fluid and separated from general expectations of culture. And though my Dear Sweet Ma, and a few select of my closest friends who worry about my future, my safety, and (maybe) my sanity, keep telling me that I have to stop sometime... if even to make more money in order to keep traveling...

I keep thinking about how much more expensive it is to settle down than it is to keep on the move. To stay someplace, for more than a few days (a week at the most) requires:

  1. A Domicile. That usually means paying rent, unless you're effective at squatting.
  2. A Job. To pay for said domicile, and all that may entail.

Both of those things require an inevitable perpetual maintenance, a tithing, if you will, which means that the travelsickness becomes something altogether more malignant, cancerous. It becomes a TRUE sickness, a dissatisfaction that plays out in any number of ways. For me, I get mopey, I get surly, I become a lousy drunk. I quit jobs. I get fired from jobs.

In short, I begin to work against myself -- in spite my own intentions, which, believe it or not, are sometimes noble.

These are things on my mind as this particular jaunt, the Westward Expanse, comes to a close. In short order I'll be returning to the Ohio Valley for a bit, and then up to Northwest Illinois. It will be good to see familiar places and friends whose warmth and company I've missed. 

I'm not sure though, whether the road hasn't spoiled me, to some degree. And recent events, which include losing my ID, and the weighty thinking about identity, and what a name truly means -- not only to me, but to my friends, my family, and in the larger context of a culture in which people's lives are expected to be transparent so that The State doesn't have to be -- make me think that the only place for me is everywhere.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you like it


23 June, 2012

Eastward-ish - Up on Cripple Creek (Colorado)

Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
If I spring a leak she mends me
I don't have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one - The Band (1970)

...these adventurous characters, going out into a new country...where it would seem that at last all men would stand on equal footing, have suddenly discovered that amid these primitive surroundings the modern industrial system is... found at its worst. -William Hard, writing about 19th Century Colorado miners.

When I met my 95 year old  Uncle Dan  for the first time a few days ago and gave him the short and sweet version of what I've been doing -- pointing out, as I do whenever possible, that I am continually struck by the beauty I find as I travel -- he remarked "There's a lot of beauty to see. A lot that's ugly, too."

Leave it to a Parsons to say so much in so few words. 

Those of you who understand the irony of this statement, now is the time to guffaw. That's right. Guffaw.

This cell was used to house up to 6 men, sleeping on hammocks.
And Colorado is, like a lot of this part of the country, is simply stunning to see. Mary, my first cousin, drove me up into the mountains, up through the City of Woodland Park, towards Cripple Creek -- which has been wrested from decay by the legalization of casinos and the subsequent tourism which has swelled as a result. You lose  (or win) at a casino, you can look for free range donkeys, you can walk up and down the main drag, look at the plaques on the buildings, buy ice cream, trinkets, toys, take a tour of the old jail... which really isn't that old, since it was last used in 1994. That's the year my daughter was born. She is 17 years old. I suppose it could be argued that metal boxes never go out of style and that prisoners should'n't be spoiled too much. I mean, after all, it's guilty until proven innocent, right? Make the bastards suffer. And the bitches, too, for that matter. The women's cells were upstairs... only two of them, along with a room for the Matron and a separate cell for children who were arrested. The women prisoners -- who, as far as I could tell, were mostly arrested for prostitution or other unladylike behavior -- did get a window view of the street, as well as a private  toilet and access to a bath tub. Still a metal box, though. with no heat in the winter, no respite from the heat in the summer.

The other thing that stuck out to me -- probably because the plaques describing them were included in the jail tour, is the labor history in Cripple Creek: like the 1894 Miner's Strike and the subsequent Colorado Labor Wars.  The 1894 Strike started because miners were fighting an enforced 10 hour work day. It was a violent strike, and it cemented the reputation of the Western Federation of Miners as a violent group. During the Labor Wars, which ran from 1901 to around 1904, were also violent, and included both the use of state militia, the National Guard under the command of Adjunct General Sherman Bell (who has a building with his name on it) and mercenaries like the Pinkertons, and the Baldwin-Felts. 

If you're a student of history, you might notice that the Haymarket Square Bombing -- for which four men, including Albert R. Parsons, were unjustly hanged -- occurred a few years prior the Cripple Creek Strike. (The Pinkertons were there, too. Notorious fuckers, the lot of them.)

I tend to get stuck on stories like this. Stories like that tend to be glossed over for the sake of tourism, and for the sake of revising some corporate entity's sense of guilt. And by corporate, I mean the government, I mean any governing body empowered by The State,  I mean the mining company that put profit above the safety of workers, and I mean anyone -- including the WFM, long defunct -- who resorts to violence. But mostly I mean the government, governing bodies, and mining companies.

I tend to get stuck on stories like this because there are always stories that aren't being told, that aren't being exploited for tourist dollars, that aren't left to history books that no one except historians read.

I actually had a nice time wandering around the town, because 1) I'm a history junkie and 2) I love small towns with a sense of character, some sense of self. And, as my cousin Mary pointed out, there's more history there than can be learned in one visit. I'm finding that for the most part, that's true of every place I've been since January. There is never enough time, and always more stories to hear.

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18 June, 2012

Eastward-ish - Into the Sunset: Tempe, AZ

Many demolitions are actually renovations. - Rumi

There are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places. - Wendell Berry

There's what's right and there's what's right and never the twain shall meet. - Raising Arizona 

O, what's left of the flag for me?
My time back in the Valley of the Sun has reminded me of a few things. The first thing I'm re-reminded of is how nice it is to see old friends. I was able to cross paths with Kenny, who let me sleep on his floor in spite of the trauma it visited upon his cats, Koufax and Drysdale, and Scott McNulty, who let me crash on his couch for night.  I was also able to see Dan and Julie, Alan and Katherine, Colleen and Donald and John and Reese along with other regulars, from the now defunct (May it Rest In Peace!) Horse and Hound -- the bar that was my home away from home for most of the time that Arizona was the place I hung my hat.

I was also reminded of the impetus that made me leave here in December 2009-- albeit, I will admit, with some dragging of the feet. And I can best describe my reasons by highlighting the list of offenses committed on me by this loathsome, arid, devil's asshole (think Dante's Inferno, the lowest level):

  1. My first night here, I puked blood. 
  2. At one point, my feet and lower legs swelled to three times their normal size. (Think of a fucked up Popeye.)
  3. I experienced the Arizona version of Montezuma's Revenge.
  4. I was in a perpetual state of dehydration no matter how much water I drank.
  5. Being here caused me to spend more than I should have.

Now, it could be argued that I puked blood because I ingested far too much beer and not enough food. Though how that ever made a difference, I haven't a clue. I will admit that, upon returning here, it occurred to me just HOW MUCH time I spent at the bar, or drinking. I recalled the summer I perfected my margarita recipe...  well, I sort of remember. Really, with that much tequila and Triple Sec, who the fuck remembers anything? I'm lucky I wasn't arrested, naked from the waist down,  in the middle of the ASU main campus, pissing on the administration 

My visit wasn't all bad. In fact, it wasn't even mostly bad. I was also able to ride the light rail downtown and meet a dear friend, Michele L, for coffee. My eventually-to-be-ex-wife and I became friends with her and her studious husband, Richard, when Michele worked with Melissa at Child's Play Theatre in Tempe. Michele and I got along almost instantly, bonding over the Arts, literature, and penchant for being a bit long of jaw. Richard and I became friends because, like his wife, he's very smart. He also has a preternatural ability to win at the horses -- a skill that ... probably because I would have used it for evil rather than good... I haven't really acquired. (Not that it ever stopped me.) 

The Phoenix-Tempe-Mesa metroplex has a lot wrong with it, but the light rail isn't one of them. Clean and efficient, it took all of 36 minutes to get from Tempe to Central and Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix. If you're familiar with driving in the metroplex or with the I-10, you will know that's an amazing time. If you're not, take my word for it.

I left Tempe yesterday and spent last night -- somewhat at the last minute -- at my friend McNulty's closer to downtown. I have less of a connection, truth be told, to actual downtown Phoenix. I spent most of my time here on the East End. I worked at ASU's main campus. I drank at the Horse and Hound. We shopped and ate out in the East End. I went downtown once on the light rail, maybe twice, right after they unveiled it -- which was always delayed between construction delays and the protests of those short-sighted people who refuse to see the present and future importance of a working public transit system. 

I suspect that many of them have never had to rely on public transit, would not be caught dead on public transit, and (among all the men and maybe some of the women) drive gas guzzling cars because they know their penises are too small.

Though while it's been good seeing friends, I feel like I'm looking at Arizona with new eyes and seeing a host of old problems and issues that I recognized when I was here before. A 6 year old undocumented Mexican being arrested by a Maricopa County Sheriff who is more of a criminal himself. A governor who, but for scaring rich white people in Scottsdale, would probably have to go back to being a hairdresser. 

Or a Republican Vice-Presidential candidate.

I thought about living here before, and how angry I was. All the time. I don't know if it was the sun... and believe me, I do think the sun fries people's brains out here. How else do you explain the Minute Men at the border? Or the fact that Arizona insists on trying to support a hockey team?

Your guess is as good as mine, Dear Reader. Lawdy, Lawdy.

Be warned, though. Don't confuse righteous indignation with random anger. I may not have much of the latter. But as time goes on, I have more and more of the former. And I don't intend to misdirect my righteous indignation. Or sacrifice my sense of peace in the process.

13 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Isn't That Just Spacial? - Tempe, AZ

I refuse to quote the First Amendment because no document can grant me what is mine already. - Quote from Mick's Travel Journal, Tempe, AZ

I've never heard of a revolution starting because people protested where the cops told them to. -Noah S. Kaplowitz

Traveling as I do means that sometimes, health and wellness complications arise. As you may recall in The Rash, Part 1 and The Rash, Part 2 , a run-in with some of the local wildlife residing at the Lewis and Clark Inn (Rapid City, SD), resulted a rash I (briefly) took for a burgeoning peanut allergy. I find that being back in the valley of the sun, my feet -- which have been out to get me ever since I learned to walk -- are once again deciding to give me 10 kinds of hell for

  1. Being where it's too fucking hot, and
  2. For wearing sandals because... well... it's too fucking hot, and  (Don't remind me it's not August yet. I'm not going to be hear for that hell. And save me commentary about dry heat. Stick your head in a heated convection oven and tell me how much better dry heat is.)
  3. For not getting enough salt.
It should be noted, for the record  and for any potential future posterity, that my feet have continued a slow and steady campaign against my person AT LEAST since the age of 8. The evidence is more than circumstantial. It's an air tight case demonstrating that my feet are trying to kill me. Or at least, trying to get out  of working... which, on a philosophical level, I can at least respect. 

Now, because I've twisted and NEARLY broken both my ankles, mostly without insurance -- and, as a result, mostly without post-tumble medical aid -- some occasional swelling is not all that unusual. Sometimes I twist one of my ankles without realizing it.... though wearing a good pair of boots when I travel helps enormously.But I noticed last night, while I was settling down for the night, that my right foot and ankle was swelled. No pain. Just swelling. Then I looked at my left foot. Not as much swelling. But it, too was getting that shiny, slightly reddish appearance of microwaved hot dog.

Upon doing some research on the ever reliable Google, I found that this condition is tied to the weather, my diet, and a change in the amount of salt in my system. I actually avoid too much salt, even preferring unsalted peanuts. My dietary habits as I travel tend to depend on cash flow and whether I'm in between or visiting someplace.  I've mentioned my preference for trail mix and fruit when traveling. I avoid the gastrointestinal nightmare of fast food whenever possible. When I cook, I do use salt, but I never add more than the minimum required. I don't touch the salt shaker either, except to maybe unscrew the top for some unsuspecting salt-aholic. I do like sea salt. But it's healthier... right?

But what I had forgotten, since I haven't lived in a frying pan for a few years, is that the sun, in addition to cooking you in your own juices, will actually take the salt right out of you. 

Really. No joke. Not even a folksy metaphor.

And when that happens -- when there's any drastic change in sodium in your body... sometimes there's swelling around feet and ankles. 

Today it was a little better. Then, when I arrived at the Tempe Public Library to blog and drink coffee in the Friends of the Library Cafe, Tempe Connections, I ate a bag of Doritos. There's still some swelling. But not as much. 

So, I guess it's true. 

Salt really does heal all wounds.

As long as it's not cardiac arrest. or Cirrhosis. Or Diabetes.


This Machine Supports Fascists 
Outside the doors to the Tempe Public Library, there's several shaded benches, nicely paved sidewalks leading to from the door to the parking lot and back. Tucked off in one corner, almost to the through road that cuts behind the City of Tempe Museum and in front of the library leading from Southern to Rural Road, there's a tiny tree. The tree isn't tall or wide enough to stand under, but a person can, theoretically, sit under it... either on the ground or by using a folding chair. In front of the tree, next to a spigot for the Tempe Fire Department, is the sign that inspired today's blog.

Now, I know what you're going to say, Dear Readers.

"This IS the United States of America."

Yes, it is. Gawd save the Republic.


Yes. We also have toilet paper. What a 1st World Country we are!

"And the First Amendment says --"

Did you know the Constitution also refers to blacks as 3/5th of a person?


"Yep. That could be why, whenever the Friends of  the Tempe Public Library run people out of the cafe for not spending money, they're usually black. Sometimes Mexican."


But I digress...

Sometimes there's someone out here with a petition or two, looking for signatures from registered voters. Don't let the tree fool you. It's fucking hot. And usually, it's not the people who actually CARE about whatever the petitions are about; it's usually people earning next to no money... often they use the homeless, and college students and the under employed... who really know nothing about what they're pandering. 

Come to think of it... except for the homeless, the under-employed and the college students, that sounds like most politicians, used car salesmen, and reflexologists. 

But especially -- naturally --  used car salesmen.

I've been coming to the library for the past few days to blog -- free WiFi, the smell of a library, and the potential for maybe sneaking a few pages from some book or another that I haven't read in a while. (Today I'm hoping to read a little from a collection of Henry David Thoreau's journals from 1837-1861.) The past two days, there wasn't anyone standing in the Free Speech Zone. 

On Monday, though, there was a guy. He was camped out, had one of those comfy camping chairs with a beer holder in the arm rest, a small cooler, and a plastic bag of munchies. His teeth hadn't seen a brush in quite a while. The front ones he had left were a green color. Red t-shirt, cargo shorts, gym shoes with the soles nearly worn through, an old ball cap, and really really new looking sunglasses. 

I'm guessing they were considered an advance on his paycheck; though I did wonder if he was getting paid hourly or by "commission." (I met a hot college co-ed once at ASU who tried to get me to sign up for the Republican Party by flashing her very smooth very tightly bound tan cleavage and insisting ... with a pout that would make any 4 year old jealous... that she would only get paid by commission based on the number of names she came back with. I didn't. My affection for tits will only go so far.)

He was trying to get people's attention, but no one was buying. I remember watching this when I lived here before. It's easy to walk by, and because of the limited and appropriated nature of the The Free Speech Zone, those trying to get petitions filled, or trying to sell one idea or another, are more or less limited to the green space... that which isn't burnt to dust... between the tree and the sidewalk. They're not even allowed to walk on either side of or behind the tree. They can't step on the sidewalk, or find a shadier place close to the entrance. 

If I didn't know better, I'd think they were treating people exercising their Constitutionally Promised Right like pan handlers.

As an occasional freelance journalist/muckraker/hack, I know quite a bit about the First Amendment. It's supposed to protect the press, particularly when it's being critical of the government. By practice and precedence, this right has been extended to groups, and to individuals.

As long as you stand in a space that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

As long as you purchase a permit to protest -- in a place that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

The very notion of a Free Speech Zone implies that everything outside of it is NOT a place where free speech is allowed.  Think about all the places you have seen where free speech is "allowed." And now think about the immense real estate dedicated to... say... real estate development. The usury-style theft and resale of our natural resources back to us, usually including the destruction of other natural resources they don't  about because they haven't figured out how to make a buck on them yet. Think about the amount of real estate with TRUMP on it. 

And then think about how many free speech zones you've actually seen.

Then tell me again about the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Since I had some time to kill on Monday, waiting for the Orbit bus (free), I asked the guy in the Free Speech Zone what he was trying to get people to sign. He asked if I was a registered voter in the state of Arizona. When I told him I wasn't, he seemed disappointed, but told me, very quickly, that one petition was in support of adding a $0.01 sales tax in Arizona for education. (I knew that one would die. People would rather pay for fences than for better schools; that's true in Illinois, it's true in Arizona.) The other was a petition for open primaries... and other sundry stuff having, I'm sure, nothing to do with transparency in government. 

Which is, of course, an oxymoron.

Then again, the ballot box is one of those marked, appropriated, and apportioned spaces.

Isn't it?

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12 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Intermezzo: Answer To The Most Asked Question

"I'm a spoiled bitch" resonates in any language. - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)

Why do one-eyed Nazis always have the coolest eye patches? - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)

It's early June, and except for a few extended visits with friends and family, I've been Out and About for almost half a year. When I started re:visionary, it was meant to be part travel blog, part poetry journal, part political and culture commentary. There are elements, early on, that describe the disintegration of my marriage, and I am loathe to go back and read over them even though I know at some point I'll have to. I'm not loathe to read them because the memories cause me pain or discomfort or embarrassment. But I think at some point I'll have to combine what I've put in the blog with what I haven't had room for. And there's more. Much, much more, to be done.

Besides, while I can have bouts of what are best described as rampant sentimentality, I am not generally struck with nostalgia.  I do not long for the past -- not mine, not someone else's, and not any sort of revised and misrepresented point in history. I want to learn from the past, and carry those lessons with me into the present and future in the same way I carry my rucksack.

When I started out at the beginning of the year, it was with the intention of writing it all down, of staying out and living on the cheap as much as possible, and depending on the little bit of money I had when I left, plus any donations to the Travel Fund. (Graciously accepted, thank ye gawd bless ye).

Living this way is a feast or famine proposition; but, if I'm being honest ... and I'm ALWAYS honest, Dear Readers... so it goes for most people, indigent or no.  If you're one paycheck away from living out of your car or out of a backpack, then it's feast or famine for you, too. 

One of the nice things about being back in Tempe is that my friends here -- bar friends all -- remember me as a writer. More than one of them have asked if I'm working on another book, since they liked the other one so much. I've tried explaining to them, and in spite of myself, it always comes off slightly more like an adventure story than an attempt to understand the country I call home, the American Dream that never was, and my life which in constant flux. This trip is is as much about the poetry I'm writing as it is the poetry I'm finding.

Maybe it comes off like an adventure because I still look at it that way... because I choose to live my life as the way it suits me rather than the way it suits the governmental and social  institutions that have let us all down. 

A few people -- some of them friends, some familial -- have asked What I Intend To Do Next. It's a question I often dodge, mostly because I don't feel like having the whole long discussion. But it has also occurred to me that in order for the blog to really be honest... and I strive to be honest, I do, Dear Readers... that I need to go ahead and say it as directly and as clearly as possible.

I don't intend to stop. I will take a break from time to time. But I like being Out and About too much. I need it too much. And I don't have any interest in having another job that will require me to sacrifice or compromise those elements of myself that are good and noble.  I'd rather live a real life than watch a reality TV show. I'd rather hear the stories of people I meet on the road than read about them on the internet. I'd rather be myself than other people's idea of me.

And I have found that the people who love me... who truly love me... know this about me even before I say it. One or two hold out hope... like My Dear Sweet Ma, I think... that I'll settle down again. She told me once,though, that it's possible she simply has her own ideas on what it means to be happy... and that mine don't have to be same.

I'm heading east for some rest, some respite, and some much needed warmth. But then I'm going to be off again... to the South, I think. Port Charlotte, Florida in the winter sounds wonderful.

10 February, 2012

An Ohio Valley Yankee in Virginia, Part 3: The Welcome Wagon

Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.
-- Thomas A. Edison

My plan, such as it was, was sublime and simple. When I got into Norfolk, the first thing I would do was call the Dorothy Day House. For those not familiar with Dorothy Day or the Catholic Workers, that's what fucking Google is for. Seriously, though The Catholic Workers are rooted in Christian Anarchism, with a touch of liberation theology. They have done good work since The first Dorothy Day House opened in the 1930's. They also ran Joe Hill Houses of Hospitality.

These are names you should know about. Look them up. And after you read the inadequate blurbs on Wikipedia, go and read more about them. It's part of that history the school board, the government, and your parents didn't want you to know about.

But you know what the sage says about best laid plans.

The bus dumped me in a section of downtown, at the intersection of Virginia Beach Blvd and Monticello Ave. There was nothing. A huge parking lot -- on the other side of which was a hub for Hampton Road Transit. Some not too friendly store fronts, light industrial buildings, and the former location of the Union Mission -- which is now located on the exact opposite side of town. I had a general idea where the Dorothy Day House was in relation to Stella's house... it's about 7 miles away... but I had no idea where I was in relation to either of those things.

When I called the number, though, I was told there was no room. The guy I talked to was genuine, apologetic. He asked my name, and where I was coming in from. He recommended a few places to get in out of the cold, and told me where I could meet a bus and come to church if I wanted.

After I hung up with him, I immediately started thinking. I knew how much money I had; I knew it wouldn't stretch very far if I had to rent a hotel room. The Union Mission was an option; but I was dead set against Stella seeing me that way. I mean, she knows me well enough to know that I'm probably not above sleeping in a shelter. And it was bad enough that she would probably figure out -- I thought -- what was going on her Dad's (former) home front. 

Spending my money on a motel -- even a cheap one -- would also mean cutting my visit short. I would need to make sure I could get out of Norfolk with enough money in my pocket not to starve, and not to get stuck.

My next move was to walk around, and see if I could get my bearings. The Norfolk of my memory is an unpleasant, ugly place with only one highlighting factor: the fact that my daughter lives here. Nothing about that had changed. I don't like Norfolk. I don't like that it's a military town. I don't like that my daughter attends a school that commonly makes the news because some kid brings a gun to school or because of some fight that gets out of control. I don't like that a significant number of things that I object to are glorified here: war, government, nationalism, popcorn patriotism, group think.

And I didn't like the fact that the guy from the Dorothy Day House understood very clearly, but tried not to tell me, that there was very little help for the down and out here. Other than the Union Mission, he said there was one other place where they opened up a gymnasium and let people sleep on the floor when the weather's cold.

Not promising.

As I walked around, trying to stretch out my legs and figure out what I was going to do, a black man in a long dark coat approached me. Well, more point of fact, he stumbled up to me. I don't know if the man was drunk, or high, or just... off. But I was familiar with the look. Long dark coat, the kind department stores donate to clothing barrels.  Fresh pajama shirt. Khakis. Worn out gym shoes.

"Hey man," he said. "You gotta a dollar? I need a dollar to catch the bus to the mission."

"Sorry, man," I said. "I just got here myself."

"You got a cigarette?"

"No," I said. "Wish I did, though."

He hobbled off in the direction I had come from. I kept walking, waiting for inspiration, when I heard a voice. It was the man I had just talked to. He was motioning me back over.

"Hey," he said. "You want a cigarette?"

"Sure." He came out with a mostly fresh pack of Camel Menthols. "Here," he said. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out some change. "You want a dollar?"

"Nah, man," I said. "You need that. For the bus. To the mission."

"Let me worry about that!"

"Listen," I said. "Thanks for the smoke."

"If you got a dollar," he said "and an I.D., the lady in their..." he motioned to the Exxon Station behind me. "they're running a special. A dollar and an ID, they'll give you a pack of cigarettes."

"Good to know," I said. "Thanks. Take care." I figured the "special" was some form of charity on the part of the cashier, so I didn't bother asking. 

I walked around some more to get a better idea of the territory. I walked near the Chrysler Museum of Art; one particularly uncomfortable looking museum employee -- who's job it was, I suppose, man the door -- eyed me suspiciously. Maybe he was worried that I might want to see the art. Maybe he was worried I might offend the memory of Lee Iaccoca. 

I knew I'd have to deal with accommodations, soon. It was early afternoon, but the day would pass quickly, and I didn't want to 1) be caught outdoors, or 2) be put in the position of having to ask Stella's mother for a spot on the couch. As far as I can tell, the last seven years or so has been the longest streak that her mother and I have actually managed to be civil with one another -- including our marriage. That civility, however, is based entirely on the fact that we never talk, rarely communicate, and try not to acknowledge one another's existence. 

That meant an additional expenditure and a shorter visit.

Then I decided to get in touch with Stella.

18 May, 2011

Open Letter to the Alumni Association

Dear Sanctimonious Leeches and Intellectual Parasites:

I would very much like to thank you for the glossy quarterly publication in which you highlight the accomplishments of those past, present, and future graduates who you feel distinguish the grand Alma Mater in this age of for-profit degree mills and economic and educational disparity. I have always felt especially grateful to have attended because of the people I met there, student and faculty alike, who encouraged me to grow and to think and have helped me to become the fully realized human being I am in the process of becoming.

Among them, one teacher stands out more than most. And I would mention his name, but since you have never mentioned him in the aforementioned glossy publication you insist on mailing me every three months, I can only conclude that he continues to toil in the shadow of an institution that neither notices nor cares that he has set upon the world more artists and free thinkers than your College of Business has loosed successful entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, I'm fairly certain that your College of Business – which, allowed by your President and Board of Regents, and in a premeditated and unholy fashion, swallowed whole the English Department from which I managed to graduate … twice … – has done little more for the world than set upon it an army of mediocre middle managers, all of whom were made to retrain their replacements when the companies they worked for sent all the jobs overseas.

Now, this teacher I speak of is a great poet and an amazing human being – and though that statement is a bit repetitive, I feel, nonetheless, obliged to mention both since you may not have yet made the connection. He had done none of the things that merit attention from the College of Business graduates who have risen to offices of institutional power and affluence... the poetry haters who used to pass out ruffies to sorority girls at parties the way priests hand out wafers of bread on Sunday. As a related aside, consider this: people who claim to hate poetry or to not understand it have clearly missed the point. Granted, the Modernists – Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and the like – sort screwed over those of who came after because they removed poetry from the trust of the people and deposited it in the sorry Savings and Loan otherwise known as the modern college and university system. And because of those dead sorry bastards there's a lot of even sorrier living ones who have never known that poetry is a more potent aphrodisiac than chocolate.

But this does not excuse you, leeches and parasites, from the guilt you share in the whole sale theft of the American Dream. Whole generations have come up believing they need you to succeed, and if they can't afford you that they aren't worthy. And if by success they mean living the half life of a cubicle caught middle manager, techie toiler, tax payer, and amasser of debt, then your Ponzi scheme has succeeded. You rotten sons of bitches.

Along with the glossy magazine you send me every three months with the pictures of the unknowing poster children of the apocalypse, you often send me letters asking for money... a tithe, no doubt from the income you feel like you have helped me to earn. And while I would gladly spend that $25 on beer for the teacher to whom I owe so much, or for any one of the people– poets and artists all – who have graced me with their friendship, there is very little you can do, either in your form letters or in your glossy magazine to convince me that I ought to contribute to your war coffers.

If, after receiving this letter, you still feel the need to send me the glossy magazine every three months, it's your postage, not mine; the same goes for the letters you send that have gone unanswered until now and will again after I finish. But if you have any respect – scratch that – you are at all concerned about the time wasted by the poor dumb kids you put on the phone to call and try and talk me out of the little bit of money I manage to gather up, remove my phone number from your rolls; because not only will I try and convince them they need to drop out and go find themselves, I will also try and talk them into setting the the Administration building on fire before they leave under cover of night.

You are weasels of the lowest order, the spoilers of healthy minds and rapists of good solid souls. You will get no more of me.


Mick Parsons
Mount Carroll, IL