Showing posts with label birthday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birthday. Show all posts

11 February, 2016

The cold settles in: more on activism, Quixotism, and the drive for a better life

and I ran back to that hollow again
the moon was just a sliver back then
and I ached for my heart like some tin man
when it came oh it beat and it boiled and it’s ringing

ring like crazy, ring like hell
turn me back into that wild haired gale
ring like silver, ring like gold
turn these diamonds straight back into coal. 

- Gregory Alan Iskov, "The Stable Song"

Every place I've lived, regardless of the general climate, is home to the same joke:

"If you want the weather to change, wait five minutes."

Given that River City was enjoying some comfortable daytime temperatures last week, the re-emergence of winter-like weather this week is yet another reminder that Ohio River Valley Weather will find a way to refuse a more optimistic seasonal categorization.  

Now, before you think I'm complaining, Dear Friends and Readers, please know that my memories of #ZOMBIESNOWPOCALYPSE2015 are still fresh.The truth is this winter has been, so far, a fairly typical winter. It would be easy to call it too cold (because right now, it sure as hell feels like it), but given Metro Louisville's inability to handle any kind of inclement weather with any aplomb it is difficult to see the winter as anything but a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I love it for all it's follies and foibles, though. Louisville has embraced me as much as any place can embrace an itchy-footed, semi-domesticated, rarely-do-well with a better than average vocabulary.

Wherever home happens to be, it's perfectly normal to find attributes about the place that make it special to you. For example, I call Louisville home. It helps that my wife lives here, and that I'm close to family. The thing I love about Louisville besides that is that it's still basically a small town... or, at least, it behaves like one. For the most part, people here do too, though anyone who hasn't been to a city that knows its a city and behaves like one would maintain that a large population and a few tall buildings are all that is required to make a city.

This is untrue.

A city has a different heart and a different soul. Not better. Different. Cities move fast and leave the past buried in dust -- at least, until it can be resurrected to turn a greasy buck for some carpetbagging capitalist. *

Louisville still has that small town heart. It's true that the carpetbaggers are at the door -- Omni Hotel, Google Fiber -- but it's difficult to not let them in after you've already invited them in and allowed them to shit all over the furniture.** I love it hear because in spite of the efforts of people to polish it, the underbelly of the city is still -- well, a turd. River towns are always a little grimy, and they need to be. All manner of things come up and down river and are deposited here. People. Goods. Art. Pollution. A sacred connection to something older, deeper, more meaningful, and fundamentally human*** that you simply don't find in other places. Yes, there is humanity in other places. Yes, there is a way to the sacred and the divine in other places.

But a river is an ancient artery that records every age. As a matter of fact, where I sit right now is nothing more than a long dry riverbed. Waters move and cut and focus the geography, leave behind something for people to use and live and take care of. The riverbed is a living thing, recording and remembering the history we don't take time to notice.

It will be this history that sits in judgement over us long after we have become the very fossils we ignore in the name of profit.

Lately I've been trying to figure out ways to leave a positive mark on the rocks instead of a negative one. Some plans have fallen through -- working to organize local adjuncts to demand better from their masters has lost serious momentum^. Working to maintain a radical labor union has also proven nearly impossible, as I am apparently too caustic and hurt people's feels^^. This has caused me to have rethink my relationships with people and remember that most relationships are transitory. But as long  as my marriage is good and my close family still embraces me, life is good.

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*Read: locally, the "Democratic" mayor and metro council's clear disregard for working people by allowing Omni Hotel developers to not hire union carpenters. Read also the vote in metro council tonight that, if it goes through will go against a standing union contract to bring Google Fiber to town. Yes, this town still has a small town heart and a small town soul... but Mayor Fischer and his "economic development team" are trying really hard to murder it.
**Read: 4th Street Live
*** To be human is to be of the dirt. We are a grimy bunch. And there's something sacred in that, too.
^Everyone agrees that change is necessary, but they're waiting for someone else to do the lifting... which never works. It's all of us or none of us.
^^It's true. As eloquent as I can be, I'm also an asshole sometimes. But don't mistake that admission for an apology. Having a difficult personality and being wrong are two different things. And I'm not wrong.

20 February, 2012

A Baboon in New York, Intermezzo (RE: 39 Years Around The Same Sun)

Christ, I'm feeling dizzy today.

And no. I'm not hungover. Really.

I'm working on a new post -- describing for you, in precipitously close and agonizing detail, my first experience on a New York City Subway. But I thought I'd take the opportunity, on this, the anniversary of my 39th year around the sun, to point out that nn addition to being my birthday, February 20th is also the anniversary of the death of one of the few iconic 20th century heroes I will ever admit to having:

Hunter S. Thompson

He is not just one of the few journalists whose work I never tire of reading; he's the only one, except for maybe Ambrose Bierce, who really understood the function of a journalist in society.

And don't give me crap about Royko or Woodward and Bernstein; Royko was able to do his job because curried favor with the Chicago political machine; and The Watergate boys were just at the right place at the right time, and it was Bernstein who did most of the dirty work, anyway.

In addition to being one of the few journalists in the sordid, torrid media business who had any real balls, he's also one of the few American Literary Giants that came out of the last half of the 20th Century who was really worth all the noise. (There were others; but some never got the noise they deserved and some got it too late.)

And no... I don't try and live like he did. I'm fairly certain it's impossible.
And no... I don't aspire to be like him. I think it's challenging enough to be myself.

But on the anniversary of his death and in a celebration of my lingering -- quite against the laws of common sense and a short list of truly horrible excuses for human trash -- on this planet called Earth Corp., I wanted to spend some time this morning over coffee on the subject of necropsy and the American Dream.

Before I started this east bound leg of my travels, I sent out a post entitled The Third Thing. In it, I talked about the number three, and the idea that everyone needs three things in order to be happy.  I also wrote that one of the problems with needing just three things is that every person needs a different three things -- which obligates everyone to go about the business of finding them.

One of the other problems, though, is that most people accept reality limited by dualities. Republican/ Democrat. Right/Wrong. Left/Right. Weak/Strong. Rich/Poor. Success/Failure. Society raises us up to see only these combinations and to live out our lives based on decisions made with these dualities a priori.

What I've come to realize, though, is that while I was unsure of what my 3rd thing was when I left Mount Carroll, it was there all along:

  1. Writing
  2. Mobility
  3. Hermitage

I'm a writer -- poet, novelist, short story scribbler, journalist, essayist, blogger. I write. I like words. I sometimes like big words, so buy a thesarus. According to the OED  (that's the Oxford English Dictionary). there's more than ONE MILLION Words in the English Language. 


Wrap your head around that for a second. 



Mobility -- I've always liked traveling. Not being a tourist... TRAVELING. And it's not because I think any place I go will be intrinsically better than where I've been, or that I need to meet more interesting people, since I am blessed with amazing friends; I just like to be able to pick up and go.

This has always created problems. Ours is not a nomadic culture, and we don't trust people without identifiable roots. This has little to do with stranger danger as it has to do with categorizing and dismissal. Society preaches that we must categorize and dismiss... other people, other places, other things. ( You know... NOUNS.)  We must be willing to allow ourselves to be categorized and dismissed, and this is considered perfectly normal. Happy. Healthy.


The third thing -- my third thing -- is Hermitage. Not home. Not roots. But a place that is silent where I can work when that's what I need to do. This doesn't necessarily have to be a specific place. It could be one or two or twenty different place. But I know it's something I need because, in looking back over my my adult life, it's something I have always insisted upon having. And when I don't have it... things go to shit.

Which, by the way, is how I define the parameters of my three things. When I don't write, my life goes to shit. When I'm not mobile... or when I can't be... I am miserable and I make the people I love miserable too.  And when I haven't had a quiet place to work, read, listen to my music, and draw energy and solace from the solitude, I get plain bat shit crazy.

What this also means is that some things will probably end up falling by the wayside. It's entirely probable -- in fact, I'm certain it is -- that I inadvertently pushed my wife away. Because, in spite of my intentions... which were genuine, deep, and grew out of the very core of my being... being married has meant having to mediate and compromise on things that I might be incapable of compromising on. And, even in a mobile life, no one can escape their own culpability. and that's something I have to live with. All of it.

And yes, I know that sounds selfish. It is. But it's honest. And honest counts for more.

And somewhere, in that combination of non-compromise, culpability, and grace -- because there is a certain grace that comes upon you when you see another part of yourself for Who You Are rather than What You Are "Supposed" To Be -- there's still more truth left to explore. More places to go. More poems and stories to write. More. And as I meditate on this and on the fact that one of my true and genuine heroes decided to blow his head off  7 years ago today, I am thinking about something he said in a BBC interview once from his Colorado Compound:

"Sometimes you have to kill off a life to find a new one."

Rest in Peace Dr Thompson. Sorry I never really knew ye, but thanks for the gift just the same.

Drink and be merry and wish me well, Dear Readers. This finding a new life stuff isn't always easy. But it isn't dull. And it sure is fun.

Earth Corp. sized Magnetic tornadoes on the sun. Not bad.

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03 February, 2012

Tomorrow Today Forever

I think I'll wander down to New Orleans
and sit in the Saint Louis Basilica
to pray. All the mad prophets say
to know god, you must know him
by his silence.
                       But that is for another day.
Today, it is my only brother's birthday.
And I must remember to call him –
or at the very least, to write him a note.

I must remember to make the words
something meaningful, the way
brother's words are supposed to be.
I must remember, it might be a model

for future notes when there is no time
but all the good intention in the world.

When I go to the cathedral, I will sit
at the end of a pew, near the middle
on the left hand side, and I will bow
my head and close my eyes the way
they taught us in Sunday School
(Protestants don't genuflect; but maybe
I'll try.)
            I will ignore the tourists
and the picture snapping,
and the casual whispers.
With any luck, I will fade into the pew
rubbed in like the dirt the bible says
I am made of. And when I am gone
there will be no more wondering
and no more questions
about the existence of god
and no more tourists.

All that will remain is a dirt spot
and an anonymous poem.

29 January, 2010

(One Of) The Biggest Lie(s) Of All [for my brother on his birthday]

There’s no way around – one day
you wake up and the
hangover is heavier than it used to be
and the hills you walk up
are steeper than yesterday
and the music is louder
and the news is a repeat
from last season
and all those little things
that never bothered you
make you want to scream. Your hair
is thinner and your gut
is thicker and your patience
is nothing but a memory. Even
the people you love frustrate you;
you can’t understand them and you suspect
they can’t understand you either;
but you embrace that guilty feeling
and go on loving them
because you know
when the morning comes
while your eyes are changing
and the sun through the window
is too bright,
the way those eyes see you
does not.

And that’s the only thing
that’ll get you through the day.