Showing posts with label change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label change. Show all posts

10 October, 2012

Oh Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me / A Kid With No Ace In The Hole

And the Senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity. - quote from opening credits to WKRP IN CINCINNATI

Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have -- Cincinnati sounds worse. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

My curve through the corn belt blew through the money I had managed to save up working in Mount Carroll. Southern Illinois is a stretched and beautiful landscape, much of which is lost when you stick to the I-55 corridor. If I had been a stray dog instead of a wandering human, I would have had no problem finding shelter; there are as many animal shelters/rescues as there is corn... but no motels or hotels in Mount Olive, Benld, or Gillespie. There's one in Staunton, 4 miles to the south of Mount Olive, and several in Litchfield off the I-55 exit ramp. No shelters for poor weary travelers that far south. Some friendly folks, like Stacey, who gave me a ride from Crawdaddy's Bar in downtown Mount Olive to the Union Miner's Cemetery, and the nice Indian woman -- whose name may or may not have been Patel -- at the America's Best Value Inn in Litchfield who let me check in early.

Beyond that, human kindness in Southern Illinois was as abundant as the free soup.

To be fair, though, I wasn't too terribly surprised when no one picked me up along Route 66. If I didn't know me, I'd probably not pick me up, either, and I didn't mind sleeping out. Getting the cab ride to Carlinville was worth the $24, since it would have taken me  a lot longer than the 20 minute drive to walk there.  I went to Carlinville because that was the nearest public transportation that could carry me into Chicago, and from there I would be able to make my way anywhere.

Options? Well, the travel fund was getting near to sucked dry... a situation I could do very little about at the moment. Yes, I have some folks I can call on, but I don't like to do that until there's no option. At that point I was still thinking I'd make it down to Albuquerque to read, but I wasn't seeing how I could do a whole lot of anything given the fact that three days in Litchfield, trying to get my feet back to their version of normal -- which was a slight derivation of my original plan, which had been to walk from Mount Olive up Route 4 through Benld and Gillespie into Carlinville (which I changed at the last minute finding nothing resembling cheap accommodations anywhere northbound EXCEPT Litchfield) -- had left me with limited options.

I decided, then to head to Cincinnati, and try figure out what to do next from there.

No matter what issues I have with the city, it's one whose skyline always stirs as much feelings of home as feelings of disconnectedness.  Cincinnati is a town fraught with nostalgia -- that same odd malignant strain infecting Southern Illinois along Route 66 -- that sense that nostalgia and blind longing have replaced memory, have replaced history. Monuments to our honored dead -- those whose lives and whose deaths we, as a society, are singularly uncomfortable with, like Mother Jones and the Union martyrs, like the Blackhawk Monument in Kent, Illinois  -- offer little but a series of spiritual Meccas along trails we have long since forgotten, trails where we have left pieces of ourselves and haven't begun to go back and pick them back up. There are bread crumbs out there: little pieces of who we are, who we should be, who we are capable of being, and we have not as a culture decided it's time to go and find those parts of ourselves we've lost in the process of insisting ourselves into a mock-historical narrative defined by Manifest Destiny. Cincinnati is a city at odds with itself, and for very specific reasons.

Like Mount Carroll and probably everywhere else in America, the various visions of the future and dueling identities are at odds with one another. A corporate stronghold, a staunch and conservative political perspective that exists along with a shrinking population (People are leaving because there are no jobs.) and a self-defeating attitude of isolation and self-enforced segregation (along class, race, political, ideological, and dogmatic lines).  People who don't know where to look could mistake Cincinnati as a city without real culture.

They'd be wrong.

The problem with Cincinnati isn't that there isn't culture. And I don't mean the stuff that attracts the black tie crowd, though some people think that's all there is to culture. There's always been a vibrant arts community here. But it's one that tends to either be excluded or exclude itself from any real conversations about the character and personality of the city. There's some damn fine writers, musicians, and artists here. But when the city's only alternative press barely gives a nod to anything and acts insulted and offended when their apathy and unwarranted snobbery is pointed out to them, and they still don't bother to write about what goes on here unless it's playing at the playhouse downtown or at US Bank arena -- it's very little surprise that the musicians, writers, and artists respond in kind to a city that only loves them when they can fit into the corporate culture that's choking the soul out of this place.

Yes, City Beat. I'm talking about you.

So I rode the train back to Cincinnati. There are only one train route that comes through the Queen City. The Cardinal, which runs south through Saint Louis, down into Texas, and north up to New York. The southbound train stops at 1:27 in the morning. The northbound stops at 3:14 in the morning.

I'm here for the time being, visiting family and hoping to see friends and pondering how to best get back out on the road. I'm even pondering trying to pick up work for  few months... gawd forbid.

25 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, Intermezzo 3: The Last Supper (A Poem)

You cooked dinner and I tried not to notice the small differences
since I'd been gone. Mexican Night: simple taquitos.
Corn. Black beans. Tomatoes. Over lean beef that will inevitably
over cook. We joke that food is never spicy enough since leaving Arizona.

The cat is acting needy, you tell me. We talk about our days,
the current and those that have past in between the last time
we sat down together and supped. There is no blood here,
and no body either, and no more salvation.

Keep the conversation light. Polite and pleasant.
Your voice echoes in my mind, back when you said
we were both rational... that we were both reasonable.
It didn't have to be difficult, you said.

I find myself faking chit chat and laughter
as I pile on the red pepper. The burn
always makes it better, keeps me present
in these moments I want to fall into my emotions

like one more failed baptism. It'll be okay, I tell myself
if I avoid your eyes – eyes that have been the only ones
that ever really saw me. I wish the water were bourbon
and then I could be a demon

and it would all be so much easier
and you could remember
and I could forget, just for a moment
that this is something we both need.

The disbursement of things has been easy, at least.
Packing at the end of a relationship (I'd forgotten)
always brings out my unsentimental side,
makes me want to burn all the memories out of my brain,

start fresh. But that only works in the mythology of crash and burn.
This is the one about 40 years of wandering the desert,
being led by columns of smoke and fire and praying for manna.
So there's no point in squabbling over DVD's and kitchenware.

Sitting on the porch after dinner smoking, you ask me
if I feel better. I confess I've stayed too long, that Out There
is calling me. My discomfort shows. We speak casually
of divorce, like butchers dismember carcasses for steak.

I can hide behind the pipe smoke
so long as I avoid looking in your eyes,
where I might be tempted to say
Save me. Take, eat, this is my heart. 

[I normally post poetry here. But since the poetry is tied to the traveling and experiences of the travel log, I'll be posting more of it here... especially as it relates.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you like what you read:
  1. Pass the link.
  2. Hit the donate button on the right and contribute to the Travel Fund. 

Every little bit helps, especially as I gather steam to push westward.]

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.

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
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  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen, or by going to and donating to THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. At this rate, they really ARE losing my love to Amtrak. But I'm no easy whore. No. Really.

31 January, 2012

An Expert Destruction

Main Street is crooked, runs right past
City Hall, the police station, empties
right in front of the University
Administration building.

All things tend southward here... the slopes,
the hollers, the crosses. Life has moved
out to the by-pass: movies, libraries,

The school is a warehouse
of long dead ideas, stored up
for future kindling.

Boxes of unread books provide warmth
and nourishment the nests of rats
and legions of insects pouring over
our mistakes.

Outside, the street signs are picture perfect,
and the old buildings are either
scrubbed down or destroyed;

an expert destruction
of all evidence to the contrary
that once upon a time
there was something else here.

Bars converted to youth centers;
cigarette stores to ice cream stands.
The future is piling down upon us
barreling 80 miles an hour down

the new wider highway
past the mega store where
all hope is lost and sold
at discount rates.

But the banks,
at least, are solid
and are open for business. New restaurants,
same old food.

The movie theatre converted
into a mausoleum for ancient idealism.

Everything is fine. Everything is dandy.
Self help books sell well. No one reads
the classics anymore. Too many big words.
Too many big ideas.

Poetry is for little girls and for fags.
Rumi was a terrorist. Poe liked little girls.
Whitman needed a shave
and real job.

No one remembers the year the mountain burned.
No one remembers the year the north end of town flooded.
The people who carry the memories
have fled east, into the mountains
or west, into the desert –

searching for moonshine or for messiahs
that will give them answers
to nagging questions that have not
formed the words to articulate properly.

02 April, 2010

The Inner Workings of Nostalgia

The best part of my day
is walking out to the mail box
because the neighbor lady
watches me and wonders
what a man my age
is doing at home
at that time of day. Then

I walk to the bar
and catch up on the local news
not covered in the paper
between Rotary Club check presentations
and JV and Varsity Sports
and the ever growing obituaries
that corresponds creepily

to the growing number
of houses for sale
and the emptying store fronts.
Once in a while
the old men include me
in their conversations
but that’s only because

there’s no one else there
to talk to. Mostly I nod
and laugh and when
I get home I wonder
how long these small towns
have left
before all the old timers die

and all the grandkids move
to where the jobs are
and the farm fields are sold
and spliced into house lots
and the bricks that cover Market Street
are recycled and built into a monument
for a town whose name
no one knows how to spell.

13 February, 2009

Party Fouls and Other Non Sequiturs

The driveway was full of cars I didn’t recognize, so I parked about half a block away. The house looked pretty much the way I remembered it. That was comforting. I was tired of the same old bars and silly people downtown, and thought that a night with the old crew might do me some good. I walked through the door into a crowd of people laughing, drinking, fucking on any available surface, in secluded corners, or the convenient closet. There was a couple on the end of the couch, a guy and a girl, him seated, jeans at his ankles, she straddling him beneath the folds of her Catholic school uniform skirt He had her nearly topless, white shirt sliding slowly down her smooth back as he suckled her breasts like a starving infant. On the other end of the couch a man about my age sat, drinking a can of cheap beer and counting out small piles of pills on the coffee table. He looked up when I walked in and nodded in greeting before focusing on his piles of pastel colored pills. The party had been going for a while—it was somewhere around the halfway point, which meant that before midnight, most everyone would be coupled off or passed out.

“Hey bro,” a stoned out kid stumbled up to me. He didn’t look any older than eighteen, straight blonde hair in his eyes. “Iz dis your house?”

“No; don’t you know whose place this is?”

“Nope,” he laughed. “I came here with some people, but they’re upstairs.” Christ. There was no telling what number if naked bodies there were up there. An occasional thumping sound and instantaneous laughing from upstairs indicated that things were well under way.

“Why don’t you go upstairs and join in?” I asked him.

“Naw,” he choked. “Don’t know if I should.”

“Why not?” I asked. “If you don’t, somebody else will.”

His dilated eyes glowed with peaked interest. “Really?”

“Sure,” I said, turning him around by the shoulders and pointing in the direction of the staircase. “Somewhere up there is a half naked cheerleader wondering why you’re down here playing with your balls. You’re missing it.”

“Missing it?” He didn’t sound convinced.

“Sure,” I said. “Why you hanging down here with these losers? Go on up and grab some love.”

“Grab some love?”

“Look,” I was losing patience. “You bring anybody with you?”


“Okay then,” I said. “There’s got to be somebody up there that isn’t occupied.”


“Yeah sure, sure,” I said. “I’ll bet he’s up there now wondering where the hell you’re at,” not knowing whether I ought to feel more sorry for the kid or Mike. Whoever the hell that was.

“Okay,” the kid resolved. He smiled over his shoulder at me. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

He started up the stairs, trying to make sure he didn’t stumble. “Say,” he turned around.

“What?” I asked. “You nervous already?”

“No man,” he said. “I was just wonderin’...”

“Wondering what?”

“Are you sure this ain’t your house?”

“Positive,” I answered. “Why?”

He shrugged, started up the stairs. “You just seem so... adult. I d-d-don’t know...” and he wandered on up in the stairs in search of Mike who may or may not have been pleased by the prospect. Fucking kid, I thought. Then the Catholic girl from the couch bumped into me, “ Scuse me,” she giggled.

“A little preoccupied?”

“It’s so tight in here,” she giggled. “Everybody’s so packed in.”

“Yeah well; it promotes a relaxed atmosphere.”

“Is the door that way?” she asked, pointing behind me and trying to straighten out her clothes.

“Yeah, “ I answered, indicating the door behind me, now wide open from some stumbling jackass. “right there. You out past curfew?”

She laughed. “Yeah,” she answered. “Curfew. Ha. Gotta go. Will you be here tomorrow?”


She shrugged, looked away. “Too bad,” she said. “My boyfriend says I can suck the chrome off a Harley.”

“Lucky for your boyfriend.”

She laughed again, slapped me on the arm. “Yeah, I guess so. Bye-dee-bye, now.” She waved back at me like a fallen girl scout, stumbled through the crowd and out the front door.

I finally made it into the small kitchen, which wasn’t as crowded as the rest of the house. But it was still difficult to get through the stationary herd, oblivious and laughing at those party jokes that are only funny when everyone’s too fucked up. Eddie was sitting alone at the small circular kitchen table, with a bottle of imported beer and the minuscule roach of what appeared, by the sour expression on his face, to be an unsatisfactory joint. He actually owned the house.

He looked up, saw me standing there, and suddenly became animated. “Hey, you! YOU SON OF A BITCH!” He stood up and hugged me. “What’re you doin’ here?” He hit me in the chest. “You shoulda called and told me you were coming and I would’ve cleared out these assholes.”

We sat down. “You want a beer or something?” he asked. “Let me get you a good beer so you don’t end up with that cheap watered down shit they’re drinking.” He stood back up and started in the direction of the refrigerator to his left—or more appropriately, the crowd of people blocking the way to the refrigerator. “Hey!” he yelled. “Get the fuck out of the way!”

One of them, a kid barely old enough for his first shave squinted at Eddie and slurred “Whas’ the deal, man?”

“Are you deaf? Get the fuck outta the way. I need to get in the fridge. Scoot.”

“We’re not s’posed to get in there, man,” the kid said. “The guy who’s house this is...”

“It IS my house!” Eddie thundered, “All of you, out! There are other parts of the house to do nothing in. Go there. Clear the kitchen.”

“Geez, what’s his problem?” asked a girl wearing a black studded dog collar, tearing her drunken girlfriend off her left nipple so she could face him.


The herd moved on, muttering and shaking their heads. Eddie watched them leave, an expression of pure contempt chiseled into his face. His eyes were set back in his head, ape-ish, neandrathalic, and I half expected him to follow after them with the baseball bat he kept under the sink. He shook his head, opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Guinness.

“Your favorite,” he said, “if I remember correctly.” He looked at me. “You’re still drinking piss water, aren’t you?”

“I drink what I can afford.”

He shook his head. “I just make sure I can afford what I drink.”

He was a booze snob. Besides the parties, that was his claim to fame. He never drank swill, no matter what. His beer and liquor was imported and expensive. He had the entire history of beer committed to memory. Back when I hung out on a regular basis, every night was a lesson in whatever brew he picked for the night. One night it was from Belgium; the next night from Amsterdam. Like some kind of divining force, Eddie Moran could pick up any bottle of beer (never, ever cans—no cultured person drank beer from a can) and could recite the brew’s entire history before turning it back. It was his gift.

“Dude,” I said, “who are all these little idiots? You lower the entrance standards or something? Most of them are kids.”

“Don’t I know it.” His voice was full of self-pity. “Inconsiderate little piss ants, too.”

“Why are they here, if you don’t like them?”

He sipped his beer quietly, staring down in to the cheap panel board grain of the kitchen table. There were chicken feet etched into the corners of his eyes, and deep, black circles beneath them. He looked tired. If I hadn’t showed up, he’d still be sitting at the small circular kitchen table by himself, hoarding his imported beer and quality weed in silence, never saying a word to the house full of strangers that were fucking in his bed and tearing up his furniture. The kitchen table was his only refuge—the last piece of ground he had to stand on and defend He was the picture of a man drowning, trying to hold on to a life preserver.

“So what’re you doing?” he asked, attempting to be spirited. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Same ol’,” I answered. “As little as possible.”

“You could head upstairs to the rumpus room,” he suggested. “You might find some friendly company up there.”

A picture of the kid I sent up there flashed in my mind. “Nah, that’s okay,” said, taking another drink. “I’m getting a little old for that Olympic class shit.”

He laughed. A little too hard. “Know what you mean, Bro,” he said, then grimaced. “Bunch a fuckin’ kids, anyway.”

“So why let them in?” I asked again. “What happened to the old crowd?”

“Moved on,” he answered. “Like you did.”

“Who the hell are these people? Do you even know any of them?”

He shrugged. “They came in with the old crew.” His voice had a note of drunken sadness in it.

Wistful, like some old drunk on a barstool in some bad made for TV drama. I felt sorry for him. He looked beaten up. Haggard.

“They came in with the old crew,” he repeated. “Then the old crew left.” He gestured out to the living room. “They’re the ones who stayed.”

“Do you know any of them?”

“No,” he answered. “They don’t even know it’s my house.”

“Then why let them in?”

He looked at me, his head half cocked, smiled the sad acquiescent smile. “If not for them, no one would be here.”

We talked some more, but the longer I sat the sadder I felt. I stuck around for one beer and a few more stories from way back when. The beer didn’t soothe my discomfort. Besides Eddie and the guy counting out ruffies for all the cute underage girls, I was the oldest one there.

I made some excuse to Eddie. I had somewhere to be, I told him. I suddenly remembered. He offered me more beer. He offered me a rare sip from his secret stash of single malts. Then a hit off his quality weed. He even tried to entice me with a piece of ass. “I’m sure she’s legal, dude, and she’ll do ANYTHING.” he insisted. The panic showed in his eyes. He didn’t want to be left alone in that house full of strangers. I didn’t blame him a bit. The thought even crossed my mind that I could invite him out and we could go downtown, get into trouble. But he’d never leave his house; that would be like admitting defeat. So I told him I’d call him and that I’d visit him again. I had no intention of doing either. I left out the back door to avoid having to wade through the kiddie pool. As I walked to my car, I could hear the noise coming from the house.

Somebody will call the cops soon, I thought. I didn’t look back.