Showing posts with label daughter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label daughter. Show all posts

19 January, 2021

On Bashō / acquiring of new knowledge: Field Notes

Rereading Bashō is always a pleasure / a great reminder of what made me return to a notion of poetry pared down. The flower itself // the moon itself.

Simple things: coffee. A bit of breakfast. remembering to focus on the now. This unfolding moment. Remember for later: Amelia off to daycare in the early morning. Stella as a mother. So odd and so beautiful watching the grand odometer click over /watching the generations urge forward.

Like to stand in back of Stella and Adam's house on this small rectangle of concrete outside the gate to their backyard and watch this tree. I wish I was better at dendrology / the science of tree identifation /. I'm better at home in Kentucky. I think it's a white oak / had to look it up on Google. Asked Stella if she knew what it was / she didn't. 

Told her I just like knowing things / she asked me what I did before Google. I said I found a library / an encyclopedia / someone who knew more than me. She laughed / told me she didn't have time for all that. 

10 October, 2017

Perpetual pilgrim, Part 1: introduction to the off-the-road edition

God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk.~ Meister Eckhart

Home life is no more natural to us than a cage is natural to a cockatoo. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Lately my goal has been to try and apply the basic rules of the road to my everyday life.

It's not that I'm going to be out and about anytime soon... work and other responsibilities make this impossible... but it occurs to me that I've been living like the things I did out on the road had no relation to how I was living my life now. The problem is that in my most natural state, my mindset is that of a permanent traveler. It's not that I don't love the home I have with Amanda and Stella and Will; but I also know that as much as I love home... home as family, home as a place I'm comfortable... I'm not, in my natural state, much of a homebody. Yes, I like to maintain my space a certain way. When I travel I'm a tediously organized packer, too. So really, it's less about being domesticated and more about the aforementioned particularness ... whether home is on my back or four walls and a roof that needs to be re-shingled.

But I think part of my problem has been that I've still been trying to tackle this domestic bliss stuff the way I was socialized to by small town culture, by television, by mentors and heroes -- none of whom ever suggested, even remotely, that I orta do things the way they do things.**

In trying to figure out how to do this stuff  My Way, the only conclusion I've come to is that I have to live at home the way I live out on the road. Certainly there are some modifications. But overall, it's more about spacial awareness than a shift in awareness. Or, that's what I'm going with now.

My road rules went through multiple drafts and notions, but they boil down to something like this:

  1. Read and write everyday.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings.
  3. Leave things as nice or nicer than you found them.
  4. Etiquette makes society, not the other way around.
  5. Be grateful when things are good. They won't always be.
  6. Keep your head up when things are bad. They will be more often than not.Show appreciation and articulate love. Daily.
This isn't always easy, though I often think it should be. With four adults, three dogs, and two cats living under one roof, sometimes it feels like it's a little hard breathe. And I LOVE these people. But generally, if I keep my art at the center*** and tether myself to being essentially humane and focus on trying to be the best husband, father, and father-in-law that I can be, I believe I'm doing my part in helping maintain our conglomerated family unit.

Even if it's not altogether natural feeling sometimes.

* No less than every girlfriend I've ever had and two ex-wives have pointed out/accused that I have an antagonistic relationship with the world. But clearly, the world started it.
**All of them actually said the contrary, on multiple times. A wise mentor will never tell you to do what they do, exactly how they do it. That's how you tell the difference between a mentor who has your best interests at heart and a megalomaniac who's interested in feeding his ego.
*** There's a reason why "Read and write everyday" is the first rule.

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04 March, 2016

Trump Bumpin': Uncivil Rest Along the Dirty Sacred River

Stella and the Chairless Ones. She's making notes for her own blog post
The air was palpable, thick with anticipation and the muttering of all the mantras that make the rise of a fascist important to notice. Of course people were excited. Many of them were there to listen to a man who they hope will be the next President of the United States. Many of them would never be that close to him again. Those who were there to protest were equally excited. It's rare to see the personification of the New Old American Fascism in person, to bear witness to what may very well be the beginning of the end of the Democratic Spirit in America.

Slogans and signage gives you a clear indication of what to expect. The "Hillary for Prison 2016" swag was enormously popular... and I have to admit I thought it was pretty funny, too since I'm not fan of the DNC's Goldwater Gal.  There were plenty of trucker hats (made in Bangladesh) emblazoned with MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. I saw a few with the slogan "border, culture, language [commas added for grammatical correctness], a mantra often sang by no less than far right wing nut jobs like radio personality Michael Savage and multi-media troglodyte* Glenn Beck when they rant about "taking America back."

3rd set of protesters being led out, the Love Trumps Hate folks.
The police were there, too, of course, to help the Secret Service detail roust out protesters and protect the crowd of Trump supporters from the consequences of free speech and free thought. Stella and I hung back. I wanted to have a clear line to the door after the very presence of their demagogue would give the adrenalized crowd permission to act out all of their pent up aggression... which, unless you're not on social media, happened.**

Me and my shadow. 
In spite of being what I thought was relatively inconspicuous, we still managed to get a buddy of our very own. He was a little too chunky for a Secret Service detail. He spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder and looking down to type on his phone. He wasn't obviously armed, but he did have a radio... probably to call for reinforcements if the fuzzy guy and his daughter got out of hand. He was private security, maybe. Maybe an off duty cop doing a little double-dipping. I felt honored, really. After all, I left my THE BEST FASCIST IS A DEAD FASCIST t-shirt at home.

We took part in a small protest outside before the rally. I wanted to make my opinion known before going inside and trying to get a closer look at the personification of our country's evil underbelly.

One of the forms of non-protest... I wrote about it in my last blog post... was The Empty Seat Coalition's idea of buying tickets and not going. I posted picture on my Facebook page to let those folks know how that strategy worked out. I'll share it here as well:
Seats? What seats?
A Democrat Hears a Who. A Republican Doesn't Hear At All.
After The Don's 7 state sweep on Super Tuesday, all of those people who insisted that America would never, could never actually elect a Reality TV star*** who spouts such venom are now trying to salve themselves with the idea that America would never, could never let The Donald beat Our Ol' Goldwater Gal.

If he pulls off the nomination (likely) and goes up against Hillary Clinton -- who has been re-coronated by the mainstream media as the presumptive Democratic nominee after a decent showing  on Super Tuesday -- he will have a good chance of winning it all.

And if you're sitting there reading this and insisting that America could never, should never, would never elect a fascist, stop trying to compare him to Hitler and think straight. He's not Hitler. Hitler was a failure who ended up dead in a bunker with his girlfriend. Think about Franco, in Spain. His fascist movement unified Spain and he ruled standing atop the bones of nameless martyrs he sent to still undiscovered graves for 40 years. People there still celebrate him.

Trump did not create this wave of fascism. He stood up in front of the tide. He's an opportunist, not a zealot. It doesn't make him less dangerous; it just makes him a different sort of the same amount of dangerous.

If you like what you're reading here, I have work for sale on my amazon author page:   You can also leave a tip if you'd like. Thanks for reading!

*Dear actual troglodytes. Please accept my apology for using you as a negative metaphor.
** Please note that LMPD, that bastion of lawlessness and inhumanity, did nothing. And they're still insisting on doing nothing even though they were there and witnessed it.
*** Because we've never elected an entertainer to public office before. Right? 

15 July, 2014

Steady the Course Along the Dirty Sacred River: Sometimes the Universe Throws a Straight Pitch

This summer has not exactly gone as expected. I'd planned on heading west again, back to the big sky territory out in South Dakota and Montana. For a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly blog worth, I've not made it and probably won't. I am getting ready for another eastbound slingshot to attend The Kid's wedding to Plus 1... I mean Will... I mean The Soon-to-Be Son-in-Law.

the axis mundi
Mostly, I've stayed closer to the axis mundi here along the dirty, sacred river, tried not to kill the garden, and struggled with a few of those "all growed up" decisions that occasionally sneak into what I generally consider to be an idyllic life. I recently applied for a full time teaching gig that I didn't get*, which set up a whole series of stress-ridden mental labyrinths for me to navigate.** I've been trying to get some new projects up and going, which is surprisingly complicated when you're unemployed.

I was also turned down for unemployment benefits because, in the nomenclature of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I have "reasonable assurance" of future employment. Basically, I was denied benefits because I will probably have a job soon... though no steady paycheck until the end of August. I guess I'm supposed live on hay until then.  But, given the intolerance and general lack of human empathy demonstrated by Top Cop Commander Kim and by some of the folks I call neighbors*** I guess it's a good thing I haven't had to resort to panhandling.

But I'm feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the trip. I love my daughter, even if I have trouble reconciling myself with the fact that I was once stupid enough to marry her mother.  Stella's been going through some "all growed up" stuff of her own lately that I will not list at the moment. One of those things, though, has to do with the fact that conventional wisdoms -- in spite of being conventional -- are wrong.  She's a good person and has a smart head on her shoulders that she sometimes uses. She just wants to live her life, be happy, all that. But she is having to learn that doing the right thing doesn't always mean that you get the reward you deserve.

In fact, it's increasingly the opposite... and not just for Stella.

One of the nice things about children is that they have all the potential in the world to grow beyond the limitations of their parents... if they can dodge hard luck and if they can reject conventional wisdoms that worn paths of other people's success is the path to happiness.

As for me, I am reminded of Krishnamurti's insistence that the truth is a pathless land. And I'm also encouraged by the fact that even though I am still not "gainfully employed" ... ie, I apparently don't deserve health insurance or retirement benefits, but I am good enough to teach college freshmen how to write and think critically .... that I still have plenty to keep me busy. There's plenty to do.

I'm including a link to my latest story posted at my reverbnation page. Check it out. Hope you enjoy.

* My last full time teaching gig was out at ASU... an experience which drove me out of the classroom. And no, it wasn't the students. My usual beef with Upper Education is that the people who administrate it are morons. And by administrate I mean the ones who do not or have not ever step foot into a classroom since they flunked Intro to Literature... back when they still TAUGHT basic literature courses as a general ed requirement. Out at ASU in particular, I was enraged by an especially incompetent department chair who was more interested in sucking his way into a Dean's Office than he was in actually taking the concerns of his writing faculty seriously.
** My position as an adjunct, while financially insecure, is probably more appropriate. I suck at committee obligations and they suck on me. Also, the minute you sign on for full time employment, people immediately assume you have growed up, quit dreaming, and are working assiduously for a docile retirement during which you will actually allow yourself to live. If I have to wait until I'm 70 to live, I might as well crawl into a bourbon bottle now.
*** These folks run the gamut from comfy democrats to stalwart republicans to pissy tea bagger bigots. And all of them have one thing in common - for the most part they reject the notion that hard luck can hit anyone at any time.

09 June, 2013

Losantiville Lines: Stella's Graduation, Verse 2: Vox Nostalgia

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. -- Khalil Gibran

When she was very young, I remember thinking how I would still be a young man when she turned 18 and graduated high school. I was not much more than a child myself when she was born. What growing up I've done, I've done in tandem with her -- even at the distance created by a brutal Kentucky divorce and non-custodial parenthood.

The only way that I've been able to keep myself sane is to remember the simple lesson that our children are not our children; it's something I've had to remind myself of over and over, as much for her good as my own. I have watched, over the years, as some other, more conventional parents treat their kids like property. I have listened to the cultural rhetoric which insists that parental responsibility equates to ownership. I have watched as society -- from which no father can protect his daughter without handicapping her with complete isolation -- insists our children behave like adults but gives them none of the privileges generally associated with that behavior, while enforcing all the punishments of perceived misbehavior. I have listened to people talk about protecting children but say nothing of how to help provide a way for them to grow and have a chance; instead we set our children against one another, fighting -- either by action or by passive agreement -- for increasingly limited resources within the context of a failing American Dream.

I have not always been a good parent; but I have always believed that being Stella's dad is among my highest and best accomplishments, and my most important educational experience.

And now she's graduating from high school.

Today I'm here at the beach, watching the Atlantic Ocean crash in waves against the beach and pull back. Where the water meets the sky, I see ships -- barges heading out on the shipping lane. The sun hits the water and sparkles like diamonds, only to disappear into the breakers and the sand. Dark clouds in the distant horizon suggest some rain later. Para-sails, small water craft, kids belly coasting on surfboards, hoping for one more good wave.

Tomorrow Stella graduates. And I'm still learning.

I've been across the country, seen both coasts, and a bit of what's in between. I have meant some interesting, some amazing, some poignant, some terrible, and one or two truly evil people. I've heard some powerful stories, and been witness to a few. There are more to hear. When I'm face to face with the ocean, I begin to feel how it's all connected, how it all washes away, how it all remains. Currents run in all directions. At times, I find myself carried away with them. At other times, I feel myself fighting the impossible gravity of currents and the thought crosses my mind that it would be easier to just be swept away. I feel the urge to erase myself, to be washed clean like the tides washes the sand and rock. I feel the urge knowing that it's not time, because I still have things to do, good will to return, people to meet and stories to hear. My obligations are not yet met.

Stella's graduation is not the completion of an obligation, it's a celebration of her accomplishments, and a building up of positive energy to carry her into whatever future she creates for herself. I am glad that I am young enough to enjoy it.

08 June, 2013

Losantiville Lines: Stella's Graduation, Verse 1: The Wallet

I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn't itch. - Gilda Radner

I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man. - William Shakespeare

Dateline: Virginia Beach, VA -- I abandoned all of my ties and "dress" clothes in Arizona along with my few remaining preconceived ideals about higher education as a positive and inherently useful institution. At the time, I swore to myself that I would avoid any work that required me to wear anything resembling "professional" attire. Professionalism, I decided was a matter of know-how and demonstrating that know-how when it's necessary. I don't need to wear a tie to do that.

But the thing that took to an area men's clothing shop was not a job. Jobs are fleeting and not all that important except for the part they play in the larger work of a person's life. But there are some events that warrant an updated wardrobe.

Like a daughter's graduation, for example.

I chose a men's clothing store rather than the open forage of a mall because I hate to shop. Specifically, I hate clothes shopping. I know I'm not alone in this, and the reasons are probably obvious.  Finding clothes that I like AND that fit correctly is a complicated task. My legs  and my arms are shorter than they're supposed to be for someone my size; I carry a few extra pounds, that's true, but clothes shopping has always been a pain, regardless of my size. The designers of men's clothes do not think beyond the idea that any man with a gut must necessarily be self-conscious and therefore would prefer to wear shirts cut to look like circus tents. I like short sleeve button down shirts. But it's difficult to find them in my size with a sleeve that don't look like a mid-sleeve jersey cut.

I also hoped that by choosing a men's clothing shop that I would avoid the usual "Does this match" debacle that all seemingly colorblind men seem to experience.

It's not my fault that there are 50 shades of blue and that you're not supposed to put them all together. I really WANT to look like a giant fucking smurf.

When I walked through the door, I was allowed to wander the crop of overpriced formal and semi-formal wear for a few ticks before the store manager finely said something. I told him I needed clothes for my daughter's high school graduation. I told him I wanted a pair of pants, a nice button down, and maybe a vest. I tried to stay direct and avoid being sold anything above, over, or other than what I went there for.

The manager, who we will call "Stan" introduced himself as he was taking my measurements, which I thought was very polite. Generally, when people get that close to you and you're not in a mosh pit or on a crowded subway, it's good to be on a first name basis. Stan is on the large side, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, suspenders, a light green button down shirt, and a tie that matched so well I don't remember the color. He wore a short cropped and neatly kept salt and pepper beard that hung to his jaw line. He was professional in almost managing to hide his disdain when I said I had no intention of wearing a tie, though he grunted a bit when I told him I had to leave town in a few days, leaving him no time for alterations. 

He put together some options quickly, matching shirts and slacks and finding a vest that would work. He was a large man, but he moved quickly. I hemmed and hawed a bit over making a decision. Black pants or dark blue ones? Greens short sleeve or blue and black hash design on white? There was only one vest that would fit, and I was inclined to build around that. I also told him I wanted a pair of suspenders for the pants.

I had a particular look in mind, and I knew it wasn't going to be exactly what I wanted. But it was going to be close, goddammit.

So much trouble when I would probably get more mileage out of a JCPenny sale special. But a daughter only graduates from high school once, and I wanted to be able to demonstrate I was proud of her. And I wanted to still be... well... me. If I have to look nice, I'm going to look the way I want to look.

Stan found this quaint, and I could tell he was questioning my wardrobe choices. I have to commend his professionalism once again, however, because rather than simply tell me I was wrong in my choice of the the black and blue hash print white button down with the gray vest, he chuckled and explained that he was a conservative dresser. We agreed that there's no point in arguing about taste. At that point, Stan initiated a fist bump -- which I NEVER do -- but it was polite enough and honestly offered. So I answered with a fist bump that any church marm would find acceptable. 

But then Stan pointed out that the shop was having a sale... a buy one get one sort of thing. And he wanted me to get my money's worth, of course. 

Did I need shoes? 


Did I need socks.


Did I need... a tie?


He explained that he wasn't trying to SELL me anything; he just wanted to make sure I got my money's worth. Did I need any kind of accessories at all?

Then I thought about my wallet.

I've been carrying a duck tape wallet, made by my friend and artist, Heather Houzenga, since I left Mount Carroll and hit the road last January. It held up remarkably well, but I had to repair a few times. It was coming undone on one side. I was planning on just repairing it again. Stan motioned over to a shelf and we walked over. He presented me with three options for wallets, none of which I liked particularly. I picked a brown leather bifold. 

I also ended up walking out with the green shirt, and both pairs of pants. Eh. Stan told me he wanted to keep me as a customer and that I could come back and have everything altered more closely when I got back into town. He was particularly intrigued by the fact that I travel, write, teach, and generally avoid a typical work week.

"You only work when you WANT to, right?"

Sure. That's more or less accurate. Labels are reductive, and certain terms (like conservative, liberal, anarchist, anti-capitalist, collectivist, socialist, communist, and most any other -ist) tend to be arbitrary based on the speaker's definition -- which most people assume is everyone else's definition whether it is or not. I work when I need to. But NEED and WANT are often the same thing in the minds of some folks.

All I wanted at the moment was to have a nice outfit to wear and watch my one and only daughter graduate from high school.

29 May, 2013

Losantiville Lines, Down River Chorus: Version 2

DaveFest 2013
What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message. - Leonard Peltier

Every man is in his own person the whole human race, with not a detail lacking. - Mark Twain

Been doing more ruminating and focusing on where I am than I have been blogging lately. In terms of pattern behavior, this isn't anything unusual. I will, in the right company, blather on for hours. When it comes to blogging, though, I find much more sound that substance; which is to say, just because someone has space to blather, doesn't mean they ought to. I'm all for a free and unrestrained internet, but I do think that if some people spent more time ruminating and living where they are rather than spouting mental minutia to the wind, this non-extistant space would be a much more enjoyable place.

(Not that the internet ever was or really is free; but it feels good to mention, in the same way it's far more satisfying to piss outside than on a clear autumn night than it is to not risk frightening the neighbors by using the indoor toilet.)

Henry Miller pointed out that some of his most productive writing time was spent strolling through the streets of Paris; and I have found this to be the case for me as well. Journaling, plotting, and planning continue down deep, though the top the of the waters have been still. So, Dear Readers -- those of you who remain -- never fear. Re:visioning and avoiding avoidance culture continues.

I was able to take a short road trip up to Mount Carroll (aka Paint City) for the long weekend. The Travel Angel and I rented a car, loaded it down with camping gear, homebrewed mead, and homemade pickled eggs and hummus, and set off for the rolling prairie lands of Northwest Illinois. Memorial Day Weekend up in those parts means a few things:

  1. Flying flags and Veteran Ceremonies;
  2. MayFest
Now, to cover:

  1.  to all my friends, family, and former students have who have or still wear a military uniform: I recognize and respect your sacrifice in spite of not being able to support the cause for which your lives are put on the line. (If you think the armed forces are fighting for DEMOCRACY, Dear Readers, you're not paying attention. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.) For those who are still in uniform, I want you to come home. For those who are no longer in uniform, I'm glad you made it back. For those who did not make it back -- I remember and honor you the best way I know how.
  2. Mayfest: a wonderful public event that is continually fun in spite of the interference of that most ineffective of organizations, the Chamber of Commerce. Now, I'm not singling out the Mount Carroll Chamber; that would be unfair. ALL Chambers of Commerce are cultural blights and community viruses. The Mount Carroll Chamber of Commerce has done more to hold back the development of the town than any other institution known to modern man -- and that includes the Church of God. The good news: my friends Marques Morel (Dirt Simple) and Bruce Kort (and The Infarctions) both played their music as part of the line up of entertainment. They live in the area, and are wonderful musicians. The bad news: the steering committee brought in yet another abominable tribute band. This time, it was an 80's tribute band. No one who grew up in the 80's should be subjected to that much reshashed hair air rock and techno-crap. Sister Christian is a old hooker in New Jersey. 80's nostalgia and historical revision will not change the fact there was very little good about decade that saw the decline of unions and the steel industry, the squeezing of small farmers, Iran-Contra, the aborted afterbirth of Operation Condor, and the extension of Pax Americana.
  3. DAVEFEST: The weekend long celebration of my dear friend Dave's birth. A raging bonfire, cold beer, music, and the company of friends. This was Amanda's first exposure to Mount Carroll. I promised to introduce her to some of my detractors on the next trip, for proper balance.

Back in River City, we've been brewing mead, planting raised gardens, and pondering chickens. This, as I see it, is as instrumental to avoiding an avoidance culture as being on the road.

gardens; boxes built by an Amish carpenter, plants and dirt by the Tenny Ave Contingent

mead, the oldest known fermented beverage


 This time next week I'll be in Virginia, trying to squeeze time in with The Kid as she prepares to graduate High School. Proud as hell of that one. She's an amazing person who I would like even if I wasn't related to her. 

And after that: WILLISTON, NORTH DAKOTA to check out the tar-sands. In order to earn the Eden I want in River City, it's necessary to go forth into the world and do something worthwhile. I hope to go to Williston and talk to people, hear the stories, see how progress is hitting a place that was, it seems, pretty quiet prior. Still looking for cheap/free accommodations. Couchsurfing and camping are thus far my avenues of exploration.

I still have chapbooks available for donations to the travel fund. Shortly I'll be unveiling a new project. Stay tuned, Dear Readers. The ride can't stay smooth forever.

04 January, 2013

Losantiville Lines: Year of the Sea Turtle/Second to Last Sub Rosa/Holiday Plus 1

From now on I shall speak in onomatopoeia,
or better, in metaonomatopoeia. -- Lidia Dimkovska

If Christ had been a woman, the world would already be redeemed. - line from Cincinnati Day Book.

Year Of The Sea Turtle

In these post-apocalyptic days, there is time enough to sit and wonder at the inner and outer workings of the world. And for the time being, I am writing my poems, picking out songs older than I am on the blue guitar, and pondering even more closely a work of some length based on some of my travels in the recently dead and buried year of 2012.

If you have been even a casual reader of this blog, it won't surprise you to hear that the weather will play a prominent role.

As I mentioned previously, I am wintering in familiar territory, here in Cincinnati. Although my initial plan was to go south -- very very south, down to the Florida Keys, far, far away from the arctic chill -- the universe saw fit to deposit me here, nearly broke, not terribly road weary, but aware that in order to travel more in the cheap and lowly way to which I am accustomed, I need to pick up some work and put some cash back into the Travel Fund.

I was not unaware of the particular challenge that could potentially be. In spite of what the corporate owned, government complicit media machine has suggested, the economic recovery is not so much a recovery as much as politicians taking credit/laying blame for the pendulum swing that inevitably occurs when Capitalism is allowed to run amok like a lousy houseguest. Any savvy student of economics will tell you that the markets ebb and flow like the oceans and that most people are subject to the typhoons and droughts that occur over the course of time. And any savvy student of politics will tell you that the recently contested Presidential election which set friend against friend, family against family, and peon against peon was largely a contest over who would get to take credit for said pendulum swing and who would get to sit on the sideline moping like a sad chipmunk. (Look at John Boehner and tell me he doesn't have some semblance of a gin soaked chipmunk.)


But I also wasn't particularly worried, because I knew I'd have a place to sleep and because I have learned to place some faith in the universe. And the universe was indeed kind, because I managed, against any probability in Cincinnati and in this job market, to pick up a little teaching work.

That's right. Someone actually let me back in the classroom.

Not full time. And I'm thankful for that. There is nothing more odious and dysfunctional than trying to teach while carrying the weight of being a full time/fixed term instructor with no hope of tenure and all the expectation of departmental busywork-- committees, non-classroom related paperwork designed to cover someone else's ass and present yours for unwelcome sodomy.

Not me. Not again. I managed two sophomore level writing classes at one of the area universities. In addition, I'm doing some online tutoring and picking up a trickle of freelance writing/editing gigs. This, in addition to poetry, music, and some various other projects, will keep me busy until the thaw.

Second To Last Sub Rosa

But don't think that I plan to sit still for the next four months. I will be making regular sojourns down river to Louisville to visit my Most Amazing Girlfriend/Traveler's Angel.

During my most recent visit, I had the pleasure of being the Featured Reader at the monthly Sub Rosa Creative Courtyard, put on by the River City's very own Divinity Rose. The weather pushed the courtyard indoors at Bearno's on Highland, and the venue, perhaps not wanting to offend potential customers with something as perilous as poetry, pushed the scribbled to a small upper room, while leaving the Featured Music/ Music Open Mic downstairs.

This, as I know from experience, is almost always a disaster. Art grows best when writers, musicians, performers, painters, and burlesque dancers all drink from the same trough. It just does.

I was pleased to be asked, though, and went through the first set in the upper room. An increase in snowfall scared off the few folks who were there, and so Amanda and I went downstairs to the bar to join the folks who were there to listen to the Featured Music, Big Poppa Stampley, and maybe play some music themselves. Divinity was kind enough to make some space for me to do my second set, and as I was stepping up on stage to take over the mic, Big Poppa asked if I wanted him to play behind me.

After the shock wore off, I found my words. When someone of his talent and caliber offers to back you up, YOU SAY "YES" AND THANK THE UNIVERSE.

The second set went better than the first, and I even managed to sell a few chapbooks -- which, by the way, are still for sale. Both The Crossing of St. Frank AND Whitman Under Moonlight are in their second printing and can still be gotten for a measly $2 donation to the Travel Fund.

Holiday Plus 1

My planned trip down river for Sub Rosa coincided with a week long visit by The Kid, who will be a high school graduate/culinary school bound Mostly Grown Kid come June, and her boyfriend, Plus 1. My Dear Sweet Ma was excited about Christmas, and I was too. This past year was the first in many a year that the entire family had been in the same geographic location. Amanda spent Christmas with her family, and had to work for la machina duex hell the day after, but she was going to go back with me after the weekend and spend New Years with me and the Parsons Clan.

I was excited to see The Kid. Those of you who are non-custodial parents will understand that you take the time you can get. Those of you who are parents custodial or not will understand that as your kids grow up, the amount of time available decreases at a near exponential rate. She was initially amused at the notion that we were both showing off new Sig O's. I'm not sure if she thought that prospect would soften my reaction to Plus 1; but I do suspect that maybe Plus 1 assumed that if he made enough ingratiating comments about my beard that I would overlook his clear lack of guest etiquette.

He managed to work down to My Dear Sweet Ma's final nerve, rarely stirring from the couch except for food, to piss with the bathroom door open, or on the rare occasion that he was asked to actively participate in the goings on. He wore through my limited amount of goodwill by offending my mother, and embarrassing my daughter during a game of Extreme Balderdash with a sexually explicit definition that made me want to forget my promise to myself to try and do no harm and erase a 15 year record of NOT laying my hands on anyone with the intent to do violence by reaching over and snapping his neck.

I did no such thing. But he did reconfirm for me the simple truth that other than Harvey Pekar, nothing good ever comes out of Cleveland.

Those of you with near adult children will understand -- just because you can't tell the kid anything and that she will do what she wants to do regardless of your apprehensions, doesn't mean you don't wish you could spare them the grief. It also doesn't mean you love them any less.

Location:Cincinnati, OH

12 April, 2012

The Traveler's Tourist Plight, Virginia Beach, Intermezzo: The Norwegian Lady

Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful. - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

I won't leave you drifting down, but it makes me wild,
With thirty years upon my head to have you call me child. - The Grateful Dead, Ship of Fools

This respite, this visit back to Virginia, is an out of sequence slingshot back into territory I've been to recently. But given that I didn't get to spend much time with her when I was here before, and that My Dear Sweet Ma was going to drive out here anyway, and given that other than making sure I catch the right bus, I'm on my own time anyway

I decided, what the hell. 

And, I told myself, Virginia Beach isn't Norfolk.

More importantly, however, I wanted to spend a bit more time with The Kid before I spend some time out west. Now, this slingshot has been on the touristy side... trying to find things to do that keep us all entertained is more challenging than you might think. I'm an aficionado of dive bars, the Kid likes Kid-like stuff and fine food (she wants to be a chef) and My Dear Sweet Ma does what Dear Sweet Ma wants to do... whether it's pedaling a surrey up and down the boardwalk, mini-golfing like  Senior Tour Pro, or sitting around doing nothing. The good news is that I'm fairly reasonable as long as dancing isn't involved, and Stella will do most anything that's legal / moral / ethical to avoid being bored.

She's young. But she is my daughter. It's probably just a matter of time. Or she's become an accomplished liar. I'm opting for the former, since I've seen her try and lie. Let's just say she'll never be a professional gambler

Which is a good thing.

Among the usual touristy bric-a-brac around here to occupy people when the water's too cold and the clubs are too crowded, there are some random statues. One of them is The Norwegian Lady, located at 25th and Oceanfront. The statue stands, facing the ocean, fist held to mouth in mourning ... or defiance.

There's actually two of them... one here at Virginia Beach (pictured above with The Kid standing next to it) an one in Moss, Norway... in honor of the lives lost on Good Friday 1891, when the Norwegian ship Dictator sunk in Chesapeake Bay. The Captain was washed ashore, semi-conscious. His pregnant wife, their four year old son, and seven of the 15 crew members died. The statues were made after the Dictator's female figurehead. The plaque reads:

"I am the Norwegian Lady. I stand here, as my sister before me, to wish all men of the sea safe return home."

It's all very solemn, the statue, the thought behind it. Much of these little tragedies, often forgotten in the larger waves and breakers of history.

When people think about the latter years of the 19th century and sinking ships, they MAY think about the U.S.S Maine and The Spanish-American War. I add the small qualification because the Spanish-American War, it's causes -- the real ones --, as well as it's long term effects are rarely discussed except as a footnote in the myth of American Manifest Destiny.

That image of the waiting lady is one that haunts nautical cities. Another one is the Fisherman's Wives Memorial at Cape Ann in  Gloucester Maine.

There's a haunting romance to the image... that idea that mothers, wives, and daughters will wait on us to return. There's some inherent misogyny too... as if a woman's entire being will evaporate if the man she loves disappears. With respect to both the romantics and the feminists, though, the truth is probably closer to a little of both. What was it Hemingway said? The world breaks everybody?

Well, it does.

And To be fair, though, America didn't invent the trope of the waiting woman. Here's one in Vietnam, called Hòn Vọng Phu (Statue of Husband Waiting). No one knows exactly how the statue got there, but it was often used by locals to tell stories and teach moral lessons to their children.

The haunting romanticism, the lessons in endurance, the example of dedication, however, falls apart at some point. Life moves on. Daughters grow up. Wives learn to live in the absence of their beloved. Some of them get remarried. Mothers learn to let go of their children. Daughters grow up and leave. Sons sometimes don't come back.

And there are always reasons. And there are also good reasons.

When I had the chance to come back and visit Stella, even for a little bit, even though being a tourist drives me a little crazy, it was because I know she's not waiting. Time is moving forward and she's growing up and I'm getting older. A year from now she'll be preparing to graduate from high school. She's already thinking about her future.

For most of Stella's life, I've been haunted by a vision I had of the future when she was around 4 years old. Her mother was living in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. I was living in Lexington. At the time, I was seeing her one night a week and every other weekend... one of those standard divorce decree visitation schedules that screws the non-custodial parent out of real and meaningful time... as if the marriage not working out was somehow a mark against the whole of me instead of just against one role that I have apparently never played very well.

I picked her up, like I always did. We went to Burger King, where she was allowed to get as many ketchup cups as years she was old. The weather was nice that evening, so I took her to the of the parks, her favorite, near the hospital. There was a giant wooden jungle gym there that looked like a castle. She loved it. I had to park on the street, a little bit down from the jungle gym. I got her out of her car seat and set her down on the grass. There was a slight hill that ran down into the park, towards a merry-go-round... the kind that are difficult to find now because the safety fanatics decided they weren't safe.

The minute her feet hit the grass, she started running towards the merry-go-round, laughing. I was scared that she'd get her feet twisted and fall and started going after her. She made it down the hill and to the merry-go-round without falling, wanting me to hurry up so I could spin the merry-go-round for her.

She was still laughing.

Sometimes that image her at four years old flashes through my mind and I get a taste of that old fear... that she will run too fast and fall and that I won't be there in time to catch her. That she will run too fast and I will chase after and not be able to catch her.

But if life has taught me anything --  it's that parents always wait. Always. Whether it makes sense or not. Whether the kids know it or not. Whether it does any good or not. Waiting is the at the core of what defines parenthood. You start out waiting for them to be born. Then you wait for them to crawl, talk, walk. We mark off the inches they grow and we mark the mental checklist of things they need to learn. We wait. We wait for them to learn how to drive. Then we wait for them to come home. We wait to meet their boyfriends or girlfriends. We wait. And wait.

Then at some point, we may notice that we've been waiting so long that they're gone. And the only thing we can do is wait.

A Traveler's Tourist Plight: Virginia Beach, Day 3

The future belongs to crowds. --Don DeLillo

Youth doesn't need friends - it only needs crowds. -- 
Zelda Fitzgerald

So I woke up to what was, weather-wise, the most beautiful part of the day today: about a half hour just past sunrise. While yesterday's weather was sunny and warmish, but windy, a cooler weather system blew in over night... making today, according to my daughter, a "hoodie day."

My Dear Sweet Ma just said it was cold.  To be fair, though, anything under 70 degrees is cooler than she'd like the temperature to be.

After all of us were awake, we went out to breakfast and discussed our plans for the day. We were close to both the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. The Kid expressed a lack of interest in Contemporary Art, and said that she hadn't been to the Aquarium in long time. And so we decided on the Aquarium.

Aquariums and zoos have long struck me as odd. In the best of of them, you go and see critters in unnatural environments meant to enhance the experience of the humans poking fingers into the cages rather than improve the life of the fish and animals -- some of which were captured, some of which were born in captivity. In the worst of them, it's a dominionist's dream, designed to show the pre-ordained ascendancy of Mankind above all other critters. That most zoos and aquariums have embraced a more educational identity -- or that some try and save endangered species -- doesn't change the fact that it's always very clear which monkey is on the inside of the of the cage and which is on the outside.

Getting there took some doing. Even though between us we had three different GPS driven directional devices, a far more gravitational power held sway. Two people (My Dear Sweet Ma and me) who

  1. Suffer from a tragic lack of any sense of direction, and
  2. Don't really know their way around to begin with
can counteract the best GPS in the world by a degree of 1000 to the 10th power. It's as sure as a drought in the desert. As predictable as Tiger Woods nailing a bombshell blonde. As real as the fact that the city of Norfolk, Virginia was originally built on a swamp that itself must have been cursed. (Sorry. Curse-ed.)

We used the map function on my phone to find directions. It seemed easy enough. The directions took us back onto I-264, which I figured was just a way to circumvent stoplight traffic on Virginia Beach Blvd. Not to mention the fact that Virginia Beach Blvd is a long and windy street, much like Vine Street in Cincinnati. It made sense. And we had unshakable geographical certainties on our side. The Atlantic was to the east. We couldn't go too far without driving into the ocean. At some point if we drove to far west, we'd have to go through a tunnel and drive into Norfolk. 

That and turn by turn directions should have been enough; which means, of course they weren't.

We ended up doing a big circle and coming back around to the hotel... at which point we decided to go back upstairs and figure out just where in the hell we were going... during which time the Kid decided to take a nap.

Later, when we finally made ti to the aquarium -- it was only 2 MILES away from the hotel -- it became obvious very quickly that we were not the only ones to think of going to there. Vultures* were preying on potentially soon to be empty parking spots. There was a line just to get in. And once inside, there was an even longer line to get to one of the 5 or 6 overworked and over-stressed Admissions workers. There were people everywhere.

Once we had our tickets, though, we decided to go through and see the exhibits. And I was still reasonable optimistic. Maybe I'd get to see some cool fish.

All I managed to see was the Exhibit of People. It was beyond capacity crowded, mostly with people troweling in groups, mostly with small children, at least half of whom had no interest in anything at the Aquarium. But people stood in front of the displays and tanks, pointing and snapping pictures -- of the critter(s) in question and making the kids sit, stand, or kneel in front of the display or tank to take the prerequisite family vacation photo that will be posted on Facebook to prove to everyone that a good time really was had by all. 

I don't like crowds. I do like people watching... but that's not the same thing. Crowds make it hard for me to breathe and to move. I come by this honestly. My Dear Sweet Ma is exactly the same way... and while my daughter isn't really that way -- she generally can find better things to than have to listen to the inevitably present cadre of crying babies.

It was all we could do to get through the crowd and back out again. I still couldn't tell you anything I saw because I didn't really see anything. Once out, we had to go wait in line for an IMAX movie... which, had we seen it, would have been as close to anything fish related I had seen that didn't include my previous night's dinner. But it became abundantly clear very quickly that none of the three of us had any interest in waiting in another crowded line.

So we left and drove straight for Murphy's Irish Pub -- a not too bad looking place, though priced for the tourist trade. They did have Guinness on tap, though. And Maker's Mark on the shelf.

The day became instantly much improved.

*vultures: those drivers in crowded parking lots that sit and wait for you to pull out of a spot rather than driving around and seeing if there's one not being used. These are the same sort of people who go to funerals in order to make sure the guest of honor is dead and not simply trying to get out of paying taxes.

10 April, 2012

A Traveler's Tourist Plight: Virginia Beach, Day 2

I've got a bike 
You can ride it if you like 
It's got a basket 
A bell that rings 
And things to make it look good 
I'd give it to you if I could 
But I borrowed it 
                               -Pink Floyd

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry 
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

                             - Rodgers and Hammerstein 

The day ended on the early side with a wonderful meal and an awesome cocktail -- the one I was denied last night. 

In order to get there, however, one of the things I did first was to ride up and down the boardwalk in a surrey.

Unlike the surrey in the song lyrics above, (from a horrible musical by the bane of my past theater existence, Rodgers and Hammerstein... don't get me started, but my ire is rooted in an extreme over-exposure to The Sound of Music. Those bastards could kill happiness. I think they probably did... with saccharine sweetness, too.) THIS surrey was not pulled by horses, white or any other color.  It was essentially a four-seated bicycle.

Theoretically, each passenger pedals. The two riders in front steer, and -- because it's an American surrey -- the left-side steering wheel has the brake. 

Now, I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time. At least, that was what my dear sweet Ma said on Monday evening when we were walking back from dinner at the curse-ed seafood buffet where the carnival float drink from yesterday's post came from. She saw some other tourists pedal by on the boardwalk... and that was that. She even found a coupon that would give us the SECOND HOUR FREE if we payed for the first hour.

On a break: My Dear Sweet Ma and the Demon Contraption

I was able to drop to sleep last night around 1:30 or 2, and I woke up this morning about 8:30. By the time I futzed around with the coffee pot, took a shower, and got dressed, Mom and Stella were well past ready for breakfast.

We wandered off the boardwalk for breakfast, and when we got back, decided to go a-riding to work off the meal we'd just eaten. Several of the hotels rent bicycles and surreys. Ours isn't one of them. But we found one close, walked down, rented the contraption -- for only an hour, which we would later be grateful for. 

The boardwalk is wide and flat and covers a lot of territory. The problem was, according to the signage... and the signage was prominent -- we weren't supposed to take the hobby horse onto the boardwalk. We were, instead, restricted to the bike path that runs parallel to the boardwalk. And unlike the boardwalk, the bike path is NOT wide and flat. It is windy and narrow, with slight curves and even slighter hills that you don't really notice until you're one of three people pedaling a four person surrey.

You also don't notice that just because it's just like riding a bike that riding a bike requires a certain level of physical fitness. The kid, who participates in some competitive cheer-leading thing, and who actually still has leg muscles, decided to wear a skirt... which limited her movement. Mom is a retired school teacher with an occasionally hinky lower back, but to her credit won't let it slow her down too much.

And then there's me. The out of shape pudgy Irish-German Mug. But I'm still smiling through my pain.

Neptune, God of the Sea. And  a turtle.

No, really. I am.

Actually, it wasn't painful, and against my best inclinations, I had fun.

This trip back out to visit Stella is a great end to a nice break before I go back out on the road.  The meal I ate tonight is one I'll be able to think about for the next few months... especially during those times when a solid meal may be itself a distant dream. 

While I'm not entirely comfortable with being a tourist -- because that's more or less what I am at the moment -- I would be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying the respite. The ocean sound is soothing, even with the sounds of the kids on Spring break discovering the wonder of words like areola.

That's right. Walking up and down the beach chanting "Areola!" like a protest of mass virgins.

And where are the parents?  Probably touring around on surreys.

08 April, 2012

Porkopolis Outbound: East By West Slingshot

Drink wine, my darling, and stop chattering. - The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If you don't like my peaches
Don't you shake my tree.  -- Sitting on Top of the World, Doc Watson

Morning will come early in suburbia. Mi Madre and I  are loading up and heading east on Ohio State  Route 32, winding through Eastern Ohio to the West Virginia border. Somewhere around Charleston, we'll pick up I-64, which will take us all most of the way through Virginia and back to Norfolk... still top of my list as the single most unpleasant, unfriendly and curse-ed place I have ever been to.

The sheer shittiness of Norfolk is salvaged by the presence my one and only lovely daughter, Stella.

Not my old car. This actually looks much nicer.
Add to that the fact that we won't be staying IN Norfolk proper. Rather, we'll be staying at Virginia Beach... a place I have positive memories of. The last time I was in Virginia beach was the summer of 2001, when I spent a month or so camping around Chesapeake Bay and visiting the kid.

I drove there in my primer orange Subaru. It leaked oil and almost overheated driving through West Virginia. The two back quarter panels were in the process of rusting off. The exhaust pope and muffler were gone and it sounded like a tank. There was no radio. The back two doors were fused shut and one of the back windows was permanently rolled down. The heat didn't work unless I kicked the blower motor, and sometimes I had to hit the alternator with a hammer in order to get it to start. I loved that car. I loved camping along the south side of Chesapeake Bay. I loved that Stella got to camp with me on the weekends and that I got to see her most everyday when I was there.

This trip will be nice because the kid's on Spring Break, and will actually have time to hang out. The only real downer about this trip is that I will, once again, not be able to meet The Boyfriend. This, I must admit, I'm really quite disappointed about. Because although I am the genitor and pater primo, I don't get to meet the boyfriends.... since I am the non-parentis pater, she doesn't live with me and hasn't since her mother and I split up. This means I don't get to meet (scare) the boyfriends -- which, as far as I'm concerned, is a parental right.

Unless, of course, we extend out stay there by a day... and then... and then... maybe... I might get to meet some kid who I know, without even meeting, isn't anywhere near good enough.

Hey... at least I'm honest about it.

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07 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness, Intermezzo: Regarding The Peripatetic Peregrination

The problem with traveling is that it's addictive. At least it is for me. My time back in Mount Carroll is nice, and it's good to see friends. But the itch has kicked into hyper-drive. Again. The full body sensation is a disconcerting experience I liken to an asthma attack. 

(And yes, I know of what I speak. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 5 and dealt with it until I was 18, when I finally outgrew it.)

One of the things I realized on this last 6 weeks out is that I am my most content when I'm mobile. Please note, I did not use the term happy. There's a  large gulf of difference between happiness and contentedness.The former is a term describing a temporary state of being based on short term emotions and the release of certain chemicals in the brain -- which can be physiological or imbibed, snorted, or injected. The latter describes a deeper, more fundamental state of being that remains after the chemical/hormonal rush of happiness fades. (And it always fades.)

And while I'm still getting things lined up, planned, and taken care of, some evidence of future forward momentum has occurred...

which, while it doesn't completely still the itch, does help. Enormously.

For one thing, my new rucksack arrived today. 

Easier to carry, and will hold a bit more. BOO-YAH! And yes. It's blue. Deal with it.

For another, I've made part of my travel plans... which, as of yet, do not include me breaking the Mississippi River Barrier. 

First things first: I'm working on getting my stuff out of the house on Pumpkin Hill and down to Cincinnati. This way, all of my books can be in the same place for the first time in 7 years. 

After that, I've decided to take a road trip  (driving) with my dear sweet Ma back to Virginia to visit my singular progeny and bona filia, Stella. This time, the busy child will be on Spring Break. This time, too, dear sweet Ma is springing for better accommodations in Virginia Beach... which is on the more attractive side of Chesapeake Bay. 

Once mi Madre is back, ensconced safe and sound in the Queen City, I will be heading down to Kentucky for a promised return visit to Willow Drive and my friends, George and Laura. 

And after that, I'm planning a short trip through Louisville to visit college chum Amanda -- where I'll meet her hubby, enjoy her amazing culinary skills, maybe take in a horse race or two, and fine tune my plan to break through on the Great Mississippi River Barrier and head on into the Western Lands.

(Thanks to Amanda Connor (nee Hay) for her gracious donation to the travel fund.)

[Thanks for reading... I'll be hitting the road again soon... VERY soon. Not soon enough for some, I'm sure... likely those here who saw my leaving as some grand sign of things to come... like blind local media and a return to the usual graft and nepotism that makes county politics here so great.

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11 February, 2012

An Ohio Valley Yankee in Virginia, Part 5: Don't Need a Weatherman

"A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves." -- Marcel Proust 

"Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get." - Mark Twain

"Even a paranoid can have enemies." - Henry Kissinger

As promised, the weather update.

You might recall, Dear Dedicated Readers, that I once posited that the weather is chasing me around the the Eastern half of the United States. Specific examples:

  1. The day I left Mount Carroll, it was to get ahead of a snow storm. By the time I left Chicago, it was snowing there.
  2. The day I left Cincinnati, it rained.
  3. The day I left Lexington, it was cold and the wind was strong enough to carry away Dorothy (And her little DOG, too!)
  4. The day I left Willow Drive, it rained.
  5. The day I left Ashland, it started snowing. (Yes, it stopped. But the weather was there... taunting me.)

But, to be fair, even I was skeptical. Yes. If there's one thing I've learned it's that you never trust a single event to explain the larger machinations of the universe.

And you don't trust the second.

Or the third.

Or the fourth.

Or EVEN the fifth.

But the sixth time that a similar weather pattern happens to show up within a day of my departure?

Well, then, Dear Friends and Valued Readers, I have no choice but to sit up and take notice.

It's snowing. I realize it's February and that snow isn't exactly completely UNHEARD of... even here on the  Virginia coast. But I'd also like to point out that the winter has had a late start. I'd also like to point out that even when I was down by the Ocean View Shopping Center spending a few more hours with my daughter, even she remarked how odd it was that the grass was still green.

So there.

The storm began and a loud clap of thunder, then a heavy rain that turned into snowy rain. The thunder cloud must have been right over head because it shook the room. And I'm on the first floor of a two floor building. 

I'm off to Washington D.C. tomorrow morning, back on the tried and true Greyhound Bus. My bus leaves at 8:16 in the morning. Yes. Had I thought it out better, I might have given myself some time to sleep in, since check out isn't until 11. My original thought was that I'd get up, check out, and walk across the street to the very conveniently placed Hampton Road Transit Bus Stop

Not the bus stop. Actually, I think this is a new sign, even. 
But when I went to the fairly easy to use HRT website, I found there was NO BUS SERVICE this far out on W. Ocean View Avenue on Sundays. 

That's right.

No bus service. This is one more thing to go down on my List of Things I Hate About Norfolk.

Ok. So I don't have a list. Not an official one. But I have stated, I think quite clearly, that the only reason I would ever come here is to visit my daughter, Stella.

She's older than this now... or a really short 17 year old. And I still miss that jacket sometimes.
No bus service means that I have to spring for a cab early in the AM to get to the bus on time. So, on top of how USER UNFRIENDLY this town is -- unless you have a car, or are rich, or are in the military -- I have to include that visiting here has cost me more money than I planned and that as a result of that my stay is far shorter than I wanted it to be. So thanks, ugly, gray, unfriendly, illogical, sterile, and ignorant (all proof that the DOD clearly had a hand in city planning) Norfolk. Thanks for picking my pocket, shortening my stay, and generally making it more difficult to get around a city on an isolated peninsula that requires two underwater tunnels just to get to it.

(I haven't mentioned how ILLOGICAL it is here? Well, allow me to illuminate. The cheap ass motel I'm currently sitting in as I type this post is on W Ocean View Avenue. But when you're on the street, the view of the ocean is BLOCKED by houses, apartments, and condos... except at Ocean View Park. And there's nothing there except a random structure meant to look like a large Japanese shrine. According to Stella, people sometimes rent it for weddings. She thinks it's stupid to spend so much money on such a boring place to get married.

Ye Gods, I love that daughter of mine.)

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10 February, 2012

An Ohio Valley Yankee in Virginia, Part 4: Of Mice, Of Men, and the Etiquette of Cheap Motels

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. -- Joseph Campbell 

My only key... to a lock I don't have.
I'm writing this post from a cheap motel on the north side of the city. This motel has rooms that face Chesapeake Bay; mine is not one of those. My room faces the street, W Ocean View Avenue. There are no peaceful sounds of waves, though I have gone out on the beach to look at the water and think. Time and memories collapse the way waves crash into the break and pull back; I can here to see my daughter, my only child, blood of my blood. I came here, hoping to learn how to let go.

Against my better judgement, but in favor of trying to retain some bit of dignity in front of my daughter, I decided to find a cheap motel somewhere near her. In order to do that, I needed to find someplace to do some research; which meant, I needed a tour guide.

Luckily, Stella was able to give me bus instructions from where I was on the south east side of town to the northern suburbs near Ocean View Park. I went back over to the place where the bus had deposited me, at the intersection of Monticello and VA Beach Blvd, and crossed the big parking lot to the bus hub. I made my way through the crowd of mugs and thugs and thug wanna bes to the #1 bus, which would take me down Monticello, to Grandby, to Ocean View. Some of the landmarks looked familiar from the last time I was here. But the landscape is a different place when you're driving in a rented car and when you're riding a metro bus.

(It made me think about the last time I was here, with Melissa. We found the cheapest flights we could from Arizona -- which meant three different transfers. We missed the last one and had to take a later flight. We rented a car at the airport, found a cheap motel -- another Super 8 in another part of town -- and were able to spend a few days. On the way home, we weren't able to sit together on the longest leg of the flight, and Melissa cried because she was afraid the plane would crash and we would die not being together. That time seems so far away now. Another life.)

Riding by, I saw my daughter's middle school, so I knew we were close to her mother's house, where she lives. Then the bus rolled by her high school. Eventually, the bus got to the bus stop near the Ocean View Shopping Mall, and Stella was there waiting for me.

It was good seeing her; it had been two years since her last visit. That had been Melissa and mine's first summer in Mount Carroll. Stella normally visited us for at least month, sometimes six weeks; but that time, she could only stay for 2 weeks. 

We walked around a bit. She showed me Ocean View Park, and we talked. Updates. School. Grades. Her plans for the future... which by the way, are good ones. Boyfriend.

(Who, I might add, I haven't met. Yet. She did stop by tonight, on her way to a school dance and endured a a few pictures that I have since posted on Facebook. Her mother was kind enough to drive her over first, along with a few of the friends. Her mother looked mildly horrified and nervous about being in this part of town. The friends looks mildly bemused, having only heard about me in the 3rd person.I know I make an AMAZING first impression."Hey Gang. This is my Dad, the homeless writer. Don't stare too long.")

Then she showed me the public library, which had free WiFi, and I did a little research. The nearest motel that seemed almost within my price range was the Super 8 I'm currently staying in. Then we went to dinner; I sprung for KFC. This KFC, like a lot of them now, is combined with a Taco Bell. Whenever I'm in one... which isn't often... I wonder what ol' Colonel Sanders would think about that.

(If you're not familiar with the history of KFC, Col. Sanders, and Corbin, Kentucky... there' a rich history that includes both KFC and the KKK. But they do serve liquor by the drink now. And I think there's one or two blacks... which is as close to integration as it may ever get.)

Stella stayed home from school yesterday, but she was feeling better and planned on going to school today... because

  1. She's bored at sitting home; and
  2. There's a dance tonight she wanted to go to.
We parted after dinner so she could walk home before it got dark. And started hoofing the 1.7 miles up Ocean View to the Super 8. It was a long 1.7 miles, partly because I was tired and partly because my bag can get a little heavy. But I finally got there, checked in for the night, took a shower and tried to relax. My feet were killing me... the Achilles Tendon on my left ankle was throbbing like nobody's business. 

(That I have lousy feet is a matter of record. And that I refuse to stop walking simply because they hurt is a matter of stubborn pride. I like to walk, pain or no pain. And believe it or not, bourbon works just fine as a pain killer... though I am woefully short of even cheap rye.)

I find myself here a lot... not the Super 8 on W Ocean View, but in a cheap motel, running short of cash and options. I paid for another night, and bought my Greyhound bus ticket for D.C., leaving from the station -- on the complete opposite side of town, near where I was dropped off -- and I've got some finagling to do between now and Sunday morning. I may go ahead and blow what I have left to stay one more night -- which will give me more time with Stella tomorrow. I've got D.C. lined up, and New York after that... at which point, I'll swing back through the Midwest... as soon as I can, at any rate.

The funny part of this whole thing ... this whole trip that has no foreseeable end except for what finances allow... is that other than writing, this is the other thing I've done that ever made any sense to me. I don't object to cheap motels. I make fun of them. I make fun of the door with the broken safety bar that was clearly pried open. (I'd guess a squatter or a drug bust.) I like making fun of the television that can't be turned off and the heater that sounds like the engine of B-52.

And the truth is, the reason doesn't bother me is because I don't need much. I need a place to write. I need a place to sleep. I consider myself lucky to have friends who accept and love me in spite of my numerous short comings -- one of them being the fact that the only time I've ever really at peace in the world is when I choose to live outside of the prescriptive rules it sets.

That, in large part, is what inspired this blog to begin with... the idea that I can do what I need to do and make my way in the world without doing what other people want me to do. This isn't the first time I've sacrificed a life for my writing -- which, if I'm being honest, is a large part of what happened to my marriage. At least on my side. No one person can destroy a marriage; the only advantage of a decade long relationship ending/changing is that I get to carry my own baggage and no one else's. I don't envy Melissa hers.  But in order for me to process this whole thing -- this entire past 10 years that, when I reflect, was more good than bad -- I have to deal with my own baggage. 

I have to embrace the fact that my writing, and the ability to pick up and go are not mutually exclusive. I'm not saying it's necessary for everyone; I'm just talking about me. At some point, I'll probably find someplace to stay for a while... but in the end, I'll probably end up leaving that, too. 

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
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Thanks for reading.]