31 May 2008

My Charles Mingus

"There go the critics, blinkin' eyes, clappin' hands, tryin' to act like they was listening. And get Bird playing as he walks off! Shuffle off to Buffalo! Ha ha! Ho ho!"

-Charles Mingus (from Beneath The Underdog)

30 May 2008

Yucca Facts

I give you...four facts about yucca!

(1) Yucca us frequently used in parking lots where intense heat and light prohibits many other plants from growing. So look for yucca on your next excursion to Big Lots!

(2) The sword-shaped, pointed tip of the long rigid leaves can be very sharp. By being planted under windows, yucca has been classically used in the South as a means of discouraging thieves and trespassers in general. If you tangle with it, yucca will ruin your life and destroy your prized possessions.

(3) A popular accent plant, Yucca is best suited to hot, dry environs, such as Hell. Or Georgia in the summer.

(4) Its candelabra of blossoms is showy but delicate, a shimmer of plush hulls that undulates in the breeze.

Aaaagh!

This is Cuneiform Indus-Arabic graffiti, on the world's oldest extant boxcar. I'm pretty sure Woody Guthrie once lived in this boxcar. And who knows? Maybe these are his Okie shorthand scrawlings, rosetta stones to song lyrics still tucked away in a basement somewhere. As I type this, a fly is haunting me. It seems especially interested in my right ear. Aaaagh!

29 May 2008

Picking Kale



Today at work I picked kale. I also weeded six long rows of watermelons and did some mulching. If you want to know how to handle kale at a small organic farm, I'll tell you:

(1) First, you simply pick the kale and put it in a bushel basket.

(2) Once you've picked enough kale, you place it in the old, ceramic bathtub and let any dirt rinse off.

(3) You remove the kale and let it dry in the shade.

(4) Finally, simply put the kale in bags for sale at market.

(5) That is all!

In other news, I shaved my beard off last night. So now I basically look like I'm twelve. Just imagine that you looked like you were twelve, but had the mind of a thirty-four year old man. Well that's me right now. I could totally narc on the whole world right now. But I won't. Because I'm cool, man. I'm cool.

28 May 2008

One Minute Michelle



When I was a freshman in high school, my p.e. class was in an annex about a half mile down the road (it was actually the old YMCA). For p.e., we all had to pile onto a bus for the one-minute drive to the Y. Despite the fact that it was only a one-minute drive, all the usual hydraulics and dynamics of teen life nonetheless transpired on that bus, which, in a way, was a microcosm of this savage, beautiful world.

Because I was the littlest freshmen in a sea of students, I was sometimes the first to get picked on, so I dreaded any social situation where I might come in contact with an upperclassman who had something to prove about the rigid caste system of top-doggery. The p.e. bus ride was fraught with these kind of upperclassmen. There was a ray of hope, though. Her name was Michelle.

Michelle was a junior and, for some reason, she was always cool to me. She seemed to actually like me (as opposed to pity), which was a little confusing because i thought she was really pretty and smart. She was also the only New Wave person that existed in the tri-county area. How Michelle managed to be New Wave in rural-industrial Georgia is the world's last secret mystery. It will never be solved.

She had piercings, wore ripped jeans and strangely sewn shirts, and had a sculpted coiff that looked, to me, like it was flown in from Paris every morning. I recognized her as too cool for Manchester High School, but nobody else seemed to. People seemed to like her, but she never palled around with anybody in particular. I guess you could say that she was somewhat of a loner. She also skipped class a lot. I remember that, because whenever she skipped p.e. (probably to get high with the shop-class kids), my day had a New Wave Michelle-shaped hole in it.

On days when Michelle did go to p.e., though, she'd always appear like an angel and come sit by me on the chemical-green bench seat. We'd sit and talk and all the upperclassmen that usually gave me shit would just sort of stare, trying to make sense out of us. It was a magical minute of a bus ride. Michelle was moron repellent, but she was also a lot more. She was a good person. One day, though, she stopped coming to school altogether. I later learned that she transferred to another school. I also heard that her parents had divorced and she went to live with her mom, over in the next county. I started to hate p.e. even more than I already did.

A few years later, when I was a senior, me and a handful of other "skaters" were at a house party in Greenville, Georgia. All the debutantes were drunk and football jocks were shaving off the eyebrows of the mere mortals who had passed out in the front lawn. It was late, AC/DC was blasting from huge speakers, and one had the sense that police involvement was imminent. I walked across the highway to get away from the madness, and also to use the payphone at the Giant Mart, when I saw Michelle. She was coming out of the Giant Mart with two or three other people. They were locking up for the night.

"Michelle?"

"Jonathan?"

We had an awkward conversation, during which she asked me if I had gone to the party across the street. I told her that, yeah, I had. "You don't want to go over there, though. It's a bad scene." I felt self-conscious. It occurred to me that, if you compiled all the minutes of all those bus rides together, Michelle & I had only known one another for about an hour and a half. The lights on the Giant Mart sign flickered off. After about sixty seconds, some guy in an IROC-Z pulled up.

"This is my ride," Michelle said.

I haven't seen Michelle since. For some reason, she only inhabited my life in minute-long intervals, like measured teaspoons. Like somebody somewhere had a tiny hourglass, keeping rural-industrial Georgia on an unlikely, brisk schedule. I do not know how this world works, nor do I understand time. It seems full of holes. I'm pretty sure Michelle actually existed, though. And she was cool.

27 May 2008

Three of Ella



Behold Eleanor. She has eleven months under her little belt. She is taking a bath, chilling out, and offering you a flower. She's the bomb diggy dang a dang a dang diggy.

The Bi-Centennial Post

This is the tractor we use on the farm. I say "we," though I've never driven it and probably won't be driving it any time soon. I like tractors. Not as much as trains, but they certainly have their own special merits, the greatest of which, I'd say, is versatility.

On my best days I'm at least as versatile as a tractor. This is my 200th blog, by the way. Wait, what was I saying?

I just got back from the A-T-L, where I once again dropped off Janelle & Eleanor at the airport. I'll be seeing them again this weekend, when they return from St. Augustine. While I was in Atlanta, I took the opportunity to drive to a coffee shop and do a little aimless wandering, followed by some light stream of consciousness journaling:

What a disgrace Little Five Points has become, worse than most malls. This is punk's Southern deathbed. Nothing happening but name brands & upscale resale stores. A Capella Books, Criminal Records, & Sevananda still exist, but for who? Even the old school on Euclid has been remodeled into luxury urban lofts, full of NO TRESPASSING NO LOITERING NO LITTERING signs. In its own way, though, Inman Park is heaven. Especially on a radiant morning like this one. Octagon-tiled sidewalks, shade of magnolia, & opulent homes I can't even afford to rightly look at. Antebellum, Victorian, the Unclassifiable Anciently Vacant But Newly Remodeled With Care By A Master Carpenter. They all gleam quietly behind hedges of musky boxwood. Walking around this neighborhood, I hear the gentle, collective trill of fountains in the unseen backyards, sculpted and lush. It lulls me. In this quiet trance, I touch the po' white Southerner's dream, which is that one day I'll be Elvis enough to live in one a them fancy Virgina Highland homes. As I continue, jet pilots & web designers pull up and parallel-park their Escalades and Mini-Coops, get out, and start tapping keypads to unlock electric security gates. As I pass on foot, I glance over and see tangles of honeysuckle building their fortress on Grecian urns of various types and shapes. The wandering pheromones of a tea olive temporarily blinds me. I can't see her but she's out here. Gaia's perfume. She wants me. I want her back. Oh, holy mama. Inman girds Little Five Points, though, which is some kind of shore for Atlanta's social detritus. Lost boys and girls. Derelicts and hard-luck orphans, some of whom land here hoping to get high, kicks, spange the yuppies and suburban high school kids on holiday, spend that on meth, et al, and maybe eat a slice or so every couple of days to maintain a human thread to this plane of existence. And so you see little signs of malfeasance like the empty bottles of Robitussin I spy underneath a truly majestic beech tree, which lives in the Edenesque front yard of a homestead that rivals Anne Rice's New Orleans digs. "Somebody tripped under this tree last night," I reckon, at the same time that I discover an empty Trojan's wrapper in the mondo grass. A slight, nervous-looking older man walks past me and gives me the ol' homosexual eye. "Good morning," I say to him, all hetero- and square. He doesn't respond. He walks up the driveway of the Robitussin house and notices the trash. He starts picking it up and my heart breaks... "Suppose I got rich all of a sudden, somehow. How would the money change me?" I wonder this as I head to the coffee shop. It's a funny question, so I laugh at it and shake my head, which earns me the attention of a middle-aged woman on her front porch, watering a fern with a plastic bucket. "Good morning," I holler up at her, in a boisterous, rural way. No answer. What am I doing out here, anyway? ...at the coffee shop, the baristas are playing the Beach Boys, which means that I can't stay here, for I am allergic to the neutered twang of jangling guitars, affected harmonies, and school, girl, and car lyrics that mark their offensive sound. Neither Brian Wilson's crazee theramin nor Chuck Berry's stolen intros can impart anything worthy to this awful mess. It really couldn't get any weirder than the Beach Boys. They are an anti-septic nightmare, a chemical agent. "Be True To Your School" is devil worship, plain and simple. The fact that nearly every one of the original Beach Boys has morphed into a new member and that they nonetheless still tour and sell out arenas proves that they are nothing but a horrific hologram of some kind. I make my egress with the quickness, while they croon "Surfer Girl," like a watch winding down to their own psychological annihilation. (How could a man in his sixties want to sing these lyrics?) The Beach Boys - they are eternal, but why? I'm back out in the sunlight now, where I need to be. It's a beautiful day. My gals are somewhere up in the sky...

26 May 2008

New Job



My morning drive to work is probably the world's most beautiful commute. I drive my dad's Cadillac along a fifteen-mile stretch of curved road - the illustrious "Neal Wickham Parkway," which meanders along the spine of Pine Mountain, one of the many ancient, wooded foothills of Appalachia.

This time of year, the woodlands are thick with new growth, so the highway is a chlorophyll tunnel. Every now and then, there's a break in the dense jungle Georgia growth that allows a view of four or five counties worth of sprawling, rolling land. It's all rural woodlands and pastures and highways and homes, as far as the eye can see, right up to where the land meets the sky.

The Caddie is a svelt shark that never jolts, bucks, or bolts. It's about a smooth as a pat of butter on a piece o' pone. I thread it across the mountain, one-handed, with my coffee in my other paw, gliding like a diamondback on a mission from God at fifty-five mph. By the time I've made it out to the organic farm I work on, she's done gone & guzzled about three and a half gallons of that good Gulf gas, so my first hour or so of work is basically just to pay for my morning ride. It's worth it, though. Bob's right about the Caddie. It's a good car to drive after a war. And it makes you feel like a million bucks.

25 May 2008

Vic

"Dice" rolls out and "Tars" rolls in. Yesterday, at the Salvation Army, the guy who cut my hair when I was a boy, "Vic," was spewing hate speech about Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, and just about anybody else who didn't look like him. The cashier, a white woman who always seemed nice enough, was agreeing with him. "I'm never coming to this Starvation Army again," I said to myself, and walked out the door. On the drive home, I had fantasies about all the cool, intense things I could have said to them. But words fail me in the heat of intensity. I guess I'm at my best about a half hour after any kind of confrontation...

When I was younger and fairly vitriolic about my own beliefs, I coulda sparred pretty well with them and taken them down a few notches, ultimately achieving not much at all besides a little bloodletting. But something weird happens whenever I get that involved in attempting to change people, which is that I notice my ego getting puffed-up and righteous in these really covert ways that end up doing damage to myself and others on down the line...There's gotta be a middle ground, though, that would allow me to protect the right ideals, but not get into it for the ego puffery and righteousness of it all. I guess finding that middle ground is what I'm working at these days. My art has something to do with it...

It's hard, though, to stick up for an ideal, yet remain egoless about it. Because of the mysterious forces governing projection and duality, it's easy to become as combative and bloodthirsty as yr worst enemy in the blink of an eye. And then there you are. You & yr enemy are convinced you both have God on yr side. You're both convinced the other person is wrong and just shy of pure evil. You've both furthered your own argument about how this world is plummeting into chaos. Nothing changes. Nothing shifts. Egos inflate. Damage is done. How many people have I met in my life who thought that their ideals were more important than being kind and respectful to actual human beings? A few.

Sometimes, you dig, I have been that person, and I regret it. I don't want to be that person. But the fact is, none of us get to choose who we are. We are who we are. We can change our behaviors, but we gotta watch out, lest we become actors playing roles instead of congruent people living life. And me - I feel like I have more than my share of contradictions. In a world of lines in the sand and words carved in stone, sometimes I just get a headache from all the worn-out, obvious arguments. I mean, can we move the discussion forward a little bit?

24 May 2008

Dice

"Dice" rolled into town a few days ago on a Chessie freighter. I was on my way to work when I saw it. Snake eyes!

23 May 2008

Dose


Janelle & me watching the tracks empty out at the end of a long day...

Yesterday, while I picked sweet peas I blasted Saved, Dylan's most strange, Christian, evangelical album To give you an idea of what this album is all about, here are the liner notes: "Jeremiah Chapter 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." Riiiiiiight...

"I'm gonna give Saved another shot at the title," I told myself, slipping on the ol' headphones. I got as far as track #8 ("Saving Grace") and had to hang it up. Luckily, I was able to find some Lee Perry and make things right again.

As I picked endless peas with my co-worker (a fortysomething man named "Big Head), a blazing sun ball rose in the sky. Occasionally I ate a pea pod and pretended it was a pill that would inoculate my body against heat, sunburn, and skin cancer. The peas piled up in my stomach, and I fantasized that, as they dropped down into my belly, they formed a small pyramid that radiated harmony for the world. As I moved down an endless row of peas, I tried not to trip and make the pyramid fall. This is how I spent my morning. Saved and pea fantasies.

"Big Head, you like peas, man?"
"My wife cook it, I'll eat it. But naw mayne I don't like 'em. I gotta have some meat on my plate."
"I heard that."
"You like 'em?"
"Not really...They alright, I guess."
"Yeah. They alright."

Thus began a conversation between Big Head and me that lasted about twenty minutes, until the dinner (lunch) bell rang and we crossed the field slowly, to eat brown rice, kale, chard with onions n' garlic, and squash. Big Head, who actually hates vegetables, found a piece of bologna to fry and he ate that between two pieces of bread.

My new job is like the right kind of medicine in just the right dose.

20 May 2008

The Bob & The Caddie



Paul is my good friend, and Eleanor's godfather. Of all the people I know, Paul has the strongest affinity for Bob Dylan. He's got really good taste, Paul, and he's consistent with his good taste...which means that he and I will sometimes totally disagree over something you'd think we'd totally agree on. I like it when this happens. It gives me hope that I can stand on equal footing and genuinely like people unlike me. Paul and I once traveled in Puerto Rico together. We've been trying to make it happen again lately, to no avail. (Some day, tho'...) He & I dissected Bob's new Escalade commercial last week, IM-style, arriving nowhere in particular:

Paul: did you see his Cadillac commercial? You can youtube it. all things considered,
it's pretty awesome.

me: Holy cats! The Bob is selling SUV's now. That's rock n'roll...???

Paul: if you really think about it, you will see that bob dylan selling suv cadillacs is about a rock n roll as it gets.

me: I hate Escalades.Give me an old shark Caddie any day of the week. If Bob was selling old caddies, that wd be cool...

Paul: Escalades are just a metaphor for shark caddies in dylan's world. Like in that one song...

me: Oh. Well then I agree that Bob is once again rock n' roll.

Paul: there's a lot of cool dylan shit on youtube. i've never really looked at him on this site.

me: there's a nice one of him and Johnny Cash coked up howling about 'Stackolee' or some shit at a piano. the anti-harmony of dylan n' cash. Janelle just said, "Bob totally sold out. I don't like him anymore. That sucks." (and i quote.)

Paul: She needs to think about it for a bit.

me: She can't man, she's in the zone. she's deeply injured by his caddie commercial.

Paul: bob dylan is not mick jagger, and that's where one can see that it's cool that he did the suv commercial.

me: what do you mean?

Paul: his whole schtick is about flipping the acolyte on their ear.

me: what's an acolyte?

Paul: disciple

me: a follower. cool. Yeah, but there's infinitely cooler ways of doing that than selling bovine-mobiles. Sell a shark, not a bovine. Sharks not cows.

Paul: to be honest, i think for anyone else, that may be true. but not for dylan. that's about the coolest thing he could have done at that moment in his life, in my opinion.

me: I just told Janelle I'd e-mail her the link and she said "i don't want that crap in my inbox."

Paul: at the height of the environmental movement to curb global warming, dylan does an suv commercial.

me: It's rock n' roll the way Charlton Heston was rock n' roll, which is to say not at all.

Paul: no!!!

me: Just quizzical. Again, I get where you're coming from. But still. Not like he just killed a baby or anything. Just, sort of like, why an SUV? Why not post-it notes? Or styrofoam dolphins? Or miniature figurines of himself?

Paul: i can't help but love it, and while that may be blind devotion, i think a)he likes fucking with preconceptions and pissing everyone off cause it's fun, and, b)he likes the car. so he sells it. i don't use the term "it's punk rock" ever. but if someone was going to use that term appropriately, bob dylan selling suvs would be the right way to do it.

me: Punk is dead.

Paul: rock n roll is dead too. that's a whole nother discussion but man please.

me: Rock n' rollers selling SUV's during an oil crisis sounds about right, too.

Paul: i just cracked up reading that sentence!

me: They aren't world savers, they're poets of the world's ways.

Paul: now you're talking (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) style he took all those hippie kids to the strip club and got schnockered.

me: That said, yeah, okay, i can see Bob selling the car. That's fucked up. And hilarious.

Paul: bob selling a volkswagen would not turn me on at all.

me: No. No cars. Not even sharks.

Paul: wilco selling a volkswagen, i can understand.

me: Styrofoam dolphins, man.

Paul: but that's form without function.

me: I'm sending Janelle the link right now.

Paul: you know the man lurves cadillacs. trying to convince janelle that bob selling cadillacs is like trying to convince her that battlestar is not science fiction.

me: Bob shdn't be selling SUV's. It's predictable. Not bold. Is my point.

Paul: it's like trying to convince someone that cheap whoring is awesome!

me: Yes. Yes, totally. She gets so mad when people do stuff like that.

Paul: i can agree that it isn't bold, but i don't think it's predictable either.

me: Nothing's shocking. It's all predictable.

Paul: i don't think he was trying to shock, and that's part of the point.

me: And that might be just the jaded nature of the fuggin' zeitgeist, which Bob shdn't be held solely accountable for...but if he's the rock to the roll, he shd be exempt from the usu. cultural predictability. Of course, that begs a larger question, which is, "can ANyone be Exempt From oUr CultuRal MediOcriTy AnyMore? Can anyone just be cool?

Paul: i won't enter the discussion because i don't consider bob shelling suvs to be cultural mediocrity

me: No. They gotta sell SUV's and rubber monkeys. Right. But you only think that because he's Bob. So your argument is circular. You love Bob. He can do no wrong.

Paul: i think the guy lives on another plane. like mlk and rumi. i think he sees what we can't.

me: Yup.

Paul: my argument is circular, i agree.

me: And that's probably true to some degree. He def. knows shit that I don't.

Paul: i do think that blood on the tracks holds up no matter when you listen to it. "saved" on the other hand, that's a different story.

me: How cd he write like that and not? He's seen some shit. Been through some shit. So, sure, let him sell his caddies, Jon-Dog, and look the other way. But I can't. Bob taught me not to, goddamnit. Arrgh. AAARRRRRRGHHHHH! I mean.

Paul: i hope you guys have a happy fun family day. please ask janelle to consider buying land in p.r. with us regardless of my bob cadillac feelings.

me: Yes. Same to you. And Lanie.

Paul: give ellacita a kiss on the forehead for me.

Family Mayne


Before I became a family man, I spent a lot of time wondering why in the hell anyone would want to have a child. Not that I didn't like kids - I do. I did. I have. But not to the extent that I ever really yearned for my own larvae. No way. Mainly because I always figured that good dads are guys who work forty-five hours a week at a job they neither hate nor love, bring home the bacon, are deacons, and play city-league softball. Not some wormy bastard like me, surrounded by his collages and journals and drawings of nude vampires building tree houses. My assumption, egocentric as it was, was that if I became a father, my child would resent me for being bizarre and atypical and I wd resent said child for effing with my time to create art. Plus, I'd have to deal with all those diapers and Fisher Price plastic toys.

What a crock all that turned out to be. But whatever, I didn't know. I couldn't know. And my guess is that nobody knows about a thing until that thing happens to them...Like, I had no way to even begin imagining what it's like to love your child. But let me tell you: It will knock you on your ass. And I don't mind all the diapers. Gotta have those. (Plus, I've seen what happens when you can't find a diaper in time, and it ain't pretty.) For some mysterious reason, cheap plastic toys still give me a taste of existential fear and sorrow, so we try to limit those. But I like watching Ella play with her toys. It's fun.

As for the art: One might think that having an infant would drastically reduce one's ability to produce works of art, what with all that limit-setting, diaper-changing, and late night rocking. And while there is some truth in that, it's also true that you get more done in less time (i.e., you learn to prioritize). And you also get really good at multi-tasking, which is something I used to be horrible at. And let's not forget the experience of parenting, and how it can cause your art to grow.

And so, how do I write, parent, and bring home some bacon bits? Well, sometimes I can write while Eleanor is playing nearby. But I have to watch her (and thus split my attention), because she'll put something dangerous or gross in her mouth, or make a grab for my laptop. So usually that doesn't work.

I've learned to steal scraps of paper and write down ideas at least, while at work, in the bath, on the phone, or while playing with Ella. It's anybody's guess as to whether or not I'll actually be able to save the scraps and get them into a story. I think so far I've lost most of them. But whatever. It's still writing. I make time to do it, so it's disciplined, and I'm proud of that.

Now whenever Eleanor is napping, that is the magic hour for writing. But, conversely, it's also when I want to be doing other stuff like: aimlessly wandering, watching t.v. on DVD, or connecting with my Special Lady. So I have to choose wisely. And it's not always easy. Most naps last from 45 min. to 90 min., which isn't a lot a of time for any of the above. But, man, if I can sit down, focus, and just write, Eleanor's naptime feels like centuries. It's a weird thing that happens with time, I guess.

Basically, having a child has taught me all about sacrifice. I used to live in horror of the kind of sacrifice I've learned via Eleanor, but now, I pretty much feel like I've lived through my greatest fear. Now new ones arrive to take its place...You get concerned about what kind of a reality is laying in wait for your babe. It can get heavy sometimes. I've learned that certain, esoteric skills and tools are necessary for dealing with this fear. The usual denial or internal bullshitting doesn't hold up under the weight of your sincere hope that the world is okay-enough for your child.

Which brings be back to writing. I'm not really a "writer." I mean, I'll be writing pretty steady for the next two years, but I don't have big ideas about literature and poetry (other than: most people don't even read it). I just like to write. But I like to do a lot of other things too. Like walk. So I guess I'm a walker, as well. (Renaissance man is in the house!) My point is: we're all just a bunch of hominids. We'll live, we'll die, and we each have something special to add to the pea-soup of human experience. But at the end of the day, all you have is your experience. (You can't take your vampire nudes with you, in other words.) But if you can show up for your life, you'll be doing something infinitely cooler than the vampire nudes, or even the Sistine Chapel could ever do: You'll be connecting eye-to-eye with the living, breathing love-mystery of life itself. And that shit's out-of-control, baby. The point is to not waste time...with art, without art, with a child, without a child, or any variation thereof. That's what I've learned. It has taken me thirty-four years to learn it.

Okay. That's my sermon. But check it: Today I'm a super-proud father because Eleanor is a walker now. She started last week. Well, really, she started when first began crawling. But last week she put two and two together and realized that, like most every other human, she could stand upright on her hind legs in this ridiculous pose called "standing" and actually achieve motion by placing one foot in front of the other. Watching her realize this has been hilarious, inspiring, and triumphant. That's my girl, yo.

19 May 2008

Thirty-Four





I'm lounging by the pool today. These are some old prayers in stone on the banks of the Flint River, erected by some unknown natives of yesteryear...I don't know fer shure, but when I was there with La Familia a few days ago, the location of these stone features felt very much like a graveyard by the river.

Thanks to Whitey, rivers in Georgia suck. They all look like choco-milk, when, in reality, they should look like crystalline ribbons of glass, thick with trout. But, no. They look like shit on rye.

I tried to look up a quote from the journals of Lewis & Clark that would support my claim that Georgia rivers were once beautiful and clear, but apparently now when you type "Lewis & Clark" into a search engine, you get links to twelve bookstores, an anti-abortion counseling center, two law firms, and a 18+ only porn site for dolphin lovers...but no snappy quotes about Georgia's alluvial ecosystem. So it goes. Guess I'll just hafta make one up:

(fade in, it is morning in Carolina. The sun is glowing in the East like a red hot ember. Lewis has just scrambled the last of the eggs)

Clark: Is that the last of the eggs?

Lewis: And you know this.

Clark: Is there enough for me?

Lewis: What do you think?

Clark: Damn you, Lewis. That's what I think.

(Lewis pokes a forkful of the steaming eggs into his mouth while Clark begins foraging for berries)

Lewis: How 'bout those Georgia rivers we navigated last week?

(Clark has located a patch of wild blackberries, and is mirthlessly plucking them from the vine.)

Clark: Aw, man. They were something else.

Lewis: I know, right? So clear, so...

Clark: So pristine. (Blackberry juice streams out the corners of his mouth, into his beard.)

Lewis: You disgust me, you know that?

Clark: Yes, I do.

(fade out)

...so that proves it. Anyway, I hiked these woods by the river a whole lot when I was a boy, but only a few days ago did I discover this honest-to-God historical site. I took a few photos. These are they. I gotta give thanks and props to the real deal Americans for doing what they did here. These stone formations are more thoughtful and poignant and ethically grounded than anything I've seen in any art museum in recent history. Then again, I don't get out that much.

18 May 2008

34/Ridiculous

Unemployed again. Today, my wife & family had a birthday party for me here at the house. My sister & cousins came, as did their parents and spouses and kids and various sundry others. Let's see...There was Laura and Jason and their three kids and Jennifer and her son and this kid "Briar," and also Ashley, Leslie, Lauren, "Jo"aquin, Lisa and...well, you get the idea. The day culminated in me char-broiling twenty-one beef patties on the grill. A little swimming, a little badminon...it was live.

And so now dusk is settling on our home. My mom is sweeping off the carport while my dad laughs into the cool air. Janelle and Eleanor are locked in a preternatural mother-daughter sleepytime two-step of some kind. And me? I'm just chilling, wishing I hadn't rented Disc 2 & 3 of the Showtime series Dexter on DVD. It's a ridiculous program, and by that I do mean "worthy of ridicule." So maybe I'll just close my eyes now and daydream...

16 May 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

Tomorrow night is my last night working as a fry cook at Cap'n Rusty's Family Feedbag (a.k.a. Smorgasbord Jones & The Smorgasbordellos' Endlessly Rotating Buffet-Circus On Ice!). I gave Chad my notice about a week ago. "I got a job on a farm," I told him, "I get to work outisde. Plus, they pay more." Which is true. But anyway, Chad was disappointed, so he went on this passive aggressive tear that lasted about two and a half days, which wasn't really an issue for me, since half of what I do with half the people I encounter is pretend to listen to them when actually I'm thinking up thoughts and ideas that seem infinitely cooler than the actual moment at hand. Or sometimes I'll just stare and keep my mind void and empty of thoughts, uttering verbal minimal encouragements, so as to sustain the opportunity for complete dissociation. But of course this isn't anything I'm proud of. I'm pretty sure it's a major character defect. But I'm not really ashamed of it either. Can it be helped if I find that it's simply not worth it to pay certain types of people - like the vast majority of managers, pundits, enforcers and demagogues - a whole lot of my attention? I listen to maybe, on average, like 17% of mankind. People just ain't sayin' much, and if there's an upshot to our fragmented society, it's that most times you can think your own weird, private thoughts and get by feigning interest in the machinations of the social hive.

Ahhhh...but there's a whole paradox going on too 'cause actually even though I'd like to think of myself as Mr. Cool and Bored, at the same time I'm paying attention to most people about 160% of the time. I can't help it. Even when I'm dissociating right in front of them, there's an inner voice that says to me, "You're dissociating right now. You know that, don't you? You're just bored, bored, bored is all." So, really, I can't truly detach from the hive, even when I want to. Maybe if nobody's around, I can. Like if I'm under a waterfall or a circle of elm boughs, all alone with my mind. I don't know...even on those rare occasions when I can cut loose from the social hive's incessant yang-yang in my brain, that voice eventually steps back up to the mic and says, "Okay. Break's over. Get back in the mix, you zone freak." Because of my intensely ingrained Protestant work ethic, whenever I do zone out or take a break, I feel so guilty that, in my mind, it seems like I've committed some huge offense. In truth, I pay a lot of attention to the other hominids on my radar. Maybe too much. I ain't that cool.

But anyway, I was talking about my short career as a fry cook. It ends tomorrow night, when I fry my last kitschy green tomato, hang up my apron, and drive the glorious three miles home. I've worked at this family-owned and operated restaurant off and on for nineteen years. But it's been sold and the new management is iffy, at best. So it goes. End Of An Era.

The Moonwalkers

This morning, while I was having coffee and watching my daughter scout out a handful of free-range, organic Purely O's that had spilled onto the floor, Stella, who was outside on her mat, started to bark like Invaders From Mars were pelting our backyard with proton bombs. Turns out it was just a work crew from Georgia Power, which of course is the big corporation that provides most Georgians with electrical power, and who technically owns a huge swath of land in my parents' backyard. Georgia Power also owns an even huger swath just south of their property, where a series of high-voltage power lines run up and down an ancient mountain - now a steep, verdant hill - called Pine Mountain, which rises up several hundred feet and which I explored as a boy almost nonstop, and especially enjoyed summiting so I could get a near-panoramic view of the county I lived in and several neighboring counties as well.

Twice a year or so, Georgia Power sends a work crew out to "maintain" the areas underneath and around the power line. They bush-hog this area in the winter, when everything is dry and brittle. And in the late spring, they send a crew out to spray herbicide onto the new growth. And so that's what Stella was barking at: An unannounced crew of unknown sherpas with bright orange chemical packs mounted to their backs, waving wands of chemical death as they traversed through our backyard, en route to the power line.

It's been said forty thousand times already, but I'll say it again that here in El Sur, a strong case could be made that recent Mexican emigres are the new Blacks. Everybody needs somebody to scapegoat, after all. And so I'd say that the average emigre is at the bottom of the social totem pole, if you wanna carve society up like that. More to the point, I'd say that whoever happens to be poorest is at the bottom, and I know that in my beloved Georgia, poverty ain't exactly loyal to just one race...But still, it bothered me that these guys were all brown-skinned and in their early Twenties, ripe for exploitation, with bags of herbicide taped to their spines - herbicide that hasn't been long-range tested because this is America and nothing here is long-range and the worst job always goes to the most desperate - also known as the hardest working. The desperados are also the ones who are least likely to unionize, much less ask "Hey, is this chemical even safe?!" Ahhh...Ye Olde Babylon Culture. (Who will be the new Blacks in 14,000 CE, when Vega is our North Star? When we have all become Black for the fourth time around, will the world be set right again?)

As the men started their ascent, I walked out into the yard and snapped this shot. They were about 1/4 of the way up, and moving at a steady clip. From my vantage, though, they appeared to be moving in a slow, gentle formation. The arc of the herbicides shooting out of their wands and hoses, splashing onto the foliage reminded me of how much I used to enjoy landscaping, especially watering plants in a new installation I had worked on. All that life and potential. The water finding its own, perfect course to the subterranean root ball...They went higher and higher, into the morning mist, up the steep climb, through the bramble and new pine growth. At one point, one of the men turned back to see the view of his world. Spotting me, a boy, a speck in my parents' backyard, he lifted his hand and waved. I thought of Neal Armstrong. And I waved back.

15 May 2008

Vega


The time of Vega is once again approaching. I'm referring to the fact that Vega used to be the North Star. Now our North Star is Polaris. But because of the precession of the equinoxes, every year Vega comes closer and closer to ascending and assuming the North Star throne...It's supposed to happen around the year 14,000. Where will you be then? Will you still have that ugly-ass mesh baseball cap you never wear?Will you still be afraid of public speaking?

There are other North Stars in the mix, but Vega is the brightest. Maybe that's why this graf artist takes Vega as his/her namesake. Or maybe it's that "vega," which means "meadow" in Espanol, comes from a root word that means "falling" in Arabic. Meadow like the Serengeti on her cool menses spraying falling stars onto the retinas of the no-dick Joneses, whose television won't stop barking at the sodium lights like faded limes at the switching station, where Isis and Osiris dally, burn one, and lick the comet into the curl of a field holler...

Lost 12,000 years in the future and wanna get back home? Look to Vega. She'll help you. Stuck down South of the Manson-Nixon line? Call on Vega, brother. He'll guide you to El Norte. And if the cards ain't stacked, maybe you'll even get a lift in his pimped-out gondola, resplendent with sphinxes and moons, alloy rims, and the airbrushed likeness of an ancient fellahin matriarch of Old Tehran, guiding the seas together.

13 May 2008

Gills

I'd like to start out by thanking my buddy Ryan for teaching me the meaning of the word metanoia, literally, and to Paul for being a good friend in general. Anyway...

I love that blogger.com has a button named "create" on their interface. That's so cool. So recherche. So...2008. "Anybody here like to create? Well, let's come on wit' it!" That's what my button would say, if I was a website designer...which is also reason #86 why I'm a writer and not a web designer. Anyway...

Today the family atomic and I went all the way down to the Flint River, where we communed with the sacred rock piles, the befouled old Flint, and some weird drought-inspired insects that looked as though they were not in God's original plan. But whatevah. We improvise. (Anybody here like to create? Well, let's come on wit' it!)

As I type this, Janelle is putting Eleanor down for sleepytime. Eleanor, however, is fighting it like a Hallucenogenic Toreador. I can hear her cry-shouting from twenty-five feet away. That's interior feet, too, y'all. The li'l gal's got some gills...Represent!

12 May 2008

Hush


A few months after I graduated high school, back in 1992, one of the members of our graduating class bludgeoned his girlfriend and hid her body in the trunk of his Firebird. He was caught soon after and more or less readily confessed to the murder. No one knows why he did this. In school, he seemed happy, had a lot of friends, and was good looking. He was even somewhat of a class clown. Obviously more as going on than anyone could see. He's still in prison, as far as I know.

When I heard about it, this event deeply affected me. The area of Georgia that I grew up in was - and still is - a pretty insulated place. Grisly murders don't happen much in this corner of the world. The fact that I knew the perpetrator and, in fact, had known him and attended school with him since we were both small boys, made the murder seem even more random, more inexplicable, and more bizarre. I didn't know his girlfriend, but I had seen her before plenty of times. Her skin was the color of coffee with light cream. She was young and beautiful.

I was working at the restaurant that I'm working at now when this happened. And it just so happened that the boy and his family lived in a house visible from the highway that I traversed every day to get to work. And so whenever I'd drive to work, I'd see their house and my narcissistic teenager mind would be visited by intrusive thoughts about the bizarre murder, including disturbing images of the poor bludgeoned girl. Prior to the murder, I would just drive with the windows down, listening to Jane's Addiction, wondering if it was going to be a good day or a bad day at work. But now, having recently graduated and entered not only the "real world," but a "real world" where people you know can randomly kill innocent young women, even in these kindly hills, I had to face the growing sense that something like evil just might exist as a disembodied force in this world. Something that stalks the countryside and enters the hearts of the unfortunates...

In time, in order to preserve my sense that goodness still existed in spite of the evil things, I developed a way of coping. Whenever I'd drive by the boy's house, I would combat the intrusive thoughts by deliberately conjuring up an image of the dead girl in the trunk. Except now she was emanating a brilliant, copper-colored light. Her countenance was serene, and she looked at total peace and harmony. Saintlike. Her broken body, which apparently now caused her no pain, seemed somehow like the strange, angelic form of an ethereal being from another dimension. She spoke in a soft, content voice, free of any trace of confusion, fear, pain or destructive emotions. Her message - which she delivered as well as embodied - was clear: "We humans are much more than just these frail bodies. And all the fear and danger in the world, at the end of the day, could be just a strange grain of sand in an ocean of inconceivable beauty."

A few months later, I went off to college and forgot about that murder. Meanwhile, other things happened that occupied my attention - like the time me and my good friend Trevarius got stranded late one night in the middle of nowhere, Georgia on our way home for Fall break, when his car broke down outside of a redneck biker bar with rebel flags all over the place. Or when I became eerily infatuated with a pretty girl named Sabrina and thought I was actually going to go insane because I knew I couldn't have her. Things like that.

Anyway, today, on the way home from work, I saw that house and remembered everything. Other kinds of people find other ways to do it, but I've been using my imagination as a tool for survival for a very long time.

11 May 2008

M.D.


The following is an excerpt from my "job journal," which I update every morning five minutes before work, while sitting in my car in the parking lot, watching the morning traffic drone along the highway:

Mother's Day, 2008: I crept out of the house quietly this morning, and now regard the old restaurant, huge on its hill and silent. It's soon to be brimming with more mothers than you cd shake a stick at. Last year they served 1,200, I think it was.

A hard rain fell last night. Downed branches littered the road on the way to work. At one point I awoke and, amidst the electric thunderclaps and torrential gush-fall, heard a great Blakean locomotive burning into the night like some kind of dark hero howling Northwest under the be-clouded stars. "This is life," I thought just before dropping off to sleep again.

10 May 2008

Tomorrow

Quoth wikipedia: "In the United States, Mother's Day was loosely inspired by the British version of Mother's Day and was imported by social activist Julia Ward Howe after the American Civil War. However, it was intended as a call to unite women against war...Her idea was influenced by Ann Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors...Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions. According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States."

That last bit is no joke. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to work at the Family Feedbag, too, which means that I'll spend the live-long day watching various mothers and their supporters file through the buffet lines in their Sunday best, while the Muzak machine churns out instrumental versions of "I Want Your Sex" and "Candle In The Wind." By the way, who knew that Mother's Day originally began as an anti-war effort? The apple's fallen far from that tree.

09 May 2008

Magnolia


Same magnolia bloom, yesterday and today. Magnolias like this are erupting all over middle Georgia right now, causing Atlanta to smell like lemon pie on a window sill in the Depression, with two escapees licking their chops and leering from behind the boxwoods as a warm breeze blows over the Dust Bowl and Leadbelly makes love to his special lady in their one-room rented apartment across the street from the pawn shop. Somewhere, down on the river, a whiskey still is chugging away and a fourteen year old boy, hired to keep an eye out for the revenuer, is drunker than he's ever been.

08 May 2008

Railroad Epigram

Next Load

Many graffiti bombers have a spiral-bound notebook full of designs they've sketched during homeroom or on lunch breaks or late at night when the moon's shining through the fire escape. It's sort of a portfolio, but it's also an incubator where initial drafts of a design are hatched, discarded, and honed to perfection. Black ink, colored pencil, sharpie, lead, ball-point, whatever. Sure, some pieces are relatively simple "throw-up's" (the impulsive, opportunistic kind of tagging that doesn't require much premeditation) but most of the ones I photograph likely exist on paper somewhere. They're like sonnets or short stories. They're somebody's children.

My good gal and my baby girl return tomorrow, thank Gawd. Man, it's been surreal without them being around. Basically, while they were away, I worked my li'l "Confederacy of Dunces" jobbie-job and hacked a 1.5 mile trail through dense, wooded undergrowth. In the process, I was met with maximum resistance from wood ticks, rolling rocks, and various plants that make you itch upon contact. The last few days I spent working on the trail, I started to get tired and think, "Why did I take this task on? Just what, exactly, is this a metaphor for?"

I sketched out a map of the trail a few nights ago, when I was up late, listening to the CSX grumble along. While I was doing so, I ate a Twix candy bar and fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up, sunlight was quaking just above the tree line and Stella was in some kind of a trance, chasing rabbits in her sleep, and snoring soft cries because they were eluding her. Or maybe because she was the one being chased by some nefarious dream-entities. Either way, Stella's morning whimper was the most plaintive and sad thing ever to exist on the railroad earth.

07 May 2008

The Masochistic Bomber


Whoever he/she is, they're not just leaving a nice piece of po-mo graf (this thing looks like somebody took Helvetica and put it through some kind of fractal-izing meat grinder). They're saying that you can beat them up if you want to.

As I type this, I'm watching old episodes of The Johnny Cash Show, which ran from 1969-1971, starting in the summer of '69. It was broadcast from Nashville, TN, home of Cooter's Place. Right now, Bob Dylan is singing "Girl From North Country" with J.C. in the strange froggy voice he had during that era. I don't know why he sang like that. Maybe it was 'Nam.

I like it when Johnny is standing, playing his axe and he holds it out to the left like it's about to grow wings and he's just about to let go and watch it fly away in the blue, blue skies over Tennessee. He looks like a matador, a servant of de lawd, and a circus ringleader, all rolled into one. Compared to him, Bob looks grave, troubled, and of this earth.

Now Louis Armstrong is backing Johnny up on trumpet. By my reckoning, Louis Armstrong was pretty much an insane genius, also of good humor. He warn't nobody's yes-man, either, despite the general public's general tendency to cast him as the avuncular, friendly ol' jazz man handin' nickels out to the kids on the street. He could set fire to the air with his trumpet and had skills like a jet pilot neurosurgeon.

I don't know why anybody would say "You can beat me up if you want to." I will not puzzle over it too long, though. Another train's just gonna pull up after it, with a whole line of boxcars full of zenlike riddles to behold.

06 May 2008

This Mechanism Kills Fascists

This is Woody Guthrie's saying, of course. Kept it posted right thar on his git-fiddle. I keep it posted on my laptop so that every time I open and close it, I'm reminded that there's a war on, but it ain't the one we think is going on. It's the attempted decimation of the subjective voice. Or, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti puts it, "Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately." He's right. It even exists inside each of us...which is where it came from to begin with, of course.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is my dizzawg. Pretty much everything he says is true and right, like "there is an ecstatic mechanism in birds that makes them fly upwards in spite of worms” and “the world is a beautiful place to be born into - if you don't mind some people dying all the time - or maybe only starving - some of the time which isn't half so bad - if it isn't you.” I don't know how he came to possess such a strong ability to accurately describe the state of affairs. Hard work, maybe. Or hard luck...because it must be painful to see it all so clearly but all you can do about it is write about it and run your bookstore.

Maybe some day I'll own and operate an indie bookstore. Or a farm. Or maybe I'll raise goats. I would consider opening up a junk store, where all I sell is useless junk, but the competition for that couldn't get any stiffer than it already is. Jesus, man. That one about the birds and the worms is haunting me right now.

05 May 2008

Cinco de Mayo/BAR/PERSONAL



Where was Bob Dylan when he wrote the line "I married Isis on the fifth day of May, but I could not hold onto her very long"? Seated by a window in his hotel room? On a bullet train to Prague? Maybe it was a fragment of a dream he remembered.

Today a woman at work said she was sure that these are the End Times. "The Bible say that in the Last Days," she said, "men will have prophetic dreams and visions." "What about women?" I replied. She didn't answer for a long time. In fact, the pause was so sustained that I reckoned she didn't hear me. So I moved on and started to think about other things. But, no. She came back, finally, and said, "I don't know about women."

I don't know what her source material is ("The Bible," but which one? There's hundreds), but, frankly, I doubt it. Men and women have been having prophetic dreams and visions for a long, long time. Has it always been the Last Days for the human race? Maybe. But if all the days are the Last Days, doesn't that make Armageddon null & void?

Last night, Dad & I stayed up late talking about the nature of things. Politics. Ecology. Psychology, etc. We both decided that the rampant homogenization of America, via multinational corporations and just plain laziness, is probably as bad as any of the doomsday Boleshevik Commie Infiltration scenarios he was terrified of as a kid. "There aren't many choices left anymore. Everything's mass-produced and it all looks the same." Amen, Clyde, amen.

These three drawings come from my journal. Two nudes and an alcoholic. If the alcoholic had a name, it would be "Albert Coholic." He's gripping his can of beer and thinking about his dwindling options. The nudes are cat people. They have no shame about their bodies, which makes them saintly, yet they are forlorn because the milk has turned.

04 May 2008

Teeth


Teeth factor heavily into both of these boxcar pieces. You see that a lot on the trains - somebody will turn the characters of their tag into personified entities, complete with mandibles and 2 or more rows of teeth. What does it mean to say that a word has teeth? Eyes? Ears?

When words are shaped like things, something cool happens, I believe. It's almost as if both the right and left hemispheres are engaged - the literal and the symbolic. That's what post-modern graffiti bombing is all about, though: obliteration of the literal, analog way of messaging. I've watched people struggle to comprehend some of these pieces before ("What's it say? What's it spell?"), not realizing that the medium is the message, and the message - well, that's something they'll never be in on completely. Unless, of course, they pick up a can of spray paint and give it a go...then maybe, through diligent practice of the art form, they would learn what it has to teach.

I can only imagine what bombing has to teach the world. It's something I'll never be able to do, that's for sure. I can do other things, but I sure as hell can't do that. I look at these phenomenal works of art sliding by my house all day and am just grateful that people are out there doing it: Free, liberated, anonymous art. Not in a museum, not in a magazine, and not for sale. On the rails, man. For all to see. There's really nothing else like it in our culture. So, of course, it's viewed as a nuisance.

I think of these artists - not in a moral or ethical way, exactly - as being akin to the Tibetan monks who spend months at a time forging ephemeral sand mandalas. How many months has the average bomber spent clandestino, in & out of trainyards, throwing up extravagant smoke signals in primary colors? And to watch each and every creation roll out the next morning, into the weird world...it's either zen, pointless, generous, or some function of an indestructible human need to communicate through the act of creation, create through the act of communication, and, yes, to put teeth in the words so they can bite back at the End Times.

03 May 2008

Two Catfish

I just wrote the World's Worst Poem. Everything about it was wrong. First of all, the poem was about a cyclops. That has potential, right? But it was about a cyclops and an ocean and my daughter and an acorn and, anyway, it was all too unwieldy. Oh yeah. It was also about "limit setting." That was one of the themes as well. I am speaking about it in past tense because I just deleted most of it. I might try to start over from the beginning. But for now I am tired of looking at my poem, criminally bad.

Last night I was manning the All You Care To Eat Buffet Extravanganza when a woman in thick makeup asked me what was in the seafood casserole. I told her, "crab, shrimp, broccoli, al fredo sauce, etc." And she said "Is it any scallops in there?" And I told her, "No, ma'am." And then she replied, through a wide, grinless face, "Well, we'll find out soon enough, when the ambulance gets here." She was all pissed off because she thought we had tilapia on the menu. I had just finished telling her, "No ma'am" to that as well. But "no, ma'am" wasn't what she wanted to hear, so she belabored the point about how we shouldn't advertise tilapia if we don't have tilapia. And I said, "Well, who told you we had tilapia, anyway?" and she remained really vague about it, only saying that "Two days ago, when I was here, a woman that works here told me that Friday night was tilapia night." (And at about this point in the conversation I remember thinking "Are we really still discussing the non-existent tilapia?" And yes, we were.)

What I said next was over-the-top and clinical, even, in a humanistic kind of way. "Well, ma'am, I hear you saying that you were really counting on tilapia and I'm sorry that we don't have it. I know that must be disappointing...to not have tilapia." She stared back at me, bewildered for a moment, and that's when she basically threatened me with her own allergic reaction.

"Personality disorder," I said to myself, allowing her to roll the dice with her swelling larynx, which I figured wouldn't be happening anyway, because her allergy was most likely a faux plot device of some kind, designed to elicit a reaction - as if my response would be, "Oh you have an allergy to scallops, which aren't in the casserole? Why didn't you say so, madame? I shall prepare a tilapia steak seasoned with herbs du Provence for you at once!" I mean, come on. It's an All-You-Can-Eat grease smorgasbord, not haute cuisine. But, you know, restaurants are one of the many public places where citizens with personality disorders become truly All They Can Be. I know this from my vast experience as a fry cook and mental health worker and human being. There's too many choices and chains of communication and people getting paid to serve you for a big drama not to unfold. It can be a real powder keg for those who have almost-psychotic neuroses around issues of trust, safety, and egalitarianism. "Go for it," I said encouragingly. And she began piling seafood casserole onto her plate while her husband, who looked about as joyless as a husband could, complete with two forlorn n' fried catfish on his plate, stared back at me.

And now an excerpt from the horrible poem:

This is my role now. Good-enough father. Boundary setter. Limit placer.

Once terms I used casually as a therapist, caustically even,

In the vernacular of a trade which has made more

Cures than there are illnesses.

Boundary setter, limit placer, good enough father,

She cries out, because it’s no good, this “being denied” business.

We all have work boots or tilapia we’d like to gnaw on.

02 May 2008

Norfolk Southern

Here's a little something from "Bombing Modernism," by Amos Klausner:

The search for truth can take us to the most unlikely places. As post-war domesticity and prosperity settled over much of America, the growing rift between haves and have-nots exposed serious doubts about the promise of modernism and a modern life. An honest appraisal of a deteriorating American condition didn't come from the cloistered towers of celebrated universities or intellectual caf├ęs thick with smoke. It came from the heart of the ghetto where new voices were quick to take up arms against the status quo. Holstered with felt tip markers and spray cans, truth was recognized in a colorful show of force and bravado. For graffiti artists, manipulating letters became lifeblood and fighting back meant getting ill, and ill-legible.

It's easy to see how a generation of restless teenagers growing up in high-rise and low-rise ghettos doubted and eventually rejected modernism and its oppressive reality. For them, modernism represented systemic irrationality, negativity, half truths, poor education, and limited access to economic empowerment. However, when a self-aware subculture rose out of the urban core to embrace plurality, fragmentation, and indeterminacy, something clicked. In retaliation they shaped an honest reflection of their lives from a fundamentally post-modern lens that pitted them against larger forces that had denied them individual value and cultural identity. Adventurous teens did this with no capital and no organizational power. They fought back with one of the few things they could control, words.

01 May 2008

Sleep Bike

I complain a lot about being sleep deprived, but no one is as sleep deprived as my dad. Seriously. He works on one of the construction/maintenance crews that Wal*Mart contracts with, which means that he's constantly on the road, away from home, repairing broken Wal*Marts around the Southeast. He's been known to travel as far south as Miami. He works something like sixty hours a week and, because, he and his crew have to conform to Wal*Mart's hours of operation, often they're working through the night. He rarely gets to catch up on his sleep, even on the weekends.

Basically, my dad is functioning on this weird astral plane known as Sleepy As Hell But Used To It By Now...and that ain't good. Of course, he would never admit it, nor would he ever complain about his job. My father just isn't the type to bitch and moan. He's not a Ronald Reagan or a John Wayne "suck it up" type, either. He's just not a complainer. Sometimes I wish he would, though.

Anyway, a couple years ago, I wasn't complaining when I swung by the Starvation Army on one of my visits down here and found this old bike. The whole thing was oxidized, on its kickstand in a corner. The handlebars would barely turn. Even the chain was completely rusted and locked up. "$2" said the lady behind the register. "Cool! I'll take it." I put the bike in the trunk of my awesome Ford Taurus and carted it home.

Later, my dad attacked the bike with a an unparalleled tenacity I can only call rural tenacity. What I mean is that he through himself into the task of making the bike workable. Using about a gallon of WD-40, but mostly just elbow grease, he finally got the chain to budge. Handlebars too. We put a little air in the tires and, before long, we were sporting that ancient, badass bike around the yard, dodging the fire ant mounds while the moon rose. "Hawt damn!" I said, feeling like Butch Cassidy in that one weird scene where they play "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head."

That bike lasted two+ years before I finally decided, in this most recent move, to pass it along to somebody else. I don't know who I passed it along to. But I assume somebody found it, cause I just left it leaning up against a brick wall in downtown Athens, along with another bike I decided it was time to let go of. The above photo is from just after the bike was repaired, over two years ago.

Thirty Facts About Sleep From The National Sleep Research Project

-The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.

- It's impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.

- Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you're sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you're still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.

- A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year

- One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.

- The continuous brain recordings that led to the discovery of REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep were not done until 1953, partly because the scientists involved were concerned about wasting paper.

- REM sleep occurs in bursts totalling about 2 hours a night, usually beginning about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

- Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It's possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.

- REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery - obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.

- Certain types of eye movements during REM sleep correspond to specific movements in dreams, suggesting at least part of the dreaming process is analagous to watching a film

- No-one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.

- REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75 per cent REM sleep, 10 per cent more than full-term bubs. Similarly, a newborn kitten puppy rat or hampster experiences only REM sleep, while a newborn guinea pig (which is much more developed at birth) has almost no REM sleep at all.

- Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain's sleep-wake clock.

- British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers' body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers' retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo.

- Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.

- The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.

- The NRMA estimates fatigue is involved in one in 6 fatal road accidents.

- Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.

- The "natural alarm clock" which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.

- In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.

- Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.

- To drop off we must cool off; body temperature and the brain's sleep-wake cycle are closely linked. That's why hot summer nights can cause a restless sleep. The blood flow mechanism that transfers core body heat to the skin works best between 18 and 30 degrees. But later in life, the comfort zone shrinks to between 23 and 25 degrees - one reason why older people have more sleep disorders.

- After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you've slept enough.

- Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates like chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of whom sleep for 10 hours.

- Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode.

- Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep

- Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal

- Some studies suggest women need up to an hour's extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.

- Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.

- Diaries from the pre-electric-light-globe Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.