30 June 2008

Bat Man Death Ride

This is the little green pot we cook oatmeal in. (photo by L. Rios)

My cousin Lesley has just informed me that two days ago, a kid was killed by the Bat Man ride at Six Flags Over Georgia. He and a friend had sneaked into a restricted area of the park for reasons unknown, when the Bat Man ride swooped down and took his head off. 911 was flooded with phone calls by eyewitnesses. (Apparently there were scads.) The poor kid was from a tiny little coastal town fifty miles East of Augusta. He was part of a church outing.

My cousin Lesley tried to get me to believe that this really happened. But I told her “No way, man. That sounds like an urban legend.” She wanted to believe that it wasn’t true. But she protested, then dutifully went online to get the facts. Turns out it really did happen.

So now we both know it’s true and we’re both depressed, here in the living room, because all we can think about it how sad it would be to be decapitated by the Bat Man ride, or see someone decapitated by the Bat Man ride, or have a kid decapitated by the Bat Man ride on a church outing, or even be from the same tiny town as the guy who got decapitated by the g.d. effing Bat Man ride at Six Flags. It’s all just so horrible.

Anyway, we’re depressed and that’s all there is to it. We’re going to have dinner now and try to act like some kid didn’t get decapitated last weekend while we were out riding our bikes and goofing around and watching The Perfect Storm on dvd, which is an awesome but dumb movie about how, if you battle the sea, the sea will eventually win (Duh.).

29 June 2008

Harold & Maude

This is me writing. In our hallway closet. Which is something I've gotten quite used to these past few weeks. I've found that I actually flourish in cramped quarters, surrounded by cardboard boxes. When I need to, I wear ear goggles to block out household noise. Or sometimes I write with the light off. Sensory deprivation. Often I feel like I'm several miles below the earth's crust...

Yesterday we all went for a long bike ride around poor, flood-torn Iowa City. We saw stranded brambles, washes of silt, broken windows, and ruined buildings. We also careened down huge hills on rickety bikes, with powerful tailwinds that acted like high octane rocket fuel for our speed racers. On the way home, we stopped by the co-op for dinner supplies.

At the co-op, Eleanor started acting sleepy and cranky. We were in the produce section, selecting avocadoes, where she whined. Then over by the butcher, where she cried. Then, by the beer cooler, a loud, impressive protest leapt out of her mouth. It sounded like an ambulance siren from the 1950’s! A white-bearded man with soft eyes turned and looked at us warmly. His wife was by his side. They didn’t say anything, but their expressions said it all…

You think the world is one way, only to find out that it’s another. Having Eleanor around, I see now that there is a lot more tenderness and kindness in this world that I could have ever imagined. Raising a child is a HUGE ordeal. And here’s this man and woman – total strangers - who’ve clearly been through it. They see our hodgepodge assembly and wailing baby in the supermarket and what do they do? They smile. Because they remember back when their kids were that little, crying in some old supermarket clear on the other side of the United States. And because they’d just about give anything to have a few minutes of the sweetest portions of their old life back. Because none of us realize how good we have it until it’s gone. And a crying baby in a supermarket is pretty much the razor’s edge of the alive, dynamic, terribly beautiful human experience. You think it’s a drag. Then you realize it’s nirvana. That’s what their expressions said to me: This is the good stuff, brother. Stay awake for it. And I said, “Okay, I’ll try.”

So you’re probably wondering what kind of beer we bought, so I’ll tell you. We bought this 12-bottle sampler of brews from the Amana colonies, which is one of many Amish enclaves outside the city limits. But with all the other groceries, I didn’t have room for the brews in the bike basket, so I had to balance them on my thigh as we all pedaled the mile or so back home. Navigating traffic and flood detritus, I felt a little bit like Jackson Pollack piloting some kind of Calcutta rickshaw, all wobbly and destined for Chaos City or Wreck-Your-Bike-Ville, U.S.A. But chaos never happened. Not in the form of a bike wreck anyway. Just in that “rainbow of chaos” way that Paul Cezanne spoke on, wherein big hamburgers were consumed, and cold beer. And then after dinner Janelle & I went for a walk. Afterwards we all fell asleep watching Harold & Maude.

28 June 2008

Extremely High Winds


Today is a supremely windy day. High gusts sweeping across the prairie, tearing through the town like townie streakers overturning newspaper boxes and kicking up panic and trouble while the wind-cops chase after them with their billy clubs and megaphones. This is our fire escape. I had plans to put a bunch of potted plants out there today, but that was before I realized how windy it was going to get. Now I don’t know. Too much wind can kill an herb garden. Maybe I’ll build a windmill and put it out there instead.

Last week at (Unitarian) church, a physicist explained that, over time, wind power competes very well (price-wise) with coal-power. It’s just that in the short run, coal is way cheaper. That’s the thing: The system is set up to accommodate fossil fuel, which means that the system opposes clean, renewable, economical wind power. Why? ‘Cause, with wind, the right people don’t get rich. (Can we please hurry up and find a way to make these oilmongering people rich off of wind, solar, and other sources of power? As soon as we do, that’s when we’ll start to see some real change down here in the poor part of town.) Craziness.

Today we bought two bicycles. They were old, but in great condition. One of them has a big, broad bicycle seat on it that makes you feel like you're sitting in an old Ford Fairlane or something, instead of on a powder blue Schwinn. I bet if I tried to go for a bike ride right now, I wouldn't even be able to pedal against the wind. That's how bad it is out there right now. Totally beautiful, cloudless day. Extremely high winds.

27 June 2008

Geddes

Behold the tiles on our bathroom floor! (photo by Lesley Rios)

Yesterday, while Janelle was working at the clinic, Lesley, Eleanor & I headed over to Dey House, at last, to introduce ourselves and confer with the program coordinator. She – the coordinator – was on the phone when we walked in, and was elaborating on her belief that McCain suffered from antisocial personality disorder & was on valium now, supplied, I guess, by the GOP. I dunno. She also said Laura Bush had a facelift and was also on valium. After a minute or so, she hung up the phone and said in this excited, scandalous way, “Sorry. A writer who did this program has written a brilliant roman a clef about the Bush family, and that was the publisher,” or something like that.

I gave her the glad hand and we exchanged pleasantries while Eleanor crawled around on the hardwood floor, wooing the secretaries, then the program director, then this really tall Dominican guy who walked in and said, “That baby’s the prettiest baby I’ve ever seen.” Which, of course, is how things usually go when you travel with a baby. I’m pretty sure I could walk into the IRS headquarters with Eleanor and emerge fifteen minutes later with a handwritten letter from the leader of the Empire guaranteeing me that I’ll never have to pay taxes again – so long as I periodically send photos of the babe. Anne Geddes knows about this Achilles heel shared by anyone who has a heart. Of course, Anne Geddes is also Satanic. But these days, who isn’t?

26 June 2008

Spewage

So, a few minutes ago, while I was eating lunch & writing, the people who live upstairs sent something heinous down the drain of their kitchen sink, which got stuck in the pipes and, since everything’s connected, caused our kitchen sink to fill up with a foreign, fecal backwash of some kind that absolutely reeked. It filled up the sink and spilled onto the floor, so I hustled to get a bucket under there and ended up dumping buckets for twenty minutes or more. And soon as I could, I called the superintendent, who sent a plumber over, and who is, at present, jackhammering away at the pipes with an automatic plunger, an auger, and a few other tools I don’t really understand at all. The guy’s funny as hell. He just looked at our sink and said, “This scene is pretty awesome. In fact, I think it’s totally hot. Scenes like this make me really enjoy my chosen vocation.” He spoke a little like he’d just read a primer on sarcasm. But I was down. When I asked about his rubber gloves, he said, “The same company that makes these also makes latex condoms. This type of rubber is supposed to be totally impermeable. Of course, there’s no way to be sure about that, which is why I have two kids.” I laughed like he was my instant homeslice.

About the time the plumber showed up, though, the lawn maintenance dude arrived outside on his platform mower, cutting ordered zigzags into the clover while the sun bounced off his Oakley Razorblades. All our windows were open and Eleanor was napping, but, naturally, the incessant, deafening roar of the gas engine woke her up. So she stumbled, bleary eyed, into the hallway looking for her Ma while I was conferring with the plumber and also still trying to eat lunch and get some writing done. Chaos. About the same time, I happened to glance out the window and caught sight of my next door neighbor, a fiftysomething White guy who lives in a house that looks like a giant wedge of cheesecake, clad head-to-toe in a beekeeping suit. “Ill be damned, Ella,” I said, scooping her up into my arms, “that guy’s a bee keeper!” With his smoke can piping away, he ambled on over to his bee boxes at the shaded edge of the yard, and soon enough the bees were swarming all over his paws and legs in writhing black clumps. The smoke poured out of the can’s spout until he looked like a fallen cloud with human legs.

Decisions


Yesterday my cousin Lesley & I surprised Janelle by cooking supper and having a little celebration for her brand new private practice. Yup. She pretty much knocked the ball out of the park in an interview with a group of progressive but grounded counselors, shrinks, and assorted therapists here in the I.C. So they invited her to join their loose affiliation, rent an office space, and start counseling. Word up. So last week was Janelle’s first week on the job. She’s doing well at it, too.

But anyway, Lesley, who is sixteen years old and living with us for the month of June and part of July, and myself - we fried up some chicken for Janelle. As a way of saying Congratulations. We also framed her grad school diploma. And made her a card. And poured her a glass of the world’s cheapest wine. And got a bunch of people to call and leave voicemail messages wishing her well, which I then edited with Garage Band to make an inspirational, personalized little sound clip that she can listen to whenever the wolves start closing in. Wolves of minutiae. Wolves of self-doubt. You know…the goddamn wolves.

But now it’s 8 a.m. and I’ve been up since 6 with my daughter who really just wants to scream Yes! At life nonstop, and runs, plays, bites the world, leaps, falls, cries, dances, and refuses to be demurely cuddled or condescended to in any of the usual adult world “oh ain’t she cute” ways, because she’s too large for it, and then when you least expect it, she puts her head on your shoulder and kisses your ear and you say something to the ol’ Unmoved Mover, like I don’t know, maybe something like Thank You Old Timer. But she’s worn herself thin and is now back to sleep with her Ma (who sleeps in when she can, since she’s the hardest working therapist in the therapy biz), while I’m wide awake, which is our usual routine these days. So I’m going to write now and see if I can get Doc Holiday (the geometrical center of my short story/novella) to do or say anything interesting this morning. And now I look up and see that Janelle is awake too, so I have a difficult choice to make: write or have coffee with my good gal. Decisions, decisions…

25 June 2008

La Cabeza de Zorro

Last night I rode our newly-acquired (found rusting and unclaimed in the basement of this apartment) tapioca-yellow bicycle down to the celebrated Foxhead tavern and drank with the fiction writers. These people literally take over the bar every Tuesday night. They even chased off the two drunkards who were holding court at the bar for what appeared to have been a very long time. I met a lot a people, laughed at some of the funniest stories I've heard in a while, and played a few songs on the jukebox before I wobbled back through the night to my sleeping wife and babe. I had wild, PBR-soaked dreams last night. I don't get those very often anymore, so when I do they're real roller coasters. It's important to note that suspended above the bar, there is an actual fox's head, stuffed and mounted inside a glass cube.

24 June 2008

Vampires, Buddhas, & Karl Marx


So apparently I love Michelob Light. Yup. I’ve homebrewed, handpicked, and sampled just about every beer available to me and, at last, I’ve found my long, lost forgotten son: A wee lad named Michelob Light.

Last night I sat down with my boy and watched the light change on the walls of our little apartment. I also read the latest Rolling Stone, the latest Oxford American, and a book on power called Power. Janelle made polenta and we feasted on that. Afterwards, I went on a bike ride downtown, returning with mango ice cream and cookies for the household. The light in the skies downtown was even prettier than the light on our walls. The sky was all lit up in a soft, smoky little sunset that might’ve looked a little lonely up there, but was fine besides.

This morning I failed in my attempt to get to Dey House, which is where the Writer’s Workshop headquarters are located. I’ve been meaning to go over and introduce myself, but it’s not as easy as you’d think. These days, there’s a lot of minutiae to tend to. Like all this financial aid stuff that makes my brain hurt just to sit and think about. And becoming a resident. And red tape. And then the budgetary concerns. I find myself drawing cartoons lately of a certain winged vampire Buddha who descends to spirit my psyche away from all the wolves of minutiae. But that’s just cartoons. In real life, I gotta be my own vampire Buddha…

I once wrote a poem called “The Vampires versus The Buddhas” and submitted it to a journal called Figdust, which a certain local professor/poet was publishing (and by that I mean that he was fronting the money and guidance for the project, which was in truth the pet project of a certain comely co-ed with whom I once took a poetry class). Anyway, “The Vampires versus The Buddhas” didn’t get selected for publication. But two other poems of mine did. And one day, in the late 1990’s, I was standing on top of a half-built, never-finished geodesic wasp’s nest of a home in the Blood of Christ Mountains in southern Colorado, opening up a letter from home. And inside it was a copy of the journal, with my poems and a note from the co-ed thanking me for my contributions. It was a weird moment. It was like standing on a kitchen table on the moon and receiving a letter from Karl Marx.

23 June 2008

Imperfectly




In my funny life, there hasn't been much greater bliss than waking up in the nuclear mammalian breeder bliss of a tiny warm family as sunlight comes quietly creeping in through an open window three floors above the midwestern world - strange new prairie home - fragrant and lush with terrible snowmelt that feeds a rollicking verdant ecosystem pulsing with Gaia's yonic lifeforce and the coffee ain't been brewed yet but you can almost smell it, see heaven in yr wife's eyes, daughter's eyes, dog's eyes, eyes' eyes...when the eaves on the house next door look friendly and cleanly kept and you know that evil is far away, the heart is clean, creation imperfect, pure.

22 June 2008

Circle



Today I am sitting by the window, blogging and staring at the gigantic pale yellow house next door. This thing is huge, and the owner is clearly a very wealthy Caucasian. He even has a little Alpha Romeo convertible under a heavy-gauge polyurethane sheet in his front yard, in addition to the three vehicles you see here. Christ, the gas money this guy spends per week is probably ten times what I made last year...

Yesterday I sat by this same window, watched traffic, and read this translation of a Jorge Borges short story called “The Circular Ruins” about an “anonymous gray man” in a jungle somewhere who seeks “a soul worthy of participating in the universe.” He attempts to dream this soul into being, and it ends up taking a really long time. After an initial failure, he eventually succeeds by dreaming the person one body part at a time, “with meticulous love.” It takes fourteen nights of lucid dreaming to dream the person’s aorta alone! The guy then moves on to the other vital organs, etc. until the person is complete. He also has some other dreams, one of which involves a talking animal that is either a tiger or a colt or perhaps both. At the end of the story, the dream-person comes to life as the jungle catches fire. In the final moments, the man is stricken with fear that his creation may one crippling day discover that he (the creation) is not really real, just a dream-person brought to life. Because he empathizes with his dream-person-now-brought-to-life, this terrifies the man, but he realizes simultaneously that he’s about to be burned up in the jungle fire.

At the very last minute, he realizes that he himself is only a dream-person in some other dude’s dream, and he realizes that he’s okay with that. He is burned alive in the fire, but he has no pain and actually finds himself in a state of relief. The end. It’s called “The Circular Ruins” because the man lays down to dream all of his dreams in these circular ruins deep in the heart if the jungle. But, of course, there’s a double entendre or two in there as well.

I honestly don’t know if this story is any good. But Borges has his cajones intact, because though it may sound a little The Alchemist-y, this story is full of bizarre oddities that defy gravity. He writes stuff like “toward the South, the sky turned the rosy color of a leopard’s gums.” Also, thematically it’s pretty dark and, though it seems constructed to read like a myth or fable, it offers no clear direction at all as to what’s reality and what’s not, much less does it offer any clear moral or ethical (or even immoral and unethical) answers to our own burning jungles, conflicting realities, and strange creations. It’s like an anti-parable of some kind and I dig that.

Fiction like this makes me wonder, though, about the Writer’s Workshop and how, with so many narrative styles out there, I’ll know which teachers’ and students’ opinions to trust. Maybe I’ll just know, but you know what I’m sayin’. It’s a little freaky-deaky. Like Leonard Cohen says, "I can't trust my inner feelings. Inner feelings comes and go." But ask anyone who knows and they’ll tell you that I’m kind of a discreet control freak. And since all a workshop is is a way of turning your art into a collaboration (which is what it really was to begin with, since no man is an island, et cetera, but still I tend to prefer my illusions of singular control intact), I’ve probably got some hard knocks ahead of me. I mean, yeah, I know how to not be defensive, but there is an instinct for a man to stick up for his progeny, no matter how rotten it might be. Oh snap! Maybe that’s what Borges proved in “The Circular Ruins”…(damn, it really is circular, idnit?!)

21 June 2008

Valhalla



"Walhalla's pinned to the edge of South Carolina."
-Vic Chesnutt

These are images of Iowa. Iowa is hurt pretty bad by the floodwaters right now. Poor Iowa. They say it’ll take at least 2 to 3 years for things to return to normal...We drove through Burlington last week, to get here. Burlington is now underwater as well. Nobody can get anywhere.

As I type this, Eleanor is asleep in her marsupial get-up, which allows her father & mother to perambulate, move, groove, occupate & travel while the nipper rides shotgun. It’s called an “Ergo,” and it’s one of many totally useful, yuppy-hippie products available for consumption by today’s modern parent. For a hefty fee, of course. But whatever. I’ll pay that fee if it’s gonna help make Adventures In Modern Parenting a real, live event instead of science fiction or escapist fantasy.

When I was a kid, some of my best friends were into sci-fi and fantasy stories. They’d collect the paperback novels about errant knights and dragons and bottomless pits. Not me, though. (I preferred reading and re-reading the New Book of Knowledge encyclopedia set that my father bought back in ’71.) It was the images from those stories that always captivated me the most. Not just the ones pictured on the cover of the D&D books, but most especially the ones in my own mind. I didn’t like reading about elves and beggar thieves, but I loved dreaming up my own and imagining that they actually populated my Pac-Man, Reagonomics 1980’s childhood.

Sometimes I think that if Valhalla really exists, maybe it’s comprised of your earth-soul’s most pungent, friendly fantasies. The kind that overwhelmed your five senses and gave you new life when everything else was in question, like a stolen apple that tastes like Salvation and Mercy and Ecstasy all at once. If that’s the case, my Valhalla will definitely have some bottomless pits and crazed minotaurs in it. And perhaps a Cyclops will stand guard over the Iowa prairies, which light up with fireflies at dusk.

20 June 2008

For The Little Ones


This is (1)the local theater and (2)a shot of Eleanor rocking out to Lucinda Williams on Ye Olde hi-fi. Boo-yah!!

Today I had lunch with 3 second-year fiction writers from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. They were all thirtysomething, married, very cool, and very serious about writing. Not serious as in grave or lacking a sense of humor, but serious as in “this is how I want to spend my time.” We sat and ate barbecue sandwiches and talked for about three hours or more and it slowly became more and more apparent to me that I have once again landed at the right place at the right time- and for that I am grateful.

One of the writers is working on his 2nd or 3rd novel – something he called “a high-seas adventure set in the 1800’s,” and as he did, his eyes twinkled. The others said they were working on novels as well. “We’ll all be at the Foxhead this Tuesday night. Can you come out?” Heck yeah I can.

Iowa City folks tend to be kindhearted. And some people are just basically righteous. Case in point: Just a few minutes ago, I dashed out to the CVS to try and buy a little radial fan to help cool our tiny apartment. (The heat is hot here, and it keeps the little one awake.) Sadly, the CVS was closed. So as I exited the parking deck, I asked the attendant if he knew of a place to buy a fan and he said – and I’m not making this up – “It’s for your little one, isn’t it?” And I furrowed my brow and smiled “Yeah.” And then he unplugged his fan from his very own parking attendant cubicle and handed it to me, refusing payment: “Just do something nice for somebody else and we’re even.” Folks, it’s a hot and muggy evening in Iowa City tonight. And so I know that right know there’s a guy named Harold (I asked him his name and said, “Cool, Harold. My daughter Eleanor says ‘thanks!’”)watching over an emptying lot on the West end of downtown, with beads of sweat on his brow. He’s happy as a clam, though. ‘Cause he’s lookin’ out for the Little Ones…

19 June 2008

What Is Different?


Here, the fire hydrants are shaped like iron q-tips. People have license plates on the front and back of their automobiles. And package stores are called what they really are - liquor stores. There’s a vibrant LGBTQ scene here, and a co-op that’s out of this world. Apparently, too, there’s a bar (The Foxhead), where the Writer’s Workshop fiction writers have been congregating every Tuesday night for over thirty years. The jukebox is said to be heavily weighted with Dylan tunes. (The poets have their own bar, across town.)

When we moved in under cover of night last Friday, a weird, warm fella with big funny eyes who lives across the hall welcomed us (“Hi there!”) and gave us important flood updates and information (“The creek may flood. Pay attention to it. Since you don’t have a t.v., I’ll keep you posted.”). The next morning, as tornado sirens moaned across the city, he brought us a pre-cooked chicken, which I devoured almost instantly. The weather radio crackled all afternoon. Sunny yesterday, Janelle took him some cookies as a way to say “thanks,” and they chatted awhile.

This apartment is old, historic. It used to be a doctor’s office, so there are funny doors and cabinets all over the place. Cubbies for tinctures and braces, compounds and shunts. In each room, a strange chandelier hangs, like a jeweled breast, like something out of Sunset Boulevard. The square footage is perfect, as if Fortuna took our measurements before we set out on any portion of this journey. Only thing is that now Stella The Canine has nowhere to outrun the advances of Little Eleanor, who only wants to climb up on her and giddyap into the moonlight, screeching like a pixie. We'll be in this sub-let for five more weeks, before moving (once again) on down the line.

Last night I had a dream. I can’t remember it, exactly. Only vague hints and impressions, emotive associations. I find this to be one of the strangest things about dreams: You can remember them in clumps. Well…I suppose that’s life, too, though. I open up my window, lean out, and crow, “The moment art becomes political art, it’s no longer art, it’s indecent exposure!” I hear someone reply something back, but I can’t hear them over the sounds of mirth in this little heaven.

18 June 2008

The Uberman

Stella the dog is scratchin' and Lesley the cousin is readin’ and Janelle the mama/workin’ gal is nursin’ Eleanor the kid, who’s sucklin’ and soon to be dreamin’ in our tiny bed tucked by the radiator, which isn’t makin’ a peep since it’s the middle of June and outside all the Iowa birds are gathering together for the morning worm hunt while I sit here and drink my coffee and listen to Mozart and the sound of high heels against the pavement outside as some unknown, unseen woman heads off to work with a cordial newspaper tucked under her arm.

On the floor, all around me, maps and pamphlets are welcoming me and my family to this city. “To become the Uberman, imagine whatever you want to be, then become that,” I say to the worm, the bird, and to myself, who sometimes needs reminding that we’re not just predestined, pre-programmed social autobots, but actual angels in our clothes and simple shoes, “and pray for strength and dignity along the way. The humility will arrive on its own.” No, maybe these aren’t my words, but the words of an ancient urchin with glaucoma and a bum leg wrapped in plastic bags and duct tape, some griot in Gazelles, standing guard over the pedestrian promenade, dispensing pop wisdom for handouts, corndogs.

I don’t know birds. And so when I tell you that I see an Oriole outside, perched in his rusty brown jacket and bright yellow beak, take it with a grain of salt. He could be a million and one things all tied up into one. I call him an Oriole, because specificity = better writing. “But I’m not an Oriole. And you’re not specific, you’re just wrong,” she says, in chirp-talk. “Aw, I’m sorry baby. Please forgive me. I ain’t nothin’ but a damn American man with a lot of cigarettes in my past.” She does forgive me, I believe, because she’s building her new nest in my heart. “Fuck specificity. Be honest about what you know,” is my new prayer, “Grow some wings.”

Time passes. Sage smoke fills the apartment.

Janelle’s coffee has kicked in, which makes her chatty like a cheerleader for the passing of time. The clock ticks. Like the Oriole, she is perched over the pamphlets now, perusing them and commenting on the many swimming classes available in this city. “Look at this!” and “Hey!” Eleanor is asleep, perfect, and full of a quiet fire. I say to my self, “All of a sudden, this happens…all of a sudden…all of a sudden…” This is one phrase that will never die from the English language. Will never grow old or reach obsolescence. Everything happens all of a sudden. We enter, we exit. Things happen. All of a sudden. “Janelle, let’s swim to the Grand Canyon next summer. We’ll get Ella some swim fins and just go for it.” Elsewhere in this city, relief workers are bailing neck-deep water out of the art museum.

16 June 2008

The Facts of Iowa


Due to the following facts, Dr. Desiree’s Philological Fotomat has been temporarily placed in suspended animation:

(1) We made it to Iowa City, after a feat of long-distance driving and cross-country coordination that would make NASA blush in envy.
(2) We are therefore exhausted and are now surrounded by boxes of things in a small apartment we’ll be sub-letting for the next 6 weeks.
(3) Time is short and though the days are long, any free time is best spent, not by blogging, but by tending to the “immediate items of existence and survival.”
(4) Iowa City is flooded, and the waters won’t crest until tomorrow.
(5) We live right next to a creek.
(6) We do not have access to internet, because, even though we live in an apartment surrounded by people with wi-fi accounts, they’re all on lock-down. Why these Iowan tenants are so possessive of their airwaves is somewhat of a mystery to me, but this cannot be helped. I am typing this right now in an internet cafĂ© several blocks from my home. There are paintings on the wall. The artist is skilled.

When enough of the above concerns have been met, dealt with, and dispatched, Dr. Desiree is gonna roll back up on the scene like a vigilante of love in a Cadillac on 22’s. Until then, be well, dear readers. We’re all safe n’ sound.

15 June 2008

Paradise


"Whee. Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there." "Where we going, man?" "I don't know but we gotta go."

—Jack Kerouac

13 June 2008

Whitman's II


Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe- I have tried it- my own feet have tried it well- be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

-Walt Whitman

12 June 2008

Any Road, Any Load



And so. The open road calls me. I answer it, and drive 888 miles to my new home, so far away from the cicadas, gardenias, and familiar people, places, and ways of being. So far from Old Home. The wrench in my throat tightens. I pass an old man walking a bicycle along the side of the road. I wave. He waves back, looking a million years old, and so I name him Methuselah. Methuselah of the Wheeled Devices - he blesses my U*Haul with his glaucoma smile and tonight I dream of rivers.

Of course, every goodbye has a hello just under its epidermis. And I'd say exfoliation is the whole point. It's why I hustle and flow, make it, get it, lose it, destroy it, fall into a laurel, or fuck up and start again. So what peaches and penumbras does Iowa City hold for me and my Coyote Clan? (Only the Secret Eye knows.)

I received a letter from the Rhetoric Department at U of Iowa today, letting me know that they are for real - as real as I am anyway. And so since this isn't a dream, and since we're all real enough, I guess I'd better put one foot in front of the other...see what's inside the onion. Maybe a carnelian. Maybe a carnation.

This summer will be a crucial summer for the world. I think that perhaps all things now hang in the balance. And what am I doing? I'm watching trains, a baby, and a love affair. I'm watching things change. I'm watching the spiral dance in the void. I'm driving a truck from Georgia to Iowa. And so wherever you are, dear reader, reclined in your mind, know that I'll see you in the sky above, in the tall grass, and in the ones I love. Let's let it all just be okay.

11 June 2008

Whitman's Sampler


AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)

-Walt Whitman

Tomorrow: Paducah



Today was all about renting a U*Haul, packing, and eating Mallo Cups. Tomorrow will be all about driving 400+ miles to Paducah, Kentucky in a big rented truck. Paducah's the 1/2-way point between here & Iowa, and luckily I'll have my cousin Lesley riding shotgun, because I'm actually not a huge fan of Kentucky...strange as it may seem. Lesley's agreed to hang out with us for a whole month in Iowa City, which is rocking good news. She's a huge help with Eleanor, but also just a good kid who is also somewhat nutty in that she hates eating tacos but will gladly empty the contents of a taco onto her plate and eat that just fine, thank you very much.

Anyway, today's been an emotional day. I felt sad, nostalgic, happy, excited, and even complete loathing for the two women in Woodbury, Georgia, who staffed the gas station with the dirt parking lot where I was scheduled to pick up my U*Haul and trailer. Of course, despite my reservation, it was all fucked up and they were absolutely no help at all, since they couldn't operate their computer except to play electronic blackjack and didn't even know how to hook the trailer to the truck (both of which I was renting from them), fer the love of Krishna. "I don't know what to tell you, besides I. Have. No. Idea. How To Hook That Trailer Up," the manager said to me, deftly explaining that I was S.O.L. But I just called my boy Greg over in Manchester and he hooked a brother up with the goods. (Of course, this means that my 30 min. trip to the U*Haul place turned into a 3 hour odyssey.) My man Greg...that's what I'm talkin' about.

Anyway, Janelle is the woman I love and she just made the Excellent Taco Feast that has put me in a free and easy mood. I think I'll go stand around outside now and look for UFO's under the black, gunky canopy of night. Maybe go for a swim. Tomorrow, we ride the whale North!

10 June 2008

Quote Unquote

“Life itself is a quotation.”

-Jorge Borges

SWAB versus The World

Don't hate the playa - hate the game. That's what somebody needs to tell whoever is hating on "SWAB," from Los Angeles, and who went so far as to not only cross out SWAB's throw-up tags, but to actually spray-paint a human hand giving him (or her) The Finger. That's a pretty clear message, I'd say. But why? Why this hatred of SWAB? The world may never know.

09 June 2008

G.J.W.H.F.

In "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," (which I just listened to as part of a early morning 'getting up early can be fun, not necessarily horrible' dance mix with Eleanor) Cyndi Lauper says "Oh Daddy Dear, you know you're still number one...but girls- they wanna have fun." I hope, later in life, Eleanor never has to say anything like that to me. That would SUCK. She probably will, though. 'Cause I'll be a psychotically overprotective father. She'll have to break it down for me at some point and be like, "I love you, Dad. But I gotta have some freedom." And that's when I'll be like, "I know. I know. Cyndi Lauper prophesied this moment a long time ago."

Often, I wonder what kinds of things Eleanor will say when she learns to talk. I wonder if she'll have a Southern accent. I wonder if she'll like Roald Dahl...Will she be afflicted with her Pa's echolalia and obsession with letters and words? Will she lie about what books she's reading? Will she make zines and comics? Will she debate everything? Loathe Huck Finn? Wanna invent a new poetic form? Be an R & B singer? Deconstruct it all with a modern feminine twist? Crawl across this language like a bobcat? Probably. If not, well...that's okay too.

08 June 2008

J.B.

“Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.”

-Jorge Borges

Twelve Months




Yesterday, Eleanor turned One Year Old! We celebrated by eating salmon, swimming, going on a long walk along the R/R tracks, shooting bb guns, opening some presents, and finally building a big bonfire. This morning, we got up early and sat by that same fire (the embers had burned hot all night long, so all I had to do was throw some pine straw on there and a big-assed piece of cedar, which made the railroad earth smell like a burningbush sweat lodge and muscadine day in old muscogee creek country under blazing hot sun of early June) and ate cantaloupe, watching the trains amble along. The Lord smiled down and saw that it was Good, issuing forth a hot breeze that blew upon us mortals that said, "Today's a good day. Today I'll spare you my wrath."

07 June 2008

Deconstruction of Anarchy Life


Hardcore graffing comes from the Afro-Latin diaspora, primarily. Anglos can be a part of that experience, but, in my opinion, it's as an outsider. It's the outsider experience...which modifies the experience and turns the experience itself into an in/outsider experience, which is the whole "it flops inward on itself" postmodern event. But anyway, if you want to see a real comparison between bored, White rural kids and the difference between bored Black or Latin urban kids (whose graffiti I've been blogging on for the past month or so), here it is, in spray paint. Anarchy life, man.

Why are young White people so obsessed with anarchy? It probably has to do with evil old England dominating, killing & colonizing the bone-scraping Celts of astronomy and plowing all the old agrarian-ancient Druid folk traditions under, into the dirt of a corrupt, divine monarchy hell-bent on proselytizing the world with its show of power, commerce, and global gentrification. It all started with the Irish - my people. From there, things just got worse and worse for the world. And so, deep down inside, maybe White people loathe ideas of power and control, not only because their ancestors were so victimized by it, but also because, as Whites, they loathe themselves for what their people have done/are doing. It's all unconscious stuff, as it must be.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. I mean, despite our race or religion, don't we all have an inner-anarchist? Maybe that's what the Wild Style is about, in part: Obliterating the old methods of control. Of image, of language, and of people. Not talking about it, just doing it. The medium as the message. Perhaps, skill and mastery aside, perhaps there's not much difference between these two pieces of graffiti after all. Anglo, Black, Latin, Asian...nobody - esp. a young person - wants to be tyrannized by the insidious thing called Control.

Whoever did the "Anarchy Life" piece here also included a cartoon figure of some kind, as well as a pentagram. I figure the artist to be a local 14-year old boy, probably a headbanger skater. Hates school. He's dabbling in drugs, too - just Mary Jane for now, which he gets from his older brother. His parents are divorced, and he and his brother live with their mom in a trailer park. He loves his mom. hates her boyfriends, except for the one that dumped her last month. Attachment disorder resultant. He's slowly turning into a young man, but there's still a fair amount of kid left in him. The cartoon head, with its dead/stoned "x" eyes signifies the death of the infantile. The fact that the face is also smiling is either a cool pose of some variety, or a sign that, despite his losses, the artist is nonetheless ready to drop out, turn on, and take on the world with his hardcore antics. He's bored as well, in other words, and probably scared. What he needs is a world that makes sense. What he's got instead...is anarchy life.

Tellingly and fascinatingly, the star pentagram floats off to the left, as a counterbalance to the "dead head." At first, it's easy to dismiss this as another punk rock cool pose signifier. But, no, that pentagram's well over 3,000 years old, and it has been used as a sign of divinity, grace, alchemy and soul-power within the contexts of many a culture and religion around the world. Whether or not he knew that (and I'm assuming he didn't - at least, not consciously), he has nonetheless placed it as an alternative energy or force acting in a kind of complementary opposition to the "dead head." The dichotomy here is "drop out versus fight the power." I'd say that this artist has plenty of hope of realizing his own power, if the right causes and conditions come together. And I hope they do. That'd be a nice, happy ending to Anarchy Life.

06 June 2008

Adios, Farm





Today was my last day of work at the farm. And though I was only employed there for a month or so, it was one of the coolest places I've ever worked. I'll miss it. And I'll miss my morning commute across the ridge that spans the magical, motherly Pine Mountain.

This morning, I got up at 5:30 a.m., drove to the farm, and started picking squash as the sun rose. Drowsy bees, up early for some reason, buzzed like tiny chainsaws, humming the poetry of Li Po: "Waking up drunk and happy on a Spring morning..."

After that came onions, potatoes, mixed greens, and so on. Around ten a.m., Jenny rang the bell for breakfast. We had pancakes with honey and fresh sausage from a neighboring farm. A man named "Skip" shared his coffee with me. Skip turned out to be an organic farming guru, and a real nice fella. Interesting guy. "This is Faulkner reading weather," he said around noon, while heat waves undulated across the terraces of red clay. He said he reads according to the weather. "In the winter, I read Russian novels." I liked him. "Iowa, huh? Sounds like a real good time." I told him I thought so too.

On the drive home, I called my friend Matthew. But poor phone reception swallowed our phone call in frenetic chunks. I'd hear every other word he said, then he'd hear every other word I said. It was ridiculous. So I yelled "bye!" hung up and enjoyed the curves of the highway, which brought me all the way back home.

05 June 2008

Maggie's Farm

Punk rock chica is asleep now, down for her morning nap. And Janelle & I are back in Manchester, where we have six days left before the Big Move. Our hearts are pretty bruised and blistered from saying the endless goodbye to Athens. And we're exhausted. I therefore told The Farm I wouldn't be coming in to work today. Instead, I said to the farm, I will be spending time with my family and my mind. At some point, I'll probably hit the DQ as well.

Why is goodbye such a hard word to say? Why is it like a piece of barbed wire wrapped around the heart chakra? Why is homesickness one of the most painful forms of longing? I think it's because some of us are hardwired to "sense of place," and leaving a beloved geographical location is like excising part of your psyche. It can take you a while to find yourself again. They're not easy, but no one ever died from a goodbye. A fair share have suffered because they couldn't, though. It's important to know when to move on.

Stella's veterinarian almost started crying the other day, during her appointment. "We'll miss seeing y'all around here," he said, handing me a copy of his e-mail address. "Good luck with the writing, Jonathan. Stay true to it. My brother was a writer, but he got stuck in the world of academia. Now he teaches at three different colleges and never has time to do what he really loves." Point taken, thank you very much.

03 June 2008

Punk Rock Chica

The wife & I need new clothes. We're embarking on a new life, after all, and all our old clothes are worn out, stained, and/or spindled. So we went to some resale shops yesterday, in search of anything decent. One of the places we went to was called "Gently Worn Teen Styles." That was actually the name of the store. Okay, not actually, but that's what the sign out front says, in big bold Helvetica letters. GENTLY WORN TEEN STYLES. So that's what I call the place. Anyway, we went there and did okay. But then we went to this other store (I forget what it was called, but for now I'll just refer to it as ANNOYING PEOPLE WORK HERE) and struck pay dirt.

Pay dirt comes with a price, though. And in this case, the price was - as you may have guessed - the annoying people working there. They were all in their early twenties, in really tight clothes, and they all had salon-styled haircuts. All of which is fine, of course. But the fact that they were also annoying modified all the descriptors I just laid down, making them annoyingly young, in annoyingly tight clothes, and annoyingly hairstyled.

So basically, it was a cadre of mall scenesters who felt soooooo cool because they work in a resale store instead of a mall and, you know, resale stores are, like, so much more punk rock than the mall. In the same way that navy blue is the new black. Or whatever. So everybody was all attitude and super bitchy about the overall affect of my daughter, who was on ambulatory fire, running around ripping clothes off the hanger and teething on fake Versacci handbags while the Missus was in the fitting room and I was trying on various 1970's-whiteface-era-Dylanesque hats. Because let me tell you people, when I'm up in Iowa, writing my experimental fiction and teaching rhetoric to hungover, cornfed Iowa youth, I want to look like 1970's-era Bob Dylan. Dig?

So anyway, enter a snarky little managerial vixen in uber-tight jeans and a black-dyed Tony Hawk swoop of hair that hung down over her left eye like a crow's wing taped to her eyebrow: "Can you, like, control her?"

"Actually, no. No, I can't do that. But I can put a Great Kabuki choke hold her joie de vivre if she's bothering your scene."

"Huh?"

I then noticed her facial stubble and realized that she was a he, which didn't make any difference to me, except that it made me weep for an entire generation, whose idea of edginess and rebellion is designer jeans and spray-on bitchy attitudes of entitlement that were invented in some suburban laboratory somewhere and appear to have leeched into the national water supply. Then again, my daughter was pure mayhem. I guess that makes her the most punk rock chica in the room.

02 June 2008

Beneath The Sky



Me and my family atomic are in the land of Athens, GA this week, saying goodbye to the many faces and places that've left their traces and imprints in the wrinkles of our cerebellums and hearts and minds. It's a tough job, I won't lie. But we lean forward to our next crazy venture beneath the sky...