Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It's a good weekend for motorcycle riders from the flatland to go to the mountains for an all-day ride in the curves of mountain highways. Awhile ago a guy rode by with his arms sticking straight up, probably handlebars custom fitted to the length of his arms so he can go around looking like Xtreme Peter Fonda. It's an all day parade of every kind of motorcycle there is. Big ones with saddle suitcases in candy apple red with lights and chrome everywhere. Some look like the rider is simply sitting in a chair. Some require the rider's legs to point straight ahead. Some, the rider leans back to make me wonder how uncomfortable that must be on the long haul. It's like it's not a motorcycle unless it has chrome everywhere. Chrome looks better than oil-coated rust.
Motorcycle clubs with 10-50 or so riders from the cities go in long caravans. A couple weeks ago I saw a string of over a hundred of them. Some have the sound quality of an F-16 that continues rumbling long out of sight down the highway. Two different bunches just now went by together, obviously not connected. The first bunch was five newish, colorful, baritone Harleys, a guy driving and a babe hanging onto his letissibles, a word I got from 50s comedian Dave Gardner meaning love handles. The second bunch right behind them was half a dozen buzzing rice rockets. They were right behind the Harleys like yellow jackets buzzing the tails of the slower bumble bees. One of them carried on the back, side-saddle, a scantily clad babe in black with long black hair, Goth. Surrealism on highway 18.
In 06 when I drove out to Kansas to meet relatives I'd never known in Perry KS, talking with third cousin Gary Ellis from my grandmother's side, I told him how driving for several hours in a straight line I had a hard time staying awake. He said, "Do the curves in the mountains keep you awake?" I said, I reckon. I'd never thought of it like that, but maybe they do. They certainly hold your attention, like when you get into one that keeps on truning and keeps on turning and you realize you went into the curve a little too fast for the circle it seems to be making, hit the brakes, keep it in the road. One of those kinds of curves will definitely wake you up the first time around it.
In the summer it's about every other week we have a motorcycle wreck, sometimes fatal, sometimes a helicopter to Winston, sometimes Sparta emergency room, seldom no problem for the rider. In almost every description I've read of what happened and knowing the location, I can see it. Like a particular curve on Jane Taylor Mountain that everybody living in this county knows, but it creeps up on somebody from the flatland and says, BOO. It's the same thing over and over. Motorcycle takes the curve riding the yellow line, leaning over into the other lane. A truck or a big SUV comes the other way around the curve straddling the yellow line. That's it. Cat shit.
Several months ago, maybe almost a year, I was driving into town on Saturday morning to the radio station around 20 after 9. In the curve at the town end of Thompson Flat, a row of 15-20 bikers, all of them affecting the traditional biker Vietnam vet look, cool bikes, cool helmets, came at me around that curve as I was going into it, every one of them on the yellow line, every one leaning way over into my lane. I rode the white line to stay out of their way, obvious beginners. I thought one or more of these fellers is going home in a body bag.
The following Wednesday in the paper, two bikers on a motorcycle club ride from some city hit a car in a curve on Jane Taylor Mountain, half way between Sparta and Laurel Springs about ten minutes after I saw them leaving town. The car wasn't straddling the yellow line either. It was up to the line, but the bikers, believing they were in the boonies, as do so many of them, believed they had the road all to themselves. Mostly they do. Then they don't.
You never hear of a mountain boy riding the yellow line around a blind curve. Riding that yellow line implies trust that nobody straddles the yellow line in cars or trucks. Live here long enough and you see a lot of them do. In fact, it's predictable that after a certain amount of time living here, like a few years, you'll start complaining about all the cars and trucks you see straddling the yellow line in blind curves. The only answer I know to give is, you'll get used to it. It's never received as a satisfactory answer, but as far as I can see, it's the only answer there is.
Station's Inn in Laurel Springs, close to the Parkway, has become a good hangout place for people with motorcycles. I've never been there, but know several who have and one who has worked there. All tell me it's a great place. They have regional metal bands play once a week. It put Laurel Springs back on the map. The place seems to have hit the ground running. It's like a little spot of Key West in the mountains. When I first heard about it, it was going good with too many motorcycles to count parked everywhere. Motorcycle people are different now from what they were in the 50s and 60s where they got the bad name.
The Station's Inn website is easy: http://www.stationsinn.com I borrowed the picture above from their slideshow of 2008 snapshots.
A friend in Atlanta has a big Honda Gold Wing, almost a new one every year. He likes to ride country roads on weekends. He wears black leather because he doesn't want road rash. Of course, he has a black helmet with black visor so nobody can see in. He looks like Darth Vader's bodyguard. He said when he stops at a country store for a snack, the people in the store look like they're afraid of him. He means nobody any harm. He's an advertising photographer when he's not killing assassins making attempts on Darth Vader's life.
I can see by the people I know who ride motorcycles and people I see here on Hwy18 riding by all day long on weekends, it's just regular folks these days. Of all the thousands of bikers I've seen go by it doesn't seem fitting to call them bikers anymore because of the meanings that word has carried for so many years. There are still biker bars you wouldn't want to go into unless you were with Steven Seagal. The Station's Inn at Laurel Springs is the people who are just folks, meaning no harm. They just love to ride.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
My early years in these mountains were naive about the issue of trust. I mean really naive. Coming from city mind into the country way of thinking, at first I was frustrated because nobody trusted me, because they didn't know me. Ones that knew me hadn't known me long enough, or my background. In the city way of thinking, trust is an unconscious issue. Making money to pay the bills for stuff we want supersedes questions such as what trust really means beyond trusting emplyer to pay as agreed. Trust is legislated by law where it's illegal to bilk somebody. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Only that a signature on a document holds up in court.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Lies and lies and more lies and heaps of lies, attempts to create reality by repetition of lies. I've found myself in a whirlwind of lies, coverups, power issues, consciously being lied about with an agenda. I'm like an elephant, slow to forget. I may forget a lot of details, but I don't forget a whirlwind of lies by people I thought were my friends, who'd better not ever call me on the telephone or smile at me in person. They've lied so much about me, though, they already know better than to call me for any reason. Even if they don't know I know, they know they've told a heap of lies on me, and their consciences won't allow them to call me. They're on a mission they think is at my expense, when it is not.
It's mental pirhanas that eat at the mind and get my mind going in ways I don't like it to go. It's mostly over now. I took a long walk in the green world to let my mind go where it wanted to go. I couldn't stop the thinking, so I let it have some rein, and had a look at what it was I was stewing about. What I came to was seeing they're working against themselves and I'll step back and let them. It's mental workings that cause me to pull together the principles of the martial arts, which work as well in mental challenges as they do physical. I asked a master of the martial arts how you handle it when several people are at you. He said it's no problem. They can only come at you one at a time, so you take care of them one at a time. Steven Seagal choreographs the principle for film.
Again, we're in archetypal human behavior that goes back all the way to monkeys. I think of the Carter Family Song, You Better Leave That Liar Alone. That's what I'll do. Leave the liars alone. I don't want their karma rubbing against me. And I don't want their filth in my ears. My preference is for people who speak the truth when they speak, at least the truth as they know it, allowing for individual privacy. And there are an awful lot of people like that. So many really honest people around that I can feel like I'm in a good life among them. Honest people and dishonest people don't mix very well. I feel so much better when I'm talking with someone I know is not bulling me in any way, than talking with somebody you know couldn't tell the truth if he thought he was lying.
There's a darkness around lying that the people doing it take for affirming they're alive, for some odd reason or other. Like Lou Reed's song, Heroin, "cause it makes me feel like I'm a man / when I put a spike into my vein." That clenching darkness that goes with lying gives the false sense that it's ennervating, makes you feel alive. Ultimately, it doesn't matter about lying at all. People that want to lie will lie, making it something we live with in everyday life, fact and fiction blending into a state of mind that isn't certain about anything. When we're talking with somebody we know is prone to untruth, we don't pay attention, like watching tv commercials. We don't believe or disbelieve. And don't care. It's too crazy a weave to try to untangle. So it goes in one ear and out the other.
That's a liar's credibility. In one ear and out the other. The reason the Bible recommends against it is that it distorts one's own reality into something unreal and disconnected from the true self. That kind of burden on the soul is a heavy one that keeps one awake at night. Seems to me this world is illusion enough without making it all the moreso constructing reality out of false timbers. It makes dysfunctional thinking, thus dysfunctional behavior, and being known as a liar. Hooray. Doesn't seem like much of a reward. It is a reward, just not much of one. One I think of on the negative side of the scale.
These are people who don't understand the natural law that everything comes back, you get what you give. Emote and gush lies, and guess what--they'll all turn around and come back. Again, all I have to do is get out of the way and watch the boomerang show. They've already set their own karma in motion. None of them are people I want to be around anyway. I'll miss nothing. Would rather read a good book. A good book is so much better company than that kind of mind. So glad I took the walk in the green world. I can sleep restfully now.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Some of the beauties we see on the banks of old roads along the edge of woods. They transplant easily and they're hardy. I've used the sides of roads that are doomed in near future to get some of these fire pinks and some ferns over the years. I don't take many and leave no traces of digging. Thinning them slightly in one place where they're doomed and putting them in another where they'll be safe seems to me a fair balance that at least keeps them going for awhile.
It makes me laugh inside that having an aesthetic appreciation for what we call the natural world, the world outside control by the human mind called the wild, is politically radical. I wonder what John Burroughs would have thought of that. He was a nature lover and he was a radical in his time. He may have been even more radical a century ago when the Robber Barons were conservative. One of the great ironies of history that happens over and over, the Reagan Revolution created more liberals than there'd ever thought of being before.
What does a fern have to do with politics? Even a mountain trout has nothing to do with politics. The times I have sat on a rock in the stream long enough for the trout to come out and swim around, they have given me beautiful shows of swimming. It takes at least an hour for them to come back out after the giant walks by. I always had fish of some sort in childhood, mostly goldfish, and then an aquarium. I could watch the fish swim for hours at a time, mind at rest. Watching trout swim for a couple of hours was one of the great moments of my life.
There's not much political about appreciation of seeing a bobcat jump across the road in front of the truck and disappear into the woods the moment he entered the trees. Every one I've seen has disappeared like a ghost. I always stop to look and search just to see if I might be able to see something. Nothing. Like the little spirit cat I used to see in the house. I'd see it and it would disappear.
A memory surfaced of the time in dense fog, driving moderately, a buck with a big rack jumped across the hood of my truck. It seemed like the size of a horse. That was one of the many unforgettable moments with nature I've been graced by. In the same place where the deer jumped the hood, I was driving in no hurry and saw in the corner of my left eye a dog I knew named Morgan, a black dog with a lot of hair, that ran "coon-footed," heel first. The way the front legs were going was the same way Morgan looked when she ran. I turned my head for a better visual and it was a young black bear loping along the same speed I was driving.
Many times I've seen a hawk fly just in front of my hood for quite a ways, wings up and down make the body sway up and down. From behind like that and so close I can see the living being moving those arms loaded with feathers up and down with perfect understanding of flight, the tail working to right or left. I've seen crows fly in front of my truck for a good ways. Those are the moments I feel truly blessed. I feel like the mountain is showing me its grace.
There was the time I was standing on a rock in the stream and heard the yip-yip-yip of the pileated woodpecker. I looked in the direction I heard the voice and saw one flying through the trees straight toward me, swaying back and forth in flight between the trees. It flew about three feet over my head yip-yipping as it went by. I heard another and saw a second one following, yip-yip-yip, and it too flew about three feet above my head. I think I said, Thank You, out loud. There was the time a crow flew only a foot or so above my head and I heard its wings. It brought to mind the song Come Angel Band, "I hear the sound of wings."
I can't call any of these moments "signs," because I don't believe they are what we call signs. I have come to take them as a momentary blessing. A blessing such that I know I would never have an opportunity to receive if my mind were outside the present moment. There is a lot of freedom in living poor. Don't need so much income to live on, so don't have to work so hard. Have a little time to enjoy surprise moments that are mine only, gifts from a place I don't understand that I call the spirit of the mountain.
I may be all wet, but when something like that happens I honestly do feel like it is my mountain speaking to me with a surprise gift I'll never forget.
How radical is that?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Seems like whenever a bunch of people get together, any bunch of people, for a fairly extended period of time, dramas arise and get thicker and more complex until they become 'reality,' the people divide into factions and nothing can be done about it. This is how churches break up, how marriages break up, and other associations break up. We humans will make drama out of anything. It's called making a mountain out of a molehill. We love drama.
I've been in a crazy situation recently with ultimately about a dozen people thrown together around one man, all wanting to help him in his hard time of creeping up on death, the slow fade. People who wouldn't otherwise be so cooperative with each other put aside whatever heisitations they might have for the benifit of Jr. Every one agrees that's what we're about and we get along very well. Then this one and that one want this for Jr, but these over here want something else, and the offices at the nursing home have their own agendas. Then there's talking behind backs and all that goes with that.
I happened to be in his room the first day the Social Worker of the place came in to introduce herself. She was sweet and gave a great long routine of how she's not like other social workers, she works for him not the system, that kind of thing. All the time I'm thinking, after living in this world long enough to get white hair, there's something about this I don't quite believe. I've found that every time somebody comes on to me like that, the opposite turns out to be the case. While she was talking, I was thinking I don't believe a word of it. Since then, Jr doesn't even know who she is. He never sees her. That day a couple months ago was probably the last time he saw her or heard her name. That's not necessarily so, leaving room for my present state of mind that's rather aggitated, but if it's an exaggeration, it's not by much.
Like this morning I was told she's telling it that I'm "spearheading a movement" to get Jr home by telling him he's ready to go home. I'd rather she tell that to me than someone else. It set that little ole molehill to growing and I'm saying, Lord Have Mercy, of course I'm telling him he's ready to go home. The physical thearpy people in the rehabilitation department have been telling me for two weeks he's ready to go home. He's completed his rehabilitation. If Jr had no hope of going home he would shut down and waste away in despair. I see no reason for Jr to feel despair. I don't want him to despair. He's not afraid of dying. He's in there for rehabilitation, not to wait for death.
Jr wants to be at home. And when he says he wants to go 'home' he doesn't mean he wants to die and go to heaven. He wants to go back to his own bed. He sleeps on his left side every night. In the nursing home bed he can't sleep on his side, has to sleep on his back. So he can't sleep. Of course, someone can say he can indeed sleep on his side in the bed there, but he, himself, hasn't found the way after a couple months of looking for it. He doesn't like to take sleeping pills, which means he only gets a good sleep every fourth night or so. It's become his pattern. I've suggested something like Tylenol PM. No, wouldn't have it.
Then one night somebody gave him an Ambien, a way powerful sleeping drug for somebody who doesn't use drugs for this, that and the other. He's of the old way. When he got up in the night to go pee, of course he fell and hit his face on linoleum floor with cement under it. It broke open a 17 stitch cut on his forehead and gave him a knot that looked like half a tennis ball pushing through from inside his head. The whole upper left quadrant of his face was yellow and purple. Then it's his fault. He's "a walker." He gets out of bed and walks to the bathroom when he needs to pee. It's part of his life. It's what he does. He needs to pee. And they didn't know he was "a walker" until he fell, which kind of blew my mind considering he's in their care way over a month.
I've been patient with them not wanting to let Jr go home and find the physical therapy people really good. What's happened is I've been there so much I'm entering the zone of hearing more than I want to know. I don't like it, but it's what we humans do, have done all along so much it's not just tradition, it's archetypal. Cats are born knowing how to use a litter box. We humans are born knowing how to make dramas out of anything. I'm making my own drama of it right now. In fact, I'm letting off steam, because the drama has become emotional on my part. I have become determined to get him out of there first day possible.
And I'm done being nice. I was nice all the way through the banged up head incident. I asked nurses, the social worker, and others what happened. No one knew anything about it. An ambulance comes in the middle of the night and takes him to some hospital, stitches up his head and brings him back in the middle of the night. It's not like nothing is going on. The old boy in the room with Jr told me about him falling and pointed to where he fell. Told about the ambulance taking him and bringing him back.
His was the only information I was able to get from anyone. The blood was all cleaned up. His blanket that keeps him warm at night next to the air conditioner was taken away because it had blood on it. It's been a couple weeks without a blanket at night. Blood washes out very easily with cold water. They know that. I want him at home where he can call his own shots for his own well-being, not have to be expected to sleep next to an air-conditioner without a blanket.
I'm about to the point that I'm ready to become such a nuisance they'll want him out of there to get rid of me. I'm willing to let him stay a few more days for the slow turning wheels of The System to get all the paper work done, etc. But if it takes more than a few days, I might be tempted to make an ass of myself and set a few people to hissing when they hear my name, like I did at the nursing home in Sparta escorting him out the door, him bent over his walker.
Jr is a humble man, way more than I am. For him there's a point, just like for me there's a point, where a man takes the matter of living his own life into his own hands and will walk away from anything to that end. He has plenty of support at home, no slick cement floors, and his own window to look out at the weather, his own life to get back into for at least awhile. There's no telling if/when he has to go back for the final stretch. In the meantime I'd like him to be able, as a friend whose life I care about, to have his life back. I'd rather he be at home and live a short time than live a long time in a place where everything he does is directed. I just prefer than he not die in despair when he doesn't have to.
Monday, June 15, 2009
After almost 20 years of my hair less than half an inch long, I came to a time where I was tired of clipping it myself and tired of going to the barber shop, though Kermit's is a good barber shop to go to. I wanted to stop fooling with it. So I let it grow over several months to see about letting it grow out long enough to make a bob in the back, with the idea that I won't have to fool with it any more. Turns out I was fooling with it just about all the time as it was getting longer. Couldn't keep my fingers out of it, so strange to have hair this long, never had it long before. Had to shampoo during a shower and dry the best possible with a towel, refusing to buy a blow dryer, and it takes hours to dry.
Guys with long hair told me I was in the awkward stage and to be patient, when it gets longer it will lay down. Mine doesn't ever lay down. It's inclination is to stick straight out and grow straight out until it gradually starts to bend downward pulled by gravity. But a hair has to be awfully long to be effected by gravity, especially mine. As it grew past 4 inches I had to keep a hat on all the time or it would just stick out all over. I called it my Sid Vicious didn't die look. He grew old and got white headed. When I don't put a hat on it, the hair sticks straight out all day long. Once I've put a hat on and flattened it down a bit, it will stay down for awhile. I think of black men before the freedom fro putting pomade on their hair and wearing a nylon stocking on their head to keep the hair down all week so they can take the stocking off Friday night for the weekend.
The hair got to the place that the wrong people were looking at me, like old hippies. I started looking more and more like an old hippie. I've never wanted to identify with any one way of thinking/believing/behaving. I want the freedom to think/believe/behave according to my own understanding, not somebody else's that gathers a bunch of people to his/her 'philosophy' because of whatever reasons they have for wanting somebody else to make their decisions. It's too much like living in a nursing home, where other people make your decisions, for me to jump into that circle, or any other.
Kermit Pruitt is a good barber and I like going to Kermit's shop. Kermit has been a bluegrass bass player about all his adult life. He plays bass with the Rise & Shine Band, the Jubilee's house band. He plays acoustic bass and electric bass, acoustic guitar and electric. He can play country, bluegrass, old-time and rockabilly. At the Hillbilly Show in October, year after year, he lip-syncs two George Jones songs. I've seen Kermit impersonate George Jones so many times that when I hear George Jones I see Kermit in my mind. The audience at the Hillbilly Show loves George Jones and everybody thinks an awful lot of Kermit. Put them together and you have an audience of people like me who see Kermit in their minds when they hear George Jones's voice. Kermit does it right too, and everybody sings along. I think George Jones is as beloved among country music listeners as Ralph Stanley is loved by bluegrass listeners. Ol Possum just has it right.
A few years ago at the Hillbilly Show, Joe Irwin was singing a couple of songs by Johnny Cash, actually singing like Johnny, and with his own voice, which happens to be naturally close enough to Cash's he can sing a Johnny Cash song. I tend to think Joe can play Johnny better than Johnny plays himself. At this show, Joe and Lynn Worth were singing as Johnny and June. They did it right, too. Very first lick on his electric guitar, Kermit's pick broke in half. He had to play out the song with half a pick and get used to it right now.
Kermit has a sense of humor that's going all the time, too. He's like Ernest Joines in that way, all the time seeing something funny to laugh over. On the red pickup he drove before his new white one, he kept a tag in the middle of the front bumper with an image of a multi-colored frog. With a name like Kermit, we tend to wonder how tired he must have got with everyone making references to Sesame St. Kermit deals with it by putting a frog tag on his truck, meaning he has a great sense of humor about it. He thinks it's funny too. It's a whole lot better than being named Big Bird.