Wednesday, August 11, 2010
LEARNING THE MOUNTAIN WAY
air bellows outdoor art museum
The walls in the tunnel under the Parkway at Air Bellows have been painted layer upon layer by teenagers announcing their presence on earth. I am I. I am here. It's a great place for girls to announce their boyfriends and vice versa. Each is a spontaneous expression by a different individual. Some just write their names. Every other year or so the Parkway paints over the whole beautiful artwork that gets better over time. It seems like the reasoning was if we paint over it and make it like a living room again, the kids will stop painting on it. A kid gets caught and he's in trouble. Raising the ante on a bit of harmless delinquency gives it a persona, the adults hate it. Bingo. All the Parkway paint over does is set up a fresh canvas to start again. Here they come, and before very long it's beautiful again. I'm one who believes the NY subway cars covered with delinquent art expressions all over the outside and all over the inside are beautiful. Of course, they want to arrest somebody caught doing it, making it all the more fun for the ones with spray cans. If the city government could embrace them and show pride in the city's subway artists, and let it be like it is, advertise the subway art for a tourist reason to spend money in New York, the city could have beautiful art everywhere. Don't pay anybody. Make it just as difficult to get to the cars to paint on them as it is now. Keep all that the same. They're acting out a reaction to repression, more than likely at home, a peaceful way of shooting parents and adult society the bird. When the delinquency is drained from it, it's no fun any more. Let's go do something else. Just fantasizing, bereft of information, Limbaugh-think, just a different point of view.
I'm of the belief that we must need places like this for the kids to express. Stop them from making their public marks where they like doing it, and it might start springing up all over town on the walls of buildings like they do in every city in the world. A lot of European city buildings have spray can graffiti from as high as a tall man can reach to the ground. Everywhere. Not an open space anywhere. I've seen some so high somebody must have used a ladder in the middle of the night. All of it is a statement to the powers that be, the big abstract THEY we believe control things, what some call the top 1%. I see them as statements to society at large for all that is truly false the adults take up with, thinking it's the mature thing to do, because the ones that get ahead do it with impunity. There is so much false in the adult world of total focus on money that it is a hard hurdle for teenagers coming out of school expected to jump into that money whirl, a fast-moving merry-go-round that never stops. You get on it like Woody Guthrie boarded a moving freight train. Absence of experience in the adult world kept secret from kids because they don't want to corrupt their minds is suddenly a problem that first summer after high school. Therefore, it follows that the kids are in for a big surprise totally unprepared. It's really not like on tv in a lot of ways, and in a lot of ways it is. Suddenly, we're expected to have a job, be married, have kids, buy a house, at least 2 cars, church, utilities, insurance, all of it enough to buckle a teenager's knees. We're left to figure it out for ourselves. If we can't figure it out, too bad.
I'm one who never figured out how to do all that, and still in the white headed years feel about like I did as a child, a shiver of dread. I'm one who never adjusted. I've never been able to learn how to run my mouth for 3 hours straight and say not one thing. For me, that was the catch. In the city years I studied it like crazy at cocktail parties and social gatherings, trying hard to figure it out, but it eluded me like figuring out a banjo. I figured it was something you were born to or not, and I was not. That was more or less my conclusion, one of many that made me head for the hills. Didn't know where I was going, but that it was another world, which was all that mattered. In fact, I asked God, if he would, to find me a place to live in a totally different culture, one that speaks English. When I began to learn where I was, here in the mountains, saw it was a very different culture and I had a lot of learning to do to understand the people around me. It's a hard culture to learn. Kind of like what I've heard it's like to learn the Chinese language. I had to change much of my old way of thinking in order to know mountain people and have some understanding of their point of view.
I found immediately, as soon as I started knowing people, like Tom Pruitt, Bill Pruitt, Don Pruitt, Van Pruitt, Millard Pruitt and a few others, I was in among some very intelligent people. I was intimidated, in fact, by their intelligence. By comparison, I was dumber'n shit. I am anyway, but they really brought it out for me. It's a different intelligence from test-taking intelligence. I felt like after my college years I became an expert at taking tests. Hell yeah, I can take a test. Tell me to put the serpentine belt on the Buick v6 and I'm lost. What page do I find that on? I'd trust about any mountain boy in a pickup to be able to put it on. I don't know that all could, but I know plenty who could. The people named here were not formally educated. Tom left school after the 7th grade, the others left after the 8th. I felt ignorant around them. I did. I was. They taught me a great deal about chainsaws, tractors, mowing machines, putting up hay, dealing with cows, driving mountain roads, and a very great deal more. The great deal more came in the package of Tom and Millard, brothers, and the Regular Baptist Church. I learned the spiritual depth of the mountain people, which not many from outside the mountains have a clue of, except for appearances. I've found people from Away are often afraid to go to a mountain church. Even the sociologist from California studying Sparta was afraid of them. The time we talked I asked him if he'd been to one of the Old Baptist churches yet. No. He said he was afraid to. Of what? He didn't know, people not wanting him there or something. A lot of people have told me they're afraid they handle snakes. I take it they're so incredibly uninformed, I think, go home and watch more television.
It doesn't do any good to say they don't handle snakes or would welcome a stranger from another world. It doesn't fit with the nonsense city people believe about mountain people. Mountain people are working class, down the ladder, not worthy of notice. They even have a frightening edge. Moonshiners shooting revenuers. Beer drinkers, hail razors and snake handlers. But, like I've said before, keeps em away. In my early years was the time of the country radio hit, A Country Boy Will Survive, a lot of guys wearing ball caps repeating it like more recently, Git-er-done. I loved it every time I saw one, because I knew it was so. I knew the guy wearing the hat could do it. Every man I knew could. The women too. What mountain women know and can do I find remarkable, and I don't mean just canning and cooking. None of it's out front advertising themselves. You have to know them to find it. Then it becomes something I'm in awe of. My grandmother had the ways of a mountain woman. I didn't know that's what it was then. It's a good thing I didn't or I'd have probably been ashamed of it. My mamaw a hillbilly? No way!
I don't mean to sound like I mean all I'm saying here in the absolute. An awful lot of people I know, and even more I don't know, here from other places, have learned to understand the mountain people and appreciate them deeply. Of my friends here from Away, all appreciate the mountain people. At Blue Ridge Music Center I have found consistently the audience is half mountain people and half people here from Away, counting myself from Away. Fiddlers conventions have similar audience. Some of my neighbors at Deer Track have been at BRMC on the Parkway every time I've been there. They sit down close, deeply enjoying the music. I don't know them very well, but in my book, they're the kind of people that belong here. They appreciate where they are on many levels. I know an awful lot of people who love the mountain people they know. What I've found for myself is the better I know them, the more I love them. A few times on the radio show, maybe once a year, I'd end the show saying I love every one of ye. I meant it from the heart. Most often I'd say I appreciate every one of you, a common saying here among people when you think a lot of somebody and they've done something to help you out and wouldn't accept pay, "I 'ppreciate ye." The accent in the 5 syllables is on the pre in the middle. It has meaning every time it's spoken.