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Sunday, October 31, 2010


leaf collage

This Sunday morning I made it a point to get up and shave and get dressed and drive into town to the Little River Primitive Baptist Church next to CJ Hardware. It being my 35th year in the mountains birthday and the first year of Jr's death date. I don't usually celebrate dates, but sometimes feel like it. It only gets done when I feel the need. Keeps it real. This way it's not for its own sake, but for the sake of the reason why. I hadn't been to a meeting in 2 years, mainly because I haven't felt like it, meaning on Saturday I decide I'd like to go, then Sunday morning don't feel like it. I allow myself not to go to church. The overkill duress from childhood made my adult years independent of other people's expectations where my relationship with God is concerned.

I actually don't believe church is the Way. What I believe is what I live, that my path is everyday life, every moment of every day, the ongoing now. I call every day my pilgrim way. A good church meeting is an oasis, a respite from the world of commerce and the superficial, the world that circles money the way planets circle the sun. In a Primitive Baptist church house, the value of one's assets has no relevance. No collection plate is passed or even available. It's absolutely not about money. The house is plain and simple, more than likely built by members, It's beautiful inside. No decorations. White walls, plain windows, vertical wood panels of knotty pine behind the pulpit, nicely carpeted, well kept. No gold, no finery, no attention called to anyplace but the pulpit.

It felt refreshing, like I said, an oasis, to be sitting among and shaking hands with every one in there twice, beginning and end, and all of them lovers of God. It's such a better feeling than at a chamber of commerce meeting. Those kinds of meetings bore the life out of me. A meeting with lovers of God praising God in song together and hearing some mindful preaching uplifts the spirit incredibly. The preachers don't get "het up" (heated up) like they did in the old-time way. I miss that preaching as I'm sure about everyone in the church house does too. They recognized that kind of preaching is of another time, another Age, even another consciousness.

The preachers "talk" now. When a preacher really got going, successfully bypassing his mind, and tears of joy were flowing throughout the house, the preacher a mere vessel for what is coming through, is what's called "preaching." Then there are the ones that "try to preach," the ones that get up and hop around and whoop and holler and nobody feels a thing. People start talking to whoever is sitting next to them. Then there was just plain talking, no attempt to get into "the spirit," good sense talking on a theme in the Bible. Last was "trying to talk," meaning he didn't get anything said, just ran his mouth. The preachers now are doing what was called talking in the old-time way. They are Bible scholars in the very real sense, driven by their own desire to know more, the way a mountain musician is driven all his life to get better every day. The need to study comes from inside the man. It's not dictated from outside.

The way they preach now sets the mind to thinking about something worth thinking about that draws the mind into it. I find I follow them parallel with the thoughts they inspire, which often go hand in hand. The old-time way actually preceded the Age of Reason. Reason has spread even into the mountains by now. So the preaching is more for the mind than for that spiritual feeling that makes you shout. It's about thinking over questions that are important in this life. By the time the preaching is over, my mind has been guided through some very interesting thoughts loaded with valuable insights. The songs are what the Primitive Baptist Church is about for me, each one a very well considered sermon full of thought worth thinking about. The singing is slow, one word at a time. The nature of the singing requires that one pay attention to what is being said. I see them as poems put to song from before the modern period. To my ear, they are all beautiful in the meaning and in the singing.
I had my own personal moment where I found meaning to something I'd been searching for a whole lot of years. It concerns seeing the people one is in association with in whatever ways at any moment of the day, seeing them as myself. I've never been able to get ahold of that. Then this morning I looked around at the full house and thought: if these people are a mirror image of myself, then I can only feel satisfied that I have become who I have become by this time in the life. One of the great universal laws is that we ally ourselves with like-minded people. Birds of a feather flock together. I can see my own character in the character of people I feel closest to. I can see my own love for God in company with other lovers of God. It feels so much better than being among lovers of money or lovers of pop glitz or lovers of self. It is the comfort of grandma's arms to a little boy, a place where you want to settle down and stay awhile.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


scott and willard

The music last night at the Front Porch Gallery ran along the lines of young guys killing their girlfriends, one for having a roving eye, another because she wouldn't marry him. Knoxville Girl and Banks of the Ohio. He took her by the golden curls and swung her round and round. He saw her drowning in the river; it was a dreadful sight. These are great songs in the tradition that today's television addict can't connect with very well. They don't have happy endings and they don't deny all but the superficial and cheery. They are the kinds of songs Carter Stanley loved to sing. I believe his audiences encouraged him to love them. It was then a world of very little entertainment that you don't create for yourself, as opposed to now when we're saturated with entertainment.

I don't mean to exclude myself from the category saturated with entertainment. I watch movies of my choice, not the choice of a corporate network. I have a lot of cd's, tapes and lps because I like to listen to the music I like, not music on the radio where I might like one out of ten songs. When I have my own music, I only listen to music I like. At the moment, I'm hearing Schubert quartets by the Melos Qtet. I watch movies, play music cds, paint pictures and read books, entertained to the max, just like everybody around me, in my own way, as everyone else has their own particulars. One of the things I find most interesting about this time is just about everyone is involved in listening to music quite a lot. I doubt any two people in the entire USA have the same cd collections. Might be some along the same lines, but not the same specific titles.

Last night at Woodlawn the music was right there, as always. It was a Halloween theme, songs with references to ghosts, fear, murder. Willard sang a song he wrote called The Shootin, about a murder where he grew up in eastern Kentucky 10 miles outside Hazard. I believe he recorded it with his band Alternate Roots. Willard writes a good song. In a way, it seems like Willard is about nostalgia, "the Norman Rockwell of Appalachia," though I tend to see him more as an artist whose theme throughout his life as an artist has been visual art, vocal art, guitar picking art, song arranging art, songwriting art, Willard uses the world he lives in for his theme. He has made a lot of pictures of people in the old-time ways, and he's made a lot of pictures of people in today's ways. His music is of the past and it's of the present. It's all about living in the mountains. Willard's musical expression is mountain music, old-time, bluegrass, the fusion of the two.

I can't forget seeing at the Hillbilly Show the slide show about BROC members who died over the last few years. The narrator had whatever it took to bill himself in the credits, The Voice of the Blue Ridge. He didn't even have an accent, a city guy who came here not very long ago, giving himself the title owned by Ralph Stanley only. I realize the guy has no idea about mountain culture or who Ralph Stanley is. He may have heard of Stanley and maybe even heard a song or two by him, but all it really told me was he's innocent of mountain culture, knows nothing about it, doesn't intend to, and thought he was being clever coming up with such an audacious title for himself, without an accent even. I accept that he can call himself anything he wants, though an elephant by any other name is an elephant. It doesn't matter to me. It's just that I'm in awe, like jaw dropped to the floor and bouncing a time or two kind of awe. It makes me laugh every time it comes to mind like it did seeing on the screen.

It's satisfying in the autumn of my life to see I'll end my days with the very last of the mountain people. They have been my guiding light for 35 years Monday. I came here to learn, arriving here one year and 3 weeks after seeing that God indeed is. When I saw that, there was no living as if I hadn't. Somebody I'd met in my first year here, who was here from Raleigh, told me it's good I came to the mountains so I can teach these people something. I knew Tom Pruitt and his nephews mostly through that year and knew for a certainty I had nothing to teach "these people." What teaching there would be could only go from them to me. I wanted to learn about mountain culture from experience, not reading about it. When somebody went to Jr to ask him to teach them to play bluegrass banjo, he told them if they can't figure it out on their own, they don't want to learn it. That's how he learned it, knew no other way.

Monday is my 35th year here and the one year date of Jr's departure. Melia, his 2nd cousin, and I will go to Jr's grave with some liquor, pour a sip on the ground and have a sip with memory of him and talk of him. We'll laugh the whole time. For me, Melia is one of his friends he left to me. All of his friends became my friends one year ago. They're a good bunch of people I'm more than happy to have for my friends. In some cases it even feels like family. Our celebration at the cemetery will be a reminder of my Whitehead citizenship as well. All these reasons and more make it a date I want to do something more than just remember it's the day. Jr shared with me some of the best liquor that's ever been made in this world. It feels right to have a symbolic drink with him in spirit. If souls on the other side can see into our world, he will get a kick out of our celebration.


Thursday, October 28, 2010



This picture I got by accident. It has no intent of the human mind in it. Somehow I pushed the button without intending to and have no recollection of when, though I recognize where. It's the ceiling light that shines on the musicians Friday night at the Front Porch Gallery. I like accidental pictures. They're even more free of conscious composition than a small child's first snapshots. In this, there isn't even a subject. The mind wants to make the lights and the track the subject, which is ok by me. I still like the picture as itself. Different shades of white and one black line.

Met Mary Lee this morning, grief counselor with Hospice, who was a tremendous benefit in the time of Hospice helping keep Jr out of the nursing home. She didn't help with the changing of diapers, etc. Her role was more working with the caregiver going through emotional turmoil, sorrow, fear, helplessness. Whenever I felt the need for someone to talk with who understood what I was going through, a phone call to Mary would have her there first minute she could get there. Her's was one of 4 cars that when I saw one coming up the driveway, it was the same as seeing an angel flapping white wings like a crow flying low up the driveway.

Once, I felt like I needed to dive deep with a psychotherapist looking for something I couldn't find on my own. I asked Mary to come and spend an hour with me. We sat on the porch, Jr inside, and I explained my need to dive deep with someone to ask me leading questions. At this moment I don't remember the issue, but do remember by the end of the hour I saw into what what it was I was looking to find. It was a significant discovery at the time. We mostly talked about frustrations, joys, sorrows. Primarily, I needed somebody to talk out my meanings to and Mary provided the understanding ear and encouraging words. In addition to that, she's somebody I like knowing. We talk easily.

We had a great deal of laughs this morning. We took a corner in the coffee shop on Main St, Backwoods Bean, and did our private talking there. Two men in the place were out of their minds with curiosity about our conversation. It was animated and full of good humor, obvious we were having fun. There was a time each of them, one at a time, walked within earshot of us to hear what we were talking about, trying not to be obvious, like getting off the seat in the bar, walking over by us like looking at a picture on the wall, then back to the seat. It was funny, not a problem. We talked loud enough that if they wanted to hear us they could. We weren't hiding anything. They were, for me, part of the good humor. It was totally innocent. The time came they were eaten up with curiosity so much they had to hear something to make sense of our conversation. They made it real.

There have been times I've gone to her office to talk about something that was bothering me at the time. Mainly, I think it was a need to talk about Jr with someone who knew my meaning. Like today, it was for my part mainly a chance to talk about Jr. I tried the best I could to explain to Mary my meaning when I say I feel Jr's presence all the time now. It's not like a ghost, a spirit, or even anything psychic, just presence. All that I learned from knowing Jr, which is considerable, is now incorporated into who I am. In that way, he is with me all the time.
I told her about keeping the interior of the car clean, because Jr liked it kept clean. He never cleaned the outside, and I don't either. It will always be "Jr's car." I love it that he passed his old-man chariot on to me as I'm entering my own old man phase.

It felt good being back in touch with Hospice. My awe for these people is tremendous. A year must pass before a caregiver is allowed the opportunity to volunteer with Hospice. A year is passed first of November, I said I wanted to do something volunteer, thinking of being one who gives a caregiver a break for some hours, which amounts to reading a thick book. She had some other thoughts in mind that we talked about for awhile, something to do with understanding the grief process, the journal aspect of the blog before, during and after, keeping a record of the feelings one passes through. While going through the whole process, writing a blog entry every day became my friend. It was a kind of archiving the subtleties of a universal experience like making the videos at the Front Porch Gallery and putting them on YouTube for whoever happens to see them. Sharing valuable experience that uplifts the spirit. I look forward to a future associated with Hospice.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010



      Colors blind the eye,

      Sounds deafen the ear.

      Flavors numb the taste.

      Thoughts weaken the mind.
      Desires wither the heart.

      The Master observes the world
      but trusts his inner vision.
      He allows things to come and go.
      His heart is open as the sky.

                          --- Tao te ching #12

Tuesday, October 26, 2010




Went to Twin Oaks this afternoon to see Tapo in the dog and cat hospital, coed. She looked miserable. A hose going into her nose that went to the stomach, the hose taped to the top of her head, a clear plastic collar around her head to keep her paws off the hose, all of it very well cared for. She was comfortable as could be on a warm cloth. She was on the 2nd level of the cages, so I stood on my knees and kept both hands on her the whole time I was there, talked to her, sang her song to her, explained this hose in the nose is temporary, that it's for making her well so she can come home.

Julie said the gum around her broken tooth was so infected the tooth came out easily. There was a great deal of whatever is the problem with her not eating. It hurt too much. It explains why she drank only from the right side of her tongue. The bad tooth was on the left side and probably hurt like hell when water touched it. She was in misery. A toothache is the worst kind of pain there is to endure. She's had this pain at least a month. I don't know when she broke her tooth. Because her stomach was so empty, they're giving her a little bit at a time and a bit more and more each time until she's ready to eat enough to sustain herself. Taking the slow way to get her stomach ready for catfood will keep her from throwing up when she tries to eat. They're treating her for the liver issue as well as the tooth. All to the good. I always feel like my friends are in good hands at Twin Oaks. Everyone who works there loves the animals.

Tapo and Caterpillar both need holding and talking to once a day. They don't ask for more than that, but a good session of purring keeps them calm and comfortable the rest of the time. Today I kept both hands on Tapo the whole half hour with her, talking, singing, petting her, telling her she's safe there and soon we'll be going home. I mentioned that Caterpillar missed her, though wasn't sure that was the case. However, Caterpillar has been awfully quiet since Tapo left here. TarBaby gone and never came back, I've an idea if she's wondering if Tapo is gone forever. She smelled Tapo on my hand when I came home. I supposed that would give her assurance Tapo is at least still living.

I have a bit of a feeling that Caterpillar is feeling alone. Whether she liked them or not, the other 2 were her world since she was born. She's alone in the house now, the only cat. I wondered if she would like being the only one, but she doesn't seem to be elated in any way all by herself. She might have been hard for them to get along with, but she didn't know that. She was just her Maine Coon self. It's just that her strike zone reached way beyond theirs. Anywhere near Caterpillar was inside her strike zone when she was in certain moods. I've an idea when Tapo comes home that Caterpillar will be happy to see her and their relationship will smooth out. It smoothed a great deal after TarBaby died. I don't want to lose either one of them before necessary. I sure don't want to lose Tapo over a broken tooth. Everybody says they're old, but they have vitality like they've had all their lives. Tapo only started acting old when she was so weak she could hardly move.

I see Tapo every day to give her the purring time she needs per day. I understand that purring is healing for cats, like laughter is for us. I want her time in the hospital the least traumatic it can be. I know how good it feels to be visited in the hospital and the nursing home. My forebrain tells me it's temporary and I'll go home when cured. Tapo doesn't have the forebrain, so I show her my meaning, that I am not abandoning her. Words are cheap. Actions tell our truth. When I leave one of my friends at Twin Oaks, it's with full trust from 34 years experience with 3 dogs and 5 cats over that time. They know I like to visit my friends when they're in for a stay. I'm grateful to everyone who works there for the care my friends receive in their hands. If I had the money to do it with, for Christmas I'd like to put angels made of lights all over the roof at Twin Oaks vet, a host of them.

Monday, October 25, 2010


When a country is in harmony with the Tao
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
Tao Te Ching #46

Sunday, October 24, 2010



tapo outdoors
Tapo is home from the hospital for the weekend. I'll be taking her back in the morning. She'd been in a cage surrounded by dogs in cages several days and nights, needed more time in there, so I wanted to bring her home for the weekend. I can't care for her to the extent they can in the hospital, force feeding her. I can do it, but it's such a struggle when she doesn't want it. I have never forced her other than putting her in the carrier to take to the vet. I've had to hold her down to put the one-spot flea poison on her. That's it. It doesn't feel right forcing her mouth open and using the syringe to squirt this formula down her throat. I don't know how else to do it.
She has essentially stopped eating and drinking water. She acts like it hurts her to drink water, and often will gag it up later. They've had her on an IV and I don't know if they force fed her, imagining they did. She's in pretty good health with her dehydration cured and some nourishment in her. I've not kept up with the schedule for feeding her I was sent home with. Didn't even come close. She spent all day both days lying in the sun from morning til sunset. I felt like lying in the sun for her is so special a cat thing to do I could not disturb her composure.
She was at home, she may be dying, I want her to be able to lie in the sun in her own space, the place she's known all her life.
I don't want to lose Tapo. I have a decision to make, let her die in comfort at home if that's what she wants, though I don't know that's what she wants. Maybe she's so ill she's relaxed into it. I don't know. I don't believe she wants to die. I just don't believe it. It's clear she doesn't want to eat or drink water, but I don't believe it's suicidal. Her symptoms tell of a problem with the liver in cats her age that have been overweight. There is a cure. It's rather extreme, so they haven't done it yet. When I take her back Monday it will be with the go-ahead to put a tube into her stomach through the nose (makes my toes curl to think about it) and get her stomach accustomed to having food in it again. It's a kind of priming the pump method to get her interested in eating again. If this doesn't work, then I'll bring her home and let her die here instead of in a cage surrounded by dogs.
The decision has been made. If this treatment at the vet works, then it's worth whatever it costs. If it doesn't work, I'll have only one left, Caterpillar. I've often wondered which one would be last. Looks like Caterpillar. Maybe Tapo is tired of a life of laying about. Outside, she's not as free as she was back when the dog was living and kept other dogs away. Now the dogs are free to come around all they want, coyotes too. So cats stay indoors. TarBaby was as much an outdoor cat as indoor. It wasn't safe any more. I couldn't make him stay in the house when he wanted out.
It's a sorrowful time with Tapo fading away like Jr did. TarBaby gone. This is how it is after a certain amount of time in a body. People we know and are close to start dropping off. Pets drop off. This one is gone, that one is gone. So many of my friends, relatives and pets are on the other side, they make over yonder more attractive every year. I don't have any idea what's on the other side. It's something I learned long ago is a waste of mental energy to wonder about beyond a certain point. We have several different interpretations of what's over there. Different psychics say different things. People who went over and came back didn't stay long enough to tell us much more than the entry, which must be pretty incredible going by the different accounts I've read.
I'm not afraid of Tapo dying for her sake, only for my own. Another period of time with a heavy heart missing Tapo. I raised all three of them from the day their eyes opened. I became their mother keeping them alive with mother love. I nursed them with kitten formula for a few weeks. Tapo was the ravenous one. Tapo and Caterpillar. Tapo was born hungry. She was a charming kitten. They all were, but Tapo had a charm all her own. She's been the smallest of the 3 all her life, meaning Caterpillar and TarBaby could pounce on her, threaten her, make her hiss, but she couldn't do it to them. In that way, she's had a miserable life. But that's catness too, something outside the realm of my understanding. I've stayed out of their relationships with each other, except when Caterpillar or TarBaby was being especially cruel to her. When I drew the line, they seldom crossed it again, that is, in front of me.
I don't know what they did when I wasn't around, so I tended to let them be when I was around and stay out of their cat scuffles. I didn't want to suppress them fighting each other when I was around, believing they would attack Tapo with purpose while I'm gone. I'm thinking Tapo misses TarBaby quite a lot too. She always liked him. He was never mean to her like Caterpillar was. He'd give her a rough time occasionally, like walk up to her looking into her eyes until she turns and goes away to find a hiding place with TarBaby right behind her tail. The problem with being chased by another cat was TarBaby could get into any little space she could get into. She'd go as far as she could and start growling. TarBaby would pretend to swat her, she'd hiss at him. Made him laugh. That was just cats being cats. She and TarBaby have been close all the way along. She may be wanting to die to get away from Caterpillar. She's never liked Caterpillar. I believe she misses TarBaby as much as I do.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


gerald anderson

Last night was Gerald Anderson night at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. He's a guitar picker and a guitar maker. Makes mandolins too. He has a good reputation for both pickin and putting the instruments together. He learned making guitars from Wayne Henderson, and works in his corner at Wayne's shop. He is a friend of Scott's and Willard's, like everyone else who plays at the Front Porch. Like the other musicians who have played there, Anderson expressed his liking for the small venue where the musicians can jam with an audience.

Today I'm uploading videos from last night to YouTube, reviewing each one before it goes up, remembering the music last night, the comfortable, friendly atmosphere among everyone present, recalling moments from concerts past at the Front Porch, and again reviewing my own gratitude to have this opportunity to hear incredibly good mountain music of the present moment; old-time, bluegrass, swing, ballad. All are good singers. All are excellent musicians all the way around. Scott and Willard are good hosts to their guests too. They support the guests with good rhythm, good musicianship, just plain good pickin. They hold up the guest musically, make him/her sound the best they can sound, never attempting to outdo the guest at picking or singing. Scott and Willard are never shy to make music. The music flows when they're behind it.

I was recalling a time, can't remember the year, 05 or 06, Scott Freeman entered the first mandolin competition at the Wayne Henderson Festival on Mt. Rogers. He imagined he would get second place, which he wanted, because the prize was a Wayne Henderson mandolin. First prize was an Anderson mandolin. Scott had an Anderson mandolin and wanted one by Henderson. He slipped up and got first. Another Anderson mandolin. No problem. Except he had an hour's drive full-tilt to get to the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway where his band Alternate Roots was playing. They were scheduled to play first, but the other band, the Whoopin Holler String Band (The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters with Jake Krack of West Virginia playing fiddle) went ahead and played first due to Scott having to stay at the Festival to play at the end for winning the competition.

Scott knows how to drive mountain roads and he arrived backstage about one minute before they were to go on. Everybody was anxious. He walked in, they walked on stage and started. Scott was playing his new Anderson mandolin. In a break during a bluegrass song the band was playing, Scott smoked that mandolin. Steve Lewis on banjo looked over at him like, what flew up your derriere? Scott went on and on, cutting loose completely playing at the apex of his skill, and it was something to behold. One of those unforgettable concert moments. Playing the Anderson he won hoping for the Henderson, but not complaining.

Something else I hear the guests mention every week, in addition to what Gerald Anderson said about liking the small venue and making music with such good musicians as Willard and Scott. It frequently gets mentioned by the guest musician that Willard has been a "hero" to them musically, and it's a delight for them to have a chance to make music with him. Willard told me before the show that Edwin Lacy is getting transferred from Indiana to Bristol. He will be close enough that Skeeter and the Skidmarks can get going again. Willard said the particular combination of people in the band gave it a special energy. We spoke of how they played a few weeks ago, in the groove from start to finish. He called it a chemistry running through all the musicians in the band. His eyes lit up when he said they'd be able to play more with Edwin nearby. Skeeter and the Skidmarks do have an extra good energy in their music.

You can check out Gerald Anderson's website here:


Friday, October 22, 2010


line of thinking

This morning I heard a song by John Lee Hooker accompanied by Carlos Santana that Lynn Worth put up on facebook. I don't know the title. It must have something to do with the words "things gonna change." That was about the only lyric in the song, things gonna change, over and over, one of those songs of just a few words repeated like Lou Reed's We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together. That's the words. Louie Louie. There are several songs of just a few words repeated over and over. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When John Lee Hooker does it, it works.

What struck me about this particular song, was while he was singing it, of course, it rang an optimistic note of things gonna change for the better. I'm sitting here thinking, not necessarily. That there is and will be change goes without saying. He's speaking the hope of the black people, a kind of hope against hope. Hope that blues songs are sung about. I look at the change over the last 30 years and it's been a downhill change, a change from opening up to black people, giving them the hope of a chance in life during the 70s, then shut it down in the 80s and throw away the key. I'm hearing John Lee say there's gonna be a change some day, and sure enough there will be, but not necessarily one to look to with hope. Yet there is that underlying hope for a time of a change toward lifting centuries of racist oppression and giving the black folks a chance to make it some way other than tv sports and entertainment. The foot is in the door. Change is coming. Change is happening.

Social change is always slow. Recalling the "Sixties" where political naivete ran wild among college students who were politically active. I was there pulling for change for the better, annoyed by the slow process of social change, then realizing we can't get out of the war just because a protest group says Get Out Now. I learned then that protesting, which amounts to getting television news mention, was as fraudulent as the government side that tells us only lies. Recalling 1968 the March on Washington opposing Vietnam War, one side operating from naivete, the other from anti-democratic cynicism. That was when I learned the press is not even remotely independent. Top dog in government at lunch with top dog in news corporation tells news man what he wants told. News man gets on cell phone to the next one down the hierarchical ladder to tell him what the news will be. He spreads it down to the reporters who go to an event and report something that did not happen.

When I hear "things gonna change," I don't get too excited any more. Now that we have a black president who talks like he wants to make changes for the better for black people, he has an entire wing of our government absolutely opposed to anything that might benefit someone black. Dealing with Social Services after age 65 brings back what black folks were chanting in the 60s, "Givin me the run-around." I think it every time I have a dealing. I've had in my mind a painting for several years that I need to do for my own therapy. It's a flag, full frame, lots of dripping paint, and written on the flag in black spray can, Kill the poor. It's what we do in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Africa, and when the troops come home, the poor better look out at home. When there are no wars out there, there is always potential for war at home. Gingrich and Rove are busy stoking the flames of political division by propaganda thru Limbaugh, Palin, Fox News, Glen Beck, Cheney, Alice's Tea Party, Congress, Senate and the corporate press, which includes tv and radio, not just the papers.

There's gonna be change all right. The Supremes made it clear to us a decade ago that democracy is not in our future. They also made it clear to us less than a year ago that the Fortune 100 rules absolutely, we the people have no recourse, the Constitution is an antiquated document irrelevant to a police state. This isn't conjecture about the future. It's how things went in the recent past that determine the nature of our future. What I see makes me glad I don't have a lot of years left. If I become subject to a hit for saying this, that's ok, too. A major change I've seen in my lifetime is that life has become cheap. From the time before television, when the people around me believed life had value, to now is a major alteration. Life is so cheap now that when a missile takes out 20 people to get one, the 19 are dismissed as collateral damage. No big deal. Suckers in the wrong place, wrong time.

Then, after some years as police state, fascism dependably always implodes on itself, carried away by power over the edge into self-destruction. Change will come again. Maybe this time for the better. When will that be? A quarter century? Half century? Century? Maybe in American history of the future, this time will be seen as the time the American people willfully disposed of democracy as too inconvenient a system. Corporations are not democratic institutions. They are hierarchical; the CEO rules, the execs quake. The ones at the top take everything for themselves in their tenure. America has always been more about money than democracy, such that when we're faced with a choice, money or democracy, it doesn't even require thought. Mammon rules. I and others who see what I see have chosen to stay at home, move inward, concern self less with big social changes I can't do anything about, and wouldn't know what to do given the opportunity. I'd rather pay closer attention to my friends, leaving out the influence of paying attention to propaganda, the bogus News.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


more colors

Greek poet of the late 19th century and the early 20th, Constantine P. Cavafy, lived in Alexandria, Egypt, in the Greek community there. Greek communities flourished in the Mediterranean port cities due to Greek shipping that goes all the way back to Homer's stories of the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus on his way home from the war. Cavafy lived a modest life and wrote some beautiful poems. One of his poems stays with me all down through time. Expecting the Barbarians seems to me a pattern that repeats often in perhaps every place. It is written around the belief that barbarians (outsiders, others who are not us) will come to save us, because we can't save ourselves.

It begins:
What are we waiting for, assembled in the public square?

The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What further laws can the senators pass?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Through the course of the poem it is often repeated, "Because the barbarians are to arrive today." What is pictured as a kind of Roman government with red embroidered togas, bracelets amethyst-studded, emerald rings, canes made of silver and gold. "Because the barbarians are to arrive today / and such things dazzle the barbarians."

The perhaps capital city in the poem is ready to turn itself over entirely to the barbarians, outsiders, people from someplace else. Historically, I think of Genghis Khan, when he approached a city (medieval times) he gave them a choice. Give the mongols all their finery, horses, money, to keep them from killing everybody and burning down the city. It's never clear in the poem if the barbarians are a threat or if they will they create jobs.

I think of Bristol Compressors. Outsiders moving in to be management for the new factory. The town of Sparta went nuts. Outsiders coming to save us, because we cannot save ourselves. White liquid shoe polish writings on Main St windows welcoming Bristol Compressors, parties, the town government giving Bristol all kinds of tax breaks, electrical deals, a very expensive welcome package. Everybody jumping up and down. The barbarians are to arrive today. They're going to bring jobs and save us. They brought in management, hired a few workers, left before the end of their contract, refused to pay the fine for breaking the contract and that was that.

Teapot museum was an outsider from California, a rich barbarian offering his teapot collection to vitalize a small mountain town that didn't want it. All the town had to do was come up with enough millions to make the kind of museum he demanded. All the way along I'm thinking, you want the damn museum, you put up the money. We who don't want it don't have the money. Rich barbarian fell through, withdrew his collection and Sparta's attempt at a small museum fell through thanks to the ED (economic downturn). Mrs Rich Barbarian was quoted in the Winston-Salem Journal calling Sparta "a black hole," she who comes from Los Angeles Society, a bigger black hole. Maybe she knows one when she sees one.

The half of the county population here from other places, barbarians, outsiders, were behind the teapot museum for something to save us. The mountain portion of the population never could figure out what a teapot museum had to do with Sparta. The only tea ever drank here was iced tea with sugar. No pots, no fancy cups. Tall plastic glass with plenty of ice and a straw. That's tea drinking in Sparta. Sweet tea. Lemon maybe. Alas, another barbarian appealed to for our salvation when we can't help ourselves.

I've often wondered if this general belief that we of the county cannot help ourselves, that we need an outsider to come in and save us, might be based in that most foundation of Baptist beliefs, that we cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us. It's a different kind of save we're talking about for Sparta, but I have a feeling we're held back by a general belief we can't save ourselves. It's so drilled into us from the time we're kids that we can't save ourselves, when in another context of the word save we can indeed save ourselves. I fall out of a boat, I save myself by swimming. If I say, I can't save myself, I go to the bottom.

Cavafy's poem changes when confusion starts, streets and squares clearing of people going home, "deep in thought."

Some people arrived from the frontiers,
And they said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


the other side of the parkway from laurel springs

Melia Edwards sent an email today that was a set of final exam questions for the 8th grade at Salina, Kansas, 1895. I'd guess it was similar here in that time and/or later. When I think of the knowledge and intelligence I've seen in the older people of the mountains, they had good educations. It was practical knowledge. I can't help but think about a time Tom Pruitt told me a great nephew was visiting who was in high school. He asked the kid a typical arithmetic question as would have been on a test when he was in school. The kid didn't even know what he was talking about. It had something to do with figuring board feet. Tom was amazed that kids in highschool couldn't figure what he had to do before the 7th grade.

I can't say if the way they taught then was better or worse than how teaching is done now. More than likely it is better in some ways and worse in others. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see how intensive the education was. I have an idea very few high school seniors could pass this final exam. That was in the days we wrote our answers. Now it's T or F, ABCD or all of the above. Now we stuff our heads with information. Then they appeared by the nature of the test to value figuring things out, which has just about left our present American culture. But we figure things out in a different way post-electricity. Everything changed with electricity. Everything. Now with computers, everything is changing again. We don't think like we did a hundred years ago. We don't think like we did fifty years ago.

Just 10 years ago the Supreme Court told us we have no more democracy. Last year the Supremes turned our government (of the people) over to corporations. We think very differently from how we thought 10 years ago. The left / right division Reagan initiated 30 years ago has widened with the propaganda genius of Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove until it's wanting to boil into civil war, the fascists vs the anti-fascists who will be given the name terrorists. Communist is dated, doesn't work anymore. Terrorist is fresh and frightening. There is no guessing what's ahead. I'll wait and see. If I waste a lot of time thinking about it, when it happens it won't be anything like what I've worried over. I've finally learned all that government stuff is as far beyond my control as a lunar module on the moon. The American importance of the individual and individual rights is over.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



Odd autumn. Half way through October and still have not had a night below freezing. All the trees are changing colors and shedding their leaves. The ground and gravel roads are covered in leaves now. The mountain ridges have the patchwork quilt suggestion of this time of year. Yet, up close the trees look ragged. The white oak across the road that is always the last one to turn has lost most of its upper leaves while the lower leaves are still green with branches full of brown parchment leaves dried and curled, still attached. Look up into a tree of yellow leaves and they're all drying up, a short time yellow then brown parchment leaves curled up, not falling, but staying in place. Leaves with color have their outer edges burned it looks like. They've just dried from the outside inward. It seems like nearly all the leaves have those brown edges of drying from the outside.

It's an unhealthy seeming autumn to me. Leaves don't turn until after a freeze. There has been no freeze. They turned colors from drought. I've never seen this. I stopped in the Chamber of Commerce today to see Pat and Bob. Pat was saying she's been seeing only all black woolly worms. I said I had too. And last year there were a lot of black ones, more than I'd ever seen before. The year before, the occasional black one. We laughed at how we both try to avoid woolly worms crossing the road and hate it when we nail one.

It seems to me notable that the woolly worm has this traditional forecasting quality, but nobody seems to know why or how it's interpreted. I'm guessing that over a couple hundred year period in these mountains without electricity the people saw a tremendous degree of weather changes, and maybe the woolly worm's color changing has to do with changes in all of them. This year there's no question about all the black woolly worms. I still see a little bit of the orange frost on them, and next year they'll probably be opaque black. It is a definite progression toward black, it appears, in all the woolly worms at least of our region. It makes me wonder what somebody who doesn't know what an eclipse is thinks when it happens. The Rider Haggard novel SHE is a story around spooking people who know nothing about it by predicting it using an ephemeris.

Pat said she'd heard a weather forecast saying we may have a steadily cold winter. Sounds like last winter, maybe moreso. The only thing I can say for sure is that no two winters I've seen here have been near alike. Each season from year to year is uniquely itself. Last winter was uniquely itself in an alarming way. Winters always came in waves before. Last winter was one long wave. The winter before it almost was. Going by the progression I've seen toward dryer and less cold all in one wave. The woolly worm was representative of the waves in the winter, a cold spell, then a warm spell, then a cold spell again. Now it's one long cold spell. It gets curiouser and curiouser.

I can't help but think about 5 or less years ago seeing the cross-hatched chemtrails in the sky over us. Nobody has been able to find out what all that was about. One of the suspicions, since it was done all over the country, was that it had to do with weather. Like daylight savings time was established so shopping wouldn't decrease so much during winter, there must be a corporate interest in perhaps keeping weather more uniform. Who knows? Obama knows. But he aint sayin nothin. He's one of them. How do you get to the top of the dog heap without being a dog?

Looking at popular movies as collective dreams of our society, and popular music too, I see a lot of destruction going on. Movie after movie of capitalism and all its props falling down after a reign of fascism until it implodes. Movies galore of vampirism now in the time of the banks putting the vacuum hose into our billfolds, sucking our blood. This foreclosure boom we're in is vampire teeth to our collective jugular. Dracula lives. He's moved from a Transylvanian castle to an uptown New York apartment with a summer place on Cape Cod. The king of the dead. And all the serial killer movies and best-seller books for so many years now. What's that about? Deranged white middle aged man tortures and kills white teenage babes. A very popular theme in our collective dreams.

At the same time in the collective dreams we have Eddie Murphy and a long string of really funny comedians, Larry the Cable Guy. There is a great deal of riotous comedy, romance stories, falling in love. All our human characteristics are represented in our collective dreams cataloged at the video stores the same as they were represented in the Greek and Roman gods and all the other gods around the ancient world. They were each one human characteristics; Zeus, the higher self, his brother Vulcan, who is the physical, and his other brother Neptune, the emotional part. Athena was wisdom, her symbol the owl. It looks to me like our collective dreams are in the veins of the gods and goddesses as we've become psychological thanks to the scientific method, independent of the gods. We're on our own to interpret reality.


Monday, October 18, 2010


big bald bruce

The action movie of the day was LIVE FREE AND DIE HARD. It did all the extravaganza action movie moves, guns, car wrecks, helicopters blowing up, and for the climax, explosions galore. Who'd'a guessed it? In these movies it's the how not the what. We go into it knowing the what. It's the how of it that holds our attention. I have to say it was a very well made movie, good script, funny and gripping, both, sometimes at the same time. For a long time I never gave Bruce Willis his due, until Pulp Fiction. I gained respect for him as an actor there. Haven't seen much of him since, but went into this one fully aware of what it was, and with respect for Willis, looking forward to see what he's doing. I'd heard a good report from a friend who likes his movies, so decided to have a Bruce Willis shootout for a change from Steven Seagal and Hong Kong gangster movies. Even the corniness thrown in for boxoffice worked well. Powerful man saving beautiful young woman, in this case his daughter, all the more reason for him to go all out as fast as he can get it done.

Several times I found myself sitting on the edge of the chair pulling for him, crawling over the floor with machine guns blowing out the windows and him crawling on his elbows through the glass. I can't count the number of times that happened. He took a sidekick along with him, a computer hacker essential to the story, a kid he'd picked up for the FBI that was looking for him not just today, but now, for some hacking crimes that were really serious. Lieutenant Detective Bruce Willis is assigned finding him and getting him to FBI in DC now. He found the kid, young computer nerd in his 20s, had never done anything but school and computers. At the same time he learns that 5 men with machine guns were there to kill him. From there, it became Bruce Willis super tough guy going through all he had to do with guns and fists and feet to protect this guy at the same time he needed him for computer hacking to find a hacker who was creating nationwide panic.

The kid, what Willis called him, was freaked at first by Willis's bravery and his ease killing people. Early on, a guy trying to kill them was hanging onto the side of his car while Willis was
trying to get away. He ran close by a trash container and smeared the guy. The kid said, "Did you see that!" Willis said, laughing, "Yeah. I did it." Willis carried this kid through firefight after firefight and automotive adventures making right and left angle turns sliding sideways with
a helicopter chasing them shooting machine guns. When he started a car, he'd say, "Buckle up." Everybody that goes after him ends up dead. It was fast paced, eye candy popping all the time. In the beginning we get a little bit of character identification, finding out who the character is Willis is playing, his story in brief, what kind of guy he was, his reputation for being super bad, like that. Once we were acquainted with all the characters, all hell broke loose right up to the very end. By the end, he'd saved the fair maiden and the kid ended up firing his first two shots saving them from getting killed. Kid and girl fall in love. Fatherinlaw to be respects the kid and wants him for his daughter while pretending not to for the fun there was in it.

For weeks, maybe months the front of my mind has been occupied with one of the great moral issues of humanity. Murder. Killing. Dying. All over the world, all the way along, all through the course of humanity, maybe 50,000 years, people killing each other has gone on so gloriously for so long it's one of our hardest traditions to break in collective humanity. FBI kills people, CIA kills people and it's don't ask, don't tell. Government kills with impunity. A lot of democrat politicians with a good chance to win have gone down in plane crashes that left no evidence of what went wrong. It doesn't seem to happen to repubs much. Maybe they can afford better planes. Military is all about killing. A glorification around killing. Uniforms, heroes, medals, praise and position make killing the most serious of human events.

In American films especially, since we're the gun capital of the world, unimpeded killing goes on. Red dots appear on somebody's chest and red fluid spews out of them and the man falls. That's the last we see of him. His role is over. No funeral, no family in grief. Perfectly casual killing. We Americans grow up watching casual killing on tv every day of our lives. Once the killing is done, it's on to the next scene. No carrying out the body, no mother, wife, kids crying. The corpse vanishes once it hits the floor. Out of sight, out of mind, on to the next killing. All the way through, killing and more killing, no problem, on to the next one with much anticipation.

In movies, in government, in politics, in the corporate world, law enforcement, on the news, killing is casual as putting a coin in a parking meter. Yet if I were to kill somebody, even involuntary manslaughter, there'd be hell to pay. Arrested, shoved around with hands cuffed behind my back, kept in jail until the trial, then probably life in prison. If the CIA paid me $50,000 to make a hit, it would be a great thing. I could buy a really nice new car. It would be a glorious thing to do, because it's for country. But getting pist off at somebody and killing him or her is strictly forbidden, especially with intent. The Bible is full of murder from beginning to end, much of it glorified. For my point of view, the crucifixion was a depiction of how organized religion casts out and kills the spirit. Religion has been behind many a slaughter. Puritans burning psychic women.

If I'm supposed to burn in hell if I kill somebody, I can't help but wonder about a President who signs an order to drop two atomic bombs on major cities without warning. He was glorified. A great decision in American history. Does he go to heaven on account of that? I don't see how the man could sleep after that. Nor do I see how he could keep from going mad. They say he was acting as a role, not as a man. But still, it's a man in the role. I've thought so much about it I've thought myself into a quandary.

This morning at Selma's Backwoods Bean coffee shop a man was talking about the upcoming election with the practice voting form, talking about the various ones running in local elections, and suddenly said to me in some context I don't remember, "Killing is a sin, isn't it?" All I could say was, "I don't know." He questioned that. I said, "I just don't know any more. Used to think I did, but now I don't know. I don't even know what a sin is." All that has become so murky it's hard to think about it where ethics are concerned. In this circumstance it's good, in that circumstance it's bad. That's how it is with everything. All I know to do any more is love God and treat other people right. Let everybody else do what they have to do and I'll take care of my own space. That's all I know any more, if I indeed know that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


kermit the barber as george jones

The show lasted 3 1/2 hours and seemed like one. At intermission half way through, it felt like the show had just started. Agnes, who is most often backstage in a sweat making sure the people next to go on are in place, finding them, seeing to this and that. This year she sat out in the audience with Ernest except when they had parts on the stage. This year everything backstage worked smoothly with Dotty Dorsett and Clint Bedsaul seeing to arrangement of mics, getting people in place for the curtains to open soon after they close. There was never a dead moment. The audience's attention never wavered from the stage. And, interestingly, the people putting on skits and making music were fully aware of connecting with the audience.
Hillbilly Wes, Wes Brinegar who works in the Post Office, has been the comic mc the last several years and by now has created a stage persona that is the glue that holds everything together. I was glad to see Agnes relaxed this time, able to see her creation start to finish instead of being in a Mammy Yokum spin the whole time making it work that way. She has a good crew that is fairly well experienced with performing in whatever way they choose. Like Jason Parlier did a karaoke of I think it was a Jerry Reed song, she got the goldmine, I got the shaft. Jason did the singing, and did it well. I'd seen Ricky Nelson in concert in highschool years, probably 1959, and he brought that concert back. His approach to singing with the guitar was so reminiscent of Ricky Nelson, it got to where I was seeing Ricky Nelson like when Kermit Pruitt was lip-syncing George Jones, there came a time when Kermit became George Jones, soon after he started.
My role was to pull the curtain ropes. Dotty Dorsett, who was the backstage director, gave me signals from the other side of the curtain for opening and closing. I mostly knew automatically, but there were so many exceptions and she gave perfect directions with hand signals. One time I got a close signal from her, then another source said, No--open them. Then another said, Close them. I felt like a computer told to do 3 different things at the same time and freezes. I didn't know what to do. All 3 directions came inside 3 seconds. I looked at Dotty and she signaled close them urgently. Clint Bedsaul was Dotty's assistant, helping with mics and wires and monitors and helping bands get their things together before the curtain opens. He was major contributing factor to how backstage pandemonium was shaped into order.
Mine was the best place in the house. I could see what was happening onstage through the space between the wall and the curtain, about half a foot, all of what's going on backstage, saw the audience quite a bit. I saw the whole show in all its dimensions. Mostly during music I'd go out in front, take an empty seat on the front row, get a few pictures and return to my post. Last night during practice I took the moment to make a video of Gary Joines playing fiddle. I had to wait til the end of the song to stop the camera. At the same time I'm to be at the rope pulling the curtain shut. As soon as the music stopped I ran around to the ropes and there was Dotty wondering where I was, about the pull the rope herself. This is a good measure of how well Dotty oversaw everything. She didn't know I was making the video and had no idea where I was. I'm glad the video got made practice night, because I never had a moment past the end of a tune and couldn't get in place soon enough for the beginning.
The video can be found on YouTube titled: FAREWELL WALTZ / RAGGEDY ANN. It can be found by writing any of the musicians' names in the Search box. They are Gary Joines, Ernest Joines, Eddie Bakeberg and Lynn Worth. Any of those names will pull it up. A good fortune feature of the video is Gary and Bobbi Parlier were flatfooting back and forth on the stage while the music was playing. As I had the frame for the camera set on the musicians, the dancers in the foreground were visible from shoulder to knee, dancing like crazy. It added a great deal to the music. At first I thought about opening the frame to get them full length, but the way they were drifting back and forth in front of the band seemed to work just right, so I kept the camera's frame on the band and let them move in motion to the music back and forth.
Agnes chose me to play Ernest T Bass of the Andy Griffith Show after a musical skit of Jean Osborne playing Charlene, Andy's girlfriend, where she sang Salty Dog. I don't know that I'd ever heard Jean sing before, and she's a good singer. The band called themselves the Darlings. When Charlene finished singing, Ernest T, "It's me, Ernest T," runs out on the stage begging Charlene to marry him and not Andy. It was a back and forth mayhem, neither of us sticking to what we had talked about doing and saying. It all went away and we just did our back and forth game, whatever happened.
When it ended, Hillbilly Wes made some remark. I turned around, took a pair of black socks rolled up tight into a ball out of my pocket, held it up and said, "I'll rock you boy!" The audience actually let out a collective gasp. I threw it at him. It hit him in the chest and he caught it. Then he started jerking around in spasms. I said, "I didn't mean to hit his pacemaker." There were some hesitant laughs, because it looked like that might have happened. It was totally spontaneous. When it was over, it wasn't like I'd done anything. I'd fallen into a place where it wasn't me any more. I couldn't look at the audience, just acted a fool whatever happened and then it was over. I didn't feel like I'd done anything, back in myself.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


bill and sonya joines, mcs

(l to r) george sheets, kim smith, bill joines

the blues brothers: linda bedsaul (l), agnes joines (r)

the rise and shine band
(l to r) ernest joines, billy dancy, wade petty, kermit pruitt, charlie edwards, pd harris

the chicken pickers
(l to r) eddie bakeberg, lynn worth, gary joines

Friday, October 15, 2010


l to r: ernest joines, billy dancy, charlie edwards, gary joines

This evening was practice for the Hillbilly Show tomorrow night in Sparta. It's a great deal of fun for all concerned. We have a country band with Joe Irwin, who is running for County Commissioner as an Independent, singing 2 Johnny Cash songs. His voice naturally sings like JohnnyCash, so it's easy for him. Kermit Pruitt played electric guitar with him. Tomorrow night Kermit will lip-sync two George Jones songs. Audience loves George Jones and Kermit too. Lynn Worth and her feller, Eddie Bakeberg, ended the show with him playing guitar and Lynn playing banjo and singing Sixteen Chickens and a Tambourine very well.

It was fun for me to be among the bunch of people that were there, the people of BROC in the county, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission. Our branch of BROC is the Alleghany Planning Committee. It's about a dozen of us. I like them an awful lot. What we do is what I believe churches are here to do, but they don't, for the most part. We raise money with the Hillbilly Show to give scholarships, pay electric bills and fuel bills for people who are not able, the general purpose being to help people of the county having a rough go of it. We have Hospice now because the medical community does not value the human touch. In like manner, we have BROC because churches don't do much to help the poor.

Over the last 5 years, the show has been getting better every year. There is no time wasted between skits anymore and the performers get better every year too. The music is always good. Ernest Joines plays mandolin, Billy Dancy banjo, Charlie Edwards guitar and vocals, and Gary Joines, bass, as The Darlings, the band on the Andy Griffith Show. A skit around the Andy Griffith Show happens when Jean Osborne sings and plays Charlene. When she's done with the song, I'm to run out as Ernest T Bass and talk to Charlene the way Ernest T does and chase her around until she runs off the stage. I wasn't sure I could let go of inhibition long enough to do what Agnes wanted me to do. However, as soon as it started, it was on. I can act stupid. That's what's called method acting where you be yourself. Like African Americans play African Americans well, I play stupid well. I just cut loose and got stupid.

It strikes me funny that we go through our days tying not to let stupid show, keep it hidden from self, and for self it's all denial. Naw I aint stupid. I'm just dumber'n shit. I like what Lao Tzu wrote, "Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease." That being the case, I'm overflowing with true knowledge. Since I've witnessed fluid mind's uncertainty every day of my life and watched mind abandon Jr Maxwell who had a brilliant mind, fast, good at figuring things out. He made his own capos of aluminum and black tape in his tractor repair shop. They worked so well for him, he wouldn't have a bought one. And I'm right there with presuming to know is a disease. It throws me back to school days, learning to affect the appearance of knowing, learning to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Learning that it's important to sound credible is a game of appearance. The appearance of knowing what we're talking about is something we study young that becomes incredibly important.

I love it on NPR, All Things Considered news always consults an "expert" in a given field. A guy told me one day he wanted to interview me on film because I'm an expert on mountain music. That one made me jump in alarm. I told him I'm not an expert on anything, especially not mountain music. I can't honestly say I know anything about it. I know who a lot of the musicians were and are, the names of a lot of tunes, but that's not knowing anything about it. People that know mountain music are people like Ralph Stanley and they can't tell you anything about it, because they are it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


yellow and blue

It's been a quiet and restless day without a car. Watched 2 movies, Larry the Cable Guy's, Health Inspector, which was actually funny in its demented way. Had me laughing at crazy things he says and his state of mind. His pickup's back bumper was covered with bumper stickers. One I especially liked said Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target.

The next movie was from Taiwan, the Nationalist island off the coast of mainland China. It's largely composed of descendants of people who left China to get away from Communism after the Nationalists lost the war and evacuated to Taiwan, like Cubans evacuated to Miami. The city, Taipei, is an advanced modern city along the lines of Hong Kong and Macao, but different. Hong Kong was under British control and Macao, Portuguese. Taipei is Chinese governed.The Taiwanese carry on the old Chinese traditions Mao cut out on the mainland.

The story in the film is such that I can't say it is a story. Relatively very little drama. At the moment of the movie's climax, we got a climax, and that was release of the building tension that was about the question, What's going on? Everybody was asking that question in their behavior. It was like the camera followed 3 different people living their lives, each in their own circumstances. Interesting visual compositions all the way through, the way doors and shadows fall on floors and walls. It was made with an artist's eye. Very little talking, just seeing the different ones in their places and times. It was called, What Time Is It There?

One of the people we watch, a young woman of maybe 20 went to Paris. She bought a watch from a boy we're watching of about the same age before she left, emphasizing she wanted a watch that kept two different times, Taipei and Paris, when he was out selling watches from a suitcase that opens into a display full of them. She wanted to buy the watch he was wearing, but he said it was bad luck. She insisted, he sold it. The boy's mother is the 3rd. She is in mourning over her husband who died at the beginning of the film. The boy is too. She hires a priest to try to conjure her husband's spirit back. The son thinks she's ridiculous. They eat together and seldom talk. The city is going on all around them wherever they are. Buses galore, swarms of yellow taxis, cars, motor scooters, bicycles, walking.

Today I've kind of felt in mourning for humanity. Tuesday at lunch Jim Winfield said something about killing being a bad thing to do. Ever since then I've looked at humans since the earliest tribes that carried spears and had bones in their noses, at war with neighboring tribes all the time. Killing somebody of another tribe is nothing. All over Africa killing is what's going on. We glorify it in war, make a very big deal of it. The Old Testament wars were genocidal wars like going on in places like Sudan where warlords and their armies get about in Toyota and Nissan pickups with machine guns mounted in the back, manned by teenage boys high on reefer mowing people down.

The Indian wars on our continent were genocidal like the Bible wars, chaplains preaching sermons about the glorious Hebrew killing machine, something akin to Genghis Khan in the far east. God's chosen army. Dying going on all the time everywhere and it's just numbers. Political murders are always ok. CIA and FBI murders, don't ask, don't tell. But if I shoot somebody, there's hell to pay for committing the most heinous of crimes. Younger, I believed human life important. From what I see all around now that I've grown up, I'm not so sure. If it is, we're still a long ways from getting it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010



Listening to Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe, southeastern Africa, maybe the poorest country in the world, there with Haiti and Albania. Sad situation there. Mapfumo's music I can't explain. Don't know the titles of the songs, the name of the album. Can't understand any of the words. It's like his voice is an instrument and doesn't pull my mind into it. He has a beautiful voice and delivery. It's dance music that has a casual sense about it the way reggae has its relaxed style. They're only similar in their casual way of flowing with the rhythms. His electric guitar players are real pickers.

Mapfumo's music is kind of understated, no sound assaults, just a relaxed flow of the rhythm and the girls singing, the thumb piano making it's particularly Zimbabwean sound and the electric guitar that plays along with it in the same manner. I think of it as a lilting rhythm his band makes. I actually prefer music where I can't understand the meanings of the words. I can hear the music in the voice. Much of Mapfumo's vocals are musical sounds like something a guitar or horns might do, though with the subtlety of the human voice to make all kinds of sounds at will. It's beautiful. It's the kind of music I can have playing while I write you and it's not a distraction. It's just the only thing I can think about, which is probably best.

Today the car broke. Serious problem. Can't run without fixing. Can't get to it till mid next week. I'm immobile for the time being. Hillbilly Show this weekend. Friday night rehearsal, Saturday night the show. Agnes wants me to be Ernest T Bass from Andy Griffith Show. That's going to take some doing. She thinks I'm as uninhibited as she is about cutting a shine. I don't really have any appetite for the stage, even if it's just running about being stupid. I'd rather be pulling the ropes for the big curtain. A good job for me. I can see through the opening between the curtain and the wall where I am with the ropes, a good view of what is going on onstage. I can see what is going on backstage, and can see the audience at will. This way I see everything that is going on, the entire experience. That's why I like to work the curtains.

I refuse to think about the car. It will be taken care of one step at a time, starting with getting it to the mechanic, tomorrow's project. I've learned after living this long that I don't have to worry about it. Worry just adds to it. Things have a way of falling into place when allowed. It's the way of let-go-and-let-God. It's been a rough day for the mind. In the course of the day I forgot too many important things I need to pay attention to. Things as dumb as stepping in front of a car without looking. Didn't do that, but might as well have.

I'm too ashamed of the stupid stuff I did today from forgetfulness to tell it. It was stupid. Yet, it worked out perhaps best for the long run. It's the same kind of frustration Jr felt, ashamed of forgetting things that screw up as a result. However, later I boiled some eggs and remembered to turn the heat off when it was time. Maybe I'll talk with Una about some ginko tea or something like that for holding the mind together. Like if I'm talking and get interrupted, it's gone. Gone forever. Until some time later in the day or the next day. Pop. There it is. I call it the white hair disease.

It turns out I find the forgetfulness somewhat of an adventure. I like a life with minimum drama in it, so I don't set myself up for many adventures. I like adventures like approaching a blank canvas and making something of it worth looking at, something better than a panel of white, which is quite beautiful in itself, can be a powerful visual statement. Google Robert Ryman. He paints white. Does it right.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


red yellow green

Woolly worms are crossing the roads. My first year in the mountains Tom Pruitt told me the lore of the woolly worm, making certain I didn't think he believed any of it, just telling me what he's been told some people believe. Black at front and back and orange in the middle. The amount of black in the front told how long the first part of winter would be, then the orange is the mild spell in the middle of winter, how long it will last, then the black at the end tells the last part of winter. Already, I didn't believe it, because I'd never seen two alike. How do you choose the one to go by? This year all I've seen crossing the roads is solid black ones, which I would interpret to mean a long winter of steady cold like last winter. Having already said I don't believe it, I do find it interesting the woolly worms over the last few years seem to be more and more solid black. Don't take this for a face. I've not done a scientific study, just drive-bys, sometimes rolling a tire over one, sometimes not. I try to avoid them, but sometimes see one roll up into a fuzzy marble in the rearview mirror.

My friends Lucas and Judy Carpenter arrived Friday for the weekend. The leaves started turning that night. Then the next night more, and by the time they left today the mountains were almost in full color. It's an unnatural turning according to what I've seen over the years. We have not had a night below freezing. I was told in biology class that a membrane where the stem of the leaf joins the branch closes after a freeze, the leaf gets no more nutrients and dies, changing colors along the way from vibrant green living leaf to dried paper on the forest floor, nutrients for the roots next year after they dissolve into the soil after rain and snow. Talking with Jack Nichols today, he said it's so dry the leaves died from lack of rain. That's what I see the leaves doing, just dying. They curl up and turn brown after one or two days of color. Curious. Every Fall season is different like every winter is unique to itself, like every Summer and Spring. I've never seen this before. I suspect Jack has seen it before.

Uploaded 16 videos of Skeeter and the Skidmarks' show last Friday night. It took until today. I wasn't home much, in and out. In, I'd set one to uploading and leave, come back and start another one going. That was every one I'd recorded. I started at the beginning and kept on going. Everything they did was dynamic. They had the groove. They were flowing with each other musically and flowing with the audience too. Their groove encompassed the whole place, everyone concerned. During a couple of them, I remember Whiskey Before Breakfast being one of them, I started grooving through the camera, moving in a flow with the music. Sometimes I like to move the camera around while the music is going. Including the heads of the audience is the best learning I think I've had from the experience. It seems to add to the spontaneity of the moment. The 17th one was Dori's Work Song, put up last so it would be at the top of the list.

As usual, I was grateful for the opportunity to archive almost an entire show of Skeeter and the Skidmarks in the time they're preparing their 3rd cd 15 years after the 2nd. Their first round of playing a few months ago at the Front Porch, they were mighty good, but this time they were on top of it. They were feeling good together and the music was flowing. I wanted to get the entire show, but needed some still shots and a bit of rest for my arms. I'm better now at holding the camera still than I used to be. I don't want to hold it too still, however. I like movement of the camera. Makes the video feel alive, like it's a living eye seeing through it, which is indeed the case. I love this inadvertent role as video recorder of some of the best music going on in SW Virginia. I like things that just happen like this die. It just happened. I had no dream, no ambition to do such a thing. Never entered my mind until I did it. That tells me it's in the flow, that I'm in my flow. That's where I want to be.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

EZEKIEL'S WHEEL---Skeeter and the Skidmarks

scott freeman, fiddle, edwin lacy, banjo

Here is a video from Friday night at the Front Porch Gallery at Woodlawn, Virginia. Skeeter and the Skidmarks are Edwin Lacy, banjo, Scott Freeman, fiddle, Willard Gayheart, guitar, Sandy Grover Mason, bass. Early 90s they made 2 albums, Hubbin It and Alternate Roots. 2nd hand copies of Hubbin It are available thru They didn't know they had a fan base and they figured they were over. All went on to different projects. Since computers, email, google, people have been finding them asking when they're making a new cd and how they can get the out of print ones. They decided to get back together and make a new cd.

Edwin took a job as a Presbyterian, I think they call them minister somewhere in Indiana. He comes back to visit for a spell and they record a few songs. Sandy comes up from Pilot Mountain area to be with them. They'd played a bit together and practiced on Wednesday, and Friday night they had that something that happens every once in awhile with a band, when they connect with the music and connect with the audience and the whole place flows together like the musicians and the listeners are one. They had that musical connection with each other from the first note. I'm putting up on YouTube probably 10 videos of Skeeter and the Skidmarks. Everything they did was great. Leaving out some they played last time they were here. I'd like to do both versions of them, but its not necessary. That's overdoing it.

I wanted to put up the entire show, but that, too, is unnecessary. I had to take a couple of breaks in order to get some still photos of them playing. They were playing well last night and they were especially photogenic as a band. Got some good pictures of all of them leaning into the music, like in the October 8th picture. In the first several weeks of picture making, I attempted to keep the audience out of the pictures, focusing on the show. Now I want the audience included, being sure to show heads along the lower part of the picture of people sitting there watching them play. They feel a lot better to me than the ones without audience being seen. When the music is over and the clapping starts, I often lower the camera into the audience where you see people clapping from above and behind them. Makes interesting visuals. I believe it was in the tune Running Through The Graveyard where I found Minnie the cat while filming the band. Drifted away from the band twice to get Minnie. She's part of it too. It's her home.

All day today I've been uploading the videos, though not frequently through the day. Went to West Jefferson yesterday to see the show Best Of The Blue Ridge at the Arts Council gallery that Jane Lonon created and maintained until by now it is quite a beautiful, functional and active center for artists of the NW NC region. Perhaps some from Tennessee and some from Virginia. Mostly, I supposed, people who have come to the mountains from other places. We have an awful lot of really good artists in the region now. I liked everything in the show. It was a beautiful show of a tremendous variety of art vision, each artist as different in their art expression as in their fingerprints.

Judging for shows like that is always subjective, just like at a fiddler's convention. I've judged contests of art and photography and I know how subjective it is from both sides. Musicians I know don't take Galax seriously. They compete for the fun of it and I suspect for their own measure of themselves, where they're at in relation to the others. Interesting to see where you place. But the judging is too subjective for it to be a true measure, but an approximation. Like when I've judged a show with 2 others, we spent a lot of time talking, coming to agreements that one rates the prize over another. Then we agree on one that suits all of us. At the end of a library photo show I can see the visual taste of the judge.

For example: I would have given the 4 prizes, best in show and 1-3, differently. Best in show and #1 I'd have reversed. 2 and 3 wouldn't even figure. There were several I found better than them. I'm saying this now in my own taste. I'm not judging the judging. Only pointing out how subjective it is. 2 different people and 2 different results. Either way I'd have not given a ribbon to my entry. It stood well in the presence of equals, in good company. As a measure of what I'm doing, it shows me I'm in the company of some pretty good artists. I didn't enter for an award and am not disappointed. I wanted to see it on a wall surrounded by other artists of the region. I wanted to see how it stood among them. I'm happy with how it stands among them, seeing them as my peers. I liked the entire show a very great deal. And I say Thank You to Jane Lonon for all she has done for the artists who chose to live in this region of the mountains.