Google+ Followers

Thursday, December 30, 2010


ken davis at selma's

This afternoon at Selma's Backwoods Bean coffee shop was a social time like I don't recall having in a very long time. The wine tasting she had on the 17th was a very social time, but I felt somewhat reluctant that night without any need to be. I just don't do things like this. I dropped in a little after 12 for morning coffee. Went to bed last night at 8 and woke this morning at 11 to the phone ringing. Haven't slept that long in quite a while. I wanted to go to Selma's for coffee this morning, take some prescription canisters to drugstore for refilling and needed a few items from grocery store, none of which I ended up doing. At the coffee shop, I started on my regular Kenyan coffee at the counter, talking with Ken, pictured above. Different people come and go, conversation hopping around with the people who drop in. Mostly, people feel free to converse in there with people they don't know. That's not totally the case, but so mostly as to be almost a rule.

The nice thing about the place is it's like a no-fire zone like they have in wars, places where there is no shooting. It isn't like anybody is looking to pick somebody up or look for a soul mate or any kind of flirtation. Of course, there is subtle, even unconscious flirtation, but not serious. Like today I spent several hours talking with a man's wife and he had no problem with it at all. She is an artist, I am too, Selma has told her about me and me about her and we finally met today. Turns out we had a great deal to say. It was free-wheeling, free-flowing conversation, the kind I like the best where we're wide open talking about art and experiences associated with our art. She paints skyscapes and I paint musicians. I don't know how many hours we talked, but it was probably 3 hours at least. And we never got tired. Different people joined us along the way, and another artist settled in with us. I find her and her husband wide awake people, the kind of people I enjoy immensely.

I love the freedom in the place to be wide open, within reasonable bounds, with friendly people and no game playing going on. I get the impression that people I've seen in there who are gamers don't return, because it's no fun. In Selma's place everyone has smooth edges, no sharp edges going around. Selma steps out from behind the bar to hug somebody when they walk in or are leaving. Everyone in the place is a guest in Selma's home. We have a collection now of what we call the regulars. It's a good bunch of people. I enjoy every one of them. My spirit is light in there.

Ken Davis, pictured above, I struggled in my mind with for a time. He dressed like a Latin man, not at all like an anglo, though he looked anglo and had an anglo name. I said to Selma one day, he is Latin, has to be. She said he's Mexican, came from Texas, knows 6 languages. Turns out he's an interesting character who likes to talk about all kinds of possibilities. Today he was talking about ghosts like nobody had a problem talking about them. And nobody did. Of 5 of us involved in the conversation, all of us had some kind of experience that indicated a consciousness was nearby. Todd the new chiropractor in town is a lively conversationalist in there. He has a sharp mind, a quick wit and we were all dancing the dance of free-flowing conversation that meandered the way a flock of birds or a school of fish suddenly veer off this direction, then that, going wherever the spirit leads.

Spirit is a good word for the feeling in there. It's a free-flowing spirit notable by the absence of speed bumps and forces to obstruct the flow. As we're moving into the Age of Aquarius, I can't help but think this flow in the world around us is obstructed, even log jammed, by so many belief systems, shoulds, shouldn'ts, fears, traditions, and so on to infinity. Perhaps, gradually the fears we have of one another will fade, unarticulated as they are, and we can flow as freely as in Selma's. That's getting into utopian nonsense, like in hippie times, I want everybody to be free. Freedom turned into overdosing on heroin in an abandoned building at the edge of nowhere.

I attempt not to be sucked into believing the future will be the way I want it to be. The future will be just like now. Changing architecture, changing value of money, material changes go along with changes in consciousness. I do see our collective consciousness going through some major changes, even advances toward a freer flow in our involvements with self and others. In Selma's it's never a matter of somebody can't speak to you because they know somebody who doesn't like you. None of that thinking applies in Selma's. It's not the future, but very much the present.

All the free-flowing conversations I've fallen into there have been free of all the objectionable games people play, like one-upmanship, hipper than thou, roosters in the chicken house. None of that is going on. I believe it's the energy of Selma, energy being the closest word I can find to that which is nameless, her presence, her vibes. I'm seeing in my attempts to describe the feeling between people in there, the openness, the air, the unguarded friendliness, I'm describing Selma. She is cause for a celebration of Fidel Castro in Sparta for Selma's mother leaving with her when she was 7. But for Fidel, Selma would not have come to Sparta. Thank you, Fidel. We can tell Jesse Helms that Fidel was good for something. Her place has become an oasis for people passing through Sparta, people new here, people who have been here awhile, people from here. One day I met a woman in there from Krakow, Poland, here from Raleigh for choose-n-cut. We talked about Roman Polanski and his film The Pianist.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


waterfall road

The roads are clear by now. The big dump trucks with the blade on the front drive 30-40 mph throwing the snow off to the side in a big spray. The big motorgrader pushes it to the side and leaves a mound to break through or shovel away. When the dumptruck sprays the snow out of the road there isn't such a big mound along he sides. I understand the need for paved roads so the Hwy Dept can run the dumptrucks with the blade several times to one time by the motorgrader. Today the paved part was largely dry. The gravel road coming up the mountain had melted into slushy ice and mud, both of them slicker than ice. I had to give it some pedal to keep going. It was another situation like busting through the drift that you don't stop, keep on keepin on. When you stop, that's it. Back down the mountain and start again. I slung mud all over the sides of the car. It made a good commercial for a paved road.

Saw a film yesterday by German director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Aguirre the Wrath of God), a man with a mind all his own. This was in English, ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, a documentary type film of Antarctica. Much underwater footage below and through tunnels in the icebergs, watching the seals swim underwater like soft torpedoes and hearing their electronic seeming sounds. On the surface, almost nothing can live, but in the water life forms are everywhere, strange looking critters. A cell biologist working at the American base there was saying the creatures he sees in the telescope are frightening monsters. If we were the same size as them, we would not have a chance. He said it was such a violent world he believed the first sea creatures to walk onto land were getting away from that world of Xtreme violence. I think they brought some of it with them.

Also much footage above sea level, flights over interior landscapes of jagged mountains and snow, smooth mountains and snow, all of it snow. Great thing to see on the coldest day of the year. Beautiful landscape. Herzog has a powerful mind that thinks in big themes. Here, he presented the land of the South Pole. Took us to the South Pole by helicopter showing the mountains and snow. It was not only fascinating to see this little known landscape as something of amazing beauty, but it had another side, Herzog's twist, utter desolation, more desolate than desert. It is a place where the compass needle goes vertical.

He has a 1995 film, LESSONS OF DARKNESS, another documentary of the desert of Kuwait after the Iraqi retreat when they set oil wells on fire, the desert made even more desolate by the oil, by burned out truck bodies, skeletal remains of war's machinery blasted by US tanks and bombs from the sky. It was so desolate, it surely peaked Herzog's artistic fascination with the desolate. I can't help but think he is picturing his own deep feeling of desolation through his artistic interpretation of what we call reality. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a legitimate artistic vision. It's a theme that runs through all his films I've seen. It's the desolation that stands out, but it is balanced by beauty beyond measure and much light. The films are in that way a vision of duality in the yin-yang, the dance of opposites, the creation of illusion. Herzog is a deep thinker, a post-war European intellectual, something of an Existentialist. Yet he never goes over our heads without taking us with him.

Herzog's beauty of desolation seems to me a way of making something on the order of an abstract canvas with images moving through time. Compositions of shapes and colors in every scene make abstract images to the artist's eye. Herzog plays on many levels visually as well as mentally and emotionally. His films are strong emotional experiences. The horror of the desolate is interwoven with visual beauty only available to the eye that can see past the horror and find abstract compositions everywhere until it becomes art and there is no judgment. At first, it's shocking, maddening, disheartening, and it keeps on and keeps on, then the beauty in it takes over and it becomes beautiful. Every time I see a film of Herzog's, my respect grows. I don't want to see them one after the other. I like to drop one in from time to time to look at and experience a work of abstract art in motion for a couple hours.


Monday, December 27, 2010


apples in tophats

The air has been cold and stayed cold. 13 is what the thermometer says now. It's been so cold for so long I'm used to being cold all the time. Inside, the thermometer says 70 degrees, so why am I wearing two long-sleeved tshirts and an insulated outdoor shirt above the waist, and below the waist 2 pair of sweat pants? Inside sweatpants tucked into white socks in shoes. Instead of keeping feet on the floor, I rest the heel of one foot on the floor and rest the other foot over the ankle above the heel on the floor. Feet are less cold when only the heel is touching the floor. Hands are warm. The air indoors is pleasant, but it has a cold chill inside the 70 degrees. It's the chill I'm dressed for. Without this outer insulated shirt I'd be too cold.

This morning I stayed in bed until after 11. Too cold to get up. Finally, I couldn't sleep any more and forced my way up. I was so cold, continuously, I decided to get out of the house and drive to town, have the day's Kenyan coffee at Selma's. Talked with Carole on the phone a bit, felt flat like the surface of a lake with no ripples, didn't talk long. I dressed up for an expedition into the snow, ice and cold. Went out and started the car, scraped ice off front and back windows. Just before the snow I rubbed vinegar on the windows, having heard it keeps ice from freezing onto the glass. That prophecy didn't bear out. The ice took extensive scraping. But the windshield was clean when it thawed from the inside.

Heading out for town, the Catfish drove on the packed snow and ice with no problem. Up on Air Bellows Gap Road, a white pickup passed going the other way. Two guys inside were looking at me with eyes that said, you'll never make it. I knew the drift they were thinking about. Their look told me to be prepared. I figured their truck got through it, so I can too. They left packed tracks in the snow I could ride through. Plus, they shaved it down to the height of the truck's undercarriage. When I saw it, I didn't question making it. It would take my 35 years experience driving this road where this particular spot drifts every drifting snow. I stepped on the gas aiming to plow my way through. About half way into it, guessing it 20 feet from side to side, the front end started sliding, indicating I was losing traction. Didn't dare stop, so I pushed the gas a little bit, caught traction and walked right on through the last third of the stretch. It wasn't a surprise when I came out the other end, but it did feel jubilant. Front wheel drive.

I surmised that would be the last obstacle between home and town. The road down the mountain was snow packed into ice where the tire treads went. Inside the car was warm, what I was really after, driving the car in coat and outfitted for 0 degrees or below, running the heat. Driving over the hill in Whitehead at Elvira Crouse's house, the other side is subject to weather quite different from the Whitehead side of the hill. The road was clear going into the blind curve to the right, but I kept speed down anticipating ice. There it was. Quite a good stretch of ice the sun doesn't touch. A bad place to lose control. Ran through Thompson Flat at a fairly good rate trying to blow the pile of snow off the hood. It made the surface drift onto the windshield where it melted instantly and wipers pushed it aside. A good day to take trash to the dump, figuring nobody would be there. Didn't see anybody.

It felt good in the car where it was uniformly warm. I took yesterday's netflix movie to the big blue box at the post office, dropped off a prescription bottle at Halsey's driveby, parked in front of the courthouse and strolled across hwy 21 to Selma's open sign. Two people were there when I went in, and before very long half a dozen more came in. Very different kinds of people are discovering her coffee. When Selma started getting my coffee going, she suggested I try Hawaiian. In my mind's eye I saw beach, Honolulu condos. Couldn't imagine there was any place left of Hawaii to grow anything; volcanos and condos everywhere.It sounded interesting, but I'd been anticipating Kenyan all morning. If I hadn't been looking forward to the Kenyan, Hawaiian would do. Maybe next time I'll go with trying the Hawaiian in mind. I knew if I drank something besides Kenyan today I would not have been satisfied. Next time or next next time.

Selma said something to me about trying something new, a new experience. It appeals to me to try something new, but this morning I was programmed for Kenyan. Could have had it at home, but needed to get out of the cold house. I believe it's in my horoscope that once I find something I like, I stick with it. The first taste of Kenyan coffee made me a believer. I've not wanted to drink any coffee but Kenyan since. It's not like a set determination, but that I love the flavor more than any other coffee. I told Selma once, it's honey to my palate, and that's as close to what I meant than any other likeness. I don't know coffee parlance, so must be satisfied with saying it simply pleases me like no other. Ethiopian is close, but not It. Kenyan is It. Since I've started drinking Kenyan, I've had coffee at the Circle L and other people's houses, grocery store coffee that comes from South America. I appreciate it as good enough, will do. A taste of Kenyan after a period of drinking South American coffee, I enjoy it all the more. I don't mean to imply the Latin coffees are bad. All the flavors from various parts of the world are good.

Kenyan coffee seems to my palate to have a clarity like no other. The Ethiopian and Indian I've tried are subtle variations on the Kenyan theme, only slightly different. Tasting them helps me appreciate Kenyan all the more. A few weeks ago I ran out of Kenyan and took a third of a bag of 4 o'clock coffee out of the freezer where I'd put it when the Kenyan came into the house. I was curious to see how it would stand up, considering it's been opened quite awhile, plus a period of time in the freezer. It wasn't bad. But it also wasn't It by a mile. The new bag of Kenyan, freshly roasted, told it. Upon first taste I asked myself, Why did you let it run out? At the time, it had to do with money. My morning quota is gone too soon every day. I could drink it all day and into the night every day for the satisfaction in its flavor. There is something about its flavor I find as satisfying as the taste of really good white liquor made from rye.


Sunday, December 26, 2010


snowy day

What seems like 4 to 5 inches of snow fell yesterday and in the night. Snow on limbs and pine needle clusters, an even blanket of white on everything. In the warmest time of the day when it was 18 degrees I went out and made a few photos close around the house. Big gusts of wind blew snow in clouds that flew over the ground. Now that it's dark the wind is picking up, wind chimes going, and by morning the snow will be blown out of the trees and settled in low places, like deer hoof-prints and tire tracks in the road. In the morning we'll know how easily this snow makes drifts. It's powdery, easy to drive on, easy to walk in. It offers no resistance to foot traffic. If it weren't so bitter cold, it would be a pleasure to walk in. It's 15 degrees now.

Reading SITTING BULL: His Life And His Legacy by a great-grandson named Ernie LaPointe, son of Angelique Spotted Horse, daughter of Sitting Bull's daughter Standing Holy by his wife Seen By Her Nation. It's the story of Sitting Bull as told down through the family over time. I've read a good bio by the wasicu (white man) historian, Robert Utley, twice, which brought Sitting Bull to life for me. It may not be authentic to read a wasicu version of an Indian's life, but there aren't many Indians writing about him. Until Ernie LaPointe's testament I don't know that there are any. I heard him in Krista Tippet's Sunday afternoon radio show on NPR called On Being. It's something I hear every once in awhile. Turned it on about 10 minutes after it started and there was Ernie LaPointe talking about Tatanka Iyotake, Sitting Bull. Tatanka is bull and Iyotake is translated sitting.

I listened to LaPointe talking with wide open ears, taking it all in. Sat with Caterpillar on my lap and listened to the rest of the hour. Not often to do I do that. This small book of 127 reading pages and appendixes with b&w photos throughout of individual Indians, one picture of him holding the pipe with One Bull, a traitor who ultimately was responsible for the killing of Sitting Bull by two members of his tribe working for the Army, bringing him to the office for being a nuisance. A ruckus started, the two Lakota tribal police shot him at once, one in the head, one in the heart. One was named Bullhead, the one that shot him in the heart. Not long before, he had walked to a special place to pray. On the way back a meadowlark called to him, The Lakota will kill you. Sitting Bull was a medicine man as well as a chief, psychic would be what we call now some of his powers. Someone else hearing the same meadowlark at the same moment would only hear the bird call, Sitting Bull heard it speaking to him. Lakota killed him.

Reading LaPointe's Life and Legacy is very much like a testament, a gospel. Gospel meaning the life story of a spiritual Master, which Sitting Bull indeed was, in his own culture. About three-quarters through it, I'm feeling more and more reverence for the book itself as a gospel. I feel a spiritual closeness to it, to Sitting Bull, Tatanka Iyotaka, the last of his people to surrender his rifle. He was hired to have a part in a couple of Wild West shows as "the killer of Custer," though he wasn't even in the battle. He charged a couple dollars for an autograph in the cities they visited. He gave his money to the ragged white poor children in the streets. He never understood how the white people could neglect their children. There was much he never got, like the US gov never honored any treaty.

This gospel of Tatanka Iyotaka's life his great grandson wrote has a lightness of being about it. I could keep it on the shelf next to the TaoTeChing. It has a spiritual lightness where no words are wasted, where what is said is clear as daylight. It has the information of a biography, though Ernie LaPointe's life of Sitting Bull is told from the inside, from the Lakota perspective by kin. I can't help but think of it as a holy book of the life of a holy man. Sitting Bull was regarded by his people a holy man for the manner of his everyday life, who he was, not for what he said. It caused them to pay close attention when he spoke. Sioux was a name white man gave the Lakota, which meant the enemy. They liked being called the Enemy and identified happily with the name. Sitting Bull was a childhood hero for me who remained a hero throughout my life, even more a hero as time went by and I learned more about him. He is a man I look to as a true human being. He is not my enemy.


Saturday, December 25, 2010


christmas snow

Snow has fallen all afternoon. Maybe it's an inch and a half by now. It's a fine, light snow in small flakes that descend rather rapidly compared to bigger flakes that tend to float. It sticks to branches, but not with a passion, meaning may not be the kind of snow to break tree limbs. The Christmas trees planted in rows are catching the snow, looking like we tried to get the Christmas tree in the house to look by spraying some toxic snow stuff that came in an aerosol can in the early 50s. It was good for spraying in the windows to look like snow piled along the bottom. We sprayed it on the tree to look like snow. It was one of those items that was new and advertised to be just the thing, like draping tinsel on the tree; it's fun to put on, pretty to look at, but so expensive it couldn't be thrown away with the tree and had to be salvaged, a piece at a time by the kids, of course. Then the next year put on the used tinsel until it didn't work any more and we were tired of it anyway. Cleaning up the spray snow dampened its appeal before very long.
Seven years of working in Christmas trees I vowed to myself I would never have a Christmas tree unless it was artificial. Don't want one at all. How to dispose of them? Landfill, like everybody else. What can the landfill do with them? The best thing would be to burn them, but there are probably regulations a mile long against that and punishment articulated in detail. Maybe the best thing would be to get some guys with community service to run them through a chipper and sell the mulch. There would be tons of it from one county. But that seems a little sensible, and government, fed-state-county, doesn't do sensible. They do money. What costs the least? Whatever they do with them is obviously sensible as old Christmas trees disappear immediately every year. One of those things we never think about, like wastewater treatment plants.
Sparta has a really interesting plant that functions on an aerobic principle. The mess from the sewers goes into a big container that has air pumping into it so much and so fast it looks like it's boiling. The micro-organisms in the doo-doo (presidential for shit) multiply rapidly when given the air, and consume it, transforming it into their own dookie that is tiny pellets like grains of beach sand that sink to the bottom. The waste runs through three vats pumping the air to it until it reaches the final vat where the water is clean hypothetically of all impurities. It wasn't prepared, however, for all the chemical waste from the factories. Anyway, it's better than pumping it straight into the river without doing something. It's an ingenious system of containment to let the stuff nobody wants take care of itself and return to water. Out of sight, out of mind.
To all the rest of us, letting the dish water down the drain, flushing the throne is the end of it. It's gone. But it's not. Without drains and pipes and containment facilities, it's back to outhouses in winter when it's 5 degrees with wind, or in summer with a wasp nest under the seat you don't know about for awhile. Thanks to the discovery of plumbing and the discovery of microbes, we don't have to smell it or see it. Gone, out of sight. What a great advance in civilization. Major great advance. But if civilization can't maintain itself, in the words of Papa Bush, we're in deep shit (doo-doo). When you're looking for something to be thankful for, plumbing is a good one to throw into the list. I like plumbing a lot. This is why I don't like to think about going to someplace like India, Nepal, Indonesia, certainly not anywhere in Africa or the Arab world or nearly all of Asia. I'm partial to plumbing. I like it a lot.
The landfill depot will be busy starting Monday disposing of the Christmas trash. Our disposal system in the "advanced" part of the world is exemplary. In the western world, we take care of it well. The rest of the world will follow until one day there will be plumbing everywhere. It's too easy not to do. When it comes to what our time has done for the future of humanity, plumbing is right up there with electricity. Good plumbing keeps disease down. It's so incredibly handy that it gets taken for granted right away.
I don't know what led me through writing this. It was not my intent to write on Christmas about the joys of plumbing. But why not? Looking back over what I've done, it appears I associate Christmas with trash. More than likely the people working at the "landfill" do too. Christmas is Jesus's part in keeping the economy going. That's a pretty good miracle, a heart that beats once a year. There is so much I don't understand, it's absurd to think I understand anything. An attempt to understand is about the best I'm able. The economy is a living thing like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean is a living thing. If the Gulf Stream were to stop, the ocean would die before very long. If the economy were to stop, civilization would crumble. Like when our blood stream stops, we die. Christmas is like an annual paddle in the water keeping the economy in motion. Stuff for sale. Keeping the numbers in motion. Making trash.

Friday, December 24, 2010


red wheel

It's Christmas Eve again. Here, it has been nice and quiet. Not even more traffic on the road. Wouldn't go to town today. Did not want to dive into mayhem. Wednesday the grocery store parking lot was full. I drove on by. The times when traffic and shopping are at the max, I'm at home, quiet, not even the radio on. All they play is Christmas music. I know, it's properly sentimental to listen to Christmas music this time of year, but I hear so much on NPR and every store I go into, I don't need to listen of my own volition. I wouldn't care if I never heard any. For the same reasons I gagged when I saw a new county commissioner put a paragraph of republican patriotic gush up for merry Christmas on facebook. He got it all in there, patriotic and Christmas sentiment as one. A little over the edge, so knee-jerk patriotic as to render itself meaningless instantly, but infinitely defensible. Politics and religion, the holies of the holies, smokescreens in the hands of scoundrels.

I like the festive spirit of the time, people getting together to party, relatives getting together at somebody's house, presents, the light-hearted fun in that holiday season from Christmas to New Years. It works out that about half the people have happy times and happy memories at Christmas (relatively), and about half find Christmas time depressing, each for their own reasons. I remember the first person I knew who admitted she was depressed at Christmas. Her mother and dad didn't observe Christmas except to get drunk and fight, and she was left out of all the holiday sentiment growing up. Murders and suicides that happen at Christmas time wreck Christmas for the extended family for generations. Carter Stanley sang the story of the Lawson Family, when daddy killed wife and kids and self at Christmas. It's among the more mournful songs in the Stanley Brothers song list. Carter could do it just right.

Christmas seems to me more an ambiguous time in duality than just jingle bells, all the tv commercial cliches and dripping sentiment. As it's a human experience, Christmas would certainly take on the character of the various attitudes about it. By this time it has become so corporate-commercial it is reduced to advertising jingles, which it's been throughout my lifetime, and parties. It's been half a century since put-Christ-back-in-Christmas was an issue that failed. You don't see Xmas much after that, which is about all that came of that campaign. Christmas was a happy time in my childhood and I continue to enjoy the spirit of it. This is the time of year that keeps the whole economy going; each year the oligarchs' off-shore tax-free bank accounts grow fatter, Walmart's tentacles reach a little further. The corporate race is on, all the way around the world, to take all our money away from us and make the middle class and working class into a peasant class of sweatshop-cheap labor.

By this time in advanced mind-control, Christmas is the time of year when the HaveNots give and the Haves take, all the way to the Cayman Islands. Wednesday, Dudley Carpenter and I were talking in Selma's coffee shop of how Christmas in our lifetimes has become about greed and greed only. It's the time of year for all-out advertising and going for the gold. The mega corporations have taken Christmas away from small businesses, have put small businesses out of business everywhere. They've rendered small towns dependent on the big corporations, like in the cities. Individual initiative is being squeezed out of the American people at an alarming rate. Jesus is the reason for the season. From watching a football game with friends last night, today my head is a whirlwind of intensely eye-grabbing commercials, subliminal appeals for the money I don't have. Images to make me hungry, thirsty, inadequate, needing more, wanting what I can't have, like a BMW sports model that's a good incentive to go to law school. Too late. Didn't want it anyway. Tis the season of money and stuff. If Jesus is the reason for all-night shopping, you know he feels like he's not worth much.

I've looked at the weather forecast for near future. Looks like 3 days and nights of snow, 2 days of sun, then 2 days and nights of rain to wash away what snow hasn't yet melted. Ground water. We need ground water. That's a week of precip. Water from above. Hooray. I'd like to have water again after the pipes thaw. I've heard talk of snow up to a foot, all the way from none. Over the last several years, I've noticed tv and radio weather spokespersons talk with more alarm in their voices, making drama out of weather. They make groundcover snow sound threatening and dangerous. They find a wreck somewhere and point at it, saying, SEE, YOU COULD DIE OUT THERE, BE VERY AFRAID. I find I do best taking the weather as it happens. Forecasts are so often off that it makes it too confusing to hear a forecast, then another one that alters it, then one that deletes all that went before. I like to practice patience waiting to see what the weather is as it happens. Sometimes I'll check when I start hearing conflicting reports of forecasts that say something is on its way. I went out and wiped down the glass on the car with vinegar so I won't have to scrape ice off the glass after the snow.


Thursday, December 23, 2010


martha the dog

A dog from next door (almost half mile) took up here last year when she was still much of a puppy. All through the snows and cold of winter, she stayed here during the day, lying on the snow on her belly, which is covered with hair unlike a lot of other dogs. She has shorts legs and runs like a bullet. She's every kind of dog there is mixed in one. When asked what she is, I can only answer, dog. She lives with 5 other dogs; her sister much bigger, a couple of nasty-tempered smaller dogs, a cat named Fondella the dogs don't mess with unless they want their faces and ears shredded. Martha ranks third or fourth in the hierarchy.

Martha is a naturally happy dog. She took to me as soon as we met. She was an obnoxious puppy, the kind you have to yell at to stop her from jumping and running into my legs when I'm walking. She learns, but what she learns is it's ok to jump all around me and pull back just as her front feet are about to land one. She dances around me on her back feet when I go to the mailbox, almost pirouettes, jumping, twisting in the air. Jumping at me, she twists against her momentum in the air and leans backward to avoid touching that makes me yell at her. Her eyes are beaming with love. She's so madly in love with me it's uncontainable. Whenever she's around me, she lets on like I'm the love of her life she can't live without. From the moment I step out the door to the moment I step into the car, she's in the air all around me, dancing on her toes, eyes flashing love at me, twisting in the air as high as she can jump every time, squealing.

I can't let her in the house because of cats, last winter 3, this winter one. Caterpillar hates it when I let a dog in the house, or another cat. This is Caterpillar's home, and I respect her will where dogs are concerned. Martha's tail and wiggling hind quarters would tear up the house. The times I've let her in required holding her down to keep her from busting wide open in ecstasy. She comes here in the morning when neighbors go to work, follows the car out the driveway and stops here. In the evening when the car goes by the other way, she chases after it to the house. When I say she's like she's in love with me, she's in love with them too, to the same extent. I've never known a dog bubbling over with love like Martha. She is just as ecstatic with the other dogs, but they don't take to it like a human does. They fight her when she jumps on them. She also spends her days here for relief from the other dogs. I've taken to buying boxes of dog biscuits to give her a treat each day. Sometimes, when Caterpillar hasn't eaten all her catfood, I'll put out the most precious cuisine there is for a dog--catfood.

I suppose if I were to spend more time with her she'd calm down some, but I don't see that happening. I'd like to have her go on walks with me, but once we get in the woods, she imagines she sees something and she's gone. When I get back to the house she's waiting. Almost totally out of control dog, but so full of love she can't do anything "bad" that would bother massa. She wants to be loved as much as she wants to love. The dogs have wiped the smile off her face, but the humans in her life love her too and keep the light of the love in her bright and shining. I've not felt right letting her lie outside all day on the snow when it's 10 degrees. She has places where she can be in the sun and see me through the window too. She'll lie on the snow all day long. I've put some good cushions on a little porch on the other side of the house where she likes to spend the days.

She wants petting all the time, though to pet her I have to hook a thumb in her collar, hold her down by the collar and pet her while she wiggles like a snake in ecstatic dog trances so thrilled over being petted she can't be still. I've tried to train her not to do that by walking away when she goes into one of those spams, but it doesn't teach her anything. It just means I've walked away and now it's time to jump and squirm and float in the air as much as possible. She's a darling dog and I do love her, so whenever I feel like petting her, I hook the thumb in her collar and hold it so she can't twist out of reach right away. She squeals like she'd stuck the tip of her tongue in an electrical socket. Squeals, squeals and squeals until I have to walk away and let her pull herself back together. She goes into such a trance squealing as she does squirming. It's evidently more than her nervous system can handle to be touched by a human hand. Most of the time when I walk out the door and she starts her dance I speak to her, "Hello, Crazy Dog." I suppose that's my name for her, though I call her Martha too. The love dogs have for us is tremendously beautiful when we allow them to show it. Even though it's "just a dog," it's still affirming, because we know in our hearts it's not JUST a dog. It's a dog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


black, red, white

I saw Lois Landreth for a few minutes today, widow of Basil Landreth, Sparta's barber before Kermit Pruitt. Basil was the first barber I went to here, and where I came from we performed loyalty to some degree, and I always went back to Basil until his mind went away and Basil went away. Every time I went to the barber shop, he'd bring up Tom Pruitt, who Basil knew was my neighbor and that I worked with Tom, thought a great deal of Tom. Every time, he told me he'd seen Tom come out of the liquor store carrying a bottle. I'd say, "Wild Turkey." He wasn't telling on Tom for sin, Basil drank too, about like Tom, when he felt like having a sip, rather he saw Tom and mentioned it. Something to talk about with somebody he didn't know very well. The barber shop was across the street from the liquor store and he saw everybody that went in and out. Basil played guitar and sometimes jams occurred in the barber shop, but I was still way too much in flatland mind and thought nothing of it.

Basil was one of the first people I knew in the county and/or Sparta. Mildred Torney was another of the first ones I became acquainted with, back in the first year when I only knew the Pruitt boys and old man Tom Pruitt. I became acquainted with a few people the Pruitt boys knew, whose names I'll save the embarrassment of appearing here, people who were not even on the first rung of the social ladder. People with their feet still on the ground. I took to them, liked them, enjoyed partying with them, except their limits were way out there beyond mine. Along about the time they were getting ready to start, I'm thinking I've done partied. I'd been working with Bill a week in early spring when he and Van showed up in Van's car. Bill handed me a bottle of Four Roses. I'd been borderline alcoholic when I moved to the mountains, intent on putting the drinking behind me, not as an absolute, but to cut way back. I saw this was the test, can city-boy drink? Hail yeah, I could drink. Sorry it was Four Roses instead of something that tasted a little less nasty, I bottomed-up, look out stomach, here it comes.

Bill handed me a bottle of 7up for chaser, but I'd never done anything like that, and declined. I always liked my liquor straight, whatever it was, unless it was gin. The Four Roses didn't leave a very good taste in my mouth, but the 7up would have made it worse. I passed this leg of the test. I could take it. They stepped out of the car and we sat in what might be called my front yard and consumed the bottle, talking like crazy. By the time the bottle was done, I was on my back, leaned my head to the side and puked, done. For them, it was time to head to town and get some more. Asked if I wanted to go along. I said I'd stick around and be here when they get back. I wasn't able to take anything from the second bottle. I'd had all I cared anything about. An empty, sensitive stomach that had rejected what I'd put into it didn't want any more Four Roses or anything with alcohol in it, not even beer. We went into the house when it turned dark. Don turned up and we jabbered while they drank the second bottle. Van drove Don home and Bill staggered up to Tom's house. I don't know how or when he made it, but he did. I failed the second leg of the test. That didn't change anything. It told them I was a puss, which they already knew.

The Pruitt boys, Tom and Basil were the people I knew the first year at Air Bellows. One thing I found ran through all of them, they were philosophers in the same way my grandmother Worthington was a philosopher, who passed her philosophical way of thinking to me. This was the first familiarity I found in the mountains, they thought like I thought, the way I picked up from my grandmother. In about the middle of the first year, I realized the reason behind so much being familiar in mountain culture was that I'd learned it from my grandmother. It was comfortable, it was home. She'd been dead about 7 or 8 years, and I wanted to tell her I live among people she would like. It wasn't until 30 years later I learned her mother and dad had moved to Jefferson County, Kansas, from eastern Kentucky, Pulaski County, a month or so before the end of the Civil War.

When I say they were philosophers, I don't mean they had PhDs in philosophy, read Kant and Wittgenstein for fun, or even heard of Plato. They knew about Jesus, the philosoph of philosophs. I mean they thought philosophically, and that doesn't mean denying you feel bad, like being philosophical about making a big mistake that set them back. They think about things, not necessarily "intelligent" things, but values, integrity, morality. In Basil's barber chair, I was getting a haircut by a philosopher in my way of seeing. All the evenings I listened to Tom talk, days working with Tom, I was listening to a philosopher. I met Tom's preacher brother, Millard, and he was a philosopher who dove all the way into the Bible as his philosophical text. He would say it was primarily spiritual, and it is, but it is also philosophical. Jesus quoted Socrates from a few hundred years before, when he said, Know thyself. I believe he meant it for its meaning first. His second meaning was to validate Socrates to his own followers as a philosoph worth paying attention to.

This way of thinking I call philosophical was refreshing to discover, especially as actually the foundation of the mountain way of thinking. I'd not known many people since my grandmother I had to leave at age 15 who thought that way. Didn't know it, but I was lonesome for it. When I found it all around me in the people of the mountains I fell in to home. I didn't have much in common with any of the mountain people where experience was concerned. I knew nothing about their culture and they knew nothing of the culture I came from, flatland culture, except for tv. I found at the start that I could connect with everyone I came to know in the philosopher aspect of their minds, their way of thinking that was also mine. This has always been the aspect of a mountain personality and mine where we connect. I have it to this day. I don't talk much about motors, guns and beer. When I'm with people who only talk on these subjects, we connect in that philosophical part of our minds and have a good time. They find somebody they can talk with about some of the things they think about. And I do too.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


multiflora berries

Much talk going around concerning the eclipse of the full moon. I think it was yesterday. We had overcast sky and I don't know if it was partial eclipse or full eclipse. I've seen a few of both full and partial, so by now it's not an emergency to be certain to see one. I'm getting like old man Tom Pruitt was. In my first autumn in the mountains we had a one-inch wet snow that stuck to barbed wire fence, every leaf when they were in full color. It looked like candy land, or, much as I hate to say it, like a Thomas Kincaid painting. He's another of those artists like Leroy Neiman who makes me wonder why they're so enormously popular. All I can say is, as in life, so in art. There is something for everyone. I may be more in line to appreciate a Robert Mangold canvas, and that's my thing. He's not as widely popular as Kincaid and Neiman, but abstract art never is popular in a big way. It's only popular among a few.

Back to the snow on the trees. It was so beautiful I had to walk up the road to see Tom, tell him to come outside and look at it. I was still in city mind then believing that anything I appreciated I needed to share with somebody, which turns boring really fast. Same as I don't like it when somebody gives me a book I'm not going to read and tells me it's great, I have to read it. That's a book that will never get read. A while of living in the mountains, I gradually learned that each of us has our own aesthetic sense, which is always individual. Reviewers like for us to believe that there are levels in taste from bad to good. And there are, considering working class people have a kind of aesthetic sense different from middle-class and both of them different from ruling class. Of course, what appeals to the ruling class is considered high art, and that which appeals to the middle-class is ho-hum, and what appeals to the working class is not even a consideration where art is concerned.

I walked up to Tom's house thinking more about getting Tom to see this display of what I interpreted beauty than just enjoy it by myself, though it felt like I was enjoying it to the fullest possible. At the door, I said to Tom, "Come out and look at the snow in the trees." Tom said, as if telling me he'd just put some wood in the fire, "I seen better." No big deal. I knew Tom well enough then to know he wasn't playing one-upmanship. It meant he really had seen better. He told me of the night a fog settled on the mountain in the night and the temperature dropped below freezing when all the leaves were in color. He said everything was covered in ice, and when the sun came up, it was the most beautiful thing he ever seen. That moment was the beginning for me of learning the aesthetic sense of mountain people. I hadn't noticed any before. I've heard preachers talk about how beautiful a flower is, and I sit questioning in my mind, Then why does your wife have to plant her flowers inside a tire to keep you from running over them with the riding mower?

According to the urban market, flowers and pretty trees have only minor aesthetic appeal, old-fashioned, no longer relevant. They're not made by the human mind; therefore, can't be art. I began to see the the mountain aesthetic is not about man-made objects, but about what's God-made, like mountains, sunrises and sunsets, beautiful scenery. One of the favorite things for a husband and wife to do to be alone together by themselves, take a drive on the Parkway a beautiful time of year, a beautiful day. Just get on the Parkway and ride, enjoy the beautiful scenery, then turn around and ride the Parkway back. Paintings on the walls are bought at Walmart or Roses or yard sales, prints of nicely painted landscapes. Because there is little appreciation for the man-made aesthetic, the mountain people seem like visually illiterate rubes. But they're not. Fact is, I can't help but feel like their aesthetic is the highest, not Calvin Tompkins' aesthetic that believes art comes only from the human mind. Mountain people art is made by God. It's living and continually changing.

The mountain expression of appreciation might go something like, "Aint them perty flares!" Art critic Calvin Tompkins says of a work by Frank Stella in the 1980s, "Here undulating, violently colorful aluminum forms were cantilevered three or four deep, so that the whole construction seemed to have a seething inner movement." He's considered a man of superior taste, and there is a great deal to be said for it. Then again, a great deal can be said for a 'perty flare.' One is living, the other, the one of the mind, is dead, except the colors and shapes attempt to make it seem living. That's what we largely mean by art, something made by the human mind for the human mind's consumption with seeming life in it.

One of the first things I noticed when I came to live among the "visually illiterate," coming from a place equally illiterate visually where the people had a higher opinion of themselves because they had more money, and for that reason only---what I found was the mountain people had a sharper eye than mine by quite a lot. Riding down the road with Bill, Don and Van Pruitt, Don said, "Yonder's a groundhog." The others saw the groundhog the moment they looked. I had to search the landscape for a groundhog and never found it.

The art form in the mountains is making music. Music is a living thing, like God's creation, that changes all the time. No two mountain fiddlers sound alike. Each has his own sound. Mountain people who love the music will pick a young fiddler they believe has potential and follow him at fiddlers conventions and dances down through the years to watch him develop. They hear nuances, details, and listen with much auditory literacy. I've learned to hear a mountain fiddle fairly well, but I hear nothing even near what the old timers hear. In their world, I've been the rube with aesthetic illiteracy continuing to think real art is made by humans.


Sunday, December 19, 2010


jackson pollock in everyday life

My mind continues to look at the time when my spiritual life was activated. It was just like they say in the Primitive Baptist church, that I was chosen. It wasn't because I was somebody special or had intelligence or was without stupid behavior. A confused working class kid who felt like an outsider from kindergarten on. I'd only known a couple of kids my age before going off to school, and them just a time or two. I didn't know there were so many. Maybe about 20. I shit my pants first day of school because I was too shy to say in front of all these strangers, the teacher a stranger too, I needed to go really bad. Didn't know where the toilet was even if I wanted to spring from the room and run for it. Walked home, a mile, with pants squushy and smelly, crying all the way. By the time I made it home after a half hour or more of continuous walking, more than I'd ever walked in one never-ending long haul, made it home the kind of mess only a mother could handle.

That's how I started out in this world, and later after high school I started out on my own in the world again, every bit as unsuccessfully. Major stupid decision after major stupid decision, no idea about anything but you gotta have a job to pay for a place to live and a car of some affordable sort, insurance, groceries, phew. That's quite a lot for a beginner. Had a pretty good job selling shoes and even was able to become fairly good at it after a year or so. Just like in my teen years, I wanted a quiet life without drama, but the guys I worked with wanted me to run the roads with them on weekends, get into stupid situations, and what they call peer pressure took me off my own track, which I wasn't even sure was a track or that my own had any validity. Everybody else telling me what I ought to do convinced me they knew better than I did, so I left off advising myself, because I didn't know anything. I followed advice and direction from people I assessed knew more than I did and got myself into some shit I'd have never done in my own way of thinking. I wanted to join the world, see what it is the preacher talked so much against. He made "the world" a taboo, giving it a mystique that made me want to jump in and see what it had to offer, have some pleasures for a change.

Started going to dance joints, drinking beer, the BIG NO-NO, got the lecture of my life after coming home a few months after 18th birthday having tucked away 3 beers. It put a smile on my face, nothing more than that. Had to be sat down at the kitchen table and told for an hour I'm going to be an alcoholic, the whole time bored out of my mind, thinking, No, I'm not. It's not that big a deal. Then next day all hell broke loose when daddy came home from work after fuming all day. A rather definitive confrontation followed, during which I decided, I'm outta here. For the next month set out to find an affordable apartment, figure out ways to get around, like by bus, then when all the ducks were in a row announced I was out the door, nicely. I didn't want any more nonsense. Just let me go and let me be. I didn't know anything about where I was going, but trusted I could figure out something. Theretofore, prayer had only let me down, so I didn't indulge in it any more. Confidence in church was dead.

Uncertainty went everywhere with me. My self-esteem scuttled across the floors of silent seas. A friend I worked with got us involved with 2 of the meanest women in Wichita, Kansas, at the time, and we both paid dearly for our ignorance over years to come. My self-esteem was such that I let people I assessed smarter than myself, everybody, make my decisions. Surely they knew more than I did about my own good. Living with a harridan, who was the daughter of a harridan, who also was the daughter of a harridan, she'd made an about face after the wedding such that the one I thought I'd married wasn't anywhere to be seen. Fortunately, Navy Reserve active duty abducted and took me out of my life for two years, put me on the ocean, out where you don't see land for weeks, only water to the horizon all the way around. At the time, I hated it, but looking back, it turned out to be a period of time I went into a confused wreck and came out of determined to do something about my ignorance issues. Get rid of the shackles to the harridan first; divorce is legal and, thank the Lord, easy. Ignorance only got me in trouble.

Out of the Navy on a Friday, the following Monday I started at the College of Charleston. The X had told me I could not get into CofC and even if I miraculously did, I'd never make it. Graduated 4 years later. Self-esteem took a giant step. I learned a lot in those years, not only school. It was a new world. Cocktail parties every weekend at somebody's house. I had to learn fast how to talk jibber-jabber that sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Got fairly good at cocktail parties, but never took to them. They were good schooling in social behavior of the middle class. I went into it wanting to climb to the middle class. By the time I left the city to come to the mountains, I didn't want involvement with the middle class any more. I learned by the time I'd finished school I had lost what common sense I had. I wanted to work outdoors at a labor job and see if common sense would come back. Some years of working with Tom Pruitt and going to the church of his brother, Millard Pruitt, the Regular Baptist preacher, my common sense became activated, or what I think of as common sense.

The part I've appreciated all the way along in the mountains was a large part of the reason God set my parachute down in Alleghany County, Whitehead, Air Bellows, Waterfall Road, so I could live in a community of people who were very realistic, pragmatic lovers of God. Whitehead is loaded with them. The rest of the county is too. They go to a lot of different churches, and many don't go to church at all. Before I got my head turned around, I had come to see it that God was a construct of the human mind. Came to find it was the other way around, and that's when I turned up in the mountains. I started out thinking I'd come here for solitude and study. Turned out I needed to make a living, have a job, start knowing people. Plus, the initial solitude was awfully lonesome. In retirement age, I feel more inclined to solitude than ever before. I like to get out and see friends every few days and like every few days to be here by myself all the time. Have found a time of semi-solitude. I like the company of others, esp my friends, too much to lock myself into not having anybody to visit with. Even monasteries are not solitude. I've found a solitude I'm comfortable with that includes people I deeply care about. Like they say, 'Hit don' git no better'n 'at." I have to answer the question, am I happy, Yes. With qualifiers, but enough to say it's all the time. Even in sorrow, I'm happy underneath.

A short time after my store bottomed out, I was going in the library's side door when a woman I know enough to speak with was opening the door from the other side. She said, What are you doing now? I didn't know what to say. It was too much to explain in 3 seconds, so I said, 'Getting some joy back into my life.' I meant it too. All the financial concerns watching the economy tank and the store only able to hang on so far with nearly no business, joy had gone out of my life. I hadn't realized that until I heard myself say I am actively getting it back. Just needed to get out from the mental stress, again. It's coming into view a pattern that my attempts to get involved in the world end after a time of stress overtaking me and putting me down to the ground, unhappy, out of joy. They came back and I don't intend to let them go again. Nothing is more valuable to me than an underlying happiness and joy that catch my mind like a net in a circus when I follow depressive thinking and fall. No worries. The funny part I've found is that God knows us individually better than we know ourselves, understands our motivations and our ways and how they got like they are, and has promised He'd take good care of me. I think I've finally reached a time in the life I can let go and say to God, your will be done, meaning it. It always works out better than my own will. Why did it take so long to get it? Doesn't matter once you've got it.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


467 in the snow
Yesterday listening to NPR talk shows in the background, something one man said stuck with me. I don't remember the context. Only remembered he was talking about himself at a certain age where he realized he was not moving in the direction he saw for himself in his early years. When he saw it, he changed his direction to get more in line with how he saw himself as he wanted to be grown up. It resonated powerfully in me. It recalled a similar circumstance in myself at a certain age when I realized this was not how I saw myself going. I changed tracks and a year later turned up in the mountains with no idea where I was except on a map. I've wondered for many years where I got the notion of what I saw for myself through life.
It was an early age when I saw myself living alone all the way along as the best way to live. Parents didn't give me a very good example to go by for a happy marriage. I lived through an unhappy one living in their house, enough that I knew their example wasn't how I wanted to live. I also learned along the way that their example was the only training I had. I figured all parents were like mine, not that they were "bad." I was born with immense curiosity and grew up in a house where no one else had any curiosity about anything. Do what you're supposed to do and don't question it. A good soldier doesn't question orders. I never bought that way of thinking, never wanted to be a soldier, good or bad.
In the entire extended family, I was known as "the reader." Many a time I was told if I have time to read a book, I have time to cut the grass, time to wash the car. So I read at school and in parking lots when I was able to have a car. I got quite a lot read my senior year of high school with them not knowing I was reading anything. Then one day reading a paperback of Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn, I thought nothing of leaving the book lying about the house, as no one ever touched a book or was curious what was inside one. Busted. Daddy picked it up and it fell open to the page with the scene I opened it to every time I picked it up to read. "Is this what they're teaching at school?" "No." "Why you reading it?" "Borrowed it from a friend." "Give it back to him." "OK." From then on I kept it in the glove box in the car and finished reading it in parking lots. Many years later I wrote to Henry Miller and told him the experience.
By the time I pushed the ejection button and got out away from parents and on my own, I didn't know where to turn, what to do. All I knew was what I didn't want. And that was about everything. Starting very early, I can't remember how early, I determined I'd never work for a corporation. Daddy worked for GM in the 50s during repub recession after repub recession, getting laid off, letting a car go back, driving a milk truck, driving a cab. GM give a shit? I reckon not. It was a cold enough world in their house, I sure didn't want to spend the rest of my life after I get on my own giving my time and labor to a hierarchy that doesn't give the least little fart about my minimum wage ass. I couldn't live depersonalized. It was all I could do to hang on to who I am through all the assaults on self-esteem at home. It had to come to disregarding everything he said, and aiming myself to be his opposite in every way.
That was easy, until the day came when I realized the head is opposite the tail on a coin, but they're 2 halves of the same coin. I freaked. I went along avoiding everything I didn't like or want to be like. I gave myself no direction in the world around me. My primary concern once on my own was to become sane. Couldn't afford psychoanalysis, so I worked with myself along the way, blindly in the dark, without discipline, seeing first I needed some education. And managed my way through that without self-discipline. The view of myself in the future from childhood was a life of not chasing money, just living on enough to get by. Didn't have any ambition, except that of a kid growing up watching television---money. How to get it was another deal. The book, Think And Grow Rich was popular in paperback about the time I was getting out of high school. I read it with limited comprehension and eventually saw I couldn't do it. One had to make it a mantra in the mind, to psych oneself to wealth by obsessing on being rich. I couldn't get interested in having such nonsense in my mind all the time.
By age 33 I realized I had never gone in any direction, had been on drift all the way along, not making constructive decisions for myself. At about that time, drift ran aground. I was nowhere and saw no way out. Didn't believe in God by then, so couldn't honestly pray about it. Perhaps it could be best called a Dead End, or as it's known in Florida, No Outlet. There y'are. Back up, turn around and find my way back to the road. It turns out I couldn't take much interest in "the world" because it had been preached to me repeatedly throughout childhood by the all-knowing preacher who made a big issue of not getting caught up in the world. How you going to make a living? He did it passing the plate. The rest of us had to work.
One day curious occurrences began to occur, one a day over a period of 10 days, each one a mystery pointing I knew not where, until I reached the 10th one, and it was face to face with God saying, If you want a good life, come with me. Once I saw for certainty that God Is, I realized I could only live my life thereafter by what I know. It changed everything. A year later my parachute landed me in the mountains where I have never forgotten for a moment what I saw that day, not with eyes, but with understanding. That made all the difference. I never really foresaw anything for myself but a longing to live a life at peace, peace in my head and peace with the people I live among. It's been a meandering trail, but I do have that peace I'd spent my younger life wanting as the most important thing I could want, not even knowing what it was.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I apologize for putting up so many pictures if your computer takes a long time to run them up. First intent was to put up one, then 3, then 5, and by the time there were 5, I wanted everybody who was there represented in the pictures, so 6 was added. Still am missing one or two. I'm absent, but that's to the good. I got 35 pictures, most of them blurred too much, or just bad shots. My camera's clicker has a pause in it, so I push down on the button and it makes the picture when it feels like it. While people are in motion, I have to anticipate the next gesture, because that's what I'll get the picture of. I don't have a great deal of control over the blur either. Yes, of course I do, but I don't want to. I keep the camera on automatic and don't use a flash. The slow shutter speed makes blurs. I like the blurs sometimes. A lot of the time it's just a blur. Then there are the times a blur catches motion, like getting Robin Cater's hand in motion like in an Italian Futurist painting of the 1920s.
I don't like using a flash. They are disconcerting to the eyes, it's an unnatural light and the shadows are eliminated. I like shadows of facial features to define the shape of the face. I don't set out with anything in mind, just catching as well as I'm able the feeling between the people and the feeling in the place. When I take a lot of pictures, it allows for all the ones that are too blurred, or off a little bit because everything changed between the time I pushed the button and the time it took. That's ok. I like getting gestures in motion and sometimes a blur that shows the motion. I'm a believer in the aesthetics of chance. Letting the camera focus as it does, choose its own shutter speed, and especially the pause between pressing the button and the click that allows chance to change whatever it is I thought I saw in the camera, allowing it to alter what I was consciously looking at in the viewer. In a way I can't name, I like for my pictures to have an element in them free of my aesthetic eye.
Selma's wine tasting was a happy social event. All the regulars were there. We all enjoyed being there together. That seemed to be the highlight of the gathering, all the regulars there, and we all set about talking like we do when it's only 2, 3 or 4. Everyone was comfortable with each other; there was no one-upmanship going on. The atmosphere was festive. Selma was effervescent, happy everyone was there, serving everyone, individually, one bottle at a time, explaining each wine before she served it. Good cheeses, good breads, grapes, pear slices to cleanse the taste buds before each serving of wine. It was a European atmosphere in the place. All different kinds of people mixing together, friendly, lively conversation going all over the place. I even thought of attempting a video walking through the crowd overhearing different conversations and seeing if I could catch the festive spirit. I didn't think I could do it without giving it some thought first. The whole evening felt like a special moment for all concerned.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


santas sleigh

This looks like someplace in Georgia, going by the trees. Found it in one of those emails of pictures people send around. Somebody in that trailer has a sense of humor. It took some serious labor getting all that set up. I love Christmas decorations when they're done beyond all bounds of reason, where you wonder where they keep all the stuff during the rest of the year, like it takes up an entire garage. An old boy over on Bullhead Road had a whole hillside of the entire Jesus story and Santa, the whole works. He quit doing it and someone else on Bullhead Road has taken to ultra decorating. They're fun to drive by and look at.

Watched a film today by Peter Greenaway (English) J'ACCUSE, the story of Rembrandt's great painting called Night Watch. In Amsterdam at the time men of wealth had clubs they belonged to and commissioned huge portraits of everyone in the club, 30 or so. Rembrandt was commissioned by this one club to do their portraits. It turned out that he told the story of a murder, all of it told in this one theatrical composition of a painting. It told relationships among them, who did in whom, who killed whom. Under examination, it tells quite a story of what this did to Rembrandt's life. The men in the club, powerful men in the city, cut him down. He didn't get any more commissions, he was out of the art circles, and was so out that he ultimately died "in penury." His reputation was destroyed, his name disgraced, and the 3 feet of the left side was cut off later, getting people out of the picture that pointed the finger of guilt.

Greenaway is a post-modern director who makes art films. He made Prospero's Books, an interpretation of Shakespeare's Tempest, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, a visual overload of a film that never ceases to amaze visually. First time I saw it, I came out of the theater in a state of minor shock. Next night I went back and it wasn't shocking at all the second time. I was ready for it. It has some powerful energy in it. Michael Gambon plays an egomaniac mad man who gripes, bitches and runs everybody down all the way through it, rough on the people near him, a gang boss type with his thug body guards around him all the time. And his wife, Helen Mirrin, is beaten down, treated like a dog, but in the end she gets her revenge. The title is the four main characters. It's so powerful, it's difficult to watch, while at the same time an exquisitely beautiful film. Prospero's books is at the top of my list of favorite films.

I'll watch the Rembrandt film again tomorrow. It's such a film that seeing it the second time will be like seeing it the first time. I'll find that I missed most of it. Back in the time of VHS I was always looking for videos of Peter Greenaway films. Now, with netflix, I have access to nearly all of them, except Prospero's Books. First time I saw it was in a small theater in London. The screen was rectangular, but the film was inside an oval, our lives are "rounded by sleep" (Shakeseare). The VHS I have shows it rectangular. Can't imagine why netflix would not have Prospero's Books. In my book, it's one of the most important films of the 20th century. Greenaway has an imagination that seems to have no bounds. Rembrandt's story strikes me as one saying leave be the powers that be. In Jr Maxwell's language, Stay away from important people.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


flow lines

It's curious how this image of land and snow resembles ripples in water, like on a lake or at sea. It could even resemble a very close-up of a section of a fingerprint. It could pass for an abstract painting. Or it could pass for a hyper-realism painting. Snow on the ground, windblown. Sand on the desert. Back when we had a gravel road, after a gully-washer I'd look into the ruts in the sides of the road made by the rain and see a miniature version of a major canyon. Very same elements both places. A flow of water in a few hours creates in a small way the same thing the flow of water in several million years creates, canyons. Very same principle. I've taken a few pictures in the past when we had gully-washers, but haven't made any since digital camera. Next big rain I'll make it a point to find some rivulets to photograph up close that look like canyons.

The backside of Waterfall Road is the perfect place to find some. That old roadbed was the road up the mountain in the old days that many a wagon, horse and foot traveled. You can see the creekbed of the torrent it became during a big rain toward the bottom. Starting at the place where the road starts sloping downward with no more plateau, the sides get higher and higher until the bottom where the walls are probably 5 feet high. The road was a major rivulet, a small canyon. As more water flowed into the roadbed it became a riverbed, which must have really been going when it was down about to Neff's driveway. It would be a major challenge for a kayak. When the roadbed was mud, the wagons would sink in and make deeper ruts as time went by. Then a gullywasher, a September hurricane, comes through and washes out the tracks and new ones begin. It took perhaps a couple centuries to wash out the canyon that is the backside of Waterfall Road.

I mourn the loss of my gravel road the same as I mourn the loss of a dog, a cat or a friend. No matter where I went in the world, when I drove down the road from Air Bellows Gap Road, it was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. And I lived there. Now I drive down the road and it's just another road, just another place. At least the back part of the road is unpaved for now. Talking with a friend who lives on Cleary Road, the gravel part, she said Cleary Road is road #2 up for paving next. I told her to fight it with everything she and her husband have to fight with. Cleary Road is one of the rare old beautiful roads left in the county. You can see it on YouTube. Write Cleary Road in the search box and it will come up. Its full title is Cleary Road Alleghany CO NC, but Cleary Road will get it. It's a 4 minute 22 second ride on a beautiful mountain road. All the trees both sides of the road will be laid down by a trackhoe, not cut, uprooted. For weeks they will be a wall on both sides of the road of devastation, all your friends uprooted, all the leaves hanging down. It's a desolate feeling driving between the two walls of death. From then on, it's ugliness as long as any of us will be living.

One of the State's ploys is to threaten that they'll get everyone else on the road to sign for it, then it will be paved up to your line from both sides, and the section along your property won't be paved. Your neighbors won't like it. Like who gives a shit? In my experience, I was promised certain things for signing, but when it came time to deliver, it didn't apply any more. I had to call in a higher power with more authority in the voice than I have to get them to do like they said. Before you sign, it's a sweet sell. After you sign, it's a rape. Please preserve Cleary Road as a county treasure. It will be a travesty to pave it. That's not saying anything, really. Travesty is what we get used to, like when the long-arm bush-hog shreds small trees and rhododendron along the sides of the road. Absolutely trashes the sides of the road for a very long time. The way it grows back becomes hideous. Oh, but it's cheaper than.... Everybody agrees it's a great thing because it's cheaper than.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


no huntin

The temperature reads 9 degrees at this moment, 6:35 pm. The number fell from 13 a couple hours ago to 9 in a steady run. It's plain cold and getting colder. Rhododendron leaves are furled tightly into long pencils. Dave Lineback up the road has a weather station he set up some years ago, then it was gone for awhile and now it's back. It's at and I don't know how you find it from there. It's the Air Bellows station. Maybe you write Air Bellows in a box. Dave put up a link on facebook and I clicked it onto my favorites list, so that's how I get there. I tried going to and got lost right away. But that's just my cyber-challenged mind. At Dave's site the temperature is 8.1. The high today was 12.8 up on top where he is. I'm in the valley below, out of the wind, where it must be half a degree warmer than up there. He's up where there's nothing but a barbed wire fence between him and the north pole.

Air Bellows was named for its own nature. I've heard it said it's named that because the wind blows all the time. It doesn't blow all the time. It's just that when it does, it gets your attention. Another source said it has the name because the wind blows both directions through the gap. Sometimes it blows south to north and other times north to south. That sounds more like it. Old man Jim Scott built his house some time around the turn of the 19th-20th century right square in the gap itself. Brinegar's cabin was built in the gap. There is nothing to stop the wind coming up the side of the mountain to Brinegar's cabin. Those people had big wind. Allan, who lives in the Jim Scott place, says sometimes it sounds like the wind is tearing the roof off the house.

Last night I went out in the cold, cold wind and drove the Catfish almost as far as to town, slowly, not wanting to strain my friend in such intense cold. I wanted to keep the motor temperature warm, not hot, to go easy on my friend who is so good to me, takes me anywhere I want to go without problems, keeps me warm in winter and cool in summer. It started instantly at 10 degrees. No hesitation. I let it run a couple minutes to circulate the oil and warm it, listening to NPR news on the radio. I'd rubbed the rubber around the door's edge the day before with cooking spray and wiped it dry with paper towel. When I pulled the door, the rubber was not stuck to the door. It opened easily. The ice and snow was such that it would have stuck if I hadn't treated it. One day when the temperature is above freezing I aim to treat all the rubber door gaskets with cooking spray, trunklid too. Washing the glass with vinegar cuts down headlight glare at night. Doesn't cut it out, but noticeably reduces it. Ice and snow doesn't stick to the glass cleaned with vinegar.

Cold, cold, cold. Water frozen over a week and will be frozen a few more weeks at least. I'm used to it. This happens every year. It thaws in time. The temperature now is 8.8 degrees. At Dave's weather station it is 8.3. That establishes it. I'm half a degree different down here in the valley from up there on top. Today. Another day, another weather condition, the gap between the temperature here and there would vary, though not by much, negligibly. I've not put plastic over the windows. When the windows are covered by plastic I can't see out the windows very well and feel closed in. I like seeing out the windows. It will probably cost me $100 or more in kerosene, but I'd rather spend the money for heat than live in a box without windows. When police state catches on to Green (besides money) I'll probably be sentenced to prison or fined thousands for not putting plastic on the windows.

Sunday, December 12, 2010



Going by weather forecasts, today is the lull before the storm. We had 3 inches of snow yesterday, then it began to melt today when the temperature rose to high 30s, made it slightly slushy. I went out when the sun had raised the temperature inside the car to be a little warmer than outside with a small bottle of vinegar and 3 sheets of paper towel. I soaked the paper towel with vinegar and rubbed it on all the windows. This is to keep ice from forming on the glass. The snow just brushes off when the glass is treated with vinegar. The vinegar also cleans the glass immaculately. Forecast for the night and the next few days is very cold and lots of snow, whatever that means. Winter.

I like having this snow. Can't help but remember it was less than a month ago my spring was dry, which told me the water table is on its way down from drought, the dearth of deciduous tree roots (the kind that lose leaves in winter) that draw the water table upward, and a plethora of wells drawing from the water table by people of a society that wastes water casually. The American passion for wasting anything in fair abundance made the Carolina parakeet extinct in short order because they were colorful birds, easy targets. The buffalo were killed out to near extinction, like the human inhabitants of the continent for many thousands of years. That's how we do things here. That's why we're Number One. We waste our resources in a time of plenty. I can't say the USA has a very bright future. Since the corporate takeover of our government half a century ago, we've been on a downhill run. Our constitution is extinct, the supreme court partisan, and government decisions are made to the benefit of the corporations allowing them to bleed us further like an extended vampire story.

I used to think Obama was a republican in sheep's clothing, but it turns out he's just a plain republican. Now that he's in office, all the talk about democracy has proved to be as substantial as anything a politician says. He talks a good line. My antennae went up when he became the new political correctness issue during the campaign. He's turning out something like all other political correctness commandments, hollow, without meaning, something bland to have a cause about. Like among the white middle class it's Native American. The Native Americans are Indians and have been Indians since 1492. They call themselves Indians and laugh at Native American. But in white middle class company you'd better not say Indian. You'll be corrected and/or regarded non-PC, a rube.

It's almost as much a PC sin to say Indian as to let fall the scary N-word. It was like that when Obama was running. If you weren't ecstatic for Obama, your cool quotient was up for reevaluation. Anymore, I don't know what to do or say when a new acquaintance starts talking PC and correcting me for not saying what I'm supposed to say. That's when I start breaking every PC law I can think of, a way of saying, Don't mistake me for being of that mind. Then they don't like me anymore and I'm glad. It keeps them away of their own volition so I don't have to avoid them.

Some years ago I saw an old boy parked in a post office parking space, a rough looking old Mercedes, rough looking as he was emerging from the post office door. On the bumper was a sticker announcing he is not PC. I said something to him about it and his back went up on the defense. His hearing impaired by all the hair growing in his ears, he interpreted that I was making a smart crack critical of him, so I had to explain my meaning, wishing I'd kept my mouth shut. I thought, There am I in the not so far future. The old curmudgeon turd that doesn't do like he's supposed to and thinks he's a rebel. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. Paint the mountains. Slow everything and everybody down, give us a break, time at home to play video games instead of going to school, and watch tv instead of going to work. Everybody can talk politically correctly on cell phones and look at pornography on the computer all day long and deny it. Aint freedom great.


Saturday, December 11, 2010


caterpillar in the window

Just now off the phone talking with my friend Pat, who lives "upstate" New York near the Massachusetts border. Where she lives is rural with gravel roads, one stoplight in the town, no fast foods outlets, country town, Hillsdale. They are getting from NYC a tsunami of the rich with second houses, places way up in the millions, like we are getting from Charlotte, Raleigh and Florida. They are now overrun with people who believe they own everyone else because they have more money than anybody. They want something "to do" in the town for a shopping respite from watching television in their vacation homes. Everything she told me about what has happened to the community as a result---no more community---was familiar. The people who live there can't afford their taxes now that the land value has gone sky high because some Hollywood hotdog built a $13million house. Squeezing out the people whose land has been their home for generations. To everything she was saying, I was saying, 'Yep, it's the same thing here.'

I've recently finished a book about the Comanche Indians of the west Texas, Oklahoma plains, their ways of living, the first Indians to use horses after the conquistadors brought them from Spain and wished they hadn't even brought themselves. About the time the first white family took up outside the protection of the trees of eastern Texas, the Comanches raided, killed some, took some, took the horses, making off with a white girl they adopted into the tribe and she became one of them. By her Comanche husband she had a boy, Quanah, who became known as Quanah Parker, as his mother's family name was Parker. While Quanah is growing up, the white menace came in with genocide in mind and succeeded. It was a white tide that pushed the Indians out of the way, killing them with guns and disease, wiping out nearly the entire population of the North American continent. It was a constant squeezing them out of existence. For the last century the heirs of the unfortunate Indians that survived are kept in concentration camps called reservations policed by the FBI. They are still the enemy in the mind of the American government. Ask Leonard Peltier.

Reading that period of time, the last half of the 19th century, the steady reduction of the Comanche population, especially after the massacre of all the buffalo. Half a dozen years ago, or thereabout, April Holcomb Joines wrote a long letter to the editor in the Alleghany News likening how mountain people are being squeezed out of their county, losing control of their county, by the white tide of suburbanites fleeing the darker element in the cities. This is not a judgment of the people themselves, but seeing a pattern in the process. More advanced technology, like the Colt .45, pushed the Indians off their homeland of a long string of generations. The mountain people are being pushed off the mountain by needing the money, unable to make enough to pay property taxes, forced by necessity to shop at Walmart for everything. Since 1980 grocery prices have tripled, gas has tripled, everything else has too, like property taxes, and the working man's pay has stayed the same.

The progression of pushing mountain people off their mountains has one possible end. The mountain people that remain will be the ones that mow lawns and do service work for the rich, people who can't afford to own property working for minimum wage or slightly more, renting lots in trailer parks. What's left of the mountain people will be concentrated in trailer parks full of poverty and all that goes with it; fights, drugs, killings, the people always in court. Higher technology killed the Indians; money is killing the mountain people. Like the Indians had no defense against the white tide, the mountain people have no defense against the exurbanite tide.
I don't mean that's the only possible end, because I don't know. But if things continue as they have been the last 30 years, it will. And it's not going to change except in progress along that line. I sometimes think only a really serious Depression can save the mountains for the mountain people. I like to think my projection could not be the case, though the Indians liked to think their extermination would come to an end before they were all gone. Some of them made it. I am glad that I will be going out with the very last generation of the old-time mountain people, the people who are the last hairs on the tip of the tail of mountain culture, glad that I won't have to live long enough to see mountain culture replaced by suburban television culture.


Friday, December 10, 2010


carl jones

erynn marshall

erynn marshall and carl jones

Another night of driving to Woodlawn in the dark between 5:30 and 6:30, I got lost the second time. Drove by the Coulson Church Road turn and places I don't recall seeing were turning up, like the heavy equipment place that tells me I've gone too far. Turn around and head back. I'd gone a long ways past the turn off. It was equally difficult on the way back. Harmon's big clothing store is there on the corner, but no lights on the big letters of the name, not a landmark after dark. The post office is on the corner, but with lights out it's a black box like everything else along the side of the road. I'm so overwhelmed by headlights and taillights and the blackness of night, I can't see road signs or anything along the side of the road not lit up. Next time I'll measure the distance by odometer from the light at Walmart, go 4.9 miles and turn left.

I used to like night driving, but now find it disorienting. Nothing like going through a long curve at 60mph in the dark with a pickup beside me on the left that won't go ahead or drop back, but stayed beside me all the way through the curve. I focus more closely on driving than ever in the past. On the way home, maybe half way between Galax and Independence, a road angles very slightly off to the right, while the road I'm on curves slightly to the left. It's always a question of what to do there. A sign stands between them that says Keep Right. The sign refers to the road I'm on about to change from 4lane to 2lane, but standing where it is when I'm making an instant decision which one to take, that sign throws me every time, makes me think I made the wrong decision for just a split second, a demi-second of anxiety. Then I get it and go on.
I'd never heard Erryn Marshall before tonight. A few years ago I saw Carl at Merle Fest in the old-time tent with Beverly Thomas. I came away with high respect for both of them as musicians. Erynn Marshall is associated with the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway. She's Canadian and studied Appalachian fiddle with West Virginia old-timers. She learned much from different ones along the way and has incorporated what she learned into her own sound with a fiddle. Like an Appalachian fiddler, she interprets the tunes she plays in her own style. Like an urban fiddler, her upper body flows with the sound in the music bringing to mind classical violinist Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg, who broke the tradition of solo violinist standing still. Mountain fiddlers tend to stand still or sit still while they play, but that is changing. Seldom does a fiddler stand or sit still any more. Old-time has changed all the way along its two and a half centuries. It is changing in the time we're in like it has all the way along, the music changing as the culture changes. The important part, besides that she's beautiful while she's playing, she can make a fiddle do what it's meant to do. She dives into it while she plays and flows with the sound.
The people in the audience were well entertained tonight. Carl Jones is an entertaining performer. His sense of humor is accessibly off the wall. He likes odd word associations, playing with meanings and the sounds. He writes a good many songs, good songs. They are songs with something to say he believes worth saying, that at first bring John Prine to mind, and just as quickly Prine is forgotten. The only resemblance is the words are worth listening to. In fact, I prefer Jones's songs to Prines. He sang a song of his own called Snowflake, I think. Beautiful, simple, lovely song that makes a poignant point and the next line turns it into humor and back to falling snowflakes. He's asking the snowflakes to come down from the sky, 'our world has gone awry,' and paint the town. The songs he identified as his own had something powerful to say dressed in poetic light-hearted humor.
Carl has his own style of portraying a song that is mentally outside the ordinary, his feet standing firmly in the tradition. His talk between songs seldom tells a story, start to finish, but makes brief observations, humorous twists of word sounds and meanings. He plays his songs with artistry on all the instruments he plays, and sings his songs of contemporary ways of thinking. It's like the title of Benton Flippen's Rounder album, Old Time / New Time. Carl's old-time brings old-time up to date, makes it present in the same way Barbara Allen was present it its time. Carl Jones has an interesting mind that appears to go faster than he can keep up with using words. It is no stretch at all to say Carl Jones is a master musician.